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.