Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Visitor from Home

My friend Tara who is studying in Prague for a semester came to Graz for a visit this weekend. Of course we had the first bout of unpleasant weather we have had since I arrived but we still managed to do lots of touristy things, including a visit to Kunsthaus Graz, an unusual art museum in the center of town. We also ate multiple gyros, tried a mass amount of Austrian baked goods, and watched MTV. This weekend also gave me an even greater appreciation for Minneapolis/St. Paul music. There are just so many quality bands. We went to a sold-out festival that was spread out across multiple venues around town and all we really encountered was people trying way too hard to be cool. We did find the nice wall art above though, so I guess it was worth it.

Some other pics from the weekend

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spas and Salsa

Well, I've made it through two weeks of classes. I'm only taking the one German class and teaching the two Swedish classes, but it's been more than a full-time job. I'm assuming things will calm down as I get more settled (and my students get settled.) German is going quite a bit slower than I had hoped; a little too much repetition and not enough new stuff. The class is huge so I'm attributing the snail-like pace to that. Despite being so busy with school, I did manage to take en evening trip to this wonderful place:

Bad Waltersdorf

It's a thermal spa about 45 minutes outside of Graz, built on thermal springs with multiple indoor and outdoor pools and an indoor "Sauna Village, " complete with Sauna Bar. For 13 euros, I got to spend five hours in the future.

Everyone wandered around completely silent in towels, some sipping drinks, others reading or simply staring off into space. Each sauna had a different theme, my favorite was the Roman Catholic church theme complete with arches, fountains, twinkling stars on the ceiling, and some sort of herb-infused fog. I also enjoyed the underwater stationary bicycles and the outdoor water massage arranged in ~10 stations. At each station, a different body part gets massaged; after a couple of minutes at one station, a bell rings and you move to the next station. First, the foot; then the ankle, then the calf and so on until you end up with a very powerful thermal back massage. I felt amazing afterward.

Other news: Tara is on her way to visit at this very moment! She caught a train in Prague and should arrive in Graz by mid-afternoon. Since I don't really know many people yet, I haven't been able to figure out where bands play apart from the big venues. Luckily, there is a 2-day music festival in Graz this weekend (Styrian Stylez) so Tara and I are going to harass people until they tell us where the Graz Turf Club is.

Finally, if anyone wants to send me good salsa, I will love you forever. I did a little salsa taste-test last weekend where I bought three salsas in order to try and find an edible one. Here are my findings:

Salsa One -- I think this was actually a meat rub that you use before grilling. It was very sweet and sort of BBQ-ish. Knowing German would certainly help my hunt for the edible salsa.

Salsa Two -- More like Salsa Jelly. Consistency of jelly but with the flavor of taco sauce but chunky like salsa. Disgusting.

Salsa Three -- Kinda ok! A lot like Pace. Unfortunately, the only have Mild.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I cn haz internetz nao?

I'm thrilled to say that I finally have internet!! It's all I could think about in class today, kind of pathetic really. In any case, I'm gonna stay up all night looking at LOL Cats and using the internet for highly useful things like playing PathWords and online Scrabble.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why textbooks should never try and be "cool."

Click on this link for proof.
"Der 'Tag, wie geht's' rap."

("The 'Hey, how's it going' Rap." It's from my Beginning German textbook.)

My favorite part is how they leave space at the end of the song for you do your own rap.

Friday, October 17, 2008

And I thought Comcast sucked.

So I've been counting down the days until I get internet and TODAY was THE DAY. I got up at 7.15 for my 7:30 - noon date with The Technician Man. I planted myself on the sofa as to be certain I wouldn't miss him because of a flushing toilet or a noisy dishwasher. At 8.15, I was getting pretty sleepy again. At 9.15, I was starting to snap out of it. At 10.15 I was getting really antsy. At 11.15, I was getting even more antsy and slightly irritated. At 12:00, I flipped. Still no Technician Man. I texted my friend Petra to ask her what I should do and she volunteered to take care of it for me despite having been down with food poisoning overnight.

It's funny how no matter what someone is saying in German, it sounds like they are mad. "You look pretty" would probably sound like a gruff order to my American ears. But I have the feeling this time Petra wasn't telling the cable customer service representative that she looked pretty. After some heated conversation, the gist was that they physically cut the cable lines when someone cancels service here. Thus, the line hadn't be reconnected yet, so service couldn't be set up. That's fine, but why would they not bother to even call and instead just let me sit and wait for over five hours? Now they say Tuesday. I'll believe it when I see it.

In addition to that, things are more and more disorganized every day at my job. Tonight during class a mad hornet the size of a golf ball flew in (we are right next door to the botanical gardens) and divebombed us until we just gave up and called it a day. This was after the projector quit working and no one at the office understood what I meant by a CD-R.

I think I'll briefly mention the Sandwich Game just because it's way more interesting that my Swedish classes (which went well!) and my German classes (I think I'm too old to learn a new language.)

The Sandwich Game is pretty straightforward. You pick a random deli or cafe, look at the sandwiches, pick the one you want (usually by pointing and smiling and desperately hoping they don't say anything to you) and then you see which one you actually get! It's really fun and totally unpredictable. The winner so far: Wheat baguette with butter, cream cheese, brie, pickles, and lingonberry jam. (I ordered, or rather, pointed at a veggie sandwich.)

Close runner-up: White sandwich bread with one slice of spam-type ham, a ton of butter, and SEVEN slices of cheese. The cheese was over an inch think, more than twice as thick as the bread. (I had ordered a ham and cheese sandwich.)

I will update you as the game reaches new levels, and will try and provide photographic evidence from here on out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

After One Week...

I'm still without internet. It's amazing how bored one gets without it. I feel entirely isolated. I don't understand anything anyone says around me and when I turn on the tv, everything is dubbed. I actually watched some movie with Goldie Hawn's sorta-husband (what's his name?) last night all the way through in German. I'm not sure what was happening, but the giant floating meatball-looking head was a bad guy I think. While I was trying to determine good guys from bad guys, Joerg Haider, a big player in the Austrian government, apparently died in a car crash. I, of course, had no idea until my friend Petra told me the next day. It just makes me a little nervous; for all I know, the world could be collapsing around me while I sit and watch dubbed episodes of Grey's Anatomy and eat Austrian chocolate.

I have taken advantage of my downtime to explore the city. Graz has an amazingly extensive public transportation system consisting of buses, streetcars, and trains. I don't think I have ever had to wait more than five minutes for a transfer, it's really pretty incredible. So I've been riding the streetcars around, getting lost and trying to figure out how to get out of the vehicles. (Some trams seem to have escape buttons but others don't. Still not sure about that one.) Today really threw me for a loop when I was herded from the tram over to a bus which I sat on for about an hour before being deposited in the middle of a marathon. I'm guessing there were upwards of 100,000 people there. Someone was yelling in German over the top of U2's "It's a Beautiful Day," which was blaring over a giant P.A in the center of town. I was just trying to get to the university.

I did manage to climb the big "castle-mountain" in the city called Schlo├čberg the other day. I'm not sure how many steps are in the old fortress, but it's a lot. All the old ladies in loafers with canes coming back down while I was going up really made me feel self-conscious about how much I was sweating and panting. The city is really beautiful from that vantage point; all red roofs and pointy church steeples. Some evidence:


When I think about it, I've managed to cram a lot in this past week. Tons of paperwork (including registering with the city -- the city of Graz requires every person, Austrian or otherwise, to register every, single time they move, which just blows my mind), lots of confusing grocery shopping, some beers, tons of exploring, and also getting ready for classes which start Tuesday. I'm teaching two: Swedish 1b on Tuesdays from 5.30pm - 7.30pm and Swedish 3 on Thursdays from 5.30pm -7.30pm. I'm also taking a German course on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I suppose I'll know more about the degree of disaster shortly. What if the students make fun of me in German the entire time and I don't even know it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Successful arrival!

I arrived safely in Graz on Sunday, October 5th. I'm without internet at home for the time-being, so I won't be updating very frequently until The Technician Man arrives. (That's their term for it, but I'm adopting it from now on.) So far, things are going ok. Super-disorganized, much as I expected and zero guidance on how to teach my courses apart from "u can make your own plan when u like." I guess this could be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

The good news is that my apartment is nice and the city of Graz is lovely. Lots of streetcars and buses to ride around on, some mountains to climb, and plenty of sweet stuff to eat. If you want to send me something (perhaps ibuprofen, candy, or my favorite pair of jeans that I somehow forgot to pack?), my new address is:

Prochaskagasse 14b/1
8045 Graz

More soon!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Graz, Austria

I depart Oct. 4th. I wonder if I can learn German in three days.