Friday, October 31, 2003

Things I forgot to tell you, internet

I have a cell phone. If you want to call me, let me know and I will tell you how the process works. If you have tried to call me and can't, it's because there's evidently an extra, secret zero in my number. Unfortunately, I don't know where it is. I have to ask my mom, because she knows.

I was in the newspaper. The first week I was here, the regional newspaper did a feature on the rising popularity of foreign languages in area schools. They took my picture. I was not quoted, thank God. I have a copy of the article, and someday, when I find a scanner, so will you.

I left all my addresses at home. This is because I'm an idiot. Let's be frank: I was having a hard enough time hanging on to my passport the day I left; I couldn't be expected to remember addresses as well. I lost my passport twice between the house and the ticket counter of the airport, and then I left my ticket lying on a seat in the waiting area when I went to get a soda. We got back to the area where I'd been sitting 20 minutes earlier and my parents said, "Oh, someone left their ticket. They'll be needing that." I was like, "Yes, I will be needing that." I think my parents thought I would be stranded in London for the rest of my life, living on the airport runway because I'd lost my passport, ticket, and left hand in St. Louis. Anyway, my point is, if you want a postcard (or you want me to stop sending them to work, or whatever), email me your address and I will send you one. Of course, I expect reply mail and will give out my address to anybody whose name I recognize. You get the better deal, because it costs 1.25€ to send a letter or postcard to America, which is like...$47. However, it costs only 80¢ to send something from the U.S. to Austria. See how I love you?

Hey! I'm going to give you aggravated circumstances.

Certain things about teaching are the most fun. Of course you all know that I like to be the boss of the world, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about things like writing on the board. I love writing on the board. I like the way my fingers feel all chalky afterwards, and I love that my school provides colored chalk so I can go nuts. I write all sorts of things on the board. Probably more things than are strictly necessary, to be honest.

I like giving my kids candy for Halloween, or keeping it from the really bad class that annoyed me first thing this morning. They don't know that they missed out, but I do. I gave my second class extra candy in retaliation. Being unfair is an excellent part of teaching.

I like not doing things that my teachers did that drove me crazy. I'm not about group work, multiple choice, or getting off on tangents. I'm not about being humorless, being a pushover, or never expressing my opinion. I'm as me in the classroom as I am anywhere else.

I like that moment where everyone is talking and not paying attention, and I yell, "Hey!" and they all shut up. It's good that I like this moment, because I get to experience it several times every hour.

Teaching is good times, is what I'm trying to say—and, I think, trying to remind myself. I might have miserably annoying, unmotivated, rude classes like this morning's fourth form, but there's still some fun to be had.

End PSA.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Things I have watched or considered watching in the past 72 hours

Miami Vice
Sex and the City
King of Queens
Some guy blowing an alpenhorn on an Alp
Dark Angel
Keine halben Sachen (The Whole Nine Yards)
The Austria Bank commercial where the kids makes hilarious faces while trying to get the lid off the milk
Spiderman the cartoon
Knight Rider
A random anime thing of peops wandering in the desert and then having their baggage stolen by illness-faking birds

Monday, October 27, 2003


If you happen to have any old kids' games hanging around your house (Outburst Jr., Taboo Jr., what have you), and you'd be willing to part with them, please let me know. I'd like to open negotiations for their shipment to Austria.

I thought holiday implied...well, not walking for six miles in freezing weather, frankly.

Yesterday was the Austrian national holiday celebrating the end of foreign occupation after World War II. Evidently this is traditionally celebrated by going on a military-style march through the surrounding burgs. Which I was forced to do yesterday in the company of my teacher, her boyfriend, and her cousin.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, of course. I went voluntarily, the pace was more of a leisurely walk, and it wasn't (quite) freezing. We did, however, walk for six miles.

It was, however, high good times. We talked about the crazy dog running around in front of us, about men, about the history of Austria, whatever you please. And all in German, and *mostly* in dialect. Understanding was, I felt, a major accomplishment.

Also, I just took a lung function test, and, I'll have you know, my lungs are 10% above normal. Mmmm-hm.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

What I've been up to

Just thought I'd give you a quick run-down of the past couple of days, since I don't have anything terribly fascinating to say.

Thursday it snowed, of course. I also had my first choir rehearsal. It's disturbingly like being back in my high school choir. Everybody talks while the director is trying to work, and the tenors are incompetent. Good times, though.

Yesterday I taught three classes instead of my normal two. The first class was fourth formers, and they were terrible. Speaking English seemed to be some sort of odious, disease-conferring task. My other two classes were fantastic. The kids were excited about my lessons (one on the death penalty, one working with the Blossom Dearie song Rhode Island Is Famous for You.) Then last night I went to a heuriger with my Betreuungsleherin and the usual suspects, and it was good times. Lots of singing German drinking songs and not quite getting the jokes. Ah well.

Today I slept late, and am now blogging. Tonight I'll hit the local disco with some of my students (mmmhm, we'll see) and then tomorrow I'm meeting up with another of my teachers to do some sort of hiking thing to celebrate the anniversary of the end of WWII. I don't know.

So that's life. And I need to go buy a hat so my ears can survive it.

Friday, October 24, 2003

No way will I be this excited in February

It snowed last night! It started at about 7, big fat wet flakes, and kept right on going through the night. It sort of rained for awhile off and on, but the end result is that there's about an inch and a half of snow on everything, and Stegersbach is suddenly a magical fairy village. All the trees are edged with white, but you can see the green needles of the pines and the red leaves of the oaks underneath. The trees go all the way up the hill behind the city, and it's great to steal glances out the window when my classes are otherwise occupied.

Evidently this is ridiculously early for the first snow, according to everybody and their mom, and it caused the power to go out in a lot of small villages around Stegersbach, so nobody is really as happy about it as I am. Whatever. I'm going to get a book, open my curtains, and spend the afternoon alternately reading and staring out my windows. Ah, good times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

And now, for your reading enjoyment...

A list, entitled "Things I Didn't Like in the U.S. That I Quite Enjoy in Austria."

The eighth season of Friends
Sunshine (because otherwise it's frickin' cold)
Pickled foods other than cucumbers
Microsoft Word
Keeping a diary

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Life is not fair

I'm constantly amazed by how well Austrian children can speak German. It just comes out of their mouths! Mind-boggling!
No comb, no splayed fingers...ya got nothin', evidently.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I live with 42 boys. They are required to put in an appearance at breakfast at 7 a.m.

This is, of course, hilarity at its best.

They come downstairs in white t-shirts and swim trunks (boxers aren't allowed), hair pointing every which way, sleep creases from their pillows still on their cheeks. They usually only have one eye open when they mumble that they have made their appearance and will now return to their rooms. Probably to their beds. They stumble into the door jamb.

Then they disappear. They return downstairs in 10 minutes, fully awake, dressed, and on their way out the door to smoke a cigarette. It's a mystery.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I think we've reached a good place. Spiritually...ecumenically...gramatically...

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean last night in Pinkafeld, except here it's called Fluch der Karibik, which means "Curse of the Caribbean." The teacher that I went with thought it was some kind of horror movie, but she ended up loving it.

Please note, European movie theatres assign seating. How weird is that? And it's not like you get your seat assignment and then just kind of ignore it. Everyone sits where they're told. It was fine last night because we were in the back in the middle, but I think it could be a bad bad thing if you were ever late. See? Punctuality, people. Punctuality.

Friday, October 17, 2003

What do you mean, there's no peanut butter?

As you know, I am obsessed with grocery shopping. (If you don't know, who are you and how did you find this blog?) This obsession is a good thing, since one of my chief occupations here in Stegersbach is go to the grocery store. There are four, and I've been to all of them.

Of course, the grocery store here is a little different. Not only is it smaller and open less, it's got a weird selection of products. Mayonnaise in a tube, check. (Oddly, looks a lot like a tube of Preparation H in the U.S.) Eighty-four varieties of soup in a packet, check. Gummi bears, check. Vanilla sugar, check. Peanut butter...not so much. You can find it if you look hard, a dusty jar pushed into the back corner of the Nutella/honey shelf, but it's generic and the cashier will look at you weird and then speak English to you if you buy it. Which I didn't, because I love Nutella.

So the produce section is small, the tea and coffee section is huge, and film development is expensive. Want to know what's really scary, though?

Nobody here knows what an Oreo is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Surprise! You're a teacher

Okay, anybody that knows me knows that I don't actually like kids. They're loud and whiny and sticky, which are all things that I try to avoid in myself (unsuccessfully, usually).

This is why I've been sort of shocked to find out this week that I actually really enjoy teaching. I'm still trying to figure out whether it's because I'm in an Austrian school and thus the darling, or if it's just that I like school regardless of the situation, or because the kids make me laugh.

Frankly, I think it might be the feeling of pure superiority I get from knowing the most.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

So good it's almost like extra money

I know those of you who live in the big city think you have it all, but I have to say, there's nothing better than small-town banking. In both Wayne and Stegersbach, my bank is small, and they're actually a lot alike, once you get over the obvious language differences.

Both have tellers that happily hop to do your bidding. They both make an effort to know your name and something about you as a person, not just as a dollar (Euro) sign. The guy at the counter today was more than pleased to make extra copies of a bank Bestätigung today when I asked. The attitude really makes dealing with money, something that I hate, much less painful.

End gushing.

Monday, October 13, 2003

So...this tact thing...not really working out for you, hm?

The thing I've discovered about my students is that they're absolutely unworried about offending me. They couldn't care less. I had one kid inform me today that school uniforms are fascist, Osama Bin Laden was just a scapegoat for the WTC attacks, and George Bush is a frontman for an oil cartel that secretly runs the U.S. I'm all, Hm, that's interesting. Jackass.

The problem is that, as a teacher (still a freaky phrase to write in reference to myself) and, you know, an adult, I can't just say, "Uh, you're full of shit." I have to be all reasoned and respectful of their stupid opinions. Plus, I feel like I have to prove everything I say, and while I'm reasonably intelligent, I'm not the USA Fact Book, here.

So mostly I just try to divert them with, "Oh, we can totally do a lesson on that. Later."

Yeah, later. Like July later.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Do you like Spongebob Squarepants?

Because Austrian teenagers do. And they will ask you about it.

Anyway, I think I'm going to Vienna this weekend. Some of the other teaching assistants are meeting there on Saturday, and I want to trade war stories. I also want to get a handy (cell phone) so I can talk to you all. Plus, I want to find the English language bookstore. So that's the agenda.

This means, of course, that I won't be posting again until at least Monday. Try not to cry too much.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Dear Austrian Males of a Certain Age (Namely, 13-19):

I don't know who told you it would be a good idea to style your hair as if you have a duck sitting backwards on your head, but it's not. That point of hair in the middle of your forehead makes you look like a refugee from Mork and Mindy.

Knock it off immediately, or I'll be forced to confiscate your hairgel.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hey, can you hear that I'm talking here?

So I had my first lessons today. Four in a row, starting at 7.45 a.m. and ending at 11.35. Mostly fourth- and fifth-formers (17- to 19-year-olds), they were in general quite enthusiastic, interested, and engaged. Except for one thing.

They looooove to talk when I'm talking. Or when their teacher is talking. Or evidently, when anybody in the entire world is talking. I think if Ah-nuld came into their classroom, they'd talk over him. And then he would terminate them.

Can I mention that I'm thrilled that Ah-nuld won? I can't tell the kids this when they ask, because I want to seem like a rational, socially responsible adult. But seriously, how is this not completely hilarious? And why hasn't anybody started a reality show on this yet. I'd watch. And so would the entire country of Austria.

Monday, October 06, 2003

No, I will not drink more wine. No. No. Oh, fine.

I spent the weekend in St. Michael's with my contact teacher, running around with her to different social functions. Basically it was an entire weekend of refusing wine. I drank some, but there is no way in the world I could keep up with these people. They're wine fiends, which makes sense, because this is a major wine region. The reds, in particular, are quite good.

I'm settled in Stegersbach now. I have a room on the third floor of the local golf boarding school (internat), and I've toured the school where I'll be teaching for the next eight months.

You should probably know that internet access is going to be sketchy for the next month or so. The internat internet server is at the school, and the school is under construction, so the internet is currently nonfunctional at the dorm. Hopefully it'll be up soon, but you know how construction goes.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

The red bars on the Austrian flag don't represent blood.

Yeah, that's the red tape. Because the medical exam and tests I paid $280 for in the U.S. wasn't on the proper form, it has to be completely redone here, at a potential cost of $300. I cannot tell you how absolutely furious I am. This is bureaucratic bullshit designed specifically to keep immigrants out of the country. The U.S. does the same thing, but it's still retarded.

Finding this sort of thing out is really disheartening. It makes it hard to remember all the good things I've learned about Austria in the past couple of days. For example, last night we went to a Heuriger to drink Sturm and hang out. (Heuriger are small cold-food restaurants located on vineyards. They're open select days of the year in order to showcase the vineyard's wine. Sturm is a drink available only in the fall. It's fermented grape juice before it becomes wine. Tastes kind of like apple juice and hits you like a freight train about 30 minutes after you drink it. Excellent.) The Heuriger was adorable, all brick walls and wine paraphernalia, run by a 60-year-old woman and her husband. She siphoned Sturm out of the barrel with a special glass pipe, and was very attentive and happy to see us, even though we were a rather large and noisy group of Americans. Easy to forget sometimes that some Austrians, at least, like Americans.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Eva und Elisabeth: Echt cool.

Today we went to Krems to observe real live English classes in action. We watched a class of 14-year-olds and a class of 12-year-olds. Let me tell you, I am so, so jealous of these kids. A), they got to start learning a language at age 10. B), they get to go to school where all the kids are well behaved and the teachers seem enthusiastic. It was kind of disturbing, how perfect everything was. I'm sure it's not always like that, and that there are boring lessons and a lot more homework than I was used to, but seriously. These kids have got it made.

Anyway, I got to chat with Eva and Elisabeth, two 12-year-olds who went to Croatia and Greece on holiday, respectively (the kids were learning about vacation and how to give directions). They thought I was funny and strange, and it made me excited to get in the classroom. Two more days of training, the weekend, and then we're off. I can't wait.

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