September 16 to October 7, 2014 (Tauplitz, Birthdays and Autumn)

Today (7. Oct) is the day after my two month anniversary with my new soulmate, Austria. My general impression of Austria so far could be described as a tangled mess full of all the different kinds of good feelings you could experience. With some more time I think these feelings will slowly start to be untangled as my culture shock and disbelief over living in a new country wear off. For now, however, I am content with not having to define that!

Rotary usually gives you a general explanation of each stage of your exchange so that you are prepared for the feelings that come with each time period. These stages run along the lines of culture shock, extreme language absorption, homesickness, etc. These stages didn’t mean much to me as I was trying to see them through the eyes of others. But now as I am experiencing every little thing so richly for myself, I understand completely what they meant and am even starting to paint a picture of what my exchange means to me. I am able to recognize my own personal stages, learn more about myself from how I cope with each new challenge, and strive to thrive in this crazy new life.

Most every exchange says on their return that they now have two lives. Two families, two sets of friends, and two homes. Currently, I feel as though I am transitioning into this mindset. Within my meek little two months I have already built a foundation. I have met friends, have gotten to know my host family, and have tasted the surrounding areas. I feel like I will only build upon this foundation until I too will feel as though Austria is my other home. Then in 9 months I will again have to leave home to live in another country (I really can’t catch a break on this one). Now, on to more exciting things! 🙂

Tauplitz Wochenende (September 19-21):

Two weekends ago I was blessed with another Rotary getaway in Tauplitz, Steiermark. Here I finally met the 30-ish exchange students from the southern hemisphere who arrived in January and will also leave in January (AKA our “Oldies”). That makes a total of about 85 rotary exchange students living throughout Austria! On Friday those of us living in and around Vienna met up and travelled in our massive group to the other 50 or so exchange students. On Friday after we arrived we were able to relax, talk to each other about our experiences and host families so far, and exchange lots of love that only exchange students know how to give. I really don’t know what I would do without this exchange student love and encouragement!

The next day was the day that we all hiked around two gorgeous lakes high in the Alps. A group of 10 or so students with the best gear and the lowest intelligence took the hardest hike straight up a mountain where they died (kidding, about the intelligence part). The rest of us were out and about for about 7 hours on our leisurely and gorgeous hike. You have probably already seen the photos of this since you are most likely only reading this from my Facebook page. There are no words to explain how breathtaking these views were. Combined with the fresh Austrian air and surrounded by amazing friends, it was completely rejuvenating. There is no way that someone could not have been happy in this setting.

That night we took a tiny little train-type vehicle across town (this “town” was a small collection of hotels and houses in a huge meadow tucked safely in the Alps) to a dance “club” where we danced through our exhaustion into the wee hours of the night (perhaps until 10 pm). A weekend well spent and much needed!

More Activities:

The weekend was the birthday of the Schneider Oma, or my host father’s mother. All of my host grandparents are extremely sweet and I always leave their homes fat and happy. 🙂 This is really nice for me as I haven’t ever really been able to experience having grandparents so close by! The birthday girl last weekend was Erna and for her birthday we all had dinner together. “We” includes my host family and the family of my host father’s brother. Karina’s (my host mom) parents also joined us that Sunday at a Gasthaus for lunch and more celebrations.

The next weekend we had another birthday, this time for the lovely Karina! For Karina’s birthday we went with practically the rest of the town (all of the friends of Karina and Korni) to a music concert. I dragged Facundo from Argentina along and together with my host family, decked out in funky crazy clothes, we danced until late into the night to some great funk and soul music by the band “74Tea.” This was also the 20th birthday of the band and it is this band that my two uncles play in! Feel free to look them up on youtube as they really are entertaining. Sunday was again a nice slow day and we ate Karina’s birthday lunch at a fantastic Gasthaus from her family. For those of you who don’t know, a Gasthaus is a restaurant and sometimes also a hotel owned by a family that serves delicious and authentic Austrian food.

Some other activities that I managed to squeeze in there is a festival in Retz and a short visit to the Oktoberfest in Vienna. There are several festivals this time of year coinciding with Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It is Dirndl season in Austria and I can’t get enough of it! 🙂

Language Status

Vanessa is starting to run out of basic German to learn and her German progress is starting to slow down. Vanessa is frustrated because Vanessa wants to speak German jetzt.

I don’t think I could have fit any more German learning into the first month if I tried; my knowledge level spiked. However, I have pretty much now learned all of the basics and the process is now a bit slower. Naturally, this is frustrating for someone who would learn the entire German language overnight if she could, but unfortunately life doesn’t work like that and I will have to be satisfied with steadier learning growth for awhile. Here are all the things that are currently contributing to my Deutsch lernen…

My Unterlage in school (or that thing that you put on desks for note taking, a calendar, etc): Every day in the subjects that are boring or that I don’t understand enough to participate in, I write vocabulary words on my Unterlage until I can’t fit any more. It probably holds about 200 words. Then, I keep this Unterlage for a week or two, practicing these words. When I am tired of them, I cross off the ones I know well, copy down the ones I still need to practice on my next sheet, and begin again with new words I have found somewhere. It works well because I’m learning German, my teachers think I’m working very diligently on school work, and it cures my stark boredom.

With my new class schedule I am now in 5 different classes with German. I have German with my own class, and then 4 different classes with little kids (ages 11-12). I have at least two German periods per day and at most, 4 (out of 6). I can already understand and do about 70% of their work. It also gives me a chance to find more useful vocabulary words that I will then copy down and translate at home. At first these classes were my most difficult periods but now, I enjoy them.

On my computer I have also created several lists of verbs, past tenses, phrases, and general vocabulary that I enjoy making and adding to, but should probably actually study more often.

When I have free periods in school I read children’s books in German, which I would probably still read for fun even if I didn’t have to learn a new language.

Let’s not forget the constant German speaking at all hours of the day. That certainly helps (until morning and late at night, when my brain starts to rejects any and every language thrown at it)!

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers:

As I mentioned in my last post, feel free to email or Facebook message me with questions and I will do my best to answer them all in my blog posts! Here are the questions that I have been asked over the course of the last several weeks:

What are your favorite Austrian foods?

I love Knödel and of course, Wiener Schnitzel is always a safe bet. Knödel can be made out of potatoes (to go with meat, gravy) or dough with a sweet filling. In this case I prefer the dessert! Schnitzel is chicken or pork breaded and fried the Austrian way and usually served with french fries or potato salad.

How are Austrians different from Americans?

Well, the subtleties are too many to count and these subtleties fit in with the different lifestyle in Austria. But in general, I would say Austrians are a bit more reserved. They greet good friends with a kiss on each cheek, but they almost never hug. I have really missed being able to hug everyone in America! However, although they are not as openly affectionate as what I am used to, they are still very warm kindhearted people and once you get to know them, you see that more and more.

What are your general impressions of Austria so far?

What kind of a question is that! Austria is a beautiful little country with a huge heart, and it already has a special place in mine. If you want some more information, it’s all right here in the blog. 🙂

Have you been homesick yet?

A little bit…every time after I Skype with my niece and nephew, and when I have any problems with anything here in Austria. Every time I have even the slightest problem, it is magnified by the fact that everything is foreign and this makes me miss familiarity.

Do you like the school?

The school is very different, but yes, I enjoy it as much as one can enjoy school. 🙂

Does your new family have a kitty?

Yes, and her name is Julie.

Do they have the same style in Austria?

In general yes, something stylish in Austria would also be stylish in the US. However, they dress up much more often in Austria. In other words, something in the US that wouldn’t be considered stylish but would be accepted because no one really cares would be absolutely unacceptable to wear out and about in Austria. For example, boys wearing basketball shorts to school or anyone wearing sweatpants out of the house. Sorry, 75% of students at Chelan High School!

Are you going to come back?

We’ll see. 😉

Much love,