Friday, December 25, 2009
About one hour into the train ride we suddenly stopped and the conductor informed us that someone had thrown themselves in front of a train at Munich Ostbahnhof, a station where I needed to transfer. Thus we stopped at a random station and I needed to change trains, putting me back about an hour. My flight to Chicago was actually quite relaxing, because I was in the emergency exit row, giving me six feet of extra leg room. After we landed in Chicago and I went through the long process of customs and security, I found out my flight to Minneapolis had been cancelled due to weather conditions. My confirmed flight was for the following day, but at least I was put on standby, with an additional 120 people. Thankfully I was able to make a flight out later that evening, but my luggage didn’t make it until the following afternoon. The end of traveling.
Christmas is quaint here with the snow. We have copious amounts of snow and the whole Midwest is under either a Winter storm warning or blizzard warning. So it’s great to be home in my own environment, have all my stuff and sleep in a fluffy, oversized bed. I’m also very happy to see my cat again, and I’ve even played a bit with my mother’s dog, who has become a bit more behaved since I left.
Nothing else to really note on. I’ll write more about how America hasn’t changed soon.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The past week has heightened my spirit for the season, as I have been doing Christmas lessons in nearly every class. I will never forget the lyrics for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” ever again. I’ll be singing it to my grave.
So far I’ve been to several Christmas markets: Linz, Budapest, Bregenz, Feldkirch, Ried… but sadly not Braunau. I missed out on that action this weekend when I was in Ried attending the “Xmas Party of 2009” at the event hall. The party organizers really overestimated the guest list, because they had a HUGE event hall which remained at least a third to a half empty. Nonetheless, Tim, Heather and I brought sexy back and had a fabulous time together. Unfortunately we had some troubles leaving the event, as I had somehow lost my ticket for the coat check, and they refused to give me my coat until the following morning. Tim was a bit aufgeregt and thankfully no one got hurt.
This week I have just been counting down the days until the weekend, subsequently my trip back home. On Saturday Heather and I have planned to go to the Christmas market in Salzburg, which should be nice. I can get some last minute Christmas presents
And perhaps the biggest thing that put me in the Christmas spirit today is when four of my students pulled me aside after class and presented me with a plate of Austria Christmas goodies that they had baked me, along with a cute Christmas card. That single thoughtful act made me feel like it’s almost Christmas and made me very thankful for my time here in Austria.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Thursday morning we packed up our things, stocked up on beer and snacks, and boarded the train for a fun-filled four hour trip on the luxe Eurojet train. In Budapest we checked into our extremely cheap hostel at only 8,63 euros per night for a four bed private. The "hostel" is actually someone's large apartment, where they rent out three or four rooms. I don't recall ever seeing anyone else in the hostel other than the caretakers, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The hostel was located in the heart of Pest, within walking distance to many sights and shops. And since it was on a busy street, I slept wonderfully as I dreamed of Minneapolis.
Friday night we checked out the Christmas market, where we all enjoyed some cheap gluehwein (mulled wine)-- I have the cup to prove it! I've begun to notice that Christmas markets are not simply just an Austrian or German thing... they really are all over in Europe. Come on America, when are we going to catch on?! Afterwards we went to the fanciest restaurant I've been thus far since arriving in Austria. We had a three course meal complete with Belgian beer from the tap for around 12 or so euros. Even though Hungary is part of the EU, they still use their own money, the Forint. The exchange rate is great at the moment, and many things were very reasonable.
Saturday morning we caught the free walking tour of Budapest led by a local Hungarian man in women's yoga flared pants-- it was hilarious. We saw most of the sights, had some good laughs, and saw a lot of ET (Euro Trash). The tour was also quite affordable, since we paid him in tips (around three or four euros per person). After the tour we checked out the "California Coffee Company" near the University, and I had some nostalgic moments sipping my coffee and eating my brownie while watching University students type their papers. Post-coffee was spent experiencing a children's Christmas market complete with terrible Hungarian songs sung by children (which made it even worse) that took place right across the street from a giant protest-- at least we assumed it was a protest, since we can't understand the language at all. Let me just pause for a moment and point out that I finally was able to play the clueless tourist this weekend. It's been quite a while where I've been in a non-German speaking country where I need to rely on the locals speaking English to me.
Saturday night we drank some cheap and delicious Hungarian wine and set off to find a good club. We wound up in a place called "Morrisons 2" and danced the night away. There were so many different people at that club from all over the globe. After catching a night train and making a much needed run to Subway, we finally crawled into bed at around four AM.
Sunday we soaked up the Hungarian culture in a traditional bath. Budapest sits atop many thermal springs, and baths became part of the Hungarian culture during the Ottoman Empire from the Turks. It was the most cultural experience in Budapest, considering the amount of tourists was quite low. I even treated myself to a cheap aroma relax massage. In the evening we found a wonderful Mexican-American restaurant with the BEST food I have had thus far. They even had processed cheese. It was sooooo amazing. Oh, and that evening we also visited "Hero's Square", basically the Champs Elyse of Budapest. We took tons of photos and watched a bunch of young kids skate around the square. Afterwards we stumbled upon the craziest and most EE Christmas market ever: a NASA virtual reality ride on one side of the tent, a camel ride on the other, and inside the kind of crap you could find at a thrift store. But the best thing about that Christmas Market was when Santa Claus himself came riding in on sleigh being pulled by a giant reindeer mascot (who looked oddly like Bullwinkle) on a Harley Davidson as "Sexy Bitch" by David Guetta played in the background. Gotta love Eastern Europe.
Monday morning we tried to spend the last remaining Forint that we had, so we attempted to shop at the big mall just outside of the city. It was a failed attempt on my part, and I ended up just buying a bunch of cheap food and wine at Intersparr.
All in all, the weekend was fabulous. It was so great to get out of Austria finally and experience a totally new culture. Pictures to come.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
This weekend I hosted my very first Thanksgiving dinner. Ever. In Austria of all places. And despite living in a small town where finding foreign ingredients is somewhat of a challenge, we created a pretty darn good meal-- that is, after going to nearly all seven or eight of the grocery stores in Braunau to collect the food and ingredients. The turkey was the hardest to find; I finally found a whole 9 lbs turkey at Merkur for 21 euros. That's roughly 31 dollars. That's $3.50 a pound. My parents bought a 14 lbs turkey for $3.50.
On Friday evening Adam, Jay, Matt, John, Emily and her friend arrived. Heather came Saturday morning. Friday evening we prepared a few things, got some gluehwein (mulled spice wine) and relaxed with a bit of drinking. Saturday morning Adam took over the kitchen and made an amazing turkey. Other things included in the meal: stuffing, cranberry salad, green bean casserole, bread rolls, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple pie! After many hours of preparing, cooking and setting the table, we finally sat down and started reciting what we are thankful for this year. Answers include things like: being thankful for living in Austria, for cheap travels, for cheap wine and beer, and for having met one another. My experience around the table eating the typical American meal and talking about why we are thankful made me really glad to have my friends in Austria. My experience would be so different had I not met them. But it also made me really miss home a bit. Only three more weeks until I'm back home for Christmas!
After creating the American tradition in Austria, we experienced a brand new, and slightly frightening, Austrian tradition called the Perchtenlauf. Perchten is a tradition where Austrian men dress up in the scariest costumes ever complete with a satanic mask that they carve from hand. They carry baskets on their backs to "take little children away". And they carry whips around and whack people. The tradition is to scare the evil spirits out of the city, and it's always common to see at the end of November and in December around the Christmas market season. And they love to target girls with blonde hair. I was almost taken away!
Long weekend coming up, and I'm headed to Budapest! More to come!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
This is a long overdue post from last week. As you can see, I'm starting to get a bit lazy with the posting. I spend too much time on the computer chatting, uploading pictures, lesson planning and planning future trips- blogging sadly falls behind.
Last week I went to visit Adam in Feldkirch. He lives in the province of Voralberg, a crazy little province located on the border of Liechtenstein, Germany and Switzerland. The whole province is one big valley in the middle of the Alps, so it's easy to forget you are moving between different towns, as it feels like one giant town that stretches for 45 minutes. The dialect is a bit difficult to grasp, as it is influenced by Swiss German.
Our weekend included visiting all four German speaking countries in less than 24 hours; visiting two Christmas markets; eating at the most famous Mexican restaurant in Austria; making Lebkuchen (ginger bread cookies); and shopping. Despite a fabulous view from the train nearly the entire way of the Alps, I had a terrible experience trying to get back to Braunau, since my train was late and I ended up having to sit in a small village for 75 minutes waiting for the next train.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today on my excruciatingly long train ride from Feldkirch to Braunau I read the "Trendmagazin" for women called "Joy". I quickly noticed the influence of the English language in everyday German speech, and decided to document some of my findings. The following are words or phrases that clearly have been influenced by English. Some of the words actually have German equivalents, but for some reason, those are dying off...
"Just in diesem Moment": Just in this moment (equivalent German word to just = gerade)
"trashiges Hair-Metal outfit": trashy hair-metal outfit (trashy isn't quite a word that can translate well in German in this case, so they just took the English word)
"performen": to perform something, e.g. in a film (darstellen or spielen in German)
"Happy End": need I say more?
"loungig": used in a sentence to describe how the environment was like a lounge
"relaxed": also used to describe someone who is relaxed (entspannt or gelockert in German)
"jobben": to have a part time job or work as a student-- to job-- um, we don't even use this in English. I need to go job? No thanks. (arbeiten in German)
"der Part": a role in a film/the part in a film (die Rolle in German)
"downloaden": to download (herunterladen in German)
"PowerFrau": power woman-- used to describe a successful, driven woman
"daten": to date someone-- this comes from English, because people don't actually 'date' here. Or so I've been told. They just become boyfriend/girlfriend. (sich treffen in German)
"Ganz so easy war...": key word is 'easy'. So easy was it... (easy = einfach or leicht in German)
"die neuen, supercoolen Schwarz-Weiss Looks...": the new, super cool black and white looks-- super cool!!! (geil, toll, etc in German)
And on TV I've been hearing: "Ich bin happy" or I am happy. Happy in German = gluecklich.
I'll blog soon about my travels this weekend. It was epic.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
On Friday I was informed via Facebook that the assistants had all gotten paid. When I finally checked my account later that day at Sparkasse with Heather, I nearly collapsed with glee, for it was true- we got paid. October + November earnings puts me at 2100 Euros. That's the most amount of money I have earned in quite some time, considering how little I actually work here (13 hours a week).
Finally getting paid makes life seem so normal here in Austria. In fact, I had a moment last week cutting up some vegetables in the kitchen while watching "Taff" on ProSieben where I thought to myself "wow, this seems completely normal that I am in Austria living like a local." Things don't seem so strange and foreign to me anymore. I blend in like any other local. In fact, when I went in to the Sparkasse yesterday to set up my Dauerauftrag (automatic monthly transfer of funds), I was immediately recognized by the hottest looking young man I have ever seen in Braunau, who somehow knew who I was and who my personal banker is. Keep in mind, I haven't been to the Sparkasse in two months, when I initially set up my account. In any case, people know me here and life feels completely normal.
To celebrate recent earnings, Heather and I decided spontaneously to head to Linz on Saturday to buy some new things. Luckily her neighbor was driving to Linz, so we even had a free ride. Unfortunately my shopping experience was not as I'd hope it would be, and I wasn't able to find really anything I wanted. Nonetheless, it was fun hanging out with the other TAs. 'Twas a good weekend.
Sunday afternoon I met up with one of my older students for coffee. It was my third time having coffee with students/teachers in four days at the same cafe. We had some fabulous conversations, and we are thinking about starting a book club.
This past week has already flown by. I began teaching a new batch of Beruffschüler at the Internat, and I am confident we will get along well. Several of my classes at the HAK were canceled this week due to teacher conferences and a random field trip to the Cinema to see Die Päpstin, which I was fortunate enough to accompany. Thus I am able to replace my open HAK hours with HLW classes, meaning I will finish up my week after the 1st lesson tomorrow morning. Then it's off to Voralberg for a long weekend to visit Adam and Nathan! Can't wait to be back in the mountains and see those boys again!!
The only negative thing in my life at the moment is that I dropped my computer last week and it looks likely that it will crash within the next week. Sigh.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Rummaging around through my room today, I noticed that I have actually bought a ton of things here, albeit not having a "steady" source of income (coughunderthetablejobscough). I decided to make a photo montage of where my Euros have been going:
That's my jacket that I bought at a Kohl's equivalent store. The buttons have fallen off twice already.
1 pair of high heels, 2 pairs of boots
Lots of train travel. Excluded here are my many tickets in Germany from September, my ticket to and from Passau, Germany and my roundtrip ticket to Vienna.
Quick note about the slippers in Germany/Austria: everyone wears "Hausschuhe" here, which are painfully uncomfortable slippers so your socks don't get dirty. They are literally made from wood, cork, or a very thin piece of wool. I caved and bought the cheapest, fluffiest slippers I could find, pictured here.
Three of four scarves that I bought. These three were only 15 euros total! Gotta love the flee market!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
My past weekend in Vienna, the capital of Austria, encouraged me to step out of my awkward “I can’t be alone at a restaurant or café in a foreign country” complex and head to the nearest café here.
Vienna is known for its incredible coffee culture. Cafes line the streets, and Vienna even has its own coffee lingo. Open a menu in a café and you will be confronted with a long list of foreign words, even if you do speak German. It’s not the simple “coffee”, “cappuccino”, “latte”, but rather a long list of complex and confusing terms. Thankfully most menus also come with a description of what you’re ordering. Saturday evening Adam took us to one of his favorite cafes that he frequented as an exchange student at the Uni Wien. And here’s a summary of what else happened in Vienna:
Heather and I left Friday morning on the “Einfach Raus” group ticket for the trains. This ticket is only 28 euros for groups of 2-5 people, but the catch is that you can only ride with the super slow regional trains. What could have been a three hour train ride turned into a five hour ride. Nonetheless, I did end up paying a third of what that three hour train ride could have cost. Stephen, a TA living in Rohrbach, met us in Linz and rode the rest of the way with us. Once we arrived in Vienna we were greeted by Jay, who traveled from Klagenfurt, and we headed on our way to Andreas’s apartment. Heather, Jay and I lucked out and were able to stay for free with Andreas in his awesome apartment. We met him the previous weekend when he came to my Halloween party with another guest. Talk about networking
Friday evening we went to the Austro-American Educational Commission (Fulbright) office in the Museum Quarter for a TA reception (that was the reason that we went to Vienna in the first place). Sadly not many people from my orientation attended, since most people are still waiting their first paycheck. Note to the Commission: next year, have the reception AFTER payday, so people can actually afford to come. Nonetheless, we were able to meet some of the other TAs who live in eastern Austria, and of course we enjoyed our free champagne, mimosas, and wine sponsored by the Austrian government. The program director, Mr. Lonnie Johnson straight out of Minnesowta, made a point to inform us that the US State Department doesn’t allow their funding to be spent on things like alcohol, tobacco, and the like. The reception only lasted a whopping two hours and awkwardly ended at 7 pm. Another tip for next year: have the reception last longer, or start it later in the evening. Because when you offer free drinks to a bunch of young Americans, and subsequently don’t offer anything appetizing to snack on, you find yourself with a group of very unhappy and somewhat drunk people trying to find something to do at 7 pm. One of the Vienna TAs was having a birthday, so we all went out to a café and continued the evening which eventually ended at McDonalds and me trying to order American food with a German accent. Trying to order food that is in your native language is a dead giveaway that you’re from America, so I tried real hard to mask that and dumb down my English.
Saturday was complete tourist day that involved seeing as much as we could before the sun went down (which, sadly, is at around 4pm in Austria… sigh). Things we saw: Stephans Dom, the farmer’s market, the Rathaus as we drove by, the Museum Quarter, the Hofburg palace, the many horse and buggies that line both the Hofburg and Stephans Dom, and the tall and baroque buildings that line the “ring” or the center of Vienna. It was quite the cultural day. Of course while in Vienna we skipped over the whole Austrian/Viennese food like Wienerschnitzel and instead ate at a Pakistani restaurant for lunch and Burger King for dinner. Typical Americans. Lunch at the Pakistani restaurant was very interesting: the restaurant is a buffet and you can eat as much or as little as you want. At the end you pay what you think you deserve to pay, based on quality of food and how much you ate. I ended up spending 6 euros on a mango drink and my lunch. Pretty awesome. Such a system would never work in America, because someone would just go and screw that up with the whole honor code.
Somewhere in between seeing the sights and Emily buying a Dirndl at a second-hand store, we managed to find ourselves drinking Mountain Dew and Dr.Pepper while eating Doritos outside of Bobby’s American Imports store. It was the most nostalgic experience I have had thus far in Austria.
Later in that night, the four of us met up with Anna, a former exchange student at the University of Minnesota, who lives in Vienna. She took us to an alternative night club in what seemed like the middle of nowhere Vienna, but the place was packed with young and normal looking Austrians. We didn’t make it home until 4 am, but the place was still packed and lively when we left.
Sunday seemed like the longest day of my life. The whole day was devoted to travel, and after six hours on the train, four transfers, and a half hour walk in the pouring rain back to my house, I was finally home. The time and annoyance of the rain was completely worth it to spend even a full day in Vienna. LOVE THE CITY. Heather and I are already planning our next trip back, and hopefully this time we will take the fast trains and have more time in the city, since we are planning to go during a five day holiday weekend in December—Christmas market?! Yes please.
In conclusion, I love Vienna. When I first arrived I was shocked and a bit overwhelmed with all the people. Sadly, I must have gotten use to Braunau’s small town feel. But I quickly was able to acclimate to my natural environment, a city, and feel like I belonged. The city has such a different feel than anywhere else I have ever been. On one hand Vienna is extremely posh; people clothed in fur coats and designer brands strut their stuff on the streets like they mean business. But heading out of the first district, the city becomes more down to earth, while remaining young and trendy. There are new things to discover at every corner, and the city is bursting with an interesting past.
I’ll pay my dues this year in Braunau, but I better get placed in Vienna next year.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Well on MTV Germany, their "Werbung" clip is of two homeless people in LA babbling on about some strange things and about Germans and trying to scrape by. I wonder if that was staged, or if is actually real.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
On the other hand, I seem to be acclimating and integrating quite well here in Austria. The coolest and most interesting cultural experience thus far happened to me today. My headmaster approached me before class and told me of an interesting opportunity that he recommended me for, interpreting at the police station for some unknown reason. I was flattered that the headmaster himself even considered me for this opportunity, since I am not a native speaker and have no prior experience interpreting. "Ist wurst" he said to me. Which literally means "it's sausage"-- man I love that phrase. Loosely translated it means it doesn't matter. He told me my German was up to par for the interpreting experience, that it would be a fun experience, and that I would be compensated for my time.
When I arrived at the station I was confronted with the most threatening Austrian police officer ever. He looked like Sloth from The Goonies, and he looked like he could take anyone out-- you just don't want to mess with this guy. The immediately whisked me away into the interrogation room and had me start interpreting between the police officer and a suspect, which happened three separate times. It reminded me of playing alibi during orientation, except it was for real. "Ooooh, who's telling the truth and who isn't? Whose stories don't match up with whose?"
To make a long story short, a few Brits were taken into custody for maybe having something to do with what appears to be a conspiracy or some sort of fraud happening with a certain business under observation for some time. I won't say anything more than that, because I don't know if I am allowed to. I mean, I didn't sign a confidentially agreement, but I should be careful. So right away I had to learn a bunch of new vocabulary and figure out what the hell was going on. I sat there thinking "is this really happening? wtf?!" But man, it was a cool experience. Just the fact that I was able to INTERPRET at a police station during an interrogation gave me the biggest confidence booster ever. During the small breaks, the police officers complimented me on my language ability, although I was still feeling somewhat awkward about having to ask them to repeat themselves several times. Nonetheless, it was such an interesting cultural experience for me. I missed my afternoon class because I was there for five hours, but the teachers all knew my whereabouts.
After the interrogations they compensated me for my time. Let's just say I was shocked and speechless when the police slipped me a piece of paper with a very high figure written on it. All I'm saying is I wouldn't mind becoming a professional interpreter if that's how things work.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I had been planning a Halloween party at my house ever since orientation, and it was a complete success. On Friday evening, ten other TAs from America living in different areas of Austria headed over to "Graunau" (according to one of the TAs, because it is so foggy and gray here most of the time). Even though the Halloween party took place yesterday, a bunch of people came on over to see what the fuss is all about. We played some typical American party games and then headed into the center of the town to check out one of the diskos (dance clubs) in Braunau. Despite having three "clubs" and several bars, there weren't many people in Club 2. In fact, we were a big majority. I did run into some of my students, as well. Nonetheless, I had a great time hanging out and dancing.
Saturday was Halloween itself. A few of the TAs went out of Braunau to see some of the area, and the rest of us stayed behind and got ready for the party, decorated, etc. I went all out with the decorations: bloody hand print window cling-ons, spider webs, streamers, random heads and wigs in the garden, pumpkins, etc. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and being in Austria isn't going to stop me from celebrating. I was able to come up with a costume that cost only one euro: eurotrash. According to stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, white people love to dress as concepts for Halloween. So true- many of the party-goers did indeed dress as a concept. My concept included wearing a plastic apron with trash glued to the front and an EU flag drawn on the back. I dressed in trashy club clothing, overloaded the makeup, gave myself a pretend mullet, and sprayed some black streaks into my hair. Some of the other costumes included: self-absorbed, paper or plastic, Edward Scissorhands, the German reunification, etc.
The party was a complete success. There was lots of food and drink, many games were played, lots of dancing, and everyone had a ton of fun. So thanks for everyone who traveled from all over Austria and Germany!
Everyone went home yesterday except for Heather, Tim, Adam and Jay. After cleaning up the house we went into town to try and find food. Yesterday was All Holy Day, and everyone who lives in Braunau was dressed their finest and out visiting the cemetery, which is right by my house and on the way to the center. I have never seen so many people out before in Braunau. The rest of the day consisted of hanging out and playing telephone pictionary, scrabble, and a board game called "ImaginIff".
Today is All Saint's Day, so all of the schools are closed. It's also the second Monday in a row that there isn't school. I could get used to never having to go in on Mondays.
Pics to come once Blogspot actually works and uploads them :)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This past weekend I was in Ried im Innkreis, where Heather lives. It's only about a 37 minute train ride away, so it's just a hop, skip and a jump away. I arrived Friday, and we didn't do much but get groceries and check out 7 dvds for the weekend. We only ended up watching 2 1/2 of them during the long three-day weekend. Friday night we met up with her neighbors.
Saturday the two of us took the circus train to Passau, where we met up with John and Tim, two other TAs. Passau is in Germany, but right on the border to Austria. It's well-known for being the "Dreifluessestadt" or the City of Three Rivers, because the Inn, Ilz and Danube all merge into the grand Danube. You can actually see where the rivers meet, so it's pretty cool. Passau is an interesting little city and there are quite a few shops and places worth seeing. They also have one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen that contains the largest church organ in the world. After sight seeing and taking pictures we enjoyed a couple of beers at a typical Bavarian restaurant. Living close to the German border is nice, because the beer there is much cheaper, and much better than in Austria.
We headed back to Ried that night and met up with Heather's neighbor again. He took us out and we experienced Ried's night life, which is sadder than Braunau's (sorry Heather, but it's true). Sunday was a lazy day and we had a Til Schweiger movie marathon. Til Schweiger is like Germany's Brad Pitt. We spent Sunday night out in the town again, since Monday was the national holiday and we didn't have to go to school. And then yesterday I came home.
All in all, it was a great weekend, even for the Innviertel. I guess it doesn't matter which small town you're in as long as you have good company!
The church in Passau with the largest church organ in the world. And the place where I would be okay with getting married someday
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
I met up with Heather on the train and we sat in amazement when we began approaching civilization again-- a big city! It's funny how quickly I became accustomed to a particular surrounding so fast, despite having lived in a big city the last four years. Thus upon arrival in Linz (population 190,000), I felt like I was visiting something equivalent to New York City. My initial thoughts were "a real train station with more than one track?! three different street car lines?! plenty of shops and museums?!"- I had to take it all in and savor all the sites.
We met up with Emily and Matt at the station, other TAs who live in Linz. Afterward, we went to get ready for the event that we all had been invitied to: The Austro-American Society of Upper Austria's 60th Anniversary Gala Event. Inivitation read business attire. Let me just say, that was probably the poshest and nicest event I will be invited to this whole year in Austria. Despite the "business casual" attire of school consisting often of nice jeans and a blazer, the attendees were dressed to the nines. We also noticed immediately that it was a sea of gray, and we that we were most likely the youngest guests. The whole evening was paid for by the Society, which meant an open bar for the whole night and a buffet dinner consisting of Austrian entrees and American desserts... things like pecan pie, chocolate chip cookies, key lime pie- the things that make me giddy about America and miss going to a cafe and ordering pie. And by the way, we as guests didn't have to pay for a single thing, even though we aren't even members! The Society found out about the TAs and invited all of us during orientation.
The event opened with a cocktail/social hour and followed by the main program. The St. Florian Boys Choir opened with some songs, and we all chuckled quietly to ourselves as they sang "Happy Birsday to You" to the Society. Then, I believe the president of the Society spoke, but it could have been someone totally different. He spoke all in German, and after having two glasses of free wine on an empty stomach, my attention span was not to the level of understanding his three minute long German speech. Thankfully we were given a break when the US Ambassador to Austria spoke and congratulated the Society in English since he doesn't speak German. Hm... shouldn't that be a requirement for an Ambassador, to speak the language of the country in which you live? Later on we met the Ambassador himself and learned how to become an Ambassador: campaign and raise a lot of money for the President and get along with him. A background in politics, international studies, or the like? Doesn't matter. Just have money and a sparkling personality!
Following the program we dashed into the buffet room and piled our plates so full of food. Again, free food for TAs who won't get paid until mid-November. And then we repeated the process with the desserts. We bummed around for a while making use of the open bar and eventually met a few of the members. And then it was time to go, since we were becoming the loud and boisterous Americans we are, and since we were the last ones lingering.
After an interesting bus ride home in which a group of Austrian guys were confronted with the fact that some Americans do speak German, we called it a night and headed to bed.
Today I hope to make use of being a big city. Linz is the culture capital of Europe 2009, but screw museums- I want to shop!
Pictures soon to come.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Tomorrow will mark one month of living in Braunau. Despite my city roots, I actually- gasp- kind of like living in a small town. For one thing, I can do things like walk to Germany from my house. Secondly, there is no crime. I can walk around town late at night by myself without worrying about watching my back. I still instinctivly have a third eye in the back of my head, but there is literally no one on the road. Also, I am starting to see familiar faces when I am out and about, which is nice when acclimating oneself to a foreign environment.
When I first arrived in Braunau I knew few people. My days were empty; I had ample amounts of free time to waste online, watch TV, go jogging, walk around the city… whatever I wanted. I simply had n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do. After orientation, my position has completely changed! My schedule between the two schools reminds me of being back in college; my schedule varies day to day, albeit being fixed for the most part. I normally have a one-two hour break inbetween lessons, so I can prepare for the next lesson, hang out at the school, talk to teachers, run to eat lunch, etc. I usually don’t start earlier than 8:40, but on most days I start around 10. And I’m done around 2 or 3. After lessons I usually waste time online while slowly preparing lessons for the coming days. In the evenings I hang out with people, teach at my second job, or make much needed Skype calls. Whew!
This weekend a teaching assistant living in Ried, Heather, came to visit me. She is the closest TA to me, although Ried is 37 minutes away by the “circus” train as Adam would call it. And then the infamous half hour walk from the train station to my house. Heather and I went on a shopping spree in Braunau on Friday. That is, we went to almost all of the stores, and it only took two hours! I did manage to finally buy a jacket at the Austrian/German equivalent to “JcPenny”. Unfortunately Braunau isn’t known for its high fashion stores... While in the area of the supermarket similar to Wal-Mart Supercenter, we decided we should also get groceries. And a six pack. The walk back to my house must have been a comical sight for those driving by us, as we were struggling to carry everything in our bare hands and in the few bags I had brought with. Just a quick FYI for those of you unfamiliar with shopping at supermarkets in Europe: you need to bring your own recycable bags. Of course you have the option of buying them at the store, but who wants to do that?
Friday night Heather and I experienced the “posh” nightlife of Braunau. We met up with one of my older students and went with her to a club called Palazzos, one of the newest and hippest “clubs” in Braunau. Heather and I simply sat back and observed, a bit to shy to go to the middle of the dance floor and dance alone, since the majority of the club-goers awkwardly lined the wall with drinks in their hands shouting over the DJ announcing crazy antics like: “Ladiezzz and Gentlemen. Happy Wilkommen in Palazzzzzzoooooooos!” (Wilkommen= welcome). Happy welcome? Ugh. Still trying to understand how the simplest of English phrases can become so twisted when suddenly added to foreign vocabulary.
Saturday afternoon was spent by giving Heather the grand tour of Braunau, walking to Germany and eating ice cream there, and meeting with one of Heather’s students who lives in Braunau at the restaurant in the Cinema. Another side note, Cinema complexes are totally rad hangouts in small town Austria. Braunau’s contains not just the cinema, but also a restaurant and bar, a pizzeria, and a café. Oh, and “Die Maus” club. Heather’s student taught us some helpful Austrian vocabulary, so I now will be able to finally understand that the person at the grocery store is saying 2.50 without looking at the register.
A bit later, we met Adam, another teaching assistant who lives in Feldkirchen, about five or so hours from Braunau. We spent the night in after getting drenched from the terrential rain. On Sunday we made a wonderful breakfast and then bid our farewells with Heather. Adam and I repeated the Braunau/Simbach tour and spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching trashy American celebrity TV shows dubbed in German.
Today I experienced taking an animal to the vet in Austria. The cats are sick with worms and fleas. Gross. This is why I think cats should just stay indoors. Nonetheless, they should be getting better. Then this evening I met up with two teaching assistants in Simbach. So finally, there are other assistants practically in Braunau!
In conclusion, life is too busy to write blogs. I need to get a routine down and stick to it. No time to waste!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
My city girl inside of me is beginning to scream here in Braunau—not because I don’t like the small town so far. In fact, I find the town charming, quaint and comfortable. But, never in my life have I had to deal with so many disgusting varieties of giant mutant spiders! I’m living on the edge of town near some farm land, but it’s still rather “suburban” if you may. Around my house there is a large garden and lots of trees/plants for nasty critters to hide. Yesterday morning I nearly died when I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in a house sitting in the sink. I didn’t even know how I would kill it because of its size, so I took a nearby cup and placed it over it, which is where it still remains. Seriously, this spider was like a four inches long. Then today I saw another giant mutant golden spider spinning a web in the doorway. They’re seriously everywhere.
I. Hate. Spiders. And all bugs for that matter.
It’s quite the adjustment to move from a metropolitan area with roommates/family to kill the few bugs that migrated into our house, to a small town with no one but yourself to deal with the creepy crawlies.
Nonetheless, I am starting to accept my new living arrangements. I’m trying to create a routine for myself, so I don’t waste hours doing invaluble things like catching up on Project Runway online… although I suppose I consider that making use of my time J I’ve been going to one of the many grocery stores daily to buy fresh bread rolls and dinner for the night, instead of buying in bulk. Today I explored the city on my bike, and despite my self-proclaimed wonderful orientaton, I rode around in circles trying to find the train station. Tomorrow I plan on figuring out how to get to the bike trail along the river, and bike to the nearest town, or until I get tired. I might even cross over to the German border again (not that exciting; it literally takes 5-10 minutes to get there from my house) to climb up the forest/hill and see the view of the Alps just south of Braunau. Unfortunately, Braunau is rather flat, and you can’t see the Alps from town here. Instead, you have to go to Simbach, Germany to climb up the fairly large hill to get a glimpse of the Hills of the Sound of Music. Salzburg, where the movie was filmed, isn’t too far from here- only about 60 km/40 or so miles. Perhaps this weekend I will make a day trip to Salzburg. I purchased a “Vorteil” card today with the Austrian Train Company, which is a special discount card for people under 26 years old, and you can get up to 50% off on all tickets. It only cost 20 Euros, so it’s an amazing deal!
I am itching to either discover something really cool about this town, like that I can join a yoga class (which I don’t think I can… I googled it), or that there are some other interesting clubs I can join; or I am itching to get out of this town and explore more of Austria/visit a big city as fast as I can!!! Thankfully I have my orientation seminar next week beginning on Monday, and it looks like I’ll be able to meet another TA in Salzburg to travel the remaining part of our journey together. The seminar is five days long located in Hinterglemm, right in the heart of the Alps. I am looking forward to seeing mountains again!
Other than my near crippling fear of the icky eight-legged creatures here, I have been enjoying my time, albeit short. I technically moved in last Sunday (the 13th), but only spent two and a half days in Braunau until I left again for Germany. Last week I visited Jessica, Daniel and their son Porter in Erfurt, Germany. It was so great to finally meet the little Porter, who is 14 months old. Super süβ (sweet). It was also nice to relax and hang out with Jessica, catch up, since I haven’t seen her for a year. Then Sunday it was back to Braunau, and last night another three hours of dry, boring conversational English course.
In conclusion, I’m trying to learn how to live by myself: killing spiders, keeping the house tidy, being patient to make friends, learning to enjoy my solidarity- it’s coming along.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Maybe the American waistband is larger than the Germans', and that's why they still wear fanny packs in Germany
It is refreshing to be on a campus again in September. The semester hasn't started yet, but there are still a handful of students around here. It feels natural to be among other students, since I just graduated a few months ago. However, I definitely do not belong at this school, since nearly everyone is at least six foot tall and extremely fit. Most students are wearing athletic clothing, coming to and from practice, training, etc. Some of the best German athletes have studied at this college.
Another observation I have made is the return of the fanny pack! Earlier I was sitting in the Mensa, the student cafeteria, when I noticed a good looking young man walk in. My eyes immediately fixated on something bulky strapped around his waist. I thought, could it really be? And it was: a fanny pack. As I continued to look around the Mensa, I noticed another young stylish man with a murse (man-purse). Don't get me wrong; I am by no means a fashion expert, and I do respect the occasional murse when put together with an outfit correctly. But I just cannot understand why someone would want to put all of there personal belongings in a bulky compartment strapped to the area of the body where most people want to appear smaller-- not bigger!! But hey, let's be honest... I'm sure in a couple of years, the pack will make its way back to the States, although the strap of the fanny pack may need to be extended, unless we do something about the future of our nation's health! (Insert approval for the national health care reform).