Thursday, June 30, 2016

When good friends come to visit...

I have been friends with Dave and Sarah for over 20 years and when they lived in England for 8 years, they wanted to come visit and never did. When they went back to South Africa just over two years ago, they promised to come visit on their next trip to Europe, and this year they made good on their promise!

They are very brave bringing 4 kids to visit Bosnia, but I think I am showing them a good time: Here they are in front of the Orthodox Cathedral in Banja Luka:
It has been such fun having them here: Here we are in Krupa na Vrbasu (at the watermills, about 1/2 hour from Banja Luka). They really enjoyed the hike along the river and the adults the food at the restaurant. As it is fish with head and tail still attached, the kids not so much! But we loved it! And we found some other fun food for the kids, so they were happy...
And they also got to experience what my life can be like: when they originally contacted me I told them that this week was a quieter week and nothing much would be going on... and then I got a request from a friend of a friend who was travelling through the Balkans presenting a seminar called "Word by Heart" whether he and his friend could stay here this week and help out with whatever we are doing... So I said yes and suddenly this week got a little bit busier,,, they also came with us to Krupa, where we enjoyed getting to know them a bit better on the hike and lunch together!
As the two guys are from Brazil (Murilo, above left) and India (Avi, above right), I decided it would be great to go to the Children's Home to share about the different cultures from three counties (South Africa, India and Brazil - we just need a Russian and someone from China and we have all of the BRICS countries!). There are not many kids at the Home at the moment during the school holidays (many go to Italy, others to family members), but we still had a great time with the kids that were there.

Here we are pasting tissue paper on the Brazilian flag - we also did the Indian and South African!
Murilo from Brazil also shared about how we can fix our broken hearts...
Before we moved outside to do some loom bands in the shade, while the guys played football.
And my volunteer, Nina, could enjoy getting some cuddles from baby Rachel:
This is some of what my friend, Sarah, had to say on facebook about their experience: Belinda is an excellent tour guide! And a useful shopping companion as she can speak fluent Bosnian. Thank you Belinda for hosting us in this beautiful city! Such an interesting part of the world. We visited the orphanage this afternoon and the kids really love Belinda and they so enjoyed our visit. It is such a privilege to be here and see some of the work that Belinda does in Banja Luka. So, I know they are having a great time :)

Today we will head to the pool (it is going to be HOT) and this evening we will have a cultural evening at EKC Ihtus. And then they head out tomorrow (very sad face) It is a bit weird when my two worlds collide and people from one part of my life get to see what I do here... but it is a great weird and I am so privileged that so many of my friends and family have come to visit me here!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review | If I run

Having read and loved Terri Blackstock's Cape Refuge series, when I saw this book up for review, I jumped at the chance. I wasn't disappointed as it was fast paced mystery, with a splash of romance and with lovely biblical principles interwoven throughout.

Casey finds her friend Brent dead and in trying to help him tracks her footprints and fingerprints all over the scene. Thinking that the people who did this to him would come for her and also fearing the police would think she killed him (which they do) she runs...

The story continues as she finds her way to new surroundings while back home, former soldier, Dylan, is hired by Brent's family to try and find Casey. The story continues to unfold and the mystery of Brent's death deepens...

The only thing that I didn't like was the ending. I thought it was a stand alone book and thought as I drew towards to the end that it would actually end. But unfortunately, as I got to the end it becomes clear that this is the first in a series and so there is no clear conclusion. But I will probably read the next in the series as the characters are well developed and I will enjoy seeing where they go from here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.

Book Review | Meet the New You

I took a long time to get through this book (even though it says 21 day plan), I started reading it in January, and only finished it in June. But, mostly because I wanted to get the most out of it. It was chock full of good ideas of how to really take stock of your life and move forward into good new habits. I spent a lot of time on each chapter, thinking and praying about how to implement it into my life.

Elisa Pulliam is a life coach and mentor, so she uses a lot of those kinds of techniques, but also wraps them up with sound biblical principles and also gives readers questions to dig deeper after each chapter. This is definitely a book I will be reading again and again!

If you are looking for a good book to read as part of your daily quiet time, or as I did, during a weekly "going deeper" session with God, then this is the book for you.

I can highly recommend this book for those women who have a need to see how to grow into the destiny that God has for them, making mostly small (and maybe big) changes to try and change into true Women of God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.

Two sisters came to visit...

And they happen to be my Mom and Aunt :) After our family reunion in Poland, my Mom, aunt Jan, cousin Lauren and I flew to Budapest where we spent an extra day to see the city before Mom, Jan and I carried on for Banja Luka (while Lauren went to visit friends in Switzerland).

Budapest was great - Mom and I went to the baths:

And we saw some of the sights, including Heroe's Square:

 - and we took a bus to see the city from up on the Buda side:

But our favourite thing was the boats on the Danube. They were also included in the travel card we had which lasted 24 hours, and so we just cruised up and down for over two hours... Here is the Parliament from the boat:

We then travelled by train, bus and car to Banja Luka (the plan was to go by car, but my car broke down on the way to Hungary and had to get towed to Banja Luka - it is fixed now, but it wasn't in Budapest to travel back with... so we had to make an alternative plan, but it all worked out OK).

Here are the sisters enjoying their ice creams in downtown Banja Luka:)

And enjoying Bosnian pita with my friend and former colleague, Mary, who was visiting at the same time:

We also went to the Children's Home for the last night of the Book Club and we had a great time with the kids and the photo booth: Mom and Jan got into it too!

We went to Krupa Falls about 1/2 an hour from Banja Luka - so pretty:

There we enjoyed the fish at the fish restaurant (but as Mom is allergic to fish she had the other option: savoury doughnuts, served with meat and cheese). The fish is trout from the fish farm across the road from the restaurant, and they go get it when you order, so it is VERY fresh. Yummy!

Then it was time for one of the sisters to leave... so we drove her (and Mary) to Zagreb to fly out. But not before we got to see some of the sights - here in front of the Cathedral:

Mom stayed on another week which was great. We had a great week, catching up with lots of people, including my ex-colleagues from Finland, Suvi and Henri, who were visiting:

We travelled down for one night to Sarajevo with Ljilja, where we met up with my YWAM colleagues, Kip and Erica and their kids, Caleb and Anna Kate.

Mom also enjoyed seeing Sarajevo again - she was there in 2002 when I lived in Zenica, and a LOT has changed and been rebuilt. Here she is in the iconic Sarajevo shot: in front of the water fountain:

Besides catching up with a lot of people, before she left to go to my sister in Oxford, Mom also had time to have her hair done (pictured with our hairdresser, Tanja) and complete a puzzle:

As always, it was fun having her here, and really hard to see her go, but I will see her again when I go to South Africa in December, so it wasn't goodbye, but see you soon!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

My BIG FAT Polish Family Reunion

As he had been conscripted at 18 and was part of the Polish army, my grandfather fled Poland at the beginning of WWII - he travelled through Europe, was captured in France by the Germans, but escaped and eventually made it to England. There he fought in the Battle of Britain with the Polish Battalion. In England he met my grandmother and they had my mom and travelled to South Africa 3 years after the war ended. He wrote letters home to his family, but never received anything back (probably because it was behind the Iron Curtain), so we always thought that none of them had survived.

In October 2014, I received a Facebook message from my second cousin, Izabela, (her grandfather Wacław and mine were brothers) asking if I was Branisław's granddaughter. She had found some of the letters and tracked me down! So, as they kept inviting us to come mother, aunt and cousin from South Africa, my sister and kids from England, my brother from Canada and I all came together in Poland to meet this side of the family! And as Mom turned 70 this May, to celebrate her birthday altogether!

We didn't know what to expect at all, but it was an amazing time of exploring Poland and getting to know our new-found Polish side of the family. Also, getting back to our roots and seeing where our Grandfather (or Father as the case may be) was from.

We started off in Warsaw for two days, where we explored the old city and went to the fantastic museum about the Warsaw Uprising during WWII. Here am I, my Mom Sue, cousin Pawel (who showed us around with cousin, Izabela), my niece Amy, nephew James, and sister Astrid in Warsaw old town. We were joined later in the week by my brother, Kevin and Aunt Janny and cousin Lauren so there were 8 of us from our branch of the family.
For the two days we were in Warsaw, we were staying in Wołomin, a city just outside Warsaw where one branch of the family lives, and they gave us a wonderful barbecue our first night: And we started to think that we fit in well in this crazy family :)
There was also time to look through photographs together. Something we did a LOT of during the week: We got to know each other through all of our photos. One of the dynamics was that not many of the family spoke English very well. Izabela - below left, was the one who contacted me and her English is fantastic - she even teaches children - and Anja, below middle, also spoke well. Aunty Stasha in the middle didn't speak a lick of English, but that didn't stop her from trying to talk to all of us all the time. She was very with it, but just couldn't understand why we couldn't understand her Polish (although some of the time we could figure out some of what she was saying...). Her family did just tell us that she likes to talk and to just nod and smile, so that is what we did... Having her around was part of the charm of becoming part of this family!
Here are Izabela and cousin Pawel - they are also 2nd cousins to each other as are Astrid, Kevin and I to them. They were the ones who did most of the organising and transport and making sure everything came together. As I have said, Izabela's English is very good, but Pawel's needs help. But he was so determined to communicate with us, with hands and feet and everything in him: and he was unable to hide his love and enthusiasm for life and us... we so enjoyed these two, and this photo sums up how fun they are :)
It was then time to drive to Terespol in the East of Poland where the rest of the family was from, and near where my Grandfather grew up in the village of Samowicze. Some of the family from Wołomin came along so it was a big house party for the weekend! We were shown what true hospitality and family is all about: looooooots of food, fun and family:
 Amy and James with some of the home made biscuits: so yummy!
And there was LOTS of wonderful pierogies in all shapes and sizes and fillings :) Besides heaps of other food :)
They also made a birthday cake for Mom's 70th (and also for me as it was my birthday while we were there!)
We went to where my grandfather was born and grew up with his 3 brothers. Not much of it is still there as it was wooden - but the cellar survives. Pretty small. Next to my brother on the left is Adam, Izabela (next to him)'s father. He was the one who took us around the village and keeps all the graves clean of all those in his family. It is pretty amazing. It was pretty special to see where my grandfather was from!
And we also went to visit the graves of my great-grandparents and all of my grandfather's brothers. I kind of felt like I was on the TV show "Who do you think you are" as I discovered my Polish roots... I was taught to say in Polish: I am from South Africa, I live in Bosnia, but my heart is in Poland :) Here is most of the Polish side of the family in front of the great-grandparents' graves, which are kept nice by Uncle Adam.
We went to many other places in the area, including to the Polish border with Belarus (which we couldn't cross without a visa). My grandfather worked in the Army in Brest on what is now on the other side of the border so we went to see where he would have walked to work :). This was all before he was forced to flee the advancing German and Russian troops.
They made each of us a wonderful family tree as a momento: My grandfather Branisław, is the oldest of 4 brothers. He was the only brother old enough to be in the army and that is why he had to leave and the rest stayed.
And they printed out and framed a picture for each of us of a photo they had of Papa (which is what we called him) before he left Poland: such a special momento. They also gave us all a lot of other gifts including a book about Poland, and of course, Polish plum vodka!
After a wonderful couple of days together, it was time to go back to Warsaw to fly back home, but not before we saw some more beautiful sights - here we are at Łazienki Palace.
It all passed pretty much in a dream. It is amazing that people who were to all intents and purposes strangers at the beginning of the week have grown into something so much more than family... I am so blessed that we made contact after over 75 years of being apart and am looking forward to more reunions in the future!
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