Wednesday, August 29, 2012

While I'm abroad...

I've made a list of goals for my time in Austria. I don't like to use the word goal; I’m calling them my "aims."
  • Try not to say no to any invitation.
  • Visit Greece. There are so many places I could visit in Europe. Why Greece? When I was a child living in Lubbock, Texas, my elementary school had an event every year called "Brotherhood Day." Each grade studied a country, learned about the culture, and then presented the country and culture to the rest of the school by decorating the rooms and invited other classes to take "field trips” to our country. In Kindergarten, our country was Kenya; we performed a Kenyan folktale. In 1st grade, our country was Denmark. We used Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales to decorate our room. (Interestingly enough, I can't stand Andersen as an adult.) In 2nd grade, our country was Greece. I ate lentils for the first time, and we decorated the room to look like the Greek myths. Then my family moved; I no longer was able to experience other countries through Brotherhood Day. But even then, I knew that someday I wanted to visit these three countries. In 2010, I visited my first of the three, Denmark. I didn’t get to see the Little Mermaid statue; it was in China! But I was able to stand outside of Tivoli Gardens. While in Austria, I will be so close to Greece, I might as well visit the 2nd! Kenya will have to wait.
  • Buy a dirndl. Ever since I read this blog posting, I've wanted to buy a dirndl. This desire was sealed when I saw that many of the girls at one of my schools wear dirndls at school events. I love that teen aged girls want to wear traditional Austrian costumes, and even though I'm not Austrian, I want to "blend in."
  • Continue running and exercising. My goal is to be able to run a half marathon. 
  • Improve my German! Duh!
  • Improve my teaching skills and techniques. I will be a teaching assistant after all!
  •  Learn to ski, either cross country or downhill, if it's not too expensive! This isn't a primary goal, but if I have the means, I would love to try. I already have someone willing to teach me.
  • Document my little village of Bischofshofen. Including possibly editing the Wikitravel page. When I was assigned to schools in this village, I found that there was almost nothing, NOTHING online about this village. I've already started the Wikitravel page.
  • Eat Belgian waffles. I am hopefully visiting Belgium for Christmas and I plan on only eating waffles, fries and chocolate, but I'm looking forward to the waffles the most.
  • Speaking of Christmas, I'd like to go to a Krampusnacht/laufen. Krampus is a mythical creature that is the Alpine equivalent of getting goal for Christmas, except multiplied a million times. I've heard this night is more fun in small villages, and as I'll be living in an Alpine village, I want to experience this, though from what I've heard, I may regret it! If you want more information about Krampus, go here.
  • Try to continually update this blog. This one might be the hardest of all.
I'm sure this list will grow, and I will continually update it as it does.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Preparation Part 2: Housing

I recently learned that my Austrian Residency Permit was approved and now all I need to do is go to Austria, register with the authorities and pick up my permit. This all sounds very easy, but based on stories I've heard, it could turn into a nightmare. I'll see when I get there!

In the meantime, I had to find housing in Austria. I plan on living in the small village where my schools are located, but unfortunately, this makes it difficult to find housing on my own. I contacted my teachers and asked them for help. The teacher at my main school told me that he knew of an apartment where a former TA lived, but would not know until September if it was free. One of the other schools is a tourism school, and have students coming from all over the country, even adults, so they have a list of housing in the area. I was happy to get the list, but then I saw that only phone numbers were provided. I can speak German, but it's not great, and the prospect of having to call a stranger and speak to them in Germany AND understand them was terrifying.

My way of coping when having to present in German is to write down everything I want to say and refer to it. I tried this before calling potential landlords/ladies, but because speech is so unpredictable, it was harder to use my "script" as I found out. I had my script ready, a phone card and had worked myself up to call. The first lady I called told me that the apartment was already taken. Or I think that's what she said. I had trouble understanding her. The second one I called more promising. I could sort of understand her and the apartment seemed to be free. Unfortunately, I ran out of script and couldn't think of anything to say. Finally, she asked where I was from and when I told her the USA, she said she had someone there that could speak English. She put her granddaughter on the phone and her granddaughter gave me her email address. I asked all my questions to the granddaughter and called the landlady one more time to confirm about having a contract when I get there. Luckily, she seems very nice and repeated herself several times and made sure I understood. I was also told by the secretary of the school that she is a "very nice old lady" and so far it seems that way.

I finally saw pictures of the apartment recently:

The sink.

The shower.

The very European toilet.

The "sitting/living" room.

The bed and wardrobe.

The kitchen. Including a microwave, which is not very European.

The view from my window.

One more view from the window.

It's a studio apartment and looks very cute and I think it will be very nice. I think I really lucked out! I'm still a little nervous, and probably will be until I get there and meet the landlady and granddaughter in person and see the place. Also, apparently I can see the Alps from my window?! And the granddaughter told me she would teach me how to ski.

The village, Bischofshofen, looks beautiful and very Austrian. I'm a little nervous about living in a small village, but I think I will be OK. I'm glad I decided not to live in Salzburg, which is about an hour by train, as apparently it's very hard to find housing there, plus I think I will experience Austrian culture a little more in B'hofen. 

Now all I have to do is pack, save money, panic and panic some more. I can not believe I will be gone for 9 months or longer. It still doesn't feel real!