Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time






Although I have only been back in Braunau for about two weeks now, I feel as though I have done so much and that the time has flown by so quickly. I officially joined the fitness center in Simbach (Braunau's German equivalent-- just a short bike ride away) and have been there several times in the last week. Unfortunately it does take about seven to ten minutes to bike there, and on snow days like today, I'd rather just stay home than think of biking.

In addition to joining the fitness center, I finally made an effort to go to the church in Braunau I had visited a few months ago. And I actually went three times in one week... as one of my students would say "binge church-going". (On a side note, they love to say "binge" with everything in excess; "binge sleeping", "binge homeworking", etc). I'm really glad I finally went, because I am finally making a few more connections in this town, and it's really great to have a church here that reminds me of home.

Friday night I visited another teaching assistant, Tim, in Schaerding with Heather. Schaerding is a quaint little town located right on the Inn river and German border-- so kind of like Braunau, except much smaller and much cuter. We experienced a bit of the unfriendly side of Schaerding at a less-than fabulous dinner, but we made up for it when we went and checked out a couple of bars. And it was nice to have a little "Innviertel" reunion. (Innviertel as being our region where we live.)

Last week I ended up registering for "Spanisch fuer Anfaenger mit Vorkenntnisse" which I thought just meant Spanish for people who maybe have taken a romance language, can speak a little, etc. I mean, most Americans have the innate ability to learn Spanish quickly, don't we? After getting lost, I finally found the Volkshochschule (somewhat similar to community ed I think?) the secretary informed me that the class I signed up for actually begins next week, and that she had emailed me, although I never received anything. Then I found out the class is actually the second half of a two-part class that began in the Fall. They are only as far as ordering food and most of the things they discussed in previous weeks were very basic, something I could probably teach myself very quickly. I'm still going to think it over before I decide to join. But, at least I made the effort. I'm rather busy anyways, so perhaps this could be too much to take on.

As for today, I have plans of doing absolutely nothing. I was supposed to go to a ski race with a couple of my students, and unfortunately the plans fell through. Since we had planned this far in advance, I reworked my schedule so that I wouldn't teach tonight and wouldn't have afternoon classes. So now I'm confined to my house while I watch the snow fall. I had all intentions of using my free day to go to Salzburg and go shopping, but this ridiculous snowfall we received overnight and are continuing to receive has shunned me indoors for the moment. I think I'll just watch Glee and drink tea.

Cheers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

So far so good!

I've made my first strides in achieving my goals; I went to the fitness studio today and set up an appointment with a trainer! Before actual signing up with the gym, you have to have a trial day with a trainer, who shows you the equipment. Then you can decide. But after stepping foot in the very nice and well-updated gym full of a ton of good-looking guys (so that's where they are hiding!), I am sold.

Secondly: I am really considering taking a Spanish for beginners course. I wanted to do French, but they don't have any beginners courses this time around. I've just got to work something out with my Monday night class, and hopefully it will work out!

And as far as hanging out with more locals, I am heading to the cinema and a bar tonight with a group of my students, as well as meeting the TAs from Simbach.

So far so good. Hope I can keep it up!

In other news, one of my teachers let me read her synopsis of why I should stay in Austria next year. That surely was the confidence booster. Also today was open house at one of my schools. The students have little booths around the school informing prospective students of the fun things they can do and learn there. They even had a talent show mimicking a German talent TV show. And because it's not America, one of them painted their faces black and wore a black swimming cap. That's right. Blackface still exists here. And the choir sang a song for prospective students and teachers with a line about being a "sex machine". Gotta love Austria!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Austria--America--Austria

As Miley Cyrus famously proclaims in her hit song, it’s a party in the USA. At least it was for the two and a half short weeks when I was back home in Minnesota. Now that I’ve taken a break from Austrian life and have experienced once more the stagnant lifestyle back home in America, I feel ultimately refreshed and ready to begin a new year. A new year of course begins with a reflection of where life is headed, how to better oneself, and perhaps to treat oneself with new materialistic items. (I am typing this on my brand new laptop—but it was necessary to get a new one, as my old one was beginning to literally melt from a cable problem.)

And so my resolutions for this year (or rather, for life in general) include:
• Feel healthier overall: physically, mentally and spiritually. In order to progress towards this goal, I am attempting round number three of being a vegetarian. I hope to start doing more yoga, and of course to work out a bit more.
• Speak more German. I mean, I live in Austria, and I can really get away with speaking English on a daily basis if I’d like.
• That said, make more friends in Braunau. I’ve got a fabulous network of American friends in Austria, but I need to make use of my time during the week in Braunau by hanging out with locals, thereby increasing my social network and German skills.
• Start thinking about my future? I question that, because I am hesitant to actually start growing up and thinking about what lies beyond this fabulous transition year(s)—can’t be too sure that I’ll be staying next year, but I sure hope so! Thinking about future= figuring out what I want to do. I have that narrowed down to a couple of industries, education or travel/tourism. I want to go to graduate school, but I can’t decide on a program. Maybe I’d also like to go into government work. Who knows… and then there’s the dreaded GRE. Maybe I should start thinking about studying for that.

I look forward to a new year of growth and using my time wisely in Austria. Being home in Minnesota over the holidays was good for me, since I can come back with a new perspective, feel refreshed, and start doing the things I was putting off before.
To conclude, I feel as though a short recap of my time in America would be appropriate. My initial thought as I arrived in Minneapolis after a long day consisting of flight delays, cancelations and lost baggage was “ugh. Nothing has changed and everything is SO BIG”. Of course these thoughts occurred to me inside of the parking ramp at the airport, where nearly every car looked as if it required a tank of gas just to leave the lot. But after my initial shock and actually spending more time at home, I realized that things really haven’t changed a whole lot. Sure there’s a ton of snow and Minnesota is too poor this year to afford proper and efficient ice removal services (literally, the roads were like ice skating rinks), but everything looks the same and people haven’t really changed a whole lot. But when I think about it, how much is really going to change in four months? The only thing that rocked my world was when I noticed Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis turned into a two way street, rather than the annoying one-way it had always been.
The holidays itself were very quiet and low-key—super relaxing. Post-Christmas is when my life became non-stop and very hectic, as I was traveling to Minneapolis nearly every day, meeting with people, going shopping, trying to find time to spend with my family, etc etc. But it was worth it. I managed to see nearly everyone I wanted and exchange stories over the last few months.

The highlight of my trip was, of course, my good friend Katelyn’s wedding. The wedding took place in frigid Grand Forks, North Dakota right at the end of my trip. Lots of preparation went in to the actual day, and I ran around like mad as personal attendant, but it was so worth it to be part of her day. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was a big party.

Now my life must resume, that is, the current life I am living in Austria. It’s so strange to go back home to America after having experienced so much in Austria in so little time. Upon my arrival in America I felt somewhat strange, knowing that nothing had changed, although customs and practices seemed almost foreign to me, i.e. the love for giant cars, fast food, and so on. But after spending just a couple days back home, everything was normal. I felt at home and could quickly get back into the “American” swing of things. And now as I write this on the German circus train back to Simbach, it is a strange feeling to know that I have this second life in Austria as a teaching assistant, one that I could not sum entirely in America for my friends and family, even when they did give me hours to talk about it. I guess you have to be here to know what I am talking about.

Well, back to DOB. That’s lingo for “Dirty ol’ Braunau”, a nickname I learned from my predecessor.