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. 

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