Saturday, June 19, 2010

Auf Wiederschauen Austria!

I'm all packed up. The house is clean. I've said goodbye to nearly everyone. Just gotta get up tomorrow, go to church, head to Munich, stay overnight with a friend, and then I'll be on that plane back to America. In 30 hours I'll be in the air.

I've got so many great memories to take back with me. This was a life-changing year, and it's hard to sum it up.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it such a fantastic year.

Pfit eich! Goodbye and see you again in the fall...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Final Days

My time in Braunau is winding down. In four days I leave Braunau for good. In five days I'll be back in Minnesota. Time flies.

Friday was my goodbye party. I decided to have it a week early so my friends in the graduating classes could come. Originally I had wanted to do it a week later, but those in the graduating classes had a school party planned that evening. In any case, it worked out to do it earlier so that I had plenty of time to clean up afterwards.

Friday evening my friends came over in the late evening and we fired up the grill for a good ol' American BBQ. Although, I suppose it was more or less like an Austrian BBQ, since we didn't make hamburgers or hot dogs. Since I myself don't eat meat, I asked everyone to bring something along, but I also had purchased a few things at the store in case people forgot. Cooking up hamburgers isn't something that is done in Austria very often, but I found some nasty bacon-wrapped sausages that could almost pass as American.

My idea for my goodbye party was to mix the cultures: an American barbecue and everyone in traditional Austrian clothing (lederhosen and dirndl). I was the only one in dirndl, but two of the guys showed up in lederhosen. So we rocked it all night.

The party was a complete success. Everyone was happily fed, we drank some beer, played some games, and ended the night in a bar in the city center. It really was so great having everyone come together for a final hurrah, even though I'm seeing nearly everyone individually once more before I leave.

The past couple of days I have been cleaning like mad. And watching the world cup. And packing. And trying to figure out what to leave. Hard decisions.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Braunau: My Home Away From Home

This weekend really confirmed that Braunau has truly become my home away from home. While at times I struggled with feelings of loneliness and uncertainty, I can really see how my time here has influenced my life in so many ways, allowing me to grow and change for the better. Isn't it just crazy how this all works in life? I realize this two weeks before I'm about to head back to the States and say goodbye to Braunau for a long time. I looked around me and saw that I really have had support these last months, that I had people on whom I could rely. I saw the things I have become involved in. And I noticed the things that I passed up that I really should have gotten involved in.

This past weekend the church I have been attending in Braunau celebrated their "grand opening" and the weekend was jam-packed with activities. Friday night there was a great band from New Zealand who played a free concert, and the rest of the weekend there were different services, speakers, and so on. Spending so much time at the church this weekend really put my life into perspective. I also got to know some people on a new level, and it really is unfortunate that I have to leave so soon.

At least I can look back and see this has been one of the best years of my life. I have done so much soul-searching and so much growing. And I hope to come back to Braunau this upcoming year when I'm back in Vienna.

I have two more weeks to geniess (enjoy) this town...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Vienna: My Future Home

On Wednesday Heather and I head back to Vienna. Our mission was clear: find a place to live and establish some roots in the city. Although it may seem to soon to find an apartment available as of September/October, but we were able to find several apartments among the thousands of "available immediately" listings. Wednesday was consumed by apartment-visiting; although I only visited four apartments, they really were back-to-back and all over the city.

And the result: I have a place to live beginning in September! It's a great situation, because the person currently living there is going on an exchange year, so he will be leaving everything in the apartment that I would need. There is even a bike for me to use, as well as a printer (which is something that would have been nice to have this past year). I have upgraded from a child-sized bed to a big double bed, something I am looking forward to. The living room is rather spacious, and hopefully I will be able to host guests now and then, since there is a giant couch. The apartment itself is in a fabulous location for me, as it is between my two assigned schools, close to the church I plan to get involved in, and not far from the Prater park, a huge park where I can go jogging and biking. I'll be sharing the apartment with a gal from Finland, but she speaks German so I don't have to worry anymore about getting sucked in the English-speaking bubble of Vienna.

Housing aside, the three days spent in Vienna were fabulous. I've finally managed to get a bit more oriented in the city, and I really can imagine it being my home next year. Heather and I went out to a student party at the Chemistry department with a friend of ours from Braunau who is studying there. It was great to be around people our own age, talk about intelligent things, and meet more people who are living in Vienna. I really want to network as much as possible before I get there, so I don't spend months searching for my place.

On Thursday we had the laziest day ever. We didn't even leave the hostel until about 1 pm, despite the fact that our roommates were up bright and early at 7 am to check out the city. We headed over to Schwedenplatz to the famous Gelateria, and I enjoyed a small portion of gelato. Afterwards we headed over to the oldest coffee house in Vienna and I had the BEST cappuccino (melange in Viennese) of my life. Heather and I agreed that we'd come back to the coffee house for a celebratory melange to kick off the year in September. After coffee we went and sat next to a pond and watched ducks for about an hour in the City Park. And we finished our evening off in the city with a much-needed trip to the only Subway in Austria. In fact, all of the chips and cookies are imported from Germany. Thursday evening we discovered a very relaxed bar where one can play billiards in a non-sketchy environment. Another district-change and we met up with a friend of Heather's and explored more of the student-area.

After checking out yesterday, I headed over the BVA, my insurance provider, to get reimbursed from a visit to a private specialist last week. Oh I forgot to mention; last week my ear problem returned after watching a movie. I went to my "regular" doctor, and he referred me to an ear, nose and throat doctor. She probed at me and couldn't figure out what was wrong, so she just prescribed me some steroids to reduce the inflammation in my ear. Nonetheless, I'm back to normal, but I had to take care of my bill. Because the doctor was a private practice, I had to pay upfront and then go to the insurance office to ask for a reimbursement. Since I really didn't want to go to the regional headquarters in Linz, and I was already in Vienna, I decided to just go there. Just as I had suspected, they informed me that my insurance had "expired" on May 31st, but I insisted I had full insurance until July 12th, according to my program advisor. Yes, indeed, in "principle" I am insured until then... so I'm confused why he mentioned it in the first place. But I got my money back. And today I got a nice letter informing me that DOCH, my insurance ended on the 31st of May! What the heck, Fulbright?

Anyways, after squaring that all away, we headed to the Naschtmarkt, picked up ethnic food essentials that are impossible to find in our small towns, ate AMAZING Indian food, and had a coffee. We parted ways, I signed my lease, and headed back to Braunau to catch the concert at the church kicking off their grand-opening weekend.

Done Teaching!

I am officially done teaching until October!

Wednesday May 28th was my official last day at the HAK. I thought I had told the teachers in advance that it would be my last day, since I hadn't had Monday classes in forever. But amid the exit-exam madness, the teachers somehow thought that my last day would be the following day, a Thursday. However, I have never taught on a Thursday the entire year. Nonetheless, I think they were preparing an official goodbye for me on that Thursday and were left scrambling to put something together for that Wednesday. At the end of the day, the teachers presented me with a lovely card, a box of delicious Lindt truffles (not diet-friendly, but I enjoyed it in moderation), and a bottle of Bailey's. The gesture was very thoughtful and much appreciated on my end.

Monday May 31st was my last day between both schools. At the HLW I taught three lessons in classes that I haven't been to on a regular basis, so it didn't really feel like my last day. The students didn't even know it was my last day, but we had fun playing games. Many teachers were fully aware it was my last day, but my mentor-teacher said they wanted to get me something, but forgot, so I should come back to school before I head home.

So I'm left here in Braunau for the next two weeks, officially done with school, but I feel as though I haven't really had closure here, probably because I am still here. The purpose of me being here the last ten months was to teach. Now it's over, but somehow it feels like it isn't. I'm sure I will feel different once I have my goodbye party this upcoming weekend and officially say goodbye to those who have meant the most to me this past year.

And technically, I am still "teaching" on the side, although it is the evening course that is not related to my assignment here in Braunau, hence I am here the next two weeks.