Monday, 26 September 2011

The Fog

The fog of two nights ago caught up with me today. I am beyond tired. I think the “honeymoon period” everyone spoke of must have come to a close. I am focusing really hard on my German and it’s resulting in headaches. Oh, to be fluent.
I’ve gotten a few requests to see my Host Family’s home. Lisa and I went for a walk and took some pictures...

My host sister Petra when she was little is the spokes woman for  her dad's company. Liebe!

2nd biggest street in Hochtrass

The pool. Nobody swims in it anymore, people got rashes from the water.
But it is good for skating in the winter!

Shani, Ana's dog, and Lisa. We took her for a walk.

This is where I wait for the bus. glamourous.

The main street of my small town

Also the main street

My family has a sign! To the right is our "street."

The church by our house

The country you see when walking around the outskirts of town.
(no Alps here)
The road outside of town
Stolen apples are the best.

My house!

me and he house

My room

My room is upstairs with the piano. yay!

The living room (Petra is hiding)
The kitchen
The backyard

This weekend was the “Hak” Ball (the school beside us had their Matura). The theme was Under the Sea and I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was. My friends kept emphasizing on how much better the one at our school is going to be and “don’t get too excited,” sort of thing. Well They had a lovely setup in their gym with a live R&B band (excellent), tables and bars. Then there was a disco tent outside with a DJ and more modern music and of course a bar. Also, you could buy many different types of food in another large room. It was all very well organized which made for really enjoyable evening with some friends.
The Gym
Hooray for Exchange Students!
Tuuli from Finland, Noelia from Argentina and me.

Konni went to Wisconsin for 6 months. I would be lost without her and her English.

After we went to my favourite club in Oberpullendorf, Raha. They always have old movies playing with German subtitles in the background. This week was “Wayne’s World.” The music is well selected. Their thing is classic oldies from the 70s ish mixed with new stuff (we requested Muse a few weeks ago - everyone got really excited). Muse seems to be a really big thing here, also Mumford and Sons. I’m good with that, great bands! 
Also the girls really like The Astroids Galaxy Tour (awesome funk/pop/R&B band out of Copenhagen).

Alrighty, I’ll try to get some sleep and chat with you later.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Girl who sleeps in Cars

My first Package form Canada!
Only the essentials - Card, Money and American Apparel

In my defence it's exhausting being an exchange student! And the quite hum of the engine lulls me to sleep... My host family always jokes about it.

In other news, I am now the proud owner of new dark blue Birkenstock knock-offs. They are not uncommon to wear and I quite like them. I’m feeling one step closer to becoming an true Austrian. This weekend I will be going to Wien to do a little shopping, and then attending my first Matura Ball. 
I’ve had quite an exciting few weeks. Happy perusing! 
I am back from the sheets of rock that is Taupliz. What was advertised as a hike became in fact a rock climbing/scaling adventure when we reached the top. Crevices were engraved so far into the stone that in some cases the bottom was nowhere in sight. I was reminded of Albert’s Abyss* as we looked down into its dark depths. This hike was followed by an awkward line for the showers, dinner and then a possibly dangerous night walk. When we lined up outside in the dark we had heard rumors of where we were going (a disco), but no idea how we were to be led there. Soon people started emerging out of the house behind us with freshly lit torches. Yes, adults were giving 16-18 year olds torches with the intention of everyone’s help to light the way. We paraded down the streets of the small town periodically shouting quotes such as, “Grab your torch and pitchforks,” and “Rape, pillage and plunder.” As I looked into the restaurants, where bewildered Austrians gazed at us with terror, I believed that they may have though for a minute that the Apocalypse might be taking place. But their fear was not without cause. Needless to say, some people should not have been given torches, but no accidents occurred on our quest to the disco. When we arrived to the glass gazebo, similar to the one in The Sound of Music,* music waiting for us to dance, and have a coke or an Almdudler*. 
We had our latest Rotary event night yet - 11:30pm. The next morning we took the windy bus ride down to the train and off home we went.
                                       FILM REVIEW: 
My first film recommendation is “Keinohrhasen” or “Rabbit Without Ears” in English. It stars, was directed and partially written by Til Schweiger. He is a German actor who you may have seen in the Tarantino film “Inglorious Bastards” when he plays the silent but deadly Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz. Schweiger is also a director, writer and producer.
This film is one of the few well written rom-coms out there, and esthetically delightful to watch. If you are in need of a pick-me-up it’s the ideal choice. 

Please don’t be afraid of the sub-titles... they won’t bite. I prefer to watch movies in the original language anyhow.

School continues to be an amusing part of my week. I love music class to death where this week we continued to work on “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and “Yellow Lemon Tree” by the German group Fool’s Garden. Music history is taught by the same teacher. This week we learnt about the origins of music and how it grew to be part of the Catholic Church. Though I couldn’t recite you the lesson verbatim I definitely caught most of it, my teacher is very accommodating with the language gap. Today in Art we modeled a skull with clay that we had previously drawn the class before. (Fun Fact: skull in German is Totenkoft, literally translated to “dead head.”)

Yes I do in fact have a life apart from Rotary and school. Last night my sisters took me Bowling where we heard some Tom Jones playing in the alleys. Good to know the Austrians appreciate the classics. After we went to an Asian buffet restaurant - Chen’s Cooking. I think it was the best Asian food I’ve ever had. 14 euros got you a pass to try the full Chinese, Japanese and Thai tables along with some Austrian salads. The Thai food was by far the best. They have a table with about six or eight different kinds of raw fish (calamari, shrimp, beef) which you scoop on your plate then head over to the raw veggies (asian variety) and hand the plate over to the stand-by cook to whom you have told your sauce choice. He then cooks it right in front of you with his big wok. It tasted AH-mazing. I have never eaten so much in my life and I do not regret a single bite. For a buffet, that’s saying something.

*Albert’s Abyss - From the movie Garden State (2004). The main character visits an antique jewelry trader/ keeper of a sort of infinitely deep rock quarry named Albert. 
*The Sound of Music - Refer to the gazebo from the song “16 going on 17.”
*Almdudler - an excellent Austrian drink; tastes like lemon juice, ice tea and mineral water.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Birkenstocks and The “Have-Nots”

McDonalds in Graz. A special picture for my Magnum-obsessed mother.

Were you ever the only one on pajama day that forgot to wear pajamas and feeling like an idiot, because you could have been for once comfy and trendy at the same time? Well today that was me, eyeing the Birkenstock and slipper wearers in my school with envy. Soon enough I will be as in as it was to be out when wearing socks and sandals back home. Maybe the Japanese teacher had it right all along... 
Despite my crazed shopping escapade in Vienna that was only a week and a half ago I still feel the burn in my pocket to spend spend spend! Perhaps it’s the Birkenstock withdrawal, (and perhaps I’m obsessing).
I went out last Saturday to the anniversary of a local club, Raha. They chose to call this occasion the “Raha Ball,” they really like their balls here. Everything is a ball... Marching Band Balls, Graduation Balls, Clubbing Balls. It’s a good excuse to have fun and get dressed up which the Austrians love, and I can’t disagree with. A little side note to the “dressing up”- no sweat pants in school, ever! Strictly a jean wearing community here. My Lulus have been folded neatly in my top shelf ever since I got here. But no fear Lulu enthusiasts (Susan) they will come in good use for skiing and the hiking trip in Taupliz this weekend. 
Music class is a highlight for me during my school week. I have a very enthusiastic and slightly eccentric teacher (as music teachers usually are). Since there is no choir this year at school it was suggested to me to take this class where we sing, and learn a little theory and history of composers. It is a truly unique experience to learn about music in such close proximity to where it all started. Whereas most adults in America or Canada would refer to the rock bands of the 80s or perhaps the music of Elvis or the crooners of Jazz, in Austria there is a refreshing reverence for the best classical composers. I don’t think a day has gone by without the mention of at least one of the four most famous; Mozart, Hayden, Lizst or Johann Stauss. My music teacher has also promised a visit (or maybe a few?) to Wien (I will now refer to Vienna as the Austrians call it) to see an opera or a concert. Of course I am extremely excited, as I have already had the pleasure of seeing a screening of the Vienna Philharmonic. I am now convinced (though I didn’t need any convincing in the first place) that Austria out does all other musical experiences.
I will now leave you with a sentence in German that you can Google Translate, if you feel so curiously inclined, about my own music endeavors. 
Ich spiele das Klavier gerne. Jetzt ich lerne Chopins Nocturn in C# minor, ein sehr schön Musik Stück.
Raha Ball

StubenBergsee in Steinmark (Styria)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Lauf Forest!... Lauf!

Riesenrad in Vienna Amusement park
View from the top

Stephan's Dome and Horse&Buggy

Yes we did go to McDonalds in Vienna. They are so good here! Really good Lattes and they are equal to Starbucks....
but less expensive. 


Also Hundertwasserhaus

Sommerkino and the food stalls

Big screen and great sound!

On the bright side I have now learnt the verb “to run.” Although, on the “other side” I have not learnt nearly enough German to avoid the haze of fog that is a day in school. I understand “baby german,” simple questions; who, what, where, when and why. The answers that follow my questions are a whole other story. It will take time, but at the moment, in the words of Dave Matthews I’m, “clinging to straws while drowning.” But of course Austria has it’s little quirks that make it lovable. For instance, my sisters and I were driving to the clubs Saturday night and listening to Adele only to be slowed by a tractor mid-highway. Only in Austria. 

Yesterday I visited what I have reasoned to be, so far, my favourite city; Graz! Vienna of course is grand and fascinating but most times for me a little overwhelming. With a few more visits I’m sure it will take the top prize for my favourite city, (along with Vancouver of course). The highlight of Vienna was the Philharmonic concert replay on a huge screen in the Rathausplatz for Sommerkino. This festival goes on all summer, and in front of the stage are probably over twenty different stands of food, all from different countries! I myself took part in the Indian food (encouraged by my sisters not to have Austrian as we can cook that at home) and for desert we shared a crêpe and Knödel. I must fill you in on the cooking here, as I myself have been filling up! (I couldn’t resist the pun.) 

Knödel are the dumplings you eat with sauce (usually a sort of crème fraiche concoction) and berries. My host mom has also made me Kaiserschmarrn which is sort of a puffy pancake that you scramble into pieces and eat similarly to the Knödel. Along with these desert-like lunches I’ve been also having my fair share of sweets. They are crazy about Milka here and if the whole isle in the grocery store (maybe two) saved for chocolate wasn’t enough they also eat cakes (Kuchen, which is not a tiered cake (Torte), but by definition a flat cake cooked in a pan, usually with fruit). Dinner is usually various bakery breads with meats, cheeses and vegetables. Despite their frequent cooking of the classics they are also heavily influenced by the Italian influence in close proximity. Mozzarella, tomato and balsamic are used quite often. As for Austria’s take on Italy- corn on pizza! Love it!

Graz is so beautiful (or sehr schön) to say the least (and to say the least very un-poetically). The main centre, Hauptplaz is surrounded by cafes and shops. We had very tasty ice cream at a cafe. I ordered an Eiskaffee which here means ice cream in your coffee, (usually vanilla) specifically for me- Haselnuss (hazelnut). My favourite flavor of ice cream is quickly changing from Strawberry (for its likeness to the fresh variety) to Hazelnut, which I consider the true flavour of Austria. Here Nutella is everything.

And I will end on that note: Nutella is everything.

Now in Graz: Locks that you write the names of you and your bf/wife and throw the key into the moor. Legend says you will be together forever!


Also Hauptplaz

It's like Italy- right?

Kunsthaus, or Art House. Labelled as: "the friendly alien." To me: the giant peanut. 
Ah, Graz.

Caffe in the middle or the moor.

Yes, they do wear lederhosen and dirndl here. It's fairly common actually.