Friday, May 24, 2013

Travelling Bee...

So, I arrived "preksinoc" ("the night before last" - why does it have to be so long in English?) and leave again tomorrow... why do I do this to myself? I was just at the YWAM Central European Leadership Gathering in Iasi (pronounced "Yush"), Romania. I managed to get some really cheap tickets with Austrian Airlines, and so the trip wasn't soooo bad... I leave again tomorrow for another conference, this time in Northern Ireland - but more to come on that when I get back!

In the past few years, I have been helping to run our Central European gatherings as part of my role in the communication team, but this year as I was in South Africa, I asked if I could take a back seat, and ended up doing a lot less and it felt almost like a holiday! I did help with some aspects, but I was able to actually go swimming the pool at the hotel, and enjoy time talking to people at meals (instead of rushing around trying to figure stuff out...), so it was an even more special time!

One afternoon we were let loose on the streets of downtown Iasi. The group I was with went (as suggested) to have traditional "papanas" (which is pronounced "papanush", so I had 'papanush' in 'Yush'... had to be done:) It is a sweet dumpling served with fruit sauce and sour cream and it was goooood...
And we had it in a restaurant on the 13th floor with a wonderful panoramic view of the city...
There were many amazing buildings within a short walk of each other: The beautiful Church of the Three Hierarchs:
 The Palace of Culture: 
The oldest church "Saint Nicholas" and next door, the oldest house in Iasi: (and complimentary communist building for comparison behind them...)

It wasn't all fun and games, we did have a serious element to this conference. Our main speaker was Tom Bloomer, who is the Provost for the University of the Nations, and known as "Mr History". We had a great time sitting at his feet and listening to him share stories and insights from his life -and we were all challenged by his sessions:
There were other times of teaching, and sharing (and I even did a little bit on communications...). Here is Carmelita Clarke, YWAM Central Europe's leader (and my boss!) sharing on circles of influence:
On our last night we were treated to a concert by four wonderful singers (the ones on the left are brother and sister and both sing for the Iasi Philharmonic. It was a truly amazing experience. And we got to see why Iasi is known as the "city of culture".
And all of a sudden, the conference was over and it was time to go home - it always goes by so quickly! On the way home I had a short transfer in Vienna (1/2 hour) and then our plane was late, so I thought I would completely miss my connection... but Austrian Airlines sent a car to pick me up at my one plane and take me directly to the next (and did the same thing for my luggage, so it got there too) so it was possibly the best transfer ever! I could handle travelling a lot better if every transfer was like that :)

Now, onto the next trip! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Faith in action...

I took the little kids from the Children's Home to the library this afternoon (the oldies will go tomorrow morning) and it worked out that there were only 5 of them going. Some were sick, others were away, one had lost his book (you can't go without your book!) and so that was how many got to go. I was so happy as there are only 5 computers and every time I have to choose who gets to go on the internet and the rest have to play with me and Tanja... this way EVERYONE got to go on the internet and no stress for me and Tanja :) It was also hot, and as it is out last trip for this school year, I decided that we would also go get ice cream.

So, the conversation on the way there went like this... (ok it was in the local language, and I am translating it, but you get the idea!!)

ME: "Children, when we get to the library, we are going straight on the internet..."
CHILDREN: "Yay!"
ME: "And all of you get to go"
CHILDREN: "YAAAAY!"
ME: "And then I am going to take you for icecream before we go and change our books"
CHILD 1: "Aunty Belinda, you can be my carer!"
CHILD 2: "Aunty Belinda, you can be my Big Sister" (they have "Big sisters" who are volunteers and take them out) 
CHILD 3: "Aunty Belinda, you can be my mommy..."

Some days they just break your heart...I can't even remember what I said to that, but I know that God hears his heart cry for a mom in his life. I know that I am like a mom to many of these kids, in ways that makes many of them happier in this life at least for a little bit, and some hopefully will also see my faith in action and somehow glimpse God's love through me.  

It is one thing to say real religion is looking after the orphans and the widows, and it is another to actually do something about it and make a difference... 

The challenge: How am I taking care of the orphans and widows in my life? How am I making a difference to them? I still have a long way to go! But with God's help I will keep putting my faith into action and make a difference...

Friday, May 10, 2013

May Film Night: Searching for Sugarman

I saw this documentary in South Africa at the end of last year, and so enjoyed it that I wanted to use it for a film night here when I got back... and tonight I got the chance to do just that!

Again it was as part of my English classes, and there were about 10 of us who watched it in English with English subtitles and discussed it afterwards in English. I was worried that they wouldn't like the film or not get as much out of it as I had, but I was happily surprised when they all liked it, and we had a great discussion about what they had got out of it!

It really is a great movie, and it not only tells the story of the search for "Sugarman" but also about South Africa's history under apartheid as well. It was great to bring a little bit of my South African heritage to the Balkans!

Friday, May 03, 2013

A nice end to an interesting week...

After saying goodbye to the team on Tuesday I thought that would be that, but of course you never know what is going to happen... They called from the border to say that the Ukrainians were not actually able to get visas at that particular border post so they were the returning on that same bus when it came back later in the day. It meant an incredibly long day of travel for the 3 Ukrainians, Zhenja, Katya and Tetyana (plus an American husband, Daniel, and 11 month old baby, Camilla) and so they decided to rest up a bit the next day before trying for another border post (which they were assured issued visas at the border). So on Wednesday afternoon I put them on the bus to Zagreb...

And about 2 hours later Daniel phones and he doesn't even say anything except "yeah, well... yeah", knowing that I would know that they hadn't made it through that border either. That border does do visas at the border, but only in emergencies, and not just tourist visas... so they would have to go to a consulate.

Now, unfortunately the Croatian consulate here in Banja Luka was closed until Monday (May 1st and 2nd being holidays and 3rd being Orthodox Good Friday) and the Ukrainians were only legally able to remain in Bosnia until Thursday...so we needed to figure out something... On Thursday morning I contacted the on duty inspector (as it is a holiday no one else was working) from the office that deals with foreigners and at first it seemed that they would be okay to stay, so we breathed a sigh of relief and started making plans for the weekend.

Then, two hours later, they called me back (after checking the rule book or with their boss, I guess) and said that actually if they stayed it would be 100KM/person/day in fines and after 3 days they would start the process of deportation... so back to the drawing board... So, again it was to the bus station, but this time in the direction of Sarajevo. There, we hoped they would be able to go to the Consulate as it should be open... or if not, to find a flight back to the Ukraine and fly out. In the end the Consulate wasn't working and so they flew out to the Ukraine already today... it worked out cheaper then trying to pay that amount in fines! And so half the team is in Hvar carrying on there, and the Ukrainians will carry on their outreach back in the Ukraine.

Even in the midst of all this crazy travelling on buses and running about (and don't forget that there is an 11 month old baby in the midst of all of this), these guys didn't lose their sense of humour, which I think helped... at the bus station last night (3rd time in 3 days) they were joking about it being like the movie "Groundhog Day" and could I explain how the tickets opened the gates to go through as they weren't sure how it all worked...I think that in this life you need to remember to keep your sense of humour, otherwise it would really get you down!

For some reason I can't upload the photo I took at the bus station here on blogger (of them trying to work out the tickets), so you can click here to look at it on Facebook...

So, after that crazy week I needed a fun day today to get my mind off things, and luckily I was invited to Damjan and Tanja's to help them and the kids (Bojan and Snjeza) colour their eggs... Here we are ready to go. We coloured with kokis (markers) as they had left their paints at school! And actually it was really quite fun:
I got quite imaginative, making a couple of storyboard eggs: Here are the hungry birds...
But don't worry, their parents will catch the mouse to bring it to them:
And after coming from a 4-month sabbatical in Cape Town, I had to do a surfer egg:
And having just read about shark nets going up in Fishhoek, I had sharks in my brain: so poor surfer was going to get eaten by the shark... or does he? 
No, don't worry, there is a guy on the boat ready to spear gun the shark so he doesn't kill the surfer!!
I know, I know, this is EASTER, so I did do some crosses and hearts and "Hristos Vaskrse" on other eggs, and Tanja and I did the leaf ones together, so I didn't just do crazy eggs, but I am glad my creative juices had a fun outlet after this very interesting and very unexpectedly crazy week! 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Finnish Sponsors' trip

Part of the Finnish (Fida) project is a Child Sponsorship Program which Ljilja (my housemate) is responsible for here in Banja Luka. Fida organises a trip every year to one of the countries that are supported by the Finns, so that the sponsors who want to, have an opportunity to visit the country that their child is from and also meet up with their sponsored child. This year, Bosnia and Albania were the destinations for the sponsor trip. Ljilja was responsible for organising the Bosnian leg of the trip and did a fantastic job!

My responsibility was to take the sponsors around Banja Luka and show them the sights and give them the history of the city, etc... so on Monday afternoon I played tour guide to the group of 16 Finns. I used to do this tour with all my teams, but most young people get bored after the first 3 sights, so I started doing a "scavenger hunt" for them, which meant they went around town finding out about the history from passersby, and thus doing their own tour...and they all enjoy this MUCH more. But this group (who being able to sponsor children means they are generally older) was really interested and loved hearing all the details, so my years of practice at doing this came in handy :) Here we are in front of the fortress Kastel:
On Tuesday, after saying goodbye to the Ukrainians in the morning it was all systems go for the program for the sponsors. The sponsored children were all invited, even though not all of their sponsors were there. Here are the sponsors seated in front of Ihtus, and enjoying the program:
And what a program... Ljilja managed to organise a local traditional dancing group to come and show the sponsors their stuff. They were so cute:
 Dancing...
 And singing...
We took them out for ice-cream afterwards and they were so happy - should have got a photo of that :) 

For the rest of the program, the sponsored children sang some songs, did a presentation and individual children did poetry reading or accordion playing... Here are the children singing:
At the end we did a group picture with everyone and the games that the sponsors helped to pay for, that we will use on camp. It really was a great morning!
The sponsors are now continuing on their way around Bosnia and onto Albania...
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