Thursday, October 31, 2013

Outing to the library...

As part of the book club at the Children's Home we also take the children to the library to select their own books. In the past it hasn't always been easy, as we had just a few volunteers going...but tonight we had a lot of volunteers and as some of the kids were sick, out with relatives, or had lost their books, there were actually more volunteers than children. Which was FANTASTIC!

They helped the kids choose the books:
 
Which we then take out from Aunty Vesna, the wonderful librarian:
 We even got a chance to read a bit together:
Or play games... here the Dr is examining his patient... I didn't get a good picture of the hair salon and coffee shop unfortunately. As you can imagine, we were all very sad when it was time to go home. I like making the library a fun experience!
Meanwhile at the children's home, Tanja did a great job with the book club with older kids - they are all doing the same book so we just get it for them. And so, they have their club only every other week and don't go to the library and they prefer it this way. With the library visits, the littlies have it every week, which of course they LOVE!

It is so great to have a lot of wonderful willing volunteers, and Tanja does a great job with her part which makes my job a lot easier! The only problem is sometimes we now have too many volunteers. But that is actually a good problem to have!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jelena and Jennifer come to visit...

Back in 2008, when Marisha was here for a summer internship, she and I stayed on in Mostar after a meeting we had there. Read more about that trip here. We stayed with my friend Carolyn and hung out with Jennifer and Jelena and had a wonderful time with them all. At the time I invited them to come to Banja Luka "whenever" as they had never been. And it ONLY took them 5 YEARS to take us up on the offer this past weekend! They had to come anyway for a meeting (on Friday) for Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child {shoebox packages} and so it was great that they could come and stay with us and actually see Banja Luka.

The weather played along - it has been an amazing "Indian Summer" here for the past few weeks - up to 30 degrees at times, and never below 22 (at night it is, of course, cooler). Which for October is amazing! Last year this time we had the first snow! And even more amazing, it looks like it might continue into November! YAY! Here we are at the Kastel - Jennifer is on the left, Jelena in the middle, me on the right, of course (and Ljilja is taking the photo!):
We had a great time with them: Jennifer is American and Jelena is from Herzegovina and spend a lot of time together - so of course Ljilja (being from Herzegovina) and I (being a foreigner) could TOTALLY relate! Lots of fun stories to share :) And despite the fact they broke our guest bed (which is not really their fault, it was just probably time for it to break - we do have a lot of guests! And luckily we managed to fix it!) we hope they will return someday really soon!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Another successful business training...

Once again using the BEST Bottom Line Basic course from the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship, I trained up a group of people to run their own businesses. Ljilja and I ran the 4-module course over the last two weekends, with a week's break in between module 2 and 3 for a practical. Although we had 23 people who enthusiastically signed up, only 14 showed up on the first day and eventually just 11 finished... that is the way it goes!

Here I am explaining the basics of marketing in 2 minutes: something I took 3 months to learn at University... Price, product, place and promotion!
 
The course is a game, but it really does teach the basics of many concepts of business. Here we are deciding on how much of each product to sell, diversification...
And the biggest skill taught is negotiation between the teams: they have to negotiate price and amount of product to sell to the resellers...
And these negotiations can get tense...
But not necessarily :)
For their practicals, there were quite a lot of different ideas, reselling honey, apples, flax seeds, and those that already had their own businesses were able to use those - doing leg-waxing and putting in car-parts. Gorjana and Jelena (below) came up with the "good mood stickers": they made them and then sold them to their friends and made twice their money back... nicely done.
The apple guy was the "winner" as he made 4 times his investment: he went to the village and got the apples off the tree and paid the farmer for what he took at a really low price... and sold it in the city for a whopping profit - clever!

And here we all are at the end with our diplomas - well deserved!
This business training was dedicated to the man who helped to develop it in South Africa in the first place. His name is James Thomas, and although I never met him personally, I dedicated this training to his memory. He was killed in the Westgate Mall attacks in Kenya on the 22nd of September while there to help the Kenyans learn about being entrepreneurs through training such as this. You can read more about this incredible man and the legacy he left here. I look forward to meeting him one day on the other side!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Club - into our 4th year!

This is now the 4th school year that we have been running the book club at the children's home. We have a new schedule - now we go in every week and work with one group at a time (we used to go in every other week and work with both groups at once) and it works MUCH better. This week it was the turn of the littlies... and we had a LOT of volunteers, so it was great!

We have been going for over a month already, but I haven't got any photos... and of course tonight I forgot my camera, but luckily my phone camera is pretty good - so here you are...
This is Aleksandra with A: He read a book on knights, so they are busy tracing a knight onto his worksheet: The worksheet was called "my best part of the book" and they had to draw a picture, and then say why that was their favourite part:
Here are Jovana and Z: He had a book of poetry, so they are busy drawing a picture based on the poem...
Little K having help with her worksheet from our new volunteer, Branka:
And one of our oldies, (another) Jovana working with D:
 And the last two are of Milijana with D: first finishing the worksheet:
 And when she finished early, reading aloud out of her book of poetry: love it!
Besides giving the children individual attention (as we had tonight!), the aim of the book club is to try and grow a love of reading among the children, and even though it is crazy and chaotic at times, I think we are succeeding!

(Don't think that I am a bad photographer... due to child protection issues, I am not putting pictures of children facing the camera on purpose! And this is also the reason for the initials and not the full names.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Finnish friends visiting...

The Järvelä family are visiting Bosnia this week and staying in our living room. It has been great to have them (even if we couldn't give them more room, they are happily making do with what we have!) and we will be sad to see them go on Sunday.

Sanna and Miika were here with then 2 and 1 year old Eelis and Eni-Marija in 2011/12 for 8 months, and decided to come back for a visit. Now the kids are 4 and 3, and still very cute... they can even say a few things in Serbian "hvala puno" (thank-you very much), "vidimo se" (see you) and "laku noc" (good night)... so cute! And my Finnish is improving as of course the kids don't speak English, but we get along!

And being the disciplinarian that I am, one of the words I am most frequently using is "ei" (pronounced like 'ay' in day) which means "no" in Finnish... and it got me thinking... it is kind of like the "eh" (also pronounced like the 'ay' in day) in Canadian English... I wonder if that is where it comes from? There are a lot of Finns that emigrated to Canada... maybe they just put the "ei" into English!! Who knows... eh?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

English conversation classes have begun...

After a break since July, I started up the conversation classes again. We had a nice number to begin with: 16 of us... just perfect for the small space! Some old faces and lots of new ones...and more have said they are coming next week!

I found some fun activities for us to get to know each other a little bit better and also learn some English: here we are doing a "getting to know you" mingle in the beginning: It was a new game I hadn't done before and it worked out really well:

 
This was followed by a comparison in pairs: find things in common, and things that are different. It was pretty fun seeing what people found out about each other...
And to end off we played a discussion game with dice and everything... it went down really well and no one wanted to leave when it was time to go!
And here is David giving his seal of approval on the evening:
Hopefully we will keep on having fun and learn some English along the way...

I've been census'ed...

Ok, how does one express that your details have been taken as part of a census?? For the past two weeks, a census was taken in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been a HUGE issue here for many reasons, and all the different sides didn't want it to be taken for each of their own reasons. No one knows how many people there are in the country and of which nationality/language/religion as the last census was taken when it was still Yugoslavia in 1991, and in between there was a little thing called a war, with refugees, displaced people and a lot of people killed...


Here is a great article by Time Magazine on the impact this census has had on the country.

And so it was interesting for me to realise that I would actually be part of the census... yes, anyone who is living over a year in the country, even on a temporary residency, is counted! And after being home for much of the first 10 days of the census, the person doing the census in our street came when I was gone and Ljilja filled out my form on my behalf :(

There are three "contentious" questions: Nationality, Religious Background and Home Language... At first I thought that she had only got two out of three right: South African and Protestant, as somehow instead of putting "English" as my home language she put "srpski" (Serbian)... but when she explained her reasoning, I guess she is right: the language I speak in my home right now is "srpski" as that is what she and I communicate in... not English! (I live in the part of the country where the language is called Serbian, although when I was learning it in Zenica I called it Bosnian, and  Croatian - as I lived with Croat landlords - but it is all more-or-less the same language...)

Anyway, right now there is a lot of debate as to the validity of the findings, and the bureau for statistics will only have preliminary results in 3 months... so we will see how many South Africans there are who speak "Serbian" as their home language, I suspect not so many! 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Roy came to visit!

So, this week has been quite busy, as we started up our bible-study, and I started my beginner's English  classes, and in between I have been working on our project plan for the next project period (which I finished today - in time to go to the women's conference in Brela, Croatia tomorrow!)

But a highlight was a whistle-stop visit yesterday from Roy Jones who is an English YWAMer living in Ireland. I got to know him in May at the conference in Romania, and when I was in Ireland, his wife and he had us over for dinner (us being the 4 from Central Europe). He is a fantastic guy, and his latest mission (as part of a sabbatical) is to try and travel to all the countries in Europe (he had only 5 to go...) So, on his way around the Balkans, he made a quick day-trip from Zagreb to Banja Luka to visit me and get Bosnia Herzegovina under his belt.
Cevapi for lunch :)
In the 3 hours he was here, he managed to have cevapi for lunch - (and we got him take-away spinach pita for the trip back), see where I work, and also a bit of downtown... but the highlight for him was seeing the train station. He worked many years for the railways and has a deep love for trains (trainspotting is not a strange things for him!) And actually, he wanted to come on the train, but that would have meant he would have had even less time here, so I encouraged him to take the bus... luckily the bus station is right by the train station, so after making sure he had a place on the bus on the way back (well, we thought we had - but more about that later) we headed to the train station.
proof that he was in Banja Luka!

Roy at the station
After putting him into the little combi-style bus, thinking he would leave in 5 minutes, I left to go to my English class. However, I got a message from him almost an hour later to say there were too many people for the little bus, so they had to wait for another one to come, and he was only just leaving, oh well :( Even though he was here for such a short time, it was great having him come see my little part of the world and I am sure he won't forget his trip to his 77th country in a hurry!
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