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!

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