Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review | The Bones will speak

When forensic artist Gwen Marcey is presented with a human skull by her dog who then leads her to shallow grave, and more bodies, she uses her artistic skills to reconstruct the face of the victims. She realises with shock that the face of all of the victims resemble that of her 14-year-old daughter and that they are being targeted by a serial killer.

The story starts strong and carries on going through twists and turns and unexpected blind alleys which all keep you guessing until the end of the book...

I really enjoyed the book which was intriguing from beginning to end and was an easy enough read with some interesting details to keep me entertained. 

I didn't realise that this was a part of a series until reading other reviews after reading it. It can be a stand alone book, and I do look forward to reading other books in the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Not just another Sunday...

After having one group of actors doing Saturday's Christmas plays and Shoebox packages, it was the turn of our other group on Sunday (we decided this year to have two groups, so if someone got sick we would have a back-up: last year our main actor had a temperature of 39,5 and still performed!). It has been interesting with so many children, especially finding times we could practice. I also worked out that I have heard the play at least 25 times with two groups practicing each time at least twice... I think I can almost repeat it word for word!

Ljilja started off the program: 
And then it was time for our play: They did a really good job, and I am so proud of all of them! Especially Tanja, our narrator behind the scenes...
A song (with Christmassy hats!).
We again had a film about where the packages came from, and then it was Sinisa's turn to talk about how the greatest gift at Christmas is the little baby in the manger:
Then again Dragana invited the kids to come along on "The Greatest Journey" - a 12 week look at the Bible which is really fun for kids... we plan to do it in the new year.
We also had a guest, Aleksander from Samaritan's Purse, to see how we did the distribution - here I am (in my snazzy Operation Christmas Child shirt!) translating for him:
Then it was time for the main attraction!! Group one with all their presents... This is children of our friends, children of volunteers, sponsored children - a real mix:
And then it was time to do it all over again... Unfortunately , we didn't get a picture of all of the kids with their presents in group 2 (from the single parents group) as they didn't realise we wanted them to stay for a picture and just left with their presents, but you can see them below with our wonderful actors!
It was a really fun day - and we had lots of reports about how cool the presents are once they got home! This week we will do a couple more performances and then that is it for our Christmas play for this year...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas plays...and shoebox packages!!

We are in the throws of Samaritan's Purse shoebox package distribution - the packages arrived on Wednesday from the UK, just in time!! We have two groups of kids who are doing the play for us. We had our preview of our drama at the Children's home and on Saturday it was time to have the it at our place, with a Castle and everything!
It was the same group as on Thursday at the children's home. Sunday is the turn of the other group... They did really, really well. I was very proud of them!
Here you can see our clever trick which I have to tell you about otherwise you wouldn't... Below the Jester is explaining about how the baby in the Christmas card is actually the biggest present for Christmas and all about what He has done for us. It was a LOT of text to learn, so we put it on the back of the Christmas card so they have a reminder (they mostly know it!) and can say it all without leaving anything out... She just looks like she is holding it up for the audience to see :)
After the play we sang (along with the crowd!). This song is all about how we are precious:
Then it was time for us to watch a couple of videos from Samaritan's Purse showing how the packages are packed by individuals and sent to us and all over the world. Dragana is explaining the films:
Then we explained a bit more about the most precious gift of all: the one who came to earth as a baby who is actually the King of all! But after that the best part - shoebox packages!
I don't think they knew what was going on, but they are super sweet :) And the packages are almost bigger than they are!
This little guy understands!!Love that smile!
This was the first group: new kids in our sponsorship project:
And then we did it all again in the afternoon for the second group: older kids in our sponsorship project (and our actors got along with this group as well!)
I think even though it was a long day, it was definitely worth it to bring sooooo much joy to soooo many kids... And the fun continues... sometimes I really love my job!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas play for last Book Club of the year

For the past 4 weeks we have been practicing our Christmas play, and this time with two groups of children (yes, I am mad!). We are having more distributions this year, so we decided that it was better to have two groups as it would be too much for one group. It also means that if someone is sick we have a back-up! The children in the play are either one of our sponsorship children or children of our friends, and we have fun! My friend Dijana was once again helping with the text and narrating (she helped last year as well). Tanja helped a LOT with the costumes other logistics. Also, many of the costumes were made by my Finnish colleagues for the Nativity play two years ago and we just adapted them all... I love the legacy - they have been gone 18 months, but we still have many things we use that they left behind, this is just one of them!

On Thursday we had our preview performance (with one group) at the Children's Home as part of our last Book Club of the year. We had all of our Book Club members as well as some extra kids :) 
The story this year is set in Kingdom far away where there is a king and a princess and a court jester. The court jester, however, is no longer funny, so they send him to another kingdom to learn new jokes... 
While he is away the people in the kingdom complain about how boring it is, and how they can hardly wait until he gets back... (as this is the children's home, I can't show their faces online - so that is why the audience is a little blocked out...but at least you get the idea)
When the jester returns, he has new jokes, but they are about a strange thing called "Christmas". In this Kingdom they had never heard about Christmas... So, "he" (it is actually a she as the part is played by Ana) explains to them all about celebrating Christmas. Here he is showing them a Christmas card and telling them all about how baby in the picture is actually a King who is the best present we can ever receive...
It was really fun doing the drama with this group - and they did a really good job! Here we all are, including Dijana. (and I am not sure why I am not smiling, I was happy it went well!).
The kids at the Home really enjoyed it, and I love the fact that I can mix two parts of my ministry here in this way!! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Library fun...

Every other week we take the children (in two groups) to the library so that in the intervening weeks we have something we can talk about at our Reading Club at the children's home. I recently got a CD with some local hits and so the kombi/van rides to and from the library are so fun the kids don't want to get out! And I usually do some crazy stuff to make the rides all the more fun - making sure that we do an extra lap around the block just to finish off the song for instance...

Once we are at the library, our wonderful local volunteers come along, helping us with making it a fun outing! I didn't get pictures are all 11 kids and 12 volunteers who were with us, but here are some to whet your appetite... First, Ilijana reading with A and A. So cute!
Stela reading with K. 
This is probably my favourite picture - M. is reading to volunteer Georgie (who is an exchange student from the US). Later on M was teaching G the Cyrillic alphabet and making her read... so sweet! 
 There is also non-reading related activities, including drawing: Sonja with little B.
Or playing with the really cool toys that the library has. Here is Nikolija with A having a tea party. 
And here is proof that some of us volunteers are just big kids ourselves! Nina trying to shoot D.
Oh and somewhere in there we also returned our library books and got new ones out so we are all ready for next week's reading club! But as you can see that task is not the main reason we love going to the library. You know it is a something the kids enjoy when the staff at the home use it as a threat "be good or you won't go to the library!" and it (mostly) works!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Book Review | The Peace Garden

I read Fiona Veitch Smith's "The Peace Garden" when it first came out 2 years ago. I liked it so much I decided to reread it again, and when Fiona offered me a free signed copy (I had read it on my kindle) in exchange for a review, I jumped at the chance. I love the kindle, but there is just something about having the actual book in my hand...and I definitely enjoyed it better in actual book format! 

The book is written from the perspective of a young girl, Natalie, who is a lively character and completely true to life. The story, which covers 10 years of Natalie's life, begins while she is staying for the summer of 1990 with her grandmother in Northumberland in northeast England. She starts investigating the theft of some plants from her grandmother and her neighbour's gardens. During her investigation she gets to know a neighbour who is from South Africa, and who came to England to escape apartheid. In the course of the relationship with him and his son, we learn a lot about apartheid and South Africa. 

The story leads us on a wonderful exploration of character, history, romance and throws in page-turning suspense that makes this book a wonderful read for a wide audience! If you want to find out about South Africa's history while enjoying a good book, then this is for you. If you like suspense-there is enough of that... Romantic back-stories? Yes! And all wrapped up in a very fascinating story with well-drawn and engaging characters! 

If you are looking for a good read which will keep you engaged and entertained, I highly recommend this book as one to go for!!

Disclosure of Material connection: As already mentioned, I did receive a free copy of this book from the author, but this review is my own true opinion of the book. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trip around the World with Sina

Sina, our Finnish friend and colleague has been staying with us off and on for over a month now, and it has been great having her. She has also travelled to over 70 countries in her lifetime, so we decided to have her give us a "trip around the world" through her experiences: Here she is (with Ljilja translating):  (somehow all the pics of the crowd came out fuzzy: I was trying to take them in between moving the slides along, and clearly multitasking isn't my strong point...)
She shared stories from some of the many countries she has been to. It really was a very interesting presentation, with lots of interesting facts and interaction. Here are Ljilja and Sina posing with one of the pictures she showed us. It is from India of Sina while she was in her role of Sponsorship Child Coordinator with Fida International:  (she is now the coordinator for Child Sponsorship in the Balkans - which is why she is based now in Kosovo and spent a month here)
After the presentation we had a challenging quiz which was done in groups: (and Ljilja took these photos... no fuzziness!)
 As you can see, it was also really fun: 
And after the prizes were handed out, we enjoyed food from all over the world: From South Africa some Kudu and Ostrich biltong, wasabi nuts from Japan, salmiakki from Finland, Swiss chocolate, Kosovar pralines, and some delicious Spanish sweet delicacy which probably went done the best (after the Swiss chocolate of course...)
Most people did try everything, but some (cleverer ones) stayed clear of the wasabi and salmiakki as the strange taste is not to their liking! But we did have something for everyone - and you can see that people were enjoying the different delicacies...
It was a great evening, and those that came had a great time! Well done Sina!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mom in Banja Luka (& Zagreb)

I didn't get any pics of Mom at our Book Clubs which she came along to very diligently with me. We have one in English (where we are reading through a shortened version of "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom) and of course the one at the Children's Home. However, to make up for it, I have some pics of our "visiting people" activities:

Visiting Tanja (and her daughter Ana about to go to afternoon shift in school): 
Visiting Dragana and her crazy wonderful family: her Mom and Dad and nephew Sergej all gave us lots of laughs :)
At the other Tanja's with Snjeza and Boki
 Here is a pic with Mom from 5 years ago - look how they have grown!! Mom is still the same!
And another blast from the past we managed to fit in when we went to Zagreb (where Mom flew from) was Ivana. She used to live in Banja Luka and Mom met her then. It really was great to see her again, as the last time we organised our schedules to make it happen was 2010!
I love the fact that people enjoy seeing Mom almost as much as I do. It was soooo great to have her come again and be a part of my world here. Can't wait until next time!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Adventures with my mother!

We started in Split which she flew into. We had one morning to explore all the wonders of Split:
As Split is built up around the ruins of Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace and there were some soldiers in the main square to remind us of this: 
We also stumbled onto some Dalmatian singers, who were fantastic - Mom could have stayed here all day! But I managed to drag her away to go look at the rest of the city...
 Proof that I was there as well... such a beautiful day too! 
We had a pizza lunch on the main promenade...
Before heading to the Brela Women's Conference in well, Brela, about 50km down the coast. It was a lovely conference with about 70 women from all over the Balkans and beyond... and of course the only photo is of the beautiful sunset the one night: I love Brela sunsets!
We then headed to Mostar in Herzegovina (south part of Bosnia Herzegovina) where I was to do the first two modules of a Business Training course. We stayed with my friend Carolyn (I don't have a photo of her), but mostly hung out with Jelena and Jennifer. We went to Blagaj the one day where there is a Muslim Dervish House (and you have to put on a covering to go inside...): 
Jennifer, Jelena, me and Mom
The house is at the mouth of the river Buna and the water comes out of the mountain really fast (but as you can see below they have had a VERY dry summer, so the water level was very low):
We also went to Mostar Old Town a couple of times and enjoyed the beauty of the place - including
the rebuilt Old Bridge (Most - Star)
And of course I did what we came to do in Mostar - run the first and second module of the business training. Mom came along and took some pics so you can see what it looked like:(and then sat at the back playing on her ipad as she couldn't understand anything really... but I think she enjoyed herself!)

It was a lovely group and we had a great time - two are interested in running the course in the future as well, so it is a bit of training for them to see how to run it in the future... I will go back later this month to do the other two modules.

We came back to Banja Luka yesterday and she is here for 5 days before heading back to England...
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