Wibbly Wobbly…Time-y Wimey…

Its funny how time moves, it couldn’t possibly be moving in a consistent straight line. After our final performance of the program a group of us walked into the city to have a goodbye celebration. While sitting out by the water in the cool, fresh evening air, my travels here seemed like yesterday, not 4 weeks ago. I felt like I’d known these people for so much longer than a month. When there were only 4 of us left, we reminisced about the first evening and recalled first impressions/memories of each other as if it were 5 years ago. Amazing how an hour and forty five minute ballet class can feel like an eternity and that lunch time will never arrive and then suddenly everyone is on a train/plane home and I’m left not hoping that the fondu combination at barre will be short, but that the time before I am reunited with my new connections will be less than forever.

The last night after the show, saying goodbye to our Italian roommate! Other goodbye photos are on Facebook. Using sign language we managed to communicate that someday we’ll visit each other!

Let me go back a bit…
The last week of the program was a lot of rehearsal, costume fittings, make up classes and show preparation. It was fun to see our studio transform into a huge stage. I learned other countries’ backstage phrases and good and bad luck habits. Toi toi toi! The dressing room was tiny and stuffy, but it was a fun place to spend the evenings once I adjusted to having afternoons off and work in the evening instead of vice versa like the rest of the time. We may have not gotten dinner until 10pm but we had Pilates and sunshine in the afternoons!
On Saturday we packed up and bussed into Munich to perform at a location opposite of the school – tiny stage and huge dressing/warm-up room! On our short break several of us walked to get food and I was reminded how seriously they take bike paths here. I haven’t gotten used to them being sort of a part of the sidewalk. I almost collided with a biker.
Water Closet Story:
I also had an interesting experience with a bathroom at the rest stop on the way. It was a big place to buy food and souvenirs and it cost 70 cents to use the bathroom. But I had no choice. After grumbling and stressing that I didn’t know how to use the machine, I paid and stood in a huge line. A cute little kid saw bubbles in the sink and excitedly told his mom about them in German. Then he kept me entertained by trying to press on the motion sensor facet to turn on the water. Finally back on the bus, telling my friends about this event, I found out that the “bathroom souvenir” I got was actually a ticket for 50 cents off of something. Sheesh, If only I had known that before buying a coke! It was an exhausting trip but a nice way to have a big day together at the end of the program. As always, the best part was my friends.

Have I raved about the people enough yet? I really really miss them. It hasn’t even been 24 hours…. 🙁 It’s very weird and very sad to be staying here without them. Change and transition is hard. The more times it happens I expect to be more prepared or for it to get easier but I think it may always take me a few days of struggle before I adjust.

There is flavored bubbly water here that is called “Emotion”. So of course we had a running joke about drinking emotions. This is a picture of Gabi and I drinking our emotions after everyone had left. Don’t worry, that’s water. Also, we didn’t see the sign in the background till later….total accident that it’s perfectly centered in this picture!

Instances for patience pants this week:
1)  Accepting that in some cultures, snapping one’s fingers at another is merely a way to get someone’s attention. Not considered as rude as we’d find it in the U.S.

2)  Remembering to speak slowly and be willing to repeat and rephrase. (A situation I hadn’t anticipated since I expected to be the one that was confused – but this program is mostly in my “mother tongue” and many students  have very good English so I get comfortable speaking normally) Soon enough I will be the minority struggling to follow conversation and learning new phrases and won’t be able to express my deep appreciation for the native speakers that are patient with my broken French. “Quoi?! Répétez s’il vous plaît!”

Squeaky Sneakers:
I regret to announce the lack of development to report in regards to the footsteps story I left hanging for you last time. We (when I say “we”, I am generally referring to Gabi and I) have taken one step in further investigation. After watching about 3 more Harry Potter movies, we began to speculate that there was a cauldron of poly juice potion simmering in the locked stall and perhaps it took a drop of our own blood for the door to open (you know, like in book 7 in the cave, to weaken the intruder) I insisted today that we find out for sure what is in there. So we did.

Gabi, investigating the middle stall, as classy as can be!

Unfortunately, it was just what appeared to be a regular toilet. We didn’t try standing in it and flushing to get into the Ministry of Magic though.

The noises have not gone away. Sometimes they wake Gabi and I to the point we both know the other is awake and hearing the sounds but neither of us say a word. Maybe the next step is calling out the intruder next time we hear them.

In addition, since our other roommate went back to Italy today and a new one will be arriving on Wednesday, we considered holding a séance on her first night. You know, an induction of sorts….to break the ice…… just kidding….

Since everyone was gone, we decided it was safe for Kelsey to come in the girls bathroom and originally the plan was so he could lift us up to see over the edge. He took it upon himself to just climb up instead and all I could see were his legs dangling over the edge at least 3 feet off the ground.

The last day of class we had a silly dress up ballet class. Gabi and I dressed up as two of the boys and acted like them throughout the entire class. It was great fun. Many people had funny costumes and it was an entirely unproductive hour! We had most of the day off to get ready for the final show and for people to pack. In the evening, after the performance we had one last night all together and went into the city until way-too-early-in-the-morning-o’clock…. Needless to say, I’m still not caught up on sleep…

This is Etay. The real him is in the center wearing his rehearsal clothes. I’m on the left wearing what he wore to every single ballet class (including his warm up shoes not shown) and Dianna is on the right wearing his performance outfit. I was complimented on how well I acted like him, which was also quite fun.

Visited the birthplace of Mozart on the first day off after the last performance and the start of new classes. It was a pretty cool museum but my friends and I were sleep deprived and starving. Plus it was hot and crowded so we were struggling to take full advantage of our time there and read every plaque. I did learn a few things though and now I can say I’ve been there, which I think is pretty cool! 🙂

Mozart’s birthplace from the outside!

I have two more days of freedom to plan; Tuesday and Saturday. So many possibilities! I’ll get back to you on the final decision and how it went next time!

Ta ta for now!

P.S. That was written several days before I finally uploaded it so Tuesday has already happened and I’ll write about that soon!

Wearing My Patience Pants

I’ve worn these particular pants quite a bit since I’ve been here. But after this week and noticing multiple times I decided it was time to mention it. I have several pairs for several occasions (which is good because laundry is one washer for 2 floors and hang dry only) that I’ll explain.

I had to roll up my pants because it was so insanely hot that day by the lake!

The first is just rehearsal venting. My fellow dancers (or other thespians/musicians/etc.) or my friends that try to make plans with me understand that rehearsals are a long, unpredictable, and can often be painful and boring times. I’m used to that. This week’s schedule was a lot of rehearsal and not a lot of class because the shows are quickly approaching. I’ve been doing my best to take advantage of the down time but sometimes it just takes a lot of positive attitude and wearing of patience pants to get through.

More interestingly, another occasion for patience pants is queues. I prefer to refer to lines as this because it seems less annoying to wait in a queue for the loo or in this case for lunch than it does to wait in line and I’m trying to incorporate others’ fun vocabulary into my own. Anyway, I’ve noticed what is perhaps a difference in cultural expectations when it comes to these situations. Without pointing fingers, there seems to a nationality pattern to which of the other students “respect” the line of people waiting for lunch and follow in an “orderly” manner around the serving table, and which “take cuts” and don’t wait their turn or “randomly” walk up to the table/goes around “backward” and other behaviors of the like. I want to clarify that the words in quotes are because I’m guessing that the adjectives I’m using to describe their behavior is subjective to my expectations when it comes to how a queue works. It has taken a lot of self control when I’m tired and hungry to not get upset with people not acting the way I think they should. I just have to remind myself that no one is trying to ruffle my feathers on purpose and they probably think it’s silly to stand and wait for slow pokes when they are hungry and could just go around.

Thirdly, I’ve realized that some sign language/miming don’t translate. Unfortunately, I can only think of one example for you right now. When I understand what my Italian roommate is trying to communicate to me and I want to show her I agree, I’ve found I point first to myself and then hold up two fingers. Silly, “two” and “too” are not synonyms in Italian. She probably thinks I don’t understand and just smiles politely to avoid my further humiliation and her confusion.

Moment of the week:
Kelsey: “Gwen, your English has really improved!”
Gwen: “What’s ‘improved’?”
Precious 🙂

Now, this is the part where my friends, family and curious strangers should skip ahead to where it says RESUME if short on time (that is to say, the next few paragraphs are just nonsense, do not follow the blog assignment and is mostly a convenient way to tell a story to my friends).

*Catchy title that my dear Marissa (WOU roommate) would help me think of if we were together*
It all began on my very first day. I walked into the previously described, interesting bathroom here and tried to open the middle stall door.

Two open stalls and the locked one…

It was locked. I found this weird since I thought I was alone but just used a different one. Time passed and my roommates arrived and on the first morning we found out that both Gabi and I had heard the same weird banging noises in the middle of the night. They sounded like they were coming from the closet. This continued and it became a running joke that someone lived in our closet, or that there were body parts in there or ya know, whatever. Gabi also mentioned that she had heard footsteps several nights and had always assumed it was me coming in wearing squeaky sneakers. My sneakers do not squeak and I usually go to bed at the same time. I mostly ignored this since I hadn’t heard any squeaking.

I forget the exact order of events but as time went on and our joke progressed, it was decided that someone had moved into the mysterious middle stall and is living there which is why it’s always locked. Also, it is important to note that the idea of an alien in our closet was not completely rejected. In fact, the most likely explanation for all of this is that the middle bathroom stall and our wardrobes are actually vanishing cabinets (for those of you that are lost, that is a Harry Potter reference), this makes sense because we’ve yet to discover a more logical reason behind the noises and locked stall door. Besides, vanishing cabinets are logical.

Alright, 3 or 4 nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a weird noise. The longer I listened the clearer the sound became and in a shiver, Gabi’s complaints came flooding back to me. The sneakers. Loud and clear there were footsteps in our room. I rolled over and no one was there. In a slight panic I rolled back over and tried desperately to fall asleep again, eventually the sound faded. I recounted the episode at breakfast and realized just how much it had spooked me. This wasn’t my typical it’s-dark-and-there-is-probably-a-boogie-man feeling it was a bit more of the nervous-someone-followed-me-home-at-night feeling supported by smart and sensible Gabi’s animated reaction to my finally having heard the squeaks. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, it was concluded that whoever lived in that middle stall was using the vanishing wardrobes and wandering around our room at inappropriate hours in inappropriate footwear. Two nights later I experienced the same thing and when I reported my hearings I was clarifying that the footsteps were nearer to Gabi’s bed than my own and having never discussed it before, Gabi agreed.

This has nothing to do with the story (she got her own sheets and was stuffing away the provided ones) but it shows the wardrobes and I find it interesting that some people believe the little white circle thing you see is an orb…a sign of a ghost…ooooo!

You all think I’m crazy. And paranoid. And just in case, I’d like to say this is mostly a joke causing good entertainment and making it much more interesting to be trapped inside this old, catholic, boy’s boarding school with no exposure to the outside world for many hours at a time.

One angle of the view outside the window on the boys floor. The building on the mid-right is a studio about 4 floors down.


“Don’t blink”
The day had finally come! Our lakes and town bus tour of Austria! I’d looked forward to this since I first signed up for the program. Almost 40 people signed up for the all day excursion and we loaded a double decker bus and drove off at about 9am on 5 hours of sleep. This is the “don’t blink” part….being so tired my eye lids were heavy but the view was absolutely too spectacular to risk even blinking. I figured that the desire to glue my eye balls to the window would let up eventually and I could nap. Nope. The torturously beautiful mountains and lake was our backdrop all day long. I decided to bring the view home with me since it was pointed out that it would be hard to get one of the cute, live, ducks through customs. Scenery is obviously easier to fit in a suitcase. Anyway, the sun was shining! Our first day off when it wasn’t pouring! I even had a lovely red sun burn to prove it.
I think it will be easier to walk you through our day by pictures and captions.

This was my first glimpse of the scenery once off the bus. You can kind of see the lake and mountains and other dancers! We had about an hour here. It was incredibly hot and I bought an iced coffee and played on the swings and sat by the lake with the ducks!

Destination 2 and 3


After a bit of a drive on the bus where our back ground started out as American pop music and slowly digressed to bad 90’s American pop music, we arrived at the second stop. I dangled my feet in the water while some friends swam and some took pictures! But the pictures simply don’t do the view justice!

Our third destination was lunch and city. We wandered a lot though the beautiful streets and buildings looking for food. We didn’t have the time for and didn’t want to pay for some of the tourist traps. Finally, hot and tired we got some food. This picture was more for the sake of “wow, look at the architecture and natural view behind lunch” but conveniently shows Gwen and Kelsey from the conversation above!

Destination 4. We didn’t actually get to stop here…

This picture was taken from the bus window as the rain that kept us from our 4th tour stop began to let up. It was so stormy so suddenly that we saw people in bikinis rushing around and boats filling with water and our bus began to leak. Those pictures didn’t really turn out. The lighting was amazing!

As compensation, we all got free cake and hot chocolate! It was fancy. Also at the cafe there was a cat and a happy atmosphere with content people having conversation with friends! It was a good way to end the trip!

This basically concludes Saturday’s adventure. It’s late and I need to rest up to get through week 4 including 4 performances! For more pictures, see Facebook within the week.

Until next time,


“I get by with a little help from my friends!”

Seemed like an appropriate title considering its the half way point and that the boys are learning choreography to a Beatles’ song and this experience would not be even half of what it is, if it weren’t for the friends I’ve made.

Friends at a look out point from our tour of the Fortress (see below)

Lost in Translation story of the week:
*mass chaos in studio*
Me: “What’s going on?”
Gwen: “Huh?”
Me: “What’s going on?”
Gwen: “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Me: “Yeah! Me either, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do!”
Gwen: “No no no! I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Me: “Right…me either.”
Gwen: “….no, what is ‘going on’ ?”
Me: “OH! What is happening! What is happening right now.”
Gwen: “Ooooh! …..Then I still don’t know…”

Gwen, not in the chaos of the studio but in the city. On a chess board that made me think of Harry Potter!

Shopping and interacting with no-so locals:
Went to the local mall which is only about a 5 minute walk from where I’m staying. Vivra needed a “plaster”. She asked us where to find one. No one knew what a plaster was. Turns out it was a band-aid. Calling it a plaster is apparently a British thing but I quite enjoy the term! Another friend needed shampoo but had already checked out so Joni and I were recruited to go back and grab some for him. Neither of us speaks German. After a moment of struggle I decided to just ask the guy standing there; “English?” After explaining what we needed he helped us and continued to explain, “I’m not actually from here!” well, “Neither are we!” But he still was helpful and I was brave enough to try to interact with (who I thought to be) a local.

Today (our one day off for the week) I went into the city with a group of people for food and touring. Along my previous blog theme of picky eating, I don’t particularly care for Asian food….but the group chose a Chinese food place so I went along. I actually enjoyed the buffet and was satisfied.

All of us at lunch at the Chinese buffet! I’m slowly getting used to how restaurants are different here.

We took a tour of the Festung Hohensalzburg (the Fortress, Castle place) and even had an audio guide! The view was spectacular. We shopped at the little market along the river and I got a nice scarf after conversation with vendors. Now this is the more interesting part, I interacted with actual locals and supported a young woman’s bachelorette party fundraiser. They were all dressed up and explained to us the Austrian tradition for the friends to say “goodbye” to the bride the night before her wedding and I got a cookie. Seemed like a lot of fun and made me want to get married in Salzburg! The day in the city ended with another addition to my rubber duckie collection! Thanks to Joni, I now have a Mozart rubber duck. I was so surprised, excited and grateful!

Joni, all dressed in his going to the city outfit and the duck that he got for me! 🙂

I took a zillion pictures all the way up to the top of a tower at the fortress. This was not even half way up and next to the giant gold ball is the chess board from the picture above.

One of the pictures from the panoramic view at the top of the tower. This one has the most of the city, other angles have more of the fortress or open land visible.

More seriously, it has been interesting talking and learning about other cultures and in a single conversation having 5 different countries’ view points. Last Friday’s topic was drinking/driving ages. Last night’s was (prompted by the horrible news of the shooting in Colorado) more politically inclined and included a discussion about criminal activity, the death sentence and jail vs. mental institutions. It sounds rather dark as I write about it here but it was rather fascinating and intellectual. Not simply a compare and contrast session. The individuals involved were some of the oldest students at this program and it was genuinely nice to have sophisticated conversation. Not to mention impressive, because of how well everyone speaks English as a second, third or fourth language!

“Lean on me” …literally.
Helena informed us one afternoon that she had a “purple” on her arm (most likely from partnering). What’s a purple? Exactly what it sounds like. A bruise. I will never use the word bruise again, they will forever be purples. Except mine is more of a greenish brown.

Evenings have become massage trading time. Soon enough, we’ll all owe each other hand massages. Legs make good pillows and a buddy’s shoulder is a nice spot to rest an elbow during or at the end of a long day of dance! It’s really neat how much we can learn from each other as fellow dancers and not just from our (also incredible teachers). One classmate studies Pilates and Yoga and showed me a stretch just different enough from what I knew to help my injured hip release some tension.  Sadly, tonight we said goodbye to an injured friend going home to Norway with promises of pictures and updates! Safe travels to Helle.
“When you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on!”

Goodbye to Helle in the Lobby of the dorms 🙁 So glad to have had the chance to get to know her and can’t wait to have her be a guest teacher for my ballet students someday 😉

Little by little my pile of “stuff” is growing as I accumulate souvenirs (good thing pictures are digital!). When I first arrived I was asked if my other suitcase was in the mail. Ha, nope! I’m amazing and fit it all into one……at least on the way here…



Santa Claus and Batman Play Backwards Pool

Part 1: “Lost in Translation”

Good grief, where to even begin?! I’ve been posting many updates along the way to Facebook in the hopes that when it came to blog time, I’d have a more concise report. No such luck.

I was thinking back to my first few nights and how there is something comforting about airports and everyone being out of their element and often far from home together. There is the same sense of communal up-rootedness here at this workshop. It’s exciting! At first I was confused by the students that chose to hang out with the others from their home country or those who spoke their native tongue because I was really excited to mingle and meet people from all over and learn as much as I could. However, as time has passed, I’ve found myself drawn to the other Americans too and felt like a bit of a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my friends from all over! More on that later. It’s just nice to remember how to use English slang and discuss familiar pop-culture once in a while!

Welcome party! Left to Right: Alida (Greece), Gwendoline (Belgium), Vivra (Finland), Nili (coordinator from Israel), Gabi (Cali), Me, Helena (Brazil) 🙂 

Lost in translation….indeed. I already have so many great stories of miscommunications and mispronunciations; it keeps me entertained though the pain of 8 hours of dancing every day.

Sometimes conversation is painful, I have a roommate that only speaks Italian. No English. We’ve gotten to be good at interpreting gestures and Google translate’s bad grammar. My other roommate is from California and the two of us have naturally clicked. It’s hard that it feels like we’re leaving the other out because she doesn’t understand. Meals can be this way too when there are enough students at one table that speak one language and the others don’t understand. Luckily everyone is kind and inclusive. A smile goes a long way.
On a lighter note, one of my ballet teachers has a thick Russian accent. So far, my favorite things that he says are “battement” (ballet step pronounced in French like “bot-mah” – a large kick) which sounds like Batman when he says it. And “center” sounds like Santa, as in Santa Clause. Please stand on Santa. 🙂

This brings me to another story. My Belgian friend who speaks French was asking my roommate and me who we had danced with during pas de deux (ballet partnering) class. She wanted to know if we had danced with “Oht-man”. I questioned, “Hot, man?” She replied, “Yeah! Oht-man.” In confusion I inquired, “Which one is the hot one?” Her response, “Oht-man!!” Eventually we came to conclude that it was a Spaniard named Ottman not a hot man. So many laughs!

However, my partner was Tuomas from Finland:

This picture is actually kind of embarrassing but I wanted to provide a visual of pas de deux class. I’m in motion and therefore not in a proper position……excuses….

While I’m on the topic of amusing people, Gabi (my Californian roommate) and I have grown to be friends with two boys from Finland (home of Santa Clause….) that are our age. We went to visit them and the other guys on their floor on Tuesday night and played the most unique game of pool I have ever experienced. It was backwards you see. Whoever retrieves the most balls stuck inside the broken table wins….almost…it was a group effort. What makes this even better is the muscular male ballet dancers lifted and tilted the table to roll the balls to arms reach and of course, this was done with perfect turn out in a 2nd grand plié position (ballet squat). So graceful!

The boys lifting the table in grand plie. Not shown is our job to reach into the pockets and retrieve the balls or peer through the crack to direct the table tipping.

Anyway, Finland has become a fascinating topic of conversation in the evenings. Did you know the Fins love saunas? A few of us have invented a new Olympic sport known as sauna hopping. This involves 3 saunas in a triangle and one must make the most creative snow angels in the fastest time between saunas. Their Independence Day from Russia is December 6th 1917 and the amount ticketed for speeding depends on annual income. I’m learning more than choreography! Another fun fact is that instead of saying “Excuse me” or “sorry” when bumping into one another for example, the phrase used is “Oho” which translates to “oops”. Apparently small talk is also less common. Who knew the Fins were deep conversationalists! Perhaps one of my favorite parts about talking with them is that their English is quite good and has a slight British accent, which adds to my amusement. J

Tuomas and Joni 🙂 (The girls and I in the background) I also learned that Fins don’t have much small talk. We tease them about their deep conversations!

Part 2: “I will survive”

I’ve noticed that things are smaller (such as dishes and portions) as well as quieter. I went to what would be the equivalent of Portland’s Saturday Market along the river in the city. The street was so packed that every step you bumped into at least two people, yet is was so quiet you didn’t need to raise your voice! Now I know how to spot American tourists/how not to be one! Oh yes, and on the topic of differences, the metric system – what a headache. I’m hoping it gets easier. I’m also hoping that I’ll start believing Euros are real money and stop feeling like it’s all just pretend.

About surviving…of course the need to repeat that phrase (see title) to myself is usually only during the last rehearsal of the day and/or when presented with really unappetizing looking food. This makes me sound ungrateful and unhappy, so let me just say, my cheeks currently quite sore from smiling so much and my abs hurt from laughing. Actually in addition, my whole body has that satisfying day old soreness-from-a-really-good-work-out feeling.

I haven’t talked a lot about the dancing aspect – the main reason for this part of my trip. Somehow it’s been slightly over shadowed by the people I’ve met. Incredible dancers I’ve met, mind you.
So last Saturday night I was so nervous for Day 1’s audition I was making myself sick. Just by talking to the other dancers and sort of seeing people stretch out plane ride stiffness was intimidating. This was close to the most nervous I’ve been about dancing in my life. It seems so silly in hindsight. That night and a bit on Sunday morning (my time) I was able to talk to some friends from home and other girls I’ve danced with before. This helped a bit; their encouragement and good wishes calmed me some. I was also calmed by the other dancers here, some of which were as nervous as I was. At least we were all in the same boat. The audition went really well and I was placed in the more advanced of the two groups we were split into with a few of the friends I’d made already. I was so surprised it took me a full day to realize I could be proud of that accomplishment!

Pointe class. I’m the one in all black. Three beautiful dancers/friends in front of me!

Since then class and rehearsal have gone well. Each day includes ballet class, usually pointe class, rehearsal for the ballet show and rehearsal for the modern piece and jazz. Evenings include showers, stretching and messaging. Oh and chocolate. It’s exhausting and several of my injuries have caused me grief but I’m just happy I got through week 1! I’m not used to classes like these; it’s a different style of ballet but such good experience. I also get distracted by some of the incredible dancers I have the privilege of sharing a studio with and motivated by some of the hardest working dancers I’ve ever met! I repeat: hardest working dancers. It’s inspiring to see their passion and drive.

Coppelia rehearsal (I’m far left).

Surviving food. Those of you who know me, already are familiar with my eating habits. “Are you a vegetarian?” …no…. “So why aren’t you eating the meat?”, “Why do you have your salad on a separate plate?” It’s hard to explain. I’m picky and particular and prefer things a specific way. I proudly report, that I am making huge strides in overcoming these ridiculous personal problems. I’m trying new things and gladly eating stuff I may not have considered looking at in the States. And ordering things somewhat blindly from menus and not freaking out when all my food gets mixed. May seem petty to you, but it’s (sadly) a pretty big deal for me! I just hope that I form new, less picky habits that come home with me.

The incredible chocolate that waits for me at the end of the day. To die for. Or rather, to dance for!

Here goes week 2! Good friends by my side. Pile of clean laundry and chocolate in my closet. Smile on my sore face. <3