I am in awe of the kindness my friends and neighbors have shown me since we have moved here to Banja Luka. Hospitality is an innate way of life for local people. They serve and care for us as if we had always been here. It is very humbling to be the recipient of such love and care, especially with the knowledge that most people here live very modestly, very economically. Even more than hospitality, life definitely has a different pace, and while it challenges my "list-maker-check-the-the-to-do-list" mentality, it also embraces me with the "Mary" aspect of relational living in my rather "Martha"ish mindset most times. Today, I drove our language teacher's mother Nada home. She and Tamara had spent the day with the children while we were at some training. At the end of the day it was just Nada and I because Tamara had to leave earlier for class. Nada speaks very little English and my Serbian has a long way to go! Coupled with trying to drive stick and maneuver through late afternoon traffic while trying to answer questions, it was comical (or dangerous!) indeed! We got to their home and Nada invited us (C was with me) in for coffee. We visited and practiced language. It was a lovely afternoon. We met Nada's father and Tamara came home later and then her brother came home too. We shared pita and stinging nettle juice (much better than you might imagine!) around the table. We talked about funny things and heartfelt things. Suddenly I realized the sun was getting quite low and as it has been setting around 7:30, I realized Keith might be wondering where we had gotten to over the past couple hours! This had not been my plan for the afternoon, but I cannot think how we could have spent it any better.
Not my most creative photography, but a cultural moment: local people do not go to bed with their hair wet; they believe that one might experience very negative consequences as a result. So, when we might have normally put the boys to bed with wet hair, we decided dry hair might be more comfortable for sleeping: just didn't realize quite how fluffy A's hair could get from a hair dryer or how flat Thor's would get when it's naturally quite fluffy (anyone who knows Sam I Am, do you see any resemblance to T in this picture? Kind of cracked me up!)
Learned another lesson today on driving in Banja Luka (and perhaps pretty much any other European city with narrow roads and not enough parking spaces): be careful not to turn into a place where you cannot be sure where it will lead to, especially when driving a large 9 person van. In my circumstances today, I ended up turning because the road in front of me became one direction (not my direction!), but found myself in parking lots that got progressively narrower. I had two of the kids in the car, asking me lots of questions (none of which had anything to do with our predicament, regarding hotels and something else I couldn’t quite figure out), and felt my heart pounding a little faster as I realized I was at a point where other cars in front of me were backing up and trying to turn around, but, umm, there was no where for me to turn around! Cars were parked on either side, I really though I might, in all my pregnant hormonal glory, just start crying. But this would not get me unstuck so I plodded on (mind you I am driving a manual car and this, for me, adds a whole other dimension!). I did manage, after trying to let numerous other cars around me, to back up and pull through to another alley type way, and as the kids cheered our victory of escape, I warned them not to cheer too soon. And right I was because we were on a road that let to yet another dead end! Worse than the first it seemed, except that it did make a tight 90 degree turn that I thought perhaps I could turn around in since that was likely my only option. B cheered me on, “I know you can do it, Mom!” which was a bit out of character for him, but much appreciated! I almost got out of my car to ask one of the men working there if they would get my car unstuck, but as I got out of the car, I saw I had just a little space behind me so I kept on inching back and forth. Finally, one of the men came over, checked my space in front and guided me forward. Hvala vam!! Really, I can’t believe I made it out…I wondered what I would have to do if I couldn’t get out. Forget dark alleys, it’s the tight ones that are the threat!
That is--welcome! Indeed! Here we go…I have always wanted to start a blog, the creative side of me that rarely sees any outlet, especially right now (newly relocated to Bosnia with my family of 8!). I'm not sure I have any profound message to bring to the world nor any sage words of wisdom. I am hoping this platform might be a way a more meaningful way to stay connected to those whom I already love dearly that are so far from me and also a way to connect with others who find themselves in similar situations to me. Most who will read this already know me, know my loves and passions. For those who might not, I am a bit of a renaissance woman, hopelessly bound to want to try my hand at almost every new thing I read about: from making bokashi to ferment and compost my garbage to making yogurt and cheese to raising chickens to learning about photography to sprouting grains. Hmmm…there are a lot of farming kind of things in there! Yes, my family used to live in a lovely rural setting of southern Indiana, but currently we find ourselves living in Banja Luka Bosnia. Quite a jump but by no means a whim: God began tugging at our lives several years ago. We were glad to follow though perhaps a bit reluctantly at first. We dearly loved our house in the country…did God really want us to let go of that? Sometimes, as we adjust to cultural shock here (we have been here almost exactly four months), we often wonder why did He want us to leave a place where we were so happy…. But, in God's awesome way, He has led us to an incredible opportunity to live reliantly on Him in a way we never quite have before and to experience a wild ride of cross cultural living that keeps our eyes wide open almost all the time! We do love adventure and this has been one indeed.
My desire with this blog is to share my life as candidly as I find I can in such a public forum, shedding some light and laughter on our life here on a daily basis. I also hope to post perhaps a picture a week, maybe a day if I'm ambitious enough which is highly unlikely as baby number seven grows in my belly and language learning looms before me! So, no promises! But I do love photography and have rather neglected it since arriving. I'm hoping for some inspiration as I strive to share our city with you.
Sure hope you like what you find here--my dear sweet friends, if I were near you, we'd chat over a cup of čaj (tea) as we so often have done in the past: laugh, cry, pray. This is not quite the same, but make your cup of tea (and I'll have mine as I write), and we shall have our chat over čaj.