Monday, October 4, 2010

Shocked by culture?

Well, today was the first day of school! I guess I'll start with a little summary...

Woke up at 4.44. If you know me at all, you'll know that this is a MISERABLE time for me, yet I somehow am going to be doing it 4 days a week (I have Fridays off)! My train leaves a station about 25 minutes away at 5.56, so I'll be waking up before 5 every day... going to take some getting used to. Anyway, I panicked and thought I'd missed my connection to the train station, when magically the stop I needed appeared in front of me! In my excitement, I forgot to buy a ticket... The ticket man scolded me (in an intense dialect) and repeated 65,95 and then walked away, which left me confused, but still on the train so I just sat there and pretended we were all good. And apparently it was! 

I got to Krems an der Donau and followed some school-looking children up a hill to my school! I'm teaching in two schools, conveniently located in the same building. The tourism school (HLK) is my "base school", and is AWESOME. The tourism floor is completely remodeled, and I have a spot in the faculty room (since the students stay in one classroom always, the faculty have to have a place to put their things) and found out where the magic coffee is, so I'm set!  Students take lessons in all sorts of things related to tourism, like working at reception, cooking, serving, etc. They also must wear uniforms to school, with ties and nametags! The school has a kitchen in the basement, or wait, 4 KITCHENS, and when I was on my tour I got to sample the Kaiserschmarrn, a delicious dessert. 

I worked in 2 classes today, both tourism. The students were the same age but had different levels of German, but I did the same activity of getting to know a little about me. Weirdly, the students don't know of Microsoft or Boeing and barely Starbucks... but they do know the Space Needle from Grey's Anatomy and that Twilight was filmed in the area. Thanks pop culture.

The business school is much more normal-looking, with a crowded staff room and un-uniformed students. I haven't really had much interaction down there yet, but I'll be splitting my schedule between the 2 schools so I will get used to it soon. 

Anyway, I'm feeling a little crazy today. I don't know where my knowledge of German went, but it's really not there and I'm struggling to communicate much. The Austrian accent is pretty hard to understand, and it's difficult to not be able to understand fully and be able to communicate when I have a problem, or just to be myself and make jokes! I hope it comes back soon... but I'm such a perfectionist, I don't really want to sound like an idiot so I often just don't talk. I think I need to find some way to work on my vocabulary so I can feel like I know more than 10 words.

If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy.
They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes.
On second thoughts, I’d rather hang around and be there with my best friend...

Some thoughts:
  • People are essentially the same. It was nice to be surrounded by all sorts of Americans and Great Brits to be reminded that just because Portland is ridiculously homogeneous, the rest of the English-speaking world (and the whole world) is just the same... some people you'll get along with, some you won't, everyone dressing the same, everyone basically valuing similar things... you just have to find the way to communicate with everyone.
  • Europe is more expensive without provided meals and a stipend provided for weekends...
  • Students in these classes are much more eager than students in the US. Even the quiet ones seem to always pay attention, and often they are just quiet because they don't speak the language.
  • The two ways to get out of things is to either act with confidence, or act with complete ignorance. When I forgot (literally) to buy a ticket this morning, I just acted like an idiot and got away with it!
  • The time change is more frustrating than I remember. But then again, sometimes there's just not much to say to people back home... but then again, I often feel like people will never "care" about what is going on in my life if it doesn't relate to them, which might (probably) be wrong.
  • The Viennese drink a lot! And, sleep very little. I am the opposite!
  • It's interesting to be surrounded by all this Catholicism. I feel like I've encountered a lot of people who just accept their faith as what was given to them, and it's such a part of life here that they just DO Catholicism, without questioning. Sure, the holidays are great, but I don't agree with believing something just because everyone around you does...
  • I don't miss home that much. I feel pretty at home in Vienna so far, though it's hard to not know where many things are. It's both a blessing and a curse to have Jenni with me. We can just sit and do nothing and be quiet, or go out and get lost together and that's fantastic. However, I have a tendency to not do things I should unless I'm forced to. Today I went by myself to get my monthly train ticket and did well! Spoke German, didn't get lost in the renovation of Westbahnhof... I just need to work on being independent more. 

1 comment:

  1. definitely true #4, my friend liza's most important lesson learned from working for the US government, its better to ask for forgiveness than permission! works every time! miss you!