Monday, August 06, 2018

Musings about moths...

It has been a funny year, lots of travels and in between, lots of busyness and guests... It has meant that I didn't have time to completely deal with the moths that kept appearing in our pantry. Last year when we went off flour we gave most of the food in the pantry away to different people. This year, I took any other possible source of food out and yet they still kept appearing. I got moth traps and it was appalling how many there were... they were unrelenting! But because of my schedule and having guests around, we didn't have a chance to do anything about it...

Then, finally, before Ljilja left to take Sina to fly out from Dubrovnik, and then visit her family in Trebinje for a few days, I decided it was now beyond time to do a complete pantry clear out. Before they left, Ljilja and I took everything out of the pantry (except the shelves and cupboards) and put it in the hallway. I put up more moth traps just to make sure they were really gone. To my amazement they still kept appearing in the pantry without anything in it. They were somewhere in the wooden shelves or cupboards... I took the shelves out and they still kept appearing... so the cupboards went out as well.

Over the next week in between working on communication stuff for the upcoming big YWAM Together event in Thailand, I went through everything in the pantry. When Ljilja got back, we bought (on sale!) some new plastic shelves which fit nicely and a new floor covering. We even got our friend and handyman, Damjan to come and paint it. Ljilja just said "it is so nice in there now, I want to sit in it". But seriously, if the moths come back NOW, I am not sure what I will do!!

I also hosted a friend this year who had to go through a lot of stuff she left behind in Bosnia and get rid of 95% of it. It was hard work and I realised that I am also attached to so many things for sentimental reasons. I managed to get rid of a lot of things from the pantry that we never use, but I have kept some small mementos. But if they were the source of the moth infestation they would have to go as well...

It has made me look at things and realise that *things* are not important. They are the things that moths and rust can destroy. I don't have that many things, but still I cling to some of them because they are important to me... but as the Bible says:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is my heart? Is it with earthly things? Or is it with the things of heaven? Some days I am not certain... other days I know for sure. It is important to examine my heart and make sure that I am laying up my treasures in the eternal and not just for today. Sometimes just like with "Operation Pantry Clean Out", it takes a radical clean out and examination to make sure that my treasure is still in heaven. 

One of the reasons that I actually took this house when I moved in 15 years ago was that it had this nice storage space. For so long (we have had the moths off and on for over 2 years!!!) it has been a source of annoyance and now it is something we can enjoy. I haven't enjoyed the process of getting here, it was a lot of hard work, but in the end, the pantry is nicer than it has ever been. 

And the same is true of searching our hearts and spending time in reflection with God as our helper. Firstly we are reminded of reasons why we do things - I was reminded that the pantry was a reason for living here. Secondly, things that are annoying now will become easier to live with as we gain perspective - the moths being there actually made us get rid of the horrible old shelves and cupboard and get something better in their place. And lastly, despite the hard work, or maybe because of it, you will end up a much better person!! Or at least that is the hope :) 

Well that is it... I just had to share what has been going round in my brain this week... I hope you have enjoyed these musings about moths! 

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Morocco Holiday!

This is our 8th year of going on summer holidays together, Ljilja, Sina and I. This year Sina's wish came true: we went to Morocco!! We travelled to Budapest where we had found cheap Ryanair flights to Marrakesh. We spent one night there before heading to the coastal town of Agadir:

I had found a reasonably priced hotel near the beach and we had such a great stay there. Here we are at a restaurant on the beach for one of our many "tajines" which were all amazing:
We walked each evening along the promenade where there were these funny exercise machines: Had to give it a go:
The beach was quite packed with locals, and we enjoyed walking along it, but as the weather was surprising cool and windy (for Morocco!!) we mostly swam in our hotel pool. I know, I know!
 But proof that we did walk along the beach a bit :)
And there were quite a few camels and drivers if you wanted to have a go...
We went one morning to the HUGE souk - here in one of the spice shops with Ahmed who wanted to marry Ljilja. In fact many people did - the huge smile did the trick!
And she became somewhat of a local celebrity for trying to stop a robbery (which turned out to be a prank)... It was posted on a local news Facebook page:

Only Ljilja would become a local celebrity on vacation!!

We took a day tour to Essaouira which was amazing!
 Where the streets have no name...
And also a place to get some really lovely photos: 

On the tour, we got to stop along the way to see the famous tree goats. They climb the trees to eat the argon nuts from which they make argon oil.
 They were pretty cute:
We also made a stop to see how the argon oil is made... here is Ljilja with some of the ladies who make the oil: you can see why it is so expensive when you see how they have to make it all by hand!
We enjoyed lovely sunsets - at 8.45 at night :) It sets over the Harbour, but it is still stunning!
Then the beach part of the holiday was over and it was time to travel back to Marrakech to spend a few days there before flying back to Budapest: This is us having dinner overlooking the main square:
Here is another view from our first night there: It is always jammed pack with people in the evening when the heat has cooled down (yes Marrakesh met the heat expectations!)
We were staying in the Medina or Old City - here is a view from the rooftop of our Riad or Old House:
But inside was an oasis - built originally for the rich families and all having a water feature (ours had a pool, others have a fountain) which keeps the house cool - and it really did. I was on the bottom level and my room stayed so cool. It was a lovely place to stay in the madness that is the Medina!
The streets outside all looked the same, and I was just so happy to know how to use google maps as I was able to find our way quite well with that... not sure how it would have gone without that technology! I even had to use it once to tell the taxi driver where to go :)
 There was also time for shopping at the Souks - again Ljilja found a soulmate...
And we took a trip to the Jardin Majorelle which was beautiful:

We also took one day to go out of the city to the High Atlas Mountains for a hike, mostly along a river up to a waterfall:
It was a wonderful experience: Berber villages in abundance:
We enjoyed the local food and drink: Mint/green tea became a part of our daily routine:
And of course tajines: yum yum:
We only ate twice a day otherwise we would have been huge at the end of it! 
If I was to reflect on our holiday, I enjoyed seeing a completely new culture and encountering a lot of sites, sounds, smells and experiences which I never dreamt that I would in my lifetime. I loved spending time with two good friends and talking about life and God and praying together. And I still can't believe that we went to Morocco! But next year, for my holiday I would love something quieter, more relaxed and hopefully with less people. :) 

Friday, August 03, 2018

One thousand posts

This is the 1000th blog post that I have done on this blog since I started it in 2005. Can you believe it?? I am not sure for how much longer I will keep on blogging, as my posts get fewer and farther between with each year. My most prolific year was 2012 when I had 156 posts, whereas in 2017 I only had 24, and it looks like I will have even less in 2018!

I logged on now to write a blog about my recent trip to Morocco with friends for a holiday. It was amazing! But then I saw that it was the 1000th post and I realised I wanted to mark that somehow and just reflect on what this blog has meant to me.

This blog has been a diary of sorts. A way to remember what happened. It is also a place I could just capture my thoughts - I wish I did more of that.  Some has been informative about the culture here. In fact my highest rated post is "What is a baksuz?" which was about a traffic fine I incurred and told people the meaning of the Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian word "baksuz". Obviously people google baksuz meaning and that comes up as it is clicked on by many random people!

Another favourite is "Đurđevdan" which talks about the amazing tradition that is the Serbian "slava".

Another one of my popular but more reflective blogposts is on "Saying Goodbye" which is still an ongoing struggle for me - but I am getting better at it! Practice makes perfect!

Somewhere along the way I realised how much I really do love writing and through people encouraging me, it seemed that I was even somehow good at it. I don't think I would have realised that if it hadn't been for this blog. Now I write more than I did before, and am hoping one day to even complete a book... who knows? 

It also allowed me to read books for free and review them on here. This was great for a girl who loves to read and had no access to free books in her own language. That changed a couple of years back when a wonderful friend (you know who you are!) offered to let me use her kindle library card and so now I can get library books on my kindle. It has changed my life for the better, but also meant I didn't have to review books as much. Another reason I don't blog as much as before. But while it lasted, I loved having access to great quality books for the price of a review!

Another reason that I am blogging less, is that a couple of years ago I took on more leadership responsibility in my organisation on a regional level. This means I have a lot less time as I am travelling more and have a lot more on my plate than before as I try to balance what I have to do locally with the regional. I always used to say I was busy, but I guess I didn't know what that meant ;) Now I don't have time to blog as much: I still find it relaxing and one of the ways that I unwind, which is why it still happens some, but mostly it has taken a back seat to other responsibilities.

I also realise that people aren't really reading blogs as much as they used to. I think it started when they started getting monetised. They had to "create content" and made the blogs more focused on what attracted clicks than being genuine web logs. I think they lost their original raison d'etre and got so numerous and overplayed that people stopped having time for them. Also Facebook has replaced much of that for me, it is much easier to write a quick Facebook post than put it on my blog - as I know most people won't click through to read the blog, but they will read the FB post. And I like seeing that people actually read what I write!

So, I may eventually leave this blog to rest and just keep in touch with people in other ways... we will see. But for now, I will celebrate all that it has meant to me and what I have learnt from having it a part of my life! 1000 posts!! Wow!

Monday, July 02, 2018

June Visitors...

As I said in my last post, I got back from my epic trip around Europe and picked up Mom at Zagreb airport on the way back. As usual it was great to have her here... the weather mostly played along: Here we are downtown:
And at the city park:
We also made it to the market where both got new dresses: which you can't really see in the below pic, but they are lovely :)
Another hit was the indoor thermal swimming pool on the day it rained... and Mom (who was coming from drought-stricken, water-restricted Cape Town) could take a lovely long shower in the thermal water. I think that she enjoyed that almost as much as seeing me!

Mom's trip was short but very sweet and it worked out magnificently as when she left, we could drive her to Zagreb, as I was already having to drive our kombi/van to pick up a lovely team from the US: Here we are having dinner the first night altogether, once we were back in Banja Luka:
Even though they were around only 4 days, before heading to Sarajevo for a month, we managed to pack in a lot of things with them: Cultural night at EKC Ihtus:
 Where we had a lot of fun!
We also took them to the children's home where they hung out with the kids... Most of them are in Italy, staying with families during the summer, but we gave those that were there a fun afternoon, playing games or doing loom bangs on the side, or football with the guys:
Or doing gymnastics together:
When they left to go to Sarajevo, we were sad to see them go :(

Then we had some wonderful Finnish visitors, Sanna and Miika and their three kids who used to be here, but you will have to take my word for it as I don't have a pic...

Then it was time for my last June visitors, this time Matt and Kalene from my home church in Cape Town, South Africa. They were the lucky winners of a voucher at my Bosnian evening for free accommodation and they always wanted to come to this part of Europe, so they decided to come to me on the way from Budapest to Croatia... and we showed them a good time: Here we are at Krupa falls:
It was a busy but fun couple of weeks with all of our June visitors!!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Toledo, Sarajevo, Budapest and Tallinn

As I am part of the Bosnian National Team for Samaritan's Purse's "Operation Christmas Child", this year I went to the IConnect conference held in Toledo, Spain with 3 of my fellow team members. Here we are below with our colleagues from Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia. Yes, we went all the way to Spain and hung out with our local colleagues :)
This year was also Elvira's first time and she asked me to also dress up in National Costume so she wouldn't be alone. this was meant to be for the first night along with everyone else, but our flight was delayed and then our luggage lost, so we didn't get to do it then... but we were determined to do it anyway and it was really fun: 
Here are all of us from Bosnia and Herzegovina together with the OCC mascot! 
The conference was huge - over 500 people from 60 nations. We had corporate sessions in the morning and evenings and then workshops in small groups the rest of the day. It was long days, but we had a great time! 
One evening we were able to go to Toledo - and we took the little train up to the hill overlooking the city and got some great views of this Unesco World Heritage City, before exploring the city further and then having a little adventure getting lost trying to make our way back to where we could catch the taxi home! But we made it back safe and sound in the end...
After the conference, we all flew back to Sarajevo, and as it was my birthday the next day, everyone arranged to stay on and celebrate with me... Yay!! We were joined by Carolyn (and Elvira opted out) for the trip up the mountain on the newly redone Cable Car:

Here I am in one of the old cars - the original Cable Car was made for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and then unfortunately it was destroyed in the 1990s war, so it is nice to have it up and running again. 
Then, instead of travelling from Sarajevo to Banja Luka (5 hours by train) and then onto Budapest (12 hours on bus and train), I just flew on a Wizzair cheap flight to Budapest... and stayed with my friend Marie (and got to hang out with some other people as well which was great - but I don't have pics of that).
The reason for going to Budapest, was actually to take advantage of cheap flights to my next destination, Tallinn, Estonia, another Unesco World Heritage City!! (I should call this post from Toledo to Tallinn, seeing World Heritage cities across Europe!)
But you can see why it is a world heritage site... above is the Russian Orthodox church and below is one of the city gates that is still there - they have more that 80% of them, which is amazing for a medieval city!
 A view from the walls out... so pretty:
 This was part of the walk from where we were staying in the middle of old town to the place we were meeting... 2 years ago when I was here, I could barely make it up the hill... now 15kgs lighter and little bit fitter, I was able to make it up, sometimes twice a day, with no problem... so I was happy about that :)
The reason I was in Tallinn, was to spend time with these great people: The European Leadership Learning Community. I was part of the staff team for this event which was so fun. I love this group!
We had two very different, but amazing teachers. One was Ben Fitzgerald from Awakening Europe: He was more inspirational...
The other Oivind Augland from xpand Norway: He was inspirational, but also so very practical. Loved it!
We did have time for a little RnR... playing games in the park. There were some interesting ones like the one below... It was so much fun! And if you want interesting games, get a Dutchie to organise it!
During the week, I also got to hang out with my Estonian/Bosnian friend, Jael. She lived in Bosnia for 17 years and left last year in October to return to Tallinn. She took me to the medieval restaurant "Old Hanza" which was amazing...
The sausages were bear, moose and wild boar!! All the food are things that they would have eaten in medieval times... such a fun experience!
After 3 weeks, 1 5 hour hour train trip, 9 flights ranging from 1 to 4 hours, 1 5 hour bus trip, and many other forms of transport including the Cable Car, I met up in Zagreb with Ljilja and Sina and we hung out for a bit before Sina left... and then Ljilja and I picked up my MOM for her to come to stay with us in Banja Luka... but more on that in another post :)
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