Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother and Me

    WELL. These past few weeks have been incredibly busy! If you're wondering why, which I hope you are, it's because...


    I haven't seen her in eight and a half months!

    This was the best belated birthday gift EVER!

    We had been Skyping all the time this entire year and there were brief moments where I wondered if when she came I would be acting like a completely different person and suddenly I'd be like, "Oh dear, I'm so different and my relationship might change with my mom and I love my relationship with my mother, I can't have the happening. What if it's more evident when we're in person? Oh my gosh, oh my gosh." Well. All worries were put aside when I waited anxiously for her at the airport on April 26th.
    I waited outside of the arrivals gate with Nizama, not saying a word, just a constant mini panic attack anyone came through the doors. I don't think I was exactly nervous or scared, but my stomach was doing little flips every time I saw a small brunette or the doors slid open.
    Then she came out.
    In my head, I always try imagining what I'm going to do when I see someone for the first time in a long time. Whether it's pretending I don't know them or hiding and surprising them or just something completely ridiculous. However, even if I imagine and even plan doing something weird like that, I always go for the same thing which is I end up smiling immensely, running to give them a giant hug, and start squealing like a five year old girl who just got a new Barbie (I definitely squealed when I got a new Barbie).
    Mom immediately went over to Nizama and hugged her, telling her that it was so nice to see her. In English. And that was the moment I instantly became the resident translator for the next half hour. Mom and I talked like nothing changed, taking momentary interludes to talk to Esad and Nizama. When we arrived home, I showed my mom around the house, letting her meet the rest of the family and experiencing what I experienced eight and a half months ago. When her things were settled in, we headed down to talk to the host family, while I passed on the translator job to Medina. Because she's ten times better than me. If not more.
    We talked about everything. At least anything that could possibly come to mind. We ate cake, we laughed, we went on and on about how fantastic it all was that my mom was here. And it was. When we decided we had better go to bed because we were going to Srebrenica early the next morning, my mom and I took a quick picture to show that she was here and alive and well (mostly for my dad who messaged me the second he could asking, "KATE IS MOM THERE YET?"). We then headed to our rooms at around midnight for much needed sleep.

My mom and I! We're dopplegangers, I know.
    The next morning, we were up early to go to Srebrenica with SHAKE and our coordinators. Srebrenica was the location of a mass genocide in the Bosnian War after it was declared a Safe Zone. It has been turned into a grave sight and memorial, which was definitely a sobering experience, especially for my mom's first thing to do in Bosnia. We toured around the graves, watched a video about people who survived while family members were taken, and read biographies of people who were identified. Incredibly sad, but fascinating at the same time.

   After leaving Srebrenica, we headed to a small, family owned restaurant for lunch where I had ten ćevapi! Everyone knew that little Anna had a surprisingly large ćevapi belly, so when she ordered ten, nobody was surprised. However, I've never really bragged about it. So when I ordered ten, both my coordinators looked at me and went, "Ten!?" My mom was equally surprised, but she wasn't entirely sure what ćevapi was like, so she was like, "Oh, that's alright."
    Well then the food came out. My mom gaped at my loaded plate of bread, onion, and meat fingers (that is the actual translation of ćevapi. SHAKE has never laughed so hard.).
    "Kate." My mom said. "You can't eat that whole thing."
    "I've eaten ten before." I stated. It was a fact, after all. To her shock I ate the entire plate, just as Anna did and, despite my mom being horrified, Nizama was so proud when I told her. Ja sam bosanka (I am Bosnian)! Woooo!

Mom and I in Copper Alley
    When we arrived back in Sarajevo, we headed down to Baščaršija to show my mom around old town. She drank from the Sebilj, so GUESS WHAT? That means she's coming back! Yay! We wandered around the winding streets, when suddenly, I overheard a group of American women speaking. My mom rarely noticed when people were speaking English around her, there was no trigger that went off, while for me, I could hear two words of English and I would seriously stop and point and be like, "English! I heard it!" I wouldn't say this directly to the English speakers, but I did get fairly excited. As my mom and I were browsing a store that I stopped at often, a woman turned around and asked, "I heard English, where are you from?" Her accent was purely American, so I knew if I mentioned a state, she would know.
    "Oregon." I replied. "And you?"
    "We're from Michigan!" Another lady chimed in, seeming excited about finding fellow Americans in the Balkans.
    "What are you doing here?" A different lady asked.
    "I'm an exchange student, and you?"
    "We're with a program that offers scholarships to Bosnian students who want to study in America." They all seemed excited about their project and I thought their program sounded fantastic.

Me at my church!
    The next morning was church! I had been excited to show my mom my church forever now. Church is where I've truly found a place where I belong (I went the distance and everything) and showing my mom all my really close friends and people who have helped me along the way was a big deal to me! So we were up early, got dressed and called a taxi to head out, because Nizama insisted we eat a huge breakfast and have coffee before we go.
    Because of that, we arrived at church nearly a half hour early, giving my mom the opportunity to take pictures of my church, something I didn't even do when I first started attending. Irfan made fun of my mom for taking so many pictures, saying that not even I was even that bad when I first arrived. And I definitely wasn't! I still have zero pictures of my church on a regular Sunday. The only time I take pictures there are for events!
    As we were waiting for the service to start, suddenly four women walk over to the American section where I recognize one woman in particular. She turns towards me and instantly I recognize one of the women from the women we met the other day! Out of all the places to run into them, we see them in my tiny church. It was pretty fantastic :) The service was great and we had fellowship afterwards where my mom met everyone that I had been talking about for the past six months.
    Once we were done, my mom and I headed down to Alta to exchange her money and grab a quick coffee before we headed out to Vrelo Bosna, a gorgeous park on the other side of town past Ilidža. We took the crowded, hot tram all the way down and eventually navigated our way to the park! When we reached horse drawn carriages, we couldn't say no, so we plopped inside, letting the horse take us to the main park.

     Once there, my mom and I wandered around, just talking about everything that we could. We had a lunch of fish, veggies, and potatoes along the river where a mini waterfall was. We then decided we had better head home as it was going to get dark, so we began the long trek back to the tram station and headed home.
    And that's when my mom saw my walk in the dark for the first time.
    She was slightly terrified. I've gotten used to the creepiness of the graveyard lit up in shallow lights, and the wind-y road with partially destroyed buildings. None of it bothers me anymore. My mother on the other hand was all, "Oh Kate, you don't walk this alone do you?"
    "In the dark?"
    "Yeah, a lot."
    "Isn't it scary? Look! I just took a picture of the graveyard and this is what it looks like!" She showed me a picture of the cemetery, all the gravestones looking an eerie green color.
    "That's your camera! It's fine, Mom." Mom was a little bit iffy still. But after walking that road in the evening every time we came home for the next two days, she grew used to it and it didn't even bother her.

    The next few days were mainly me showing her around. I showed her pretty much everything I could in those spare two days. Nizama took us out one of those days and, although she was the one showing us around, we were the one who worked her. We walked a lot and the sun was hot that day. I managed to only get a small burn on my shoulder, but Nizama was completely burnt all over! However, despite that, our adventures were great! We found a great coffee place (one I've seen all year, but never tried. It's called Spazzio's) that had one of the best iced coffee's EVER. There we met two Bosnian girls and one of them used to be an exchange student in Colorado! It was so fun talking to her about exchange student experiences and it's always fun making new friends everywhere you go. I try.
    Once all our exploring was done, we headed home to pack for... DUBROVNIK!

    Early last Wednesday morning, we headed out to the bus station to meet up with Anna, Savannah, and Emma and head out to Dubrovnik, Croatia. The bus ride was long and all of us ended up falling asleep. Besides, for the majority of the ride, we've all seen it before. My mom, on the other hand, couldn't believe we fell asleep. She was snapping pictures right and left, too afraid to turn of her camera because she never knew when the right shot would come!

    Later that evening, we arrived in Dubrovnik and it was beautiful. However, we all wanted to get to our villa first and drop off our suitcases so we could go explore. We didn't know how to get there, so we hopped in taxis, giving them the address, and we headed out. And that's when it all kind of went wrong. The drivers pretended they didn't know where they were going and dropped us off at the bottom of a hill, pointing upwards saying it was "just up this road" and opened their hands for the money. SEVENTY KUNA. For a five minute ride! That's almost $12! That is ridiculous. All of us couldn't believe it, but since we really had no other choice, we handed over the money and grabbed our suitcases and trekked up the hill.
    And was that ever a hill.
    It consisted of a roughly paved road, going steeply up, which then turned into stairs. We lugged our baggage up and up until finally we came across our host who told us to follow her to the house which was up more stairs. Eventually we reached our villa, where our host immediately brought out fresh pressed orange juice from the oranges that grew fresh in her garden. Best drink to have after hiking up a mountain! Once we were settled and our hosts telling us where to go, we set off for Old Town Dubrovnik! The walk was about twenty to thirty minutes, all downhill and we all knew that coming home would mean going up.

    We wandered about Old Town, exploring narrow alleyways, shops, stopped for coffee and then, when we decided we were all hungry, we headed out to meet up with Helena and her mom who was visiting also for Hels birthday dinner! It was fun, having all of SHAKE together, plus my and Helena's moms. The other girls remarked how similar we were to our moms and how speaking to them was like talking to an older version of ourselves. After dinner, we loaded into the car that Claire (Helena's mom) rented and headed to our villa.
    However... we didn't know exactly where we were going. Eventually we found a parking spot on the shoulder of a road and pointed downwards, stating we were somewhere down there. That led to a half hour trek around streets we weren't familiar with, hoping we'd find our street along the way. Once we reached our villa, we all took our showers and got into our PJs before Claire brought out a cake that she brought for Helena's birthday. We sang 'happy birthday', had a quick bite of cake, and went to bed before we headed out the next day.

    Day two consisted of walking the Old Town's wall that surrounded the entire city. Lots of stairs. Lots of up and down. Lots of sun. The walls gave you a great view of the entire city and ocean. We finished the walls around 11 and then went to buy our tickets to take the ferry across to the little island called Lokrum. When we arrived at the island, we grabbed a quick lunch of sandwiches and then headed out to explore. We went into an old monastery where peacocks roamed about and one was even showing off for us! I had never seen a peacock make it's tail fan out and I had no idea it had little pom-poms of fluff underneath those long, colorful tail feathers.
Seriously. What?
    We then started hiking up to a fortress which only meant more hills, which naturally, I complained about the entire way up. I was also stupid and wore fashion shoes, not walking shoes. When we were done exploring the fortress at the top of the island, we headed down to the edge of the island to swim! We found a rocky ledge where several people were, mostly sunbathing, while we quickly changed into our swimsuits and jumped in.
    Except not really.
    There was a little ladder at the edge, so we started to climb in, only to figure out the water was freezing cold! One by one, we inched in, teeth chattering from the ice cold water. One nice thing was how we could float so easily because of how salty it was. I would barely have to tread and I remained afloat and my mom never stopped saying how she "has never floated this easily on my back before! I'm just laying down!" Savannah, being our little desert baby, took a little more persuading to get in the water as well as some bribery of a back massage to fully put her head in. After we were all done with swimming, we got dressed, and headed back to catch the ferry so we could explore the other fortress on the other side of a cove from the wall. Which resulted, naturally, in more stairs. Joy. The fortress included spots where several scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed, causing Emma and Anna to fangirl quite a bit.
    Once exploring was done, we found a seaside restaurant for some local seafood. Everyone had their different plates and most of us took bites of each others to get a good taste of everything.
    We then called it a night and started the long trek back home where all us girls gathered in one of the rooms to catch up on some TV shows and relax after a long day of walking.

    Next day was much more relaxed. We ended up leaving a lot later to head up to the gondola/tram so we could go to the highest view point in Dubrovnik. The view was incredible and, while the other girls rested, my mom and I went on a mini adventure, finding an abandoned tunnel, an old amphitheater (we couldn't find the spot that makes your voice echo. It was a sad moment), and I got my feet scratched by grass. But it was overall gorgeous! I was complaining because we were walking (why am I the laziest human being?), but now looking back, I'm so glad my mom made me explore with her (yes, yes, I know, Mother knows best). We then headed back down to the main part of the city where we explored the pier, where we soaked our feet in the cool ocean, relieving our tired feet for a moment before getting up and going to see the old Franciscan monastery. It was gorgeous and interesting, but honestly, pretty much like every other monastery we saw.

   We all wanted to go swimming one last time, so my mom and I offered to "run up" to our villa and grab our swimsuits because Savannah was the only one who remembered. That led my mom and I on another adventure, following a map as our bus took us around the city and we had to make sure we got off at a relatively close stop to our villa. Well. We got off at the stop below our villa, making us walk up that God forsaken hill. Grabbing our swimsuits, we headed back down, glancing at the map to find a nice place to swim. We found a beach and told the girls to meet us there. At the beach, there was only one other person who happened to be a Canadian! Instant bond, once again made. This water was colder and less buoyant, not to mention the sun was setting, so we only stayed in for a little while. When we were done, the girls wanted Mexican food, however I don't like Mexican food (usually. I can handle tacos and nachos and sometimes enchiladas, but still. It's not my favorite.) and my mom didn't feel like it, so we set off to the other marina to find our own restaurant.
    I was very happy with this, actually! Together we found a bunch of cool boats, watched the sun set, and found this hidden away restaurant with delicious food! We sat there for quite awhile before deciding it was late (only 10pm. Pffttt. Only 10pm) and grabbed the bus back home.

    Next morning, everyone was up early to back and catch our bus to Mostar! Mostar was... Mostar. I had been there four times already, so navigating the city was no problem. I showed my mom everywhere that I had loved, while I slowly melted away, unfortunately becoming a bit irritable. When we finally stopped for coffee in the shade, I could feel myself getting in a better mood and I apologized to my mom because I realized how crabby I was. I'm not good in heat unless I'm tanning. Once I showed her all the sights and even bought a few things, we headed back to the train station to meet the girls and go back home!
    The train ride was hot and stuffy, but we all ate candy and talked for the entire ride, which was nice. When we arrived in Sarajevo, I called Esad and we were taken home and headed off to bed because the next day was Travnik!

    Esad, Nizama, and Irfan took us to Travnik last Sunday! The weather, unfortunately, was a bit bipolar and as we sat down for lunch, it started pouring rain. Not exactly the most fun when we had to go tour around the fort.
    But we grabbed our umbrellas and went up to explore the fort. It was my third time, but it was still nice to see it again. When we were finished, Esad and Nizama picked us up and we went to FIS, which is a giant shopping center, bigger than SuperStore or Fred Meyer or... Tesco... I'm not sure on worldwide shopping centers... but FIS is really big! We could pretty much find anything in there, including a tea cup the size of a large mixing bowl. I really wish I bought it, because I can never get enough tea. I love it.
   Once we were done exploring both FISes (the department store and the Home Depot-type), we piled into the car and headed back home.
    However, we didn't stay long. Mom had last minute shopping to do, so we headed back into town for her to grab last minute presents as well as meet up with Kat, my teen group leader at church. Kat had been a big help in my adaption here, as well as a great friend and general person! So when I asked if it was possible for Kat and my mom to meet, both were eager to meet each other. We met up at Torte I To (great cafe in BBI) and talked for quite awhile. At one point they were talking about me and if I've changed or developed and whatnot, and I felt myself going into an awkward, bashful mode and I didn't quite know what to do with my face. Eventually we had to say good bye and we all headed back home, where we didn't have a lot of time to talk, because we had to pack!

    Now when I say 'we' had to pack, it's because I sent home one of my suitcases home with my mom, so I had to pack it up and send it off. The next morning, we finished all our packing and called a taxi as we headed off to the airport. It was a weird sensation, being on the other side of security. I'm so used to my parents being the ones waving me off and I was going on an adventure, but instead I was waving goodbye to my mom, wishing her a safe flight. And it was just strange! I don't know how else to explain it.

    Then came the complicated bit, which was getting out of the airport. I took a wrong turn somewhere, so I ended up walking in an unknown part of Dobrinja (a neighborhood in Sarajevo) until, about an hour later, I came across a tram stop and I honestly had no idea where I was.

    Since saying goodbye to my mom, everything has fell back into normality. I can't explain how strange it was to have my mom here and she even felt the same way. I've established myself here by myself and suddenly having my mom here was the weirdest sensation. Going to Dubrovnik felt perfectly fine, because it was new to both of us. But having her come to my home for the past nine months and I had to show her everything was just a little bit weird.
    It was wonderful seeing her and I can't believe I see her in four weeks. Time has flown by so fast and I can't even comprehend it. Life here has gone from everything being exciting and new, to normal, to a bit boring, and now I'm just settled in. I don't double glance at certain things that used to through me off, I'm not scared to leave my bedroom, and it's strange to think I'm about to be uprooted again and replanted back in Oregon in a month. A month. It seems like the other day I was saying I left in a month! Crazy how this all happens so fast.

    Anyway, I have church tomorrow and this is way overdue.

    Until more stories,


  1. Ohh Kate!!! That is the BEST blog I've ever read! What a GRAND time you had with your mamma. You lucky girl to have such a great mother. God bless you!!! xo

  2. Best trip EVER!! Kate, you were an awesome host...even when you were grumpy in Mostar! :) I am so thankful for the special time we shared. Love you!