Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Denglisch part two:

I just remembered another thing one of the kids said to me a couple of weeks ago. It was St.Nicholas Day, and one of the boys was explaining how St.Nicholas would visit him that evening. He was so excited, he wanted me to come, too.

Denglisch: "Ms. J, I'm lading you to my home ein".

Correct German: Ich lade dich zu mir ein"
Correct English: I'm inviting you over [to my home]
"I have ihr helpet".

One of the best parts about working in an English immersion school abroad is laughing at all the cute Denglisch things the kids say. Luckily I speak German, so I can understand exactly what the kids want to say, and how it gets messed up in translation.

"I have ihr helpet" in German: "Ich habe ihr geholfen"
"I have ihr helpet" in English: "I helped her"

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Preparing the Feuerzangenbowle at the Krampus party. A rum-soaked sugar loaf that will be set on fire and allowed to drip into Glühwein (mulled spice wine)

A fun and delicious, albeit somewhat dangerous, tradition at Christmas or New Years

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Krampus Party

Krampus from the Perchtenlauf 2009 in Braunau, Austria

I'm off to a Krampus party. I have no idea what that entails; I just hope that Krampus will be there live. Also, I believe we will be drinking some sort of special drink where a sugar cane is lit on fire and slowly dripped into the bowl of punch. I hope I won't be beaten with any sticks or horse hairs.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Der Nikolo ist da! Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

It appears that Nikolo (Saint Nicholas to us Americans) visited my apartment this past night. I found a giant stocking filled with chocolate, nuts, fruit, and Lebkuchen  (ginger bread). It was pretty much the coolest surprise ever, since I don't think I've ever been visited by Nikolo before-- at least not that I can remember.

Nikolo even made an appearance today at school. He had a giant leather-bound book with individual statements about each kid written in it; for instance, things like "so and so was a good brother this year, really likes to help out in school, and is a great soccer player". The children were amazed that Nikolo knew so much about them! 

Apparently I was a good girl this past year, since I didn't get a visit from Krampus, the "anti-Nikolo" who carries around sticks and beats children with them. Okay, I don't think Krampus actually beats children anymore in the 21st century, but he's just as scary and threatening without any beatings. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Live in the World's Best City!

Today Mercer released their 2011 Quality of Living Index, ranking Vienna as the world's best city for quality of living. What's more, they scored fifth for the world's best personal safety. I can only hope my family reads this and can rest assure knowing that there's a reason why I don't need to carry pepper spray here.

Proud to call Vienna home away from home!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Thanksgiving Miracle!

Although I was not in America yesterday, there was at least one thing (among the many) for which I could be thankful: I FINALLY got my residence permit after nearly four months after submitting my application. Yahoo! I can go home at Christmas and not worry about getting hassled at border patrol :)

Additionally, I was thankful that I could spend Thanksgiving with a group of great people here in Vienna. We had a Thanksgiving pot-luck last night at my friend Alex's place. The food was fabulous. In the spirit of Thanksgiving I even had the tiniest bite of turkey (I've been a vegetarian for two years), and I didn't like it at all. From what I heard from my meat-eating friends, it was a fabulous turkey. This confirms that my tastes have changed the past two years, and I no longer find meat appealing! Well, at least turkey; I haven't really tried anything else.

Lastly, in Thanksgiving tradition, I must share the other things for which I am thankful:

  • the opportunity to live and work in Austria for a third year
  • my loving and supportive family back home
  • my my friends home and abroad
  • a loving God who has made all of this possible
Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Questionable Anglicisms in Austria

Over the past couple of years while living in Vienna, I have come across English used in advertisements, commercials, slogans, everyday German language (especially in the realm of IT and business), and even in business names. Sometimes it's clever, sometimes it's just plain incorrect. The phenomenon of English used in German is nothing new, although it seems to be becoming more prevalent as the years go by-- or maybe I'm just more observant now. In any case, I've decided to devote one blog entry a week to the many anglicisms I come across here in Austria.  

This placard is an advertisement for Persil, a laundry detergent.  "Black bleibt beautiful" means black stays beautiful. I thought it was kind of weird, and somewhat incorrect usage, as the only meaning I know of "black is beautiful" is from the cultural movement. I'm not entirely sure what they were thinking in their marketing department-- maybe someone had just watched one of the many terrible American sitcoms that play here and heard the saying; maybe it is intended to be ironic. I guess Persil just wants to leave us in the dark... literally.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Now that it's getting chillier in Vienna, chestnuts stands have been popping up all over the city, mostly around the Christmas Markets. I had never tried them until coming to Austria. In fact, I don't ever remember seeing them in Minnesota. They're currently in season here, so you can buy them for about 2 euros for 10 pieces at a stand, or simply buy a 500 gram bag at Hofer for 2,20 and get about 3-4 times as much as you get at a stand. And they're so easy to make. Just cut an X into the shell, pop them in the oven for 30 minutes, and enjoy. 

Chestnuts have a starchy potato-like flavor, are filling, and extremely healthy. My new obsession that everyone should try!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Markets Are Back!

My favorite Christmas Market drink: Heisse Liebe, alcoholic punch with strawberry liquor and whipped cream. Soooo good

The Best Time of Vienna is Here....

Vienna Christmas Season -- am Graben

Sunday, November 13, 2011

As promised, some pictures from the Halloween party in the castle

The village of Schwallenbach, church on the left and castle on the right

A view of the castle courtyard

Castle tower

Over-the-top American efforts of our costumes... zombie nerd and spider

Normally in castles, you can't touch anything. But no one was there to tell us to stand back...

No, this isn't a set for a photo-shoot. Just hanging out in one of the many castle rooms.

Cooking medieval style.

Halloween cake from Oberlaa

View of the beautiful Wachau from the castle doors. I love this time of year with all the Fall colors!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Best. Day. EVER.

We finally have Internet and TV!!!

After three months of living under a rock (aka using my cell phone's data sparingly to surf the web), I finally have high-speed wireless, in addition to cable TV that includes a wide array of Austrian and German networks, as well as networks from all over the world!

My plans for the weekend: internet and TV wellness weekend at home. I've got so many shows to catch up on from America, and I've got so many photos to post.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just Dance--in a CASTLE!

This past weekend my friend Jesse flew in from Zurich, Switzerland. Since he lived in Vienna before, our agenda included few tourist attractions. Rather, we got drinks at my favorite underground bar, went shopping on Mariahilferstrasse, walked a bit around the city, and celebrated Halloween in a castle in Lower Austria.
Yes, a real standing castle in a tiny riverside village several hundred years old. Before the actual begin of the party, my American friends and I labored for a couple of hours covering (probably really expensive) statues with cobwebs, turning the dining room into a creepy science laboratory gone array, and trying our best to give the Austrian guests a pretty spooky castle for Halloween. It turned out perfectly; the castle felt uninhibited, left to decay and succumb to the “supernatural world”.

After decorating we got into costume, and of course the Americans overdid it with their costumes, whereas most of the Austrians either didn’t try at all, or slapped on a witches’ hat and called it good. Among the Americans costumes included: spider (me), nerd zombie (Jesse), cave woman,  panda bears, black & white swan, Indiana Jones, etc.
All night we snacked on catered sandwiches, drank pretty much whatever we wanted, chowed down on chicken roasted over the open fire (veggie burgers & lasagna for me!), and enjoyed Halloween cakes bought from Oberlaa, a fancy-shmancy Austrian bakery/café. We were well taken care of.
We made sure to take lots of pictures in the many rooms of the castle with all the cool antiques, since it was pretty much like being in a museum, except this time we weren’t told not to touch. After I looked at our photoshoot, I decided to title the album “hipster photoshoot in a castle”. It looked completely staged and outrageous.

When we weren’t taking hipster pics, we got our groove on, but only after the Americans somehow took over the sound system. Because Sunday was daylight savings in Austria (yes, a week earlier than in the US), we even got an extra hour to dance for free. Or sleep.

The experience was pretty surreal, to party AND have a slumber party in the castle. That probably tops the list of random and cool events thus far.

Pics to come soon, once I finally get internet at home.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


So excited for Halloween. I just finished putting the final touches on my homemade costume and am still wearing it in anticipation for all the upcoming festivities. I decided to keep it simple and wear the same thing I wore last year: a spider costume. It was such a hit last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing the kids' reactions tomorrow at school.

Tomorrow is a Halloween Parade at school, which means that I have to come in costume. I'm excited for all the Austrians to stare at us as we walk around the block with the kids all dressed up.

My friend Jesse flies in tomorrow afternoon from Zurich and will be staying through Tuesday --> SO excited!

Saturday is a Halloween party in a castle. I'm pumped.

And then there is the real Halloween on Monday. That means at least three opportunities to rock my costume this weekend! I just hope the kids don't destroy it tomorrow at work!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Austria National Day!

Today on October 26 Austria is celebrating its National Day. For me, with no real ties to the country other than having lived here for a couple of years, it means a day off from work! For Austria, historically speaking, it is a day to celebrate their neutrality, signed in 1955, as well as to be proud of being Austrians. Basically it's like the Fourth of July in Austria, sadly without the fireworks. Instead, the Austrian Bundesheer (something like an army, or National Guard) put on a show for spectators at Heldenplatz (Hero's Square) in which they swear their oath to their country. In the square one can also look at helicopters, tanks, and the like. Additionally, the Austrian Parliament opens their doors for free tours, as well free entrance to the national museums.

Since I already watched out the performance at Heldenplatz last year, I think I'll go look at some dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

Below is a picture I took at the event last year. Behind the helicopter one can see the Rathaus and the famous statue of Archduke Charles of Austria.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I'm finally about 98% fully recovered. This last week I was suffering from a terrible sinus infection that left me immobilized in bed the previous weekend. Being the roughin-it American that I am, I went to work every day, despite the doctor's recommendation when I finally made an appointment on Tuesday. In my experience the last two years, Austrians tend to take it easy when they notice the slightest of sniffles coming on. Whenever I would show up at school the last two years with a cold, my Austrian colleagues would tell me to take the day off and come in when I felt better. On the other hand, in the US I'd be popping Dayquill every eight hours to get through a work day.

Sadly I haven't come across any Dayquill or magical all-in-one cold pill here in Austria. I've had to stock up on cold medicine every time I'm vacationing in the US to make sure that I can survive the cold seasons in Austria. I've been told here to take Aspirin-C, which sounds to me like Aspirin with vitamin C-- but they swear by it here.
When I finally got myself in to the doctors, I expected I would have to beg for an antibiotic, as many doctors I have encountered prefer herbal remedies to pills. Surprisingly, the doctor printed out six prescriptions without much fuss, one of them being a much-wanted antibiotic. When I got to the Apotheke (pharmacy), I finally figured out what the other five prescriptions were for: one to fight every cold symptom I had. A nasal spray, a tablet for coughing, an antihistamine laced with a pretty heavy dose of some sleeping aid to help me sleep at night, a nasal gel for night, and a pain killer/fever reducer. Surprisingly, all of that, including my antibiotic, only came to 28 euros, thanks in part to socialized medical care. But the whole time I was thinking, "hasn't Austria ever heard of condensing all of this into something like Dayquill?"

Nonetheless, the antibiotic has done its job, and I was able to finally enjoy a weekend, and a good one at that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What I've Learned About Kids:

Everything is their tissue: my arm, my sleeve, my hand, and anything and everything that is shared.

A couple of days ago, a child came up to me and wiped her nose on my arm. It was disgusting. And now I'm sick for the second time in about three weeks. I mean, we always try to get the kids to learn to share, but that child took it too far.

Word to the wise: Sharing is caring, but please don't share your germs with me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dryers: A Rare Luxury

For the first time in over two years, with exception to vacations in the United States, I have warm and fluffy towels and clothing, pulled straight out of a dryer. One of Europe’s minor inconveniences would be the lack of adequate laundry facilities in the home. True, most flats are equipped with a washer, but to find a dryer is to strike gold. The past two years I adapted my laundry habits: small loads (washers tend to be half the size of their American counterparts) and line-drying. However, the washer at my current flat lacks a spin cycle, meaning that once the load has finished, my clothes come out dripping wet, needing to be wrung out and the drying rack placed inside the bathtub to allow the clothing to drip. With this method drying time tends to be a good three days to a week. This evening I just couldn’t take the idea of my still-wet towels starting to smell like mold, so I broke down and took them to the Wäscherei (Laundromat), located right around the corner, to dry. One euro gets me 20 minutes in a rather industrial-sized dryer, for European standards. Ironically, the washers there are about half the size of the dryers. Despite trying to air-dry my clothing for the past two days, I needed two 20 minute cycles to get rid of the dampness.
Doing it this way makes me feel like I’m living in the dorms again dragging my clothing around, leaving for a short time, and hoping that the other customers were kind enough to leave my clothing alone until I returned.

Time to go wring out a load of dresses that just finished in my ancient washer. Sadly the Laundromat will close in the next 20 minutes, and these dresses would need at least 10 euros worth of time...

The Daily Life of a Preschool Assistant

I’ve survived my first month at the preschool. And boy, has the month flown by! If the months continue to fly by as quickly as this past one, it’ll be the end of the year before I even know it.
I’ve finally adjusted to working with young children again. In the beginning I would come home exhausted, only wanting to shut my eyes and turn my mind off. The sound of screaming children outside my window would just perpetuate my throbbing head. But as the weeks went on, my need for sleep decreased, and my tolerance for screaming children increased. The kids in the school are so cute and ever-ready to learn. Of course they can terrorize me, say things to me in broken English like “Are you baby” while pointing to my stomach (NO five year old, my curves and absent six pack does NOT mean I’m gonna have a baby like your mommy has… ugh, 5 year olds. You’re ruining my confidence!), and make my blood pressure rise. But on the other hand, they can surprise me with their sense of humor, their amazing ability to pick up on and speak English, and their adorable little smiles.
Here have been some of my duties:
  • guarding the front door for half hour to 45 minute intervals to make sure that children don’t run out the door onto the street
  • making applesauce from whole apples
  •  singing children’s songs OVER AND OVER
  • getting creative with coloring, cutting and sorting
  •  petting dogs and mice on Pet Day
  •  contributing to their wholesome lunch by putting lunch into the oven promptly at 11am
  •  fighting worldwide obesity by assisting with gym classes; and so on.
All-in-all, I really have enjoyed the past month. My colleagues and I get along very well, and I’m even learning a lot myself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Kinder und Narren sagen die Wahrheit"

Kids say the darndest things. I've been learning that very well the last three weeks at work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting the full small-town Austrian festival experience: Dirndls, beer tents, rides, and silly carnival games (pictured above is our results from shooting a toy gun)

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Week Completed!

I survived my first week of work at the preschool. I cannot believe how quickly the week went! Working with five and six year olds definitely keeps me constantly moving, and before I know it, the work day is already done! Plus it helps that three out of the five days I'm finished at around 1pm. The other two days I have to stay until 4pm and hang out with the kids whose parents are still working.

So far I really enjoy working with the kids and my colleagues. I'm impressed as to how quickly the kids are picking up English, especially those who have had little previous exposure. The teachers are very good about reinforcement through song, dance, and the like, so the kids are learning very quickly. Unforunately I even leave the school humming the various children's songs sung during good morning rounds.

(Sung with hand actions to teach the parts of the hand) --> "Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin? Here I am, here I am. How are you today sir? Very well I thank you. Run and play, run and play." Yes, songs like that. Running through my head-- all day.

My friend told me to turn on booty-shaking hip hop when I get home to get the kids' songs out of my head. I think I'lk take his advice.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 3: Hallstatt. Fail.

Ever since I came to Austria I’ve been told time and again that I need to visit Hallstatt, supposedly the most beautiful place in Austria, located on a lake and in the Salzkammergut (salt mine region). Although it’s a good 4 hours with the train from Vienna, my friends and I decided to spend an entire Saturday day-tripping to Hallstatt. We left Vienna dressed for the 80 degrees that was there, and four hours later arrived in cold and rainy Hallstatt. It was literally 54 degrees and downpouring the whole time we were there.

One of Hallstatt’s main draws is the nature and scenery. Due to the downpour and fog, we could hardly see any of the mountains surrounding the village. After the 15 minutes it took to explore the town (it’s tiny), we retreated into a warm and cozy café to dry off. Unfortunately the weather never let up, but we forced ourselves to check out Hallstatt’s second attraction, the bone house. Because the village cemetery is so small, tradition was to dig up the bodies after 10 years, paint their skulls, and put them on display in a public house/chapel thing, so as to free up more space in the cemetery. Now it’s open to the public for a small fee of two euros.

After about three or so hours in Hallstatt, two of which were spent indoors, we got ourselves some dry socks at Schlecker (souvenir!) and headed back to Vienna. That day we actually spent more time one way on the train than we did in the city we visited. Fail. Lesson learned: check the weather report more carefully.

Back to School --> Back to Work

Get your Schultüte ready—tomorrow is the first day of school in Vienna!

My life is about to change as of tomorrow; I’ll be going from working a mere 13 lessons a week with Austrian teenagers to working a (nearly) fulltime job at 30 hours a week with four to six year olds. Despite my friends’ and family’s own personal reservations of working with children (“Amber, I could never do what you’re going to be doing” or “Yah, have fun with that”), I am very excited for the change in scenery and to be able to work with a bunch of adorable children.

I spent a bit of time at the school this past week helping the teachers prepare for tomorrow and getting a glimpse at what some of my duties will be like: laminating, cutting, coloring, cleaning, gluing, crafty crafty crafty. But I did get a good impression of my working environment, and I think it will be a good year.

Here goes nothing!

Bye Bye Summer

Where did summer go? It stretched across two continents, three countries, four Austrian day trips, two English camps, lots of sun, and lots of fun.

I like to think of my past summer in three parts:

Part one- Crazy work/travel month of June

June consisted of spending a few days in Vienna, a few days somewhere else, a few days in Vienna… etc etc. The first week I taught at an English camp in Mauterndorf, then it was back to Vienna for a few days. Then I flew to Norway to visit Erin for five days, and then I was back in Vienna for a few days. At the end of June I went to another English camp in Radstadt, and then I came back to Vienna only to move out of my apartment and into my new apartment. It was an intense month.

Part two- Heimreise (USA homecoming) July

On July 6th I said Bis bald Austria and spent 4.5 weeks in the USA. Heat wave, food, friends, TV, family, shopping. Twas great.

Part three- Settling back in to Vienna/Day trips—August

I returned to Vienna to an empty apartment (my roommates have been gone the whole time and probably won’t be back for another couple of weeks) and an emptier, yet fuller, city. What I mean by that is that many of my friends were still on vacation, or had moved back to the US permanently. But it’s tourist season, so trying to walk in the city center was a nightmare of weaving through giant tour groups.

To fill the time before school starts, I decided to purchase an Austrian Rail Summer Ticket, an amazing deal which gets “youth” under 26 unlimited travel on all trains within Austria. More on my day trips soon to come.

Time spent in Vienna consisted of lying out in the sun, avoiding shopping centers, reading books (no internet), watching movies, hanging out with friends, and avoiding spending unnecessary money in general.

So, in conclusion, I’ve had a very interesting and chaotic summer. I can’t wait to find my routine again once work starts.

Krems and Dürnstein


Beautiful Wachau region


Unpreserved path up to the castle ruins: Good shoes are a must

Castle ruins in Dürnstein

On the castle ruins with Dürnstein and Wachau region in the background

Heuriger/Wine Tavern

Sommer Ticket Day Trip Four: Krems and Dürnstein-- SUCCESS!

This past week we finally had a wonderful day trip back out to the Wachau region, a UNESCO world heritage site… also highly recommended by Rick Steves as a daytrip from Vienna. We did what we do best once we got in to Krems: wandered around, got a bit lost, and took lots of photos. The city is rather cute and has one of the best preserved old towns in Austria. Translation: lots of cobblestone, town walls, old buildings, etc.

After a couple of hours in Krems, we took a bus to Dürnstein, probably one of my favorite places in Austria. It’s only a few miles from Krems, and the bus takes you right through the vineyards. The Wachau region is well-known for its white wine, and there are vineyards everywhere.

Dürnstein is also known for the ruins of a castle where English King Richard the Lionheart was held captive for some time during the third crusade. The village is located at the bottom of the hill (or mountain if you’re from flat Minnesota like me), and is adorable with its cobblestone road, apricot and wine stores, and Heuriger (vineyards where you can drink extremely fresh wine). We climbed up the slightly dangerous path to the ruins, where one can walk around, stand on, possibly even fall off, the ruins of the castle.

After the hike, we spent some well-deserved time at a local Heuriger, where I’ve had the best white wine of my life. We had perfect timing, too. Once we sat down under the covered outdoor patio, it started to downpour. We even ordered an assorted cheese plate and pretended to be wine connoisseurs.

Rainy Hallstatt

Hallstatt across the lake

Sums up our trip: Umbrellas

Hallstatt situated on the mountain


Bone house


Melk Abbey

Library in the Melk Abbey

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 2: Melk

Melk is located on the Danube river in the Wachau region, about one hour from Vienna. We chose the right day to visit the city, as a special touring Italian market was in the city center, and we tried probably thirty different kinds of cheeses, breads, oils, etc. After we got our fill of cheese, we headed up to the main attraction of Melk, a well-preserved monastery/abbey from centuries ago. The grounds itself is something to admire with orange, yellow and gold baroque architecture. Inside was impressive as well, with the informative museum, painted frescoes, large library, and church. Sadly we didn’t see any monks.


Emily's excited about our day trip
View of Graz from the top of the hill

Waving hello to the Glockenspiel dancers

Clock tower in Graz

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 1: Graz

At roughly a 2.5 hour train ride away from Vienna, Graz is situated in Styria and is the second largest city in Austria. My friend Emily and I day-tripped it down one sunny and warm Monday afternoon. Since it was a holiday, there wasn’t much going on in the city. We were lucky to even find an open supermarket at the train station once we arrived to pick up some lunch.

We spent about four hours wandering the city center, lunching on a park bench, and climbing up to the town’s see the town’s famous clock tower.

Impressions of the city: much bigger once you climb the big hill and can see out into the distant, but a bit of a snooze for being the second largest city in Austria. On the other hand, it was a holiday, so perhaps I need to give it another shot and have friends who live there give me the full Graz experience.

ÖBB Sommer Ticket

Best investment ever: the Austrian Rail Summer Ticket. Although it's valid for about 2.5 months, it has paid for itself the one month that I've had it. For Vorteilscard >26 holders (a card for "youth" under 26 that gets you half off all Austrian train travel), one can purchase a Sommer Ticket for 70 euros and enjoy unlimited travel within Austria.

When you've got a few weeks with nothing to do, why not explore?

No Internet

I've been MIA for a while, since I don't have internet. STILL.
I’ve been in my new apartment for almost a month, and somehow I have survived this whole time without having a real internet connection. I’m waiting for my roommates to get back, and then we’ll install wireless internet. Thankfully I can tether my phone to my computer and get internet from my 3G data plan, something I don’t do all the time, as it tends to suck my data pretty quickly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to Sunny Vienna

I have been back in Vienna now for a week. I suffered from probably the worse jet lag ever, as the entire tranatlantic flight was plagued by awful turbulence causing me to stay wide awake throughout the duration of the flight. Basically I was a walking zombie for the first few days, but now I feel back to normal.

I unfortunately do not have internet at my apartment yet, but hope to get that set up once my roommates return from their holidays. I suppose it's a good thing to be disconnected for a while from the internet, but I added a data plan to my iPhone, and now I'm probably more connected than I should be.

The weather has been gorgeous since I returned. I've spent several days relaxing at Burggarten, a charming garden on the Hofburg palace grounds; on the Donauinsel, a man-made island in the middle of the Danube river; and at Freud Park, a nice little park in front of the Votifskirche (church). Yesterday I endured a painfully long bus ride to Schonbrunn Palace to go jogging. The annoying bus ride was worth it, as it was the most beautiful place I have ever run at in Vienna. On a side note, now that I have moved, I have to be one of those city people who takes public transport to go running.

To fill the excess amount of time that I have, I also bought a Sommer Ticket, or a summer ticket, with the Austrian rail, which gives me unlimited travel within Austria for another month. Emily and I daytripped it down to Graz, the second largest city in Austria. A beautiful and sunny city, but a bit quiet, due to the holiday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Goodbye Minnesota!

My vacation at home has come to an end; tomorrow I say goodbye to Minnesota and board a series of flights back to Vienna. My time in Minnesota was great. I'm surprised as to how much fun I had, how occupied I kept myself, and how few arguments I got into with my parents (actually, I don't think we argued about anything). I had been worried pre-departure that I would get very bored very quickly. After all, I was about to spend about 4.5 weeks at home with no other plans than to meet up with friends, go shopping and pet my cat. But I did just that, and every day I had something going on. Thanks everyone for hanging out with me and contributing to a nice trip at home.


  • Day trip to Duluth for Laura's birthday party --> Lake Superior + nature
  • Mesa pizza, Pablo's Mexican, The Good Earth, La Casita, Burger Jones, Annies... oh my God, I ate out way too much. Can't wait to kick my butt back into shape when I get home.
  • Making lots of homemade soups for my parents 
  • Monday walks with Kelly and the 5k we did on Saturday through extremely long grass (difficult)
  • Heather's visit --> Mall of America in two days, Mexican food and drinks in Uptown
  • My uncle's visit
  • Spending lots of time with my friends + family
  • Playing with my cat
  • Buying lots of stuff to take home (clothing, iPhone, shoes...)
  • Goodbye party at the German bar Gasthof's zur Gemütlichkeit
And with that I will say Auf Wiedersehen und danke America! Back to Vienna :D

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I've missed these girls!

Monday, July 18, 2011

USA Thus Far

I've been in Minnesota for about a week and a half. So far I have seen friends every single day except for one. It's been nice catching up with my friends here. I've also been sleeping 9-12 hours every day. And reading. And doing nothing.

I've also been avoiding being outside; currently we have an excessive heat warning with it feeling like 42 C outside. I can't decide which would be more pleasant, going into a sauna for 10 minutes, or just sitting outside. Thank God for air conditioning. It's so cold in my room that I have to wear a sweatshirt.

In addition, I've been doing a lot of cooking for my parents. I've made two delicious soups, and today I've got plans to make gazpacho soup. Big plans, I know.

Three weeks left!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock: Minnesota Vacation

My summer has officially started now that June is over and my crazy work/traveling is finished.

I'm currently vacationing in Minnesota. To be more specific, I'm sitting in my parents basement in front of the TV watching trashy American reality TV shows like "Keeping up with the Kardashians" (guilty pleasure) while my black and white tuxedo cat is sleeping next to me.

Although this is my fourth time coming back after an extended time away, I've still had to get reacclimated to my surroundings and to overcome the inevitable reverse culture shock. Here are some of the things I have had to get used to again:

  • Free refills: I almost didn't order a coke my first night out, because I was quite thirsty and didn't want to keep paying for new ones.
  • Tipping: I've had to start doing math in my head again. No longer can I just round up, rather I must consider what an appropriate tip is.
  • English: it's weird to hear English everywhere.
  • Giant EVERYTHING: cars, meals, home, supermarkets, people... everything is so big.
  • Getting IDed when I order an alcoholic beverage
  • Fashion + people wearing Brikenstocks outside of the home (not as Hausschue)
  • Sales tax is not included in the price
  • Good customer service + (sometimes) overly-friendly servers/retail associates
  • The Minnesota accent that I swore never existed outside of the Twin Cities, except, I have been wrong for 24 years
Despite these things that I've had to get used to again, it's surprising how quickly I can slip into my "Minnesota/American" life. Not much has changed since being away, and it feels as if i have been home for several weeks rather than several days. I feel like I live two separate lives, one that resumes when I return to the USA, and the other that I'll pick up in a few weeks when I am back in Austria.

As my friend Heather put it, it's like reading two books at the same time, but the story lines are totally different.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Great End to the USTA Program

I have survived yet another week away from Vienna.

This past week I accompanied one of my classes that I had taught this past year on their English/Sport Week in Radstadt, Austria. The class of 22 girls, all between the ages of 14-17, had often given me hell and learned early on how to push my buttons, so one can imagine how totally thrilled I was about spending five days in a row with them. Trying to maintain the attention of 22 spoiled Catholic school adolescent girls for 50 minutes right before lunch always proved to be an epic failure. Simply put: I was scared for the week.

Other than their continual complaining and screams of FRAU PROFESSOOOORRRRRR, in addition to some travel mishaps, the week was quite successful in getting the girls to participate, and, surprisingly, we ALL had fun-- even me!

In the morning I and the other native speaker from Ireland conducted three hours of English lessons, mostly just games and random discussions. Afternoons were spent at the spa/swimming pool, cycling, getting to know the town, playing rounders and volleyball, or singing karaoke. The weather was fabulous, the mountains were beautiful, and I finally was able to even out the tan on my legs. Albeit being hyper, the girls were great fun to be around.

I'm glad that I decided long ago to accompany a then-unfamiliar class on their class trip, as I now feel like I've had proper closure with the school/my two years as a teaching assistant with the program. It was nice to see the progress the students have made throughout the year, take steps outside of their boxes, and really see that my work as a TA in their school has indeed had an impact.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The End of an Era as a TA

I probably also should add that I am officially finished working as an English Teaching Assistant with the Austrian-American Educational Commission (Fulbright). Two years as a TA is over! Next big thing: staying in Vienna to work at the Vienna Elementary School Pre-School!

Thanks Fulbright, it was fun.

Bad at Updating

I wish I was more disciplined and/or motivated to update my blog regularly.

Perhaps I just don't have anything interesting to say. Or perhaps life has become too routine here, too normal. It's no longer a novelty to live here and write about the little things that seem strange or new to me, because I'm so used to how things are here. I guess I'm completely settled in now.

But probably it's because I've been ständig unterwegs (basically that means constantly on the go) for the last two months. I haven't spent more than a week in Vienna in the last two months. The chaos started in April when I went to visit Carina in Tirol for Easter break. Here's how it's been since:
  • Easter break in Tirol
  • Week in Vienna
  • English camp in Wagrain
  • Vienna
  • England/Scotland with my aunt
  • Vienna
  • English camp in Mauterndorf
  • Vienna
  • Bergen, Norway to visit Erin
  • Vienna --> this brings me up to my current situation
  • English camp in Radstadt beginning on Sunday
  • Vienna for a week/moving into my new apartment
  • USA from July 7 - August 9
  • Endlich Vienna ab 10 August! (Finally Vienna beginning on the 10th of August)
So my life has been a bit, well, chaotic/stressful/busy/on the go, etc etc.

Although I'm of course looking forward to going back to Minnesota for four weeks, I'll be happy to start a "routine" and have a sense of normalcy in August when I return to Vienna "semi-permanently"... can I say indefinitely at this point?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dental Experiences

It only became aware to me a few weeks ago that, as teaching assistants, basic and preventative dental care is DOCH covered by my state-provided health insurance. Sadly, it had been--how do I put this-- quite a WHILE since my last visit to the dentist. Keep in mind that the United States is not necessary the most caring country in the world when it comes to health care, so I was cut off from my parent's health and dental insurance the moment I received my degree from the University of Minnesota.

I knew I was going to get a mild scolding in German when I visited the dentist, but I was completely unprepared for the amount of "problems" I actually have. The dentist quickly shooed me away and gave me a slip of paper with the list of cavities that need to be filled and told me to make another appointment, as she could only offer 30 minute slots. That is one of the downsides of socialized medicine here; the doctor only has so much time for you.

Since I didn't want a mouth full of ugly medal (the first dentist I went to only offered silver fillings), I made an appointment with a friendly looking dentist whom I made sure speaks English and offered a really friendly website. Another downside of socialized medicine: I had to wait a few weeks to find a time that would suit us both.

So I finally made it to the new dentist today. Immediately I was greeted by a friendly assistant, who led me to the modern waiting room with Michael Buble playing over the speakers. It was relatively quiet and relaxing, the opposite of my experience at the BVA health insurance clinic, where 30 or so patients paced the room waiting for their appointments.

After getting another set of xrays, I met with the dentist, who informed me that it was dringend (or urgent) that they work on one tooth right then and there in order to save it! The only good part about it was that he spoke in English to me and was really friendly. I was not expecting at all for him to pull out the drill and start to perform a root canal. On a side note, I would like to add that I take care of my teeth really well. I have TERRIBLE genes, that's all.

After it was all said and done, he told me I have to come back in to fix everything else. And basically I have about 2.5 weeks to do this under my full insurance, as my insurance becomes "limited" after the end of the month. And I'm going to Scotland for 5 days. Stress + frustration-- I have no idea how this is going to pan out.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Staycation Moves to Tirol

My Vienna staycation has moved locations to House Moni + Sigi in Tirol. I'm back in Tirol visiting Carina, her mother, and her mother's boyfirned (Moni + Sigi). The snow has since melted, except for the snow-capped mountain peaks, and everything is green. The house is situated in the valley surrounded by mountains, and no matter where I look, I feel as if I'm peering into a postcard. It's simply amazing.

The weather has been more than in our favor, with 80 degrees and sunny since I've arrived. We haven't done much other than faulenzen (lounging around) in the sun. So my staycation still lives on.

Today we're going to actually do some physical activity and climb up a mountain. Hope I overcome my Höhenangst (fear of heights).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Staycation Update

A thought just occurred to me: just because I'm not in a new place, it doesn't mean that I'm not on vacation.

I've been enjoying glasses of wine purchased at the wineries in Burgenland where I had the pleasure to taste local favorites with colleagues of mine. I've been treating myself to coffee and brownies. I've been eating lots of good food, either at restaurants, stands, or prepared by myself. (I prepared a wonderful beet soup today.)

I've been reading. I've watched three movies so far, all dubbed into German. On a side note, my loathe for English language movies dubbed into German has since diminished. I've been seeing the sights of Vienna, but with fresh eyes; I've been paying attention to those little details which I tend to overlook on any normal day.

And most importantly, I've been catching up on sleep.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Today is day two of my 12 day Easter vacation. I love Austria for their generous amount of vacation days for teachers/students. While most assistants I know are traveling around Europe, I've decided to have a staycation here for the first part of my break. I'll be heading to Tirol at the end of my break for Easter weekend to visit Carina and her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

To kick off my staycation I took a four hour detour through the inner city of Vienna on my way to the farmers market. Originally I had planned to get off the underground early and walk 20 minutes from the tourist area to the market, but somehow I found myself wandering around the streets and allies before settling on getting a coffee at Starbucks and people watching for about a half hour in front of the Hofburg palace. Afterwards I found myself browsing the beautifully decorated wooden Easter eggs at the Easter markets, and settled on buying a few to decorate my desk with. Finally after the long detour throughout the city, I found myself at the farmers market, had a delicious falafel sandwich, and bought some beets and onions so I can make beet soup today.

A 30 minute trip to the farmers market turned into a four hour peruse through Vienna, but it was fabulous. Now back the the extreme couching, as my Austrian friends would say.

Bring out the bubbley-- I got a job!

My uncertain future has finally been determined; I was offered a job working at an English speaking pre-school. That means another year in Vienna! The position begins in September and will go through the end of June. I'm really looking forward to working with this age group, about 4-6 years old. Of course I'm also looking forward to staying in Austria for a third year, although that wasn't why I sent in my resume for the position. The job interested me and I think it'll be great experience for me, so thats why I've decided to take it, not just as an excuse to stay in Vienna another year.

I've got a little more than a month left at my two schools here, and then I'll be spending July and August in Minnesota before the position begins in September.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vulgar Town Names: Fucking, Austria

I went to the most vulgar town in the world, at least according to the English language.

Fucking, pronounced fooking, Austria is located just miles over the German border in Upper Austria, and only about 20 minutes outside of Braunau, where I taught last year.

Somehow I never made it there last year, so this year I made it a "Fucking" priority when I went back to Braunau this past weekend. The weekend was great overall; I saw old friends and caught up with the TAs who currently live there.

And the highlight really was Fucking, just so we could make jokes about Fucking and take photos of Fucking. Here are some pictures I took of Fucking:

Group Fucking Photo

Cheers to Fucking!

Looking at Fucking in the distance

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I started learning Norwegian again in preparation for my trip to Bergen in June. I forgot how EASY it is to learn a Germanic language when I've got two under my belt already (English and German). In a matter of two hours, I've breezed through two chapters and it's stayed with me.

On the other hand, I took a French class last semester once a week for 15 weeks, and I only made it through 3 or 4 chapters. And I've forgotten nearly everything. French didn't make sense, the nasal sounds threw me off, and I had no incentive of learning the language, albeit a hypothetical future trip to southern France.

Norwegian is so easy to learn; it's almost a mixture of English and German. Jeg liker a laerer Norsk. Still need to figure out where to find the Norwegian accent marks on the computer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Finding My Place

Things have completely turned around for me the last few weeks. Now that I've spent some quality time with my city, Vienna, I am starting to feel "at home" once again, and I've started to appreciate how wonderful this city is.

From December - mid February I was gone nearly every second weekend traveling somewhere. That kind of uprooting left me feeling distant and out-of-touch during the time spent in Vienna. Add to that the stress of my undetermined future and whether or not staying in Austria another year would be the best option, and the result was a confused and unhappy Amber. A few other stressful and hurtful events took place, and I hit a low where I thought going home sounded pretty attractive.

However, after hitting that "low", things have significantly turned around for me. I pulled myself back up, dusted myself off, and decided to STOP worrying about the future and START enjoying what I have now. Simply put, I finally learned to be content. Once I decided to take control of my situation and make it better, I started feeling at home again, got to know some new people, and started re-living my routine. It feels so good to have a routine that stays constant for several weeks.

I had forgotten why I wanted to come to Vienna in the first place; now I remember. And it feels like home. Maybe it will also be my home for another year. Nothing's official, but circumstances are definitely in my favor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting My Groove On

Last night I started my very first dance class called "Tango Meets Modern". It's individual floor dancing inspired by Latin tango moves but with a modern twist. The class is taught in German, although many words overlap: "flex", "point", "plie", etc.

Now, I've done floor and step aerobics classes where I've done choreographed numbers, but dancing is a whole new world for me. My body is used to physical activity during which I remain somewhat rigid and mechanical, for example when I go running or lift at the gym. I'd like to think I'm quite athletic and in the best shape I've ever been in based on my cardio endurance, but man-- dancing is HARD. It was hard for me to loosen up my body and "flow" like the dancers in class who had clearly had prior experience. My dance experience comes from shaking my body in an obnoxious way to Top 40s, or the Jumpstyle number I learned at German camp. That's it.

That said, I'm very enthusiastic about the class. It's a great work out, and it's a lot of fun. Hopefully I'll learn how to "relax my body" and "feel the music".

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have an interview on Thursday at the pre-school where I had applied last month... my very first interview in another country. Thankfully it will most likely be conducted in English.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vienna Opera Ball-- Stalking Austrian Celebrities

Last night the biggest and most famous ball in the entire world take place here in Vienna: the Opernball. It was purely coincidental that I found myself in my sweatpants sitting in front of the TV at about 9pm watching all the action from the red carpet. Celebrities and high society folks attended the ball in outrageously expensive and extravagant floor length ball gowns and tuxedos. The live coverage on TV reminded me somewhat of the Oscars, except I didn't know any of the attendees.

The ball took place at the Opera house and was opened with a ballet dance performance. An orchestra played some songs and some famous opera singer had some solos. Then some famous débutantes from around the world danced traditional waltzes and the ball opened.

I felt cultured enough to be allowed to watch the event unfold live on TV in the comfort of my own apartment in sweatpants.

Flash forward to 11:30pm in bed. I noticed a text message from a friend of mine saying she was on her way into the city to stalk celebrities outside of the ball, and that I should come too. Somehow she convinced me, and at about midnight we arrived outside of the ball on the red carpet cameras in hand. We were only a couple of maybe six or seven awkward observers, but soon enough people started lining up to see the action. We literally were standing on the red carpet right outside of the opera and no one ever told us to piss off. In America, there would have been guards all around, but in Vienna there were just photographers and women dressed in fur coats handing out roses and traditional Fasching (Carnival) Season Krapfen (donuts) from Strock. Only in Austria would one be allowed to eat powdered sugar donuts on the red carpet. Soon the carpet was sprinkled with the sugary substance and it looked as if it had started to snow.

The highlight of the night was when the Vienna mayor Michael Häupl exited the building and started walking to the line of taxis. Heather and I got ready with our cameras, and he must have noticed, because he took a detour and started walking our way. I thought he was going to scold us for taking a photo as an awkward bystander, but rather, he and his wife came up to us, shook our hands and offered us his roses. Meanwhile a swarm of paparazzi surrounded us and took photos of the kind gesture.

Today I've been browsing online Austrian newspapers to look for that photo.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I've got an ear infection. It's inevitable that every time I get a minor cold and am congested for more than 24 hours, that the end result will be an ear infection. After losing my wallet in Malta, the first thing to come in the mail was my insurance card (thankfully). I came down with a cold Thursday, overestimated getting better on Saturday and overdid the social activity, and relapsed yesterday. Today I tried two out of five lessons at school, but was in a complete haze and felt as if a vice were around my head and that someone was sticking a needle into my ear.

A colleague recommended her doctor to me, and surprisingly I was in and out of the doctor's office within 10 minutes. You just never know in Austria, where socialized medicine means fewer fees but often long waiting times. On a side note, her doctor wasn't even there, but there was a stand-in doctor, who I'm pretty sure is still in med school or just fresh out. He was so young and so McDreamy that I thought I just wanted to die right there and have him try to bring me back to life. I'll get an ear infection every day if it means getting his details again in the form of a prescription.

Wait, I'm in pain. I hate ear infections.

To conclude, I must add that I received the oddest form of an antibiotic today from the pharmacy: 10 individual packets of ground antibiotic to be dissolved in a glass of water and then drunk. So I'm slowly geniessing (enjoying) my antibiotic. Not really though, there's absolutely no flavor. Hauptsache (main thing) is that it's effective. Otherwise I've got another Termin (appointment) on Friday with Dr. McDreamy...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hallucinating Malta and Leaving Things Behind

Last night I returned sun-kissed in Austia after spending seven days on the island country of Malta. Malta is situated south of Sicily and north of Africa in the Mediterranean Sea. It's a former British colony, only receiving its independence in the 60s. That means that the country is still influenced by the British culture, as evident by the left-hand driving and English as one of two official languages, albeit poorly spoken by many of the locals.

Three friends of mine (Heather, Emily and Matt) and I stayed in Sliema on the harbor in our very own apartment. We really lucked out with the weather; it was about 65-75 degrees every day with hardly any clouds. The main purpose of our visit was "wellness and lifestyle" (the Austrian way of saying relaxation), so we made it our main priority to simply sit in the sun at least three hours each day. In addition, we snacked on local greasy bakery pea and cheese pockets, olives alone or on a pizza, and store-bought British biscuits and Doritos. To wash down the junk food we enjoyed ridiculously cheap cocktails and Strongbow.

To sum it up, the highlights would be:
-Sitting in the sun and looking at the Mediterranean
-Bus tour in Gozo (the second largest Maltese island)
-Visiting the oldest stone structure in the world--> an old temple
-Shopping at British supermarkets and clothing stores
-hanging out with local Maltese people
-getting a tan
-not feeling bad about doing nothing

And the one MAJOR lowlight:
-Losing my wallet (or possibly being pick pocketed) with about 150 euros, my American credit and bank cards, my Austrian bank card, my gym pass, my Austrian residence permit (need to legally live in Austria) and my American ID. Thank God my passport was back at the hotel. Now I'm experiencing the joys of having to replace American cards internationally and being confronted with the ridiculous fees that Austrian banks charge for closing a bank card and ordering a new one (around 50 euros total).

But I'm tan and refreshed. And today, being Valentines Day, I even got two flowers from being a loyal customer to Billa (a grocery store) and Fit Inn (my gym).

Super Bowl Denglish

The Super Bowl is broadcasted live every year in Austria. One can watch the event live among a bunch of ex-pats and Austrians at the Marriot Courtyard for a small fee of 40 euros. Because I don't really care about football anyways, and since I had to board a plane two hours after the event finished, I decided to skip the showing and just have my own "Super Bowl Party" at my house.

Sadly watching the Super Bowl in Austria means having to listen to poorly translated Austrian commentary and missing the American commercials so that the Austrian moderators can answer emails about the game from confused viewers.

To make the event more interesting, we decided to compile a list of funny things said by the commentators. Here are the best ones. These might not make sense (or be as funny) if you don't understand German:

Tails ist gecallt
Der Hand-Off-Fake
First-Time Zuschauer (viewers)
Das ist Cheeseheads nicht
Dann ist ein Pass interceptet
Bissl Massage, Bissl Eis, Geht schon wieder
...ins Locker room gefuehrt
Never Say Never
Er kommt out of bounds
Er hat gescort
Straight up die Middle
Das war ein Big Play
...out of bounds gepusht
Er war super gecovert

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The night of my previous post I received a tip about an interesting job that is currently filled by an American (good sign). Turned in my materials on Thursday afternoon and even am getting my name dropped to the hiring person from the gal who's currently staffed there. She's a friend of a friend, and I randomly met her a couple of months ago. Gotta love networking.

I can't count on anything quite yet, but it's exciting nonetheless that I applied for my first ever job outside of the US without the help of a government supporting program (aka the Fulbright).

I fly to Malta in 8 hours for the week. My friends and I are pulling an all-nighter and watching the Super Bowl and then going straight to the airport.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where to go? What to do?

To stay or not to stay another year. That is the question.

I've been tormented the last few weeks about what to do when I'm finished teaching with the Fulbright at the end of May. I know I want to stick around for the summer, but I've been plagued with a fluctuating desire to stay in Austria.

I hit a major low mid January and realized how much I was missing my friends and family. I started thinking about what it would look like to go home, and I decided a fun opportunity would be to try and get a job at the German immersion pre-school in Minneapolis and then apply for graduate programs.

Then I thought perhaps I should get some experience in a Kindergarten in Vienna. As soon as I started looking for positions for native speakers of English, one immediately popped up, and I got in contact with them, and they want me to come by when I have some time. Well, that was easy. Kind of. So maybe it would actually be not as difficult to get another job in the fall here.

I quickly sprung back from my low as I settled back into my routine here in Vienna. I started to think what would it look like if I stayed here? Do I really need to go home yet? I'm still so young. Maybe my time isn't over.

So now I'm back at square one; I'm lost and I have no idea where to go. I definitely see advantages and disadvantages with both options. And as I've started looking on both ends of the world for opportunities, I've felt a major amount of stress. And even more lost.

Then yesterday someone told me that maybe I just need to wait. Stop pursuing so much and just wait. I think he's right. There are still many months until I plan to go home, and a lot can happen between now and then.

Maybe I'll study. Ever since I started working with two young Austrian boys (ages 1.5 and 3) I've discovered I have an interest in language development in children. Maybe I could turn that into a degree. Or a career.

Maybe I'll just grab my backpack and travel the world. Or maybe I'll stay here. Perhaps I'll go home. Or to another state. Who knows. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Gleeful Lesson

Today I did a lesson on Glee. That's right, I did an entire lesson on America's second most popular TV Show (I checked the ratings last night) for Austrian students ages 15 - 16. And they totally loved it. One of my students is even an avid online watcher.

The series premieres here on Monday. It'll sadly be dubbed, but the songs will remain in its original tone. So RTL, you can thank me when your ratings from Vienna are higher than anticipated, since all of my students have probably already told everyone how cool the show is going to be.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying my friend Carina to Tyrol with two friends. We stayed with her mother, Moni, and Moni's boyfriend, Sigi. They live in a cute house in the Inn valley surrounded by mountains. I had the most amazing view from my bedroom window.

We stayed for a total of five days, and the whole time can be summed up as followed: AMAZING HOSPITALITY! Moni and Sigi were the best hosts in the world and cared for our every want and need. Our stomachs never even had a chance to grumble from hunger.

Other activities included:
-sleigh ride through the mountains
-visiting the Swarovski headquarters and buying earrings from Swarovski
-eating lots of Austrian food and drinking lots of coffee
-spending a lot of time in the little Austrian "nook" kitchen table with Moni and Sigi drinking wine and playing a fun card game called "Hausdepp" (loosely translated as house dummie)
-Mountain village meets farming community night club
-visiting Innsbruck
-Carina's car breaking down on the way back home, waiting for two hours in a small village off the highway, and starting up again with a rental car
-falling in love with Tyrol (wish that could be the name of some hot Austrian mountain farmer, but it's the name of the region where we were)

And from this vacation came the best experience of 2011, and quite possibly the best experience I've ever had in Austria: SLEIGH RIDE in the mountains. It was just like the movies. Two stocky horses led us through a snowy path into the depths of the mountain valley while we sat comfortably with thick wool blankets to keep us warm. We also enjoyed some free homemade schnapps from the driver. I took the most amazing photos, which I could probably compile into my own Alpine winter calendar and sell for profits.

After this past week, I just might have to look into employment, academic or nuptial options in Tyrol.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sometimes When German gets Translated Directly, It Makes Me Cringe.

School has started and my three week vacation is sadly over. I have so much to write about since New Years, but that'll have to wait. (As a teaser, I spent a week in Tyrol in the Alps and it truly was magical.)

But for now I must let the 16 year old self out of me for a minute: breast warts. The correct anatomical term for nipples in German is called "Brustwarzen" which literally translates to "breast warts". To be honest, I have no idea how we came to learn this, but as soon as my American friend and I gave my Austrian friend a perplexing look, she went on to try to describe what it was: "Do you know what a witch has on her nose? That's called a warze." Then it suddenly became clear to me what the German translation literally means. Brust= breast. Warzen= warts. Breast-warts.

Sometimes the German language is totally logical. And sometimes it makes me laugh my head off.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Sliding" into 2010: New Years in Vienna

Happy New Year!

A common New Years saying before the actual event is to wish someone a "guten Rutsch", which means a "good slide" into the new year.

And let me tell you, the Austrians know how to celebrate this holiday in style. Never in my life have I had so much fun and experienced such interesting NY traditions.

For the holiday weekend my friend Katrin from Germany and her two friends came to stay with me. We got a bit "aufgebitcht" (that was for you Kristen) and headed over to my friend Carina's for a raclette and fondue party. For those of you who don't know what raclette is, it's a type of cheese from Switzerland that is commonly served on a "raclette grill" so that it is heated up and then served with meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Like most Austrians, Carina played the perfect role of hostess and had party favors and traditional activities planned alongside the dinner party.

A traditional activity on New Years here in Austria is to determine your fortune for the new year. To do this, one takes a small shape made from metal (i.e. a clock, a cat, a four-leaf clover, etc) and places is it on a spoon to melt over a candle flame. Nearby is a bowl of water, so that when the shape has melted, it can be thrown quickly into the water to create a new form. The next step is to take the form out and look at it and figure out what it now looks like (i.e. a dragon, a bird, a leaf, etc) and look it up online to get a fortune. I ironically started with a cat and ended up with a cat. There was no denying that it looked like a cat. However, because cat was not an option online, I had to turn the shape and it suddenly looked like a bird. My fortune: You will have luck. Maybe that means I'll find a way to stay in Austria after Fulbright!

Afterwards we sat in front of the TV to watch a short black and white British sketch called "Dinner for One" that is extremely popular here. I had never heard of it, but apparently it's always on TV for New Years in Austria.

After eating, getting our fortunes, watching the sketch and drinking Austrian drinks, we all headed out to Vienna's downtown area to ring in the new year. We arrived at about 10pm, and it was already completely packed and crazy. For New Years the entire downtown, from the city hall; to the University; to St.Stephen's square, is decorated with lights and banners, and there are stages on every corner that blast a specific genre of music. We ended up at Freyung at the Oe3 stage, where we listened to Spice Girls and Britney all night among other pop singers. On the stage there were performers and people danced everywhere. When the clock struck midnight, people started waltzing in the streets.

So America, if you want me to return, you better start creating some darn good New Years traditions; otherwise I'm staying here for 2012 as well!