Vienna Journal, January to June 2003
Dedicated to all the students who shared this semester in Germany and Austria with me. We didn’t have that many chances to spend time together, and I have never had the world’s best social skills, so it took me a long time to get close to you… but I did eventually, and I’m going to miss you now. If any of you have any suggested changes for this page, or any words of your own to add, please send them to me.
Thu 1/2 18:23
I am going to use the 24 hour clock during this semester because it is what they use in Europe, and writing 18:23 takes less time & space than writing 6:23 p.m.
Mom and I got to Amsterdam this morning, when it was still last night at home (we lost about 8 hours in the time zone change). Eventually we got out of the Netherlands and into Germany by train, and rented a car.
We spent all of today trying to find our way around: first getting to the Go-One place, where Mom wanted to test a Go-One pedal-powered vehicle, and later finding a restaurant for dinner and a hotel to spend the night.
Streets make NO SENSE. Not anywhere in the world. I am fed up with streets for today. I just want to go to sleep here at the hotel, but I can’t do that for another few hours because I have to get onto the right sleep schedule for the time zone I’m in. Mom advised me to do that, anyway, though she’s not encouraging me much by being asleep herself right now.
Sat 1/4 20:09
We took trains from Passau, where we stayed last night, to Vienna, where we are now. Actually, we’re in a small town called Maria Ellend, near Vienna. We are spending the night at the house of our relatives Wolfgang & Lotte.
Tomorrow we may visit other friends and relatives, like Uli and Farzan, and perhaps Onkel Karl & Tante Hansi. And on the 6th mom and I go to Prien and part company for another few months.
I am excited, though nervous.
Mon 1/6 11:13
Yesterday, as expected, we met with Uli & Farzan & Karl & Hansi in the morning. Later we visited the Vienna technical museum and saw a display about bicycles, which was fascinating (they even had a Go-One).
We are on the train from Maria Ellend to Salzburg, where Mom will get on a northbound train and leave me to take the train to Prien and then take the taxi to the Goethe Institut where I will be meeting the group.
We will arrive in Salzburg in about half an hour. It has snowed a great deal and every branch is coated in white.
Tue 1/7 12:43
Oh, no. I don’t even know how to begin.
I’ve gotten to Prien and spent my first night at the Goethe Institut. Everything has changed and it is all HORRIBLE.
I am not fitting in AT ALL. When I make a joke no one even knows it’s a joke. There are people who are sympathetic enough to pay a little attention to me, but no one who is like me, at all, even a little bit. I cried for hours last night about what an idiot I’ve made of myself trying to talk to these people.
And that’s not even my biggest problem. It turns out I can’t register for classes without an Augsburg transcript, and Mom and I requested one when I got back from Mexico, but it hadn’t been sent to us yet by the time I had to leave for Europe, and I don’t know when it will be, and the internet in the library is closed today so I can’t even contact my mom. I don’t know how soon I absolutely need to have the transcript, and I’m afraid to ask because I know I will probably burst out crying again. I hate crying in front of near-strangers.
I also hate the fact that I can’t use my laptop in my room because it has a grounded plug and my room doesn’t seem to have a grounded outlet. We went to all the trouble of finding an adaptor to convert a grounded US plug to a grounded European one, and then when I plug it into the outlet in my room, sparks start coming out. They say they will ask the Technik guys to look at it tomorrow, but I can’t do anything today.
Why does everything have to go wrong? Why?
I am a little calmer now. Ruth, the sort of leader of the group, told me she must have the transcript by the middle of the month and she will email my mom telling her so. That gives me enough time, maybe.
I have also found out that my plug works without sparks if I put it in a different socket on the power strip, there may have just been something wrong with the one I was trying.
I still don’t have the internet in my room, and I don’t think I will get it because the available net connection is dial-up and my laptop probably can only do ethernet. I don’t know if the dorms in Vienna will have an ethernet connection, when we go there for four months after our two months in Prien.
But I can still type papers & stuff, and I will be able to use the library internet when I pay the fee. I used it once yesterday before I knew it cost money. It works fine, although I am still not used to German keyboards.
Wed 1/8 16:19
I am feeling much better about the group. We are getting along fine now. I guess my initial reaction was just from not knowing them very well. I do not know them completely yet, but I know them better than before.
I have paid the monthly internet fee at the library and can now use the net there if I can find a time that it is open and not completely occupied.
My laundry is washing.
Last night my roommate moved to another room without telling me, and I came home to find someone else in her bed. No problem, a girl has a perfect right to get a different room if she wants one, and the new roommate is very nice too, it was just a bit of a surprise. For a few moments I thought maybe I was in the wrong room. It was kind of funny, actually.
I’m having fun in general. This afternoon I learned my way around town somewhat. I bought some postcards and stamps, & wrote to my family. I’ll mail them when I figure out where I’m supposed to.
Fri 1/10 10:49
Yesterday I mailed my postcards. It turns out there’s no place to mail them except the post office.
I also checked my email. It turns out you have to sign up for a computer to use and a time to use it, even if you’ve paid the monthly fee. I guess that makes sense, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting it.
I managed to get online for an hour, though. Some of my friends on Star Trek newsgroups live in Germany and I might like to visit them on weekends.
I wrote the previous entry during a break from the long morning class. (Classes go from 8:30 am to 1 pm.)
After class, anyway, we went out in a boat to the island. There are two main islands in the Chiemsee, the big lake near which the town of Prien is located. One is called Herrenchiemsee or Herreninsel (island of men) and the other is Frauenchiemsee or Fraueninsel (island of women). The Herreninsel has one of King Ludwig’s famous castles on it, and the Fraueninsel has a church with a convent.
We visited the Herreninsel today. The rooms in the castle are decadent beyond description. I forgot my camera, but photography wasn’t allowed in the castle anyway, and there wasn’t much else to see outside. The fountains were covered for the winter and the sculptures were hidden under little protective buildings that looked like outhouses.
Maybe it would have been fun to get a picture of those, actually. And the trees were pretty, all covered with snow.
Everything is pretty around here. Prien is a really picturesque town with little statues tucked into corners, like this one of a man who looks as if he is pledging his undying love to a fish. And lots of places at the Goethe Institut have a beautiful view. There are great sunrises even from my bedroom window.
Sat 1/11 20:28
Today we took a train to Munich. We saw many interesting things, including a church called St. Michael’s, a statue of a warthog, a statue of a fish, a church called Frauenkirche, the little short building in front of it (I would probably have been able to rest my elbows on the roof), a cathedral-like Rathaus on Marienplatz with little shops in the bottom of it, and a building with statues where Hitler gave a speech once.
It was freezing cold but fascinating. I talked a lot with some of the other students and now we know each other another little bit more. I am really not scared or upset at all now.
Sun 1/12 11:40
The library is closed Sundays so I can’t go online now, but I signed up for 2 to 3 pm tomorrow.
Tomorrow I must also ask whether I can try plugging my laptop in to see if maybe it can do a dial-up connection, or if one isn’t allowed to plug anything in until one has paid for it, in which case I won’t bother.
I miss the internet, though. I got more chances to use it in Mexico than here, which is not what I expected. I feel cut off from my family & friends at home.
And I am going to find it hard to arrange visits with my internet friends who live in Germany, if I can’t contact them frequently. I’ll have to make sure to sign up for net use whenever I can, and maybe get a phone card, though they are complicated to use.
Mon 1/13 13:49
Done with class for today. Quite a bit of homework to do, but it can wait until after my hour online. I am still going online in the library. I have decided not to bother trying to set my laptop up with a dial-up connection. It’s quite likely not to work, it would cost money, and I am not going to be here all that long.
I am having the same experience with German that I had with Spanish when I went to Mexico: I am realizing that my German is actually not perfect but very limited. I am doing well in the class, but I find myself making the same little errors I have made for years.
Maybe I have a long way to go before I can be a translator.
Tue 1/14 3:41
A strange dream that I can’t remember woke me up before two this morning, and I have been trying to sleep ever since. I am not sure if I have woken my roommate up or if she is just sleeping restlessly.
Last night we watched an unusual movie about a guy who is in love with a woman and then gets invited to a club for gay men and falls in love with this guy in a dress, and then finds out that he’s gotten his girlfriend pregnant and has to marry her, so he does, but she’s freaked out because he is having an affair with a man, and right after the kid is born she tells him she never wants to see him again, and the last scene is a conversation between him and his male lover, but he doesn’t seem sure where things will go from there, like who he really loves, or whether his relationship with the man will work out, or whether the girl will ever take him back, or what’s going to happen to the baby, so it’s kind of a sad ending.
The movie had a lot of funny parts, though. But I didn’t understand everything because it was in German and they all spoke pretty fast & not very clearly.
I finally got to sleep after lying awake until after 5 thinking about the movie and other stuff. I slept until shortly before my alarm, and got up and had a good breakfast and went to class. It’s a break in class now. I have somehow managed to stay awake in class this time. I’ll spend half an hour on the net this afternoon, then do homework and maybe laundry.
Thu 1/16 19:08
I have arranged to meet my friend Birgit from the Star Trek groups this weekend, in fact Saturday, meaning I would leave for Hamburg tomorrow.
I have two main options. I might leave on a train at 2:40 pm, change trains in Augsburg around 4:15, and get to Hamburg sometime after 9, then spend the night in a hotel and meet her Saturday. Otherwise, I might leave at 9:10 pm, get to Munich at 10:09, switch to another train, sleep in the train and get to Hamburg at 7:50 am on Saturday, when I could call her and arrange to meet.
In either case I would want to get to the Bahnhof as early as possible tomorrow, to make sure I’ll have a place reserved, and to get a phone card so I can call her to plan a visit. I’ll most likely head for the Bahnhof right after class ends at 1.
Fri 1/17 16:13
I did it! I reserved a place on the overnight train, and I got a phone card and called Birgit– it’s really not so complicated at all.
She will meet me tomorrow at noon. All I have to do is get on a train tonight at 9:10, get off in Munich, get on another train, go to sleep, wake up, get out in Hamburg at 7:50, and find stuff to do while I wait to meet her.
This is so cool! And I’m already planning to meet a couple other newsgroup friends, Vanasati and Arachne.
Seven pm and restless as heck. Can’t wait! Train is around 9:10. Should probably leave 8:30 just to make sure I get there in time. Not that the Bahnhof is a very long walk from here. But I can’t wait to get started on this venture ASAP.
I have hardly ever planned a trip like this all on my own, and I think I am actually going to pull it off successfully, and I am pretty darn pleased with myself. Maybe Erika is not as incompetent as she seemed!
Waiting at the Bahnhof now. Only half an hour left until my train comes.
Finally in the train! Just have to wait until we get to Munich’s east station in maybe an hour. Then I can get on the train to Hamburg & relax for the night.
Man, this sleeping car is nice. My own little bunk bed & everything. When I reserved a “Liegeplatz” (lying-down place) I expected a seat that reclined really far, like the seats in one of the trains I rode with Mom. This is a real bed. There were also “Schlafplaetze” (sleeping places) available– I wonder what those are like. I just hope I get up for my alarm clock.
Sat 1/18 5:40
I got up way before my alarm clock, in fact. I’m hungry. I think I’ll eat some of the strawberry candies I bought at the station, and the rest of my chocolate. Wow, there is good candy in Germany. Milka Bars rock. The strawberry things bring back a vague nostalgia… I must have eaten something like them on one of my previous trips to Europe.
I made it successfully to the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (a little late) and wandered around the city for a while, then had something to eat.
The bathroom here is really strange-looking and cost me 50 euro-cents to use.
But the streets and buildings in the city are interesting. The train station is so fancy-looking I had to get a picture, and so big that I had to take separate pictures of the front part and the back part.
I have two bags because I brought a change of clothes and all my other overnight stuff (in case I don’t get back until Sunday) plus my costume.
See, there are lots of masquerade balls around this time of year, and I want to go to one at some point. So a few days ago I bought some cardboard and silvery sticky paper and sequins, and made something that was supposed to be a robot costume but ended up looking like a cross between a suit of armor and something a Star Trek babe would wear.
I thought Birgit would get a kick out of seeing it, so I brought it along. And this morning in the city I also bought a skirt and some rings to go with it. I think it’s pretty cool, and I hope I get to visit Birgit’s house so I can try it on and show her how I look in it. But she lives about an hour away, so I don’t know if we will go there. We might just wander around the city & talk.
I hope I don’t have to spend too much more money, though. I have already used up almost 200 euros this week, and I have been trying to spend less than 100 per week because my account will not last forever, especially if I don’t get a job soon.
But worrying about jobs can wait until I get back to the USA. For now, it’s just worrying about how much money I spend. And it appears I spend a lot when I’m studying abroad.
I’m in the train again now. We had a great time! We talked a lot about Star Trek and language and the differences between different parts of Germany. I noticed that there is an elevator logo that looks like the IDIC symbol the Vulcans use in Star Trek, and an escalator logo that looks like a Starfleet insignia (and the company’s name starts with the same three letters as “t’hyla,” a Vulcan word.)
And we went on a boat ride on the river (not with the boat in this picture, but our boat wasn’t worth taking a picture of).
All I wish is that I had made more & better plans so we could have had more time. But we did have fun, and my German got some useful practice, and I am a lot more confident now in my ability to travel by myself. And I have experience for planning my next trip.
Sun 1/19 15:00
Arrived safely at the Munich Hauptbahnhof, and caught my train back to Prien. Got there after ten last night. Had a good night’s sleep.
Today I bought groceries, which consisted of four cans of noodles in tomato sauce and four little just-add-water soup cups from the gas station, the only place open today. It’s hard to find anything open on Sundays in Europe, apparently. Even the Goethe Institut’s library isn’t, so I can’t go online until tomorrow.
I wonder when I can go to a Faschingsball, one of those masquerade parties I mentioned.
My costume is just begging to be worn.
Wed 1/22 15:00
Not much has happened since my trip. Class has been going well, as usual. I’m finding this class quite easy. I think the reason I’m not in a higher level is that the placement test dealt largely with vocabulary, and my vocabulary is good, but not all-inclusive. I am learning a lot of words, though.
Sat 1/25 0:34
I hadn’t realized it was past midnight! I have not been doing much, just going through the documents on my laptop & seeing how I could save space. I guess it has taken up a lot of time, though. And I’m sleepy. Good I don’t have to get up early. On Sunday I’m going to a big indoor waterpark, but tomorrow (today) I don’t have plans.
By the way, I am planning to meet another few Trek group friends in Frankfurt (actually Darmstadt) early in February. Yay!
Sun 1/26 18:22
The waterpark was amazing. Yes, it was dark out, and my picture of the outside of the building turned out too lousy to post, but I assure you it was wonderful inside.
I spent most of my time in the wave pool (I’d never been to a wave pool before), but I also went in the sauna and on three waterslides.
The sauna was nice, being warm & dry after splashing around in cool water for a while, although it felt kind of strange that swimsuits weren’t allowed and I had to lie naked on my towel in there. The first waterslide was pretty wild in terms of having a lot of motion, but I don’t remember much about it except that I got water up my nose.
The second slide was what I’m really going to remember! Not only was there plenty of turning & twisting & slipping & sliding back and forth, but the tunnel was weird colors like pink and aqua inside, and there were multicolored flashing lights on the walls, and sometimes projected pictures, and every once in a while when I least expected it I would go through a waterfall or a cold spray, and there were even a few parts where the slide was open on top and went outside the enclosure of the building, so for a moment I was out in the freezing winter air! I had never been in anything like it before.
The third slide was mostly dark, though it had a few little lights inside too, and I didn’t like it as much because I couldn’t see the unexpected water sprays for even a split second before they were in my face, and a few times I almost inhaled them.
But every moment was interesting! I am exhausted now and waiting at the exit where we are supposed to meet.
Tue 1/28 17:53
After that exciting weekend, things have been pretty quiet. Classes are still going well & not too demanding.
Vanasati, the friend I was going to meet in Darmstadt on Feb 7th, has found out she can’t meet me until Feb 14th. I hope that’s okay for Arachne, the other friend who was going to meet with us. It’s okay for me– between Prien & Darmstadt, there are actually more trains to choose from on that weekend than on the weekend of the 7th.
But it will mean waiting another week, of course.
Wed 1/29 16:13
My room is being renovated today so I have to find things to do outside it. I have already gone on the net & eaten a chocolate bar & talked with some of the other students, and now I am bored.
I get bored too easily. I can’t be this uncreative. I know I can find stuff to do. Einstein said that being bored is an insult to oneself. But Einstein probably usually had a room to do stuff in.
Thu 1/30 22:54
Can’t sleep for some reason tonight, so I’m getting in another journal entry. This is the end of the first month of the Goethe seminar. There is some uncertainty about whether we have class tomorrow– all of us have heard different reports. I am planning to go to the classroom at the usual time & leave if no one shows up.
For sure, anyway, we begin a different class level after the weekend, and some new students will be arriving who are only taking one month at the Goethe Institut.
There are some routine festivities built around this significant point of the seminar. Last night there was a talent show with acting and dancing and singing. I was too far in back to get good pictures, but it was ok.
Today in class we played games and had crackers and juice and mineral water– there was even wine. I guess many of the students see studying here as a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and certainly it is a unique chance to speak German with people from all over the world.
But with my plans to go on to Austria from here and study at the Vienna University for four whole months, this feels to me like just a beginning. A nice beginning, but not something that has had a deep impact on me yet. Maybe when I’ve been here another month, I’ll feel more strongly affected by this part of the program.
Sat 2/1 16:02
I called Mom & Dad today. Not for very long, because my phone card ran out, but they were glad to hear from me.
I will have to get a new phone card next time I go to the Bahnhof. By the way, I found out what trains go back to Prien from Darmstadt on Sunday, so my visit with Vanasati is now very thoroughly planned, compared to my last visit, when I didn’t know what train to take back until I was about to take it.
I like being prepared. I plan to use my Eurail pass, and I will try to get as much use out of it as I can in the next few months, by going on trips with other people in the group. I want to see other parts of Germany and Austria, and I want to get to know my groupmates better. I still am not as close to them as I would like to be.
In Mexico, my group was very close because we were one group sharing Casa Cemal, four to a room, and doing all our activities as a group. Here, we are one of many groups and individuals staying at the Goethe Institut, in single and double rooms, and when there is an activity, I never know how many from our group will participate in it. We don’t even eat together very often. At least, the times I have happened to eat in the kitchen have not been times when everyone else was eating there.
I do sometimes talk with people from other groups, and that is fun, but I am worried that I am not bonding enough with the people I am spending six months with. This is the kind of system where I always somehow start spending a lot of time alone.
Wed 2/5 17:17
I don’t know how to describe how I feel.
At the beginning of this week I emailed a manuscript to a publisher: a collection of stories, poems, essays and insights that I’ve come up with since early high school. The title was “Born on the Wrong Planet.”
I just got an acceptance letter. It came a week and a half before they told me I could expect a response, and they say just a few things will have to be changed.
This has been my lifelong dream. I should be happy. I am happy. But I am also worried. Do some of the essays say too much personal stuff about my life ‘on the wrong planet’? Are there too many things in the stories and insights that would be inappropriate for little cousins to read; would my family be disappointed? What parts did the publisher want me to change? Will I look back on this years from now and think it is all horribly written and be embarrassed to death?
I should have considered this all more thoroughly before I started! I guess I didn’t, deep down, really believe it might be accepted.
I guess I will have to wait until they tell me what they want me to revise, and then when I revise it, I will also change whatever I might want to change for the reasons I have mentioned. I don’t know how much I can change and still keep the book basically what it was when they accepted it. Maybe I will use a pseudonym. Maybe I will give my family members pseudonyms. I really don’t know what will happen.
Thu 2/6 14:21
I have communicated some more with the publisher, and told my family & friends about what happened. They all sent enthusiastic congratulations.
But I am more nervous than ever. I don’t know why.
The publisher’s last email said that I could wait until June to start revising, and the book would come out in 2004. (It is an e-publishing company; the book comes out in both ebook and printed version.) I should be less nervous–I now know I have over half a year to revise whatever I need to.
I guess it’s like getting married, and every step of the preparation makes you more & more anxious. I hope it doesn’t keep getting worse all semester! I can barely deal with the level of nervousness I’m at now!
I went outside for a snow-sculpting contest, and it was nothing like what I had expected, but exactly like what I should have expected.
People got together in teams, only about two of which actually built anything of artistic value. The rest just piled snowballs randomly together, gave them crude names and got in a huge snowball fight, everyone trying to knock down everyone else’s snowman and retaliating like crazy whenever anyone succeeded. I guess it was fun, in a way, but I got tired of it after a while.
I found, though, that it relieved my nervousness to get involved in something else for a while. I guess it’s not just like getting married, but also like picking a scab. If you pick a scab enough, it starts hurting if you even touch it. But if you leave it alone for a while, it will heal and you can touch it without hurting. That’s kind of a weird simile, but it’s how I feel.
I don’t think my scab has completely healed yet, though. I can think about it without my stomach knotting up too much, but I feel as if I have to take my mind off it for a while longer before I will be totally comfortable about it. I also feel as if talking to Mom would help, but she probably won’t be available until the weekend.
I wrote an email to Mom, and that helped. Then I had a nice weird conversation with Lesley and Matt and some other students.
I have not talked much about other students yet. The ones who are only staying in Prien for 1 month have arrived, and one of them is my new roommate. We have a lot in common, especially our love of language. I am still afraid I am not close enough to roommates and other students. I will have to have more conversations. But my roommate is always very busy with homework.
Fri 2/7 18:29
I am completely recovered from the nervous phase. Emailing Mom helped a lot, so much that I no longer feel a desperate need to hear her voice (although of course I’d like to). She wrote me a very nice reply, telling me not to worry.
I called my brother last night and asked him to tell her I was feeling better. Then I spent the evening revising all the things in the manuscript that concerned me.
I will still have to wait for the publisher to tell me what things he wants changed.
Anyway, he is sending me a contract right away. I don’t know what I’ll do. Every time I’ve had to sign a contract, Mom’s been there to look over it with me. I don’t want to agree to anything that could cause trouble for me later. I guess I will talk it over with Mom through email & phone calls, and hope it works out.
Sat 2/8 16:53
I called Mom and talked a bit. Again, the phone card didn’t have much time on it, but we managed to have a nice short little conversation.
I haven’t gone anywhere this weekend. I had homework, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to start using up my Eurail pass so soon.
Classes are still fine. In fact, I have moved up to the Oberstufe, the highest level. I am one of seven or eight students in that class (I’m the only one from the US). The teacher is very nice, and the class seems more challenging than my previous one.
Wed 2/12 18:31
I gave a speech in class yesterday, because it was my turn to give one, and it ended up being about Tourette Syndrome and Asperger Syndrome. I thought it might be a good idea for the class to know I had them. It went well, and now some of the other students are making special efforts to interact with me– one girl has invited me to go out to eat with her and her friends this evening.
I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s nice to get to know some people more closely, and for them to make some of the effort instead of me having to struggle against my social disabilities to seek out contact every time. But I don’t want people to be especially friendly to me just because I have those disabilities.
Thu 2/13 20:31
Tomorrow I get on a train at about 14:40 and get off some time after 19:00 in Darmstadt! My friend Vanasati will pick me up, and I will stay with her and (I hope) Arachne until Sunday, hanging out and talking and watching Star Trek tapes. I have always wanted to see Star Trek in German. I have heard it is so badly translated that it’s funny.
Fri 2/14 17:04
Here I am in the train. I’ve been riding since 14:42, and I should get to Darmstadt at 19:23. Everything has gone smoothly and quietly so far.
Sat 2/15 7:57
I met Vanasati at the station, and we got in her car and went to her house. She got out bread and cheese and jam and stuff, and I made sandwiches for myself, and then we watched a tape, and then I went to bed in her kids’ room.
This is so cool! Vanasati is such a nice person, and my German is being good to me, not suddenly falling apart into broken first-year German the way it sometimes does when I try to have an everyday conversation.
We will meet Ara at ten-something this morning and eat together. Wow!
Tue 2/18 11:01
Haven’t gotten many chances for a journal entry since the weekend. It’s a break in class now.
The weekend was great! Vanasati and Arachne and I had so much fun talking about Star Trek and German culture and everything. We talked mostly in German, and I could usually figure out what to say, but they understood me when I had to say something in English. Best of all, of course, they understood my German!
We went to a castle called Frankenstein on Saturday morning. Not a king’s castle or a lord’s castle, just a fort where “Raubritter” hung out– “robber-knights,” like Robin Hood. (On Halloween each year there’s a huge party there.) It was beautiful, but I forgot my camera again. Rats.
The rest of the time we watched tapes. We didn’t end up seeing any Star Trek, but we watched a lot of Sentinel. It was great! I had never seen Sentinel before, and Jim & Blair are so cute.
I got back Sunday evening. Since then things have been quiet. I got the publisher’s contract in the mail yesterday. I’d gotten an email version earlier, and sent it to Mom and Judy, a newsgroup friend who’s worked with copyright law. Mom says it looks okay. Judy is still looking at it. To me it looks fine, though I don’t know much about those things.
There is a Faschingsball next week at the Goethe Institut! I will finally get to wear my costume! Yay!
Wed 2/19 20:21
Still not much going on.
Classes are going ok. The Oberstufe has a new professor, not as every-minute-entertaining as the last one, but with a good teaching technique.
Don’t know where I will go this weekend. I kind of want to travel more with the other students. There is a trip to Innsbruck on Sunday. It costs 25 euros, so I would need to go to the bank, but I think it would be a good thing to do.
Publisher asked me to email them latest revision of manuscript. I did, and they will spend the next week or so looking at it and then tell me what to change.
Paper version of contract is still sitting on my desk, although publisher asked me to return it signed. The email version was just to print up in case the paper version didn’t reach me. The paper version is what will really get me into this. I’m still waiting for Judy’s reply.
I might even send the contract back before I hear from her, if it takes her really long to answer. I am pretty sure it’s a good contract. Mom approved it, and while she’s a doctor, not a lawyer, she is kind of a renaissance person. And it looks like an ok deal to me.
Thu 2/20 17:10
I decided not to go to Innsbruck on Sunday. Instead I am going to Salzburg with some other Goethe Institut students tomorrow. I don’t know how many from my group will go– there was a trip to Salzburg last month, and the ones who went may not want to go twice– but I didn’t go last time, and I want to see the salt mines and everything.
I sent the contract to the publisher today. I had signed it but hadn’t mailed it yet, and I had mentioned that in an email to the publisher, and he replied that since I had already signed it, he was registering me for everything, and I realized I couldn’t really turn back even if I wanted to, so I went ahead and mailed it.
And by now I am sure I don’t want to turn back, anyway. They may have different ideas from mine about some things, but they are the first publishing company that has ever accepted me, and I am not picky at this point about who fulfills my lifelong dream.
Sat 2/22 13:21
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
I will not forget my camera.
There, I hope that helped. DARN it. Salzburg was so nice, and once again I couldn’t take any pictures.
I had kind of been expecting we would go to the salt mine, but we didn’t. We wandered around and looked at some castles and ate in some cafes and went shopping in some little stores, and in the evening we went to a concert, and all in all, it was an enjoyable little trip.
There was mistletoe growing on the trees. Wild mistletoe is much prettier than the little sprigs people buy in the US for Christmas. It grows in big delicate lacy spheres, hanging among the branches of deciduous trees. I suppose you could call it a parasite. But I don’t know if it does the trees any harm. It’s like a bromeliad, or Spanish moss.
I don’t know what I am going to do today and tomorrow. The library is closed today for some reason, and it’s always closed on Sunday. Maybe I’ll go to the store and buy a few little things, like chocolate. I can’t get enough of the chocolate here!
Email to friends, Feb. 25
Subject: Masquerade Balls, Robot Goldfinches, and Butt Parties
There is a Faschingsparty tonight– one of those dances where everyone comes in costume!! There is a notice on the door of the Goethe Institut saying that the dance is tonight and everything. The note is in German, and it tells that there will be a party afterwards in one of the residence halls. The people making the sign tried to find a German word for a party that happens afterwards, and wound up writing “After-Party.” Now, “Party” is the same word in German and English, but in German, “After” means “anus.” I don’t know, maybe the English meaning for it has come into use in Germany, but I was sure surprised to see it there.
At the party, my class is putting on a little presentation of a song. It’s a very silly song about some birds having a wedding. I remembered bits of it from a little book I had at home; it’s apparently a pretty well-known song.
There is some weird stuff in it. For example, the bride is an “Amsel” (blackbird) and the groom is a “Stieglitz” (goldfinch). In terms of genetic closeness, that would be about like a human marrying a capuchin monkey. But there’s some weird genetic stuff going on already in that family, since the mother of the bride is an “Eule” (owl).
All the birds participate in the wedding… the ducks play music, the peacock dances with the bride, the lark brings her to the church and so on. It goes all the way to the finch leading the couple to their bedroom, the owl (“der Uhu,” a bigger owl than the bride’s mother) closing the windows for them, and the bat (not a bird at all, of course) taking off the bride’s stockings. Then they all say goodbye and go happily home.
Anton, a guy from South Africa (who has a wife and kids of his own) is playing the bride. I am playing the groom. It just makes everything sillier that I will be wearing a robot costume. I made my costume weeks ago, and I’m not about to wear something different just so I will look like a bird in a play.
Anyway, I’m glad to be finally getting to go to a masquerade ball, and I hope I have a good time there. And what the heck, maybe I’ll go to the anus party, too.
Tue 2/25 23:13
The dance was great! The whole class was there, including several of the people in this picture.
We did our presentation, which was greeted with a great deal of applause and laughter. Anton wore a silly mask, a long blond wig, a stuffed bra, and thigh-high fishnet stockings, the last of which got immense appreciation from the audience when the student playing the bat removed them.
There were a few bits of confusion about little things like which direction one of us should go on the stage, or what the words to a particular verse were, but they mostly just made it funnier, and I think we did pretty well for having planned it all out only this morning.
Several other presentations took place, and then we all did some dancing, and later there was a visit from the Faschings-royalty, who danced very nicely for us.
I saw a lot of neat costumes. One student in my group and her gentleman friend went together as an angel and a devil. One girl went as Zorro. Many men went as women. My favorite costume belonged to my roommate from last month, who dressed up as German grammar. She had the articles for the nominative and dative and accusative cases on the front of her shirt, and prepositions on her sleeves, and irregular verbs on her back, and a head-scarf with big question marks all over it. I loved it!
I’m too tired out to go to the after-party, though. And I have to sleep if I expect to get up for class tomorrow.
Thu 2/27 10:41
We’re in the bus, heading for Vienna. Once again I am sitting alone and having no conversations. What happened to the lively social life I had in Mexico? How can I get closer to the others in my group? I have tried sitting with them at meals and talking, but I always end up saying something stupid, or something they think is stupid, or not being able to think of anything to say at all. I guess my social skills just thrive in some environments and wither in other ones.
Sun 3/2 12:10
I have been in Vienna since Thursday. We came here by bus and arrived at our dorms late in the evening.
My dorm building is called Studentenzentrum Donaufeld. The first night I had a temporary room because my room was being cleaned, but now I have settled into the room I will have for the semester.
I share it with a nice lady from the Czech republic. I am also making friends with the girl who now lives in my temporary room; she is from Mexico and is thrilled that someone here speaks English and Spanish.
Yesterday we went on a scavenger hunt, which for some reason is called a Schnitzeljagd in German. We split up into groups; each group was supposed to find the best route to various places and answer questions about the places themselves.
Among other things, we explored a church that had vending machines inside, selling CDs. “How spiritual,” I commented, and photographed them, even though it was way too dark.
At one point, I used an opera toilet. It cost 50 euro-cents, and had opera music playing in the background, and the stalls had fake curtains and numbers on them to look like seats in an opera house. It was the ultimate kitschy tourist trap. I loved it.
After the Schnitzeljagd we went on a real guided tour of the city, and learned a lot about Austrian royalty over the past few centuries. We saw the Stephansdom (church of St. Stephen) and I took two pictures.
On the Stephansplatz, the area around the church, there is always something going on.
That day there were people dressed up and painted to look like metal statues, trying to get donations for something. There were also musicians and jugglers and stuff. It was really interesting.
But mainly we talked about the Habsburg dynasty and looked at palaces, like this one that we saw from the street and then later up close.
We had a group picture taken, and Kevin threw a fit because he wasn’t ready when the camera went off and he ended up in profile with his eyes closed.
There is so much stuff to do! We have to register for classes, and for visas, and for student accounts, and I have to get a tick-borne encephalitis shot, and get set up with the internet in my dorm, and get a semester ticket for public transportation, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. Bleah. And I have to go to Lotte’s house and pick up the stuff I left there, but my phone won’t work to call her, and I don’t know what to do.
Well, I got to Lotte’s house and picked up my stuff. I got off at the wrong station on the way there, but not disastrously wrong, and a few kind strangers explained things to me.
I was lucky enough to arrive at a time when everyone was home. Lotte was glad to see me, although she was quite repetitive on the point that I should call before I visit, in case no one is there. We had a nice conversation and some cake. Then I took the train back to Floridsdorf with Gregor and Bernhardt, took the subway to my dorm by myself, and put away my things.
The subway and streetcars are fun to ride. From the U6, you can see things like the garbage-burning building designed by Hundertwasser, with its tall chimney.
Tomorrow, I hope, is the day I will get a lot of things done that need to get done. I would do them today, except nothing is open on Sunday. Rats. Das Leben ist grausam und schrecklich gemein, das Leben ist grausam und Klaus ist ein Schwein.
Okay, that was a bit too much. I am not miserable enough to start quoting the Prinzen. I must think happy thoughts.
Oh wie liebe ich mein Fahrrad…
Mon 3/3 18:10
Things I have learned today:
Near the Floridsdorf station, there is a “Meldeamt” to turn in your “Meldezettel” to notify the authorities that you have moved into the area and will be staying for a while.
To do this, you need a stamp and signature from an official of the dorm where you are staying.
You also need your passport.
When you try to turn something in, and they tell you they can’t do it without a stamp and signature, and you leave to go get those, you should take advantage of that opportunity to ask whether you also need your passport. That way you won’t return with the stamp and signature but without the passport, and have to make a second extra trip.
Do not buy a bottle of mineral water at the vending machine on the way out of the Meldeamt. The bottles from the vending machine at the Floridsdorf Meldeamt are unopenable by the human hand.
If you make the above mistake, it is a good idea to wait until you get to someplace that has a bottle opener. It is not a good idea to hit the bottle against something. All that will do is crack the glass.
If you make the above mistake, it is a good idea to throw away the bottle. It is not a good idea to try and drink the mineral water through the crack in the glass. It is possible not to swallow any broken glass while doing this, but it is impossible to do it without getting a big cut on your upper lip that bleeds like crazy.
If you make all of the above mistakes, it is okay to laugh at yourself afterwards. In fact, you thoroughly deserve it. But wait until your lip heals.
Tue 3/4 22:55
Oh, and a few more things I have learned since that eventful Meldeamt visit:
Although there are two washing machines at the Studentenzentrum Donaufeld, the same number as at the Goethe Institut, you can find far fewer times when one of the machines is available than you could at the Goethe Institut.
The washing machines at the Studentenzentrum Donaufeld do not always accept the coins you put in them. Sometimes a machine will take your first coin, then refuse the second coin no matter how many times you press the “return change” button and put it in again. It will also refuse to give back the first coinby means of the “return change” button.
Pounding with all your strength on the machine does not solve any of these problems. At most, it will make the metal band of your watch dig into your wrist, leaving a cut that goes nicely with the one on your lip.
People can live for a while without clean clothes.
People can also live for a while in a foreign country before it becomes absolutely necessary to get a visa. This is fortunate, considering the many complications of visa-getting.
When finding the Polizeikomissariat where you need to get your visa, consult a map first. Do not get lost and panicked all over the general Floridsdorf vicinity before it even occurs to you that there is a nice new map sitting unused in the bag hanging from your shoulder.
Polizeikomissariats sometimes change the format of the form they ask you to fill out. The form given to you by your study abroad program, which you filled out and brought to the Polizeikomissariat, is not always the latest model.
When you try to turn your visa form in, and they say they can’t accept it because it is the old kind, and they give you one of the new kind to fill out, and you leave to go fill it out at the study abroad office… take advantage of the chance to look at the sign on the door on the way out. That way you will know that the Polizeikomissariat is just about to close and you will have to come back tomorrow to turn in the form. This will save you an annoying extra trip.
But take heart: With every stressful experience, the sense of panic gets a little less strong. It really does.
Wed 3/5 12:00
I still have not gotten the visa taken care of. I went this morning and they gave me a form and told me I had to go to a doctor and have the doctor fill out the form. It would be nice if they would tell me all this stuff at once! I have been there three times so far!
I hoped to get a lot of stuff done in one or two days, but I have only taken care of the Meldezettel and the semester ticket for streetcars & subways . I still have to get a visa and a student account, and register for classes, and get set up with the internet in my dorm.
I tried to get the internet on Monday but my computer won’t open the program they gave me, and the guy who might know what’s wrong is sick, so I have to wait for him to get better.
At least I finally got a chance to wash my clothes. They’re drying now. I hope they’re done before I have to leave to go to 20th Century Literature this evening.
Fri 3/7 13:27
Okay, this is getting old. I have gone to the Polizeikomissariat way too many times in the past few days, and have had to leave it for way, way too many reasons.
First Time: Left to fill out the new form, being unable to sign in with the old form.
Second Time: Left because I had gotten there when the place was already closed.
Third Time: Left because they said I had to see a doctor. It turned out I would only have had to see a doctor if I were staying more than 6 months, but they didn’t ask me how long I was staying.
Fourth Time: Left because they said I had to go get copies of everything, and a piece of paper saying where I’m living.
Fifth Time: Left to get a statement from my bank account, and a different paper saying where I’m living, the previous paper not having been sufficient.
Sixth Time: Left because, once again, the place closed before I got there.
And it’s closed on the weekend. I certainly hope that on Monday, I can add this:
Seventh Time: Left because they finally decided I had enough stupid stuff to get a visa!
Sat 3/8 10:36
I have not yet forgiven the universe and myself for being so inefficient and stupid about visas, but at least this morning I came to peace with a certain nutritional element.
Some days ago I had been shopping for milk, and I had almost decided on the brand I was going to buy. It was inexpensive, came in a large carton and claimed to have a reasonable shelf life before opening. But then I noticed a few words on the front of the carton: this milk was fortified with “Eiweiss.” Egg white, in milk? I grimaced and bought another brand.
But this morning, reading the nutrition information on my iced tea carton to keep my brain busy while I ate breakfast, I noticed that word again. “Eiweiss.” Okay, egg white in milk I could maybe understand, but egg white in iced tea? And listed in the nutrition information? The number of calories, the amount of carbohydrate, and then the amount of… egg white?
So I went to my dictionary. Aahh. Okay, now I understand. “Eiweiss” does mean “egg white,” but it can also mean “protein.”
So now I am satisfied; there is no egg white in my iced tea, and I don’t have to worry about finding it in milk either. I love language. There is always more to learn.
By the way, I found out about the term “after-party.” According to some German friends of mine on the internet, people who speak German have been using the English meaning of “after” for quite a while now, in various compound words like “after-party” and “aftershave.” Mostly they manage to keep it separate enough from the anatomical meaning that one doesn’t occur to them when they see the other. Fascinating, isn’t it, how words find their places in people’s minds.
It’s also interesting to see little cultural differences. For example, in Germany and Austria, there has been something of a movement to get men to pee sitting down. This might have to do with the fact that many toilets in these countries have the drain in front, and the flushing water comes from the back, meaning that there is a sort of dry, raised area in the middle, off which pee would probably splash in all directions if it came from someone standing up.
Disgusting speculations aside, I’ve seen some funny statements on the subject when visiting people’s houses. In one bathroom, a sign over the toilet said “Bitte im Sitzen pinkeln” (“Please pee sitting”) with a picture of a man sitting on the floor facing the toilet and peeing into it from there.
In another bathroom there was a sign that read, “Nur der ist ein gestandener Mann, der auch im Sitzen pinkeln kann.” The meaning of this is more or less “Only a real man can also pee sitting,” but the pun on “gestanden” and “sitzen” is lost in the translation.
Email to friends, composed Mar. 9
Subject: Things going more or less ok in Vienna
Our two months in Germany ended on the last day of February, we took the bus to Austria, and we have been living in Vienna for more than a week now. We will be here until the end of June.
Not all of us are in the same dorm. My dorm building, Studentenzentrum Donaufeld, has only two from our group in it. It’s a pretty nice place to live, though. Comfortable rooms, and lots of athletic facilities (if that kind of stuff interests you), and an internet connection for everybody. Except mine still doesn’t work; they gave me a program or something on a disk, but my laptop won’t open it, and I have to wait for the guy who might know what’s wrong to recover from some illness he has contracted.
So this is the first chance I have gotten, since I arrived here, to send one of these messages-to-everyone. In fact, I’m writing this at noon on Sunday, March 9, on my laptop in my dorm, and hoping to save it on a disk and send it when I get the chance. I actually don’t know when I will get the chance. Probably tomorrow I can get a few minutes on one of the computers in the Central College Office.
For those who haven’t caught this bit of info, Central College is the college in Iowa that is leading my study abroad program. They have an office on the campus of the University of Vienna, and they offer a few courses that we can take in addition to courses at the University. Like University courses, they are taught in German by native German speakers, but I think they are probably a bit easier because the teachers know that none of the students speak German as a first language.
I have signed up for three Central-College-sponsored courses: “Romantic German Literature,” “20th Century German Literature,” and “Theater.” I only added the Theater course a few days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to attend that yet. I also haven’t yet attended “Aesthetics” and “Philosophy of Fin-de-Siecle Vienna,” the two University classes I hope to take. They begin this coming week: tomorrow and Friday. I tried to find out how to sign up for them, and nobody seemed to know, and I was advised just to show up on the first day. I hope that will work. The Austrian process of getting into classes does seem a lot less formal than what I’m used to.
Aside from getting into classes, I have gotten a few other important things done. I turned in my “Meldezettel” at the “Meldeamt,” to let them know that I have moved into the area and will be staying for a while. Whenever people move into anyplace in Austria, they are supposed to do this right away, whether they have come from the USA, from Germany, from another city in Austria, or wherever. Austria likes to keep track of exactly where everyone is.
I also got a semester pass for subways and streetcars. It only lasts until sometime in April, and then I guess I’ll have to get a new one, but it’s still a lot more convenient than buying a ticket for every ride.
I still might get a student account. I hear that US cash cards tend to get swallowed or ruined by Austrian cash machines. It hasn’t happened to mine yet, and I have travelers’ checks, but buying all one’s own food costs a lot and I don’t know how long my travelers’ checks are going to last me.
Also, I need to get my visa or Aufenthaltserlaubnis or whatever you call it. I still don’t have it, though not for lack of trying. I have been to the Polizeikomissariat four times (six, if you count the times I went there and found it closed) and each time they sent me away because I was still missing some additional piece of paper they needed in order to give me a visa. The last time, they looked over my stuff, pointed out two things I had to get, and assured me that everything would be complete when I got them… so I really hope the next time I go there is the last. Sheesh, everything can be SO COMPLICATED.
So, that’s the news. I hope you’re all doing well.
Love and peace,
Sun 3/9 19:07
This has been one of my most boring weekends ever. I was going to go to Munich with another student but I couldn’t find her. That’s the trouble with all of us living in different dorm buildings.
I ended up staying here. NOTHING is open on Sunday! There were free postcards in the lobby, though, and I wrote to my family. I’ll try to get stamps & mail them tomorrow.
Mon 3/10 9:26
I was stupid to be so optimistic about the visa.
Seventh Time: Left because I ran out of time. I took my number, and watched as more and more people went in and out but the number on the screen didn’t change, and once in a while someone would announce that anyone applying for a “Fuehrerschein” or a “Zeugnis” could come in, but nobody ever mentioned a “Visum” or “Aufenthaltserlaubnis,” and when I opened the door to ask where I fit into all this, they told me to wait my turn, and by this time I had only half an hour left to get to my class, so I had to leave.
And now I will have to wait ANOTHER day because by the time I get out of class, the place will be closed for today, probably. I HATE THIS!!!
Wed 3/12 19:47
Perhaps the problem is that on Monday I was too pessimistic. It looks as if eight is a luckier number than seven.
Eighth Time: Left because I finally had enough stuff to get a visa!
But I barely had time to celebrate before I had a serious outburst of hyperactivity in class, last night. I hadn’t thought the results of missing my evening pills could get so bad! The other students were more concerned than anything, but I got really, really mad at myself afterwards and sank back into pessimism & depression.
I can’t pay attention in class at all now. I managed ok in my first University class on Monday, but how am I going to handle the one on Friday? Well, I don’t have any classes on Thursday– maybe that will help relax me before I have to deal with my Friday classes.
Thu 3/13 10:35
I don’t know what to do today. Last night I got online at the Studentenzentrum Donaufeld cafe, and I had an email from our Austrian relative Lilly, asking if we could get together for coffee. I told her I would love to, but that if we’re going to talk on the phone & plan where to meet, she’ll have to be the one to call me, since my phone doesn’t seem to work for making calls, only receiving them. I gave her my number and told her Thursday is a good day to call.
Then there was an email from my dad, with a list of Austrian friends and relatives who’d like to hear from me. I replied, thanking him for the phone numbers, but also explaining my trouble with making calls. I mentioned that if he and/or Mom and/or my brother wanted to talk sometime, they could call me, and I said Thursday is a good day to call.
But the trouble is, I think I forgot to mention the number. And I can’t leave my room to use the net, because Lilly might call, plus the cafe is only open in the evening and I don’t know if the Central College office is open today.
So I am going to have to wait to give my parents my number. And it’s okay, they probably wouldn’t be able to call during the day on Thursday anyway. I just feel stupid thinking that they’ve probably emailed me saying I forgot the number, and I can’t answer them until tonight.
Fri 3/14 19:29
I can’t believe myself! I fell asleep in class today! On my first day of the Aesthetics course, in almost the front row of the room! For the whole first fifteen minutes! What kind of a first impression is that to give the professor? I’m so mad at myself, but I really had no idea I was so tired. If I had, I would have made sure to get a nap somehow before class.
And then, after I woke up, I hardly understood a word of the lecture! I really hope it was just from having missed the beginning, because it would NOT be convenient for this to be a class I can’t handle.
Lilly didn’t manage to reach me yesterday. Mom & Dad didn’t either, even though it turned out they had my number. They emailed me, though. There seems to be some weird system of hours when I can and can’t be called. I really don’t understand.
Tomorrow I will have to see if Lilly can meet me at Stephansplatz on Sunday. I asked her in an email this morning when I used the Central College computers, but I haven’t gotten her reply yet. The net cafe here is closed on Fridays & weekends. But I know one that is open all week, and I will try going there tomorrow.
Sun 3/16 10:05
I’m having coffee with Lilly this afternoon at 3. Right now I should be doing homework. But the reading for the Fin-de-Siecle class is so complicated, and I am so tired all the time, and having so much trouble concentrating on anything at all.
And I don’t know how I am going to find opportunities to visit all the relatives who want me to visit them. Onkel Karl called last night when I was already trying to sleep, and he went on about how everyone was wondering how I was doing and trying to reach me. I would love to visit people, but there is so much else to do!
Sun 3/16 20:12
Had fun talking with Lilly. Feel better now. Even read a few pages of Fin-de-Siecle. But I’m tired still.
Wed 3/19 11:11
This morning I woke up late, and rushed to the Vienna Seminar, only to find that the Central College Office was locked. That can only mean that we were supposed to meet somewhere else, and as hard as I try to remember, I have no idea where!
I should have written it down, but how can I remember to write down everything when there is so much? In Theater class we are supposed to meet early next time, at a place I don’t know how to get to… for Aesthetics I need to get a book that the bookstore doesn’t seem to have… next week my Fin-de-Siecle class meets three quarters of an hour later in a building I don’t know the location of, and we are supposed to have read 26 pages of a book that I can’t focus on for a paragraph … for Romantic Lit we had to read Der Blonde Eckbert for the last class, but I completely forgot, and we are supposed to meet earlier than usual next time, but I don’t know how much earlier, and we are supposed to read another story but I don’t know what or when…
I think this is all part of my acclimation to this new place and way of living. Early in my semester in Mexico, I also had a few weeks of not being able to concentrate on any of the lectures or readings, and being completely swamped by the quantity of things to do, and unable to keep track of them all. It got better after a while, but I can’t remember just how long it took, and the timing will probably be different here. But geez, if this is how culture shock affects me, I don’t think I want a career involving a lot of traveling!
Fri 3/21 16:53
I have been to my Aesthetics class for the second time, and it was better. I understood a lot, and even made an intelligent comment. I still cannot find the book in the bookstore, though.
I have still been to Fin-de-siecle only once. The professor was sick the second week. I will have to go and find the building where we are meeting the next time. It’s called HS 33 Hauptgebaeude.
I have figured some things out with Mom and Dad. They are meeting me in Giessen on April 13th.
They have bought velomobiles in Germany (enclosed tricycles, like little cars that you drive by pedaling) but they are not Go-Ones, like what Mom and I looked at when we first came. They are Cab-Bikes. The Go-One is much cooler looking than the Cab-Bike, but it doesn’t have enough storage space for their needs. Anyway, we will ride these vehicles through the tulip fields in Holland, and that is how I will spend my spring break.
Austrian traffic lights drive me crazy! When I cross at the crosswalk, especally on wide streets like the ones in the Floridsdorf area, the light is green for a very, very short time– long enough to reach the other side if you’re in top physical shape and you run. A little old lady with a cane would take about three cycles to get across. At my best speed, I can get ALMOST there before the green light starts flashing. Oh, and then, once it turns red, BOTH lights stay red for WAY too long… longer, I would swear, than either of them stays green.
Add this kind of thing to the price of gasoline and parking in Austria, and you can see why they’ve gone to the trouble of setting up such a good public transportation system. I love the subways and streetcars here. But I’d never choose this as a place to drive a car, or do a lot of walking.
Sun 3/23 17:09
Yesterday on the radio I heard the announcements about Iraq being bombed. Today I was in the subway station, finding my way to the Volkstheater where the theater class is meeting tomorrow, and there was some more stuff about it on the screen that you can watch while waiting for the subway.
Why does this have to happen? It is all so stupid. I don’t want to think about it. I know that a truly responsible citizen would consider everything thoroughly, develop a detailed opinion, and then stand up in every possible way for that opinion. I admire people who are doing that, but when I try to think about it, my mind veers away to things like my plans for next weekend. I never seem to let myself think long enough to start feeling. My mind is trying to protect me from pain, but I am not sure I want to be protected.
It is interesting to see that in Austria, as well as in the US, there is plenty of opposition to the war. While communicating with my family at home about their participation in protests, I have seen peace flags and “Stop the War!” signs in this very area. The whole world is interested, I think, because there is a distinct feeling that whatever happens, the whole world will be involved.
Mon 3/24 8:22
Austria seems more environmentally conscious than the USA. Not only are there sorted recycling containers everywhere, but they can handle a lot more stuff than the ones where I come from. At home, you can’t recycle yogurt containers or plastic bags, for example. Here you can. (Although, in Studentenzentrum Donaufeld, nobody puts stuff in the right places because the kitchen recycling bins are under the counter in a position where you can’t see their labels, so a lot of people assume they don’t have labels and just put their trash in them randomly.)
The extra concern for the environment even extends to city birds. In Minnesota, only a few thoughtful people put silhouettes of hawks on their windows, to scare little birds away so they won’t hit their heads on the glass. Here, I see those a lot more often.
I went to the wrong place! I had remembered that the place my theater class was meeting today was a stop on one of the subway routes and that its name sounded a little like “Volksoper,” so I had assumed it was Volkstheater, but it was Stadtoper! I spent the whole time waiting at the wrong place and missed our meeting completely. Aargh!
Something annoying just happened. It wasn’t a catastrophe, but it bothered me anyway, and maybe writing will make me feel better.
I did some exploring to find out where I will have to go for class tonight. I found my way to the Hauptgebaeude, and sat down at a table to eat some crackers and cheese, and a woman came up to me and asked for money. I assumed she would be an ordinary, not-too-intrusive beggar, or a student who had forgotten the money to buy a train ticket, or something, so I gave her some.
I made some mistakes, though. I gave her a little too much– enough that she knew I had plenty of money on me. And she immediately asked me to go outside with her and talk– she said she needed badly to talk about something.
That was when the whole situation started feeling uncomfortable to me, and I said that I had to leave, and ran. But she followed me. It is not easy for me to ignore a person who is walking behind me begging me to stop. I finally sat down. Then she told me this long sad story about how and why and how badly she needed money. I didn’t believe it all– her speech sounded too perfect and her words sounded too well-rehearsed. But I gave her some more money hoping it would make her go away.
Then she said she would pay me back, and she said we would go around the corner to talk about where she would meet me to pay me back, but when we got there she just asked me for more money instead. I turned and walked away, but she kept following me, telling me how cruel I was being, and how badly in need she was, and how much God would love me if I gave her the rest of my money, and that she would go away if I gave her twenty more euros, and finally I did, and ran the rest of the way back to the Central College office without looking back. I don’t want to talk about how much money it was in all.
I shouldn’t be so upset about it. I still have plenty of money left, and even if her whole story wasn’t true, her life is probably still a lot worse than mine, if she’s driven to do crazy things like that. This is the kind of thing I have to get used to, if I’m going to spend another 3 months here.
I am back from my second class period of Fin-de-Siecle. I’m troubled. The focus of the class seems to be on anti-semitism at the turn of the century, and the professor gives me a strong impression that he himself is anti-semitic.
He spent the whole hour explaining to us what the influential anti-semites of the time thought, and he never said outright that he agreed with these opinions, but he never said anything implying that he disagreed with them, either. And he seemed to try (failing pitifully) to make the opinions seem more reasonable. He made a point of explaining that the Christlichsoziale Partei fought not against Jews in themselves but against a Jewish “takeover” of the German people… that Schoenerer disapproved of Jews not because of their religion but because they were “greedy, hard-hearted and sadistic”… that there were anti-semitic thinkers who maintained that Jews did have all these unpleasant traits, but they did not have to be killed, they could “overcome their nature” and become decent people…
I thought that maybe he was trying to quote the opinions objectively, refraining from expressing his own opinion because the teacher’s opinion should not be part of the course… but the more I listened, the more it really did seem that he was trying to use the quotes to make anti-semitic thoughts seem nicer. And I noticed that many times, when he said something that struck me that way, some people got up and left the room.
I don’t know how I feel. It makes me uncomfortable, but not enough to leave the class, considering how much trouble it would be to get a different class approved for my major so late. I guess this is going to be another learning experience.
Thu 3/27 17:15
This morning I went to visit Onkel Karl and Tante Hansi. They gave me a lot to eat. We found enough things to talk about, pretty much, although I sometimes felt the conversation was lagging. I wish I could sustain conversations better in German. Maybe I am just in a phase where my brain is kind of fuzzy most of the time. It feels that way.
On Sunday I am meeting them and Uli and Lotte at their house and we will go out someplace. Tonight I am probably meeting some friends in the dorm building to cook Mexican food. I hope I have some room in my stomach by then.
Sun 3/30 11:45
I’m disappointed. Thursday evening I went to meet the group that was making dinner together, and they weren’t there, and I haven’t yet found out what was wrong. Then today there was a misunderstanding, I thought Karl and Hansi would call me at 11:30 telling me when to meet, but it turned out I was supposed to meet them at 11:30. For a while I thought it was too late & I wouldn’t be able to go, but then they called back and said they would pick me up. So that’s okay, at least. But it sucks to have caused them inconvenience.
Mon 3/31 16:46
Spent yesterday with Karl & Hansi, Uli & Farzan, Lotte & Wolfgang, Christl & Josef. I ate a lot, again. Conversation went ok at first but got slow as I got tired. Today I reserved my train place for going to Frankfurt, and bought a cellphone (finally). How did it ever occur to German speakers to call a cellphone a “Handy”– an English word that has never been used that way in English? Language is so delightfully weird.
Now I’m waiting for class to start. At the University of Vienna, students smoke in the hallways all the time. I don’t know if it’s actually allowed or just a commonly broken rule. Either way, I don’t like it.
Wed 4/2 14/27
Again I woke up late, this morning, and rushed to the Central College office, and found it locked. This time, having a cell phone, I called another student in the group, who was able to inform me that there was no Vienna Seminar today. I had expected there to be, because it’s supposed to be every other week, and we didn’t have it last week. I guess the times are really unpredictable. And since I missed the last time, I didn’t get to hear when it would meet next.
I have nothing else today until literature class at 17:00. But before that, I want to go to the bookstore in the NIG building and pick up the book they have gotten for me, and order a few others, and pick up some of those little yellow Reclam books for Romantic Lit and 20th Century Lit. And I want to check my email and ask Mom how long our trip during Spring break is going to be. But I can’t go anywhere until my laundry is done.
Thu 1/3 11:12
I love the European fascination with Handys. (See, I’ve even begun calling them Handys myself!) I love how easy it is to get and use one here. I just walked into the store and asked for the least expensive one, and the lady got it out and activated it for me, and I paid, and that was it.
And even being the least expensive one, it has games and internet access and hundreds of other features, more than I could ever use, and I don’t even have to sign up for an account or anything. I have a certain number of hours that come with the phone, and when they run out, I buy a card for a certain number of hours more, and when that runs out I buy another card, and so on. It’s great!
I also love the Vienna subway system. It’s so easy to understand. Wherever I am, if I can find a subway station, I can find my way back to my dorm. I feel so empowered, being able to travel around the city. At home I’ve never been able to do that so easily because the bus system is so complicated.
I am going to the NIG today to copy some pages out of books in the philosophy library. I have found that the books for my philosophy courses are very expensive, and I am not going to buy all of them.
I wish I could somehow revive a bit of whatever made my social life so great last semester! I am so lonely! I tag along with the others, but I can hardly ever get into the conversation.I can’t think of anything to say. In Mexico, everyone thought everything I said was brilliant, but here, I can’t manage to look like anything but a real loser trying hopelessly to be clever. How can there be so much difference? Is it the climate?
I don’t even really fit in with the people in my dorm building. But at least I found out about the dinner misunderstanding the other night. They were meeting in another section of the Studentenzentrum. I had dinner with them a few nights later, and it went ok. But I am still very lonely.
Fri 4/4 20:48
My cell phone time ran out today, and I went to the Trafik and asked for a card. The guy didn’t ask me what kind of card I needed, he just took out a B-Free card and handed it to me, so I assumed that was the right kind, and bought it for 20 euros.
I didn’t know that there are different kinds of cards for different phones, and that for my T-mobile phone there is a T-mobile card, which is the only one that will work for me. I found this out at the Handy Shop after I tried the B-Free card and it didn’t work, and I couldn’t return it because I had rubbed off the rub-off stuff over the number, so I had to spend another whole 20 euros on a T-mobile card.
It took me a while to get that to work, too, but finally it did, and I am satisfied for now. I wonder, though, why the guy at the Trafik assumed I wanted a B-Free card. Isn’t that the kind that only Austrians can use? How could he think I was an Austrian? Maybe my German is better than I thought.
I have gotten some small bags for bringing stuff on the velomobile ride with Mom & Dad. I also noticed that all my pants were jeans, so I went and bought some cheap sweatpants that I hope will be more comfortable for riding. I still have stuff to ask Mom about, like where in Giessen we are meeting, but that can wait until the next chance I get to use the net.
I am meeting Uli at Hutteldorf tomorrow, and spending the day with her and Karl & Hansi, and sleeping at their house, and going back to my dorm sometime on Sunday. That’ll give me a chance to ask Uli questions about cell phones, and questions Mom wants me to ask, like whether she and Dad should come visit at Easter or after Easter. So at least this time I’ll have something to talk about.
Sun 4/6 18:04
As planned, I met Uli at Hutteldorf around 12:30. I had no trouble finding the place. She had Farzan and Karl and Hansiwith her, and we went to Josef and Christl’s house, where we met Josef and Christl, and Lotte and Wolfgang’s kids, Bernhardt and Gregor, and some friends.
They fed us cheese spaetzle and potato salad and broccoli and ice cream with berries and hot chocolate and an “Osterlamm,” a sort of cake in the shape of a lamb, frosted with white chocolate, with a cherry for an eye. Christl cut it up in slices, starting at its bottom, and when she asked who wanted the lamb’s bottom, everyone was quiet for a while, and then Bernhardt’s girlfriend said she’d take it. When I got my slice, I realized Bernhardt’s girlfriend was clever, because the lamb’s bottom had more white chocolate on it than the slice I got. Luckily I got to eat most of the lamb’s head later on, so I got more than my share of white chocolate in the long run.
We talked about various things, and this time the conversation stayed pretty lively the whole time. Josef and Christl’s kids, Clemens and Elmar, came later, although Elmar spent most of the time pruning the trees outside, and Clemens only showed up near the end. I gather they are both pretty busy people.
Hansi turned out to have a B-Free cellphone, so she gave me 20 euros for my B-Free card.
In the evening Hansi and I went to a concert, in what Hansi said was the most famous concert hall in the world. It was certainly beautiful. There was gold everywhere, and statues and paintings and chandeliers, and a huge organ, although it didn’t play that night. The concert was mostly violin music, and it was great.
I spent the night at Karl and Hansi’s house, and most of today we just talked and read books. It was a real April day outside. For five minutes it would be sunny and clear, then suddenly there would be snow and gales of wind, and five minutes later it would be sunny again. This went on all day, back and forth.
I couldn’t go home right away because Hansi said there was some sort of marathon and the streetcar wasn’t running on Donaufelderstrasse. I went home around five pm. Hansi gave me a bag of food to take with me.
So I am finally back, and I have enough food for a week, but I feel as if I won’t be hungry again for about that long.
Thu 4/10 17:54
Waiting at Stadtpark. Concert is tonight. Bunch of other students from group are going. Too early to go into the concert hall but too late to go anyplace else. At least for me. If I went anywhere else, I would be haunted the whole time by a desperate fear that I might not get back in time. Even though I have until 19:30. I am never comfortable if I can’t be everyplace an hour early. Even though I hate waiting. I am a mass of contradictions.
Yesterday morning we went to the Jewish Museum, and went around that area of the city to look at a number of things related to Jewish history. Some were extremely interesting, like the underground remains of an old synagogue, and a Holocaust memorial built to look as if it were made out of hundreds of books. I realized I don’t really know very much about Jewish history. It’s so much more than just the Holocaust, but that’s what always comes to mind first, somehow.
There are a lot of things I hadn’t known about Austria in general, even though I have been here so many times. For instance, I didn’t know that there is so much Catholicism here. I had known that my father is Catholic, and that his mother was Catholic, but she was Irish, and I never thought much about the religion of my father’s father, who was Austrian. But I guess he probably was Catholic too, because it would have been unusual for my father to be raised in his mother’s tradition if his parents had different religions, and if something unusual happened in my family history, I usually hear about it.
Fri 4/11 17:50
I wasn’t sure when registration for the summer and fall terms at my college was going to start this year, but I was sure it couldn’t have already started because nobody had sent me the PIN that I needed to register online. But I had the feeling that it would probably be soon, so the other day I wrote an email to the registrar at my college.
Today they sent a one-line reply: “Registration started on Monday.” No advice, no mention of why I didn’t get a PIN, no thoughts on whether I could still register somehow.
I don’t know what to do. Each class gets a week to register, and seniors are first, so unless there is some special alternative I don’t know about, I guess I am out of time. Does that mean I will have to spend a whole year doing nothing before I can take the four more classes I need to graduate?
And why haven’t I gotten the PIN? When I was in Mexico, they sent me plenty of registration information for spring term, which of course was useless to me, because I was going to spend spring term here. Why did they ignore me this semester, when I actually needed the stuff? Studying abroad is really frustrating sometimes!
Sat 4/12 11:27
And now yet another problem has arisen. There was a misunderstanding about meeting my parents for Spring break. Mom had sent me a train schedule, for an overnight train leaving Vienna this evening and getting to Frankfurt tomorrow morning, and I reserved a place on that train. But it turns out it must have been the wrong schedule or something– she meant for me to leave last night and arrive this morning.
Luckily she managed to call me, and it will work out. I will take the train I reserved, and they will be there to meet me. But this is enough stress for all of us for now… I think I will wait a while to mention the registration problem.
Sun 4/13 9:24
Have met Mom & Dad in Giessen. Things going pretty well now. Cab-bikes are really cool! They are streamlined and comfortable to ride– you practically lie down in them.
To get in, you lift the roof. There is plenty of room inside for luggage, and you’re fully protected from the weather. I can really see using one of these as a way to get around!
We are taking a train to Krefeld and we will ride them from there. It’s amazing that 3 Cab-Bikes fit in a train car, even one meant for bikes.
First day of biking done. We rode from Krefeld to Kempen, and managed to find a hotel.
There were both pleasant & unpleasant events along the way. We had no experience with Cab-Bikes and we learned a lot of things the hard way. At one point the front of my vehicle hit the back of Mom’s and made a dent, and we were all very sad about that.
Our bodies weren’t used to the vehicles either. Mom got leg cramps, and I got shoulder aches from the handlebar position and pinched nerves in my feet from pedaling.
But lots of people admired the velomobiles, and we had some fun conversations. I hope things will get more fun as time goes on.
Mon 4/14 20:04
Last night we wandered around Kempen and found a pizza restaurant. After the meal they brought us apple tea as a surprise.
We were certainly surprised, not just because of the unexpected gift, but because the tea was a shocking shade of GREEN. It tasted great, though!
We rode 50 kilometers today, although about half of it was in the wrong direction, or various wrong directions, as we tried to find our way.
The metric system is great. Talking about my accomplishments in miles isn’t very impressive, but it sounds like so much more, to someone who’s used to miles, if I say that I rode 50 kilometers or that I can ride faster than 30 kph. And my weight sounds like less when I say it in kilograms!
I found out today that a “Pfund,” the German cognate of “pound,” is not the same as a pound in the regular avurdupois system. It’s half a kilo.
And the way German manufacturers talk about calories is different, in the nutrition information on foods. They say “kilocalories” where Americans would say “calories.” A calorie is one thing when you’re talking about food and something else when you’re talking in a scientific way about energy in general. The former is equal to a thousand of the latter, and so a nutritional calorie can be called a kilocalorie to clarify that calories of the other kind are not being talked about.
Of course, a few crazy people will still be puzzled, thinking that “kilocalorie” refers to a thousand nutritional calories, and wondering how there could be a candy bar with 365 kcal that could keep you on a 1000-calorie diet for a year. And by crazy people, of course, I mean me. The kcal listing confused me greatly until Dad explained it.
Anyway, we are now in a German town whose name I don’t remember, but it’s even closer to Holland than Kempen is. It has a yearly Asparagus Festival, and we are staying in a hotel called the Asparagus House.
We will probably get into Holland tomorrow. Our ultimate goal is Rotterdam, but we don’t know how much riding we can do in the days we have.
Tue 4/15 21:02
We arrived in Holland around noon, despite being delayed by a big construction project on a lonely road through the woods. Once over the border, we managed quite a lot of distance in relatively little time– Holland has good bike paths. We’re optimistic about being able to get to our planned destination in the planned amount of time.
Life continues to give language lessons. I have learned the distinction between two important words in English and German– if you can call them English and German when one of them comes from Yiddish and the other comes from the language spoken by a lovely European bird.
Kibbitz: to observe an activity that is none of your business and give the participants lots of advice on how they should do it. The classic example is the game of solitaire. It is well known that if you are traveling in the wilderness, you should always bring a deck of cards, so that if you get lost, you can sit down and start playing solitaire, and no matter how far from civilization you are, someone will show up and tell you that the red eight could go on the black nine.
Kiebitz: a relative of the killdeer, found in the fields of northern Europe. Unlike most field-dwelling birds, the “kiebitz” has feathers in dramatic solid blocks of color, and a sharp crest on its head. There is an English name for this beautiful creature, but I don’t know it. “Kiebitz” is its German name, a rough transliteration of the noise the bird makes.
We don’t have any solitaire cards with us, but we find that the velomobiles are just as helpful. When we get lost, we never have to chase anyone down to ask for directions– they come swarming to us to talk about our Cab-Bikes, and we can usually work our requests for help into those conversations. It is an interesting fact, discovered by my parents a few years ago when they rode through Europe on a recumbent tandem, and further corroborated by this trip, that people are frequently delighted to help someone who has a weird bike.
As for the kiebitz, Mom and Dad and I saw quite a few on the way. It’s amazing how close you can get to birds when riding a velomobile. They are scared of people and cars, but a velomobile has no associations in their minds. It makes no loud noise, and it is perhaps not immediately noticeable that it contains a person. One kiebitz was about a meter from us when it finally screamed “Kiebitz!” and flew away.
We are now in the town of Venray, Holland, and have eaten a big Chinese meal and are resting in our hotel. We tried to find an internet cafe, but no luck. Maybe in the next town.
Wed 4/16 20:15
Today was a bit stressful, but I am feeling better now. We have gotten to Hertogenbosch, Holland. Actually, I shouldn’t be saying Holland. I think we are still in the part of the Netherlands that is not really Holland, although most people think of Holland and the Netherlands as the same thing. I remember someone explaining that to me and Mom when we first got to Europe in January. Apparently only two provinces of the Netherlands are considered Holland by the people who live there.
There is an amazing cathedral in this town. Most of it is in an elaborate Gothic style, with flying buttresses and gargoyles and rose windows, but the main tower is completely different: red brick, and a very Protestant design. We think the Dutch Reform people must have taken over the town at some point, but when they tried to reform the church, they couldn’t afford to tear down all the old parts. Dad tried getting a picture, but it would probably have taken a panorama camera to capture both sections very well.
Thu 4/17 15:12
We rode to the town of Gouda today– that’s where Gouda cheese comes from. We will go somewhat farther today and then leave the bikes locked up somewhere and take a train to Vienna for a week or so. Then we will come back & ride some more.
We had all sorts of interesting experiences while riding. We got lost a few times and stopped a few times in wide open spaces to enjoy the quiet.
Mom rode in front of me most of the way, and Dad behind me. We stopped often to talk with people. Some told us our vehicles were fabulous, some cheered and gave thumbs-up gestures, some just laughed or made faces. One boy mistook Mom’s right-turn hand signal for an invitation to a high five, and tried to slap her hand as she went by.
A number of farm animals stared at us, including cows, goats, some quite charming little lambs, and a mare and her twin foals — which astounded Mom, who says twin foals are almost unheard of.
We stopped a while in a town that is called Giessen, although not pronounced the same as the Giessen in Germany. Then we went to a harbor and crossed the Maas river on a ferry, which was actually suited pretty well to having bikes on it.
We are in a restaurant now. I ordered a sandwich with Gouda cheese, and I’m writing while waiting for it.
We put our vehicles in a bike storage place and took trains to Amsterdam. It turned out there was no night train available at the right time, so we are taking a morning train tomorrow.
Tonight we are in a hotel again. I am waiting for dinner now, and it is taking a long time.
Sat 4/19 9:38
We spent practically all of yesterday taking the train from Amsterdam to Vienna, and then we met Lotte and Wolfgang at the station. Mom and Dad slept at their house, but I slept at my dorm because there wasn’t enough room in the bedrooms for all three of us.
Today I am doing laundry. Tomorrow we will have a big meal at Lotte’s and then take a train back to the Netherlands. We’ll get our bikes back out of storage and ride to Rotterdam.
Sun 4/20 20:56
The meal we had today at Lotte’s was just as huge as I expected. We are now in a sleeping car in a train to the Netherlands.
We will not get to Gouda with this train, but in the morning we will find some combination of trains to get us there.
Mon 4/21 6:46
We have gotten off the train in Hannover and gotten on a train to Schiphol.
We have gotten off the train in Schiphol and are on a train to Den Haag.
We have gotten off the train in Den Haag and are on a train to Gouda. We have seen some tulips, finally. And some windmills, as usual.
Stressful afternoon. Got our bikes & rode around in Gouda, trying to find our way to a restaurant & hotel. It took a while because our path was blocked by a big bike race. But we are now in a hotel, & I have had a shower, & things are calming down.
For one more week we will ride velomobiles, this time through tulip fields a lot of the way. Then I will return to Vienna on a train by myself and get back to schoolwork, especially finding a play to see, so that I can give a report on it for theater class.
Tue 4/22 20:03
Today we rode our velomobiles to Noordwijkerhout, a little Dutch town near the North Sea. (Our speedometers, which also record distance, show that we have ridden over 300 kilometers since we started in Krefeld, Germany.)
On the way here, we saw many, many tulips.
They are planted in wide stripes out in the fields, going on and on into the distance, yellow, red, white, purple, pink… Wow.
Tonight we are staying with a family that has arranged to host travelers from time to time. The people seem nice.
After we put our things away in our room, we went to an enormous garden called Keukenhof.
Not only are there fabulous flowers there, but art displays are also part of the experience. We saw a dandelion-shaped fountain, giant metal statues of chocolate candies, ceramic bugs crawling through the grass, a wooden gnome with a mirror for a face, a wooden guy hanging from a tree branch, a wooden guy with a dog, a wooden guy with a dog pooping on the floor, a mossy bike, and a set of round platforms in the water where people could walk from one to the other like stepping stones.
As for the flowers, some of the most interesting included the imperial fritillaries, which look like little palm trees, or little people with spiked hair. There were also stunning pink things growing on bushes. And there were hydrangeas that worked like litmus paper: planted in pH neutral soil, they had white flowers, while acidic or basic soil made them grow flowers that were blue or pink.
One of the neatest things about the design of the gardens was the way grape hyacinths had been planted. They were everywhere, in long narrow beds, sometimes looking like borders on the other flowerbeds, sometimes just flowing through them like purple rivers or seas.
And, of course, it is tulip season, and there were amazingly varied tulip breeds to see.
Some were quite tropical-looking.
Some were a beautiful shade of orange.
Some were a lovely purple, and wide open.
Some had frilly edges.
Some had pointy, flamey petals. All were fascinating!
We even saw a white peacock — or peahen– we couldn’t tell the sex, but it was certainly a peafowl, and certainly an albino or some other white mutation. Its tail wasn’t very big, but it made as much noise as a male, yelling into the air so hard we could see its breath. (Even on a hot day, you can see a bird’s breath. They’re much warmer creatures than humans are.)
I’m tired now. It’s been a long day.
Wed 4/23 20:36
Today we rode along the coast of the North Sea. Strangely, we were in the desert the whole time. The area closest to the sea is a seemingly endless expanse of sand dunes , through which a pretty decent bike path runs. It’s not like the other paths we’ve taken so far– there are more hills. Cab-bikes don’t go up hills very fast, but at least they can go up very slow without falling over.
There were places where we had to ride between poles in the road, and there were awful speed bumps that scraped the noses of our vehicles, and there were wildroosters! Apparently, wildroosters are deep areas in the road, with bars over them, somewhat like the grates that are supposed to keep cows from crossing the street. Before these things, there was a warning sign, shaped just like the ones for speed bumps or poles in the road, but what this sign said was “WILDROOSTERS.” Who knows what that means literally in Dutch, or how it’s actually pronounced.
We could seldom see the water from where we rode, and I never got a chance to photograph it. (There was fog over it, anyway.) But we did get a chance to see some enormous sea birds, like gulls but a lot bigger. Probably not albatrosses, but close.
Finally we got to a hotel in a nice, very old little town. There are quite picturesque old houses here, and canals. I like it.
At the hotel, the only room available was a two-person room, but I said I would sleep on the floor, and they brought in a third mattress. It just barely fit. Mom ended up deciding to sleep on it, and I get the saggy bed.
Thu 4/24 12:59
Life gets weirder & weirder! This morning the hotel people called the local newspaper, and starting at 9:00 there were reporters taking pictures of our Cab-Bikes. We eventually got going, but a different group of reporters stopped us for a moment on our way out of town. Enclosed pedal-powered vehicles seem not to be an everyday thing here at all!
We were going to ride a bit longer and send the velomobiles home tomorrow, but we decided to ship them today instead. We rode to a shipping company, which is located in a nice building that has a green pond around it with lots of things growing and swimming in it. Now Mom’s talking with the shipping people.
Mom & Dad have found out that the manager of the building is a relative of some people they know. They have had an interesting conversation with him. I have just been looking at water bugs in the pond and writing in my diary.
There has been some difficulty paying the shipping fee. It’s over $2000. For some weird reason, the company only takes cash, and there are limits on how much we can take out of cash machines per day, and the nearby banks won’t cash Mom and Dad’s travelers’ checks.
I managed to contribute $620 out of my travelers’ checks, my cash machine account, and the money I had with me. But we still have to get to a bank that will cash Mom and Dad’s travelers’ checks. Luckily, someone from the shipping company is offering to drive us, and drop us off at the station afterwards.
We worked out everything ok. Now we are on a train to Amsterdam. From there, we will take another train to someplace like Frankfurt, where we will spend the night, and then I will take a train to Vienna. They will go to a bike show and then go home later.
Sat 4/26 13:08
We ended up staying in Cologne instead of Frankfurt, and saw the famous cathedral there. Now I am back in Vienna. I am exhausted.
Mon 4/28 17:41
Things are pretty quiet again.
Classes have re-started. I saw a play called “Der Zerbrochene Krug” and prepared a presentation on it, which I will give on Wednesday next week.
I checked my email and the publisher says he is looking over my revised manuscript and will send me his suggestions within a week. (He had been swamped with other books, but now mine is first on the list.)
I told him Dad took some photos of me over break, and will send them soon, so the need for a photo to put on the book is taken care of. I hope they are the right kind of photos. At least they are high enough resolution to be enlarged to 5×7, unlike the first one I tried sending.
Wed 4/30 14:11
This morning our Vienna Seminar class went to the Army Museum and listened to a lecture on Austrian history. There were a lot of fascinating old things there, like statues and paintings of kings and princes and military leaders, and clothes they wore, and antique weapons, and even the car that Franz Ferdinand and his wife were riding in when they were shot in Sarajewo.
I have been trying to register for my fall classes at home. Timing really wasn’t on my side this year. I not only failed to get my registration PIN and missed the official registration week, but a few days later I was off to Holland on a velomobile, and got to use the internet exactly once before this week. And until my mother wrote a scathing letter, all the replies the registration people sent me were ones that clearly showed they had not read my inquiries.
Then finally someone was actually helpful, and showed me where to view the course listings, and told me that I could send her my choices and she would register me… but when I looked at the listings, all the available Spanish courses were ones I’d already taken. What I needed was two Spanish electives, a sport class, and a science class, so I sent my first and second choices for the sport class and the science class, and I guess I will have to find Spanish classes at other schools. I hope that she lets me know before evening if my sport and science choices are full, because she says this is the last day she can register me without a late registration fee.
Fri 5/2 11:49
Yesterday I went out with Hansi and Karl and Uli. I met Karl and Hansi at their house. I was very late because I started about an hour later than I planned, and then got on the wrong subway. Instead of taking the U6 to Philadelphiabrucke, I got out at Langenfeldgasse and took the U4 to Hutteldorf. Even though I had “Philadelphiabrucke” written down on my palmtop, somehow I had “Hutteldorf” in my head. Just when I think I know my way around the city perfectly, something like this always has to happen, to remind me that I am not perfect.
After eating at Karl & Hansi’s, we did go to Hutteldorf, and met Uli and went on a long car ride. Occasionally we got out to wander alongside the road and admire the forest, or look at an old wall built of a diverse mishmash of different stones. I kept thinking there must be lizards there somewhere, but I never saw any.
Uli was going to bring the extra medicine and Eurail pass that Mom and Dad left with her, but she forgot, so she brought them to my dorm this morning.
Today in Aesthetics class I gave my presentation. It seems to have gone okay. I was nervous about it, because these Vienna University classes are really made for people whose first language is German, and philosophy talk isn’t always comprehensible in any language. I still may have to get tutoring, or find other students to talk things over with.
Mon 5/5 15:44
I’m sitting in the Fin-de-Siecle classroom wondering what to do. Class isn’t until 17:00… at least that’s what the syllabus says… but a bunch of people have already come in, waited a while, then said the professor must not be showing up, and left.
Maybe I missed something at the last class. Maybe the professor said that on May 5th he would either come two hours early or not come at all. He could easily have said it without my noticing or understanding. I miss so many things in these University courses. Maybe the last class was on April 28, even though the syllabus said there was no class that day, and maybe on April 7th he told everyone there would be class that day after all, but I didn’t catch it. He has a foggy voice and an accent. How many important things did he say on April 28 when I thought I didn’t have to come? Damn it!
I hope I get an answer to the email I wrote today. I wrote to someone at my school at home and asked if I can still contact my advisor and have him change what requirements my courses are approved for.
See, I needed two literature classes and two electives for my German major, and at my school, if you want to take a class off campus and have it fulfill a requirement for your major, you have to get your advisor’s signed approval for it before you take the course.
But before I came here, I didn’t know what courses would be available, I just had a list of a few courses that might be among the available ones. So I had to get my advisor to approve about sixteen of those and hope I could take some of them.
And it worked– I was able to enroll in two Central College classes he’d approved for literature, and two University classes he’d approved as electives. But I also ended up taking a third Central College course that was approved for Literature, when I only needed two, and another Central College course that wasn’t approved for anything .
In short, I have two not-really-necessary courses in which I know I am doing well, but I am not certain of passing the University courses that are approved as electives. So I was hoping, just as a precaution, to get those two unnecessary courses also approved as electives, so that I would still have completed my major this semester even if I don’t pass the two University courses.
There’s a strong possibility that it’s officially too late to get my advisor’s approval for that, and I guess it wouldn’t be a disaster. I’m just being extra-cautious. If I don’t pass, I can still take a couple more German classes sometime later. And I think I will probably pass… it’s just one of the few times I have not been completely certain.
Oh, and there’s been another development in the visa story. I got a LETTER saying that the police department hadn’t gotten all the things they needed for my visa yet! After 8 tries, and finally being told that I had everything!
Luckily, Ruth was able to fax the stuff they wanted. I didn’t have to go there again.
Wed 5/7 21:41
Today my theater class met at the Theatermuseum, and looked at old costumes, old puppets, old letters and papers and advertisements and tickets, old pictures of actors and sets, and so on. It might have been pleasant if the rooms had been well-ventilated, but they weren’t, and they felt uncomfortably warm and low in oxygen. We did see lots of interesting things, though.
The presentation has been moved to the next time the class meets. That’s the second time it’s been moved. Before it was supposed to be today, it was supposed to be Monday. But I guess that’s the way school works sometimes.
The publisher wrote to me… a long list of encouraging comments about my writing, but no suggestions yet. He says he’ll mention those from time to time as he continues reading through my revision.
I also got a reply from the person I emailed about major requirements. She can’t help me herself– she says I would have to ask my advisor. Knowing that my advisor is less familiar with the college bureaucracy than I am, I decided just to keep looking into tutoring options and talking to other students, and hope I pass those two classes.
I am now registered in both a chemistry course and a biking course for fall semester, which will fulfill the sport and science requirements. I’m still looking for Spanish courses.
And I found out what was going on in the Fin-de-Siecle class. The people who waited and left were there for the Sprechstunde– another part of the same course, but a part that happens an hour earlier, and in which I am not enrolled. The professor did not show up for the Sprechstunde, but he did show up for the Uebung an hour later… so it’s good that I waited.
That class is going better than it was. The main focus is no longer anti-semitism, it’s more philosophy now.
The other night I had my last meal with the little group of American friends in my dorm building. We ate and talked and laughed, and one of them made a video of me singing a song, and we had a wonderful time. And now they’re leaving, just when I was realizing how much I like being with them. Rats. At least I gave them my email address.
Fri 5/9 10:49
Here I am, waiting for Aesthetics class to begin. Later today there is a group trip to Prague. We leave sometime between 14:00 and 15:00, and come back on Sunday. I have some clothes and stuff packed in a bag with me.
I think I’ll go to the Central College office after class & see if I can find any of the other students who are going, so that I can go to the station with them. If not, I’ll just go by myself… it’s easy enough to ride the D there from Schottentor. But it would be nice to go with someone.
I think I am getting a bit closer to the others in our group. Last weekend I went to Baden with Fawn, Essie, Sarah and Crystal, and it was pretty fun. We swam and lay in the sun and ate ice cream. I still felt that my conversation skills weren’t great, but it was better than being lonely.
We have gotten to our hotel in Prague. It used to be a prison, and some famous people were imprisoned here during politically oppressive times. Now it is an attraction for German and American visitors.
The hallways with rooms are still deep and long and tunnel-like, but there are some colorful murals on the walls, and the rooms are comfortable, though simple.
The bathroom is outside the bedroom, a little ways down the hall, but it’s a pretty decent bathroom. I took a shower and enjoyed it.
I was feeling somewhat crazy after the long train ride. I took my evening meds a bit late and they had less effect on me than usual. But the other students were supportive and we had some good conversations despite my hyperactivity.
Sat 5/10 13:30
This morning we had a tour of the city. Just as it ended, it began to rain. I went walking with some others from the group, and they wanted to stay out a while, and I wanted to go to the hotel, and I whined and complained, so they gave me a map and I went back. Now I am sitting here being mad at myself for having been so disagreeable with them. Rain brings out the worst in me.
I got a long nap, and then went and had dinner alone at a restaurant called Konvikt (quite appropriate for someone staying in a former prison). I had apple juice and a spinach omelette with potatoes, which was unusual since I had ordered pear juice and pancakes with spinach and cheese, but it was good anyway.
There’s so much interesting stuff to see in Prague! During the tour this morning we saw an elaborate clock with little moving statues, a historic bridge where we took a group photo, a cathedral with a mosaic on one side of it, and lots of other things.
Amber jewelry and garnet jewelry is available in many stores here, and it’s very beautiful, but it’s expensive and I would never wear it. I love looking at jewelry, but I find that when I buy it, it just sits around unused.
Sun 5/11 10:11
We’re in a train on our way to see a church made out of bones. Apparently the cemeteries and catacombs got full and they needed someplace to put them, so they built a church out of them. This was a long time ago. I don’t know just when. I guess I’ll find that out today.
We have finished visiting the church and are waiting for our train. It is actually not a church made out of bones, it is just decorated lavishly with them inside. There are giant chalices, a chandelier, a coat of arms, and big piles like shrines, all built of people’s bones.
We got to read a little sheet of paper about the history of the place. It was available in several different languages, including Esperanto. I don’t know how well translated that version was, but the English version was full of little mistakes and little turns of phrase that no native English speaker would ever use. Sometimes they were gruesomely funny, like referring to the epidemic of “plaque” when the writer meant to say “plague.” I commented that that must be why none of the skulls had teeth… but it felt wrong to laugh in a place like that.
That area was sacred to many people in medieval times, and there was great demand to be buried in the cemetery there, which was enlarged during the Plague. But later some parts of the cemetery were made into something else, and something had to be done with the huge numbers of skeletons resting in those parts. So they were used to decorate the church.
It had rained, although it wasn’t raining when we were out. On the way to and from the church, I saw lots of big snails. I also saw the first lizard I’ve seen since coming to Europe. Unfortunately, it was dead… at least it was lying very still and one of its front legs was squashed. This has been a morbid day.
Tue 5/13 17:24
I am waiting for Romantic Literature to start. Outside, it is raining as if the sky were an ocean and the clouds were flimsy sponges trying to hold it up. Not long ago, hailstones as big as peas were shooting down like machine gun fire, and people in restaurants were fidgeting and glancing anxiously out at their cars.
My presentation in Theater yesterday was not pleasant– speaking publicly under pressure like that makes my German come out rather brokenly– but I’m glad to have it behind me. At least my illustrated handout was well-liked.
Something upsetting has happened. I have realized that it actually is important to get my advisor to change what requirements my courses are approved for, because I was wrong about what I needed. I checked, and I need ONE literature class and THREE electives.
I had thought I needed two of each, and that’s how I ended up taking three classes he’d approved for lit, two he’d approved as electives, and one he hadn’t approved. If I could only get a few of the Central College courses approved as electives, then it would all be fine! But it is so late…
But then again, maybe the registrar doesn’t care which major requirements the classes are approved for. Maybe all that matters is that the classes are approved for the major. I’m hoping.
Wed 5/14 9:08
The ground in Vienna is a leafy mess today. The trees certainly suffered from the hail.
I thought Vienna Seminar was at 9, and I knew we were meeting at Prater, so I got here as fast as I could. There was no one here, so I checked, and it’s actually meeting at 9:50.
In Austria I have seen many peace flags. They are rainbow-striped, like the gay pride flag, but they say “Peace” in white letters on them. They come in several languages.
And the Riesenrad, Prater’s huge ferris wheel, has eleven of them hanging on it. I just noticed them today.
Fri 5/16 10:33
Last night the group went to an acrobatic performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” Parts of it were done on the stage, and other parts were done hanging from trapezes. It was amazing!
The stage itself was ingenious, but very hard to describe. It was flat in front, but curved up in back nearly all the way to the ceiling, so that actors could enter the scene by sliding down from way up there, or from a door that would open somewhere farther down. There were several doors, but you didn’t see them until they opened. There were also platforms that would slide out sometimes, so that some scenes could happen halfway up the wall.
They had been creative with the script, adding quite a bit of extra stuff. Parts were absolutely hilarious– mostly Mercutio and Benvolio’s antics– other parts were sad, of course, and others were applause-worthy just for the acrobatic talent.
I got the feeling sometimes that the dialogue didn’t flow as smoothly as I would have liked, because it would stop between lines for some gymnastic stunt. Of course, no actor can speak as fluently while doing backflips or swinging on a trapeze, and I don’t suppose it could have flowed any better than it did.
One of the strangest parts was the language. Some lines were in English, a few in German, but most of it was something else. There were screens translating it to German, but at first I was confused as to what it was. Because “Romeo and Juliet” is set in Italy, I assumed it was supposed to be Italian, but it didn’t really sound like Italian– there were too many words that sounded German. For a while I thought it might be some kind of fake Italian, like the fake Swedish in that crazy movie “De Duve.”
But then at intermission, Essie told me that it wasn’t any kind of Italian, it was Swedish! Real Swedish, too, not fake. It’s a Swedish acting company, so they did the play in their language. It certainly made for a delightful incongruity… a play written in England, set in Verona, performed in Vienna, and spoken in Swedish.
Next weekend we have another trip, this time to Wachau, I think. I’ll have to go look for the information sheet in my mailbox.
Mon 5/19 17:29
I am not feeling well today. I am sleepy and my right tonsil is swollen up the size of a jelly doughnut. The philosophy professor is explaining for the third time in as many class periods that the king of France cannot be bald or fat or hairy or thin because there is no king of France. How long does he think it will take us to grasp that point? And yet, clamor the students, if no statement about a non-existent king can be either true or false, then how can it be true to say that all dragons are reptiles and every unicorn has one horn? And there he goes, trying to explain.
I have to be home by 6:30 because one of my American friends has come back to Studentenzentrum Donaufeld for a week and left his stuff in my room until he can find a place to stay, and he has to find a place to stay by tonight and he has to have his stuff out of there by tonight, and so I agreed to come back around 6:30 and get it out for him. I may have to leave early in order to get home by then. That won’t be a problem, I’ve noticed students often leave early. Even when there is no anti-semitic-sounding lecture. I guess people aren’t as strict about attendance in a class like this.
So, “all dragons are reptiles” is a tautology? Because being a reptile belongs to our definition of what a dragon is? But, Herr Professor, how many kings of France were there? Sixteen? Were they all fat? Suppose they were… then wouldn’t being fat belong to our definition of a king of France? But would you still be able to say, with truth or falsity, that the king of France is fat, if France currently has no king? Huh?
Time to get out of here.
Oh, by the way… today is my namesday!
At least, I think it’s St. Eric’s day, and St. Eric being my name-saint, I would get a party today if I were Austrian.
In fact, I used to get parties for my namesday at home when I was a little kid, but it’s been so long since we’ve done that, I’ve almost forgotten what day it is.
I remembered only this afternoon. And I might be wrong.
Wed 5/21 0:31
I am having a bit of difficulty getting to sleep tonight. Not sure why. But it’s already past midnight and I’m wide awake.
Today– or rather yesterday– I gave a very successful presentation on painting in the Romantic era. I was worried about that one, because I took a long time to get around to preparing it, and I didn’t prepare it very thoroughly… but it ended up going quite well.
Registration is still having its successes and setbacks. I will probably have to take a second extra semester, because I found out that two of the courses I took in Mexico didn’t count toward the Spanish major.
On the bright side, I am feeling better about the classes I am taking now, because I am fairly sure that the registration people only care whether courses have been approved for the major, not what major requirement they are approved for. At least, I remember that when I filled out the form, all that was required was to note whether the courses counted towards a major or some other type of graduation requirement. I wrote “Major (elective)” for some and “Major (literature)” for others, according to which ones I thought would do best as the German literature classes and elective German classes required by the German major… but now I realize that I didn’t have to get everything approved so specifically, I probably only had to write “Major,” and that’s all that matters to the registrar.
In that case, I don’t have to worry that I’m taking only two classes specifically approved as major electives when I need three. I am in three courses specifically approved for literature, and I think that any of those could count as electives if I needed them to.
Thu 5/22 16:59
Today I finally got my visa! I got a letter saying I could come to the Polizeikomissariat and get it, so I did, and now I have it, stuck on a page in my passport. Warning to travelers: Start trying to get your visa during the first week of your four-month term in Vienna, and you’ll get it when you’re about three-quarters of the way through.
Tomorrow I have the usual schedule for Friday: aesthetics class from 11:15 to 12:45, and no other classes. But I have to remember to get to sleep early that evening and set my alarm, because we leave for Wachau on Saturday at eight or some such unearthly hour of the morning.
Sat 5/24 8:37
I actually woke up in time! We’re on the train.
I hope this goes better than the Prague trip. At least, I hope it doesn’t rain and I don’t act like a maniac the whole time.
Sun 5/25 19:24
Well, it didn’t rain and I didn’t act like a maniac the whole time. It went pretty well.
We saw the Stift Melk monastery, with its elaborately painted and gilded church and its library full of old, hand-written books. Afterwards we walked in the gardens and I saw a very colorful bird that just sat there and sang even when I walked close.
I couldn’t find it in my bird book at the dorm afterwards. I’ll have to ask Mom.
Then we took a boat to Durnstein, where some of the group hiked up to see a famous ruin, but I was too tired.
The friend I mentioned on May 19 is leaving for his home in Oregon tomorrow morning. We spent a lot of time together yesterday and today, eating pizza, looking at the stars down by the river, going to the art museum, and that sort of thing. I am going to miss him very much.
Tue 5/27 19:55
More crazy stuff about classes.
I found out that in order to get a grade in either of my University classes, I have to fill out some kind of form, but I’m not sure just how to get it and what to do with it. In addition, for aesthetics class I have to write a paper on the same topic I gave my presentation on, but I’m expected to take three semesters to work on it, and I won’t be here three semesters!
I’d do it early, but I don’t know how many pages it has to be, and how much effort should be put into it… does it have to have quotes from multiple sources, an opinion of my own and arguments to support it? Or just expanding a bit on the presentation I gave? I’ll have to ask.
Grrr… At my school at home, they would have given us a sheet explaining in detail how to write the paper.
Well, maybe the prof will give us a sheet like that at the end of the semester. Most students are going to work on it for three semesters, after all, and if it’s something I can’t do in a month, I might need to do it over the summer and mail it to him.
Mom, meanwhile, is trying to talk me into doing another semester abroad, this time in Spain. I still need three Spanish classes for my major. She says it would be easier to find them in Spain. I am not sure I could handle another semester abroad. We are trying to come to some agreement.
But at least she’s identified the bird I saw at Melk. It’s a “Buchfink”… “chaffinch” in English.
Wed 5/28 14:18
Went to Schoenbrunn with the class today. Toured the palace. Then I went by myself past the palm house to the zoo, and saw, among other things, cheetahs, elephants, tigers, prairie dogs, vicunas, capybaras, and Nandu birds.
There were little tiny monkeys, and hippopotamuses with a baby, and a building where you could walk right in with the little tropical birds, and I took pictures but they turned out lousy.
I also saw the famous new pandas, and a lemur with its baby on its back, but I couldn’t photograph them because I would have needed flash, and they both had glass in front of them, and no flash was allowed in the panda house anyway.
But it was still a lovely experience, and I’m glad I went, even though the one-person admission was rather expensive.
Fri 5/30 15:51
It seems that I don’t have to fill out the “Zeugnis” form for Aesthetics, because we don’t have a test, just a writing assignment. I still haven’t found out how many pages that should be, though. From what Ruth and the students in the group say, I guess it’s probably around 20 or 30 pages. And I still have to find out about the form for Fin-de-Siecle. I’ll ask in class on Monday.
Some of the students are being very sweet and preparing a birthday party for me on Monday evening. My birthday is Sunday, but they can’t manage one then. I think I will travel this weekend anyway. I’ll just go to the train station tomorrow, and see where the trains are going, and pick one. I really have to use up my Eurail passes. Maybe Graz.
My tonsil is still a bit swollen. I had gargled with salt water the other night, on the suggestion of someone from my group, and the next day the swelling had been worse, so I thought I must be having a bad reaction to that particular treatment. But later I decided to give it another chance, and now I’ve been gargling with salt water about two or three times daily for a few days, and I think I’m getting better. I don’t know. If it stays bad too long, I’ll have to see a doctor.
Sat 5/31 11:46
I’m on a train, in Wien Suedbahnhof, waiting for it to leave at 11:57. I think it’s headed toward Graz. There really isn’t any reason to believe it isn’t… the schedule I have in my pack says a train is leaving this station at 11:57 and going to Graz, the schedule on the wall by this track shows a train to Graz leaving here at that time, and I heard several people mention Graz as they got into this train. It’s just my paranoid nature that makes me think it might be the wrong one. I have that fear every time I get on a train, and it seldom has any basis in reality, so I’ve started ignoring the feeling.
It’s a strange experience, not to really care where I’m going. If this train somehow turns out to be going to some other city, it won’t ruin my weekend. It’s a good feeling. I think I’m going to enjoy traveling for fun.
The train has gotten about halfway there or more. The first half, I shared the compartment with a nice lady and her 21-month-old boy. The kid was adorable, but seemed to feel that there was not enough to do in a little train compartment for half an hour. He was constantly trying to find things to do, like stick his hands in the garbage container, demand bottles of milk, play with my flashlight and compass and watch, open suitcases (indiscriminately as to whether they were mine or his mother’s) and climb everything that would let itself be climbed. He was cute enough to get away with it, but I was still pretty exhausted by the time the train got to their station.
I don’t know what I will do when I get to Graz. There is supposed to be a nice park there. It’s also said to be a “Kulturstadt” this year. I’m not sure what that means… art displays, theater, traditional dance, some kind of festivals? Or is it just some sort of recognition a city can get for being culturally rich? I guess I’ll find out when I get there.
I’m in Graz. There doesn’t seem to be much of interest near the hotel where I’m staying, but I’ve found a decent-looking restaurant.
I’m waiting for my food at one of the outside tables. The sparrows here are shameless. Well, I guess I don’t know what they ought to be ashamed of, though some people seem to think that sparrows should hide in holes their entire lives in abject mortification just for being sparrows. These ones certainly don’t. They come right up and sit on the table. Here comes my food… they’ll steal it off my plate if I’m not careful. Gotta go.
I haven’t succeeded in finding any beautiful park or cultural center yet. If I rode the buses I might find something, but I don’t know how to get a bus ticket, or how late the buses run, or whether there is always a bus back from everyplace you go on a bus. There don’t seem to be subways and streetcars here, just buses.
Well, I have most of the day tomorrow. The last train back to Vienna leaves at 21:23. And I still have some time this evening.
I found stuff to do! There are streetcars after all– I took one into the center of the city and looked around for a while.
There were some clock towers with neat-looking onion shaped domes, and some statues commemorating various things, and an elevator that didn’t go anywhere, just up and down a tall glass elevator shaft in the middle of the park, apparently so people could go up high and get a good view of stuff. There were some important-looking buildings, including one that looked kind of like a palace, and one that is still being built, but will be an art museum and have a really weird shape when it is done.
There is also a Sacher-Masoch Festival, and a museum with an exhibit on “visions of masochism in art.”
Apparently Mr. Sacher-Masoch is sort of a cult hero in Graz, because he was among the first people to write openly about masochism. In fact, it’s named after him. After his second name, that is. I don’t know what “Sacher” means, except that a Sachertorte is a kind of chocolate cake.
It looks so weird and interesting I can’t resist checking it out tomorrow.
I’m also going to another museum exhibit , one on the history of gold, because I like looking at shiny things. I think it will be a quite satisfactory way to spend my birthday.
Sun 6/1 13:18
It was indeed satisfactory. Even the way there was beautiful.
To get to the museums, I got off the streetcar at Schlossberg, where there is a breathtaking view of a castle up on a cliff . And the museums themselves were as interesting as I expected. But I didn’t spend as much time in them as I’d foreseen, and I’m already on my way back to Vienna.
I’m 22 years old today. This has seemed like the longest year of my life. All this studying abroad. I feel 25. I guess that’s good. Life is short and you’ve got to pack as much into it as possible. When you feel that your life is going slower than it is, I guess it means you’ve succeeded in doing that.
I got back to Vienna, then went to Heiligenstadt and rode the bus to Kahlenberg, because John (my friend who went home the other weekend) had told me there was a great view of the city.
He was right, you can see forever from up there, and there’s also a nice forest with walking paths. I would have gone on a long walk, but there were hills, and the path was damp, and slugs as big as snakes were crossing it everywhere. I couldn’t imagine any worse way to fall down a hill than slipping on a giant slug.
Mon 6/2 17:29
Today has been nice. I was feeling pretty sleepy in the morning and didn’t know if I would be able to do much participating in theater class, but once the discussion started, I got interested and contributed a lot.
Then the other students brought me a piece of chocolate cake with green marzipan frosting and sang to me. Tonight at 19:00 I’m meeting some of them for a little party they’ve prepared at the Grosse Schiffgasse dorm. Everyone’s been so nice!
I am feeling a little weak and shaky today. Maybe it’s because I haven’t eaten much real food. I had some strawberries for breakfast, then the cake, then a Sachertorte at the cafe. I just don’t seem to be hungry for square meals lately. I wonder what’s wrong.
I don’t think it helped, in any case, that I ordered a “peach spritzer” with my Sachertorte, and a “peach spritzer” turned out to be something alcoholic. Normally I wouldn’t have drunk it, because I’m not supposed to have alcohol because of my medications, and I don’t like the taste of it anyway. But the alcohol taste in this was pretty mild, and I figured it couldn’t be enough to react much with my meds, and I had paid 1.60 for it, and didn’t want to waste it (or go through the unpleasantness of asking the waitress to exchange it for something else).
I’m not feeling any serious effects from it, anyway. I’m shaky, but I was shaky all day. For a while I felt uncomfortably warm, but that could have been from walking from Lange Gasse to Schottentor in this hot June weather.
I think I’ll survive.
I am planning to take several weekend trips before the end of my time here in Europe. I have allowed myself to spend 100 euros per week for daily life, but I realize that I spend enough on weekend trips to tip me over budget on a regular basis. On my trip to Graz, I spent 122.10, just on food, lodging, museum visits and the like.
So I have decided to treat each vacation as a week of its own. While I allot myself 100 euros for the entire time during each week that I stay in Vienna, I will allot an additional 100 for any time I spend on a trip between those weeks. If I go over budget for a trip, I will carry the excess into the next week or weeks, as I do when I go over a week’s budget. For example, in Graz, I spent 22.10 more than my allotted 100, so now I am allowing myself 11.05 less than usual for this week and 11.05 less than usual for the week of June 8.
This coming weekend, though, I doubt I will need money, because I am going to the Waldviertel with Uli and Karl and Hansi. They will provide me a place to sleep at their house, and give me enough food for 4 people.
Wed 6/4 9:24
The party on Monday night was very nice. We had calzones, which were delicious, even though the name means underpants in Spanish. For dessert we had strawberries with Nutella. Beth gave me presents: a mug with pictures of oranges on it, a chocolate bar, a comb and a bar of soap.
Yesterday there was a strike and no subways, streetcars or buses were running. I had to take a taxi to and from my class. It was expensive and I didn’t like it as much as the usual public transportation. There were traffic jams and it was hot.
This morning I am going to have ice cream at Tichy, just for the heck of it. Tichy is a famous ice cream parlor that, among other specialties, makes ice cream in the shapes of various foods, like spaghetti or apricot dumplings. I had been there on previous trips with my parents, but I couldn’t remember where it was, so I looked the address up in a phone book and then found it on a map and took the subway there. Now I am waiting for the place to open. I have another half hour.
My snack at Tichy was great. I had ice cream spaghetti. I had tried it on another trip to Austria when I was very little, and hadn’t liked it because it had so many dried fruits in it, but this time I liked the dried fruits.
I don’t know what else to do today. It’s still quite a few hours before I have 20th century literature class at the Central College office.
Fri 6/6 11:15
Waiting for aesthetics class to begin. One of the other students said the paper should be between 15 and 20 pages. Double spaced? What size margins? What font size? Who knows. I didn’t want to interrogate anyone. But I have to find out somehow. Or maybe I’ll just guess.
The other day we went to a play: Der Tollste Tag. It was incredibly delightfully weird. Men in corsets and codpieces, men in dresses, men kissing each other, old women lusting after young men, old men lusting after young women, murder, corruption, revolution– and it was required for theater class! Life here is great.
I leave for the Waldviertel this afternoon. Uli will call me at some point and tell me when and where we have to meet. I think it will be fun. I like the woods.
I met Hansi and Uli and Farzan at Karl and Hansi’s apartment. Karl is already at their house in the Waldviertel. We are on our way there.
Finally there. Wow, this brings back memories. I recognize all the old smells of the place and everything.
We just had a good dinner and I’ve been put in the room next to Uli & Farzan’s room. I hope I get a chance to go walking in the woods tomorrow. But now I’m tired.
Sat 6/7 13:41
No walking in the woods yet. I woke up in time for breakfast, ate it and then slept until lunch. They say the air out here makes you sleepy. And now it’s raining.
Lunch has made me so full I don’t know how I’m going to eat dinner. This evening we’re going to visit an aunt in Schoenbuehel who always has lots of cakes and things for her guests.
And even if I somehow manage to take part in the eating, I will surely be left out of the conversation. My strongest memory from the last time I met her was that she spoke such heavy dialect that I didn’t understand a word she said. We still laugh about how Mom thought this aunt was talking about peacocks when she was actually talking about piglets. There’s less similarity between the German words for peacocks and piglets than the English ones– in German peacock is “Pfau” and piglet is “Ferkel”– but she pronounced “Ferkel” as if it were “Farl” or “Faell” or something, and the misunderstanding happened.
I wonder when we’re going. It’s kind of nice just to sit here in my room and listen to the rain. But I’d like to get out a little, too.
Well, we talked and had cake at her house, where I met a nice dog and chickens, and then I went walking for a while by myself after we got back, but it was hot and there were a lot of bugs, so I came back within an hour. I’m tired again. Yaaaawwwnnn.
Mon 6/9 17:37
I’m on the way back with Uli & Farzan.
I spent most of the time in the Waldviertel sleeping, wandering in the woods, and reading. It was a relaxing experience.
I’m back at my dorm now. The ride was nice, with a lot of beautiful views, although there were some scary winding mountain roads. But we made it back safe.
Thu 6/12 9:44
Didn’t sleep at all last night. Spent whole ENTIRE night at computer writing Aesthetics paper. Double spaced, 3.5 cm margins, 12pt font, 30pt paragraph spacing, title taking up half a page, and I still barely managed 15 pages. Most of it descriptions of plays I went to, loosely tied into aesthetics theme. There Is Not A Lot To Talk About On The Subject Of “Die Verwandlung Ins Gebilde Und Die Totale Vermittlung: Die Aesthetische Nichtunterscheidung” !!!
Somewhat more satisfied with paper now. Got title smaller and body bigger, printed it in Central College Office.
Promising self not to look at it until after term ends, avoid finding things to change & wanting to print it again. Is as good right now as it needs to be, in current opinion. Ties between plays & theme not really that loose, though definitely some stuff in there just for filling space. Will give it to prof on last day.
Got Zeugnis forms, filled them out partly, hope I wrote right stuff. Have to ask Ruth tomorrow or some time.
Think I will nap until late evening now. Then maybe use internet. So tired cannot write complete sentences.
Fri 6/13 6:01
Well, my nap lasted until two in the morning, and then I lay around in bed half awake until a few hours later, and then took a shower, and now I am on the University campus because I had an urge to get out.
I bought a doughnut at the Alser Strasse station, and as I was getting it, I heard my name and turned around to see a guy I’d never met before, standing there waiting for an answer to his question. Oh my gosh, I thought, he just asked me, “Is your name Erika?”
I said yes, and looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to tell me how he knew that.
“I was there,” he said, smiling. “In New York.”
I smiled back, confusedly but politely, and went to the streetcar stop. I’ve never been to New York, and I stood there puzzling over it, until it hit me what must have happened: He hadn’t asked me if my name was Erika, he’d asked me if I was from America. Just my luck that the one word that rhymes with my name is the country I live in, so I have to spend my life hearing it and thinking people are talking about me. It’s like “air conditioner”… I never hear that without thinking for the first half second that it’s my name.
And then I realized I’d forgotten to pay for my doughnut, and had to go back and pay and make an embarrassed apology to the vendor. The guy was still there. “So that’s how it is in America?” he said.
Got online at the internet cafe, checked my email. Now I am in the classroom waiting for aesthetics class. It’s HOT out. It’s hotter in here. It’s probably even hotter in Spain.
Mom has managed to talk me into taking spring semester there, though. I think I can handle it. Anyway, I have the summer and the fall semester to make plans.
Do you know how lazy I am feeling right now? Well, it took me a long time to overcome my laziness enough to write this entry. Five minutes ago, if I could have written in my diary without moving, this is what I would have written:
I am lying on my back staring at something that is either a bug or a little hole in the wall. And either it is crawling very slowly or I am imagining that it is crawling. I would look closer at it, but I don’t particularly care whether it is a bug or a hole in the wall, I am just curious about whether it is crawling. If I looked closer, I would have a good chance of being able to tell whether it was a bug or a hole, and if it were a hole, I would know it hadn’t been crawling, but if it were a bug, I would not know whether it had been crawling. So I have a fifty percent chance or less of being able to satisfy my curiosity about this thing, and a fifty percent chance or less is not worth sitting up far enough to look closer at it.
That is how lazy I have been feeling.
Sat 6/14 13:59
I’m going to Graz again. I guess I went the first time without a clear idea of what I was going to do, and just checked out the first few things that caught my attention. When I got back, a lot of people gave me advice about what one should see in Graz, and so I am in a train now, going back there.
I am going to try and see the armory, with all the knights’ outfits, and go up to the top of Schlossberg. There is also some kind of fort on a hill which I want to see because I have a vague memory of being there as a very little kid, and I want to see what it looks like to me now. Actually, pretty much all I remember is that there was a coin-operated pink snail there that kids could ride on. It would be neat if it were still there.
Well, I emailed Mom from a net cafe when I got to the station, and she emailed me right back with an answer: The hill with the snail is Schlossberg, so I wouldn’t have any trouble finding it.
And so I went there– and the snail is still there! Just the same, except now it takes euros. Sheesh, it is even sillier-looking than I remembered.
The place had plenty of other interesting things. For instance, to go up the hill, I took a train that went up a track tilted at more than a 45 degree angle. No one would feel comfortable leaning that far back for the whole ride, so it was set up with the seats perfectly level, just the rest of the train tilted. It struck me as a cross between a train and an elevator.
The castle there is just ruins, but there is a lovely clock tower, and a great view of the rest of Graz.
Sun 6/15 11:07
Wow, I did a lot this morning. First I went to Schloss Eggenberg . There was an interesting-looking exhibit inside, but for some reason I just felt like walking around outside the palace for a while.
There were lots and lots of peacocks in the gardens– walking on the path, sitting on statues and walls by the entrance … there was even a white peacock perched on some kind of art display. I loved it.
Then I went to the “island” that has been built recently in the river. I wanted to see what was there, and I found that there were some bleachers like a little theater, and then a sort of bar or restaurant under a weird-looking roof .
Finally I went to the armory , where there was a display of ridiculous numbers of guns and swords and suits of armor. One was supposed to take off one’s shoes and walk through on a red carpet made out of pieces of clothing.
All in all, it was very unusual. Just the way I like my vacations!
Only a few more weeks to go. One more regular week, starting tomorrow… and then the week with all the final exams… and then a free week for me, when I can hang out, read, go on day trips or whatever suits me.
Then I get on my train on July 7, arrive in Amsterdam on July 8, sleep at the airport hotel, and catch my plane home on the morning of July 9.
I am very ready for all of this. I have given all the presentations I will have to give, written my paper for Aesthetics, studied the practice questions for the Fin-de-Siecle test, reserved places on the trains to Amsterdam, and even done a lot of packing.
I wonder why I am always so eager for the next big change. When I’m planning to go on a long trip, I can’t wait for the day I leave, and when I’m planning to come back, I can’t wait for that either. I look forward each year to both the beginning of the school term and the beginning of summer vacation. And I love each of the four seasons, but I hate the little transitional times in between them, where I have to wait and wait for the world to get settled into its next phase.
It’s strange because I don’t generally like the idea of change. I value consistency, ritual, security– when I think of my ideal life, I imagine living in the same place and doing the same work forever.
Maybe it’s an urge to get past the change, to get it over with, and settle into the next long period of relative consistency. Whether it’s a season, a school year, a vacation, a time abroad or a time at home, I’m happiest at the beginning of one of these settled periods, and least comfortable at the end, when I know things will soon change. All I can do at those times is look forward to the next beginning.
Wed 6/18 14:10
This weekend I am planning a trip to Partnachklamm, a beautiful gorge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The weather here has been hot, and I remember Partnachklamm being nice and cool when I went there with Mom years ago. I remember walking alongside a river between two high cliffs, where there were lots of interesting rock formations to look at, and we would pass occasional waterfalls or little trickles of water running down the cliff into the river.
The water was freezing… there was one place where it was pumped into some kind of little channel and tourists were invited to step in and see how long they could stand the cold. That is the kind of area I want to be in this weekend.
Thu 6/19 15:38
Today is some sort of holiday, and the Central College office and most stores seem to be closed, but there was a festival on the Donauinsel and I went and checked out the things people were selling there.
I bought some rings, a bracelet and a pair of earrings. The earrings were French hooks and my ears aren’t pierced, but I’ve found that I can easily bend a French hook and make it into an ear cuff. The look is a bit different, but an ear cuff doesn’t need a hole and doesn’t pinch like a clip-on earring.
I’ve found out what trains I have to take to get to Partnachklamm, and I reserved a place on the one that is a night train. I get on that one tomorrow night, get out in Munich early in the morning, and take a regional train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Then there is a ski lift or something to go up the mountain to where I can hike the gorge. I’m looking forward to it.
Well, now I’m looking forward to it even more. My roommate is having five extra people stay in the dorm for, as I understand it, the whole rest of the semester.
I don’t know how they’re going to sleep, because I doubt five sleeping bags will fit on our floor even without walking space. But I suppose we’ll manage somehow. At any rate, someone can use my bed while I’m in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
I went back to the festival and bought more jewelry. I am way over budget for this week now. But I just suddenly felt like being completely extravagant for once. Maybe tomorrow I’ll buy a pretty dress. I really haven’t bought much in Europe so far, except food.
I asked my roommate what holiday it is, and she told me it is “Frohleichnam.” That sounds as if it means “Happy Dead Body,” but I’ve never heard of it and she couldn’t tell me any more. She says it’s not celebrated where she comes from, and she doesn’t know anything about it.
I suppose it is a Catholic holiday. I was raised Catholic, and we used to celebrate some Catholic holidays at home, but not anywhere near all of them– there are so many. Since coming to Austria, a mainly Catholic nation, I have learned about a great many holidays I had never heard of before.
Fri 6/20 18:10
At the end of aesthetics class today I turned in my paper and the Zeugnis. It turned out a Zeugnis is necessary for aesthetics class, after all, even though there is no test. The prof says I can pick it up in early July… at latest, on the fourth.
Then, after class, I went and splurged like crazy on sexy clothes, shoes, a handbag, a belt. I now have about six or seven new tops, all tight-fitting and revealing… suede shoes with medium heels and pointy toes… and a leather snakeskin-patterned bag with a shoulder strap, that holds my little green purse and all the stuff that was in my belt pack.
The belt I bought was a disappointment– it was a metal chain, but the chain links came apart when I pulled it through my belt loops. I guess it was made for wearing as a decoration over a dress, and wasn’t given a bit more strength than was necessary for that use. Too bad. It sure looked cool.
I’m not sure what brought on this sudden urge to do away with my old sloppy-looking image, to trade the oversized t-shirts and plain tennies for provocative tank tops and sexy leather shoes, the belt pack for a purse, the glasses for contacts (at least, I’m wearing my contacts now, though the glasses are in my bag). I guess it’s true that one’s lifestyle can change hugely from traveling abroad. Of course, I don’t know how much I will actually wear these clothes, for how long, and I certainly hope I don’t stop being a nerd at heart.
I think I misunderstood about how long my roommate’s guests would be staying. As I understand it now, they will actually be goneby the time I get back from Partnachklamm on Sunday. That’s a relief.
I’m sitting at the station with nothing to do while I wait for it to be 23:30 or whatever time my train is coming. I can’t do anything involving money– I am already so far over budget that I will have to spend 26.85 less than usual per week for five weeks in order to make up for it. I can’t go out with my friends– at least, they aren’t answering their phones. I didn’t think to bring a book. I certainly have time to go back to my dorm and get one, but I might run into my roommate and her friends and I wouldn’t know what to talk about with them.
Well, that’s not a good excuse. Maybe I will go back to my dorm for a while.
I ended up going back to the festival and buying MORE jewelry, and then when I was waiting for the streetcar to my dorm, my sexy clothes were suddenly successful: a guy came up to me, said I looked really nice, and got on the streetcar with me. I was polite and friendly, as it is my nature to be, and he kept insisting we had to meet before I went back to the US. We wound up in a cafe having tea, and he somehow got a promise out of me to go to another cafe on Thursday.
I am too bloody agreeable! Yes, I was a LITTLE reasonable… when he made it clear that he would like to get me in bed, I told him equally clearly that I couldn’t do that unless I knew him better, and that I would go to a cafe with him on Thursday but he couldn’t expect it to go any farther than that. And he agreed to that. But I should have just said “no, I don’t want to meet you again!”
Because I don’t! I am the type who hopes to get to know someone as a friend, gradually fall in love, and then, maybe, start getting physical. He is obviously the type who thinks of sex first of all. Neither of us is going to get satisfied by spending any more time together, and acting as if I consider him my type is just going to prolong the discomfort for both of us.
How do I get into these situations? If I don’t want to get hit on, why did I go buy a whole bunch of attractive clothes and jewelry and crap? Why do I daydream so much about guys being attracted to me and then just panic when it happens? Why do I say yes when I’m thinking no? I can’t believe myself. I can’t wait until my train comes and I am out of here, for the weekend, at least.
Sat 6/21 7:07
I am calmer now. I slept very well on the train– better than I usually sleep even in a real bedroom. I didn’t wake up once in the night and I don’t remember having any dreams.
I have taken the regional train from the Munich central station to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen station and am waiting for the bus. It should take me to a ski lift that will go up the mountain to Partnachklamm.
Well, I had a nice long ride up the mountain in a cable car. Lots of photo opportunities. I had a great view , and once in a while I would see another cable car coming back the other way, and in the window facing me, there was a reflection of the red roofs of the buildings in the valley behind me. The higher up I got, the more spectacular the mountain views.
Then I hiked down into the gorge and got a room in a hotel called Forsthaus Graseck on the mountainside. I’m in my hotel room now. I will eat lunch and then hike the rest of the way to the bottom of the gorge and along the river. Then I’ll come back and spend the night here.
Did I finish the walk through the gorge that fast? 14:43… it’s only about 3 hours since my last entry.
But I did it. And it was amazing. A long path down, and then, as I remembered, a raging river between steep cliffs, with waterfalls trickling down the mountain or showering droplets over the path. The path alongside the river was a tunnel in the cliff, sometimes enclosed, with openings here and there to look out on the river– sometimes with one side fully open, and the “ceiling” just an overhang of rock over the path.
It was beautiful. I remain frustrated with my camera for not doing it justice. I wonder why I have more desire to photograph things than to sit for a while and look at them, which would impress a truer picture on my memory. But I am such an exhibitionist– every experience I ever have needs to be preserved for others to see, visually when possible, and if not, then in my diary. Knowledge is so important to me that it is a tragedy for even a bit of it to be lost forever. I wish the world could know everything I’ve ever done or thought… not while I’m alive, but someday, centuries from now.
And when I try sitting and looking at something for a while, I get bored. My way is to look at things quickly, and I think I am actually left with as strong a memory and emotional response as if I sat looking for a long time. Just as a camera can get a lasting picture from a split second of exposure, I gain a lasting memory– and a deep sense of awe and beauty– from just a glance at something like the cliffs at Partnachklamm. I fed myself a dozen of those glances every minute, rushing through the tunnel… and came out exhausted from the thrill, like getting off one of the more intense rides at the state fair.
Afterwards , I took a cable car back up to the hotel. There was a sign in the cable car saying something along the lines of “please don’t pull the door handle during the ride,” first in German and then horribly translated into English. The German word for “please” also means “request,” which seems to have caused some confusion there. I think it’s understandable in this case that I just had to take a picture,
Sun 6/22 11:23
I had been planning to come back in the afternoon today, not being sure how long it would take me to get up and get breakfast and get from Hotel Graseck into the city. But it ended up going rather quickly. I took the Graseckbahn– the hotel’s special cable car, the one with the bad translation– down the mountain, and then I was going to walk into town, but a horse-drawn carriage stopped and gave me a ride for two euros.
That got me as far as the Skistadion bus stop, and I took the bus from there to the train station, where I found a train just about to leave for Munich. I’m on the train now. I’m sure that when I’m in Munich I can find a train to Vienna soon enough.
Well, not as soon as I expected. I just got on a train minutes ago, and it won’t leave until 15:26. I had to sit around in Munich for a long time being bored.
This weekend I have managed to stay within my budget, though. That’s a good thing.
The first two hours of the train ride sure went fast. I had a nice long conversation with a couple from Ohio who happened to be sitting near me. They were interested in Asperger’s syndrome and Tourette’s syndrome, and we found a lot to talk about.
They got out in Salzburg. We exchanged addresses so we can keep in touch. Now I am alone for three more hours.
Mon 6/23 8:53
I got back to Vienna okay. Now my finals week starts. At 11:30 I have my theater test, then the Fin-de-Siecle test in the evening. Tomorrow night there’s a final for Romantic Lit, the next night a final for 20th Century Lit, and on Friday a “final discussion” for Aesthetics. Then the semester is over.
I haven’t gone on the internet for several days. I hope no one has written anything urgent to me. I doubt it. But I’m still looking forward to checking my email, and emailing my friends about my latest trip.
Tue 6/24 14:10
Finals yesterday went well. Only trouble: I forgot to ask the Fin-de-Siecle professor when and where to pick up the Zeugnis after he writes my grade on it, and on Friday when I handed in the Aesthetics Zeugnis, I remembered to ask when and forgot to ask where. But I gather that all philosophy Zeugnisse follow the same rules, so if I can just find out where they are picked up, I will be okay.
The group had a big dinner together in a restaurant last night. Many are leaving in the next few days. I will miss them!
I have decided, on advice of friends, not to meet the guy on Thursday. And I am going back to my old image, at least for now. My new look was beautiful, but it just caused me trouble.
I must get something to eat. And study for the Romantic Lit test tonight.
Wed 6/25 23:10
I am relaxed now. I did the Romantic Lit test yesterday, and the 20th Century Lit test today, and I think I did satisfactorily, though not perfectly, on both of them.
All I have left now is the final discussion for Aesthetics on Friday. I doubt it is highly important to our grades… I think the important stuff was the presentation and the paper. So if I can’t think of much to discuss, it probably won’t be a disaster.
I’ll try my best, though.
Fri 6/27 17:38
Yay! I’m totally done with classes! And the discussion went just fine. And now I know where to pick up the Zeugnisse for the philosophy classes. And I had a nice dinner with some of the group last night, and I got on the internet today and made some revisions on my webpages, and this weekend I think I will go to Salzburg.
Sat 6/28 11:38
I’m on a train to Salzburg now. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Salzburg… maybe just relax. I’m kind of exhausted from having just finished the semester.
I might go to the salt mine, though, because I haven’t been there since I was a little kid, and I didn’t get to see it when we went to Salzburg from Prien.
But it might be crowded… in fact, everything might be crowded; from the number of people in the train, it seems like a popular time to travel in this direction.
It’s true… there was only one single room left in the 15-floor hotel I found. And things seem more expensive in Salzburg. An hour at the internet cafe is five euros, while it’s about three at the cafes on the University of Vienna campus… and a night in this hotel is over a hundred euros, while a night at the Graseck in Garmisch-Partenkirchen or at the Ibis in Graz is only about sixty.
Maybe it’s just because it’s close to the station. There’s a net cafe at Wien Westbahnhof that’s 6.60 an hour. But then, the Ibis is right next to the Graz central station, and it’s still cheaper.
Well, might as well enjoy my stay in the expensive hotel, whatever reasons it has for costing so much. Wonder what’s on TV.
I watched Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Voyager until six, and now I’m waiting for my pesto pasta in the restaurant. I don’t think I will do any sightseeing this weekend. This trip is just to use up Eurailpass days and to relax.
Amazing how relaxing I find traveling by myself, considering how inexperienced I am with it. I hope I get to do some in the US, too, after I get home. The trains there aren’t as easy to use, but there are Greyhound buses and stuff.
Sun 6/29 10:48
There was a really good breakfast at the hotel. Now I’m on my way back to Vienna. I slept well, but I’m still sleepy. And there isn’t a comfortable sleeping position in this train seat. Wish I’d brought my neck pillow.
I’m back at my dorm now, with lots of things to do over the next few days.
I have to go to the Meldeamt with my Meldezettel and get it registered that I am leaving this area. I have to pick up my Zeugnisse and send them to Ruth at the Central College Office. I have to go to the UPS office and ship some of my bags home. I have to get a hold of Lotte and plan to give her my laptop, because I have realized it is not the kind of laptop I want in the long run, and it would be cumbersome to carry home, and Lotte and her family could use another computer.
But I think this is a good point to end the journal, because those things are just little final technicalities and formalities. All the stuff you really want to know about my semester in Europe, I’ve already said.