Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ode to the Peugeot...

Today is the day that someone decided that they needed my car more than me... It didn't matter that it was behind a gate with an alarm, with a landlady who sleeps "like a bird" - we were gone at camp and the little Peugeot 206 was too much temptation for someone and it was stolen...

I woke up at 8am this morning at camp at Boracko Lake (about 4 1/2 hours drive from Banja Luka) on the 2nd day of Student camp to see that my landlady had tried 4 times to call me from 6.50am. My phone's sound was turned off so I hadn't heard. I was just trying to make sense of it when she called again... When I answered she asked me "did you lend your car to someone?" and when I said "no" she said "well, then it has been stolen"...

At first Ljilja and I thought we could maybe just stay at camp and get someone else to report it stolen, but it was not to be - Ljilja had to come back to sign the paperwork. She is the car's official owner - as it is complicated for me to have it in my name. And I couldn't very well stay at camp if it was actually my car stolen! There were 5 of us who had gone down to camp from Banja Luka, so it was easier to take the Miika's Landcruiser for all of our stuff and so that is how my poor car was left behind. So, we took the landcruiser and the other 3 stayed at camp and will come back on Thursday on the train.

We rushed to get back asap and went straight to the police station... but by the time we got there the car theft branch had all gone home, so we have to just go in tomorrow!! We could have taken it easier and come back later if we had known! Oh well, this is Bosnia!!

But seriously, the whole day I am thinking who would want to steal my little car so much that the fact that it was behind a gate in the yard and ALARMED wouldn't stop them?? Part of me thinks it is someone we know which makes it worse: they knew we were away, they knew the car would be here, they even opened the gate the way we do (with a brick to keep it open). It is just too scary...

But then part of me is excited to see what God is going to do with this situation: return the car? somehow provide for a new one in a wonderful way? Or as Ljilja says: leave us carless so we walk everywhere and then lose the kilos we so desperately need to lose?? :-) Whatever happens, I know that He is the same God as before I got the phonecall this morning and am not worrying too terribly much about it all... PTL!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Children's Home visit...

We went again to the Children's Home on Wednesday morning. We had a smaller group of kids and a nice lot of volunteers so we had a great time! And some learning even took place... We focused on the Alphabet and did games to help the kids learn more of their English ABC's.

The one they really enjoyed was this one: There are two teams and one from each team come forward and have to find the letter David calls out before the person from the opposing team finds it: some of the time they would each just keep picking up letters until they happened on the right one, but some of the kids really showed their knowledge of their ABCs!!Here is a pic of most of us: That is Jelena on my lap. It is her two brothers in the above pic. They are the cutest kids and so polite and well-behaved... but their mother couldn't cope with them anymore, so she put them in the home in April. Really sad. But it is really cute to see how the older brothers take care of their younger sister: long may it continue!
Ivana, who is the blonde helper on the right in the above pic, came with us for the first time. Maja asked her how old she was. When she said "21", Maja said "wow that is old, that is even older than Belinda"!!!! ;-)
(did I tell you I like Maja?!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Sina missed her flight this morning...

Yip, the unbelievable happened... we were in an accident on the way to the airport this morning. It was a 5 car pile-up and we were car number 4. As you can see, car number 5 was going really fast and was actually to blame for us hitting the car in front - Ljilja had managed to stop in time but when he hit us we were pushed into the car in front. PTL that we were in Miika's Jeep and not in my little Peugeot!!!!
Everyone involved was okay, and actually the damage to the jeep was fairly minimal in comparison to the last car...
His car was completely wrecked:
And the most amazing thing is that out of the 5 cars, we were the only one who didn't pay a fine! Because we had only hit the car in front because of the last car hitting us, Ljilja was not in fact to blame for anything, so PTL, she didn't get a fine!!

But, because we weren't able to leave the scene of the accident, we simply watched Sina's flight take off - we were that close to the airport! Once we got to the airport we found out that her next flight out is only on Friday - it is a good thing that we like having her here!!! We made good use of the day, by seeing some of the sights of Zagreb. Here we are in St Mark's square:
I gave one of my best tours of Zagreb: I couldn't have planned it better if I was actually trying: we came out by the guntower at 11.59: just in time to have our eardrums almost burst when the gun went off (just like in Cape Town they have a noon gun!)

Despite the horrible way that it came about we are looking forward to spending another few days with the lovely Sina: She has learnt to say "Ja sam slatka i slobodna, hvala Bogu" in Serbian (which means: "I am sweet and single, thank God") and is just fun to have around...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ljilja's birthday with Sina from Finland...

Today, for Ljilja's birthday and because Sina is visiting us from Finland, we went with Dragana to Jajce to see the waterfall and the other waterfalls along the way... Here we are in Jajce:
Sina actually works in Fida's home office, overseeing one of the projects Ljilja works on, so technically she is Ljilja's boss, but she is here just on holiday with us and we are really enjoying having her here!! Here is a cute pic of Sina and Ljilja at the top of the waterfall:
We then went to the watermills near Plivska jezera, before we went for lunch at the nearby restaurant (Nix&G, the same one we went to!!)
On the way back we stopped off to take pics of the beautiful canyon: Before stopping off at the beautiful Krupa Falls (or as they have translated on the signs: "Krupa Cascades"!!)On the way back, I was actually delaying our return, because, actually, what Ljilja didn't know, is that David was preparing a surprise for her... he and I had plotted together so that he could get into the house with the cakes that he had prepared... Ljilja was very surprised, and touched. The sign says "Danas nam je divan dan" which is what they sing here for "Happy Birthday":
But the classic part of the story is that I had left the key under the mat for him and as Ljilja was leaving the house, she actually found it and gave it back to me... aaaaargh!!!!!!! Luckily she didn't think anything of it (we have had guests this week for whom we left the key, so she just thought it was for them and I had forgot to pick it up again). But what to do now???? How to leave the key without her figuring it out??? I saw the gate was open and said I would go and shut it and managed to slip it under a brick there and texted/smsed David to say where it was... so it all still came together!!

As you can see, Ljilja had a great day and so did we all!!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dorcas Aid International Directors...

Today, Viki (the local coordinator) and two of the DAI directors (one for International Operations, Mishel, left on photo) and the other for the Balkans (Paul, right on below photo) came to visit us. The photo is with Sinisa and the flag they gave us for the wall in our office:We had a fairly long meeting with them at our offices, before visiting two of our beneficiaries, so they could see from their perspective how the project is going and what the people in the project think of it. We went altogether in Miika's jeep (while he is away we get to use it!) much to the delight of little Bojan:
We had a great visit with Tanja and Damjan, where she fed us copious amounts of food (great chicken soup, bosnian potato pie and beans!) and they were overwhelmed by Bosnian hospitality!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

End of Business training...

We had another two sessions of Business Training with Laura on Monday and Tuesday this week. We continued to have a great turnout as people really enjoyed the "game" format and all said that they were also learning a lot along with the fun!!

One of the things that they do during the game is to actually make "hats" to sell to the other teams etc: here is one team making their hats: They also had one version of the hats that they had to make with scissors. Then one round, Laura took the scissors away from all the teams as they had a "machinery failure" in the "factory". They then either had to rent or repair them or work together with the other teams, etc. They were, of course, not very happy with this and the next round, the one team hid their scissors from Laura so it couldn't happen again:)
Another part of the training was for the participants to start up their own businesses in between the two sets of training with a small loan of 10KM (about R60/$8). For the report back at the last session, Darko came with his actual business: a super peeler/slicer and he demonstrated it for us:
He managed to make about 400KM (R2400/$350) in the 10 days with that small loan by selling these at the market! He also sold 7 on the night!!

Here is the whole group on the last night:
It has been so great to have Laura here, not only for running the program, but also to catch up with her and what is going on in South Africa!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My new car...

Well, not really... but would be nice!

Laura and I were at the restaurant "Jezero" (which means "Lake" as it is on one) yesterday for lunch and this car was parked outside. After getting in it herself, she convinced me to get in - I was just waiting for the owner to come out screaming!! But luckily he did not...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Banja Luka tour...

Here are some of Laura's pictures so you can see Banja Luka from her perspective: Enjoy!

This is the "new" Orthodox church which has just been finished. The original church was destroyed during World War 2 by the Germans, and they started rebuilding during the last war in the early 90s. And it took them until now to completely finish it:
Gospodska street: this is the main walking street in Banja Luka. Every Bosnian town has a walking street where people walk during the day and especially at night: it is all about seeing and being seen! During the summer months it is jam packed with people strolling along, eating icecream...
This is part of the "Kastel" Fortress which is Banja Luka's main historical trademark. Unfortunately, as you can see, it is falling down and no one is spending any money to fix it or keep it from breaking down more...Now, these are some views from the place where she is staying (hey Lea, recognise these?). Very typical Bosnian/former Yugoslavian building style:
And I had to laugh at this one: The view into the balcony across the way:
I get so used to seeing these things every day it does take someone coming in to remind me that these are actually quite typical of here and not that usual anywhere else!

Orphanage with Laura

This has been a really busy week - you know when I am busy when I don't update my blog! But it has been mostly good! One of the fun things we did was the orphanage. Laura came along with us and although there were a lot less children as many were away for the school holidays (many in Italy), we still had a great time. We were learning different parts of the body. Here is Ceca showing us "nose":And here are the volunteers from the English Club: Ceca, Branka and Zvjezdana, Laura and myself with some of the kids:
This week's visit was fun, but also sad as there were three new kids (black shirt, blue shirt and pink shirt in the above pic), two sisters and a brother, who had just arrived the day before after being abandoned by their mother. I am still not sure of all the details, but the poor dears looked they would burst into tears at any moment at the beginning, but by the end they were all smiles... makes it all worthwhile!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

EUS team in Banja Luka

The InterVarsity/EUS team that is in Zenica for July came up for the day to check out Banja Luka. David is helping out with the team there and as they plan to come with a team to Banja Luka next year, he wanted them to come and check it out. Laura also came along as she, poor thing, hadn't seen anything of the city yet as we haven't had time! The team arrived just in time for us to go for lunch. Here we all are:Being the 4th of July, Ljilja thought it would be nice to have some sort of surprise for them. She had these little American toothpick flags and wanted to do something with them, but wasn't sure what. I suggested that we ask the restaurant to put them in the lunch cevapi (a traditional Bosnian dish with spiced meat and special bread) that we planned to have for lunch with them. They were all surprised when they came out with the flags, and at first thought it was the restaurant who had done it! Then I explained that it had been Ljilja's idea and they were all very touched... Here is the cevapi with the little flag:
Now, on the team there are 6 US students, but only one "token" white. The others are African- or Asian- or Mexican-Americans, so we caused quite a stir going around town where seeing people of different races is VERY unusual. In fact I think we could have seriously sold pictures with them... and made a nice profit.

So, when we arrived at the Fortress Kastel where they were having a "Kotlic" (Cauldron) competition for Reporters (they have a certain about of time to cook up a stew of some sort and then compete against each other...) Well... we kind of stood out and people were all interested in us... then all of a sudden, everyone wanted these foreigners to try THEIR stew. One guy even gave two of the team (who both just happen to be African-American, spot the pattern...) chef hats to put on and took their pictures... and then we all had to be in a picture. It was a riot! Eventually we all tried some of the stews. Here is Scott (with his chef hat) and Ljilja with the "deer" meat stew that they tried:

We took them all over town and out for coffee by the river and had a really nice fun time with them before heading up to the hospital which has a great view over Banja Luka, so we could pray over the city:
Then, before they headed the 2 1/2 hours back to Zenica, we went to one last place for coffee (we treat our guests well!) but this is where we got a little silly... Here I am with Sean who is half-Vietnamese and Jenny who is half-Japanese and we are doing our "Asian pose" for you all... ENJOY!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Business Training with Laura

Laura is here from South Africa, and while she is here for two weeks, she will be running some business training for the Dorcas Project. She is also teaching me how to do it, so in the future I can run it (and train others!). It is a program that is based on a simulation game called BEST and is put out by the the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship. Here is Laura (left) with Viki. Viki is the director for Dorcas Aid Bosnia and Hercegovina who came to see how the program worked and then got roped into translating...thanks Viki for doing it so I didn't have to!Here is an overview of the room: 3 teams each playing against each other:
Team "Most" trying to decide how much to budget for the business, for their home and for savings:
Team "Dukat" listening hard to Laura:
Team "Ciri bu Ciri ba" (which means "abracadabra"!) doing their budgeting, B=business, E=expenses (for your house) and S=savings:
Vesa from "Ciri bu Ciri ba" going shopping at "Mike's supermarket" for food for the week:
There is also "Harry's wholesalers" where they buy the material for their products and "Sally's shop" where they sell their products. And all sorts of other fun stuff. But through the "game" they are actually learning, budgeting, cash-flow managing, risk analysis, record-keeping, etc. And this was just module one of four! So we have a lot more to learn through this...

The aim of the training is starting one's own business: so each participant will also get a small loan (of 10KM/R60/$8) in between module 2 and 4 (and there is a 10 day break between trainings) to actually try and start something. We will see how this goes!!
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