Nikki, Outbound to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Finally finding time to journal! (I may be speaking too soon and this may just be a burst of inspiration that results in me writing more than necessary then going MIA for a few months, but I hope that's not the case).

I'm going to start telling some stories--small, awkward moments or quotes I've experienced and heard while on my exchange up to this point.

Goats and Corn
As you may know, the public transportation system in America is lacking (to say the least), so riding the bus took some getting used to. My first host family lived about 20 minutes away from the city center, which is considered to be a "village" because in general, my city is pretty small and compact. I'd ride the bus to school every morning, and back home in the afternoon. Nearly a month had passed since school had begun, and I finally thought I was getting the hang of the bus system. I had the schedule, stops, and tickets memorized for the whole week, and apparently that made me a bit cocky. Me, being the directionally challenged individual that I am, let my newly found navigational skills get to my head. One day after school I routinely boarded the 12:45 bus, and started playing games on my phone. Like I said earlier, the bus ride from the center to my house lasts around 20 minutes, so I didn't see the need to be constantly aware of my surroundings--Mistake one. After about 15 minutes, something didn't feel right, or rather, didn't SMELL right. I may have lived in a "village" but my neighborhood was urban as Tokyo in comparison to where this bus had taken me. I look up from my phone to only see goats and corn on all sides of me. "Don't panic, the city isn't that big. These buses can't go THAT far, right?" I saw it best fit to stay seated and wait for the bus to complete its route and take me back to the center where I could call my host family or board another bus. 10 minutes....20 minutes....30 minutes passed before the bus came to a stop behind a field of wheat. The driver, a chubby man with much more than a 5 o'clock shadow trailing from under his nose down to the collar of his unbuttoned dress shirt, with patchy chest hair peeking out. He was something you'd see in a cartoon, and his thick, Slavic accent only added to the stereotype. He began humming to himself as he wriggled out of the drivers seat, shocked to see a passenger still on board. He boomed something in his deep voice, scratchy from at least 10 years of smoking; something I didn't understand, considering I wasn't even speaking the language at a caveman's level at that point. I stuttered, with my thick American accent "Ja sam ne govorim Srpski" (I am American. I don't speak Serbian), one of the only things I actually knew how to say. Instead of slowing down or even thinking for a moment, the man repeated the same sentence, ONLY LOUDER in hopes that I would understand. Obviously it didn't work, and we were both equally frustrated. He then gestured with two fingers for me to sit back down and wait, as he went into a small building for a few minutes. I sat, shaken, trying to come up with a plan. Considering my phone was almost dead and I was yet to purchase a sim card or data, I was a bit stuck. About 10 minutes later, I saw the man waddle out of the building, crush the beer can he was drinking from, and approach the bus. He looked at me again and loudly asked "Centar?" "Yes! I mean... Da!" I eagerly responded, thankful that he was able to guess my end goal. My relief was short lived as he rambling and waving his arms at me, confusing and flustering my newfound composure. I sat with my bag in my lap and he reached for it--Maybe I was just too shaken to react, or too scared of what would happen had I pulled my bag away from this man who towered over me and had the ability to snap me like a kit-kat at his will. He shuffled through my bag and pulled out my wallet and aggressively pointed to it. MONEY! He wanted money! How could I have been so stupid and not realized I hadn't paid for a ticket back. I quickly provided the driver with the money for a ticket; grumbling, he retook his seat and we were on our way back to the center. It was around 2:30 when we arrived back to the center, and my initial plan was to connect to wifi and call my host mom to come pick me up, but at this point my phone had died and I was almost out of money. I decided to get on the next bus 13 that passed through the center and hope for the best. Not exactly my brightest idea, but everything went smoothly. I boarded the 2:45 bus and was home by 3:00. My host brother answered the door normally and didn't even question where I had been for the last 2 hours. That afternoon at lunch I retold my bus mishap and after a solid 15 minutes of laughter, my host mom managed to explain my mistake "There's 13a, 13b, 13d, and 13. WE ride 13. Today you rode 13d into another city."

I slept the best I had since my arrival given the adrenaline rush and the amount and speed of the thoughts that raced through my head that day.

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