Sunday, November 29, 2009

Voralberg






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

Is the German Language Dying?

This is a question pondered by many, myself included.

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)
"On-Off-Beziehung": on-off-relationship
"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

Money, Mulah, Geld

In the spirit of Thanksgiving right around the corner back home in America, I thought I would quickly take note of something I am very thankful for: my very first e-check from the Austrian government.

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

Making Braunau a Better Place



The case I helped with last week while interpreting at the police station was published in the newspaper. They are now closer to figuring out what's going on with this fraud.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where Has My Money Gone?

Money has been consuming my thoughts lately. Because I am finally receiving my first crisp e-check from the Austrian government anytime in the next few days. Despite having worked a full month and a half, we have yet to get paid. Our first deposit of money could come anywhere in the next few days- and it will be two months worth of pay.

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

Return to the City

My cultural café experience in Vienna has me longing for more opportunities to surround myself with old Austrian women sipping their “kleiner Brauner” and eating a delectable torte. At the moment I am sitting in such a café in Braunau. My day was quite empty today from a class cancelation, and I decided to actually do something and get out of the house, rather than sit online. The café I stumbled upon is exactly what I was looking for: a cute, Austrian environment, a variety of fabulous tortes to choose from, and I am the youngest person here. In fact, I think I am getting some stares because I am sitting all alone with my laptop open. One of the main differences that I have noticed about the café culture here is that people generally enjoy going to cafes to meet up with others and actually talk. In America people bring along their laptop, school work, or whatever they need to do for their job, and sit down with a cup of Joe while unconventional music genres like acid jazz or ambient play in the background. There’s no noise here, just the sound of cute old Austrian women gossiping about whatever is going on in the town.

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

MTV Werbungs

I wonder if the homeless man from LA knows that he is a TV star in Germany and Austria. All German and Austrian broadcast networks need to inform their audience that commercials are coming by playing a little clip with some of their TV stars, celebrities, and the like that say "Werbung" for advertisements.

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

Two Conflicting Moments- The foreigner inside of me + being super respected by the community

I had such a stupid moment the other day. When Matt was making coffee at my house on Saturday, I warned him of the low quality in taste. He curiously peered inside the tin can where I stuffed the coffee after purchase, pulled out the bag, inspected and pointed out the foreigner inside of me: I had bought decaffeinated coffee and been drinking it for one month without any inclination that the terrible taste was due to lack of caffeine. In my defense, I bought the cheapest coffee I could find, didn't pay attention to the label, and shoved it into the tin container right after opening it. Talk about placebo effect, because the whole time I thought I was getting caffeine highs from drinking an entire French press. And when Nathan was over on Wednesday he remarked that "man, I shouldn't drink coffee this late, because look how jittery I am!" So all the while I have actually been accidentally weaning myself off my caffeine addiction.

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

The Most Amount of Americans Ever in Braunau

Americans crashed Braunau this weekend. It was great.

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 :)