Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reunion

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.