Sunday, June 9, 2013

Doviđenja i Vidimo Se

    So here we are. Sitting at our computers, witnessing the end of my exchange. Maybe I've become too attached to this blog, I've overly enjoyed telling you about my day-to-day life, but here you are reading it. And I thank you for that. So let's do this together and finish up my last few days here.

    Friday marked the last day of high school I will ever have to attend. From that day on, I am officially a high school graduate and now moving on to bigger and better things aka COLLEGE. I'll be attending Portland Bible College in Portland, Oregon and I am super excited for that. After that, I'm not sure. I just hope it involves a lot of writing and a lot of traveling.
     After school finished, I donated my unwanted clothes and books to the office and turned in my cell phone which provided a huge problem because from then on out, I had no way of communicating with the other girls. Eventually we hunted each other down through Facebook and other friends' phones and eventually I met up with Savannah and we headed over to Helena's house to help set up her present to her host family. Once that was finished, her host family arrived almost minutes after and insisted we have ice cream, cake, coffee, and juice to celebrate. Already so much food and we hadn't even arrived at the main event!
    A while later, we set off to meet our favorite Swiss-Italian from school, Lorenzo, who invited us over for homemade, legit Italian pizza. Needless to say, it didn't take much to convince us to come over. Once at his extremely gorgeous house (I'm not even kidding, all of us kind of died when we saw how nice it was), we began working. And by 'we', I mean Lorenzo started the pizza and Helena and Emma started dessert, Savannah was on music duty, and I sat around waiting for someone to tell me to do something. Eventually I got to set the table and I didn't feel useless, aimlessly wandering the main floor looking at their library (with books in English, French, and Italian. There might have been a German book in there, I don't remember).
    Once the pizza was ready, we sat down to eat, but not before making Lorenzo read Dante's Inferno to us in Italian. I think I speak on behalf of all of SHAKE when I say that was one of the highlights of the evening. We have been waiting for him to speak Italian all year. And it finally happened.
Deciding the movie and reading random books.
    We finished up dinner, just as Lorenzo's parents were leaving for their date night and we did a quick meet and greet before getting a tour of their house, which led us to find Lorenzo's baby pictures and all of us laughing at our Baby Italiano. The top floor was this attic space with a really awesome turtle that Savannah was particularly interested in and that's where we ended up hanging out for the majority of the night.
    After securing the turtle when we left the top off the cage and Savannah asked, "can turtle climb out?", we headed back downstairs to watch Galaxy Quest, a sort of parody of Star Trek and Star Wars. Half way through the hilariously nerdy movie, Lorenzo's mom called to tell us they would give us a ride home which resulted us in hearing Lorenzo speak French. All of SHAKE went into this sort of weird mode; me fangirling, Helena in this jealous attitude, Emma giggling, and Savannah kind of like, "oh my gosh this is cool."

    We finished up Galaxy Quest and then headed back up to the attic for more chilling, weird conversations, and lots of jokes and laughter, until his parents were home and we all loaded into the car to head home, but not before his mom told us that we were welcome to stay in any of their homes whenever we visited, whether it was Switzerland, Italy, or Bosnia; we had a place.
     I was the first to be dropped off, which was sad, because that resulted in me being the first good bye. It was sad, Lorenzo being one of the first true friends I was saying good bye to. We hugged goodbye, made promises to Facebook and Skype each other, and then waved goodbye as I headed into my house.

    Then came Saturday! Busy, busy day. It started off with me meeting up with Helena to finish up gift shopping and grabbing our last cappuccino in Baščaršija. Oh sad day! Once the rain stopped and I bought my Bosnian flag, we headed out to Anna's house for a barbecue of ćevapi and chicken, with cake for dessert. It was nice to all hang out together before we take off tomorrow and just talk with Anna's host family. Our friend, Amila, joined us, which then added to our hard goodbyes, especially when she handed us all cards. We hugged tightly and then went our separate ways; her to the main part of the city and I to Megan's house (a friend from church). Again, the house was absolutely stunning and I got a happy, talkative taxi driver on the way over, which always makes things better. There we had girls night with six other girls from church, sitting around the dinner table eating a traditional Swiss dinner of cheese, potatoes, and meat, with small dishes of fruit and vegetables to grab and slip on your plate. We all had a great time, talking and laughing about guy stories, weird adventures, and Megan's irrational ginger fear. We drank our coffee and ate Swiss chocolate (oh my gosh so goooood.) and lounged around with their overly excited dog, Hana.

     Eventually, the evening came to a close as all of us became fairly tired and again I had to say a permanent goodbye to Megan. She offered her home as another place to stay and I was so very grateful that I was able to meet her and hang out with her, even if it was only for a few times.

    And then there was today. My last day at Evanđeoska Crkva. My last day walking down my mountain. My last day taking the bus home. My last day hanging out with some of the best friends I could have made.
     I walked into church today in a weird sort of daze. Immediately I found Jovana and David and was especially excited to see Becca who I didn't think was going to make it. Moments later, Selma and Nađa walked through the doors and the majority of our teen group was there. When the service began, Pastor Slavko asked me to come up so they could pray for me and asked if I wanted to say anything. I began to thank them for welcoming me in their church and, although I wanted to continue, cut short with a simple thank you again because I felt my voice start quavering and my eyes begin to fill with tears. How did I know this was going to happen? Slavko then asked the teen group up to pray for me and I felt my lip tremble more.
     Nobody could possibly understand how much these kids have meant to me and how they impacted my exchange. They were my friends when I didn't know anyone else, they helped me out with the language without contempt, and I could not have asked for better friends while I was here. Jovana handed me a small book that the teen group made for me, with notes written from all of them and pictures of my time with them. I never realized how much exactly I was involved with the church, but as I flipped through the book and saw pictures of us in Mostar together, at the Christmas and Easter concerts, at special Teen Group days with guests, and out for coffee. These kids have made my life here incredible and I love them all so much.

    After they were done praying for me, I hastily wiped the tears forming at my eyes and smiled, knowing that would be the hardest part of my day. Surprisingly goodbyes are usually fast and painless, but when people who mean so much to you, pray for you and tell you how much of a blessing you are, it's hard and it hurts, but it makes you feel so loved that you don't mind.

    The service progressed and once it ended only meant one thing: more goodbyes. I began my rounds and began hugging the many friends I made over the past eight months. Then we (Jovana, David, Becca, Nađa, Selma, and I) decided to go out for lunch and meet up with Rahel who was at her friends house. We set off and I waved goodbye to the church that I've come to love more than I thought I could. Together, we wandered around the city until we made up our minds of where we wanted to eat, dying in the heat of the day (of course the day before I leave the weather is perfect). We settled on chicken sandwiches and sat around for about an hour, eating and talking; back and forth between English and Bosnian which I was proud to say I understood quite a bit of.
    And then the first goodbyes came. Rahel and Becca had to head home, so I gave them each a tight squeeze and handed them their cards and waved them away as they boarded the tram. The rest of the group came with me to my bus stop and we talked and tried not to focus on the fact that this was our last time seeing each other until either they visited me or I came back to Sarajevo. Slavko then pulled up and told the group that he would take them all home. Realizing this was our goodbye, I sprung to my feet and hugged everyone tightly, not wanting to let them go. At least we have technology now so we can keep in touch. Sometimes, I really, really love Facebook and Skype.
     Once they left, I waited and then got on my bus, realizing this was my last bus ride and the last walk from the bus stop to home. I was still in my haze, not quite comprehending what this all was. Coming towards the house I saw Esad and Mugdim working on the car and then passed Nizama bringing some stuff downstairs, just a quick passing. Moments after I was in my room, Irfan came knocking, telling me he was going out for the night and wouldn't see me off tomorrow. We hugged goodbye and I told him that he was a great host brother and that I was glad he was mine and then followed through with saying if he were to get another host sibling next year, that I would be his favorite, which he laughed and nodded in agreement.
     Then the evil task of finishing packing began. I can't remember how many times I added and removed certain items, debating if something should be in my carry-on or suitcase, if this could squeeze in this corner or not. I am now content with my loaded suitcases, but Nizama said that if I can lift it, it shouldn't be over 23 kilos. I can't tell if that's a compliment or a diss... how much can a normal person lift usually? We then talked a bit of how it was sad that I'm leaving and how she's going to miss "moja Keti." Nizama, I just love you, ok?

    This past year has been, without a doubt, the best year of my life and I can't believe it's coming to a close. Tomorrow morning I board a plane to take me back over the Atlantic and to DC and then the day after I'm on a plane to Portland. It's strange seeing how far I've come from that terrified student who decided that going to Bosnia by herself was a fabulous idea. Back when I took one look at my language books and thought, "oh dear, what have I gotten myself into?" and then stared at pictures of Sarajevo on Google for days on end and thought Sarajevo was pronounced with a hard 'j'.
     I couldn't have done this year without so many people and I thank all of you who took in a part, especially YES Abroad for choosing me to go and the State Department for funding this incredible exchange. My family and friends both here and abroad have helped me day to day, whether with support in any kind or simply being there when I wanted to talk about something random.
      I'm leaving with such a different view than the one I came with and even more than that. I'm leaving with a family I didn't know a year ago, friends I didn't have, and a home I couldn't have dreamed of. This year has been so fulfilling and so incredible and I cannot wait to share it with everyone. I hope to tell everyone about Bosnia and YES Abroad and bring all these cultures together.
     And I'm excited to see what the future holds. So many things that I don't know or care about right now could be coming up in my path soon and I am anxious to see what happens.

     Anyway, thank you all for joining me on this adventure and take care.

     Until something fantastic happens,
-Katie (Sarajevo, Bosna-Hercegovina, YES Abroad 2012-2013)

Ja sam bosanka i ja volim Bosni. 


  1. Very well done! I'm proud of you in every way. I'm happy you had the experience...the trip of a lifetime...and I'm thrille with how you capitalized on the opportunity to make it a complete success. And I can't wait to greet you on the other side of this blog entry! :) Love you!

  2. Good job Kate! I am almost sad to be leaving Sarajevo (with a soft j!) ... through you. So thankful that this was a fantastic year!