I am now all settled in back home. I am sitting here happily next do my dog and cat as I write this. When I got to the airport I was so tired from my flight, but so very happy to see my boyfriend. I am almost shocked by how easy it was for me to re-adjust to being here. I didn’t even have a problem with jet lag or anything. I thought I would be absolutely exhausted since when I arrived in Portland it would have been 6 in the morning in Vienna which was the time I was acclimated to. Surprisingly I was really only a normal amount of exhausted and I went to bed at a normal time for this time zone and woke up even earlier than I normally would and still functioned just fine right away! When I arrived in Vienna I was scared and lonely and I think it was the exact opposite when I came home. It was relieving being here and everything seemed easy because I could talk to people in English, and be understood by them, if there were any problems. I was able to go straight to a motel when I got back and get rest for the night but then I had to get up the next morning and go to a leadership conference for the weekend so it was a little challenging moving straight on to something else without having a break at all or time to really let everything that had just happened sink in. Now I finally have a few days to relax and get back into the groove of my life here before I move into a new apartment and go back to work.
I am writing this on my last morning in Vienna. In 45 minutes I will be getting into a taxi headed back to the airport for a dreaded 17 hour flight. There isn’t a whole lot to report on for this last week. Mostly I rested and got over my sickness and studied for finals. Overall I think my finals went well. My German final was super relaxed and not like any other final I’ve ever had before. Our teacher even let us ask some questions and told us what some words meant! My Music History final was a lot more tough. I didn’t feel too great about it because there was so much material covered and it was all way over my head. My teacher gave me some really good comments on my other assignments this term though so I am sure that overall it will be fine. Last night we had a concert that all of the music students had to play in and I had a violin solo. I think the concert went really well and it was a lot of fun visiting with everyone after the concert for the last time. I think this was the first time that I was sad I’m leaving. It was hard saying good bye to my teachers and site directors. They were all really emotional and sad to see us leaving. Well I need to finish getting my stuff together now. I am excited to get home. My boyfriend will be picking me up from the airport and then the next day I’m off to a leadership conference where I’m being hopeful that I can do laundry and get sleep as well… I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their trip!
Tomorrow I play violin at a concert here in Vienna and the next morning I get on a plane headed back home! I think for the most part my experience has been close to what I expected it to be, though I did not expect so many things to be done differently here. I have never really traveled before so I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect. I also have to say that I had a harder time adjusting to life abroad than I thought I would and I don’t think I ever fully became comfortable with life here.
I have really enjoyed my time in Vienna but I am very excited to be back home. I am really going to miss the incredible architecture and the great pastries! I am looking forward to knowing where I am and not having a language barrier to deal with all the time. I am so very excited to see my boyfriend, my horse, and my family.
I have been noticing some things around Vienna that would never happen the same way in the US. For instance they do road work with traffic still flowing by basically figuring out what to do and where to go on it’s own without any flaggers or detours or anything. They have also been doing a lot of work on and near the sidewalks and they will have people working giant machinery while pedestrians walk right beside it and it isn’t blocked off at all. Giant CAT claws will swing right by your head and machines will be lifting things up in the air and they just keep letting people walk through while this is happening and most of the workers don’t wear helmets or protective gear of any sort. This has been pretty shocking to me since in the US we constantly see road work areas barricaded off and people showing you exactly where you can and can’t go, while here it seems like they basically let people figure it out on their own.
This week I have been a lot more focused on violin and classes as the program is nearing its end so I need to prepare for finals and a concert I have to perform in. A couple of days ago my German teacher took us on an excursion to an apartment in Heiligenstadt that Beethoven lived in. While he was living in this apartment he finished his 2nd symphony and some piano sonatas and variations.
After we left Beethoven’s house we went to a cute restaurant and got some wiener schnitzel!
We ended our day by going to the tree circle of life in the Vienna woods. It is a big circle made up of a bunch of different types of trees. We all walked around and found the trees that corresponded with our birth date and they have a plaque in front of the trees that talk about the characteristics of people who were born then. My tree, the kiefer, is in this picture.
After we left the tree circle we walked on a long trail through the Vienna woods that led back into the town where we could get on a streetcar to get back home. Also, last week we went inside the Votivkirche (Votive Church) but I forget to include a picture of it then!
Those were the most significant things that happened since my last post. Unfortunately I have become sick so I missed classes yesterday and today I am actually supposed to be in Salzburg right today and tomorrow but I ended up staying home. My site director didn’t think it made any sense for me to go if I would just be miserable and she said that being surrounded by people and walking long distances in the sun would only make me feel worse and I think she is definitely right. Staying behind was a really hard decision because I so badly wanted to be there, but when I woke up this morning I didn’t even feel like going to the subway station let alone on a train for 3 1/2 hours followed by touring places all day long. When I went to the store today to get some tea and soup I realized I had made the right decision because the store is very close to where I live and when I got back I was absolutely exhausted and my throat was bothering me and I kept coughing really badly so there’s no way I could have had a good time there. It is better that I rest and heal before my finals and my concert!
So much has happened this week! Where to begin! I think it is really interesting that a lot of stuff in Vienna runs on the honor system. For instance for all of the public transportation here you just get on and off without ever having to show anyone your ticket and they trust that you have one. I’ve been told that every once in a while someone will be there to make sure you have a ticket, but I have yet to have this happen. They also have newspapers all over the sidewalks in these bags with a place for you to put the money for the paper, but there is nothing to stop people from taking the paper without paying for it. And A LOT of shops have merchandise outside of the store on the sidewalk for people to look at as they are walking by. This is really strange to me because of how many times I have been warned about protecting my stuff here so that I am not pick pocketed. Even the ATMs warn you to make sure no one is watching you enter in your pin so I find it really strange that somewhere that obviously has a lot of thievery is so trusting that people will pay for things.
In this last week I had my first violin lesson, which took place inside a palace!
After my lesson my instructor gave me and the other 3 students in my program free tickets to the concert he was conducting that night! The tickets were worth 65 Euro (or about $85) each!The concert was really awesome and a lot of fun.
The next day I went to the Tiergarten Zoo. The zoo here is the world’s oldest zoo and has been voted the best zoo in Europe. I really love zoos so I had a great time spending the day there. The zoo is really massive and has lots of animals that I had never seen before, like pandas and koalas
Then Last Sunday my roommate and I went to the Imperial Palace to see a series of exhibits there: the Imperial silver collection, the Sisi Museum, and the Imperial Apartments. We had such an awesome time there. We spent over 2 hours alone looking at the dishes used by the inhabitants of the palace. There were so many different collections of dinnerware for every type of situation. Unfortunately this was the only part of the exhibit that we were allowed to take pictures of so I don’t have any pictures of the Imperial Apartments to share.
While we were there we decided to take a break from looking through the museums so we sat in the cafe and I got Eis Schokolade! Yummy!
I have mostly just had classes in between now and then, but today we went on an excursion with our German teacher and she showed us the main university in Vienna and taught us about the school system here. Our classes are not actually at the school so we had yet to see it. It’s actually weird and cool because our classes are in an apartment, which means we have a bathroom and kitchen in our classroom, but it comes in handy for making lunch in between classes. She also took us to a house that Beethoven lived in for 8 years where he composed several symphonies and to a cafe in the Museumsquartier.
Basically everything has been going well here except for one mishap the other day. I tried to get cash from an atm at a subway station on my way home and the atm confiscated my credit card! It told me to wait a moment while it processed my transaction, and then a second later another message popped up saying that it was retaining my card for my security. This became a frustrating experience and caused me to be scared of using the atms here. I still don’t even know why it kept my card. I tried calling the number on the atm but it was out of service and I couldn’t call the bank that owns the atm because it didn’t have the bank’s name on it. When I finally figured out the correct person to get in contact with (after attempting to have several conversations with people who spoke no English), they told me there is no way for me to get my card back from them and that instead they will eventually mail it back to my bank in the US. I called my bank and it seemed that everyone who worked there had a different idea of what they can and cannot do. I was told that they can, can’t, and then can again, ship me a card internationally to replace the card that was confiscated. At the point when they told me they couldn’t send me a card here they said they could overnight a new card to my boyfriend’s address in the US so I had them to that and now apparently there are also two cards on their way to me here in Vienna! So much confusion.
Now that I have been in Vienna a little longer I have definitely been able to more fully adjust to life here. Before it seemed like most everything was a challenge, but now most daily things are not much of a problem at all. Between the little German I have now learned and the little English some people speak, I am able to communicate well enough with most people to accomplish what I need to. My classes are very exhausting as there is so much information given! Since there are only four people in my classes it takes much more focus and understanding of the material to make it through each class. My teachers are understanding though and for the most part try to accommodate us by making the work load reasonable. This last weekend all of us in the music program went to my site director’s house out in the countryside. It was so nice getting away from the city for a while and enjoying nice music and conversation in the garden. She showed us around her village and we saw a simple castle and some cool art made by a friend of hers that was inside the castle.
We also went on another excursion with our music history teacher and saw Belvedere Palace, Hotel Beethoven, and some buildings designed by architect Otto Wagner.
Classes, excursions, and homework have taken up a lot of my time and all of my energy so I have not done too much outside of those things. Besides that I mostly hang out with my roommate (who is now a great friend), catch family up on my adventures, and find good places to eat! I found another bakery with tasty pastries And as I am an avid pizza lover I am more than satisfied with the pizza here!
My trip to Vienna was quite the adventure. As I had previously never been to another country, or even flown on a plane, I didn’t know what was in store for me. With no flying experience, taking three planes over two days and spending a combined 16 hours sitting in airports was quite stressful. When I finally made it to Vienna I easily worked my way through the airport to the exit where my taxi driver was waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. I was very happy to see him because I knew it meant I would be to my residence hall where I could sleep and then finally start familiarizing myself with Vienna like I had been waiting to do for so long. When I got to him I quickly realized he spoke no English, meaning we were not able to talk at all during our half hour drive together. The driving style in Vienna came as quite a shock to me after always living in small towns where people are generally safe and considerate on the road. The entire way he drove at extremely fast speeds while leaving no more than a few inches between him and the car in front of him, even through places in town where there were bikers and pedestrians trying to use the road as well! Several times he crossed lanes on a whim regardless of their being other drivers in the lane, at one point shoving a car off the road. While we were stopped at a red light there was a pedestrian in the middle of the road talking to another stopped car through the drivers window and the driver rolled up the window causing the man to come to our car and talk to my driver. They exchanged some words in German that I didn’t understand and then my driver rolled up his window as well and drove off. Shortly after that we arrived at my residence hall where I was to enter my birth date into a lock box to get the key to my room, as I was arriving in the middle of the night after the office was closed. By the time I got to my room I was quite scared to say the least. I suddenly was very alone in the middle of the night in a foreign place with crazy drivers and that was so far all I knew of my temporary home.