Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Crvenkapa" (Little Red Riding Hood)

As a prize for being good members of the book club, Tanja and I took 10 children from the Children's Home to the a new (and very different) production of "Little Red Riding Hood". It was put on by the Banja Luka City Theatre "Jazavac" and big thanks goes to them for making this outing possible, as they gave us the tickets for all of us for free. Afterwards we even got to hang out with the 4 actors on the stage! We tried to get a group picture - but as anyone who has ever tried to get a group picture of kids knows, it is really hard: not even all of the actors are looking!
And then we chatted to the different characters: The policeman:
 There was actually a wolf, but he was quite nice and not too scary:
 And "Crvenkapa" was very sweet:
 As was the "Rabbit":
During the play, the kids were all looking out for the grandmother and the woodcutter or hunter, but they didn't show up... it was a very different production, but very well done! At the end all of them got a lovely packet (as part of a children's savings account promotion) of presents: including a CD of all the songs from the show, which were great!  

For some of the children it was their first time to the theatre, and I wish I could have taken a picture of their faces while they were watching the show! All of them loved the show and wanted to know when we would be coming again :) And I must admit my heart is full... it was a lovely outing for them and I am so glad we could make it happen!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last Oral Hygiene Workshop

We completed the oral hygiene workshop tonight. The 4 weeks went by very quickly and tonight we finished off with a great exercise: sticking pictures of different foods onto two teeth...the food that is good for teeth on the blue one and the food that is bad for teeth on the yellow one. And one thing we know about these kids is that they certainly LOVE sticking things!!
Tanja had cut out all the little pictures in advance (from shop advertisements) and they had to then work out which food went on which tooth... which was good way for them to get the right idea about what foods to eat and what to try and avoid! And the best part is that it is now up in their living room to remind them of what they have learnt!
We ended off by giving them all new toothbrushes and toothpaste, and diplomas for taking part:
A HUGE thanks to Tanja who organised everything and did all of the presenting. I just brought all the stuff we needed and did little things like making the diplomas...but on the whole, Nataša and I were just there for crowd control :) We had a fun four weeks with them, and we know they definitely learnt some things about teeth and taking care of teeth, so it was definitely worth it!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ćevapi in Baščaršija

After a lovely 3 days at home in Banja Luka, on Friday it was time to get in the car again and travel to Sarajevo. Ljilja and I had a training day on Saturday (for Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan's Purse - the shoebox packages) and I needed to have a couple of meetings with people, so we decided to make a weekend of it. The training was good and we got to meet some new people and renew relationships with old friends, so it was a fun time altogether.

And of course I didn't get many photos - but we did managed to get to Baščaršija (Sarajevo Old Town) to have ćevapi with kajmak: (meat sausage "fingers" with salty clotted cream): other than hanging out with the people we got to hang out with - this was definitely the highlight!
I was reminded of my first time in Sarajevo in 1999 where I also had ćevapi in Baščaršija, and at the time I was thinking "what is so great about this?" but I have really come to appreciate it, and even long for it when I am not in the country! Especially when it is paired with the "kajmak" - these Bosnians aren't that crazy after all!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hekwap? Pectopah?

When I first moved to Banja Luka in 2003, and encountered this logo - it was obviously "Hekwap", which is quite a funny name for beer...
And when first travelling through Bosnia and encountering a sign like this:
I immediately asked what does "PECTOPAH" mean? 

This is the funny side of Cyrillic script. The above examples are written in Cyrillic and below are clues to what they are actually in "Latin" script:

 Yes, Nektar is a better name for a beer and it makes more sense that it is "restoran". It is deceptive as there are no "classic" Cyrillic letters (well the "w" has a line above it in the Nektar, but your brain sees it as a "w" if you let it) which give away that it is anything other than our traditional "Latin" script.

Here the language can be written in both: the Serbian variant relies more on the Cyrillic, whereas the Croatian and Bosnian variants rely on the Latin. All three are essentially variations of what used to be called "Serbo-Croatian" and there are just a few dialectal differences between the three... so I can actually speak 5 languages  - English, Afrikaans, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian!

Working with the children at the home has meant I needed to beef up my Cyrillic as although they are taught both scripts, the one the learn first (and do better at) is the Cyrillic. I still don't really write it very well - reading I am much better at - which causes great hilarity when "Teta Belinda" is worse then they are in writing... Anything to boost their confidence!

Luckily I can get mostly away with Latin script when writing in the local language as older people generally don't have a problem between the two - so much so that they sometimes don't even realise when something is in Cyrillic. And I knew that my language was getting really good when I sometimes find myself reading the Cyrillic and not realising it until afterwards! But not always, and handwritten gets me every time...

But there you go, that is the story of Hekwap and Pectopah... and tomorrow Ljilja and I go to CAPAJEBO... I still remember when my colleague asked (after seeing it on a sign) where CAPAJEBO was? (and in case you can't guess, it is the Cyrillic for Sarajevo!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Last English Conversation Class...for 2013

After 6 weeks of classes, and 16 students who started with us, 8 students gained their diplomas (by attending 5 out of the 6 classes). Here I am with 6 of them...
We had a great discussion tonight about superstitions: here they really have a lot of superstitions... like don't put your bag on the floor as you won't have any money. Or don't sit in the cross breeze/draft or else you will die. Or go out with wet hair (even in summer!) or else you will die. We were talking about the difference between tradition (which is usually good and has a good reason, which has usually been forgotten) and superstition (which sometimes comes from tradition, but you do it in fear of having something happen to you if you don't do it).

For example a tradition is knocking on wood (did you know where that comes from? - it is actually to remind the evil spirits of the wooden cross, so it is a tradition I kind of like). However, if you start knocking on wood in fear that something bad might happen if you don't do it, then it becomes superstition... see the difference? Well, it hopefully made them think a bit!

And we ended off as usual with a lateral thinking puzzle - this time it was:
Can you work it out? No googling it! It took the group about 5 minutes (with a little help from me). It is a goodie!

Herzegovina (and Montenegro)

Finding a time when my housemate, Ljilja, and I are free at the same time long enough to go visit her family is quite hard. In fact we had earmarked this weekend ages ago as a time to go. Then I forgot about it, and was supposed to go to Hungary for a meeting - but I decided as it was 3 years since I had visited my "other" family, it was time to go and visit!! (and skip the meetings in Hungary - sorry guys!)

She comes from Trebinje, which is in the south of  the country or "Herzegovina". If you wondered why it is Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are actually two parts to the country - the northern part (where we live) called Bosnia and the southern part called Herzegovina. It is about a 5-6 hour drive there so we took a long weekend (Friday to Monday) to make it worthwhile to go that long way.
It was a great weekend of hanging out with Ljilja's friends and her family - way too short though!  Her mom made us LOTS of food (with help from her dad who went to buy it!), and her sister made me loads of cups of tea...and they all generally made us feel like royalty... I could get used to this :)

As the weather was great - on Sunday we took the 40 minute drive into Montenegro to go see the city of Herceg Novi and we had a lovely time (until I took a little fall and twisted my ankle, oh well...). Here is a lovely picture (even if the photographer says so herself) of Ljilja with her mom, Ankica, and Sladjana, her sister.
Now it is back to reality - no more people waiting on me hand and feet :( and also the colder climate in Bosnia. But it was worth the 12 hours in the car to enjoy the warmth (and I don't just mean the weather) of Herzegovina!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Kid's Action Day!

Once again it was time for our Kid's Action day for the kids in our sponsorship project. We started off as usual with some singing:
The theme was the dangers of alcohol: Marina and David showing how much fun you think you can have with alcohol...
Then they were joined by two friends who made them think about it... and told them how much fun you can have without it!
 And so they realised that maybe it wasn't all that fun to get walk funny and get sick...
So they got rid of the alcohol and went to have fun with their friends without it...
Then it was time for the different games and workshops... creative workshop: making Christmas cards for their sponsors in Finland!
Some fun new workshops: paper war
Potato relay: trying to push along a box of matches with a potato tied around your wasted and hanging between your legs... here are some of the volunteers trying it out...
 And the kids showing how it is done: (and it is a great workout for your thighs!)
My workshop was also new - balloon volleyball - but we didn't get a picture of that. It was great fun and I also realised that it was a good workout! Trying to keep a balloon in the air (and two or three if you want) for as long as you can: try it!

After about 2 hours of the kids going from workshop to workshop, it was time for us to finish off. We showed the kids what it is like to feel like they are drunk... turn around on the stick 10 times and then try to walk in a straight line...
 It was really funny seeing them try!! And hopefully taught them another danger of alcohol!
Then it was the prizes at the end...
And time to say goodbye until the next time!

Friday, November 08, 2013


Success can be measured in many ways. Last night we once again had a wonderful time at the Children's Home running the book club (having lots of volunteers does help a LOT!) It was also the first time we got one of the (otherwise naughtier) kids to read out loud for us... (see him below reading to us). And the reason he wanted to read is that we got him a joke book from the library and he wanted to tell us the jokes... but whatever the reason, it was a success in my book!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Oral Hygiene workshop

In August, some of our volunteers (and us!) took part in the Fida Health Promotion Seminar. The seminar covered all sorts of health issues, ranging from oral hygiene to alcohol/drugs and HIV/AIDS. As Tanja and Nataša were interested in running the workshops at the Children's Home, we figured out we would start with the 1st-5th graders and do oral hygiene with them to see how it went... the hope is that we will carry on with the older kids, but with alcohol and drug prevention, but we will see how it goes...

We are doing 4 weeks with this group, and judging by last night, I think it is going to be good. Getting them to sit still or work together is a challenge, and yet Tanja, Nataša and I managed to do it (well most of the time!): and they definitely learnt something by the end of the hour.

Tanja did a fantastic job doing the presenting:
 Then we had them in groups of 3 to rewrite what they had just learnt about the parts of the teeth:
And we then learnt about the different teeth in our mouths: and coloured them in! (best part of the workshop for them I think! They definitely like colouring!)
We will carry on in the next weeks with good food and bad food, how teeth get decay, brushing, etc... It helps that we know the kids from the book club already, and that they (mostly) listen to us. And besides teaching the kids something, and helping them have a fun evening, it also gives their carers a break they wouldn't otherwise have :)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

10 years!

It has been 10 years (and one month) since I first moved into this apartment. I saw it on the 2nd of October 2003 and then moved in (with Sharon, who left 6 months later) the next day and on the 4th left for a one month trip to the UK - leaving Sharon in the apartment. Once Sharon left, Ljilja moved in, and so in March our 10 year anniversary of living together is coming up... that is another scary fact!

A lot has changed since I moved in. It was furnished (with not the greatest of furnishings), painted in white, and the bathroom was a disaster. Now the furnishings are all ours - we collected from people leaving over the years, and bought a few things ourselves. Also, the bathroom was redone - and is so much nicer! And we have painted every room in a different colour... and some in more than one :) Also, the outside facade has been redone (and better insulated), and a much better fence put up, and then this year, a new front door and the ceiling in the kitchen taken down. So, overall, it is a very different place than the one I first moved into...

Thus, it was very interesting to have some friends over today who came to visit us 10 years ago - when Sharon was still living here - and haven't (to our shame) been back since... Seeing the changes through their (unbelieving) eyes really helped put things in perspective as to how much better the place is now than it was then!! It was also great having them over to visit - and I am not going to let another 10 years go by before that happens again!

And tonight we finally got around to taking cake to our landlady - we also took her cake for the 5 year anniversary - and a little something for herself. (She was very happy!) We have been wanting to do that since it was actually 10 years at the beginning of October, but we always had something else on - and Ljilja and I being free at the same time doesn't happen all that often! So, we instead marked the day in 2003 that I came back from the UK and actually started living in the apartment, which was today! I still can't believe it has been 10 years...
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