Monday, June 25, 2012

Bye bye Bec...

So, my friend Bec leaves tomorrow after being here here in Banja Luka almost two weeks, and while she has been here we have been busy beavers. Besides running two cultural nights at EKC Ihtus and moving most of the stuff for H.O. MOST to a new location (we have until the end of June to get out and Bec was a GREAT help), we have been working hard on communications stuff. 

Bec and I became friends because we have been working together for 5 years as the "communications team" for YWAM in Central Europe. We worked mostly virtually - she lived in Czech and I here in Bosnia, and then together at conferences and workshops, etc. Now that she is no longer in the region (she now lives in Thailand) we have been working on ways to do more stuff automatically - setting up systems so that I can do most of what she did without it being (that much) more work for me... and for our YWAM Central European director as well. 

And in the end we have got much more communications bang for our buck. She is busy working on a website for the region that will just be updated automatically (I just did a bit of proof reading). This means it is minimal work for me. YAY! We set up a new mailing list for the region which is MUCH more user friendly than the one we had until now. We then decided to put up a blog which will be linked to that website. We also set up twitter and connected it to our facebook page. In fact the blog is also connected, so if anything goes on there, it is automatically sent to twitter and facebook. And we managed to do all this for free... (well, actually, the website is paid for, but everything else is free), which is pretty amazing! 

Now, we just have to motivate people in the Central European region to get their stories and articles out there, and we will be in business!! 

So even though it is sad to see Bec go, she is leaving a HUGE communication legacy in this region! (and we will continue to stay in touch as we did before, via email, skype and facebook!)...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bringing South Africa to Bosnia...

I have been planning to run a South African evening at the EKC Ihtus Centre for a LONG time. I had all the stuff, it was just not easy to find a time to do it. But finally everything came together for us to run it last night. I realised that it wasn't particularly representative of ALL of the different cultures of South Africa, but rather it was "my" South Africa - but I figure that that is ok, as it is all different from here...
And some of the food was indeed very different: Springbok and Ostrich biltong (which is dried spiced meat - like beef jerky, but MUCH better) and the scones I made with rooibos tea so they were very South African:
Springbok biltong
Ostrich biltong
Scones from rooibos tea...mmm
and sausage rolls!
Everyone digging in...
and seal of approval from Srdjan
There was plenty of time to hang out and enjoy the lovely evening:

Ljilja worked hard getting the drinks for everyone...
...while Rebecca took all of the photos (thanks Bec!) amongst other things... (and thanks to Ljilja for this photo of Bec, otherwise we wouldn't have proof that she was there... :-)
After finishing up that food, it was time for the desert: "Transkei Mud". This is made with whipped cream, caramel, mint chocolate, and coconut biscuits and it is YUMMY!!!!!
Then we had the South Africa QUIZ:
As you can see below, everyone took it very seriously (well, other than Drazen!)... The winner managed to get all the answers except one right, and she took away a lovely prize of a vuvuzela, some real South African rusks and a couple of other small souvenir items... (and I didn't get her picture, sorry)
It really was a great evening, and we stayed and hung out with people until after 10.30!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day outing to Jajce...

Bec has been here a week and it has been mostly work work work all the time... so, we decided yesterday to take some time off and get out of Banja Luka to see some more of Bosnia. We travelled over the mountain "Manjaca" which has some lovely views, but you really can't capture them in a photo... Our first stop was the water mills on the Pliva river:
Then we stopped off for coffee at my friend Sedija's house. She was one of the people who helped a LOT with my language learning in Zenica (she was living there as a refugee when I was there...and had lots of time, so I would be often at her house with my little yellow dictionary!). She has now rebuilt her house in Jajce and I hadn't made it there yet to visit. So, with Bec wanting genuine Bosnian coffee, and me wanting to see her, we combined the two! The dog is "Lola" and is VERY cute!
And of course we couldn't just have coffee, so we came away with full tummies after pita (pie) and salad:
We then went to look at some of the attractions of Jajce: the waterfall:
And the fortress and old town:
Before enjoying some "real" cevapi: (in Banja Luka it is very different and I prefer this kind!!!)
Then it was time to head home again... stopping off to take pics along the way: this is the Vrbas river which also flows through Banja Luka, but in between here (and this emerald green) there are a couple of dams... so we don't have this colour water in Banja Luka!
Proof that Bec was actually with me! She took all the photos (and thanks to her for giving them to me!) as I didn't take my camera and she only likes taking her own picture like this:
The last stop was at Krupa Falls...
Here is inside the mill: making corn flour using just water power! 
And there was just time to buy fresh flour from my friend, the mill guy, before heading back to Banja Luka! What a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blogging for books review: Not this time

Vicki Hinze’s Not This Time is book number three in her Crossroads Crisis Center series. The books starts with a gas attack which kills one person during a renewal of vows ceremony in a small town in Florida. Without giving the whole plot away, the story continues when Sara’s new husband is then kidnapped. Sara, a self-made millionaire is fragile and not in good health, so her business partner and best friend, Beth, attempts to solve the kidnapping (helping this FBI) so that she can bring the case to a close. They discover that an international secret terrorist group is involved. As the novel continues it turns out that all the people in the town are involved one way or another and the crimes are much more convoluted than just a simple kidnapping.

Although I ultimately enjoyed the book, it wasn’t an easy read. I know that authors need to make some leaps in the plot in suspense novels, but the plot line had me suspending my disbelief a little too much for a little too long. Almost every person in this small town is somehow involved in a secret terrorist organisation that is supposed to be worldwide and high-reaching? 

Also, even though she does a good job catching you up on the characters (this is a series), unless you read the books before this one (which I hadn’t) there is a LOT of catch-up: and in the beginning I was really struggling with who was who. The plot came to a good conclusion, and the message of this book was very positive, and the characters are well written drawing you in and making you enjoy the book.

So, if you want a good series, and are able to suspend your disbelief, start with book one and two, and then go ahead and read this book…

I received this book free through, but this opinion is entirely my own.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ukus Tajlanda/Taste of Thailand

My American friend Rebecca is here for two weeks, and so I immediately thought of ways to use her amazing abilities to do many things well... And one of the things we did was have a cultural evening last night based on Thai food (which she can cook VERY well!).

About 25 people came along to find out a little bit more about Thai food and culture. Here is all the food (and can you spot the Thai flag?):
 This is Nam Tok a SPICY pork "salad" with sticky rice:
Then here was Tom Yam, a spicy chicken and mushroom soup, served with jasmine rice:
And my favourite (as I don't like spicy), the fried rice...with chicken and egg:
Everyone tucking in...
Seal of approval from Irena and Sofija :-)
As you can tell, the Thais like RICE, and so after enjoying the food and hanging out a bit outside, we moved inside for a presentation on the harvesting of rice. Rebecca has just spent two years in Thailand, and during that time she harvested rice, so she was able to tell us first hand what that is like:
And afterwards everyone was curious to find out more about her experiences in Thailand:
So, if you are planning a visit to me here in Banja Luka, please realise it will be a working visit...:-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Club prizegiving

This year we gave all the children who had participated (24 of them) a prize for being a part of the Book Club project. In addition, we also gave special prizes to 7 of the children: "best reader", "best new member", "most improved" and then 4 "special mentions".

Then we got the kids to line up to get their prizes: family 1:
 And family 2:
 Here is Tanja giving Dijana her prize:
 Us with Bozana and her prize:
And an actual normal photo of us with David (he hates having his photo taken!):
 Then it was time for them to see what they got!!!
And  we actually managed to get a great photo of all of us:
I don't know who enjoyed it more: us or the kids!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Apsolvent" evening

Last night it was the final year ball for students entering their final year of university. Once you have been to all the lectures in the first 4 years, then you enter your "apsolvent" year and just have to write all the exams and your thesis to get your degree.

Now, in 2008 I went to go see Sofija and Igor for their "matura" (prom) when they finished high school, see here. Now, both of them are entering their final year and so were celebrating last night along with people from their (economic) and other faculties. So, despite the on-and-off-again down-pouring rain, I decided I had to go and see Sofi and Igor and see them looking all spiffy, before they went to their party. Here I am with Sofi and Drazen (who came along as well!):
And here I am looking really small (and I am standing on my toes!) next to Sofi and Igor: 
Congratulations to both of them for working so hard and making it this far... here's to finishing everything just as well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Future Entrepreneurs...

The BEST business training gives people an idea of what it takes to run their own business and shows them some basic skills they will need to have in order to succeed. I ran another 4 module workshop in Prijedor (a town about 45min from Banja Luka) last week Monday/Tuesday (the first two modules) and this Monday/Tuesday (the last two). In between they got a small loan of 10KM (R50/$6) to try and see what they could do with the money... 

The training was for our partner "Hljeb Zivota" (Bread of Life) there and they decided to train teenagers from the agricultural high school, and then they (with their parents) can take out loans to start  their own small farming business. Some of them will be applying to their "plastenik" (plastic greenhouse) project where they will be able to get a loan specifically to make a small plastic greenhouse.

It was an interesting group of kids - well-behaved and polite and very quick. They finished the game in no time at all! (I think they are programmed to do as I say without arguing, whereas adults are a little bit slower in reacting!!) And they definitely all learnt a LOT!

I took photos of the groups yesterday when 4 of the kids were not there,  but the last two are from today when all 15 were around... 

All important negotiations!!!
It was raining, and so we had to have an inside group photo with our certificates:
I look forward to hearing what this group of future entrepreneurs do with what they learnt!
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