Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Sunday, November 27, 2016

She longed for them all the more - Hans Christian Anderson

Because she could not go near all these wonderful things, she longed for them all the more. - Han Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid

Editor's Note: This is my first post about the humanitarian work that Dionne and I doing here in the Balkans. Hopefully it gives you an appreciation of what we are doing here in this beautiful part of the world. 

The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides humanitarian aid across the world. Funding for this aid comes directly from member donations. The donation forms have a line item for "humanitarian aid." These monies go directly to the humanitarian budget which are then managed and distributed by local church leaders and volunteer missionaries like myself. There is not a large endowment which makes up the bulk of this fund. Rather, local members across the world make small donations ($5, $10, or $100) entrusting that this money will be used wisely for those in need. Dionne and I are stewards of these funds and we take the responsibility to use these funds "wisely" quite seriously.

This is a tithing form. Note the line item for "Humanitarian aid." I am ashamed to admit that I have never donated to this line item. In fact, I don't think I ever really noticed it before.
The church has sponsored several international major initiatives with a few of these active in Bosnia. Worldwide, we help meet needs like water, sanitation, food, vision care, emergency response, refugee care, immunization, disabled care, and newborn care. Local leaders and senior missionaries are also responsible for finding additional local needs. Dionne and I have a local budget with responsibility for Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. Other senior missionaries are serving in Serbia and Montenegro.

Although our projects have to receive approval from our superiors, Dionne and I have considerable freedom with regards to the types of projects that we propose. Our charter is to look for the "poor and needy." We have also been counseled to be deep and focused vis-a-vis wide and shallow.

So after much prayer and evaluation of the situation within our countries, Dionne and I have decided to target our efforts towards helping people with disabilities.

A primary school classroom at Los Rosales, a partner in Mostar which serves 137 students ranging from ages 3 - 53. 
This was not surprising due to our joint background. Dionne teaches therapeutic horse back riding and has been working with individuals with disabilities for over 10 years now. I, like many people, was always a little "skittish" around people with disabilities. Just hesitant to fully engage. But that changed when so many members of my family were diagnosed with some form of disability or another. So it all started with this beautiful young lady; my niece, Brooklyn.

My sister, Marni, just did a wonderful photo shoot with Brooklyn. 
 I distinctly remember the moment when we found our first partner. We were meeting with a Sarajevo-based NGO, Muslim Aid. They help with the food work that LDS Charities does in Bosnia. We asked about organizations that help people with disabilities and they provided us with a list of 4 organizations that they strongly endorse. The name and description of one of those organizations, Mala Sirena, just grabbed both Dionne and I. We walked out of that meeting with spiritual confirmation that "Little Mermaid" was going to be our first project.

If you've got a tiny little dream, all you have to do is think about it, work on it every day, and you'll get it. - Sebastian 

Mala Sirena ("Little Mermaid") exists because of a motivated mother; Adisa Beganovič-Mahovac. Her son was born with disabilities and she was frustrated because he was facing the prospect of exclusion from a normal life; especially in rural Bosnia. So she did something about it. She started Mala Sirena, an organization that is promoting "inclusion" of those with disabilities. They run a kindergarten, fund personal assistants for children to attend school, run therapy programs, and continue to expand.

Adisa (on the right) in their "sensory integration" room. 
When we first met with Mala Sirena, we asked what their needs were. After we explained that we were not allowed to purchase vehicles (everyone in Bosnia needs a vehicle!), they mentioned an area that had us intrigued. They employ a speech therapist who works with children who have communication difficulties. Some are non-verbal and others have speech difficulties. Both Dionne and I were intrigued when they mentioned this area since we both have some personal experience in the area. Dionne's experience is professional. She has had a number of non-verbal students. She has helped some to verbalize and some have remained non-verbal. So Dionne was familiar with many of the technological advances which have changed so many lives.

I can sum up my familiarity with one word -- Cledi. She is my niece who has cerebral palsy. I remember seeing a video of Cledi "communicating" and it broke my heart. I can only imagine what Gene and Kori must have felt as Cledi became more communicative. So I knew the power of this technology and how it could change both the individuals' life as well as the lives of their families. So Dionne and I were both intrigued.

After our first meeting with Mala Sirena, Dionne immediately went to work. She knew that tablets have proven to be very therapeutic. On the drive home, she began to investigate apps and even downloaded some onto our iPad. She called Kori who talked to therapists in the U.S. We talked to other speech therapists including at the most advanced therapy center that we've seen in country (Banja Luka). Through online research, she learned that a conference on these types of therapy was held in Zagreb, Croatia just the month before so she reached out to some of the presenters. They invited us to Rijeka, Croatia so we spent a day (along with the therapists and the founder's daughter from Mala Sirena) looking at the technology options in language.

Professor demonstrating "eye movement" technology. You can just look at the image and it will select it.
Language is the big issue. There are so many applications available in English and other common languages. But there are much fewer in the local language. Banja Luka, for example, is just using a program that prints out pictures because they had not found anything else that works in Bosonski. But we found that our Northern neighbors, Slovenia and Croatia, are pioneering the use of this technology in language. So we became excited about the prospect of bringing this technology to Bosnia.

My understanding is that only 3 individuals in Bosnia are using the special technology for communication. I have that many using the technology in my family! And only 26 are currently using it in Croatia. The need is there. The therapists and parents are there ready to teach with the technology. The problem is language and cost. The western price tag puts this technology out of reach for both institutions and individuals here.

I need these buttons next time we play "Family Feud"
So we are excited to be able to help bring this technology to Bosnia. To help change the live's of children. Dionne has already begun to download free software onto our iPad. The last time we were at Mara Sirena she was able to demonstrate some of these applications with some of the kids. Although Dionne does not know the language, has never worked with these specific children, several of the kids interacted with her in very positive ways. It was clear that they were able to understand how to use the tablet.

Dionne and Adisa with a young student.
We are planning on taking this project slow. This project is not about simply "buying stuff" for Mala Sirena. Both Dionne and I have technology expertise which we will use to help them learn these new, strange techniques. Our goal is to maximize the $$$ we spend so have the greatest impact on these children.

We will let you know how it goes. Cheers.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving... more than the Turkey

The last couple of weeks have been full of blessings for us here in the mission. Today I spoke in sacrament meeting on gratitude and one of my favorite quotes I referenced this morning was from a talk given by President Monson, "feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." So today I want to express the gratitude I have been feeling.

First, I was very grateful to Elder Rasmussen for translating for me this morning so I didn't inflict pain upon the Bosanski speakers in the congregation! I'm still not quite ready to give a talk in the local language, although we are progressing slowly! I appreciate those in our tiny branch whose testimonies shine brightly as they welcome visitors with open arms and strive to live the gospel in a country where it is not easy. I'm grateful to our young missionaries who serve day after day to share God's message of love and joy. Their perseverance amazes me! I'm also grateful for the opportunity to serve along side them for the next little while.

Because of a special mission conference on actual Thanksgiving, we got to spend an early Thanksgiving with 4 of these special young men and 2 incredible young ladies gathered in our small apartment for a makeshift Thanksgiving meal. It was so fun to watch them interact with one another, to see their personalities come out and to know that they are offering 18 - 24 months of their lives to serving their Heavenly Father and his children. They didn't care that we had boneless turkey breast, lousing stuffing and under cooked yams. They didn't care that they only had 5 hours of "free time" and they didn't care that we only have 5 chairs and some of them had to sit on the couch. They did care that they got to spend time together... and that they got to play basketball, football and well... some of us went to the spa. I did get a call from the mission president later that day, after we posted a few pictures on Facebook, just checking to make sure there were no injuries sustained during the Turkey Bowl. Fortunately, I was able to truthfully say no one ended up in the hospital!

We had a wonderful time in Verona, Italy at the Fieracavalli. There were so many beautiful horses doing such amazing things. We had the opportunity to watch some of the top riders in the world compete in the Longines Jumping prelim rounds. Such amazing athletes, both horses and riders. I am grateful for our new friends here in Sarajevo for inviting us to join them for this once in a lifetime event! I'm also grateful for a husband who understands my passions and went above and beyond to make the trip happen. Funny enough, he was the one who bought the extra tickets for jumping after watching the first day for free! It really was like watching the Olympics, with many Olympic riders in the competition. I could write an entire post about this horse expo, but I will refrain from boring my non-horsey friends with the details. Needless to say, also on my list of things I am grateful for is the experience of Fieracavalli!

It was amazing to watch the competition live, up close and personal!

Anyone else ever had a cone of cheese?

A kiss for a Twister look-alike

Senada and Emin posing with top Italian FEI rider Lorenzo DeLuca

The opportunity to teach an occasional therapeutic riding lesson at Rider's of Hope is also on my list of things I am very grateful for. This week I had the pleasure of teaching a bright young woman who has mild physical challenges due to a stroke. Her determination is very impressive as she grooms, tacks and rides her favorite horse, Gypsy. She is full of joy and her smile brightens my day! Thank you, Rider's of Hope, for the opportunity and thank you to my special student who impresses me more and more each time I see her ride.

I am also grateful for being guided to an amazing group of individuals fighting for a cause close to my heart, inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Last week our project for Mala Sirena was approved! We had the pleasure of visiting them again this week to discus how they want to use their project budget. Lucky me, I got to play with the kids and test out some fun iPad educational apps with them. They were very excited with this new technology. In only a few minutes one little girl, who is nonverbal and rarely participates in activities, was reaching for the iPad and attempting to tap the barn doors along side her typically developing peers. It was amazing! Even her teachers were excited to see her intentionally engaged. We are very excited that this project has been approved and will contribute to many miracles in the future. I am grateful for the opportunity to play a very small part in making big things happen!

While we love the humanitarian role we play in the mission, we were blessed to have the opportunity to actually meet with and teach an individual who is interested in learning more about the gospel. He lives in a small village about 2 1/2 hours from Sarajevo. The young missionaries are not able to travel that far to meet with him, but Denny and I already had a humanitarian meeting scheduled about 30 minutes from him so we asked President Grant for permission to meet with him when we were in the area. This was the first time on the mission that we have had a full length gospel discussion with someone who wants to know more about God's love. He has a sincere desire to love others and do God's will. As Denny was sharing his feelings of a gospel principle with this individual, the man rubbed his arms and exclaimed, "I have chicken skin when you talk about that!" I have to admit, although we were having a fairly spiritual conversation, I almost burst out laughing at his reference. I have heard it called "goose bumps", but never before have I heard feeling the spirit referred to as "chicken skin".  I'm not sure if that is a Bosnian saying or if that was his English version of "goose bumps". Regardless of that brief moment, it was a very touching experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to share God's message with someone who is seeking after goodness in his life. Between our meeting with another wonderful potential project partner and sharing a message with our new friend, Denny declared it as "the best day of the mission, so far!"

There are so many more things I am grateful for... my husband who knows my many flaws, but loves me anyway, our children who are all kind, loving individuals, our grandchildren that make us smile with their funny antics during Skype sessions, parents that love and support us, my grandparents who send cards and words of love, our siblings who we cherish, my friends who keep in touch, who take care of my horses and let me know I'm missed but understand why I'm here.

I'm grateful for the tender mercies that have been granted to me while we have been in Bosnia. But most importantly, I'm grateful for a Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, who love me and bless me daily as I strive to follow their example. I pray that as you gather with your families this Thanksgiving, you will remember President Monson's quote,  "feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Give that wrapped present to those around you and thank God for having people in your life to thank.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch. - Orson Welles

After a few months in Sarajevo, I am ready to talk about one of the most important questions that many of you have about Bosnia. What's for dinner? While this is not a definitive post on the subject, I am ready to share some of my impressions. 

When in Doubt...Start with Chocolate!!!

When we first met our friend, Senada Pekaric-Muratovic, she told us that she lived in Pennsylvania for several years and that she loves American food; especially our pizza. She and Dionne even had a little bonding moment talking about, of all places, Applebee's (Burke Walker would be proud). But Senada made a point to inform us that American's have failed dramatically in one of the most important areas of life; chocolate. She then proceeded to share some European chocolate with us. And I have to agree with Senada. The chocolates in Europe are amazing. I do not think we have gone a day without a bite or two.

We have been in some supermarkets that have two full aisles devoted just to chocolate. 
As an activity during senior's conference in October, we were given a lesson on how to best appreciate a bite of chocolate. Think "wine tasting" for chocolate aficianados. Hold the bite in your mouth and let it melt there. Do not be in a hurry to chew. If it is good chocolate, it should begin to melt in your mouth after a few moments. Let's just say I've never seen anybody do that with a Mr. Goodbar!

While I am talking about candy, I want to mention Haribo. My high school German teacher used to hold an annual fund raiser by selling Haribo Gummy Bears. This was before they became common place in the U.S. These were imported from Germany so they were more rubbery than the softer U.S. ones. I grew to really love these candies and have been on a mission to try all the Haribo products since arriving here. I am about 15 versions deep into this mission. I generally love the "gummy" products but am not a big fan of the "marshmallow" type ones. I know this is tough work but somebody has to do it.

One of the many Haribo products that I have sampled
With the weather turn, I now have two new missions. The first is to find the best topla čokolada (hot chocolate) in Sarajevo. Bosnia is a kava (coffee) town. Bosnians love their coffee more than any Starbucks addict I have ever met. Come to think of it, I have not seen a Starbucks here in Sarajevo. But they are also quite good at hot chocolate. Served with a healthy dose of whipped cream, I always wonder if I am drinking a "cold" drink or not. But once I get to the chocolate, it is always wonderful. Sometmes it is "pudding" thick, sometimes it is a warm milk chocolate, and sometimes it is a dark flavored chocolate. But it is always very good. My favorite so far it at the raspberry flavored served fireside at the BBI centar. So good.

Bosnians love their cafes. They usually sit, drink coffee, and just chat. 
My other mission is to find the best "lava cake" in Sarajevo. Lots of great candidates I am happy to report! I have high standards for lava cake. When my family traveled to Rome a few years back, we took a cooking class and a lava cake is one of the desserts that we learned how to bake. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to replicate the cake we made in Rome. And I have never had a really good lava cake in the U.S. (despite the surge in popularity the past few years). But I have found two here in Sarajevo that pass the muster. And I am hoping to find more.

Lava cake disguised as a "souffle" (false advertising!)

So How is the Diet Going?

By starting my discussion on chocolate, you can probably guess how the diet is going. Now comes the double whammy. The word "pekara" means bakery. And they are everywhere here in Sarajevo. Little bakeries that make their own delicious wares. I love their model. Most of these bakeries have their own unique set of baked goods; not the standardized model so popular in the U.S. So I feel obligated to try as many different pekare as I can. 

European creme (aka as chocolate of course) inside this pastry.
A related form of Bosnian fast food is called Burek. This is a pie-like pastry that is "filled" with either meat, spinach, cheese, potato, or something seasonal. The second day here I had meat-filled burek and wasn't sure if I liked it (more on this later). But ever since I have fallen in love with the spinach, potato, and cheese filled varieties.

Krumpir (potato) filled "burek"
My mom would love how these are wood burning ovens. I happened to run by the kitchen where they cooked my krumpir and they showed me the oven it was cooked in. So cool.

I suspect that Bosnians have been making Burek this way for many, many years. There is nothing noticeably modern about this kitchen!
The other famous Bosnian fast food is called ćevapi; a sausage shaped meat patty served on pita-like bread. In the Federation, these are generally small sausages (and order will include 5 to 10 of these) served with onions, cheese, or creme. In Srpska, they are often bigger and served individually. Simply put, you can spend more than a day in Sarajevo without seeing a Pekara, Burek, and Ćevapi. 

After a long day of work at Riders of Hope, a ćevapi party breaks out.
Going Vegetarian

For the most part, Bosnia is land locked. Bosnia is meat country. This means beef, veal, chicken, and lots and lots of lamb. Since Muslims are the minority, pork is harder to find. 

Lamb is everywhere. Smoked meats are almost always lamb based. Many of the salami like products are the same. Ground meat is a mystery to me but I assume it is also lamb. This is the meat, I assume, that was in the first burek that I ate. Let's just say my palate is not quite used to it yet!

Anyone want some lamb? Dionne was looking for something to put in a roast. She took one look at the meat counter and had to walk away. I think we ate vegetarian that night.

Probably the worst thing I have eaten so far is a piece of "turkish" pizza. The picture on the menu looked great. Some hot peppers on top of a boat-shaped piece of pizza crust. The reality was bread covered with this ground mystery meat. While I ate most of it, it is the only time I going to order turkish pizza.

The onions were the only things that made this Turkish pizza bearable.
On the other hand, Dionne has found some meatballs that she loves. And I had this dish at a restaurant called Pino that was quite tasty. 

Three meatballs in creme sauce.

Other than the ground mystery meat, we have enjoyed the meat here. One of the first nights in town we found a small restaurant called "Piano." Dionne decided to order the T-bone steak. The waiter looked at her a little funny but did not say anything. Turns out the T-bone is generally shared by two people since it is nearly 2 lbs and is served on a large cutting board. We have since returned several times and the Elders have taken and passed the T-bone challenge.

Elder Rasmussen and Elder Morgan taking the T-Bone challenge. It took Morgan about 1 1/2 hours to get the thing down; Rasmussen about 15 minutes. 
I have found that my American taste buds prefer the veal over the beef here in Europe. Veal is much more common in the grocery stores and restaurants. Dionne has ordered pileci filet (chicken filet) at least 15 times so far; typically served with french fries. 

A "plank" from a restaurant called Woki. 

While available, seafood is not as common in Bosnia since it is generally imported. There are rivers and lakes so fresh water fish are more available. It Split Croatia, Dionne was excited to order a shrimp dish for the time in a month. She was not expecting a stare down with her dinner!

Though tasty, Dionne decided that this dinner was not worth the work.
So How About Some Home Cooking?
It might seem like we eat out quite often. Quite frankly, we do. A lot. Probably at least one meal per day on average. The reason we eat out so much is because of how inexpensive the food here is in Sarajevo. Let me give you an example. We went to lunch with our attorney Emir Kaknjašević to one of his favorite places. Nothing fancy mind you, just really good Bosnian comfort food. They like stews, fresh salads, long cooked meats, etc. The total cost of the meal for three of us was about 12 KM; or $7. That is total, not per person. Dionne and I often eat out for less than $10 total. A very expensive meal is $20 total. 

Contrast this to a lunch in Italy we had the other day. We did not eat that much (although I inadvertently ordered the porsciutto plate) and the total bill was $70. We could have eaten out in Sarajevo 7 times for this one Italian meal!

All I did was asked about this porsciutto dish...and somehow in my Italian I must have made the request. It was good but pretty darn pricey!
Two of my favorite types of prepared foods are pizza and soups. We have found plenty of both here in Sarajevo. The pizza is tasty but toppings are a little unique. No pork means no pepperoni. Lamb based salamis are not just the same. And at least initially due to my language struggles, I was not completely sure what I was going to get when I ordered a pizza. 

The meat is lamb based and the eggs were interesting. 
Pizza really is one of the basic food groups here in the Balkans. The most unique thing they do is to pour ketchup on top of the pizza. 

More ketchup please!
We have found several pizza restaurants that are phenomenal. Wonderful crusts, great toppings, different sauces. All of the things that make a great pizza restaurant. But alas, we have to travel out of country to get our pepperoni fix!

Treating Elder Garza to a white chicken pizza at the Pizza Company!
Like in the U.S., soups in Bosnia have many different names. There are soups, chilis, stews, goulashes, broths, etc. I went four meals and did not eat anything other than a soup. I once accidentally ordered two soups back-to-back at the same restaurant (I got some strange looks by the waiter this time). My favorite so far is begova čorba, a chicken-based soup that has many complicated flavors. 

This is a mushroom barley soup that we ordered at Lake Bled in Slovenia. 
A Better Way of Thinking About Food

Bosnia seems to have a better way of thinking about food than the U.S. does. So much of U.S. food is processed, prepackaged, filled with preservatives and corn syrup, and designed for convenience. Food in Bosnia is market-based, fresh and rarely imported, natural, and not filled with preservatives. As I documented in another post, many grow their own food in gardens and green houses. The fundamentals of this type of diet have not changed much for centuries. 

There are lots of peppers, cabbage, and potatoes grown in Bosnia. 
Open air markets are found through Sarajevo, along the roadsides, and in every small town and village. Bosnians buy their food fresh. 

Bird's eye view of an open air market. It is orange season. These are mainly imported from nearby Croatia. I loved watermelon season ($2 for a large seeded watermelon).
Even their sugars are usually natural. There are many beehives in Bosnia with honey sold at roadside stands throughout the country. Cheeses are also a local speciality. Vlasič cheese is a spreadable cheese that is great to put on bread, meats, and even for french fry dipping. 

Vlasič sir (cheese) which we put upon a "scone" like bread. 
Speaking of french fries, imagine our surprise when we found the Utah staple -- fry sauce!  Tastes about the same as the Arctic Circle variety.

This was one of the biggest surprises in Sarajevo.
Seasonality is important in Sarajevo. Grape season, for example, means bottling "grape syrup" for juice. We met a woman who had just picked these small apples and was planning on making apple cider vinegar from them. Vegetables like cabbage, peppers, and cucumbers are pickled. 

Vinegar bound apples
Street vendors are also seasonal. I assume you've heard the Christmas line "chestnuts roasting on an open fire." The street vendors started roasting chestnuts about a month ago. They smell tremendous but taste a little bland (Dionne likened the taste to sawdust). But there is something nostalgic about eating hot roasted chestnuts.

A bag of roasted chestnuts is about 50 cents.
Despite all of this great food around us, Dionne and I are sometimes our own worst enemies. We eat too many U.S. imports. I am drinking too much Coca-Cola. We found an American store in Ljubjana Slovenia and came home with Dr. Pepper, red beans and rice, pumpkin pie filling, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce, and Tootsie Rolls. I think we will be healthier and happier if we can adopt more of a Bosnian diet. We are slowly becoming converted to many of the wonderful tastes here.  

Unfortunately McDonald's is just a few minutes from our apartment.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Word of the day... Zauzet!

So as we continue to work on language we recently purchased a large dry erase board and have it in our kitchen (which is also my office). Denny felt impressed that we should have a "word of the day" put on the board to help us learn a few words each week, so I'm going to try to include a few in this post.  Yesterday we had an interesting culmination to a very zauzet (busy) couple of weeks. We went to church in our little branch and upon our arrival home it was apparent someone had been in our apartment while we were gone. As we walked into our somewhat cold apartment several windows and a door to the balcony were open. We knew we hadn't left them open. It didn't appear that anything was missing so we weren't sure what was going on. We have three apartments in our building, the top apartment is empty, we live in the middle and below us are two brothers who act as managers for the owners. Shortly after we got home, one of the guys from downstairs came up with our Carbon Monoxide detector in his hand. Between our poor Bosanksi and his limited English and a little help from Google Translate, we determined that the detector had been going off. Since he knew we weren't home (because we didn't turn it off) he came into the apartment, took the detector from our bedroom and opened windows to air things out. He assured us that the detector was broken so we had no need to worry. About an hour later the second detector located in the living room started beeping. That had us a bit concerned, but we decided to wait a bit before taking action. We put the carbon monoxide detector outside on the balcony and it stopped beeping. We waited about thirty minutes then brought it back into the house and put it near the bathroom that contains the gas water heating system. Within 20 minutes it started beeping again. That had us concerned! I tried to call the gas company, but no one spoke English of course. So I called our (well he does work for the church anyway) super cool attorney and asked him if he could call the gas company and ask them to come and check things out. Within about 15 minutes we had a house full of people. The neighbor from downstairs came up, our attorney was here and the gas company had two people walking through the apartment with all kinds of gadgets. It seriously looked like a scene from Ghostbusters! I didn't get a picture with both of them in action, but this will give you an idea of what the scene looked like.
How many Bosnians does it take to schedule a vent cleaning?
Who ya gonna call?.... Gasbusters!
Initially, they kept saying "no danger" but then the tone changed. They have some kind of gadget that measures output of toxins that they used near the hot water heater. I'm not sure exactly what the units were, but the acceptable level after 15 minutes of testing is 2.1. After less than 10 minutes, our level was over 200. So they immediately shut off the gas and told us to open windows. But still, they insisted there was no danger as long as we "left the gas off and left the windows open all night." Mind you that's how the apartment is heated, not to mention is wasn't quite freezing outside but close. Another word on our "Word of the Day Board"...LUD (Crazy)! Needless to say, we opted to stay at a hotel for the night. Between the neighbor and our attorney, the water heater was serviced and the ventilation system cleaned before 10am this morning. So that's my excuse for this post being late. We are very grateful that someone in the mission department has insisted on all missionary apartments having carbon monoxide detectors. We are also very grateful that we were watched over and protected because.... we have much work to do still!

Lud zauzet! Crazy busy the past couple of weeks. We are nearing the end of the budget year and are trying to spend the remaining budget wisely. As part of our work here, we meet with potential partners to determine if they are a good fit for our humanitarian work. All these meetings took us on quite a road trip. First, we drove about 3 1/2 hours to Banja Luka. While there we met with the head of therapy for the rehabilitation hospital to discuss a project they are currently working on that they would like LDS Charities to collaborate on, the head of their finance department to discuss options for importing wheelchairs into Bosnia and then a speech therapist to discuss technology use in speech therapy. Following the three meetings at the rehab facility, we had a wonderful, relaxing lunch with Elder and Sister Bradford, the Senior Couple currently serving in Banja Luka. It was uplifting to talk to another woman in a similar situation. Neither of us really have the opportunity to chat with other women in our current situations so it was a nice opportunity. The Bradfords lived in Ashburn, VA prior to their mission so they know alot of our friends from the area, even though they lived there about 5 years after we left. It really is a small world. That evening we meet with the chairperson for an organization that is trying to raise awareness and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. She is quite a remarkable lady and we admire her efforts, which are much needed in this country.

Professor Miroslav Vrankic in Rijeka
We stayed the night in Banja Luka, then set out on the four hour drive (plus an hour at the border crossing) to the coast of Croatia to the seaside town of Rijeka. We had lunch with another Senior Couple serving there. The Grahovacs are from Croatia and have lived in Germany as well. Our seafood lunch was delicious and they took us for the most amazing ice cream after! We discussed a potential project, with church member assistance, for the homeless in the area. After lunch we met with a professor at the university who had recently presented on technology use for therapy and education for individuals with disabilities. It was fascinating to see all the advanced technology available to help those with disabilities to be part of the world around them through assisted communication devices. She is controlling the "mouse" on the tablet using her eyes. Eye gaze technology is a break through for individuals who are unable to communicate in traditional ways. (you might have to click the arrow twice to get it to play)

The next morning we got up early so we could cross the boarder back into Bosnia before our 11:00am conference call with our supervisors in Frankfurt because the data card in our iPad only works in Bosnia. Our plan was to take the call while we were on our 6 hour drive to Tuzla. Even the best of plans sometimes fail. It looked like we would make it over the board with about 45 minutes to spare, but when we hit the boarder it was backed up and at a complete standstill. We waited in line for about 30 minutes and then decided we had no chance of getting across the boarder in time for our call. We jumped out of line, went back to a shopping center we had seen on our way in, parked, ran into the mall and found a little cafe that had wifi. We logged into the call at 11:01am! Whew! We finished our call and immediately headed back to the border crossing. We got across in less than 30 minutes and arrived in Tuzla for district meeting about 3:00pm. We had been asked to switch cars with the missionaries in Tuzla because we have been exceeding the recommended miles (by more than double) so after our meeting two of the missionaries and I headed out to switch our things. As I
approached the car, there was a weird box attached to my front tire. Yep, I got the boot! We weren't aware we had parked in a pay lot so we hadn't paid. Ooops! Fortunately, a nice man took pity on the clueless American and called the booters who arrived within 15 minutes to remove the boot. I was worried it was going to be a huge fine but it ended up being the equivalent of about $8. Lucky me! We got things switched around and Denny and I headed the 2 1/2 hours home.  We have decided Europeans must like hard beds...but we don't! We were happy to sleep in our own bed.

I had the pleasure of teaching two riding lessons at Riders of Hope on Saturday and remembered why I love what I do so much. I feel blessed to be able to spend time at Riders of Hope while I am here in Sarajevo. It helps keep me sane!
Our road trip... Rijeka is way off the map to the northwest.
We submitted three projects for approval this week and are working on a few more before the end of the year. Yes, we are working here, except for a little side trip to Verona, Italy for a huge horse expo this weekend... Did I mention I was excited about this trip?! Thanks to President Grant who requested special permission for us to go and thanks to our new friends at Riders of Hope who invited us to join them. Stay tuned for more adventures of the lud zauzet Newtons next week!