Thursday, May 28, 2009

Second Wk of Programming

( Please note this has not been editted. )

As the second week of camp draws to an end I thought I would update everyone on our progress.

On Monday we sucessfully had an arts and crafts session with the younger and older grades. They made animal puppets and then played games for the remaining time. Brigette and Jillian headed A&C activities and the rest of us assisted.

On Tuesday, I implimented my English program. I decided to use an activity we did during Speak English in KW where a pile of words are put in the middle of the group. Since this week was Animal week, the papers had types of animals written in English and in Croatian/Bosnian. Without looking at the words, each person took a piece of papers and stuck it onto their forehead. Then everyone in the group took turns asking yes/no questions and tried to guess what their animal was. The rule was that they could ask the questions in their native tongue; however, when they guessed their animal they had to do so in English. For instance, they might ask, ˝am I a pig?˝. The most of the kids liked playing the game and the other volunteers requested we use the game for future weeks. Afterwards the prorgam changed depending on the age groups. The younger children, grades 1-4, got to listen to us act out the story of the three little pigs. During which they were cued to do actions during certain parts. I.e., they had to push their noses up and make pig noises when we said the word ˝pig˝ during the story. After reading the story we sang Old Mc Donald Had a Farm and gave them a word search witht the same animals used for the song. (I made the word searches after having complications witht he computers). The students in grade 5-8 with little-medium English experience had to to an activity after they read the Three Little Pigs story. They had to write what their favourite character and or their favourite part in the story was and draw a picture. The older students with more English experience went outside with me. We took turns reading The Wolfs Side of the Story. Afterwards, I got the students to try making a comic strip based on the story. They were allowed to chose which point of view they wanted to focus on (either the wolfs or the pigs´) and were able to jazz it up. They had a bit of difficulty with that but enjoyed themselves.

On Wednesday Chels and I ran three yoga classes at the Centar. They were short but good; they were about 20 minutes each. Afterwards, we played games with them. Once the program was done for the day, we finalized our dance for Thursday. Then I went with my sister to her Karate class. I did Karate for 15 minutes and then I taught Erna´s class and her instructor Yoga for 30 minutes. He has asked me to do it as much as I can; I agreed to every Wednesday for now. (I still need to look into having classes for Adults at the Centar once a week.)

Today we taught the students a dance. It was a collaborated effort from all of us ICVs. It was to ˝Give it Up to Me˝ by Sean Paul. The dance was brilliant! I brought my camera to capture the moment but the student didnt turn it on so unfortunately it was not filmed. (I really hope I can get it video taped next week but Im not holding my breath; the other ICV, especially Ryan were hesitant on been video taped).

Tomorrow we are going to have sports for the younger students and then we are planning to head off for the weekend.


1st wkend trip: Mostar & Surrounding Areas

Two weekends ago I went to Mostar with the other ICVs. I was worried that we would be staying at a grungy hostel like the one I stayed at in NYC. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The owner of the hostel met us at the bus station with a sign. He was very energetic and set a really good tone for a great weekend. It was a 4 bedroom apartment that had a Middle Eastern colour scheme/vibe. Our room had 4 bunk beds and backed onto a little patio complete with bench seats and a relaxing vibe. The other people staying in the hostel were very friendly and worldly.

We spend Friday afternoon walking around Mostar, seeing the famous bridge and the people jumping off the bridge, and viewing the tourist shops. Then we went out with some of the other people from the hostel.
Me Infront of Mostas Famous Bridge

Jill & I

The Whole BiH ICV Gang (Chels, Jill, Me, Bridge, & Ryan)

On Saturday we took a tour with our crazy tour guide. The transportation was exciting; fifteen of us piled into a group van. Enough said. We went to a bunch of places, which I will add in later (I left my notebook with the names of the locations at home). There were a few major parts of the trip. However, my favourite parts of the day consisted of water. We went to a place that had numerous, gigantic waterfalls. Chels, Ryan and I swam to the falls and stood right beside them. Then we swung from a rope into the water. Determined to get a good picture, I was the only one to jump three times, each time jumping from a higher height. The last time I jumped from approximately 10 feet! It was exhilarating! We also went to a railway/bridge. Initially I didn’t even want to cross it because the there were holes between the tracks and the drop was about 10-15 feet. However, I wanted to push myself and conquer my fears of heights. Thus, with the help of a new Aussie friend, I jumped from the bridge into the water; I was the only ICV, and 1 of 4 (out of 14 ppl) to jump! It was the most exciting day I have had in YEARS! I will forever remember those moments!

The Famous Forts Outside of Mostar (in Either Počitelj or Blagaj)


(Ryan, Chels and I swam to the rock right beside Brigette´s (the one in the yellow) right arm!!! :D)

I jumped off the bridge !!! :D Goodbye fear of heights... sort of..

My only disappointment was not being about to visit MeĐugorje. However, with the persistence of my newfound friends, we were able to convince the tour guide to stop for a brief pit stop so I could buy my mother a birthday present.

The tour lasted 14 hours. Afterwards, I called it a night and prepared for my journey back to GVU the next day.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Prepping on a Saturday; Teacher in the Making!

Jill, Bridge and I are at the centre prepping for next week. Initially I was worried about everything coming together because there was not that much structure. However, seeing the dedication in the girls and having a day of organizing English and Craft lesions, is making me excited for next week.

As I’ve previously mentioned, we’re going to have themed weeks. Last week was The Circus so we made masks and juggling balls for Art and Bridge taught baton twirling. This week is Farm Animals. The kids will be making paper bag puppets. I am currently working on a lesson plan for English that will hopefully include a word search, a couple of activities, songs, stories, and maybe a brief news article. I just found a really good website for teachers. It includes activites and crafts that are related to The Three Little Pigs. I have decided to get the students to read the story and then create their own version of the story. (My friend and coworker, Judee, did a similar activity with her grade 7 students last summer). Brigette, Jill and I also decided on the following weeks theme since we will be away and won´t be able to prep next weekend. We will be doing Oriental Week. The girls are working on crafts for the kids, which include fans and finger painted dragons. I´m excited already!

We have also decided on making each day of the week a different subject. Thus, Mondays will be Art, Tues. English, Wed Yoga, Thurs. dance, and Fri Sports. We’re going to do roll call/attendance at the beginning of class (last week there were too many kids showing up and although we reacted well by splitting them up it was still a bit chaotic) and go over rules (i.e., everyone helps clean up, no one is allowed to touch the equipment unless told otherwise, etc.). I am glad that the other volunteers have agreed to create rules for the programs because last week a lot of the supplies went missing. These included my personal craft supplies, some of which I had been saving for YEARS. Also, it was very disappointing to have been disrespected and to see that my supplies were taken, used, and or no long in sight; it was definitely a wake up call/learning experience. This week also made me realise how much the children like to dance!

On Wednesday I taught the other volunteers my orientation week dance; the song is ´shook me all night long´ by ACDC. On Thursday, we taught the children. Since then the children have been requesting to do it non-stop. For instance, we have done in at the centre at least 5 more times, and my neighbours have done it outside at least 10 times. It is nice to know that the children enjoy it as much as we do. It’s funny because most of the moves are corny ones like ´the shopping cart´, ´karate moves´, ´skipping rope´, etc. Yoga was also a huge success. It was funny trying to pack 30 children into a small room and trying to get them to concentrate on their breathing. The directors of the centre also want us to create Yoga classes for adults. I think I will start to organize that next week. Moreover, I finally had a chance to go to my sister´s karate class and the instructor asked me to teach them some yoga. So in front of 20 students and about 30 spectators I taught a VERY brief introduction to Yoga. Afterwards, I found out that the instructor wants me to come every other day to teach for half the class; I told my sister I might come once a week. Later on, I went running with my sister and ~10 other neighbourhood kids at the Croat, elementary schools´ track field. After running, they wanted to do another yoga session. I just can’t believe how into it everyone is. It’s the fad in BiH right now!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Today we had a very successful day at the Centar. Since the kids like learning dance routines and my friends from first year refuse to do our FROSH/Orientation dance anymore, I decided to reintroduce it in BiH. I taught the other leaders last night and then today we taught the youger kids int he morning and the older ones in the afternoon. It was a SUCCESS!!! The older group ended up doing it for about an hour; they could not get enough of it. Jill has two videos of it. The video is HALARIOUS because Jill, Bridge and I were SO into it!! (I was embarassingly enthusastic!!)

Being Sick in BiH

It´s only been two weeks and I´ve been really sick twice. I´ve been having a fever, getting heat flashes, not being able to eat that much, the works. Then when I was just starting to get better and only have a runny nose and gross throat I would get sick again. I definitely think I need to stop sharing my water bottles and start taking my vitamins. Also, I need to keep taking Iron because I´m getting too light headed.

I´ve been trying to put a strong front but man am I feeling it. Oh well, I just need to keep treking. :D


Thursday, May 14, 2009


While thinking about my first ever yoga class, I was wondering what ´Namaste´- a phrase said at the end of a yoga class while sitting cross legged and bowing- meant and if saying it would be offensive to the students.

According to, ˝The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you." … Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart. ... Ideally, Namaste should be done both at the beginning and at the end of class. Usually, it is done at the end of class because the mind is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage, thereby allowing the truth to flow—the truth that we are all one when we live from the heart. ˝ Although North Americans say, ˝namaste˝ while doing the gesture, in India the gesture implies the word.

Based on the meaning, the BiH ICVs think it´s acceptable to repeat this ritual at the end of the yoga classes. What are your thoughts?

Travnik & Prepping for Cirus Wk/Wk One of OC Program

Today started with the 5 of us volunteers and our boss Selma travelling to Travnik to register as residents in BiH. While there, we walked around and visited a castle that was behind a cascading waterfall. Then we went to ˝Plava Voda˝ to have lunch. Our table was right beside a running stream and windmill. We ordered cevapi & bread to share and I ordered a salad, which consisted of coleslaw, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers (not the traditional Cdn salad but it was pretty tasty and healthy).

Travelling there and back was better sweet. The van was stifling hot and there were no windows in the back. With that said, the views were spectacular. We went around mountains on windy roads, and were completely surrounded by the mountains. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures. (I forgot to bring my USB cord for my camera.)

Once back at the Centar, I spoke to Selma and Wilma about our programs. As a group we’ve altered the programs due to the popularity of some activities, such as yoga, sports and baton, and the limited space for the programs.

Next weeks programs will consist of the follow: juggling and games on Monday; art& crafts (mask making) on Tuesday; English and two Yoga classes on Thursday; Sports and two baton classes on Thursday; & English and Sports on Friday.

Although my group and I are travelling to a nearby city this weekend, I want to allocate some of my time towards creating more concrete lesson plans. Perhaps I will do this during our travel periods to the cities.

- Georgie

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

General Overview of my First Week

Here’s an overview of mz first week in BiH as promised:

My family has a cat named ˝cat˝ aka ˝Mačka˝ which was interesting. She just had four kittens two weeks ago which are SUPER adorable and that I openly want to take home with me, but know that I can’t.

The food is AMAZING here. I’ve had spinach pitas (it’s a Slavic dish not the American dish), a delicious kiwi/banana cake, rice with beef strips, cevapi (MMMMMMMMM) and more. For Mother’s Day my sister and I made our family crepes after church and put the BiH brand of Netella and the maple syrup I brought from a St. Jacob’s farm on them. Most mornings we eat cereal made of cocoa and maple with warmed milk straight from the cows. At night we usually have dinner at 8-9; it usually consists of eggs, salami, FRESH bread (which I cannot get enough of) and cream cheese. Lunch is usuallz at 2 or 3pm and is usuallz the largest meal of the day. It´s hard to get used to only eating 3 times a day and eating late at night when I am used to smaller portions and more frequent meals at home. (My clothes are already getting tight, even with the extra physical activity that I´m doing on a regular basis.)

On Saturday I spend the day in the outskirts of town helping my family plant potatoes. I have never planted them before so it was a great experience to see the complete process. It was also a VERY good workout. My BiH parents prepared the potatoes days before: they cut old ones into fourths, trying to keep the roots intact. Then on Saturday a neighbour used a machine to make the rows for the potatoes on the large field (about 1/3 of a soccer field). We planted the potatoes, roots up, a foot apart; and then we racked the soil over the potatoes. It was a great way to bond with my family and one of the neighbours.

On Sunday my sister, neighbours and I went to church at 8am. It was a small building. The mass was very short; Ryan, who went with his BiH brothers, said it was about 35 minutes long. Apparently their old priest´s masses ran over an hour long, where as the new priest likes to keep it short & concise, which the locals appreciate. I am happy that I used to go to the Croatian church with my Baka because it allowed me to know some of the prayers on Sunday.

At the beginning of this week we, the ICVs, created a program for next week. We then created student sign up sheets for the different classes offered next week. After getting permission from the principles, we put up the two promossional posters we made earlier that day in both the Bosnian and Croatian schools.

Yesterday we met the major of BiH. We asked if he could hire someone to clean up the park across the street ASAP so that the children coming to the Centar would have a place to do sports. He was very nice and said he would try his hardest to have the park cleaned by next week. He also invited us to go with him on a private tour of the mountains and to see some deer, which I found to be a HUGE privilege.

Today (Thursday) we went to Travnik which I’ll explain in my next post.

That’s it for now,


Monday, May 11, 2009

Personal Reflection in BiH

I know that I promised an update but I’ve been reflecting with my Intercordia friends (ICF) this afternoon and I want to continue.

This year I have been reflecting a lot on who I want to be and how I want my life to be. Coming into this trip I wanted to continue my journey of self-reflection and growth.

Living in a more humbling environment has solidified my desire to live a more modest life and to really focus on family time rather than monetary needs. My ICF and I have already noticed the difference in lifestyles between BiH and Canada.

Since arriving in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) just over a week ago, I have noticed a difference in lifestyles between people living in BiH and Canada.

I have noticed that the city is divided; there is a street that divides the two sides which runs beside the Centar. The Bosnian side & Croatian side each have their own schools, post offices and cafes. According to the locals, the people are hesitant to walk on the side of town that they do not live on, even if it’s just to play sports on the field. With that said, the synergy within the individual communities is stronger than I have ever seen in Canada. For instance, I consistently hear the neighbourhood children outside my room in the front yard or playing with my family’s kittens inside our house. As well, the neighbours are happy to help each other out. For instance, two weekends ago, a few neighbours helped us plant a field of potatoes. I have heard similar comments from the other Intercordia Volunteers in BiH. The values within the families are different as well.

In general, North Americans seem more concerned about providing monetary support for their families rather than quality, family time. Parents work long hours which prevent them from being fully present in their children’s lives. It seems, through experience thus far and from comments made by reliable sources, that people share a different mentality in BiH. For instance, my host family seems to be very close. My host mother seems to be her children’s best friend. (The parents are still stern when they have to be; they have found a happy medium.) They spend a lot of time together individually and as a group. For instance, they go on family walks and or play Uno during the evenings. Everyone helps each other out because there is a mutual respect between all parties. Personally, I enjoyed cooking crepes with my host sister for Mother’s day breakfast, and helping with the dishes because I know that my family is willingly help me without hesitation with laundry, learning the language, etc. It is nice to see parents that want to play foosball with us children at night or go rollerblading with their family on the weekends. It’s refreshing to see the children and neighbours help the parents plant potatoes, and the family welcome guests to dinner on the whim. There are many times that I have noticed an absence in these values from numerous families in Canada.

It is nice to see a community put emphasis on the importance of family, friends, and helping within the neighbourhood. All in all, I feel so blessed to be apart of such a great community!

With that said I must go home.

Laka Noč!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

First week in BiH

I don’t even know where to begin! The experience thus far has already been a roller coaster ride, but one I would never take back!

The plane ride was good. My Baka, mom and dad came to the airport with me where I met Chelsea (another volunteer going to BiH) and an Intercordia representative. The last couple of days before leaving Canada were jam packed with getting preparations done. Thus, I did not have time to worry about the unknown. However, it really hit me that I was leaving familiar faces and heading across the pond for a WHOLE SUMMER when I was saying goodbye to my Canadian family.

The plane ride was excellent. It was my first time going on a plane in a few years so it was a great treat to be able to get REALLY good food and unlimited movie access! In Munich Chels and I met the rest of the Intercordia volunteers heading to BiH: Jillian, Ryan and Bridgette. Joe from Intercordia and Selma from the Centar met us at the Sarajevo airport. Before leaving the airport we sat at our first cafe and conversed for a short while. Then we headed to Gornji Vakuf- Uskoplji.

The car ride was LONG but the landscape was like nothing I have ever seen! We were surrounded by mountains and a mixture of buildings ranging from new, colourful, stecko homes with red rooftops to run down, vacant buildings. That experience alone was indescribable. Vacationing and living in North America never allowed me to be exposed to anything like what I saw; it was unforgettable.

The town is small. I live a two minute walk from the Centar on the Croatian side. Walking from one side of the town to the other side takes barely any time and we were told by the Teen Group (who will be assisting us during the summer and translating for us) that there are about 10,000 people in town.

The past few days have been SO eventful. It honestly feels like midterm time in university; there’s so much I want to do but not enough time.

I’m not very good at the language which was a huge struggle for me during my first couple of days here. I felt inadequate and felt like I should be more fluent. However, the people have been very encouraging and are very kind. Also, Ryan, who has dealt with language barriers in the past, has put me at ease today by describing his experience to myself and the rest of the volunteers. He explained that learning the language is like a snowball where initially it will seem like we cannot retain any words but after a while we’ll start picking up things very fast.

It has been hard because I was not able to bring a dictionary or adequate workbook. However, conversing with the children and my family on a daily basis and reading my family’s workbook has helped.

Initally I did not feel 100% comfortable with rest of the volunteers. I just did not feel like we clicked 100%. However, while writing in my journal I was reflecting on what I want to get out of my time in BiH. Although it would be nice to have a lasting friendship with my peers, I am here for the children, to learn the language and the history of the country and grow as a person. At that moment I felt at ease and I was able to refocus. (NOTE: I am now feeling a lot closer with the rest of the Intercordia volunteers; our bonding sessions, both individually and as a group, have really helped.)

My host family and the neighbourhood children, or my ˝entourage˝ as Chelsea said today, as well as encouraging e-mails from my family and friends back home have helped me with the transition.

I am SO grateful for my host family. I am finally able to experience life in a large family. I have two parents, a sestra (sister) & three brata (brothers). Since the very beginning they have welcomed me with open arms. Their values are very inspiring. They are a very tight knit family who value family time and relationships between each other. Moreover, they are very open to visitors and always have their doors open to guests. It is a nice change to always have neighbours at the house.

It is just after eight o’clock in BiH so I must wrap up this blog because I’m sure dinner will be served shortly, and it is starting to get dark outside.

In my next blog I will be discussing the family kittens/cat that I want to take home with me, the amazing Hrvaski food, family conversations/similarities, yesterday’s four-hour potato planting session with my family, church & cafe experiences, the locals, plans for our youth program, and more.

I hope all is well with my family and friends. Safe travels everyone!