Thursday, January 31, 2008
Emily is funny. She'll look at all the work and the sculptures but not the naked ones. She turns her head. So if you come here, look up and not down at the ground when you go for a walk or you'll miss a lot.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
So first, our apartment. Water isn't heated in a big tank and stored, it is heated in a thing called a 'Therme' which heats the water on demand as it goes through the pipes. It clicks on when you turn the water on. I haven't noticed any more delay at when the hot water arrives compared to the American system and you never run out of hot water when the whole gang has to shower in a row like right before church. When I think about how well this works I wonder, 'Why do we heat so much water at a time?' Refrigerators are small (hence Lori's complaints about shopping everyday).
Many of the streets are of cobblestone. The cars are mostly very small. They pay $4.50 for a gallon of gas. We pay $1.70 for a liter of milk (about a fourth of a gallon). Otherwise, prices are comparable to the US. People dress very neatly and seem generally to care more about their appearance than in the States. I never see people wearing sweats or exercise clothes (well, except when they are exercising). Except rarely people do not wear running shoes except to run. Hair is short but well styled. Hair dressing salons are everywhere. Even in the lobby of the UN! Women of all ages sometimes die their hair Run-Lola-Run red (one of the best German movies ever made). Coffee houses, restaurants, and gasthouses (pubs) are everywhere. Toilets are made so you don't poop into water, but on a little porcelain shelf over which the water runs to take it down the hole (now isn't that something worth knowing!). Our Toilet is in a room of its own and not in the room with the washing basin sinks, mirrors, and showers for dressing (there is a little sink with only cold water for washing your hands in the toilet room). Pedestrians mostly wait for the light to change. People buy lots of things at Ikea. People wear a lot of fur, I think much of it real. People of all ages hold hands with their significant other and sometime the young kiss wildly in public. No one is surprised if you order chocolate at a coffee house and lots of people do. Vegetarianism is rarer than in the US. Nathan gets asked for cigarettes in the U-bahn stations every time he goes to seminary. He doesn't have any. I told him to carry some to give away. He refused.
One challenge we've had is remembering that Euros are not dollars. The dollar has fallen so low, that dollars are like pesos were a few years ago, well not that bad but they've lost about 33% of their value from when the Euro opened a few years ago. The tricky thing is goods and services cost here in euros about the same as they cost in dollars in the states so it's easy to forget. We'll see a meal for 10 euros and think its a good deal until we remember it's really 15 bucks for that meal. Euros are the currency used over most of Western Europe (with a few holdouts like Denmark and England) and is currently a very strong stable currency. In fact with the fall of the dollar, some states that used to base their economies on the dollar are switching to the euro. In the eyes of many in the world, America has lost respect not only morally, but economically.
But Europeans follow very closely American politics. At lunch all the people I work with (none Americans) speak more knowledgeably about the presidential elections than most Americans. I often learn the results of the primaries from them. They follow the presidential races very closely and can speak about the different candidates' platforms and history in depth and with great insight. They all seem much smarter than me. I don't know any of my co-workers that do not speak from three to six languages (I need to keep in mind, of course, I am at the UN). They speak about history with ease and familiarity. I don't want to generalize but even on the U-bahn in the morning lots of people are reading the paper. In fact yesterday a rough looking teenager sat across from me. He was covered with piercings (nose and eyebrow rings and such). Suddenly he pulled out the paper and started reading. I shouldn't have been surprised (but obviously I was). The events of the world seem somehow closer here than they did in America. I don't know if that makes sense, but the internationality of the place seems to bring world concerns to the front.
But America still rules here. American music, movies, TV, books, all of these things are still held in the highest esteem and dominate. To some extent fashion, but less so. English is the language of both Science and Business and American leadership in both still plays in the Major leagues here. English is a mandatory second language. In short, American interests still seem to be on everyone's mind. If only the dollar was not slipping into obivion (I mean, holy cow, the Canadian doller is worth more than the American and that has never happened in the history of the world--'ey.)
Well, those are some of things I can think of sitting here. Oh yes, I'm getting fat on the pastries. They are of such a tempting nature that only the devil himself could have designed these delights. I cannot resist. What wine is to France and beer is to Germany pastries are to Austria. Heaven help me.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
So now that your all bored out of your minds with the Theory of Relativity i shall now tell you about the average good day of my life (Friday). so i normally am woken up around 7:00 by my parents and sister being really loud. and then fall back asleep in about 5 min. so ya and then on certain days i wake up at 8:00 to play Halo 3 with my brother Christopher..tis fun..then after that i take a shower then start on school. which i have to do 5 hours a day...it sucks well any way i normally start with German then go to English 11, English 12, sociology, or earth systems..horribly fun huh...well at about 1:20 i leave to go get my sister at school that takes about 40 min. then i come back and finish school and then once school is over i head over to the other room and play xbox YAY tis the best part of the day...then have dinner with the fam. and then we usually watch a movie then i play more xbox...YAY by this time i normally play Halo 3 with Chris some more and then i go to bed...which is another great part of the day. and that's the end of my day...and the end of my lecture on the Theory of Relativity.
Friday, January 25, 2008
He loves the ward we're in. There are 2 Priest to 5+ young women his age. So there are ALWAYS young women around him. Then I go shopping for food. You know why there aren't very many overweight people in Austria? Because they walk everywhere. I walk 2-3 blocks to the grocery store, buy what I can carry and head back. This is a sign I walk under every day when I walk to the store. Funny huh?
The cashiers are getting to know me well. They are all very nice. They know a tiny bit of English and I know a tiny bit of German so we can figure out what we are each saying. I usually go to two different grocery stores a day. Nathan leaves at 1:20pm to pick Emily up from school. I think this is the safest city I have ever been in. I feel very comfortable letting Emily and Nathan ride the u-baun alone. There isn't the sense of fear here. You see kids all the time alone riding the bus, trolley or u-baun alone and there's no problem. I'm out alone a lot and I feel safe. For the most part the people here are very nice and friendly. Every once in a while there's one who's not but that's normal.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The only thing I want to do at school is PE. I met my to good friend in PE. First swimming, I have to take 2 differant u-bauns(subways) to get there. Then we cross a long bridge. I did my very first dive. I'm the only one who can't swim good. I love swimming. PE is so fun. They do game I never heard of. I never want PE to end.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The UN cafeteria really is an amazing place. Each lunch they have five international meals things like African perch, perhaps a Thai dish, or maybe a lamb and humus dish from the Middle East, I had an Afghan meal yesterday a roasted meat (of unknown kind) in a yogurt sauce. There is also a Japanese chef making sushi and sashime in one corner. I think this corner rotates because when I was here in November it was an Italian chef making salads of rare mushrooms, olives of such variety that I never knew existed. Yum!
Vienna sits on the border between Eastern and Western Europe. When you ride the subways the sense of international presence is stunning. A variety of languages is constantly being spoken around you some recognizably Slavic (I can't distinguish Russian from Lithuanian), French, Italian, English, Arabic, and of course German and English. But this sense of international milieu is most palpable in the market near our house! The Naschmarkt! (Which translates literally as the "sweet little tidbits to nibble on market."
Every fruit we ever had in Hawaii is here. Monday night Nathan and Emily were introduced to the wonders of pomegranates (Emily found them far less wondrous than Nathan who ate almost the whole thing). There are entire stores devoted to cheeses. Another devoted to bread. There is a little place we visited that served us carved lamb sandwiches with yogurt sauce. The kids favorite is just getting a half of roasted chicken. Or rather three halves--we like these a lot! We even found fresh whole ginger like we had in Hawaii and we have been making ginger tea every night as we watch the first season of Lost (our one decadent indulgence (well not our only one (don't you hate it when people embed too many parentheses))).
There is a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker! Lori buys meat from the butcher. Well, one in particular. When we first got here we came up to another butcher and I asked in flawless German (see my B+ blog) for a half kilo of hamburger. He laid out a white piece of . . . well, butcher paper. . . and proceeded to pile on kilo after kilo of meat. He was moving so fast he had about 10 kilos on the paper before I could stop him. I reiterated how much we actually wanted. He started putting it back until we really had a half kilo. Then I paid with a 20 euro note. He gave me the change, except he held on to one of the 5's he owed. We just stared at him trying to figure out what was going on, but he refused to hand over the cash. At last we walked away confused. It was more complex than this, as he was acting all hurried and we WERE confused by the miss communication and so it wasn't until we had walked away that the full force that we had just been cheated dawned on us. Make no mistake this was intentional. He had the right change in his hand but would not give it to us. By that time we had walked away it was too awkward to go back and sort it out. Say la vie, or rather auf wiedersehen. But the huckster has payed with a year of loss of business and as you know we Americans eat a lot of hamburger so that's a lot of euros he flushed. It's our national cuisine! Lori is already good friends with the butcher we use. We scowl at the blaggart who ripped us off every time we pass. He never notices.
On Saturday a flea market opens there with used brick-a-brack from all over Eastern and Western Europe. It deserves a blog on its own and I'd best leave that to Lori. Get ready to drool in envy.
Photos by Lori.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Actually, I haven't been doing anything but reading about tsetse flies and working on a philosophy paper. My computer hasn't come. Neither the one at work (which they are special ordering for me) or the one coming from BYU. You see, the company that moved us made a slight mistake. They said we had X number of pounds that would be shipped air and Y number that would be shipped by tug boat. Well it turns out that the moving company got every thing right except the and was really an or so everything was shipped by tug boat. Meaning all the things we thought were going to come two weeks after we arrived are really coming in late February. Really. Late February. Back home before we left, Lori made two piles of things, the first with essentials and the second with stuff we might want to have later. She was very selective and thought very hard about what should go by air and what by boat. We debated about several items. We pulled things from one pile and then moved it back. Weighty decisions these. Then the moving company came, packed the piles carefully. Then somewhere after our goods left us, someone, somewhere noticed the and was an or and shipped it all by tug boat (or maybe it was by canoe I'm not sure). So all my books, notes, etc, are floating contentedly over the Atlantic (unless of course they took the scenic tour over the Pacific).
So eventually I will build cool computer models of tsetse fly population dynamics. But for now I'm being the department receptionist--making copies, taking dictation, doing my nails, and staring out the window wondering how our things are doing on their ocean cruise.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
Their are good days and bad on the subway. A good day is not crowded. a bad day is crowded. I do like the subway.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Emily also is in essentially 'High School.' Meaning that unlike in the US with Middle School, it is at grade five that the students split into two tracks. One that leads to a technical track and the other, called the Gymnasium, leads to the university. At age 10 they have to make a decision of which track they take, and they must pass tests to get into the Gymnasium. At Emily's new school, one of these Gymnasium schools, she is there with students aged 10 to 18. At this age she does not go to separate classes with different students, but remains with her class the whole day, but they do have different teachers for each class period and change rooms. The Austrian schools are much more difficult that American schools. If Emily completed all 8 years here, she would at the end have learned 2 to 4 more additional languages, and mathematics at the level equivalent to the general education math expected at BYU. Also required of Catholic students is two hours a week of religious instruction. Emily got out of that because she is Mormon, but maybe a couple hours a week with nuns would really improve her German? And this is a state school. There are still things that surprise me in a state which has an official religion.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Friday, January 4, 2008
I think this may be colder than Mars.
Today a colleague took me to where I might jog. We walked on the ice to the Danube where the wind was blowing about 20 mph. Wow. Cold, but beautiful. I don't know how I'm ever going to run again.
I found out today I got a B+ in my BYU German 101 class. You may sneer that I did not get an A, but I was so happy to pull that off. It was a hard class! (Just ask me about the acquisitive and dative cases in grammar! Now I know!) However, no one I meet seems impressed. They start speaking English almost as soon as I say anything--well if they do speak English. If they don't they just look at me quizzically, perhaps wondering if those are human sounds coming out of my mouth or just some sort of animal-like utterance. I've decided I'm going to carry my Semester transcript with me to prove I speak a little German. Otherwise I don't think they will believe me. Nothing I'm saying would provide any evidence.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
here in Austria things are very different. like at the age of 16 you are aloud to drink beer and what not...hehehe...there for it is legal for me to get drunk but...ya...im not going to get drunk...ya that was a weird thought for me...ya the food is way different...nothing tastes
the same...it is really weird getting used to all of the weird food...but its not all bad i mean some of the foods are much better...ok well i cant think of anything but the food is really good....well most of it.
well our apartment is pretty cool really quite spacious...the ceilings are 15-20 feet high...pretty cool...i live in the closet...its about 20'X6'..but i live in part of it so for me its more like 8'X6'...haha...thats seriously how big it is...its pretty cool though so im fine with it. i have also been sick sense we got here so thats...great fun...ya...so i cant go out for very long and im up half the night on the toilet...but i thing im finally starting to get better now. so thats good. one cool place i did get to go to was a cathedral...that was awesome...i dont really know how to explain it but it was amazing.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Emily seems the most surprised by it all, but she is adjusting. We've told her its important not to see the people through the lens of our own culture and its values. They are still good people, just like everywhere, they just have different perspectives. She is starting to get used to big differences although there are often surprises. Navigating these difference as been interesting and fun. Where as we are surprised to see young kids drinking beer, they would be horrified at the violence of games like Halo. Their movie advice puts things rated R for nudity, sex and swearing in our country, as recommended as For older than age 12 whereas violent movies, like the 1960's Bonnie and Clyde, that have neither sex nor swearing as For older than age 18 and above because of the explicit violence.
I'm thrilled that there are recycling bins everywhere. Global warming is recognized a real (America is the only county in the world where a substantial number of people still disbelieve in it.) Public transportation is amazing. The U-bahn, trolleys and Bus connect everything. It is widely used and we have been able to get anywhere! It is wonderful. We won't need a car to get anywhere at all in the city or even in Europe. The Europeans have done some amazing things in this area.
Last night was New Years Eve and for hours they set of flash-bangs and fireworks. Huge building rattling explosions where going off all around us. Luckily we had been warned. It was unbelievable. At midnight these things were going off in frequency like a string of Black Cat Firecrackers except with the power of flash bangs. I've never heard anything like it. Emily came running into the room and Nathan came in too. Lori woke for a second and then fell back asleep. The fact that it woke her up at all is the amazing thing because she has slept through a house fire alarm that went off for 10 minutes. That gives you a sense of how powerful these explosions were.