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.

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