Saturday, 29 October 2011


Last Saturday I had the pleasure of partaking in my school’s Matura Ball. This is like Prom/Grad for them and happens in October so they can focus on studying for  their exams at the end of the year. To begin the evening the Maturants (and exchange students) have to promenade out onto the dance floor in their white dresses and tuxes. Since our theme was time the ties and corsages where purple. Then the Head Director (principal) says a few words and the Maturants perform the choreographed dance they’ve been practicing for two weeks. Ours began with this medieval sort of thing then went into the Black Eyed Peas version of “I’ve had the time of my life.” The dancing was not the best; mostly it was just walking to the rhythm of the music. When the embarrassment was over and the pictures were taken I scurried off to change into my grad dress that I wore for my grad. (This inspired a very White Swan/Black Swan moment for me... however no blood was shed.) The rest of the night was a big party in the school with teachers and parents serving alcohol to the students and the school being trashed. The Maturants wear their dresses until breakfast the next day and acquire about two inches of mud on the hem. It was very well put together (the Maturants have been working on the decorations for two months) and more personal then our grad was in Canada. I appreciate the thought and the work put in by the whole school to make it happen. 
Me, Tuuli, Noelia, Veronica
Canada, Finland, Argentina, Itay

Desi, Me, Angie, Noelia

Konni, Tuuli, Me
White Swan/Black Swan

This week has been a regular one besides that. I had Wednesday off for some sort of holiday and took the opportunity to go biking and photograph some fall colours of the country side.

Yesterday was the celebration for breast cancer by the local Soroptimist club (female Rotary). I went after school with two friends Desi (in my class) and Tuuli (another exchange student from Finland) for lunch at Habe D’Ere (authentic Austrian restaurant). After we went to check out the festivities and buy some NachSpeise (desert). My host mom is on the club and partook in modeling a fashion show in the Hauptplatz (town centre). She had told me at the beginning of the week that she put my name in the raffle. She had said there were mostly only prizes for old people anyways. Well here comes the draw and I had just finished telling my friend Desi (from school) that I never win anything, but that bag doesn’t look too bad (in German of course). Well my name was called for the bag. With much confusion from the announcer as to where “Paul” was, (my name is very confusing to most Austrians, they think my first name is Paul and last Tess).
After we were handed out 168 pink air balloons for the 168 people with cancer in Burgenland. It was like a movie when we let them go, really cute.
The Bag I won is real Leather and turned out to be worth 139.99 Euros. Whoa.

Today I made Pancakes. With Maple Syrup form Canada!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Meningo Encephalitis and Milka


I am already beginning to see the changes taking place in me as my stay in Austria approaches its three month mark. Last week I took the bus to Wien alone for the weekend with Rotary. In the past I’ve been known to be an anxious person, and while I can’t say it was all a walk in the park, I can however say I didn’t hemorrhage a blood vessel or gain an ulcer during my travels. I’ve learned that organization is key, and that one can never have too many resources, information or “Plan Bs” (ie. calling my sister because I had not a clue how to get to the city bus once in Wien). I spent two hours and 7,80 Euros on the bus to Wien. Once there I was very confused as to where to catch the city train. Amidst the heaps of construction that surrounded the bus depot admittedly, my heart began to sink and I first realized this was not going to be as easy as promised. First tip to surviving a new city - Not everyone knows the right answer to your question. Also, it is even more probable that you got a wrong answer if you are in a city in which you can’t fluently speak the language. I asked maybe three different people how to get to the bus stop and they all gave me the wrong answer. Thankfully I did not randomly hop on a bus, but called my sister and ended up in the right place with a very nice Austrian girl who went out of her way to help me catch the right one. Although I was some times confused, I must give the Wien people credit; not one of them refused to help me when asked and often they tried to explain the directions in English. The bus system is relatively easy to navigate and I got to Mariahilferstrasse relatively easily (although as I would soon discover the U Bahn is a much more efficient and easier mode of transportation). The mix-ups leaked into the extra time I gave myself to go shopping, so I ended up with a short supply. To my surprise as I was traipsing around the shopping street, (trying to look very important and fashionable; everyone in Wien looks like a model, I am being very serious. They all dress extremely well and are perfectly groomed,) I ran into two other Rotary Exchange students, Amelia and Tasia from Pennsylvania and Idaho. Small world you might say? In fact no, small street. It was only a fifteen minute walk away from the Youth Hostel we were staying in. I ran into another group of Rotary students as well that came from Graz. 

"The Kiss" Tea. Tastes mostly like Earl Grey with a little hint of orange. Well done.
Who knew that's what Klimt had in mind when he painted this masterpiece.
You say Goodbye I say...
The night we arrived we went to see the Musical “Hello Dolly” at the famous  Volksoper. The best experience of the evening was seeing this beautiful stage and the theater in which it resided. The musical was good with its twirling of white hooped dresses and dances by waiters. Although, not spectacular if I am being honest, and with you, my readers, I want to be completely honest. The principal singer/actress was excellent, that was sure, but I feel that simply, the plot and the play itself fell a little short and turned bland for me. While I am an outspoken fan of the quirkiness and dramatics of Woyzeck this southern bell, 1930’s piece was not my favourite. 
Mmm.. Chinese
The night was quickly redeemed however by a large buffet at a Chinese restaurant close to the theatre. We were then left on our own to get back to the hostel (I’m not sure why they trusted us with that.. for a large portion it was their first time in Wien.) But perhaps we are more capable then I give us credit for, for everyone was back safe and on time. I enjoy the freedom personally. I think it may be this way here because most of us, being already 18, are legally adults and as such we are expected to have the awareness and the maturity that comes with the title. 
Alycia and Me in the Chinese Restaurant. (She's from Edmonton!)

Pretty Buildings and Bombs

The next day was a tour of Parliament. I won’t go into too much detail, (I’ll spare the facts and let the ones that are interested out there Wikipedia it for themselves) but it was really quite interesting. The little pieces of history that were floating around in my head from my sisters and classmates all organized themselves together during the tour. The common theme throughout the guide was the impact of the bombings by the Allied forces in WWII that demolished 40% of the parliament building. Awkward... but I do have to say the Austrians are mostly pretty comfortable discussing this touchy piece of history. But I do not bring it up, similarly as one does not make fun of another person’s family member even though it is common practice by the person in question. I consider it a form of respect as I would wish to be shown in Canada’s case in a similar situation.

It's everywhere


Amelia, Tasia and Me at the Greek Restaurant
Roomies! (minus Demi)

After many pictures we walked to Stephansplatz (the centre of Wien) and had lunch at a Greek restaurant followed by a tour of the Schönbrunn Palace. We had time to walk through the gardens which were beautiful as Autumn approached. Then we had coffee and cake while waiting for the tour to start. The palace was elegant and definitely worth the visit. Our walk-through was aided with individual audio devices. We heard about Sisi's history with the help of an esteemed British man's voice that was decorated with sound effects of the time.
Schönbrunn's Gardens


Meningo Encephalitis and Milka

By this time we had to get back to the hostel for our first round of shots, (and not the alcohol variety). Once we had all assembled a very stylish man of perhaps thirty entered the room. Of course none of us took him for the doctor at first. The vaccination is against Meningo Encephalitis this a tick sort of insect which hides in grass and bushes and who’s bite can lead to meningitis so possible brain damage. This turned out to be one of the more painful shots I’ve had in my life. The next day my entire room woke up complaining of intense soreness in their arms.

We went for dinner at a typical Austrian restaurant and then had free time from 7pm to 12pm. Like the hard-core partiers my roommates and myself are, we went to a really cool coffee shop, (I got a chai latte, of course) we stayed for an hour then back to the room to eat our snacks (Oreos, Manners, Milka, Hariboo, and chocolate covered graham crackers,) all in time to be asleep by 10pm. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of our evening, (especially since most came back from their late night out with colds). 
Always a happy camper with Chai

Italian Cafe

Cookie, Chai and Euros

The inside was pretty neat, too bad this picture does not convey
its ambiance.
Oh, those Italians


Starbucks Steps Aside

The next day we opted out of the bus tour as there was word of a lack of seats and we all lived close to Wien. We walked to Stephansplatz and enjoyed a relaxing morning at McCafe and a little walk into the Shephansdome. Tasia expressed her concern (having not stepped into an Austria McDonalds before), but was soon converted. These stylish establishments serve consistently good coffee and cakes, and can be relied on much similarly to Starbucks in Canada. 

Autumn in Wien

Even though the weekend temperature hovered around 11 degrees Celsius I would say with the sun it felt more like 17 degrees. Beautiful fall weather for a really enjoyable weekend with friends. I can confidently say this was the best Rotary event for me so far. Not because of what we did, but because now I know who do do it with. (And I had excellent roomies.) 

Kirtag! A circus that comes to every town.
Lisa took me after I arrived home.
We went on that ride you see there. It spins around, scarier than it looks, I assure you.
Riesenschlangen- Gummy outside, Powdery Paste inside
Simply put - sweet.
We also got chocolate covered strawberries. 
Lisa and I enjoying out purchase "Lady and the Tramp style"

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chinese Lanterns

Emotional Update
I think the most interesting part of any experience is the psychological one. For anyone who thinks otherwise please feel free to skip this paragraph. 
It's been two months since I left for Austria and I have finally felt a longing for home. Not my house or Kelowna or anything material or familiar. Simply put, "I think I just miss my mommy." When those words came out of my mouth last night over a teary eyed Skype I could not believe I was ending to the so labeled, “honeymoon period” which wasn’t even a honeymoon at all, just a too-busy-and-overwhelmed-to-think period. It comes and goes. When I think or when something reminds me of someone. In this case it was Chinese Lanterns (the plant) hung in bunches from the ceiling of my friend’s house. As only I think my fellow exchange students can relate to, it feels a little lonely sometimes being the foreigner. I hadn't expected this type of isolation. It’s probably similar to a monkey in a cage sort of effect. Give a monkey a banana and see what it will do. I know I am over sensitive, as I always am, and that may have resulted in the emotional water works. *Important to note: Being sensitive does not mean you are emotional. These are two very different things. The former refers to being quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences and the latter readily affected with or stirred by emotion. 
So I am trying to live every minute and be present in every minute (a quote from my cousin). And for a little more emotional cleansing, tonight I can look forward to volleyball.

Thinking of home...
Arts are Influence 
Austrian art class can churn out some pretty sweet stuff.
"What do you see in the tree?"
I find it’s more about what you are trying to get across and the composition then the skill or experience. I couldn’t be more in love with this method. The walls of the school are packed with art. It seems to be valued with an importance similar to sports in Canada. For instance in senior year you don’t have to take gym but you do have to take art. How awesome is that?! Also I must mention the importance of art in the home. The common colour scheme here is white, almost a chalky Greek looking white. The walls however, are filled with art, usually from relatives and/or friends. The houses, (from my little experiences) also have little to no colour scheme, (an anti-Home Sense quality, if you will.) And hanging wind chimes and stained glass are in abundance. Every house feels like home - and not like Ikea.
Culinary Canada
So last Saturday I did a little Canadian cooking for my family. I was at a little bit of a loss, as you can imagine, when trying to figure out what to make. Canada has very few traditional dishes that are easy enough to make over here and that an Austrian palate would be partial to. The french cuisine sort of went out the window, but won’t be forgotten for future culinary endeavors. There was a yellow pea soup that didn’t look too appealing and a meat pie from the French. What I will make one of these days however will be poutine. Perhaps not as a main course, I’m not sure how much gravy one can take. Of course Salmon was the obvious choice, but only my host mom eats salmon. I remembered at every salmon run in BC we always have salmon chowder and... Bannock! So I made this traditional First Nations “camp fire” bread for my family which was very easy along with bacon, and Jamie Oliver’s carrot salad and stir fried corn recipe, which is worth a mention. For desert I made Nanaimo Bars from Vancouver Island. When I was eating what I prepared I couldn’t help but feel a little closer to Canada. Two things that will always take me back home: Nanaimo bars and City and Colour.
Canada Cooks
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups water
  1. Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir to mix. Pour melted butter and water over flour mixture. Stir with fork to make a ball.
  2. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times. Pat into a flat circle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
  3. Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 15 minutes for each side. Use two lifters for easy turning. May also be baked on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.
My Nanaimo Bars

Jamie Oliver corn kernels+olive oil+ginger+chilli+parsley+soy sauce=yum!

Me, Konni and Desi on our way to the play

Here's where the play was. Sorry the pictures are
blurry- we almost missed the bus!
Woyzeck and The Tiger Lillies
Woyzeck is a German play written by Georg Büchner. He started writing the play the year before his death in 1837 and never finished it. It is often categorized as a “working class tragedy” but is also known for its theme of “human jealousy.” The main character, Woyzeck, has a child with a woman (Marie) and must earn money for the family by working for the Captain and taking part in medical experiments conducted by the Doctor. Woyzeck begins to see visions and becomes paranoid of an affair between Maria and the Drum Sergeant, (which in fact did happen). In a fit, Woyzeck stabs Maria to death by a pond... this is where the original story ends. Most renditions end with Woyzeck drowning himself while trying to clean the blood off. 
The stage was decorated in strings of different coloured lightbulbs hung hap-hazardly above an old carnival setting. I gather that this was a big cultural event from all the cameras and people from all different countries that were there. The actors did a fabulous job at portraying the play with more actions then dialogue. But what saved my, and every other english speaker’s bacon, were the Tiger Lillies.

While most of the plot of this play would have been lost on a foreigner like me here’s where the Tiger Lillies come in. After every main event in the play the band would burst into english song summarizing what had just happened. It was eerily and beautifully done principally with accordion, drums and a stand-up bass. There was also a live brass band that supplied music for the rest of the play.

Here’s a little clip of the wonderful music that we got to hear.

Rotary Sturm (weak but very tasty wine, more like juice really) and 
Kastanien Braten (chestnut roast)

Pretty cold fall weather (pun intended)
They always have baked goods at every event
Hasselnuss Kuchen und Apfel Kuchen
Mr. Chestnut roaster
My first time eating chestnuts

Wurst and Semmel - you really can't get more Austrian

Going to the Rotary trip to Wien this weekend. Hopefully will get to see some museums, even though there are non on the itinerary. I think we can change that...