Sunday, October 26, 2014

Newspaper column...

A few weeks ago when I was looking for more volunteers for the book club that I run at the local children's home, we were featured in quite a few newspapers (and I was interviewed on TV). So when they were looking for a contributor for a column on children's books, they remembered me...

And so, today I was featured in a local newspaper sharing what books I read when I was small and also what books I would recommend for children today...
I took it as an opportunity to share about getting children to read (which is not so emphasised here!) and how important it is in life... :)

They did rearrange the text that I sent them, but the gist is the same (and it is easier to translate the original than the one in the newspaper...) Thanks also to Ljilja for the lovely photo :)

When I was a child I really loved to read, mostly mysteries and adventures that are intended for children. I was born and raised in South Africa, but I mostly read book swritten by American and English writers, such as Richard Scarry and Laura Lee Hope. My favorite writer was Enid Blyton.

For 5 years I have led a book club with children from the Children's Home "Rada Vranješević" in collaboration with the children's library in Borik. In the library they have translations of the adventures for kids "The Famous 5" from my favorite author "Enid Blyton." These books are good and instructive for 8-12 year old children, and I know that kids from our club really like them.

There is a similar series of books that are very good for small or young children about the character Geronimo Stilton. I recommend them because I know that children in our club love them and also because through them, children learn useful and instructive things while reading and travelling
through the adventures contained in these books.

When I was little, I loved a book called "The Little House" by Virginia Lee. The story was about a little house in the countryside and then the town began to be built and developed around it. And they were building up more and more around it and it became increasingly unhappy as it looked at what people were doing around it. At the end they again moved the little house to the countryside where it was very happy. Because of that little book I started to think how we humans affect the environment and things around us. You can see it on youtube 

I know from experience that it is very important for children to read, because they learn more from books than from TV or computer games. This is one of the reasons I like to do the book club with children from the Children's Home.

From very early on my parents read to my brother, sister and I before bed. Now I cannot go to sleep before I read something. I think that children from an early age should get used to books, and then that habit will remain forever. It's really not expensive to buy a few books or to join the library, and begin an adventure that will last a lifetime ...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blogging for books review | Heart wide open

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson's "Heart Wide Open" is an invitation to live a more intimate friendship relationship with Jesus. To not settle for anything less that a close deep relationship with the one who calls you to spend more time with Him with your heart wide open to all that He has for you in your life.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, and it has a lot of good advice, but a lot of it was nothing new to me. Also, it is really for an American audience and I felt like some of the stories and ideas were going over my head a bit.

That said, I would recommend it to anyone who is wanting to seek fresh new ways to revitalise their relationship with the living God and who lives in North America!

I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for books <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

BookLook review | Seagrass Pier

I have already reviewed 2 of Colleen Coble's books for BookLook - The Tidewater Inn and her Christmas book Silent Night. I also over this summer borrowed three of her books to read while on holiday as I really enjoy her writing. So, it was a no-brainer when I saw this book come up for review on BookLook... and I was not disappointed.

Elin Summerall had a heart transplant after a heart infection meant she needed a new heart. Besides suddenly having her tastes for certain things change, Elin realises that something has changed in her when she starts remembering details of her death...

The new heart belonged to someone who had been murdered, and Elin quickly realises that the memories belong to the heart! In order to remain safe until the police figure out who the killer is, she relocates to the remote Hope Island where she hopes to be safe... unfortunately that is not the case!

Although this is the third book in the Hope Beach series, I didn't realise it was part of a series at all until I started reading other reviews, so it really works as a stand-along book as well. Although that said, I have read the first in the series, Tidewater Inn, but now I also want to read the middle one too!!

As usual for Colleen Coble, the book has a bit of romance thrown in amongst the suspense, and it was a highly relaxing read from beginning to end.

Highly recommended!!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Life Skills workshops...

In October/November, Ljilja and Dragana are running a series of life skills workshops for the 11-15 year-old in our sponsorship project. The first 3 have been on Communication (including the dangers of Facebook and the internet), Puberty/adolescence and today was on Identity. Although the two of them have been doing the presentation, I have been helping a little with all the logistical side of things...
Between 10-12 kids have been each time, and we have had some fun activities, including making "facebook bracelets" out of loom bands... and a debate on the good and bad side of Facebook:
And fun games, like guess the song I am humming...
Above right you can also see Ljilja and Dragana putting their unique fingerprint on Psalm 139:13,14
For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
What a wonderful reminder to each of the kids of their unique identity... 

We will carry on for 3 more weeks, and hopefully the kids will continue to have fun while learning some really important things that will help them make sense of where they are at this stage in their lives, and help them to live life better!  

Monday, October 13, 2014

TV Interview...

Sorry for those of you who don't understand the local language (which is called Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian depending on whom you speak to!!) as I don't have time to put subtitles on it so you can understand it... but you can at least get the idea. For those who can understand it... enjoy!

(In case you missed it in my previous blog post about it, I was interviewed last week about needing volunteers for the book club I run at the children's home here in Banja Luka. This is the 5th year we are running it, and it is the biggest one ever - almost 30 kids! And so I needed more volunteers, as I like to have about 1 volunteer to each child if was in all the newspapers and one TV station invited me to come and be on their show to talk about it, so I did!)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mom's experience of Banja Luka...

I decided to borrow some of Mom's pictures to show you how we spent her time here in Banja Luka...

We arrived on Sunday night from Croatia and went straight to see Tanja and Damjan for deer stew (yummy!) and we were treated to some "rakija" (plum brandy). Unfortunately, it was actually medicinal, as Mom wasn't feeling so great (and I joined in to keep them company - haha!):
She laid low for the next two days to try and shake her nasty cough, but felt better enough on Tuesday evening to come along for my television appearance :)  I shared about needing volunteers for the book club... (I will be putting the full video on another post once I get a copy)
We hung out a bit at Ihtus: and she got to see the new building and how it is progressing:
We also enjoyed spending time at home, enjoying the award winning balcony flowers - My landlady won an award this year for the best balcony flowers in Banja Luka (and of course I didn't take a picture when they actually looked amazing, instead of now in their scraggly October form)
We went to the library with (the other) Tanja to get books out for the book club kids, and of course she didn't take a picture in the library, but instead wanted to have a pic in front of a "typical" Banja Luka building.
There was also time for a new hairdo... below she is showing it off with (yet another) Tanja the hairdresser:
We had to show the new hairdo off downtown and couldn't just pass by the ice cream stand... In case you hadn't noticed, the weather this week has been better than the whole summer!! (we had a lot of rain... flooding remember?!) We are finally getting an Indian Summer... I will take a summer any which way!!
We went one day to lunch where Ihtus used to be - it is now a lovely restaurant, and it is fun to go there for old time's sake!
Mom with Dragana enjoying their pasta! Ljilja and I had pizza... all is very good!
I hope you enjoyed this little look at Mom's week in Banja Luka!! It is never boring here in Banja Luka!! And now she carries on with her tour of the world...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Children's Home Book Club BIGGER than EVER!

Last year we had our smallest group yet - only 16 kids in the book club, but our 5th year started with me finding out we would have almost 30... there are a lot of new kids in our target age range (1-9th grade) and many of them wanted to be a part.

So, as usual I put out a call for new volunteers, and PTL, the newspapers picked up on it, and so we were featured in a couple of newspapers, and online portals... and I even got to go on TV!! (more on that in a later post...). We had such a great response from people that we had a meeting for all the new volunteers in Ihtus to give them a heads up about other opportunities for them as well as the book club: (they can get involved in tutoring the kids as well, and many of them want to do that, so this all turned out to be a win-win for all!)
On Thursday morning, Tanja, Mom and I went to the library and signed up 12 new kids, and got out 27 books for all the kids (and PTL all of them liked the books we picked out - we will see if they actually read them by next week, when we will be talking and writing/drawing about them at book club). In two weeks time they will go to the library (in two groups) and get to pick out their own books!

We wanted a way for the new volunteers to get to know the kids, and get used to working with them, and also for our old volunteers to spend time with "their" kids, so our first night was just spent making cards: Just drawing and writing and having fun...
And when the natives started getting restless, it was time to bring out the SURPRISE... Loom bands...We discovered in August with my friends the Raaffs what a great hit they are with the kids and so when people coming over for the Faith and Conflict conference asked what they could bring me, I said "loom bands" (they are quite expensive here!). And so we had enough bags that each child got their own bag to take with them, and use while we were still hanging out (and of course show the volunteers how to do it, as many of them didn't know!!). Thank-you to everyone who contributed, it really was a HIT!
It was a great start to the book club - it is definitely going to be interesting having almost 30 kids in the club: but with many committed volunteers it really is soooo much easier!!

Mom actually took these pics for me, but I realised afterwards I didn't get a pic of her. And she really was a hit with the kids - they were all getting lots of hugs from her and asking when she will be back again :) Some of them were able to use their English with her, others were getting translation from us - but it was really cute to see how much they enjoyed getting to meet my mom!!

My heart still gets heavy when I think how many of them actually do have mothers, who have either abandoned them, or because they were abusing their children lost parental rights...there are actually only 5 true orphans in the home... so, it was especially poignant for me to have my mom there and realise how blessed I truly am for having grown up in a (relatively) stable environment, and completely surrounded by love and attention. I think this helped me realise that even though the book club might not be much, at least I can do something to bring love (and it really is an expression of God's love to them) and care into their lives, and all the while trying to help them to learn to love reading which is a great habit to have in their lives!

English Conversation Group October 2014

I now run two-three 6 week "blocks" of English conversation classes a year, running at least in the spring and the autumn. This helps those that want to keep coming regularly to keep coming, but also gives those who just want a short "boost" to their language learning to come just to the one block.

I make up my own curriculum, and as I have a few students who keep coming back, I do have to do new material (or just repeat the good stuff) so they don't get bored! I use games and activities just to get them to speak as much as they can. I monitor and help where needed and at the end just give them some pointers as to some common mistakes that I heard them making. The levels vary from pre-intermediate to advanced - my only condition is that they have to speak well enough to carry a conversation even if it is slow: those that feel they can't make it, tend to drop out or attend one of our other classes instead.

So on Wednesday, our first class, it was on "introductions" and "getting to know each other": Ljilja came and took some pics in the beginning with the good camera of us doing the first activity "Find Someone Who":
 It is always a bit of chaos, but as people are trying to win, it is also always competitive...
The idea is to make a line of 5 like bingo - it isn't always easy :)
Once things got a bit more serious, I was left with just my phone camera, but you will get the idea... Here we are in pairs talking through "getting to know you" questions... Spend time in one pair and then rotate around a couple of times... it is a great way to get to know each other, and as they are repeating the same things to new people very good practice. I love this kind of activity (as do they I think!)
Then it was time to get into groups of 3-4 and play a talking game. (and here is proof that Mom came to join in with us at the end - with her spiffy new hairdo!!). The "game" is just a way to talk about yourselves... And it went really well.
We ended off as usual with a lateral thinking exercise - this one was quite a good one: A man travels to another country in order to have a drink in a bar. He could have the same drink in a bar in his home country. Why did he travel? 

It is actually based on a true life situation... see if you can get it... I will put the answer in the comments below :)

All in all, I think it was  a great start to our autumn conversation classes, and it was fun to have Mom be a part of it as well...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Plitvice lakes with Mum

This is the third time that I have visited the UNESCO World Heritage Plitvice lakes in Croatia - but both other times (in 2009 and 2012) we were on our way to somewhere else and it was summer - so shorter time around the park, much less water, more people and no autumn leaves... So I can definitely say that this was my best time ever...
As we stayed two nights there, we had the whole day to wander around - and even though it was October, there were still many people (the park gets around 1 million visitors each year), but we were happy to let them through so we could get people-less pics...
There was a lot of water - as unfortunately the park was actually flooded about 2 weeks before we came, and so some areas were still no go, but there was still loads to see and we walked around for 5 hours which was plenty for us!!
I decided to do photo collages as there are so many lovely places and lakes, waterfalls and cascades - so it was hard to pick just a few...
There was plenty of water and with the autumn colours, we were pinching ourselves around each corner as it just kept getting better and better...
I am glad that Mum's first experience of the lakes was so spectacular, but any time you go it is just amazing... and around every turn is another reminder of how awesome God is!!
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