Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sitting at Starbucks in the old terminal at Vienna International Airport enjoying a soy latte with Christmas music in the background. It's a beautiful winter wonderland outside-- one, that I hope, will not disrupt my scheduled flight to Paris in 20 minutes. I'm officially en route to Minneapolis for the holidays.

Merry Christmas and Frohe Weihnachten everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Singing in School

I should probably just start my own blog about work, because it seems that the majority of my recent posts have been about the funny things kids say. Maybe my life otherwise has become to normal to post about my adventures. After all, I am quite settled here after more than three years of living here.

In any case, another quick post about what happened at school the other day. Two of the little girls, five years old mind you, were singing the chorus to a current Top 40 song called "Diamonds" by "Rhianna". When one of the girls sang about the "diamonds in the sky", one of the boys looked at her and said, "Hey! Warum singst du jetzt auf Deutsch? Der Song ist doch auf Englisch!" (Hey! Why are you singing in German now? The song is in English!). They then proceeded to have an argument about how the word "diamond" is  German. How they couldn't hear the difference between diamond (E) and Diamant (G), I'm not quite sure. It did, however, remind me of how one of the girls last year mindlessly sang lyrics from the song "Hangover" by Taio Cruz while she would do her work, as if she really knew what it meant to have a hangover, because she's been drinking too much, ohhhhhohhhh.

Also, has anyone ever thought that when you get a group of kids together and they sing, that it's more like listening to a screaming competition? We had the Christmas Program this week, which meant three long days, each ending with the Christmas Program and the kids on stage singing songs about bells. That said, I never need to hear a song about a bell ever again. Ever.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Der Nikolo, known to us as St.Nicholas, came to school today. He had a big book with lots of information about the kids. The kids were simply amazed that he knew so much about them ;)

St.Nicholas Day is a big deal here in Austria. They don't celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus (or as one of the kids put it today: "the Christmas man*), but rather with the Christkind, or some angel-like baby (is it a boy? a girl? baby Jesus?), who brings them their gifts and their Christmas tree. Thus, on Nikolotag, good ol' Der Nikolo comes by everyone's home with a record of everyone's good and bad manners over the past year. And let me tell you, if you are bad, you are NOT going to get a lump of coal in your stocking. No, you're gonna get a beat-down from Krampus. He will come, all red and scary, and he will whip you with his horse-tail whip. Maybe it's not quite like that, but he is terrifying.

Because, naturally, all of our kids are sehr brav (well-behaved), just Nikolo came today and distributed the typical Nikolotag goodie bag consisting of an apple, a mandarin orange, and chocolate. Normally children also receive a bunch of shelled peanuts, but because of nut allergies, they had to do with the fruit and candy.

And look! Der Nikolo even came to my house last night!

*Although they don't officially have Santa Claus here in Austria, they are inevitably bombarded by the image of Santa Claus at Christmas due to Hollywood, American TV series, and the like. Therefore, they have an actual name for him: der Weihnachtsman. The cutest thing I heard all day is when little S. told me that the Santa Claus candle we have at school was a candle of the "Christmas Man!". Weihnachten in English is "Christmas", while man clearly means "man". Hopefully I get a visit from the "Christmas Man" today, too!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vienna #1

Like last year, I am proud to say that I live in the world's most livable city.

Just sayin. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It's already December, and that means the  Christkindlmärkte are back and in full swing here in Vienna!

My friend Erin and I at the opening of the Christkindmarkt Am Hof
Erin, one of my best friends who lives in Norway, came to visit me about a month ago. I've been meaning to blog about our adventures when she was here, so check back soon.

Schönbrunner Christkindlmarkt- drinking Glühwein like a princess

Oh, by the way, did you know today is the first day of Advent? That means we got to light to first candle today on our artsy-not-so-traditional Adventskranz!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kid Denglisch Part 3

As the children were ready to go home today, a boy with an unzipped jacket asked me:

"Kannst du mir please help me?"

What he wanted to ask was:

"Can you please help me?"
How did this get screwed up? Whenever the kids ask me "Kannst du mir helfen" (can you help me), I repeat it back in correct English. Sometimes I simply repeat "please help me", since it's easier for them to remember.

Kid Denglisch Part 2

Yesterday one of the boys wanted to announce that he was going to be the third one finished with putting his shoes on. He announced:

"I am the threeste" pronounced threesta.

Correct German: "Ich bin der dritte"

What went wrong here? In German, numbers 1-19 take on the ending "te", pronounced ta. Examples: erste, zweite, dritte, vierte, etc. Numbers 20+ take on the ending "ste", pronounced sta. Examples: einundzwanzigste (21), zweiundzwanzigste (22), etc. That doesn't completely explain why this boy threw an "ste" at the end. My guess is that it just sounded better to add a ste rather than a te after the long "e" sound.

More to come in my threeste edition of Kid Denglisch.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day!

I think the Austrians are following the election in America just as closely as the Americans are. I've been tuning in to different Austrian radios, and that's all they're talking about. My Facebook newsfeed is exploding with updates about the election from people all over the world. The world is watching and anticipating. Imagine American television devoting its entire broadcasting to an election elsewhere. Living abroad during this election has really opened up my eyes to the influence that America and the president has on the rest of the world. I'm curious to see how the results will affect tomorrow.

Get out and vote America! 

Ritter Sport Chocolate Heaven

A must, if you are in Berlin: visit the Ritter Sport chocolate store, create your own chocolate bar, sample their chocolate creations in their cafe, and buy lots of chocolate. Love.

Chocolate muffin + chocolate espresso

I want this display in my room.

I Traveled Back in Time

At the Asisi Berlin Wall Panorama Exhibit

The One Time Starbucks Almost Got My Name Right

I have this thing here in Europe. It's called going to Starbucks. I call it a thing, because it's not something I normally do on a regular basis in USA. Whenever I'm in the States, I prefer local coffee shops. However, as soon as I step foot outside of the US, Starbucks becomes a safe haven, an unofficial American embassy. It's familiar, it's relaxing, and I know I'll get the same thing wherever I am. Kind of lame, I know.

This past week, when I ordered my usual soy latte, I was reminded of how often the people at Starbucks just cannot get my name right. Usually I get a cup with something like: Ember, Emba, Amba, etc etc. So imagine my surprise when I got this:

Almost, Starbucks, almost.

But still not as bad as the time I ordered a drink in Zurich and received a cup with Eber  on it. Eber means "male pig" or "hog" in German. And in Zurich, they speak German. 


Who in their right mind would name their child the equivalent of hog? Starbucks, silly, silly, Starbucks. Amber sounds NOTHING like Eber. 

Fall Break in Germany

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of work, traveling, and being sick (a special thanks to the preschoolers who all infected me with bronchitis the day before my holidays began). Now that I finally have a moment of downtown--albeit a sick-day written by the doctor-- I can get to some long overdue updates.

I'm lucky to work in a country that has two holidays rather close to each other in the fall; October 26th is the Austria National Day, and November 1st is some Catholic holiday. One advantage to working in a school in said country is the Fenstertage, translated literally to "window days" (think the days in between), that take place around these two holidays. Schools are not required to take those Fenstertage off, but my school used some of its allotted free days to create a 10-day fall holiday from school.

I decided to take the time to head back over the border to Germany to visit some friends. Apart from my short weekend trip to Erfurt in August, it had been a few years since I spent some real time in Germany. I spent nearly every summer in college in Germany, and I wanted to be reminded why I was there so often. I also didn't want to travel too far, but ironically, I spent more time on the train during those 10 days traveling than had I just flown somewhere warm. However, I find train travel to often be more relaxing and eventful than air travel. So I loaded up a bag full of treats for the train, grabbed three books, and boarded a train headed toward Koblenz in Rheinland-Pfalz.

I had already been to Koblenz several times, the first time in 2004, when I did a summer exchange program in the nearby town of Höhr-Grenzhausen. I returned a few times thereafter to visit friends from the program. Coincidentally, a friend of mine from college moved to a small town just a few kilometers away from Höhr-Grenzhausen to begin a masters program, making it perfect timing for another visit.


I spent the five days there visiting with my college friend, as well as a couple of friends from the exchange program, walking around Koblenz and Höhr-Grenzhausen and having several de-ja-vu moments. In the beginning, I also had several blank stares from locals whenever I used Austrian words unbeknownst to me. I also had a very strong urge to greet everyone with Grüß Gott, a typical Austrian greeting, instead of Guten Tag or Hallo. 

Austria  Germany.

On Halloween I headed south to Stuttgart, a rather industrial city due to the huge presence of automakers. I took a stroll around the town, rather unimpressed, before meeting my friend, Katrin, in the quaint town of Ludwigsburg, just outside of Stuttgart. Katrin and I had met in Minnesota four years ago when she was doing an internship and I was still a student. Since then, we have met up in all corners of D-A-CH (Deutschland, Austria, Switzerland --> German-speaking Europe).

We celebrated Halloween in Stuttgart, and the following day took a stroll around Ludwigsburg's palace, where they had a beautiful pumpkin festival going on. I felt for a moment as if I were in the US with all the pumpkins and barrels of hay. However, I only had to look up the hill to see a baroque palace in the background to remind me of where I was.

Ludwigsburg Palace
After experiencing Stuttgart in the span of 24 hours-- and honestly, that's probably all one needs-- we headed back north to my favorite city, Berlin, to celebrate Katrin's birthday. Berlin is also a city that I've visited several times, including a summer stay in the nearby town of Potsdam, while I attended a university seminar.

Until that point, I had secretly decided that I must have unconsciously traded my loyalty to Germany with Austria over the past few years. But being back in Berlin... love. Love. Love. Love. Berlin has so many different faces, so many new corners to explore, so much history and culture, so much... awesomeness. We had no plan for Berlin, but it all worked out. We ate lots of awesome and inexpensive Thai food (everything is half the price in Berlin as it would be in Vienna), visited the Ritter Sport chocolate store, had a DDR day filled with a visit to the DDR museum (German Democratic Republic) and a visit to the Asisi panorama wall exhibit, did some sightseeing of the East Side Gallery and Berlin Mitte, and I was even able to see a couple of friends from the Fulbright Austria program quick who now live in Berlin.

Brandenburger Tor at night

Berlin > Vienna, but Berlin < Vienna. I have a love-obsession for both cities. Both cities are more awesome than its counterpart for different reasons. But Berlin ≠ Vienna.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Turning Animal

The other day as we were all walking back to school from the park, a child ahead of me turned around with a giant grin on her face and told me, "I will become a dog". She was more than excited about this fact.

In response, the child who was walking with me told me "I also will become a dog!"

Clearly the kids were not bragging about growing a tail and fur, but rather, they were excited to tell me that they were getting a dog, not becoming one.

Correct German: "Ich bekomme einen Hund" (I am getting a dog)
bekommen (verb) - to get

Bekommen sounds a lot like "become" to anyone learning English for the first time. 

I always have to chuckle whenever "become" is used incorrectly. At the same time, I'm very impressed that the kids have the capacity this early on to work out those things into English so soon, even if it is slightly incorrect.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Strike a Pose

Close encounters with the seals at the Schönbrunn Zoo during a school field trip with the kiddies

Museumsquartier Fashion Week

A few weeks ago, I was invited to Museumsquariter Fashion Week in Vienna by a friend who had free tickets from her work. I'd say it was one of the more interesting things that I have seen in Vienna.

Food Shopping Like it's 1940

Today is a perfect fall day in Vienna. The sun is shining, the leaves are changing and have started to fall off the trees, and it's a comfortable 50 degrees. I figured it would be a perfect day to make a hearty fall pumpkin soup and headed to Yppenmarkt to get the ingredients.

I love the Yppenmarkt. It's an extension of the daily Brunnenmarkt that takes place Saturday mornings. Austrian farmers drive in to Vienna to sell their produce and regional specialties like Styrian Kernöl (pumpkin seed oil), wine and Sturm (an un-fermented wine sold in the fall), flower assortments, cheeses, and baked goods.

Not only is the food fresh and local, but it's cheap. I couldn't believe how much stuff I came back with for only 13.50 euros:

Here's what I came back with:

  • 1 kg/2 lbs of sliced pumpkin
  • 1.5 kg/3 lbs of apples and pears
  • a giant bag of spinach
  • 3 big red beets
  • 4 big onions
  • 5 colorful bell peppers
  • a small bag of potatoes
  • a giant can of chickpeas
  • a bunch of Petersilie (parsley)
  • 1 liter of Sturm (un-fermented wine)
  • a flower colorful bouquet of flowers

Austria: 1, America: 0.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vegan MoFo!

Apparently the web is blowing up this month in the vegan blog scene, because it's Vegan Month of Food (mofo). I don't often blog about recipes and food, but in lieu of it being Vegan Mofo, I thought I'd share this awesome black bean burger recipe that I just threw together.

Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers:

1 cup of black beans
100 grams of mushrooms, diced
100 grams of red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground corriander
pinch of salt
flour for binding
avocado slices for topping

Mash beans in a big bowl. In a pan, sautee the mushrooms and onions for about five minutes. Add the cumin, corriander and garlic until it becomes fragrant. Add the mushrooms and onions to the beans and mix. Add flour gradually until it takes on a thicker consistency. Divide into patties and cook in a pan, about 5-10 minutes on each side. Add whatever toppings you'd like; I put avocado on mine!

I paired this with a side of french fries and a carrot and apple salad (see below).

Carrot and Apple Salad

8 large carrots
1-2 apples
1/3 cup of raisins
2 tablespoons of apple cider
2 lemons
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

Shred apples and carrots in a big bowl. Combine rest of ingredients. Fresh and tangy!

On a side note, it's a good thing that I stumbled across vegan mofo. Because I was running around so much and had absolutely no time to cook, I ate a lot more dairy than I normally allow myself (I try to really limit it to just outside of the home, if necessary). This is the motivation I need to get back on track and feel good again :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Austria is often unfortunately misconceived by many as "the other Germany", "part of Germany" or "Australia". That said, a lot of people simply don't know much about the tiny country that lays in Germany's political and geographic shadow. When one can correctly locate Austria on a map, or has a general idea of what and where it is, the most common thoughts that follow include: Lederhosen, the Alps, skiing, and Mozart.

Mozart is everywhere here in Austria. His face is plastered on a brand of marzipan-filled chocolate candies (Mozartkugeln); he walks around in Vienna's city center selling tickets to the Opera; he's played during the Vienna City Marathon (imagine having to run for hours listening only to classical music... ZzZzZz); he's on tourist shirts, mugs, etc.

And he even shows up to my school on a regular basis. Last year, one of the students wore a Mozart shirt EVERY day to school. I'm not exaggerating. He also drew Mozart in every one of his pictures. He would draw and cut out violins and play them pretending to be Mozart. During his weekly piano lessons he would only play Mozart. He even defended Mozart's name and honor to a fellow classmate of his. And on Fasching (Halloween), he came dressed to school in a homemade, and pretty kick butt, Mozart costume and wig. This kid was obsessed-- and five, mind you.

I was reminded of all of this today during snack time as the radio played in the background. One of the new students, also five, asked the teacher: "Is that Mozart? Can you turn it up?!" I mean, this kid was giddy beyond excitement about Mozart. 

In the land of classical music and a love-affair with prominent figures of the past, it seemed rather fitting. Only in Austria would a child ever be able to recognize and be excited about Mozart. Only in Austria. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I hadn't been to Schwarzenbergplatz, the Soviet Union monument, in several months and was pleasantly surprised to find this giant work of art in front of the monument


I went to my favorite place in Austria yesterday, The Wachau. It can simply be described as herrlich, one of my favorite words in German that more or less means lovely. 

Vineyard in the Wachau

Best wine ever

"Tickles It?"

Apparently the children at school aren't the only ones having issues with Denglisch and code-switching; I've noticed that I, and even one of my colleagues, have unintentionally said some pretty strange things to the kids this past week.

This past week, I tried to make more of a conscious effort in speaking more English with the kids. I'm the only one at work who can speak German fluently, and to ease the transition for the kids and to erase some of those blank stares, I explained quite a lot in German the first two weeks. After I could see that the kids were understanding a bit more, I thought it would probably be good to stop speaking any German to them.

I've started to hear some strange things come out of their mouths as they started learning words (i.e. "he hat me gepushed!"), but I didn't think that some of the awkward things would come out of my own mouth. For instance, I caught myself saying things like "auf the street" (on the street), "we must cleanen", "give it in the backpack" (eingeben is the German verb for "to put in"), etc.

However, I think the funniest thing I heard was from my colleague while she painted the children's feet to make foot prints. As she painted a very wiggly foot of a squirming boy, she asked "tickles it?" 

In German, to create a question, one places the verb in the first position. Thus, "es kitzelt" (it tickles) becomes a question by merely placing the verb in the first position: "kitzelt es?" (does it tickle).

Strangely enough, I don't think I've ever had such a problem with unconscious Denglisch, at least not for years. The kiddies apparently have more of an effect on me than I thought!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Week of School

I have survived the first week of school and am surprisingly not overly-exhausted. The kids are, as expected, adorable and precious. For some reason, they seem so much smaller than last year's kids, but they must have also been so short in the beginning. I saw that batch of kids, now first graders, and they are a good head taller than our new gang. It's incredible how fast they grow!

It's also amazing how much English last year's bunch learned in the first year. Many of them didn't understand a word in the beginning, and now they can communicate, although sometimes with incorrect grammar.

It's been interesting starting over again and being mindful of how quickly I speak, which words I choose, and how much German I choose to speak. I spoke a lot of German this past week to make sure that everyone understood behavioral policies, instructions, etc.

Amid the blank-stares and wide eyes, the kids have been slowly learning single words. I noticed that one of the first words some have learned this week was look, as in "look at this!". They love to share their work and what they've discovered, so that makes sense that look would be one of the first words they learn.

Otherwise some conversations have gone like this:
Teacher: "Did you hurt yourself"
Child: "Yes"
Teacher: "Does it hurt?"
Child: "Yes"
Teacher: "How did this happen"
Child: "Yes" [big pause] "Uhhhh......"

Julius Meinl

After living in Vienna for two years and blindly passing Julius Meinl on a regular basis in the city center, I have finally experienced its luxury Einkaufen (grocery shopping). Julius Meinl is probably most known for its brand of Viennese coffee, which is why I had never made it in to the store; I thought it was a giant cafe. Now I can say that it is, by far, the nicest grocery store I have ever been in. 

Julius Meinl (picture taken from their website)
I was surprised by the large selection of international goods, most coming from Britain, but I even found American products, like Whipped Marshmellow, at astronomical prices. Nonetheless, seeing American products in the middle of Vienna made my heart warm a bit. In addition to the international flair within the store, one can find a wide array of fine products and produce. It's definitely something to check out, but be prepared for higher prices.

I made out with some reasonably-priced fresh beets, which I haven't found anywhere outside of the Naschmarkt, and the most delicious and inexpensive chocolate croissant I've ever had in Vienna.

I don't plan on becoming a Stammkunde (regular) due to its location and prices, but I can cross it off my bucket list, and keep it in the back of my mind should I ever need to buy Whipped Marshmellow.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thinking About Year Four

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and with any new start, it has motivated me to think “what do I want to accomplish in my fourth year in Austria?” (On a side note: wow, fourth year! I never imagined in 2009 that I would be able to stay after Fulbright). So, here are my goals for the upcoming school year:
  • ·         Wake up earlier every morning so I can do yoga and stretch to keep my hip in check
  • ·         Train for a second half marathon and beat my time
  • ·         Take and pass the C2 level German exam, the highest attainable level in Europe for foreign language à This is probably one of the most serious goals I have for this year
  • ·         Learn Spanish? Como?
  • ·         Draw and paint more (I attended an art workshop this summer on Attersee)
  • ·         Have a plan for graduate school (figure out if I want to study here or pay the outrageous fees in the United States)
  • ·         Walk the Camino trail in Spain next summer (depending on finances)
  • ·         Travel, obviously. Places I’d really like to see within the next year: Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona, Poland, Bosnia and Serbia. I’d really like to go back to Budapest, too.

That’s it.

Bye Bye Summer

I’m trying not to countdown the last remaining hours of summer vacation before the new school year officially starts tomorrow morning. The reality is unfortunately inevitable, and while I am indeed excited for my second year in preschool, I don’t want one of the best summers I’ve had in a long time to end.

My summer was spent partially in the United States and partially in Europe. I had quite the Midwestern adventure when I was back home, visiting Chicago twice with my best friends, Michigan twice (once to see family and once with friends at a lake cabin on Lake Superior), and a few weeks back “home” in the Twin Cities. For the first time, it was actually a bit hard to leave the US (I was in Chicago at the time). I definitely could have enjoyed another week there.

But back in Austria, things were just as great as Stateside. I spent a long week at a camp on Attersee, a beautiful lake situated in the mountains in Upper Austria. I met people from around the world and had a fantastic time. I managed to squeeze in a free frequent-flyer-mile flight to Germany as a last minute summer trip and visited some friends in Erfurt, Germany. It had been over two years since my last visit to Germany, and I must say, I really got used to Vienna and the baroque architecture. I thought for a moment I had stepped in to Epcot at Disneyland, as everything looked so fremd (foreign). Despite having spent several summers in Germany, I had forgotten how different Germany and Austria actually are.

And now school begins tomorrow. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wo bin ich?

As per tradition, I am currently spending half of my summer holidays in the United States. Currently, I am accessing internet with a soy latte from the local coffee shop, as my parents still have yet to upgrade the house to "modern" with amenities that the majority of us consider standard (i.e. internet). Rather than sit perched in an uncomfortable wooden chair ever-so closely to the dining room window hoping to pick up a weak signal from who-knows-where, I'm enjoying the abundance of free things that American businesses have to offer (i.e. free WiFi-- on a quick side note, I noticed this time around that free WiFi is literally everywhere: truck stops, restaurants, cafes, hotels, malls, etc etc).

Rather than flying to Minneapolis, I flew into Chicago and had a lovely visit with a former college roommate/friend. I am not exaggerating when I say that I LOVE Chicago. Really, it is fantastic. Such a great place to fly into after spending months abroad; it makes the ease into American living much easier and less abrasive/scary/foreign/strange, etc etc. 

After a great five days in Chicago, I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit my mother's side of the family for a long weekend.

Now I've been back in Minnesota visiting old and dear friends, even making new friends, and trying new things that I never managed to do while growing up here, like kayaking on the chain of lakes, visiting new suburbs, trying out well-known restaurants.

I've got less than two weeks here, and I'll be spending the weekend back in Michigan, this time, the Upper Peninsula with some friends on a lakeside cabin. To finish my visit, I'll travel back down to Chicago for a three-day visit with some great friends. 

Then it's back to Vienna for yet another year-- my fourth! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Perks of Socialized Medicine

I have faith in socialized medicine again-- of course it's amazing to be covered nearly 100%, but the wait that comes with that can be more than frustrating.

But in some miracle within this system, I was actually able to get a same-day appointment with a sports orthopedic doctor last week, and since then an X-ray, a posture analysis, a follow-up with the doctor to discuss the findings, and a fitting for custom-made orthodics. I also have my first physical therapy appointment in two days. All of this within a week and before I travel to the US for the summer! Phew!

And might I add, I've only paid 168 euros for all of that. Let's break it down:

  • 100 for the posture analysis (not covered by insurance here, elective): completely worth it, as I barely pay for anything else. I got to stand on a computerized pad thing that assessed where I put my weight while standing and walking, and then computerized images showed where my weight is distributed and how that has contributed to two injuries (my past plantar fasciitis and my current hip problem), and therefore what should be done to correct those problems. 
  • 68 for custom-made orthodics, and that's for the higher-end kind so I can wear them in my running shoes. The basic ones cost only 24. I think the temporary orthodic inserts I got in America because of my plantar fasciitis cost 20 dollars... imagine custom-made ones!
  • X-Ray and exams: free.
  • Physical therapy will cost also cost me some, but not much: about 30 euros for an hour.
Posture Analysis Results
Had I done that in the US, even with my insurance, I would be broke!

According to the doctor, the culprit of my hip pain:
I have a tilted pelvis that acts as leg length discrepancy. I don't actually have one, but because my pelvis is situated higher on the left side, my right side is trying to make up for the slight discrepancy and is therefore overloading for some reason when I run. My muscles are cramped up probably because of the extra impact that side has been facing, so I just need to do some PT to strengthen the surrounding pelvic muscles, as well as help along the injury, and take a break from serious running (other cardio is allowed though, thank God). The doctor said it should heal pretty well, so hopefully I'll be running again soon!

I'm pretty darn proud that I got all of this taken care of while it was still nearly free before returning stateside for the summer. My dad would be, too!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today I downloaded three yoga videos on iTunes. I've never really been interested in calming and relaxing exercise, but I'm trying to take a new approach to my still self-diagnosed running-related injury. I took some time off with running, felt much better, got back into it, felt the same as before, took some more time off, and so on... a cycle that probably indicates something is not quite right.

Today I thought I'd take a proactive approach and actually see my doctor. Since this is Austria, however, he's of course on vacation* for two weeks... of course. And I'm leaving for summer in America in 11 days, meaning that it's highly unlikely that I'll get an appointment before I leave. I'm going to call the Sportsklinik tomorrow and see if I can get in without a referral, but the likelihood of actually getting a slot before I leave-- well, that'd take a miracle.

So what am I to do?

Yoga. Yep, I've convinced myself that yoga will be the trick. And some cross-training and light weight lifting until I can see the doctor. By then, it'll probably have healed anyways.

Ready to stretch!

*In Austria, workers take five weeks of vacation. It's the law. Yep, it's the law to have five weeks off. So if you have your own business or practice, you can take as much time off as you want. And I wonder why it takes weeks to get things done here. Interestingly enough, the United States is one of the only industrialized countries not required by law to give any time off to employees. However, things like seeing a doctor, getting any official document, etc. is like lightning speed compared to here-- at least in my experience. 


Five Years Later-- Paris Revisited

I was in Paris last week during another lovely long holiday weekend (all Catholic holidays are observed in Austria), almost five years exact after visiting the bustling city for the first time. This time around, I can honestly say that my opinion about Paris hasn't really changed much: I still find it a bit overrated.

I know, I know. How can it be? Someone who kind of doesn't like Paris-- gasp. Just being honest...

On the bright side, I did get to see some cooler parts of the city not bursting at its seams with loud, obnoxious tour groups. In fact, I think the city has potential to grow on me, if I were to live in such cool districts and never have to ever go to busy touristy parts of town and never interact with such tourists. Maybe... maybe.

That said, I was beyond thrilled when I finally returned to Vienna. Here's why:
  • Vienna feels like home. Punkt.
  • an open metro: I don't have to worry about always having my pass ready to go through the gates into the terminal, because it's an open system. I also never have to worry about getting bags stuck in the gate as I go through.
  • It's a city, but it's not overwhelmingly big. Paris is SO big to me. There are 14 metro lines, numerous RER lines, etc etc. Vienna has five metro lines, and locating a stop on the map doesn't take more than a few seconds.
  • I can understand people. I know that's really lame, but I got so frustrated in France when I couldn't understand something. My French is terrible, and the times I even tried to speak it, it was a complete failure. Also, no one ever gave me the chance to try to speak my rudimentary French. They all just assumed I was a monolingual American.
  • It's touristy, but not that touristy. So, going to Paris in the beginning of June is like queuing for an eternity. I became so overwhelmed with the tour groups and the mass of people. Going to Versailles was pretty cool, but fighting my way through the crowds-- no thanks. Vienna can get crowded in the summer, but it's nothing like in Paris; one can actually breathe.
Each time I come back to Vienna I breathe a sigh of relief: zu Hause. 

And so I don't have a complete ranting post about why I kind of don't like Paris, I will end with a few things I actually did like:

  • beautiful gardens everywhere and people picnicking or snoozing on the benches
  • cheap bread, cheese and wine-- loved seeing Parisians walking with a giant baguette and just eating it whole.
  • clothing boutiques
  • the best Falafel I've ever had in MY LIFE in the Jewish quarter
  • and the best part about Paris: as an EU resident under the age of 26, I got in FREE to all museums, palaces, etc etc. However, due to the long lines, I only took advantage of three attractions. But, hey, I saved about 40 euros!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Different Side of Graz

I went back to Graz a couple of weeks ago to visit my friend Rob. I had been there before on a day trip last year, and this time around I saw the city from a local. I saw a new side of Graz:

"Before I die..." locals can write their responses on a wall on a random side street

The iconic clock tower on Schloss Eggenberg

Enjoying wine atop one of the many rolling hills at the Grazer Buschenschank

A giant Käseteller (cheese platter) and Steierisches Bohnensalat (Styrian bean salad) at the Buschenschank

Whew, it's been a crazy last few weeks. That's why you haven't seen me around so much here.

Since the race ended nearly two months ago, I've slowly replaced running with other time-consuming activities, namely socializing and traveling. I didn't intend on slipping into a lazy slump, but it unfortunately happened naturally with traveling and wanting to spend time with friends who are moving back to the States next week. Putting off a run slowly became easier, especially since I'm not officially training for anything at the moment.

That said, I do plan to run a half marathon in September with a friend, so I'll "officially" beginning training for that next week.

Strangely enough, although I haven't been running more than two or three light-moderate a week, I've self-diagnosed myself with having a hip flexor strain. Clearly I'm not a doctor, but my small background in anatomy and physiology makes it easier to rule out many of the disorders WebMD says I could have. Anyways, I've been having this strange tightness in my high/thigh area that increases after running, and most recently dull lower back pain. I'm not sure where that came from, but it could be a gradual overuse injury. I do remember having really tight hips after the race, and running with my old shoes while my current ones were getting repaired maybe made it worse.

I'm going to try the "R.I.C.E" method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and some stretching and see if I can just take care of this myself. That'll be hard, as I wanted to hardcore training again soon, and tomorrow I'm signed up for the Vienna Frauenlauf (women's run) with my school. It's only a 5k, so that's no problem. But I don't want to put further strain on it and cause a worse injury.

Running woes.

Hopefully this heals on its own, as going to the doctor in Austria is a very time-consuming activity that requires thoughtful planning. My doctor is in his office a whole 15 hours a week. Eleven of house hours are when I'm at work. Of those four hours when I can actually go, I end up spending an average of three hours in the office (most of the time sitting in the waiting room). It's quite the fiasco.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Luxus Pur

My shoes are in the shop getting repaired (the top layer split open from the seam), so I've been finding other ways to enjoy my free time while staying somewhat active.

This past Tuesday was a holiday, the equivalent of Labor Day in the US, so my school took Monday off as well. That meant a much needed four-day weekend filled with lots of sun and the warmest temperatures in April that Austria has ever seen. 

I spent nearly every waking minute outside, and I had one of the best weekends here in a long time. My itinerary as followed:

  • Friday: birthday party
  • Saturday: ruby game in the outskirts of Vienna with a few friends and drinks at an outdoor pub terrace
  • Sunday: picnic in the Central Park of Vienna followed by church
  • Monday: day-trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, which can be summed up as followed: lots of cheap food and cheap drinks, people watching, sitting in the sun on the Danube, little sightseeing
  • Tuesday: three hour bike ride in the Wachau, my favorite wine region in Austria, located one hour outside of Vienna. We biked from Melk to Krems and stopped at two Heuriger, or wine taverns. 
Another great part of having a four-day weekend meant a three-day work week. It's already the weekend :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's nothing like lacing up my running shoes after a week of rest.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Running Withdrawal

With the race behind me, I have decided to take this week off for recovery, thereby preventing any injuries.

The first two days I treated myself to my bed, ice, pain killers, TV and lots of Z's. I was ravenous and ate every two hours. I was tired, but physically tired from the race.

Days three and four post-race I was able to do more and enjoyed my sudden increase in free time and met with up with friends. I started to increase my caffeine consumption, because the lethargy started kicking in, and I felt like I needed constant caffeine, even though I had been sleeping really well and long.

Today, day five, I feel sluggish, tired, and lethargic that no amount of caffeine will take away. Also I'm still pretty hungry.*

I must be going through withdrawal from running.

As odd as that sounds, I read several articles indicating people can indeed become addicted to exercise, and when deprived exercise for several days, they can start to have actual withdrawal symptoms. It seems to fit my case, as I've been extra lethargic after work and in the evening, right around the time I would do my runs.

I'm anxious to start working out again and feel GOOD. Right now I feel BLAH.

Also it's a strange feeling to not be working toward something anymore. I loved looking at my training schedule and checking off every run. I would associate my days with the run I had planned. Now I can barely figure out if it's Monday, Tuesday, Weds.... etc, and even when the kids have to repeat that multiple times every morning at school.

Chocolate and coffee is calling my name.

*Out of curiosity I googled how many calories I might have burned on Sunday. The results indicated roughly 1600! That's an entire day's worth of food! No wonder I've been hungry every two or three hours. Also, it's been hard to not let myself slide off this week and justify eating whatever I want because of the race. If I'm not careful, it'll catch up to me eventually. At least I'll start running again soon!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Morning After

I can't move.

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I can move, but with effort. And some pain.

Have you ever felt your muscles before? I mean like feel where they begin and end? Where they connect to the bones?

Today I'm feeling them. I'm aware of every leg muscle, and not in the most positive way.

Apparently I wasn't that warmed up when I started running. Either that, or I didn't cool down properly. Or this is completely normal, as I ran the fastest and longest and hardest I ever have. Yikes.

Thankfully at work I was able to sit down a lot and ice my sore muscles. The kids were too curious about my banged up legs. My colleague explained to every class about the half marathon, had them look at my medal, and asked them to take it easy on me today, because Ms.J was "T for tired". (The letter of the week is T).

She also informed me that it might take up a week until I'm fully recovered. Ugggggh.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my one-week break from running and anything mildly strenuous and not feel guilty about sitting in my sweat pants after work while catching up on American shows with ice on my legs while nibbling on chocolate.

Cause I kinda deserve it after sacrificing nearly three months of my life to training properly.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Half Marathon Completed!

A few months ago when I signed up for the half marathon, 21 km / 13.1 miles seemed like such a long and unattainable distance.

But today I did it.

Funny thing is, it didn't seem long at all with all the hype and energy around me. I never thought "ughh, when is the finish line?" In fact, the finish line kind of scared me, as it basically was a long red carpet with thousands of spectators and cameras all looking at you. Talk about camera shy.

Before the race, I had read tons of blogs, forums, and articles about what to do and what not to do on race day. I'm so glad that I did, because it made the difference between enjoyable and miserable.

I started slow, paced myself, and by km 10 / mile 6, I felt really warmed up and good and thought I could kick it up a notch. I felt the same way 5 km further. And the last four km I was flying high on a runner's high and shaved off two minutes per km faster than when I had started. I sprinted the red carpet, which may have been unnecessary, but I felt the need for speed.

My legs felt like jelly when it was all over.

I walked through the drink stations, which could have added a couple of minutes on to my final time, but I'm glad that I gave myself that tiny break, as I never had to walk during the entire race.

I made sure I did a last minute potty break as my starting corral neared the beginning. I was probably one of the last ones out, but I wanted to avoid running into the woods and squatting like many of the other runners. Besides, my official time didn't start until I crossed through the starting gate, so it really didn't matter.

An action picture my friend Sarah got while cheering me on

I definitely wasn't toward the back for very long, and I finished strong with a time of 2:20:27. I ranked 9751, but I'm not sure out of how many. There were more than 36,000 participants total, but that includes the full marathon as well.

I'm pretty proud of my score, although I thought mid-race that it'd be cool to get 2:15 or under. However, my main goal was just to finish and that with a smile on my face, and  I more or less did that (a very focused smile of the finish line).
I had such a good time, that I think I can set a time goal for my next race.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

It's Here! VCM!

The big day is here: Vienna City Half Marathon.

It's 6 am, and I'm asking myself why the heck I am up so early on a Sunday-- even earlier than on a normal working day. Pretty sure I got up before the birds even began chirping.

The race is in three hours. In those three hours I mainly need to mentally prepare, eat breakfast, make several bathroom stops, and decide what I'm going to wear.

The latter will probably be one of the hardest things this morning. I've read very mixed reports for the weather. It's going to be that awkward cool temperature, where you're not sure if you should wear bundle up more or just go for the shorts. I've also read reports that it'll rain, so should I wear my windbreaker? If I wear my windbreaker, I can at least shove my iPhone in my pocket. If not, I'll have to wear my armband.

Decisions decisions.

The last two days I focused on increasing my water intake and decreasing my caffeine intake. I failed and had to get a half-caffeinated coffee yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday I'm pretty sure I ate enough pasta for a small family. Bring it on glycogen, I'm ready.

I went to the expo yesterday to pick up my race documents and it replaced my nerves with excitement. I heard and saw lots of internationals, which makes sense, as 36,000 people are signed up today. (That alone is somewhat intimidating for me.) Then I went to check out the finish line and coordinate a meeting point with a friend.

Back home after a carb-intensive dinner with a small beer (hey, you gotta live), I decorated my hat so my friends can spot me amid the other runners. The theme for this year's race is to celebrate the 150th year anniversary of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss", and a friend of mine cleverly suggested that I draw a huge set of lips on my hat with fabric paint.

It might be unnecessary today to even wear a hat. The sun most likely won't come out, but the forecast had predicted rain, so I thought a hat might be nice to keep the rain out of my eyes. I think I'll wear it regardless, and if it starts to bug me, I'll just toss it during the race, as it was only five or so euros.

After the excitement from the expo wore off, the nerves started kicking in again. I "went to bed" at about 9, but I know I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours. I woke up with so much adrenaline in the middle in the night thinking that my alarm would surely go off at any moment; it was three in the morning. Another couple of hours of somewhat restless sleep and up at 5:45.

The good thing is that this adrenaline I'm running on serves as a kind of caffeine replacement-- I don't think that I've felt this awake without a morning coffee since one of the many times I gave it up.

Breakfast of champions awaits me: bread rolls with peanut butter and almond butter, banana slices on top, and honey drizzled on it.

Here I go!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Running: The Best Form of Sightseeing

One week until the half marathon.

I'm completely confident that I'll have no problem finishing. According to the many plans, tips, and forums I read, I have done everything correctly up to this point: weekly mileage increase; proper hydration before,during and after runs; injury prevention; proper nutrition; a positive attitude. The only thing I would have changed is perhaps adding a bit more strength-training and cross-training. But I'll save that for the next training phase.

I made sure to pack all of my running gear for my trip to Switzerland. I'm proud that I managed to get in four runs in seven days on my trip! On my first full day in Zurich, I even completed my last long run before the race. I found out that jogging is the best way to do sightseeing! I saw so much in a lot less time than it would take to walk around. I managed to get a bit lost at the end, so I ended up running 2 hours and 15 minutes, and I wasn't completely exhausted at the end of it. That means I'll surely have no problems next week-- knock on wood.

I also decided that I'll have to move to Zurich sometime just so I can go running around the lake. It's beautiful.

Confederation of Helvetica: Switzerland

This past week I spent my spring holidays in Switzerland visiting a friend from the States who currently lives in Zurich. Apart from Zurich, I also went on a day trip to the quaint little Alpine city Luzern. I also went down to Locarno in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland for a mid-week solo getaway. What I learned from those two days is that I prefer the company of others when traveling-- exactly what I had predicted beforehand.

Switzerland is a beautiful country full of mountains and lakes. Everything is so picturesque and clean.

However, it's a bit pricey for those who live outside of Switzerland. The pizza and beer I had in Locarno was about 25 EUR / 32 USD. I avoided eating out the entire week, with exception to the two nights I spent in Locarno. Rail travel is also incredibly expensive, but I bought a three-day Interrail pass for Switzerland, which ended up saving me about 100 euros on travel with my day-trips and trip down to Locarno.

Advice for those traveling in Switzerland: couch surf if you can; it'll save you so much money.

I enjoyed my week in Switzerland, but I was happy to cross the border back into Austria and understand German again for the first time in a week. Swiss "German" should be classified in its own language family. I'll take the Austrian Bauer (farmer) dialect any day over the Swiss German dialect.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kid Denglisch

I should keep a journal at work and write down the cute things kids say.

Today on the way to the park, one of the girls told me:
"My love animal is a dog"

"My favorite animal is a dog"

"Mein Lieblingstier ist ein Hund"

How that got mixed up:
Liebe in English means: love. Liebling-- followed by another noun within the same word indicates a favorite something. It can also be used as a term of endearment, i.e. love, sweetheart, sweetie, etc etc. So when broken down in a five year old Austrian's mind, Lieblingstier becomes literally "love animal".

Other things that kids say on a random basis are correct English words, but in German sentence construction:

For example: "Can you please me this open?" or "Can I a paper have?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hello? It's Your Body Calling... Are You Listening?

I've noticed two things this past week in regards to listening to my body:

1. Increased hunger and cravings:
I've been a RAVENOUS monster. Seriously, I have been hungry round-the-clock for a good week or so. I've increased my eating a bit to accommodate my sudden increase in hunger. I'm trying to still eat mostly vegan, so at least I know I'm not pumping my body full of extra junk food crud.

I've been craving, and therefore eating, so much more fruit.

Sometimes during my long runs the idea of a nice cold beer sounds rather appetizing.

The cravings of fruit and beer probably mean that I'm depleting a lot of glycogen in my body and that I should make sure I'm getting enough carbohydrates in my diet.

As long as I continue to eat a balanced diet, even if it is more than normal, I'm sure I'll be just fine, since I'd like to shed a few pounds in my midsection.

2. Injury Prevention
Up until now, I haven't had any problems with injuries, with exception to the bout of plantar fasciitis I had in the early winter. Running actually has helped to strengthen that foot muscle, and I haven't had any problems since it originally healed (before beginning training).

My injury prevention program has included stretching and hydration. Since I wasn't feeling anything before, other than a bit of muscle fatigue, I never iced or elevated a thing.

Until today.

The past two weeks I've increased mileage, as well as the intensity and speed of a couple of runs. Today I woke up with--ouch--a bit of shin pain. My foot bone where it meets my leg bone also felt a bit painful. (Preface, yesterday I did a very fast 10k with lots of hills).

Thankfully we have ice packs at school for the kids, and during my break and quiet times I iced my legs. As I write this I'm also sitting with a bag of frozen veggies perched atop my leg.

I might skip my 5k jog scheduled tomorrow if the pain hasn't subsided and just do it on Friday, or not at all. The race is in about three weeks, and I don't want to risk an injury.

On a cheerful side note, my roommate told me she wants to be there at the finish line to watch me complete the half. Some of my friends also said they hoped to make it, and that maybe they'd make some posters of encouragement.

That's enough motivation to keep doing what I'm doing!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sports Bars

I'm really excited because I purchased a pack of sports fruit bars. Really, I think this is the most exciting purchase I've made in a long time.


Saturday I ran my long run of 10 miles in 1:54. I was pretty happy with the time, as it was a comfortable pace that wasn't too hard and not too easy. That means when race day comes, I hope that I'll run a bit faster due to the extra adrenaline.

Halfway through my run I started to feel really hungry and like I was burning up all of my energy. That's probably true, because I had only had some fruit and a piece of bread a few hours prior. Soon the hunger turned into slight nausea, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish.

But I was a trooper and made myself finish while shaving off six minutes from the last 10 miler I had done a couple weeks prior.

After finishing I ran to the supermarket at the underground station and bought some post-run snacks: a banana; my favorite bread roll filled with nuts, seeds, legumes and carrots; and a cold bottle of sparkling water, all for under two euros might I add. I've grown to love sparkling water here; I find it so refreshing and satisfying, especially after depleting all my electrolytes.

My familiar snack didn't have the effect that it normally has; I was still light-headed, tired and weak.

So I'm going to try eating a sports bar during my next long run. I'm not sure if that will be the trick. Perhaps I just need to be more conscientious about eating a healthy, well-balanced meal before my runs.

My review of the sport bar to come next week!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

10k at Schönbrunn Palace Grounds-- personal record

We've been spoiled the last few days with copious amounts of sunshine and warmer temperatures (although I hear that they are having a heat-wave in the United States right now-- unfair).

City life is great and all, but one of the downsides is the lack of direct sunlight due to the tall buildings everywhere. Sure it's great to see a blue sky, but I just want to bask in the sun. That often means finding squares or parks where there are fewer tall objects to create shadows.

A few days ago I was thrilled with the blue sky and needed to get in a run, so I took the U-Bahn (underground) out to Schönbrunn Palace because I was sure with the large open gardens I'd get in lots of sun. Unfortunately, I forgot about the very tall hedges that line the whole park, so part of my route was actually in shadows.

I love running at Schönbrunn. It feels surreal to run around the gardens while looking at the former summer residence of the Habsburg monarchy. In a way it's actually kind of fun to run around all the tourists snapping photos as a way to show that yes, indeed, I am a local here who goes running at the palace (a bit arrogant perhaps, but it's still fun). However, I can't imagine how many photos I've been in.

Another great thing about running there is that there is a very steep hill with great views of Vienna. Normally I'll run up the hill at the end of my run and reward myself with the view.

This past Thursday I managed to run about 10.25 km in about one hour, while finishing with a very uncomfortable semi-sprint up the hill. I pushed myself pretty hard just to get in the 10k in an hour, and I was very tired running up the hill; it was the first time since junior high where I felt like I could actually throw up from running.

Even though it was a normal training day and on a Thursday, I managed to set a new PR for myself-- another milestone during training for my first half.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Old School Transportation

Perhaps my last post was a bit too presumptuous in thinking that trying to eat more vegan was causing me some fatigue.

Maybe I was feeling tired and out of it because I hadn't run that day.

An evening in with a pizza that didn't even taste that good (I burnt it) and lots of Sex and the City hardly had the effect I had hoped for; I was still as restless and tired as before. In fact, I tried to go to bed extra early and fell asleep much later.

Today I felt nearly as exhausted after work-- I'm telling you, those kiddies wear me out sometimes--and I left for a church Kinderbetreuung (day care/supervision) meeting after work, which I knew would last for a long time.

I really wanted to go running, and knowing that I'd be pressed for time with work and the meeting, I geared up, laced up my sneakers and went to the meeting dressed in all my running gear. After the meeting, and a small portion of vegetarian lasange, I ran home. 

It was fun, a new way of jogging. I had to get myself home somehow, and I was pressed for time, so why not use my feet for transportation? I actually wanted to go a longer distance, but seeing as it was already 9pm when I began, I did the 5km short distance home in about 31 minutes, a few minutes shy of taking public transport with the transfer and walk from the stops. So, ha! I'm faster than Wiener Linien :D

After my run I felt GREAT. Of course it's now 10:30 pm and I am wired. Clearly my body is used to running and I start to feel tired around the time when I would normally go for a run. I think that yesterday my body just wanted me to take it on a run and release some endorphins.  However, I'm not expert on nutrition for athletes, but I think that as long as I watch my protein intake and keep on running, I'll be just fine!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vegan + Endurance Running + Little Protein = zZzZz

So this initial energy from switching to a nearly vegan diet has completely caught up with me this week and I'm starting to feel really drained, weak and exhausted.

I'm not sure if that has to do with working with the kids today, or viruses, but usually after work I have enough energy to go running.

Today I'm DRAINED beyond belief.

I started googling endurance running and diets, and apparently I should be more concerned about my protein intake that I had been. I recently started carb-loading, which was a new thing. But I never had worried about my protein intake before. I just ate a balanced meal and called that good. But perhaps my rabbit-like diet of vegetables, fruits, a bit of bread and some nuts and beans just isn't doing it for me protein-wise.

I mean, I have this huge craving for a large cheese pizza. So I'm probably missing out on important proteins. After all, I've been building so much muscle in the last weeks with all the training. Those muscles need some protein!

On the other hand, I could possibly be coming down with something that has been making its way throughout preschool and the elementary school. One of my colleagues was sick today, and I lost my voice this weekend (it's slowly coming back), so I wouldn't be surprised if there's some virus brewing inside my body. (On a side note, I feel like the norm has been slightly sick ever since January. Ugh, the joys of your first year working with children.)

So, as a precautionary measure, I'm staying in tonight, resting, and filling my body with protein. I'm supposed to go for a five or six mile run today, but the thought of it makes me afraid I'd collapse halfway through of exhaustion.

It's a hard decision to make; the race is in about one month, and I want to make sure my body is built up to its fullest. However, I don't want to overdo it and wear myself down to nothing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Art Gallery

My weekends have become very predictable.

Friday nights are usually spent at home relaxing in front of the computer/TV or with a book. Or I'm out with friends.

Saturdays I sleep in, go on my long run, go to the supermarket, cook and do one of my predictable Friday night activities.

Sundays I usually get things done that need to get done and then I go to church.

So interesting, I know.

Therefore I must say that I am quite proud of myself that I broke the cycle and did something different last night and with actual cultural worth. My roommate takes part in this art group that has a new exhibit every three months, and with each new exhibit they have a gallery opening with the artist, a DJ and wine and beer. So instead of putting on my sweatpants at 7pm and expecting a night in front of the TV, I put on some real clothes and headed with her and her friend to the opening.

It was like being in another world. The art scene. The cool kids. The hipsters--seriously, there was a 20-something skater guy with a long curled mustache.

Here's the thing: I don't really know art. At all. How this is possible, I'm not sure, since I come from a family full of professional artists. Normally when I visit an art museum, I'm in and out within twenty minutes. I enviously look at the people who take their time with the pieces and wish that I could understand what they were seeing. I can identify pieces as pretty, strange, boring and colorful. That's about the extent of my art vocabulary.

So I'm giving myself a major pat on the back for walking around this gallery with a wine spritzer in my hand and taking my time at each piece to describe what I saw and what it could mean IN GERMAN to my roommate and her friend.

And it was fun. It was new. It was different.

I kick myself time and time again for not taking advantage of all the culture opportunities here in Vienna. The city is saturated with culture and art from art galleries, to opera, to theater, to dance, to film.

So, perhaps, here's a start to trying new things with new eyes.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning to Cook 3.0

Trying to be vegan for the second time around (the first time was two years ago for about three or four months) is like learning to cook all over again.

Luckily it's nothing too difficult, as I had to relearn cooking basics when I went vegetarian a few years back. Therefore I am more apt to trying new things, using new ingredients, and trying to find ways to cook yummy food at economical prices.

But it sure requires some planning. With the training, I need to make sure I'm getting lots and lots of carbohydrates and eating enough calories. I'm not calorie-counting or restricting any foods, but the long runs often suppress my hunger, and I occasionally have to force myself to eat large enough portions. I also need to make sure that I'm getting lots of protein and not eating completely like a rabbit. So I've literally sat down with pen and paper and made a list of meals that I deem appropriate to cover all my nutritional requirements and started to check them off.

Since I decided to try veganism in January, I've had many days when I definitely was not: days of lying in bed with a sinus infection and not wanting to cook so succumbing to frozen pizza; the copious amounts of chocolate that I received for my birthday; the vegetarian meals prepared specially for me in social situations (could I really ask them to make it vegan then?); and the week in Istanbul where vegetarian in itself is a foreign concept.

But I can proudly say that the last several days were 99.5% vegan! I had just a dollop of yogurt splashed atop a curry dish that was prepared for me at my bible study on Monday. Until I figure out how to do this completely on my own within my own four walls, I'll still feel slightly obligated to eat vegetarian food prepared by other people.

Some of the things I've enjoyed so far have been:

  • gnocchi with vegan white sauce and mushrooms
  • spaghetti sauce with tempeh
  • wraps of all sorts with hummus, avocados, beans, veggies
  • sweet potato curry soup with Adzuki beans (highly recommend it-- recipe here
  • sweet breakfast rice with raisins, nuts and fruit
  • banana and peanut butter cookies
  • tomato chickpea spread
  • leek and veggie quiche
  • soy pudding cups
What I've found works is simply finding things that look good and making a plan, or at least keeping in mind the tasty recipes that I've seen online or in cookbooks. 

Also having fun with it makes it easier. 

Getting Faster

I've finally entered the phase in my training plan where I have to start running longer distances at fast paces. With the two week sinus infection keeping me in bed, in addition to the one week in a very not-so-runner-friendly Istanbul, I'm actually slightly behind schedule, and I should have been doing these faster long distances last week.  I skipped over many of the build-up runs, in which one starts slower and ends on a fast note, and jumped right into the fast running to make up for lost time.

Simply put, it was HARD.

Give me an eight or nine mile run at a comfortable pace and that's no problem. But running a five mile at a pace two minutes faster per kilometer than I'm normally used to doing made me feel like I was just getting into running for the first time.

Fast runs are supposed to be challenging, and apparently they are necessary. If I incorporate fast runs during my training plan, it should help me to improve my overall race time. However, I have no time goal. I just want to finish. According to this customized plan I made with Asics Online, they think that their recommended three month training plan should have me running at a pace of 6:21/km, finishing at 2 hours and 13 minutes. I'd be thrilled if I managed to do that, considering losing about 2.5 weeks of vital training.

I'm not looking forward to making myself run fast again tomorrow. I've got another 5-miler scheduled at that slightly uncomfortable pace that I'm not used to. Hopefully these fast runs will become easier with time. After all, I never thought I could go for a 100 minute jog, but I did a week and a half ago!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Today I jogged 13km / 8 miles, albeit slowly. The half marathon is in less than two months.

I'm confident that I'll be able to finish with no problem!


Snow in Istanbul-- the Blue Mosque

Who knew there was so much Christian artwork here? Mosaic in Haghia Sophia

Turkish coffee + Turkish delight at a sit-on-the-floor restaurant

I love the detail in Istanbul-- Topkapi Palace

Mosaic from Chora Church, where they have the most preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world

Cats! So many cats in this city. I think I better move there now.

360istanbul --> A must

Istanbul from the water

Istanbul, Turkey

Last week I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey with three of my friends. The trip can be summed up as followed: upgrades, VIP service, and wet feet-- among all the culture and history that we took in.

We had a free apartment upgrade and stayed in a nicer apartment than where I currently live (and in Eurasia of all places).

Locals loved to try to figure out where we come from. Most of them thought Scandinavia, Holland or Germany. When they found out we are actually American, they got giddy with excitement and said things like: "California!" "Los Angels" "Coca Cola" and "Barack Obama!"

That said, the locals were the friendliest people I have met in the many cities I have visited. If Vienna were a person, it'd be a cold old woman in a fur jacket with her nose pointed in the air and no desire to help tourists. Istanbul, on the other hand, was like the person who wants to be your best friend so badly. People gave us insider recommendations, helped us find the way, and kindly answered our many questions about culture and history. No one hassled us at all!

Despite all the things we heard prior to leaving, like to watch out because we were four young blonde Americans traveling to a Muslim country, we felt so safe everywhere we went. Sure, we stuck out like sore thumb with our guidebooks, maps and Starbucks in hand (not a fan of Turkish coffee), but people were eager to help us out, give us free tea, and practice speaking English.

We experienced a bit of culture shock when we heard the call to prayer bouncing off the buildings five times a day. It was like a choir in Istanbul; once one started, you'd hear another begin down the road. It was like a free concert five times daily. We visited the two most touristy mosques and enjoyed the artwork inside. I never knew how pretty mosques were!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good. There was a major European freeze taking place, and all of Europe was covered in snow and ice. That meant in Istanbul it hovered around freezing, and we had to trudge through snow and rain most of the days. It was quite a sight: snow atop palm trees!

As far as our itinerary goes, we saw the major sites: Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Chora Church, the underground cistern, Topkapi Palace We also took a boat tour on the Bosphorus Straight the one sunny day. One of the highlights was wining and dining at 360istanbul, the city's hottest restaurant and club. 

I hope to visit the city again once it's warmer, as it tops the list of my favorite cities.