Friday, February 18, 2011

The Great February Experiment 2.0

January 2010 was, for many reasons, not the best month for me. I felt pretty depressed and upset for most of the month, and knew I didn't want to feel that way for ever... so I decided to force myself to be happy by undergoing a project I called the Great February Experiment (GFE). Essentially, it all comes down to positive thinking. I tried to appreciate every little moment in my life, whether it be a great bike ride, or the moon, or some seriously cute little girls selling flowers. I figured that if I could make myself think everything that was "good" was "great", everything that was "okay" was "good", and everything that was "bad" was "okay", then I might be able to change my mood. Turns out, it worked!  I spent most of February 2010 being deliriously happy (props to my roommate Cate for putting up with my insanity) and the experiment has helped me stay a lot more positive since then.

So, now it's February 2011, and the experiment is back in its namesake month. January 2011 wasn't quite as depressing as January 2010, but the short days and bad weather certainly didn't do much for my mood. I'm finding that the whole experiment isn't quite as powerful as it was last year... though it's still good to be reminded that it feels better when I think nice things about people or situations. Always judging people or assuming the worst of every situation makes life worse!

So, let's talk about February so far.

Austria appreciates the February doldrums, it seems; they give their students (and teachers!) a week off! Jenni and I took this opportunity to travel to Portugal and Spain to hang out with her cousin. It was a seriously fantastic vacation. Even though I've been in Europe for almost 5 months, I still have only left Austria twice (once to Slovakia, once to the US). It was great to be in a culture that is different from Austria... not only are the stores open past 7 PM in those countries, but people are just getting their second wind for the day! The weather was great, we ate too much delicious food and we got to have car dance parties - obviously I was in heaven. For me, though, the best part of the whole trip was feeling curious! Having been in Austria for so long, I've kind of gotten used to most things. That's not to say that I understand everything - I certainly don't. But in Portugal and Spain, things were different (they eat at 10 PM? they mostly drink espresso? they take a siesta!?  they love feeling claustrophobic!?) and I found myself feeling interested and curious about everything. It felt... refreshing. I've been trying to carry that mindset back into Austria, because if I don't care about differences in our cultures, I'll never learn or remember anything about them, and then what's the point in being here?

Anyway, while traveling we stayed in a bunch of hostels (including Hostelworld's #1 hostel in 2010) and met lots of people, all traveling for different reasons. I've come to realize recently that I don't have the "travel bug" that many other people my age (or any age?) do. I mean, I am dreaming of the day when I can settle down in Portland, and currently spend my free time looking at kittens from the humane society. Living the "travel" life is, frankly, kind of selfish. You don't make money while traveling, you don't help others while traveling... and sometimes I don't know if that's what I need to be doing. Not to say that I'm not very grateful that I have the opportunity to do this, or that experiencing new parts of the world is a bad thing - I just know I can't do it forever.

In other February news, my schools are great. The teachers have been really kind to me all week, saying nice things about how I teach (although my Betreuungslehrerin did tell me my German went downhill over the semester break... but I'll talk more about the direct nature of Austrians in my next post). It's reassuring to know that they think I'm doing a good job! It helps to distract me from feeling bad about being "selfishly" here.

So... here are some pictures from my adventures!

Castelo de San Jorge in Lisbon. Built in 1147 - bad ass!

Ali and Jenni on the cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

Cats! in Cadiz, Spain

Carmo Convent in Lisbon - roofless since 1755. 

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