Tuesday, June 29, 2004

So you're not actually supposed to put sugar into the battery jack of the phone. Interesting.

One of the things I forgot to mention on my list of items that are causing my money to disappear was a phone. I was not particularly enthused about the idea of getting a phone, mostly because all my phones seem to come to bad ends.

Today I purchased the fourth cell phone I've had in the past year. I realized that I can't really afford to live without a phone, both for safety reasons and because I'll kill the next person who gives me a sympathetic ook when I say that I don't have a phone number. But I know that somewhere down the line, I'm going to get my heart broken.

My first cell phone was a Nokia 3390. It had a gold face plate—at least, it was mostly gold. The corners and edges were pale grey where the paint had been scraped off by repeated dropping. I accidentally put that phone in a cup holder in my car, which wouldn't have been a problem if my friend I. hadn't spilled a quarter-inch of Sprite in the cupholder the day before. The display was never quite the same after that.

That phone lasted until I went to Austria, where it propmtly became (more) useless, and I got a new, relatively inexpensive prepaid phone. It was shiny and silver and had decent-sized buttons. It's actually still shiny and silver with decent sized buttons, but it doesn't work because I dropped it in a cup of tea. I had just gotten off the phone with my mother and was getting ready to go to sleep. I reached over to put the phone across the top of an empty mug. Too bad that I missed the rim and that the mug was not, in fact, empty. Blutorangentee and electronics evidently don't really mix.

The second phone I had in Austria was great, as well—for three months. Then, when I went to Croatia, it mysteriously turned itself off and refused to allow itself to be turned on again (insert your own sex joke here). I took it in to be fixed ten days before I left. As far as I know, it's still at the repair place, because despite repeated assurances of efficiency, they failed to return it in the allotted time and I left for the U.S. without it.

So now I have this new phone, a Sony Ericsson that's a little clunky and absolutely covered with that little orange Cingular character, but it's got color display and it will be able to call a tow truck if I ever have a blowout on the freeway. Of course, now I have to go through all the new phone rigamarole: pick a ring tone, painstakingly type all my friends' names and numbers in, offend everyone when my phone rings on volume 10 in the middle of a meeting, gum up the display screen with finger prints.

Hm. I think I need a cup of tea.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Yet to be purchased: T.V., Q-tips, carpet cleaner, pots and pans...

I always forget how expensive moving is.

Even in this case, when most of my furniture, books, and household items were already in place, I'm on the verge of bankruptcy. Every time my wallet opens now, it whistles the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," and a tumbleweed blows across my checkbook.

I've been in town since Friday night, and even before that, the gas to get here nearly equaled the GDP of a mid-Asian country. Okay, let's be honest for just a second. My mother came down with me, and she paid for all the gas on the trip. She's got a Conoco credit card, what can I say.

My mother also paid for the ridiculous two-cart shopping extravaganza at SuperTarget on Friday night. I've never filled up two carts at one time anywhere before, but let me tell you, we had no problem at Target. Part of the issue is that I'm living with a boy who can't correctly identify foodstuffs, so the pantry and the refrigerator were barren like an Antarctic landscape, except for a few lonely cans of lima beans and six bottles of liquor. I also had to get ridiculous items like pillows that I forgot to bring down. Not that they would have fit in my car, anyway.

So yes, I've been giving out money like a Democrat-run congress. I'm telling you this because it means I'm going to be überpoor for the next...rest of my life. Give up on Christmas presents now.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Seriously, though, clowns are freaky

I'm continually amazed by how much crap my Tracker is capable of holding. Spatially it's deceptively small, so I always feel like I'm driving a clown car that's going to explode at the next stop light, spewing clothing and housewares all over the highway.

As you might have guessed, the drive to Houston is commencing here in a few hours. My mom and I are loading up the cat and the crap and descending on my new apartment and Half Price Books for some fun good times.

If you're in Houston and wondering when I'll be available for play, the answer is "Monday night." I'll hit town Friday afternoon, but my mom has priority until Monday morning at 7, then work, and then you can monopolize me to your hearts' content.

See you soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

You were annoying in high school. Not much has changed, eh?

I just got back from my five-year high school "reunion." I use sarcastic quotation marks because a) five years isn't nearly long enough to require a reunion, and even if it were, b) most of these people still live in Wayne. How reunited do they need to be?

But I went, because hey, free drinks. Also, I thought, what the hell, free opportunity to make fun of many people at once, which was totally what happened.

Of course, the deal at these things is that everybody is happy to see everybody else, but basically falls back into old cliques and is catty about all the other cliques behind their backs (or possibly to their faces, as the night gets older and the drinks get harder). I was no exception; I just sat around with a couple of girls that I actually liked in high school and talked about how much fatter everybody is now. Because damn, Dunklau, you don't just have a spare tire, you've got a spare 18-wheeler goin' there. And you were a jackass in high school.

So this was the conclusions I drew: everybody's fatter but nobody's really changed.

I wasn't nearly as popular then as I was tonight. Or maybe I just felt more popular, because I realized that I truly I don't give a shit now what those people think, so I feel free to speak my mind. That certainly wasn't the case five or six years ago. It was sort of an amazing quiet epiphany. Of course, in high school I didn't have the advantage of alcohol to loosen my tongue, but still, the liberation from worrying about what everybody was saying about me was nice.

However, I'm not mourning the five years that separates me from another night of drunken mockery. I'm not that smug.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

However, I still wave my hand in front of my forehead to indicate that I think someone is insane, like this:

So I've been back in the U.S. for just over a week now, and I don't think my brain is any less confused than it was before I left Austria.

I was, in fact, correct. The reverse culture shock is a bitch. Several times a day, I find something that makes me pause in confusion: country radio stations, saying the "Our Father" in English, hearing somebody talk about soccer, constantly getting the z and y keys mixed up when I'm typing (not to mention endless searches for the umlauted letters). The grocery store threw me for a major loop the other day. It's so big. Is it really necessary to have an entire aisle (which, by the way, is a terrible word for ESL speakers to have to learn) of cereal? We could certainly get rid of Waffle Crisp, at the very least.

I want to speak German all the time. I want say "Grüß Gott" when I walk by somebody on the street. I think it's weird when people say "Hi" to me, especially if they're old. I expect a more formal "hello" or "good afternoon."

Actually, walking by somebody on the street hasn't been happening too much. I admit, I'm doing a lot of hiding. I don't want to talk to people and have to sum up my trip in a few neat sentences. I don't know what my favorite thing was, I don't know what I missed the most, and I don't know when I'm going back. In some ways, I want to hold the experience just for me. On the other hand, I can't stop talking about it when I'm hanging out at home. Fortunately, my family doesn't seem to mind too much that every other sentence out of my mouth starts with "In Austria...."

Getting reintegrated is a process of slow degrees, evidently. I'm mostly over the jet lag, and I can control the impulse to speak German. Now I'm working on getting used to the imperial system of measurement and more casual means of address. Maybe next week I'll be ready to hang out with friends who've known me longer than eight months.

Friday, June 04, 2004

You say goodbye, I say hello (hello, hello). I also say: shut up Paul McCartney, nobody believes your poorly thought out heroin excuses.


This will be my last post from Austria, barring me either a) not being lazy and posting from Vienna tomorrow (doubtful), or b) getting stuck here by an airline strike (it's happened before). It will probably be my last post for at least a week or so, because the computer connection at my parents' house is dodgy at best, and I want to take a little time to digest everything before I start full speed again.

So...I don't have any deep words of reflection on what I've learned, or pithy observations on transition and change. All I feel right now is a stab in the gut that I can't take all the people that I've come to love here home with me, and a budding anticipation for seeing all the people I already loved there again. "All I feel." As if that weren't enough.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

When I grow up, I want to be an ex-pat

Well, I'm almost packed. I sent a 14.02 kilo box of books to Houston yesterday; this afternoon I crammed the stuff I'm not taking into a box to leave for next year's assistant. (Hi, E.!) Most of what's left I've smushed into my well-travelled black suitcase. I still have some significant cleaning left to do in my room, and I have to figure out how to get my shoes into the one square inch of space that's left in my suitcase, but I could probably be ready to leave in less than an hour.

The idea of leaving Stegersbach gets more dreadful as every hour goes by. Today I abmelded; this is basically the process of dergeistering with the government. I no longer officially live in Stegersbach.

On the way home I stopped one last time in the town's sole bookstore, the one where they always seem to find it strange that I just want to browse. It's a good technique, though, because I'm almost always guilted into buying something. Today was no different, though I kept it small (see 'one square inch of space' comment above).

Tonight I have the last choir outing, a performance of Volkslieder in Bad Tatsmansdof. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to my teachers, and Saturday morning I will get on a bus to Vienna and I won't come back.

I'm not ready.

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