Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Second Semester

    Second semester of someones exchange is always the fastest. Everything becomes routine and familiar and, all of a sudden, next thing they know they are on a plane back home thinking, "Where did the time go?" I've experienced this once before, in a much smaller dose, when I was in France. The first three weeks were slow. My host parents were still working (remember I was there for the summer), so everything we did was mainly stuff around the city. But those last three weeks passed in a whirlwind of last minute travels. The French Alps, the Mediterranean, theme parks, birthdays, everything. And at the end of those six weeks, Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne became another home and everything was finally becoming familiar. But then I bid my farewells and was gone. And here I am again, beginning my second semester of exchange once again.

   When winter holiday began and we had a month off of school, I thought that this month would pass uneventfully and, for the main part, it did. The first week or so of January, I rarely left my house. I talked with my host family, I went to church, and that's about it! Then I went to Mostar, which was very exciting. I was then on my way to the office when I got back and decided that I could take the tram one stop to get to the office five minutes faster.
   That one stop proved that anything can happen. And by anything, I don't necessarily mean good anything.
    I was careless. And even a bit naïve. But apparently being pick-pocketed on the tram turns you from being an American to a Bosnian. Lots of Bosnians have their pick-pocketing stories and I get to add mine onto the list. This just goes to show that not all exchanges can go so simply and freely without a single care. It's now the second semester and guess who doesn't have a wallet? This girl. Right here. Sitting at her computer, with a make-shift wallet currently holding a maximum of 10KM, a new bus pass, and two emergency contact slips. Old ticket stubs and ID cards gone, random coupons I've acquired, and some really important stuff that really sucks to lose. However, after many phone calls, mini lectures from my host parents, police reports, and being extremely flustered, everything important is on its way back. Chances are I will never see my wallet again, nor its contents. But I can hope and pray that it somehow makes its way back.

   Moving along to better, happier things. SHAKE went to Travnik! And I know I already went there with my host family, but I just really enjoy it there! I like the fort, I like their ćevapi, I love the scenery. And going with my pretty-much-sisters-aka-SHAKE made it that much better.

    We toured around, visiting the colorful mosque as well as climbed up to the fort again, where we were surrounded by the mountains covered in fog. I wish I was able to capture a perfect picture of what it looked like, but unfortunately my artistic abilities in that area are lacking. However, we had a great time, drinking lots of coffee, eating, and trying not to get stuck in the downpour that occurred right before we left.

    Then last Saturday was Anna's birthday! The first one of SHAKE to turn 18! So we went classy and headed out to a restaurant. The restaurant was gorgeous, but apparently 7pm is way to early to have dinner. The restaurant was completely empty for the first hour and when we walked in, the entire staff was there and ready to go. It felt awkward at first, having the place to ourself, however it was nice to pretend that we were mature young adults. We gave Anna her gifts (I could only offer a card. Wallet stole, remember?) and we had some delicious food. That restaurant is amazing. Really.

    My second semester of school starts on Monday and I know that when that happens, these last couple of months are going to fly. And that's a strange thought. When I talk with my friends back home, they tell me it doesn't feel like I've been gone five months. And I agree! How can the second semester possibly go faster than the first? The first was over in a flash! But, next thing I'll know, I'll be on a flight back home and graduating from high school. Ok. Graduating from high school I am very, very excited for. That aspect can come as fast as it pleases.

    Anyway, I should go begin my online Government and Economics courses which I received my materials for yesterday. Need to get that done before I can graduate!

    Until more adventures which will most likely take place in February *coughBIRTHDAYcough*,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Half Way

    Today is my five month anniversary. In short, it means I am at the half way mark of my exchange. In five months I will be back home in Oregon, graduated from high school, and about to move forward with the rest of my life. It's just strange that it has flown by so fast. It always felt like forever from the beginning of the school year until winter break and now it feels like it's hardly been any time at all. People always say that exchange flies by in a blink of an eye and it has felt like that. So here I am, five month anniversary, excited to see what the next five months here bring.

    As for news of what's been happening in my life, I just got back from Mostar yesterday! I was there for a youth conference with my church where I met up with a lot of friends that I met at the last event in October. It was a lot of fun and not to mention we stayed at an American missionary's house and it felt like a home away from home. As soon as she pulled out the top sheet for the bed we had to make, I was in a flurry of, "Oh my gosh it's a top sheet! I haven't seen one of these since August!" All the Bosnians thought I was acting really strange and they thought the top sheet was the weirdest thing in the world. Then later she pulled out Reese's Peanut Butter cups and I swear, I could have died happy in that moment. I also managed to meet a couple Brits and even another Katie from Scotland! We bonded over the fact that our name was both Katie and it wasn't short for anything. However, I managed to make a fool out of myself when I responded to her once with a British accent. I swear, I did not mean to do that, it just happened! She didn't seem to notice, but I mentally slapped myself. Too much 'Doctor Who' and 'Sherlock' and Jane Austen stuff and One Direction. Oh well, I'm not complaining.
    Although the weather was quite rainy and cold, we did plenty of walking around and I saw more of Mostar than when I went in November. Surprisingly, I remembered a lot where everything was and I felt immensely proud of myself.

    The beauty of my weekend in Mostar was how quite a lot of people actually spoke Bosnian with me. One person in particular refused to speak English and we managed to have an actual conversation in Bosnian. Yes, I would not know a few words and ask for help, but ultimately, I felt very proud of my skills. Even if they told me I sound more like a Russian.

    And then today, best thing of all happened...

    LETTERS AND CARE PACKAGES. If you are wondering why I am so excited about this, it's because I hadn't received one. I have been here five months and not one letter nor package had came. But I come home from Mostar with letters from my cousin, best friend, and a package waiting for me at the post office. Now. I thought that I would have to go get the package myself. But no. This morning (at an unreasonably early hour after talking for three hours with my best friend from Canada the night before), my Granny (host grandma) yelled from the bottom floor telling me that my package had arrived! I booked downstairs (not before grabbing socks! Bosnian customs are getting to me) and then Granny told me to grab my passport, money, and receipt so I could claim it. Dashing back up and down the stairs with my things, I quickly signed off on the package and, giggling like a fool, I ran back up to my room to rip it open.

    Out pours the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Cards from my friends, jewelry, a scarf, Goldfish crackers, Starbucks hot chocolate, and comics! I was smiling and laughing, despite my tired state, but I have been waiting since December for this package and it's finally here! So thank you to Es, Char, Grace, Soph, Ash, Anna, and Mom for all the lovely gifts. I love you all very much!

   Anyway, I should probably go do my Bosnian homework for tomorrow.

   Until something cool happens,
-Katie Wells

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


   It's crazy to think that another year has flown by. But I have to say 2012 was the busiest and most fulfilling year of my life. This time last year, I was freaking out about so many different things, most of them exchange related. My interview for NSLI-Y, my application to come here, finals for school were coming up. And now I look back and see that all that work paid off. My entire year was full of the most amazing things, things nobody could have possibly predicted.

    I finished my application in the nick of time in January.
Last years New Years :)
    It was my birthday and YES semi-finalist notifications in February.

    March was the IPSE weekend, where I met some pretty fantastic people.

    On April 13 I was awarded the YES Abroad scholarship to Bosnia.

    Then came performance season with Tournament of Plays and State for choir.

    Good-byes and hellos were filled in June with my last day of school and the PDO in DC.

    Eventually, camp and Canada rolled around in July.

    Finally August came with the hardest goodbyes, but the most exciting beginning in Sarajevo.

    Bosnian school began in September which thus began the beginning of the end.

    October brought new friends, Race for the Cure, and the witnessing of Bajram. Oh! And the beginning of snow :)

    We traveled to Mostar and I shared with my host family Amerian Thanksgiving in November.

    And December was a million Christmas parties and the ending of the best year of my life... so far.
Skyping the family back home.

    As 2013 dawned, I realized that Sarajevo has become my home. When I first arrived and had to tell people that I needed to go back to my host-family's house, I would say, "I need to go back to where I'm staying." I've realized on several occasions now that I simply say, "Hey, I need to go home now." I've stopped calling my host parents and siblings, host parents and siblings. I've started to say my brothers and sisters and my parents. "Host" is just a term that I use if I ever need to clarify. I've stopped being nervous to meander through the house and find it as comfortable as my home back in Oregon. The city has become extremely familiar and it's funny to think that five months ago, I had never stepped foot here. Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina is now my home. And I wouldn't give it up for the world.

    Twenty-twelve was brilliant and I wouldn't change any of it. Thank you to everyone who has gotten me to where I am today and I wish you all a Happy New Year. I am very excited for 2013. Here I am, half way through my exchange and there is still so much to happen. I turn eighteen in two months, I graduate in six, I begin college in eight. Let this year be filled with new opportunities, new challenges, new friendships, and new adventures.

    Anyway, time to catch up on some much needed sleep! Hope everyone had a fabulous New Years day and I hope 2013 is even better.

   Until we see each other again,