Monday, May 25, 2009

Budapest here I come...

I leave in a little bit to go for the first time to the lovely city (or so I have heard) of Budapest, Hungary. I am going for YWAM Central European Leadership meetings. Plus we will be meeting before and after for EuroComm (YWAM Communications for Europe). I am hoping that we will also have some time for some sightseeing. We are staying on the Fortuna Boat on the Danube (it is a Youth Hostel!) so even that will be an experience, methinks!!

Anyway, I am ready to be out of Banja Luka for a bit especially after the busy last couple of weeks we have had (have you notice I blog less when I am busy!). I will be back next Tuesday in time to be here for my birthday on the 3rd... not that it will be much of a birthday: I get to go to court to (hopefully) pick up the finished paperwork for Sergej's organisation (they only work on Wednesdays and so it is either go then or wait another week) and then go to Sanski Most for a Dorcas Aid (we have 2 of our projects through them) meeting for the rest of the day - can you tell I am excited :-( But that is what happens when your birthday falls on a weekday!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


So, this week in the midst of all the busyness before we both go travelling next week, we cleverly decided to finally paint the three front rooms of the flat. They had last been painted 5 years ago and so it really was time! (here they use water-based paint and some people paint every year or every other year at the most!).

Here is the lounge with everything ready you can see the black corner where it should be WHITE:About halfway through:
And this is the lounge NOW. You can see the colours better in the above pic - they are yellow and ocre in diagonal stripes. It looks GREAT (even if I say so myself!):
And the other side: we still have to put back the photo frames and other stuff on the TV stand...
Then the kitchen: this is Damjan (our "majstor" or handyman who did all the actual painting for us), who is able to walk around like stilts on his ladder - wish I got a video of it, it is quite amazing! But it saves him having to get up and down all the time!! His family is part of one of our aid projects and he and his wife and two kids visited us last week - see Sunday afternoon tea for more on that. He did a great job and deserved the money we gave him (which he didn't want to take!!) The kitchen we just did in white, so I didn't take an after pic.Then lastly we also did the hallway: this is it with Damjan and Ljilja in an action shot half way through...
And below is after we put back the bookshelves - they are bricks and planks and are NOT the easiest to move around: Ljilja moved them out by herself and so she was most grateful that David came over to help us move them back!
Above each shelf we painted a white frame (over the turquoise once Damjan had left) for 3 pictures: one set for my home town and the other for Ljijla's. I haven't put my pictures up yet, but you get the idea:
All in all we are very happy with our new look house and it is all completely spring-cleaned as well... But even with Damjan's help it was a LOT of work and so we are now both completely poooped!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

World Rafting Champs...

There is a BIG buzz in the city of Banja Luka right now as tomorrow is the start of the rafting in the canyon just south of the city. We have had other rafting competitions (Euro or Regional) here before, but this year they are running the WORLD CHAMPS here!! I am hoping to make it down to see some of the action! The weather this week is supposed to be in the high 20s (80s), so I will probably want to be in the water with the competitors rather than on the side watching!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sladja is here...

Ljilja's friend Sladja is here from Trebinje. She has not been to Banja Luka before, so everything is really big and new and exciting so it has been really fun having her here!

Yesterday we walked around town: here she is in front of our (shiny, new) Government Buildings:Tonight, we took her to the new big Mall that has just opened last week, it is like being in a different world: Here we are on the escalators:
I was too busy to go with her and Ljilja to the Museum yesterday and the Zoo (well "petting zoo" is more adequate) today, but all-in-all I think that we are showing her a great time...

Why am I surprised???

The longer I live here, the more amazing it is that anything actually gets done... Especially because of the bureaucracy and amount of paperwork that is needed to get anything done here. My latest adventure is to with Sergej's organisation. With him leaving, it needed to be closed down. Unfortunately, due to factors beyond his control, he started quite late with the shutting down and so when he left, he hadn't finished it. So, he gave me a power of attorney so that I could carry on with the process (otherwise he would have to come back here just to sign a few things, which didn't make any sense!)

So, yesterday I skidaddle down to the court (which is only open to receive people on Wednesdays - gotto love that!) and waited in line. When I got in, the guy took one look at the paperwork that Sergej had prepared and told me there was problems with the wording on the "decision" declaring that the organisation had to close down. And, the way the POA was worded it seemed like it didn't allow me to make the changes... oh dear, please don't tell me Sergej has to come back from the Ukraine???

I decided to go and ask the Notary who did the POA whether I could change the documents. I get to her office and she was soooo nice and explained that I could change the documents, as I had exactly the same powers as Sergej. HOWEVER, Sergej himself didn't have the power to close the organisation down as it was actually founded in America. So, the Americans had to be the ones who wrote the "decision", not me nor Sergej...

Now, right in the beginning, Sergej was told he would need a letter from America by the bookkeeper, but when he went to the court they told he didn't need it. Now, I suspect that the guy at the court didn't realise that the organisation is international and was founded in America and so that was why he gave the wrong advice! But I think it is so funny that even he got it wrong!

And the funny thing is that Sergej managed to get the tax office clearance without the letter (which the Notary said should have been impossible!), but as that is actually the hardest part it makes my life now a lot easier...

Anyway, I have contacted the people in America and they will hopefully send the letter soon...

But as we say here "This is Bosnia". Even they don't know what they are doing!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Goodbye party...

One of the sad things in this life is that people come and go and you have to say "goodbye" to people you don't want to have to say "goodbye" to. This week is one of those times. Sergej and Ira are returning (with Vera) to the Ukraine. They have been working with our team for the past 2-3 years and they will be leaving a really big hole behind. Here I am with them: And David and Ljilja with Sergej:
We had a little going away party for them (braai/barbecue et al) and we had a really nice time hanging out, playing table tennis and eating good food.
Then Sinisa gave Sergej the present from our team, and gave a little speech about how much we are going to miss them...
And Sergej -the below photo for those who know him, is a TYPICAL pose- said a little thank-you, which turned into a mini-sermon... which is also typical for him!
It was somewhere in between the two speeches that many of us started tearing up, and I know I shed a few tears and so did others. Even though it is very likely that we will see them again on this side of heaven (they are already making plans to come visit us next summer!), it is not the same as them being in Banja Luka...

One thing I will always remember about Sergej (besides his great electrical skills) is one time when we were saying goodbye to someone else who had been here a couple of months, Sergej said "ok, remember, if we don't see each other here on this earth, we will meet at the East gate, not the West gate or the South gate, the East gate". It sounds so much better than saying "see you again in heaven"!!!!!

Sunday afternoon tea...

Yesterday, Tanja and Damjan, two of our clients through one of our humanitarian aid projects came over for tea. We didn't get any photos of their parents, but here are Ljilja and I with the kids Bojan and Snjezana, who are soooo cute!:Here I am talking to Bojan about South Africa: he is 7 and was quite interested, especially when his mom told him that it was close to Madagascar from the film!
Bojan is one of our sponsorship kids: this means he has a "godparent" in Finland who pays each month towards his schooling. There are no 51 kids in this project - for which Ljilja is responsible: she does such a good job with all the kids! And one of the things that is done is to send the "godparent" pictures and letters from the "godchild". Here is one of the pictures to be sent to Bojan's godparent in Finland: He wrote his name "BOJAN" on the right. I just love the picture of the priest on the left!
The parents are just lovely people and we had a great time with all of them. Especially as the kids are very huggy and kissy: I feel like my love quota has been totally filled up!!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Aleksandra's "Matura"

I can't believe Aleksandra is graduating High School. She is one of the English Club and started coming when she was in the second year of High School (here it is 4 years). Then she left for her third year to Italy (as an Exchange student). Now, she has been back for a year and tonight was her "prom" or "matric dance". Here I am with her:Here it is a bit different: the high schools have them on different nights and all the students of that particular high school gather in the main street downtown (which is closed off) and then parade off to the Party venue (which is just off the main street) so that everyone can see them!!

Last summer, Aleksandra was with me and the Dutch team at dinner one night. We were talking about how old everyone is, and my age came up. She turns to me and says (she was 17 at the time): Hey Belinda, do you know that if you had me at 17, you are old enough to be my mother? Thanks Aleksandra!!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

girls' night...

Well, it was just us girls this week at English Club and we had a great time. We got to hear about Zvjezdana's trip to the US (she is on the right in the photo). She went as part of a group of high-school students on a month's exchange visit to Oregon. We also got to meet Jovana who came for the first time (she is next to me in the white). Ljilja and I met her in the shop where we get the humanitarian aid stuff - and I got to talking with her and invited her to come to English...Otherwise, we caught up, did some games, and ended with lateral thinking puzzles- which are our favourite thing! We also had some cake which one of my earlier beginners' class brought as it was her birthday and her "Slava" (Saint's Day celebration) this week. Who needs guys??

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pyjama day...

One of the things I like about my "job" is that some days I get to work from home and stay in my pyjamas ALL DAY! At lunch time, I even took them off, took a shower, washed my hair and then put them back on!

And I got a lot done today in my pajamas:
-finishing off my Romans Bible School assignments. I worked on those from 6am-8.30am and 3-5pm and just one more thing and they are DONE!
-finishing off the financial reports for our Dorcas project. I worked on these with Ljilja from about 9am-2pm in between doing the following:
-phoning all our loan recipients to get references for them = this is a new requirement and so we had to phone them and get that today...
-phoning the travel agent to get information for Laura who is hopefully still going to come despite having to go to London to get her visa (yay!)
-emails - sorting out stuff for teams and back and forth with Laura and others...
-letting the English Club know that we are meeting tomorrow night by sms and facebook

Even though I think that today has been productive in my pyjamas, it is time to get out of them and out of the house now!!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Good news/Bad news, the car and Olja's birthday...

This morning, I got some good news and some bad news:

The good news is that I have found a solution for my summer scheduling problem: In late July I was supposed to host the Dutch Go team and be at Student camp at the same time!! In order to solve this problem, I asked the team if I could find somewhere else for them to go: if they would go there for a week and then come here. They were open to the idea, but then it took me a while for me to find somewhere else for them to be. This morning I got an email from a good friend of a good friend who is willing to have them (and it looks like it will be a real blessing, so my scheduling problem has become a blessing to someone else!)

The bad news is that my friend, Laura, who is supposed to be coming in July to help with some Business Training has been denied the needed letter for her to be able to get her visa for Bosnia in Turkey. She now has to go to London to get the visa which is WAY more expensive (hence us trying to get her this letter so she could go to Turkey). The frustrating part is that I spent the better part of last week trying to get hold of them in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sarajevo to find out what was going on with the application for this letter and NO ONE EVER ANSWERED THE PHONE. (One day I even emptied the battery on the office phone, phoning non-stop for an hour and not getting ANY reply!) So this morning when I got through I was just so shocked to actually get through, that when he told me it was denied, I didn't even ask why! He did say they would fax the decision through, so I guess we will find out then...

This afternoon, my car's fuel pump problem was FINALLY fixed: It has been a problem for over a year, but various different mechanics couldn't figure out the problem and eventually when one did, he couldn't find the needed part for love or money. I eventually found the part through another mechanic friend and took it to them to put in today... Here's hoping this is the LAST time I have to go to the mechanic for a long while!

Tonight, some of us went out for cake for Olja's birthday which is tomorrow. Here we all are: Ljilja, Mirjam, Lea, Olja and I:Here is Olja and I:
And Olja and Ljilja - cute pic!!
All-in-all it was a nice end to a long, but interesting day!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Cell group via skype...

While I was in South Africa, I was attending a cell/bible study group each week. While I was still there, we joked about me joining with them virtually via "skype" with web cameras from time to time. Well the "joke" became a reality last night: it happened to be the prayer week (which happens once a month) and it was just so nice to be able to "be" there and pray with them in real time. Being able to hear what their prayer needs are and to be prayed for by them was just great!

Although it wasn't quite the same - I missed out on Laura's great shortbread cake for instance - at one stage I closed my eyes and it was almost as if I was actually back in Cape Town... I love technology!!!

The boys came to lunch

Yesterday, David and his Czech friend Vasek, who is here visiting this week, came over for lunch. I made lasagna on Sunday and then froze it so I would have it for them when they came! Which was a great idea as we were very busy on Thursday and wouldn't have had time to make lunch for them. We must have fed them well because this is them after lunch:Yip, they needed that post-lunch nap, especially David:
Vasek thought the story of our "promiscuous" bears was so great, that he had to get a picture of himself with them:
Ok, promiscuous bears?? The bear on the right is the original "promiscuous" bear. He got the name because we put him on the bed for all the guests that come through here: so he "slept with" a lot of people over the years! One day I realised that he had got a bit grubby and put him in the machine to have a bit of a wash: and he came out a bit shrunk and horrible as you can see! So we had to get another bear (on the left) to give to our guests!! So now we have two "promiscuous" bears!!
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