Sunday, April 21, 2013


    Going about daily life, you don't really go about thinking, "I am such a lucky person for having this" or "I can't believe I get to experience this."

Everyday here, I should be saying that.

I really cannot believe that I am in Bosnia studying abroad.

I am incredibly lucky that I was selected out of so many worthy candidates.

But most of all, I am blessed.

I am blessed to have family who support me and love me.

I am blessed with friends back home who have stuck with me through every tedious detail of my life.

I am blessed that I was selected.
I am blessed to have come here with four very different girls and share this experience in very different ways.

I am blessed to have met such extraordinary people from all over the world.

I am blessed to have an incredible host family.

I am blessed with friends here who I will keep for the rest of my life.

I am blessed that this past year has been life-changing.

(there's no picture that can exactly portray this... #awkward)

I am blessed that God has worked through me in perfectly subtle ways.

(there's no picture for that either...)

I am blessed with people who have made this experience so much more memorable.

I could put twenty pictures in here... pretty much if there's a picture with people, I am blessed because of them :D

I am blessed to have gone on adventures.

I am blessed that people have pushed me to do things I never would have considered.

The reason I chose this picture is because Anna made me walk up a mountain. I usually won't do that willingly.
    I am so incredibly blessed to be here and I am so thankful for everyone who made this possible. I understand I have seven more weeks here and I shouldn't be dwelling on our inevitable return, but after Kat from church treated me to lunch and a round at the driving range (Ha. ha. Hahaha.), I just couldn't not feel so blessed to have people like that around me.
    Church has been my safe haven here, but it's also been a challenge. At times, it's felt like church back home and all I wanted to do was curl in a ball and be like, "but those aren't my friends! This isn't my church! I understand nothing!" But then I've made some of the best friends I could have, people were patient with my Bosnian skills and practiced with me, and I don't think most people realize how thankful I am for them being there when I needed it. True, I don't always understand every word coming out of the pastor's mouth and sometimes I get a wave of, "I miss my friends," but it's less and less now. I love these people so much and it hurts my heart that I have to say goodbye so soon.

    I'm sorry these last two posts have had me thinking ahead to when we go home, but this is what happens during this time in an exchange student's life! I just didn't realize it would hit so hard.

   So thank you, everyone who has made this the greatest experience ever. I'm just happy to say it's not over yet.

   Anyway, that's enough sap for the day. Here's a picture of me attempting to golf:

    Until my mom arrives (FIVE DAYS),

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Far and Away

    I really love going places. Whether it's a city just an hour away or a different continent, I love seeing new places (which is slightly ironic considering I'm not that adventurous). This past weekend, SHAKE went to Bihać and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia and it was absolutely gorgeous! True, I had to get up at a ridiculous hour in the morning to meet up the car that was picking me up at the school and take us to where the bus was, but it was all worth it! We went with a group from Nahla, which is a Bosnian NGO established in 2001 by group of young women who were committed to providing a space for Bosnian woman in which they could feel safe and accepted and get a chance to learn, socialize, broaden and enrich their knowledge and acquire different skills needed to efficiently perform a job and actively participate in social life. The ladies were all lovely and so kind and I was very glad to have met them.
    The bus drive there was long and although we all tried to stay awake to see the stunning Bosnian countryside, all of us fell asleep at some point. Luckily, the group took several pit stops in cities along the way. I don't know a lot of what these places were, but I'm glad we stopped anyway.
By the river Una, near Bihać 
Pliva Lakes near Jajce
    One of our pit stops, my favorite, was the 16th century castle in Ostrožac. It was huge and beautiful and situated way up high on a mountain, looking vaguely like a mini Hogwarts. The courtyard was filled with all sorts of interesting statues and, despite the majority of the castle falling apart, we were allowed to freely explore which resulted in me singing "Once Upon a December" from the movie Anastasia. The castle was just purely incredible and everything about it was stunning.

   I don't know man, I've just always wanted to be a princess and this was the closest I could have gotten.
   The day ended at our hotel right outside of Bihać, where we had coffee outside on their patio because the weather was gorgeous, plus it was right beside the river. We then continued inside for dinner where we had our monthly meeting which began the talk of the end of our stay. It's so weird to think about that we're out of here in less than two months. Next years YES Abroad students have been chosen (congratulations everyone! This next year of your life will be absolutely insane and incredible and I can't even begin to describe it properly. All I can say is that this was the best year of my life).
    However... it is strange to think how far I've come. I'm not the same person I was when I left Newberg eight months ago or when I was selected a year ago. I've explored quite thoroughly an entirely new country and I've tasted foods I never thought I would try. I've spoken a language I didn't know existed a few years ago, I've made friends I didn't think I could be friends with. I've stretched myself in ways I didn't know I could be pulled and everything that has come out of this experience thus far has made this even more incredible and unbelievable.
    Moving on from all my sentiments...
    The night finished up with all of SHAKE gathered in Helena, Savannah, and Emma's room talking about anything and everything. Anna tried to scare Savannah and Emma when they left the room, but that failed. We talked about books and movies and weirdness and whatever came to mind. One thing I'll miss about SHAKE is that these girls have become like my sisters. We all love each other (I think... I love them at least), we annoy each other at times, but we all know that when we go home, we have made four best friends we didn't think we could have made before this. We never would have met without YES. We live all over the US, how would we have? This also makes me feel like we're the girly, cultural version of One Direction, but that's me just being slightly silly.
    And I'm getting sappy again. I apologize. It's what happens when you're down to 53 days left in a certain place.

    The next morning we packed up and got on our bus to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia! There was no point falling asleep on this drive as it only lasted an hour and we had to get off the bus to cross the border. One more stamp in my passport! Wooo!
    The falls were breathtaking. True, with a giant tour group sometimes you couldn't squeeze through and snap a decent picture before you were barked at saying we had to move along, but the fact of the matter is that I at least got to see the falls. I have the image permanently implanted in my head and that's something I can live with.

    We did a lot of hiking around, through the falls, up and down mountains, on little bridges, and the like to see the extent of the falls that we could. However, many of the lakes had overflown therefore resulting in mini falls all over the place. It was very possibly the coolest type of waterfall I had ever seen. On one of the boats across the lake to a nice spot to grab some food and souvenirs, we met a guy from Paris where I was then forced to speak French with, which, in all honesty, I was secretly hoping would happen. My French is still ten times better than my Bosnian and I can communicate quite easily in French. We only talked for about five to ten minutes, but I still felt special. Once we landed on the other side of the lakes and grabbed our souvenirs, we then began the climb up the mountain to where our bus was. I'm surprised I survived, because I kid you not, that was a mountain. I swear I'm not exaggerating.

   When we were back on the bus, we began the ride back home, but not before stopping in a town for dinner and feeding some dogs (who Anna and I affectionately named Fuzz and Oreo). My legs were a bit Jello-y and going back on the bus was a wonderful thing because it meant sleep. Except that didn't happen either. First of all, Helena and I watched a movie on the way back, taking breaks to look at the scenery we missed on the ride to Bihać and Plitvice and we also took a pit stop in an interactive museum (similar to Fort Edmonton in Canada). It was adorable and the view was absolutely gorgeous. Who am I kidding? All of Bosnia is gorgeous. I say this every time I visit a new place.
I am aware Emma and I are matching.
    Late that night we arrived back in Sarajevo and we all jumped in taxis back home. Esad was adorable when I came home, asking all the questions of how it was and if I was tired. He then told me to go to bed which I did so gladly.

    These past few weeks have otherwise been uneventful. The sun is out and I'm so glad because my mom comes in eight days and I promised her the weather would be nice. And it is! Nice weather makes me happy and motivated and most people can tell, because I get really bubbly when I'm in a good mood. I also zone out a lot more in class because I'm glazing at the sun and flowers through the windows. #sorrynotsorry

    Anyway, I think I've written enough for the day. Not to mention I talked about One Direction and Disney, so I think I should call it quits.

   Until I go places (which will be soon!),

P.S. Remember to follow me on Twitter @KateWells7 and check out my story, Starbird. <- click on the link. Do it.

Monday, April 8, 2013


    I'm not one to explore, nor be a bit spontaneous. I like plans and I like to know exactly where I'm going with thorough research. When someone says, "Oh! Let's stop here, it looks interesting." I instantly go, "Umm. How about not?" I don't randomly decide to do things. I like having dates and times.
    That's why on Thursday I surprised myself a little bit when I decided I was bored with my hair and I chopped it all off! Well. Not all off. But let's just say it hasn't been this short since Freshman year. It's been awhile.
    And then when Anna messaged me Thursday night asking me if wanted to meet up for coffee in Baščaršija the next day and run around and take some pictures, I didn't think much of it.
    Ha. Silly me. This is Anna we're talking about. She's kind of an exploration nut.

    The next day I walked down to meet her at BBI Centar where we took off for coffee. The day was warm enough to sit in one of our favorite Old Town cafés with a nice cheap array of coffees. We talked for what felt like hours and then decided we should head out. Then Anna suggested after coffee we could head up to Bijela Tabija. After quickly agreeing, I then caught myself and asked her if we were going to take a taxi or walk. She replied walking. HA. No. Instead we settled for another spot of the city, still up a solid hill that was right next to an old military compound.

    However, we didn't know that area very well so we ended up wandering up and down alley ways, passing broken down buildings and catching wonderful views of the partly-sunny Sarajevo. We stopped along the ways taking lovely pictures, which Anna was excited about because the lighting was perfect. The broken military building was extremely fascinating and Anna and I had to be each others common sense, because both of were tempted to go exploring further inside, but the many signs surrounding the building saying, "Warning: Destroyed" kept us in check.

     After wandering the hills of Sarajevo, we started heading down when we ran into an amphitheater that they started building when we first got here. Well, it's almost finished now! So Anna and I enjoyed running back and forth between center stage to test out the acoustics to the back of the theater where we could hear exactly what we were saying. Amphitheaters never fail to completely amaze me. I mean, how do they work!? I'm sure there's a science to it, however, I just really do not know what exactly happens. Time for a quickee research! Once we were done playing, we then headed to the Alija Izetbegović museum which was a remodeling of two towers and wall connecting them. Izetbegović was Bosnia's first president and held a very important role in overcoming the recent war. One part of the museum focused on his life, while the next focused on the war. All-in-all, Anna and I found it incredible interesting and we left the museum both agreeing Izetbegović was pretty awesome.

    Once we were through scanning the museum, we headed back down to Old Town for ćevapi and then sat around in a park looking at the pictures we took until it started to rain. That was where Anna headed back home (which consisted of a long walk home because the public transportation system is on strike) while I headed off to church!

    Teen group this week was exciting and different as missionaries on the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) program in Ukraine were there as guests, who set up the room very nicely and made us dinner! Teen group passed normally as I made new friends in YWAM from the USA, UK, Ukraine, Russia, and the Netherlands! They were really nice and we were equally interested in each other and what we were doing in Eastern Europe.
    Saturday was our first day of no Bosnian class, so I pretty much slept and chilled with the host family which was a nice, relaxing change. However, later that evening, my church was holding an Easter concert and a mini art show, so that evening I headed out to that and it was a lovely evening of traditional music, art, and fellowship.
    Sunday was busy. I left that morning for church, except yesterday was a special sort of Sunday service as around six or seven different churches were gathered together for one big service. Helena came with me, which I was really glad about because most of the girls don't know exactly what I do when I go to church, so it was nice to finally show one of them. The service was great and interesting, with the pastor using 'Shawshank Redemption' as one of his key visuals. Once the service was over, Helena and I headed out for lunch, but not before I made plans to meet up with Lindsay (the American in YWAM) later in Baščaršija.
    So Helena and I carried out a quick lunch of freshly made pizza and then she headed off to work, while I went on my way to meet up with Lindsay. Because she didn't know Sarajevo, I was able to take her around a bit and show her certain things (I considered this a test run for when my mom comes in 18 days! YAY!). We had coffee in my favorite Old Town café, shopped around; both of us buying gifts for our friends and family. Once we were finished going through every shop in Old Town, BBI, and Alta, Lindsay told me I was welcome to join the YWAM crew for dinner and a movie at the church. So of course I agreed!
    When we arrived at the church, both of us cold and exhausted, soup was simmering and one of the workers put hot water on for tea, which was perfect after a long day of walking everywhere in the 4ºC weather. We all talked around for awhile, eating our soup and sipping tea and coffee and I pretty much was in awe of the Brits and their accents. We then all settled in for a Disney movie, making offhand comments of Hercules having one of the best soundtracks and how Megara has a crazy fringe.
     Once the movie was over, I called Esad to come pick me up and I said farewell to my new friends who I hope I will see again someday! When I got home, Nizama asked if I was living at the church, considering that was where I spent the majority of my weekend and I simply laughed and told her no.

    Anyway, this weekend was lots of fun, full of exploring and meeting new people and chilling. Always nice chilling. :) I better be off though, got some homework and then off to bed early! That's what happens when you drink three cups of coffee the night before and only get three hours of sleep...

    Until more people,

P.S. Remember to follow me on Twitter @KateWells7 !