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...!!!

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