Monday, December 20, 2010

A Magical Store, and other things

On Friday, I found Interspar.

First, let me explain a bit about grocery stores in Austria. There are a lot of corner markets (ours is called Spar, though some are even Gourmet Spar, which is more expensive!) which sell the basic things people need, you know, fruits, veggies, meat, etc. These markets are a bit more pricey, usually, but it's good when it's 14 degrees (fahrenheit) outside and I am in desperate need of eggs or chocolate. Then, there are the bigger budget stores (ours is called Hofer), which sell relatively few options at a pretty bad quality but at ridiculously low prices... we shop here often. There are also bigger grocery stores that sell normal grocery options in a much bigger selection, like Merkur, Billa, Eurospar (notice the Spar trend yet?) or Zielpunkt. Generally, we make a couple trips a week to the store so we can get the basics at Hofer and the day-to-day needs at Spar or wherever else (see Isaac's post about how to waste time, namely Tip #6).

However, on Friday I discovered the Target of Europe, and it threw me into hysteria.

Aufstrich! aka bread spread, my new love.
I'm not sure why it's taken me so long, but today while waiting for Jenni, I casually walked into Interspar about 3/4 of a mile from our house. This place was magic! I found sewing supplies, electronics, dishes, toiletries and of course of all the food options, all in abundance! Aufstrich of more than 2 flavors? Fantastic! A sizable meat counter? You betcha. Most importantly, I found floss - something our Spar doesn't have (plenty of denture glue, yes, but no floss. Really, guys? Do you not see the cause-and-effect as plain as day!?). I was blown away. I feel like I've been in denial about the real lives of Austrians. I mean, of course they need sewing supplies, and duct tape, and USB sticks... but these are things that I think I can only find in America. Anyway, as it turns out, people really are fundamentally the same, and need the same things in their lives, especially across the industrialized world. So why are we Americans all so fascinated by Europe...?

In other news, today we went on an adventure to Cobenzl, a wine area just outside of Vienna. We found a Christmas market (this is my... 9th Christmas market in Vienna? And probably my 20th total visit to Christmas markets) with lots of organic farmers market-esque things and a lot of snow. Yes, it's still freezing in these parts. I've literally never spent so much time somewhere so cold! My normal outfit consists of: two pairs of tights, two pairs of socks, warm boots, two wool sweaters, a hat, a scarf, gloves and a thick winter coat, and I'm still cold! I'm really missing the rainy Portland days. Anyway, at Cobenzl we had some lunch and found a sledding hill (!) so hopefully we can go back in January for some slidingly nice times.

Me, at Cobenzl. Pretty sky, no? Vienna is to the left, but it's cloudy.
The snow around here is beginning to cause some real problems. Airports all across Europe have been closing due to the ridiculous snow, and Frankfurt airport, where I'll be laying over, is basically closed too. Luckily, I don't leave until Thursday morning, so I'm hoping that all this mess gets cleared up so I can get home! I am absolutely eager to get out of here, though I still have about 10 lessons to teach before then. We've been listening to Christmas music and baking Christmas cookies and, well, it's making me ready to be at home. Only a few more days! I have no idea what life will feel like while I'm in America, but it'll be interesting to find out...

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Ist das die Katie?!" aka Hanging Out With Students

I thought camels lived in the desert?
Despite my anti-social tendencies, I've been pushing myself to get out of the apartment to go wherever possible! Lately I've been hanging out quite often with some of my students, because we've already got a basis of knowing each other and it's good practice for both of us since generally our language levels are about equal! Last Thursday, I met with one student, Bianca, in St. Pölten, the capital of Lower Austria. St. Pölten was mostly pretty typical (a shopping area, some churches, a city hall, a Christmas market... old news), except I immediately ran into some camels, which was weird, since it was snowing. I went to a bar with Bianca and we met up with some of her classmates, which sounds strange in theory but in practice was actually quite fun! I'm not sure if most people know this, but students really like it when their teachers are a. normal and relaxed and b. also struggling to learn something (in my case, German). Mostly I speak German outside of the school, which is fine by me. They taught me lots of German songs and I even got to waltz with some of them - because, yes, Austrian bars that play mostly American music do randomly start playing totally Austrian music. Why not? Bianca during the night referred to me as a "Vip"... meaning a V.I.P, but she rhymed it with zip. Funny how some things don't translate well...

Anyway, my German is still all over the place but I think getting better. Recently, someone told me that my written German was worse than my spoken German, which was a big surprise to me! I used to be pretty good at writing (or so I thought), but haven't really found a good reason to write in the past almost two years, so apparently that has gone downhill while my ability to mindlessly chatter auf Deutsch has picked up! In meeting up with my students, I'm also learning how to send text messages in German, or even better in dialect! Yes! I really wish I could get a Austrian dictionary so I could see some of this strange Austrian language written down... 

I'm discovering that time has adapted in my mind. Wait 8 minutes for the U-Bahn? No problem. Commute 1.5 hours to work, but also add 30 minutes to wait for the train? Ain't no thang. I think my brain is so used to constantly intaking things that I've become used to wasting time. I don't really think I've been bored in Austria yet, because there's always something I could be doing. Pretty cool. I can remember the professor of my Cross-Cultural Management class at UP talking about how he had a song he loved in Switzerland, but when he come back to the States he discovered that it was actually... quite slow, and not that interesting. (Side note: 6 months ago I never thought I would remember anything from that class.... who knew!?) I'm glad we only have to work 13hours a week  (or, 3 last week...) or I would never have learned how to slow down. Except my walking - that's still faster than a speeding bullet.

Today I was given some freedom in a class, because the teacher was at a conference, so I taught them American slang. It was so fun! Listening to a room full of Austrian students saying "sup, bro?" "bummer" and "peace out" is one of the funniest things I've ever encountered. I've noticed that English is full of contradictions. For example: "That's hot" and "that's cool"... both mean a good thing. Or, "What's up?" and "What's going down?" both ask what is happening. I'm glad I don't have to learn American, it's probably way harder than Austrian since we have so many states and our slang changes every 2 months. We also corrected the grammar of some rap lyrics, and jammed out to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "My Posse's on Broadway", just to tie it all back to Seattle. I was digging it.

In other news, I fly home in 9 days! All this Christmas music is making me anxious... Also, by the way: Austrians celebrate Christmas on the 24th. So, Baby Jesus brings all the gifts on the 24th, and then goes to help Old Man Santa Claus deliver presents to the rest of the world, because he's so old, he needs help. Or at least, that's how the story goes...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cold, Krampus and Christmas-y Things

Austria has been cold. I mean, I'm used to thinking it's cold in the winter time, but seriously, it was below freezing for over a week (18 degrees this weekend). There's been snow on the ground for 10 days! I am learning how to fashion my clothing so as to stay warm (2 pairs of tights, thick socks, scarf around outside of coat and over mouth, hat, hood, at least 3 layers under coat....), and I think I've figured out that the best solution to the cold weather is to never be alone. So, friends, I'm using you. I've gone on a couple snowy runs in Schöbrunn which are actually quite fun because of all the ice and snow! There's also some seriously cute birds in the park right now, I wish I could get a picture. One of them flew right at my face multiple times and then flitted back to its tree... just saying hello! Anyway, I'm beginning to understand what the Austrians mean when they say you'll "get used to the weather".... Currently, it's 42 degrees and I just found myself thinking that maybe I don't need a coat to go to the store!

As for some other winter wildlife... I have finally seen bunnies on the train ride to Krems! There's nothing like spying a little brown bundle of cute bounding through a huge white field. It always makes me think of the Oregon Trail game, and I want to pull out my shotgun to get me some meat. Just kidding, but I do like how our eyes recognize motion so well! Today from the train I also saw a large group (20 or so) of white swans floating down the Danube! I thought these animals flew south during the winter... but perhaps this is southern enough for them.

Christmas market at Schönbrunn
Christmastime is celebrated differently than in America, however everyone is just as excited! I've been to 8 or 9 Christmas markets already and there are still more to discover in Vienna! These markets sell all sorts of Christmas decorations and less seasonal decorations, as well as delicious food and of course Glühwein. It's kind of fun seeing what kind of goods each market has. My favorite so far is one at the Alte AKH (old hospital), which has lots of trees and the stands are set up almost as if they are in a real village. Yesterday was St. Nikolaustag, aka St. Nicholas day... so on Sunday, a few friends and I attended a Krampus run in a Christmas market at the Alte AKH. In theory, a Krampus is a beast that comes with St. Nikolaus to punish the children who have been bad, while St. Nikolaus gives the good children some candy or fruit. In Salzburg (and I think a lot of Western Austria) the Krampus come and really chase people and whip them, especially girls between the ages of 19 and 30... which is terrifying! Sadly, the Krampuses I saw this year were pretty tame. Yes, they still had the huge scary masks and wild furry bodies, but they only tickled a couple people with their whips, and even took the time to pose for pictures! It is a strange tradition, for sure, with the parents forcing their children to look at these monsters. Anyway, after the Krampus scampered around for a bit, out came Jolly Old St. Nikolaus, and then it was almost like a visit to Santa at the mall! The kids all lined up to get a second to talk to St. Nikolaus... but first, they had to walk by a Krampus. That's Austria for you.

Krampus, saying Grüß Gott to a wee child. 

My school is still great. My teachers are so funny, really! Last week I mentioned that I needed a haircut, and one of them hooked me up with the "father of her children", Heinz, who apparently is "very attractive" and everyone in the room knows. He's a nice guy (attractive? not so much, since he's like 55.) and gave me a pretty good haircut despite his lack of English (and my... German). I'm really impressed about the positive atmosphere in their staffroom - there are about 60 teachers, but they know all about each other and seem to really care. It's nice to be welcomed into the community! Some of them were slow to warm up to me, but I think my flitting about and smiling and rambling in broken German has helped me finally win over everyone. 

Classes are fun, however I'm finding myself making terrible mistakes! There's nothing like seeing a classroom full of people taking notes about something that you've said, and then realizing it was absolutely wrong! Things I've lied about:
a "telemercial" is a commercial selling you something (also known as an infomercial)
Turkey has melatonin in it
Many, many things related to the government of the United States (sorry)
...not to mention my many grammar mistakes, such as mixing up many and much. I think it's time that I speak ONLY German with German speakers, and only English with English speakers, so no one poorly influences my grammar any further. See? What I just said is such a strange formation! 

Tomorrow is the day that Mary got pregnant (obviously - that's why the baby Jesus was born 3 weeks later... right?), so we've got a holiday. In fact, I only worked 3 hours this week, and will still get paid. Thanks Niederösterreich! Never again will my work schedule be this easy.

Anyway, I'm returning to America in 16 days! Get excited, Seattle and Portland. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

I was told there would be bunnies.

Today I had an interesting experience in one of my classes. I was asked to talk about immigration, and decided that the Portland Bomb Plot that happened this last weekend might be kind of interesting to talk about. So, I brought the article to class. The students were actually decently into the article and volunteered to read the whole time, which was a first in this particular class. Anyway, we then talked about immigration, and some of the students were seriously vehemently against immigration, and Muslims in particular! It was... shocking, I guess. I mean, I know that I've hard about how much many of the Austrians dislike Muslims, but I've talked to people before and it always seems to be at least a little balanced. In the view of some of my students, the Muslims are violent and prone to conflict, and therefore a nuisance. Also, I that recently a Caucasian Austrian man was mowing his lawn near a Mosque, and a man in the mosque complained that it was interrupting their prayers... and the Austrian was forced to pay 8000euro. The teacher told me this to show how the government is going to rather extreme lengths to "keep the Muslims happy" so they don't do anything "radical"... ah! What a tricky situation. Because, yes, a lot of terrorism DOES come from countries with a strong Muslim population, but I don't think that should mean the government should act just to keep the minute threat of terrorists at bay. It was almost embarrassing for me to listen to a couple students yelling about they hate Muslims, because it just seems so uneducated, especially from a teenager. Interestingly enough, the HLF (tourism school) students always complain that they don't like the HAK (business school) because it's full of Muslims, however the conversation I had took place in the HAK...

Anyway, on a more positive note: This weekend, I went to Burgenland! Oberschuetzen, in particular. Our friend Luke teaches there, and we decided that one night was probably all we needed there... ha! We took Taylor's car (woo! roadtrip!) and drove the 1.5 hours (Austria is small - in those 1.5 hours we were in 4 different Bundeslaender) to Oberschuetzen, then took a nice little walk through the fields. It was a picturesque landscape, with a nice Nazi memorial and some manure. On our way back through the town, we came across a group of 200 or so people standing around some wee children who were singing Christmas songs! Turns out, it was the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. It pleased me to see the majority of the town of Oberschuetzen, plus to hear some Kindergarteners sing a little diddy... and to drink the nice gluehwein (mulled wine... necessary when it's 32 degrees outside).

After this nice walk, we hit up a Maturaball, which was the entire purpose of our destination to Burgenland. The Matura is the cumulative test for students, which they take at the end of the last year of school (called the Arbitur in Deutschland), and at some point during "ball season" each school has a Maturaball. These balls are not just like prom, it turns out! It's kind of a homecoming, with parents and alumni and friends all coming together. We had some trouble getting into the ball (Luke didn't have black shoes... seriously, 15euro wasn't enough?) but then discovered around 500 people in a huge room listening to a live band play all those strange American hits like from Grease, Dirty Dancing... etc. After about 30 minutes of wondering if this was all we had, we found the back room with all the students dancing, and basically rocked the dance floor. I'm really beginning to learn some terrible Austrian songs... like Cowboy und Indianer, which is fun mostly because it has dance moves (which aren't at ALL racist....). On that note, American music is sounding better and better. Every single American hit sounds great to me! I think it has something to do with being proud of my homeland... even if it's Katy Perry or Flo Rida or (gasp) Rihanna.

Near Krems, in winter! This is what my life looks like.
Anyway, the snow has begun to fall here in Vienna and I'm afraid it won't stop until March. There's about an inch everywhere in Vienna and Krems, which means that boots are a must. I've officially ticked "running and sliding and looking like an idiot in the snow while running for the train" off my bucket list... thanks Austria! I am keeping my eyes peeled on the ride to Krems every day because I hear there are bunnies hopping around the fields... so far, no bunnies. Just deer and heron and sparrows. Not good enough!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Austrians Say the Darndest Things, and Thanksgiving!

There have been some pretty great little conversations I've had recently that I'd like to share and remember...

As as student and I wandered around (I was killing time between classes, he was going home and maybe didn't appreciate my company but whatever)...
Me: So, what did you do at school today?
Student: Oh, I worked in the kitchen!
Me: Oh, nice! What did you cook?
Student: We cooked.. flat pork with uhm... a... bread... thing around it
Me: Oh... what is that called?
Student: Schnitzel.

Another student Sebastian and I are train buddies, he never ever speaks in class but talks to me all the time on the train! Whether or not I am fostering a crush from a 17 year old is to be decided, but I like it because he lets me say and ask anything. I think it’s all for the sake of learning. Leading up to this conversation, we were discussing a house that I see from the train that has real deer in the yard! I was wondering why anyone would have deer, and it turns out, Sebastian knows the owner! Crazy. Anyway,
Me: Oh, man, Austria is a small country...
Sebastian: Perhaps yes, but it is such a LOVELY  country!
Props to Sebastian, tourism school has done him well.

My first day of school, Gerlinde introduced me to her best friend Susi. I was informed that Susi is really nice, but she can't be my best friend because she is already Gerlinde's. Okay! These ladies are great. They teach me all sorts of strange Austrian things and laugh alll the time about who knows what. Susi yesterday told me that she had had back pain, but then they put some ointment (like icey hot, maybe?) on it and now she was feeling LUSTig... aka funny? I am always bewildered by their insanity. Things I've learned from Gerlinde and Susi...:
der Sauhof – a pig sty! Aka Susi's desk, and my purse.
ein Gesichtbad nehmen – to make an apperance. Aka what they do at all school events.
I geh Huam - I go home (or, gehma Huam - we go home)... this one gets me laughs everywhere, and is actually useful.

I’ve recently been babysitting a bunch. It’s sometimes stressful, more than in America, because these 2 little girls certainly speak German and I certainly speak like a „baby“ (according to Alwine) in German, but whatever. Kids are kids, and all kids like it when you humilate yourself and act like a pony, or make them feel like an airplane. It’s pretty cool to be involved just a bit in a real Austrian family. The other day I caught the mother threatening her child with the story of „Struwwelpeter“, which made me so happy. Today Alwine and I had a pretty great conversation, too. They have a CD of English songs like Old McDonald and some random Christmas songs and stuff, and one of them goes like this „hands, hands, clapclapclap, feet, feet stampstampstamp...“ and so on... anyway:
Me: hands, hands clapclapclap
Alwine: Nein! Katie! Es ist „clampclampclamp!“
.....which is decidedly wrong. But of course, I don’t speak English, no no. Alwine also corrected my adjective endings auf Deutsch today... She’s 3. Bah! I wish I could learn German naturally!

Anyway, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I celebrated Thanksgiving in a couple of ways, probably more than in America! Firstly, Jenni and I went back to Salzburg and met up with three other former UP-ers: Denise, Liz and Isaac. It was nice to walk around and talk to people who I know and are in similar situations. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the UP Center (yumm) and brown-nosed with some old professors, which is one of my favorite activities, and stayed overnight with Gundi, our old music professor. I got to borrow some books from the Gund also, hooray!!

 I had been talking about Thanksgiving in basically every class over the last week, because teachers think it’s important for their students to understand American holidays … which I can dig. I made up some little skits of scenes from my family’s past (embellished a bit) like, having to run to the store to get apple cider, or eating too much and digesting after dinner, or beating another family at Apples to Apples (face the facts, Caldarts. Weltners dominate.). The students got pretty into the whole idea and really acted, which was cool! We also made the turkey hands of yesteryear. You know, those things where you trace your hand and make a turkey? Right, well, I made the students all right something they are thankful for on all four fingers and it turned out pretty nice! I think Thanksgiving is a pleasant holiday. It kind of reminds me of my Great February Experiment because everyone needs to take a moment to stop and appreciate what great things they have in their life, whether it be friends, family, cats or a job that lets you work 10 hours a week. My coordinating teacher mentioned how it’s almost like a religion… OR the GFE!!? Anyway, stay tuned for what happens in February 2011.

Talking about Thanksgiving so much made me a bit sad, because I knew I’d have to wait another year to witness the ridiculous antics of my family… so I made some pumpkin muffins and brought them to school, which was cool because then the entire staffroom knew it was Thanksgiving and kept hugging me and saying “Happy ‘Tanksgiving’ Katie!” (or Katja, or Kahtie…) which was cute, and maybe made me tear up. For dinner on Thursday, Jenni and I had some friends over for Schnitzel with cranberry sauce, and potatoes and vegetables… which is all kind of Thanksgiving-y, right? Right. We had in total 6 Americans, 2 Austrians and 1 Brit, and the foreigners were pretty overwhelmed by our American pride and occasional southern accents, I think. Not to mention we Americans also consumed the usual 2 helpings plus dessert, and still had room for wine! Anyway, it was fun to get together with people I like and have fun with, and to dance for four hours to America's top 40.

So, anyway, Austria is progressing for me. Sometimes it’s hard to be here, hard to be surrounded by people who I don’t understand, but I’m kind of learning to tune out German unless I really want to listen, and it feels less overwhelming. Some days are harder than others, which is probably normal. Days where I teach are the best, even if they are long (on Wednesday I left at 5:30AM looking at Orion's Belt, and came home at 7:30PM looking at the Big Dipper...). It's really helpful for me to have something I have to do, some meaning to be here! It's pretty cool to hear that the students decided to have me come to class rather than have a free period to study for their test. Am I that interesting? In other news, It snowed today in Vienna, which is a bit frightening because it’s November and I don’t really like the cold, but snowflakes really do look pretty when they fall so I will try to appreciate it. At least we have Gluehwein to keep us warm…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Food und Fitness!

So, I thought that I would discuss a theme in this blog post, something I haven't ever really done, but there's a first time for everything.... and what better to talk about than FOOD? And fitness, the opposite but necessary cousin of food.

Let me first talk about why this topic is interesting to me. I've asked my students about their stereotypes of Americans, and usually hear something about how fat Americans are, and how much fast food they eat. Being a person who rarely eats fast food, and being not fat, I decided to study why they think these things about us. Because, you know what, Austrians eat fast food all the time! McDonald's in Austria is cool. Some of my students have worked there, and all of them go there at least every once in a while. And everywhere on the streets one can buy fried potatoes, not to mention Döner Kebab, a European's (drinking?) staple. Even the traditional, 'healthy' Austrians eat loads (or loaves?! Witty!) of bread and cheese, defying every carbo-phobe's beliefs. So how do they stay so fit and healthy?

Well, turns out, I don't really know. But I did realize that Austrians often 'exercise' less than Americans. It seems to me that Austrians are less muscular. I'm not a part of an Austrian gym or anything, but it seems like there are some very predictable ways for most Austrians to get their heart pumping.
  1. Walking, and fast. I have never walked as much in my life as I do in Austria. Gas is expensive, so people are more likely to walk or use public transportation, or both. And, these Austrians are speed walkers! I am is also a speed walker, but some of them could really give me a run for my money. Living close to Schönbrunn, I am also witness to a lot of 'walkers', which brings me to...
  2. Nordic Walking. Basically, walking with skiing poles. Apparently it's really good exercise. Alone or in groups, you just go! I have been nearly stampeded by some of these walkers in Schönbrunn... and I tell you, don't mess with those sticks.
  3. Running. People run here. That's pretty normal. I am learning, however, to not smile at strangers while running, because (in my experience) they either glare back, or start running behind me and try to strike up a conversation. No, thank you, I am not interested in a glass of wine after my run. Ahh, I'm not on Willamette Boulevard anymore...

Most of my students don't do 'after school sports' or anything like it. I think the massive amounts of walking helps one stay in shape for longer... but who knows.

Eating in Austria is also different. I might have mentioned that lunch is the 'big' meal here. Which would be fine, but it messes up my schedule so much! Usually for breakfast, I eat a hardboiled egg on the train (this is a no-no, by the way, but you try making breakfast at 445), and then eat a small sandwich as a snack around 10 or 11. Lunch is served 3 times at my school, and usually I go to one of those, especially if all of my classes are done. Lunch consists of: soup (yum!), followed by salad (vegetables!) and main course (meat!), followed by dessert (yum again!). It's pretty great to have a cheap way to eat real food! However, by the time I'm done, I'm stuffed! If I have to go back and teach, I have to shake myself out of a food coma quickly. Anyway, by dinner I'm usually not very hungry, much to Jenni's dismay... but she feeds me anyway. I find that I eat a lot more here, because of all this standing (teaching) and walking and running (either for exercise or towards my train... bah).

Today I was walking down the street, eating an apple, and someone wished me 'Mahlzeit!'. Mahlzeit is said when one starts eating... kind of like bon appetit, only it is used abundantly. I think it's pretty cute.

Anyway, I don't really know the secret to Austrian health, but I think it definitely has something to do with all the bread, sausage and wine.

Classroom ettiquete is another interesting topic. Whenever a teacher walks into a classroom, all the students must stand up. Okay, that's manageable enough. Usually I mutter something like 'okay.... sit down..... PLEASE!' and get no response (because they don't speak English), so I just motion and say 'Sit', which works well. Turns out, students are like dogs! Anyway, teachers also sit while they teach classes in Austria. Mine find it bizarre when I don't utilize the offered chair that they put it in the front of the room! I may not be a trained teacher but I don't believe anyone could successful manage a classroom from a seated position... and besides, it makes me feel uninvolved and unexciting. I prefer to dance and prance around the room, thank youu.

This weekend was my first weekend alone in Vienna, and I survived! I spent Friday night babysitting some little girls, which was interesting. They spoke no English (except Hello, and clap, and hello hardly counts since I think they're really saying 'hallo'), but we played a bit and I learned a few words which I promptly forgot (normal). It's pretty tricky to rationalize why you can't hit your sister to a 3.5 year old when you don't speak the same language. But I had fun, and made some money, and the parents want me back, which is all encouraging! I've been really feeling the burden of culture shock this week, but it was nice to make a bit of money... and to FINALLY get paid my salary today!

Baby Jesus?
On Saturday, the Christkindlmärkte (aka baby Jesus markets aka Christmas markets) opened! Yes, before Thanksgiving. Don't blame the Austrians, they don't know about Thanksgiving. Anyway, I went on Saturday to the market
near the University. It was great! There were decorative lights and delicious sausages and Glühwein (delicious warmed wine, so wonderful) and lots of great things. Apparently, at the University, once all the stands close at 10 one in particular turns into a disco. So, we ended the night dancing to some of Austria's top 40. All in all a great little adventure.

At the Markt/discothek. Note Christmas decor and smoking woman.
Checking out some bones in Mödling
And on Sunday, Luke and I went to Mödling to visit our friend Taylor. Mödling is about 15 minutes from where I live, so this really wasn't a big 'trek', but it was nice to explore outside of the city! Mödling has a bunch of cute little walking paths (a Nordic walker's delight!) and some nice buildings. Also, we went to Liechtenstein! The country! Only kidding, unfortunately that is the one country bordering Austria I have NOT been to... but the castle here is called Liechtenstein. 

Labyrinth in Mödling

Chris and TayTay and Liechtenstein!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Puttin' on my shades to cover up my eyes

Contrary to popular belief, there is no music in Vienna.
The last few weeks/weekends I’ve been hanging out close to home, which is pretty great! I’ve spent a lot of time in Krems recently, despite only working 7 hours a week (holidays are abundant in this country). This week, Jenni and Taylor came to Krems for my school’s magical lunch, which luckily lived up to their expectations! We got the VIP treatment by some of my students again, and I felt like a celebrity because they knew my name. I still have many a problem with eating in the cafeteria (sometimes I forget that salad comes AFTER soup and then they forget to serve me my main course, which means I have to get it myself, which means everyone near me is confused, but I just awkward-laugh it off). On Friday, the Kremsers (3 TAs) invited me out to go to a heuriger with them! Heurigen are a specific type of restaurant in Eastern Austria, which wine growers can open to serve the wine of the year, or from years past… however they can only be open for 3 weeks at a time, and each city has only 3 open at a time. They also can only serve cold food! Anyway, we each had a glass of 1964 Gruner Veltliner, yes 1964! Quite old, and cheaper than a normal glass of wine in America. It’s a pretty cool experience! I’m excited to go to more. There was a sign on the wall that said: Von Junglings bis zum Grosspapa, trinkt alles gerne Wein - hurrah! which made me smile.

In Krems, I’ve also been running into my students a bit. It’s a weird situation, because technically I am their teacher, so I should in theory distance myself, right? But I’m also an “American ambassador” or something, so I feel like I should let them know basically everything about me! Anyway, if a student ever talks to me I ramble to them for as long as they let me, so I guess I’ve made my decision on that one. It’s fun to learn from them, and so far none have really been offended by my many questions. I met up with my old buddy Sebastian (we met last week when we missed the train) on the train the other day, and we had some interesting conversation. He informed me that he is Catholic, but never goes to Mass and doesn’t believe in Jesus and maybe not God… I wonder how that is Catholic? He told me about how many students his age are upset at the Vatican for their actions and for taking their money, so many of them are kind of distancing themselves from the Church. However, I wonder what will happen to Austria when this generation of “Catholics” becomes adults who make real decisions. Maybe they will go back to the Church as they grow up, or maybe not. Austria’s culture is very Catholic-centered though. Churches are the focal points of cities, Christmas markets are big tourist attractions… it’ll be interesting to witness the future.

The only thing Sebastian was not willing to talk about was Josef Fritzl, who is located in the Stein prison in Krems. Fritzl is a… character, who trapped his own daughter and grandchildren (with this daughter) in a basement for years. He was recently all over the news because he wants out of prison, and is sad that his family doesn’t visit him! Sebastian says he is embarrassed about the topic and informed me I shouldn’t talk to Austrians about that. Thank you, Sebastian. Noted.

Walking to the U-Bahn Station in the morning
In other news, I AM LEGAL. Yes, friends and family, I finally got my Aufenhaltstitel (residency permit). I may not have mentioned that I hadn’t gotten it yet… but I did! I walked 30 minutes across Krems (so, all the way across) to the OTHER Rathaus in Stein, to find the magic man with my card. He pulled a folder out of a stack on his desk and there was my card! I exclaimed things like “Wunderschoen! Super toll! Fantastisch!” and other corny German excitement phrases because I was so pleased to finally find it! This week, I also finally set up my phone, and paid rent, and figured out how to work my bank account. I really made some progress in Austria, I think.

I had a not so great Austria moment the other day, that bummed me out more than it should have. I was adventuring in Schoenbrunn, as I do, (note: someone recently pointed out to me how EVERY time I go to Schoenbrunn I have some sort of strange experience. Totally true.) and I was on my way home when I started walking towards a woman. We did that weird dance of hey, I’m going this way, oh so are you, oh well I’ll go this way etc. that happens often in the modern world. Well, I chose a side and laughed it off as best as I could. Experience over, right? Apparently not. The woman came up to within 2 inches of my face and nearly yelled at me!
Mean lady: Was ist!? (what are you doing?)
Me: Uh…… wie bitte? (I’m sorry?)
ML: Warum folgen Sie mich? (Why are you following me?)
Me: Uhm, ich gehe………… da. (bad German for I’m going there)
ML: muttermuttermutter….. and she walked away.
Anyway, I probably could have said something like oh, what a culture misunderstanding, in America we go to the RIGHT and you here go to the LEFT (why? I can’t figure it out) or, it was just a funny accident! But instead I just felt attacked and flustered and kind of disappointed that Austria didn’t understand me. I nearly cried, in fact. But maybe the woman was just having a rough day. She needed a little Schoenbrunn TLC, definitely. 

The ÖBB (Austrian train service) and I have also been having some... trouble. I was thinking last week about how nice some of the conductors are! Sure, some are kind of grumpy, but when Jenni didn't validate her ticket (entwerten problem AGAIN) he let it go, no problem. Well, today, that all changed. On my usual 5.56 train, I was told that my monthly ticket I bought LAST WEEK was not valid anymore because I was missing a valid student ID card, though I showed it when I bought it and had it with me on the train. And then I had to pay €15! I was crying and confused and a mess as usual when it comes to these types of things, especially when he wrote on my pass that it was no longer valid! Ah! So many problems. So now I'm stuck trying to figure out how to get a student ID card. Basically everything that could be wrong with my train ticket is... I have no valid ticket, I have no valid discount card (waiting for it in the mail, NOT MY FAULT ÖBB), I have no valid student ID card and I have no money, since we get paid next week for the first time. It's going to be a stressful train week.

Opening a coconut, duh
I recently revisited the Naschmarkt. The market is so cool! Apparently on Saturdays (and maybe other days too) it is a flea market, with all sorts of old clothes and shoes and books and household knick-knacks that I don’t need. It was fun to walk around and see so many people stocking up on things! They are also into haggling at the market, which is amusing. One kid tried to sell us a t-shirt, and somewhere in the conversation brought up “vey-oh-vey”… which, I realized, meant WOW aka World of Warcraft. I felt appropriately nerdy, though I still don’t understand why he mentioned it. The normal market is also so great. I make it my own personal goal to get as many free samples as possible, which is usually quite successful! Yesterday I went to the market starving, spent about 3euro and left full of hummus and falafel and dried fruit and other Turkish delights (but not actual Turkish delight)! Success I’d say. Definitely a recommended visit if anyone ever comes to Vienna. 

Last weekend, Jenni and Luke bought a pumpkin. This pumpkin has become our "buffalo".... aka we've used every last bit! We carved it, obviously, because that's what we Americans do. I baked the seeds. I made awesome pumpkin soup, of which I've had about 6 hearty bowls. And now, I have made delicious pumpkin muffins. And there's still pumpkin left to use! This season is so great!
Look Ma! I made muffins!

I also learned how to dumpster dive for food this weekend. Check in soon for more details on the results...!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A bit o' culture

Musikverein, not my photo but gorgeous!
On Thursday, Fabian invited me to go to the symphony with him. Fabs is pretty lucky, since he works at Vienna's sole Musikgymnasium (high school) so he gets hooked up with free tickets to things all the time. So, to the symphony we went – at the Musikverein. The hall is gorgeous! I'm constantly shocked by how much the Viennese spend on creating this music halls or other cultural sights. Not to mention that they've got naturally great accoustics.... anyway, we saw pieces from 5 female composers, and that was essentially the only similiarity. The first piece from someone modern, I believe it was Olga Neuwirth, and it was psycho. Certainly not something... anyone would ever listen to more than once! One instrument was the sound of an ambulance, and all the percussionists were going CRAZY with all their xylophones and gongs and drumsets and triangle bells. It was amusing, definitely, and in contrast to the other more normal pieces, really interesting!! It was a cool experience.

Pumpkin friends at Hundertwasserhaus
We are experiencing another five day weekend (thanks, Catholicism), which is interesting. We had to stock up on food on Friday, since the stores close early on Saturday and won't reopen until Wednesday morning! Luke came from Burgenland to add some spice to the monotony of Katie/Jenni time (kidding, boo) and we adventured on Saturday to the Hundertwasserhaus. This was the first thing I ever saw in Vienna, over 3 years ago! Luke aptly described the house as 'not childish, but playful'... it's just a creative mess of an apartment building. I find it very cool, though not really much a tourist destination since you just walk around the outside. I found out, however, that a building I admire that is near my train station is also from Hundertwasser! He also designed a Ronald McDonald house, which I find appropriate.

Yesterday, as most of the English-speaking world knows, was Halloween! It caught me a bit off-guard, actually. I feel like that is such a strictly American thing that there would be no point in celebrating it here! Anyway, celebrate we did. The three of us carved a pumpkin, and the seeds are currently baking (sidenote: why are normal pumpkin seeds white, however when they come on bread etc they are green?)! A friend knew of this pirate themed party held in a random basement hosted by some awesome Djs, so we went. Austrians DO know how to celebrate Halloween! The music was hot, lots of great Austrian jams that I'll have to get our friend Taylor to teach me (she's got an Austrian man who teaches her the important things in life, like the words to these songs). I also am trying to make homemade pumpkin soup (my absolute favorite Austrian food) for the first time, but so far all I've got is a messy kitchen. We have no butter, milk, creme or onions so I suppose the soup will have to wait until Wednesday.

Austria, I am learning, is a small country! It's quite ridiculous. I just cracked open a new book, The Piano Teacher (thanks, stranger) and saw that the author was from that tiny town I accidentally visited, Mürzzuschlag. What are the odds? Apparently relatively high. I suppose it makes sense – Austria is smaller than Washington State, so of course things seem smaller. Some of my colleagues talk about how I will know Austria better than them by the end of this year, because it's so common to remian basically stationary where you are in Austria. We'll see. I don't really imagine myself traveling much of Europe while here... I would rather get REALLY into Austria until I am an official Austria Nerd.

Strange thing about Austria: my Betreuungslehrer (coordinating teacher) just retired! In the middle of October! Apparently, once you turn 60 years old, you have to be done with your job by the end of the month or they start to remove your pension from your paycheck! Strange, but makes it so people make way for the younger generation. Anyway, it works out well for me, since now he'll have plenty of time to take me on a tour of the Wachau wine region.

The best part of Sunday (or in this case Monday) mornings is the new PostSecrets! I find this one encouraging: 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Jaa!! Sie hat sicher das Bieber Fieber!"

The "sign" for some Magistrate office in Krems. Not. Helpful.
It's been... a weird week in Austria. Because of holidays and my nice schedule I only had 2 days of classes this week (so, like 8 hours of actual work, ha!) but they ended up being very tiring days... I guess I'm realizing this is 'real', that I really do have to pay 4 months rent (2 months = deposit) before every getting paid, that I really do have to get that legal stuff done to be here (which I can't seem to figure out how/where/when to do, and also costs money), that I really did choose to live over an hour away from my workplace and that that TOO costs money... bleh. All these 'adult' things stress me, basically, and I don't want to deal with them. I don't know how people my age do it, be successful! I think I've spent too much time in laid-back Portland and at the University of Portland with their kind yet excessive handholding.

 One of my schools, the business school (HAK), can be very frustrating for me. The students don't really care or want to learn, and it reminds me of American high schools where you only go to school because you have to. But, the nice part is that the teachers don't care at all what iI talk about, which reminds me of language classes in the US! I can remember talking about all sorts of random German things with basically no theme at all. Anyway, I hate to have students blankly looking at me. I had 4 classes with the HAK yesterday and it just kind of wears down my spirit a bit.

Despite my stress, there have been some really positive moments that remin me that being here is most likely worth all my frustration.

Today, I taught in the HLF tourism school, which I certainly like better! I was told to teach a lesson in the way teachers generally say... 'So, talk about __ and then lead a discussion on it!'. Now, I'm no certified teacher, but I do remember that the last few times I've had lectures on subjects I could care less about, I have very nearly fallen asleep. And frankly these kids don't care about immigration, or Seattle, or politics... so I've devised on-topic games and ignored my instructions, and it works quite well! I did that in a classroom today of a teacher I really dig, though I forget her name (I think it's Lizi, but there's 2 of them and I don't know what the difference is). After class she talked to me for 10 minutes about how the kids really like me, and how I should be a German teacher (or, marry an Austrian and teach English, but we agreed there were a lot of problems with that plan). Now, I've definitely thought about that before but know that my German isn't perfect enough to teach, buuut it's nice to hear from someone who I speak German with and I teach English with that she thinks it would be good. So, that was really nice. How awesome would it be to get some kids seriously excited about German!? I could totally do it better than Frau Taylor. I got excited.

And I do think the students like me! Story tiiiime: so, a couple weeks ago a student said hello to me at the train station. Actually, he said 'Hel-Low KAYtie' in that really great Austrian pronunciation. Anyway, our conversation went like this:
Him: Hello Katie!
Me: Hi, how are you?!
Him: I'm Sebastian! I was... in the class....
Me: Oh, uh... no, how are you doing?
Him: I am going home!
Me: Okay, super, where is home?
Him: (somewhere in Austria)
Me: Cool............. bye. (thinking, it's going to be a longggg year...)
Sooo yesterday I was scampering down the hill to the train station fully aware that I had about 2 minutes to make a 5 minute walk AND buy a train ticket, looking like an idiot, when Sebastian says to me in perfect English 'you will never make it!' and from there we had a nice lengthy 2 hour discussion while we waited for the next train. It was cool! I mean, I enjoy my job because I am a teacher, yes, but also I can just be normal with them and talk about whatever I want. Sebastian took me to see the Danube, finally! It was... super pretty. I think I will paint the moment because it was just nice with the sunset and the mountains and the river and a bridge and dogs and bicycles and all of my favorite things. But yes, turns out Sebastian CAN speak English. He told me all about how to get home from Krems at 4am (the trains are unlocked – just climb on and go to sleep), where to ski (helpful? No. English? Yes.), why the school is called HLF (höhere lernen fremdverkehr, or something, which means high learning tourism, but since their school/Austria is stubborn it is hlF not hlT), annnd other fun things (he hates his English teacher and lived in Salzburg this summer!).

I feel kind of crazy being here because I realize how American I am! Austrians are generally very private people, never really asking much about others or talking about themselves, whereas I vomit my life story all over classrooms (30+ so far) and on this blog and whatever! Facebook is totally changing the way we communicate, of course, and now everyone can basically know anything about my day to day life, but even before the internet Americans are always all about that. It's strange. But in my eyes it makes it easier to get to know me/us because you don't have to worry about what questions to ask or whatever, it's already been said! When I don't speak my thoughts, it's probably a sign of something wrong (again, look at me unearthing all of myself publically). Anyway, it can be difficult to chat with some of the teachers because they don't much like to talk about themselves, but luckily most of them are kind enough to keep talking to me and turn the conversation back to me, or something. Sellllfcentered. I have been told that I wear my heart on my sleeve (thanks Fr. Art) and I'm realizing too how true that is...

I'm staying in Vienna this weekend, which will be nice. I'm looking forward to sleeping in and then walking about the town on adventures! There are some places I've been wanting to see in the city but haven't had time to go to after school, so hopefully I can fit those in on this 5 day weekend. 

Did I mention I accidentally bought black licorice flavored toothpaste? I constantly smell like a European...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Unspeakables!

So, one of many observable things in Austria is the difference between what is and isn't publically accepted, both in real life and in my schools. So... let's begin. Disclaimer: not trying to offend anyone, these are just my ramblings.

Cigarettes: as a non-smoker, this activity makes zero sense to me. I mean, look at the negative side effects: expensive, gross cough, other diseases including deathly ones, smelly clothes, bad teeth... aside from a small, temporary head buzz, there are no benefits! However, people in Austria smoke all the time! At my fancy dinner last week, after the second course, ALL the students left for a smoke (or at least, to be with the smokers).... yet none of the adults did. Herr Gutmayer commented that he thought it was ridiculous that they all had to go smoke, but clearly the kids weren't in trouble! They are all of smoking age (16... though it might be 14?). Another time, a teacher told me that she's having problems with her students because they want to go on a 'Language Week' to London, but since they are doing a homestay, they can't smoke all week... as a result, the students don't want to go. Their teacher, however, told me 'I KNOW that they'll smoke no matter what, I just can't tell them that it's OKAY for them to smoke at these homes – why can't they figure it out!?' Interesting. Anyway, I think America, or at least the Northwest, has Europe beat on this one.

Alcohol: this topic is much less black and white for me. In theory, imagine how great the world could be without alcohol! People would be healthier, would learn how to interact better socially, would save money, would do less stupid things. But alcohol is a real component of society in most cultures, especially Western. Not that Austria/Germany (don't tell them I'm clumping them together, they'd hate it!) is really the lederhosen-wearing, beer stein-drinking ideal that some movies make it out to be, but it is commonly found. I had an interesting discussion with Rene, the new Austrian director for the Salzburg program. He mentioned that he doesn't see why students shouldn't be allowed beer or wine in the Center (which they are), and that it's completely normal for Austrians to have a beer with dinner... but he cannot support excessive drinking in any way. So, that's a 30 year old's opinion for you. I think it is logical. Anyway, I want to get back to the topic of WHY we drink. I don't support people saying 'man, I was so drunk last night, I did this stupid thing' because really, it was stupid, and maybe you shouldn't be forgiven just because you got yourself into this child-like mindset. There is something comforting about having a drink to 'loosen your tongue', so to speak, and I am very aware of this since I am often socially uncomfortable! But what if I just had to suck it up and talk to people without the use of some modifier? Would it be okay for me to still be out at the bar? Could I do it without judging people for their drinking? Not that I'm proposing that I'll stop drinking, because sometimes I really do like the taste of beer or wine, but I think that society has seriously figured out how to brainwash everyone into thinking that drinking is cool. Not that it'd be the first time society has brainwashed us... Also, another note, my students DRINK wine in school. Not just talk about it, but become wine connoisseurs. Somalier, if you will. Living in Krems aka Wine Capital A.U.T., they have to know how to make wine, taste wine, sell wine, etc. It's pretty crazy, considering I know next to nothing about wine. Anyway, talk about reinforcing drinking habits.

Nudity: Walking to the subway station, I pass at least 3 posters of somewhat naked women. Not doing anything scandalous, but getting a massage or a vacation thing or whatever else. It's normal here to see nude art and not make fun of it like we did when we were 7. The nudes are almost always women though... I wonder what it does to the developing teenage girl to see attractive, naked women everywhere! You never see ugly naked women, or naked men for that matter. It's definitely... different. But don't fret, my students still have to cover themselves completely, more than we did in high school (they let us get away with those little cheerleading skirts? Really?).

Drugs: Again, talking to Rene, he described how vehemently opposed to marijuana most Austrians are. He studied criminal psychology, and was talking about how by smoking, you reduce your ability to make rational decisions. Also, they punish anyone associated with drugs much more than they would in the U.S. I heard this and thought, oh yes, that does make sense Austria! If it's really affecting the long-term, it probably should be condemned. But then I get on and read that they might be legalizing marijuana completely in California! What a contrast. I understand it is part of the Californian economy, but.... well, I don't know, I am not really informed enough on the topic to give my opinion. But I do know that all of my students say that America has a lot more drug use than Austria, and I'd say that's probably true – especially for drug use on a regular basis, not that I'm familiar with the opium dens of Vienna like Fr. Art feared I would find, but people who do any drugs here seem to do it in a much more isolated situation.

Aaanyway. Things are different in Austria. Surprise!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Snowy Salzburg, among other things

The last couple days have been a whirlwind of activity! Let me summarize, hopefully in order.

On Wednesday, I was invited to a formal dinner with one class of my students (3C, for the record... so they're 16/17). It was... awesome! I showed up and found half of the girls in dirndl while the other half wore rather short shiny things, which I guess is typical for 16 year olds. Anyway, the food was outstanding, including pumpkin soup, (my favorite!! thanks Mom for that one), some sort of lamb with pesto risotto, a meat dumpling, a plum dumpling for dessert and endless wine and bread and other things - 6 courses in total. It was served by another class (3D), which was fun, since they knew me and had to speak English with me. By the way, Herr Gutmayer was also there, of course, because that man hooks me up with food wherever I go. I was pleased, to say the least. At dinner, I sat next to their class teacher (like a homeroom teacher, he is their teacher for all 5 years of their time at the tourism school) and we had to speak German for about 3 hours so I was really on a roll. I've told the students that I can't really speak German so they don't try to speak with me, but some of them complimented my German throughout the night so I guess the cat's out of the bag on that one. Anyway, I was honored that the students invited me and I hope to go to have dinner there again! Normally it costs 20euro for a fancy dinner like that, and you have to make reservations in advance. I unfortunately didn't take any pictures, since I left my camera in Vienna, but I'll try to steal some from the students.

I got an awesome email last week. Let me copy it....: "So is also the problem that i have any others free evenings, You know! When can we meet us, I needed some help from you! ;)" Ah, Austrians. This kid wants help tutoring, which is super. The only reason I mention it is because, after making fun of him for a second, I then responded to an email saying "We can meet us on Wednesday". AH, bad job Katie, why am I teaching English!?

Melk, with the Abbey in the foreground
On Friday, Luke (our Burgenlandfreund), Jenni and I took off to Melk to meet up with another TA there, Charles. Charles teaches IN the Abbey of Melk, which is insane. We wandered around the Abbey and the gardens for a bit, then headed off to Amstetten, where Charles actually lives (about 30 minutes away). There are 2 things you should know about Amstetten. #1: The top Austrian men's volleyball team comes from Amstetten (and they all live with Charles. THEY ARE TALL.) #2: Josef Fritzl is from Amstetten. Google him - it will tell you a lot about the people in Amstetten. Anyway, we actually did enjoy ourselves. We went to a volleyball game (which they won, duh) and cheered like silly Americans, then wanderered about the town. Twas nice.
Proof that we snuck into the Melk Gardens (not worth our 2euro)
But the nicest part was the next day!! The 3 original travellers hopped on another train to a familiar city, Salzburg! Jenni and I got the AOK from the new director, Rene, to stay in the Center for a couple nights, so that we did. Lots of things are still exactly the same, though little things are different. Hopping off the train in Salzburg, we got our first sighting of Untersberg, but the train station was different and we felt foolish! No matter. That night, we showered at the Center and then went off for dinner with another TA in Salzburg, Karen. Karen is kind enough to let Luke crash with her even though he is a complete stranger (they split the TAs up into two groups in Austria). That night, we went off to Augustiners for a beer then headed back home to the Center, since we were pooped.
Being back here is crazy. On Sunday, Jenni and I wandered around the Center in our pajamas like it was 3 years ago, and no one seemed to mind. The students here are still pretty fresh into the program, so we aren't invading their space so much as providing a chance to give advice. It's been fun talking to people about what they should do in the area, what we're doing in Austria and how they should practice German, etc. Not that we're full of all sorts of advice, but we've been there! On Sunday, we hiked Kapuzinerberg, my favorite spot in Salzburg, and got a nice view of the city and whatnot. We also went to S'Guate for dinner, yummm. Everything tastes delicious and just as good as before, though we have yet to get the Knusperchnitzel and will be going back there tonight for dinner.

A very Austrian meal, minus my Kurbiscremesuppe

Last night we were also invited to the Sunday Dinner followed by Sunday Meeting. This progam in Salzburg is seriously a formula, of sorts. I mean, the students do the exact same thing and it produces such similar results! With 40 students in a one-year program, you obviously find that not everyone is your best friend, but already you can see that the students are finding their "people". We found the old guestbook that students from our year signed and were reminded of how, when we left here, everyone was seriously like a sibling. I mean, I think that if anyone from my Salzburg year program called me and said, hey, Katie, I need you, I would go help them because I know too much about them to not feel a connection with them in some way. 

Salzburg... where is the Festung?
The best moment of the weekend so far was waking up this morning. I opened the window and saw two fantastic sights: Frau Strobl, and SNOW! Yes, snow. Yesterday it was essentially fall, and today it is snowing! Jenni and I had plans to climb Untersberg today, but decided that if it's snowing down here, climbing a tall mountain might not be the best plan. So instead, we climbed Moenchsberg, which is the large hill the Fortress is on. It was a nice pretty walk with the snow and whatnot, and we ended it with delicious pretzels from near the Cathedral and a massively Austrian lunch. I was reminded of what COLD feels like, and am already afraid of what an Austrian winter will do to me. Also on this adventure I saw a sight that made me... laugh? Fear my future? I'm not sure yet. But anyway, what I saw was an older woman walking 3 cats, in the snow. The cats looked unfriendly but not unpleased with the situation. I tried to pet one but was rejected. I realized the fatal flaw of cat-lovers is that as a tourist, you never see cats! People have their dogs everywhere in Austria, on the subway, in restaurants, wherever, (always with a muzzle which makes them look terrifying!) but no one ever has their cats out. I'm hoping to find another teacher who has cats who will let me visit...

Snowy rose in Mirabellgarten
Salzburg is seriously a wonderful city. It makes me jealous of Karen that she gets to be here, because this city is so great! It's smaller than Vienna, and thus much more manageable. I have yet to find "my" coffee shop or "my" restaurant in Vienna, and though it's nice to feel so comfortable in my own apartment, I would like to know more about the city. Not that Vienna isn't wonderful, but I still feel like there's a lot I need to discover, and it's a bit overwhelming with so many options. Plus, finding special places is expensive! You can't sort through all the bad and the good without trying everything. Anyway, I would love to be in Salzburg again, because I know I'm not the same person I was 3 years ago and I would love to find things that suit my life now. Plus, it's fun to be in a city where I have an excellent sense of direction, because we can wander about and still know where we are! All weekend, Jenni and I have been trusting this strange feeling, like "I'm not sure of the in-between steps, but I am sure that this is the right direction....". Ah, memory, I don't understand you but I do appreciate you.
View from Kapuzinerberg

I think one thing I'm really noticing I've learned is how to ask for help, and to say what I want. Maybe it's a bit of an arrogant attitude, but people here in Austria like me because I am American, and want to help me! All I have to do is find the courage to ask, which is getting easier to do with time. Jenni also pinpointed something I've been thinking about a lot lately, namely what I should do with my "life". Still not sure, of course, but I do like being able to have a position of small authority with students. Working in the UP Studies Abroad office was always fun, because I got to talk about something I like (Salzburg/studying abroad) while also being a pretty much professional representative. I think I'm a pretty relatable person, but also like being organized... so anyway, don't know what that means for a "job", but I would like to work with people. Anyway, we're back in Vienna tomorrow, a national holiday so we have no school. Only 2 days of school until another 5 day weekend! Man, this job is so hard...