Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vienna Fun and Socialist Emergency Rooms!

Monday March 1st, 2010
We met Dr. Kecht in the morning to go to the European Union Vienna satellite building. We had a presentation from a lady that worked there and it was basic for all of us who are in European Union Economics and Politics because she presented on the basics which we already knew. We had E.U. Econ. and Politics homework to figure out what the Austrians do not like about being a part of the E.U. We found out that the passage of criminals from other countries has increased with the ever widening opening of the borders, and that they believe that they lost lots of money switching over to the Euro (even though the statistics say they did not). They also feel that employers can move their factories and companies out of the country more easily to the low wage countries like Romania. It is interesting because yearly 70% of Austrians say that being a part of the E.U. is a bad thing, yet 72% of Austrians say they would not like to leave the European Union. Just like the Austrians; to complain yet not want to solve it. It is like our German teacher says, “They complain to speak, but not to hear”. It really seems to be the Austrian mentality!
After the European Union building we walked to our next event as we passed Vienna’s town hall. We were so surprised because when we were walking up to it we found a huge outdoor ice rink with side ice paths! It was filled with teenagers, families and physical education school groups even! Surprisingly Dr. Kecht let us watch for a little bit - she is always basically making us jog to keep up with her to get to our destinations, as she is a “true” Austrian and always on time. I thought it was the coolest thing that the schools had brought out the students to learn how to go ice skating! Apparently, the town gives them a discount on the skating fee of course, and it is usual for P.E. class to be held outside of the school. Dr. Kecht was saying that every Austrian kid learns to ice skate, ski, and swim. And that a P.E. class will go to the mountains for a few days a year and go skiing for class. I know a lot of people back at home that would die for that! But the way they present P.E. in the school in a fun way, I do believe, really reflects in their culture as Austrians are ALWAYS doing physical activity. 
Our next stop was the Vienna Integration Office where we learned what Austria’s capital does to monitor and incorporate immigrants into Vienna. It was a surprisingly interesting presentation where we discovered that in order to become a citizen or live here with a “green card” equivalent, one must learn German. As it is the national language an immigrant will be tested after a certain amount of time to see if they have learned enough to stay. In order to help immigrants learn German the provence of Vienna gives them German class discount coupons every time they show up to a seminar about living in Austria. There is a set course of seminars that they are highly encouraged to attend, everything from educational systems to housing. The office gives them tips on how to get along with Austrians - don’t shy away from a dog lick, because Austrians love their dogs - and how to enroll for school and apply for a house. We were given gift bags from the office and I found out they had given us a copy of one of the booklets that is given during the education seminar. It is a booklet that has words and phrases translated in six common immigrant languages as well as English relating to things about school. The idea of it is that the teacher and parents can break the language barrier through this user friendly pre-translated booklet. It seems like a great resource! As the teacher to be, I thought this was really neat. :) We also talked about how much more accepting those in Vienna are of immigrants than other regions of Austria. 
After that we headed to the Nachmarkt again for lunch where I decided to get a small bag of random dried fruits and nuts that I had never seen before. Tracy, a classmate, and I split the snack bag I bought, a loaf of bread and hummus on the steps of the Succession. It was so wonderful watching people and feeling the heat of the sun! More of our group gathered on the steps and I ended up trying a green olive with a red chili pepper in it that Alex had traded me for some dried fruit. My mouth was on FIRE, but it was so delicious. lol. 
Dr. Kecht lead us to the metro where we traveled to the Schloss Schönbrunn Palace. It was impressively large, but it seems that the Europeans make every building huge. As we waited to get our tickets a man came up the boys in our group and started talking about how they should not have sex until they are married and that it would end in Hell if they did, of course all in German. The boys tried walking away, barely knowing what the man was saying and he followed them. lol. It was quite a sight from the sidelines, apparently they looked like big sinners. 
We received an audio tour through the inside of  Schloss Schönbrunn Palace and then we walked around the grounds. I would definitely never spend the money for getting inside the palace or the audio. It said nothing really, and the rooms were like every other palace. But we walked around the gardens behind the palace and it was beautiful even in the winter. I wish we could have seen it in the summer with the mazes of green shrubbery and flowers. A group of us decided to walk up the huge hill behind the palace that lead up to a beautiful building that is now a cafe. The walk was just like going through a perfect open park and the view was just breath taking. We found a huge fountain that was pretty on our way up and we found the beautiful cafe building with huge carved pillars.  At the top of the hill we met up with some other classmates and sat outside and talked. We sat and enjoyed the view and the sun while a few of them had beers.
Once the sun was starting to fade we traveled back to the metro station where Emily and I left the group to try and go to an opera. We found out that there was not a state opera that night but the lady told us that there was an opera going on at a different location. So we took the metro to where she told us and ended up in the dark in an incredibly sketch part of town! But the opera house (VolksOper Wein) was right outside the station and we found it perfectly. We paid 2 euros for standing tickets (yeah the one cheap thing in Austria!) and headed up to the play Antonia und der Reissteufel which was to start in two minutes. Great timing! We found our standing area and the play began. The audience was filled with little children with their parents or grandparents all dressed up. Apparently we had found a children’s opera, which was great to me because it was more of a musical. The opera was about a monster that locked children up and ate them because his heart was kept by some evil characters, and one of his prisoners escaped and tried to get back his heart to save the other kids. The costumes were amazing and the it was funny to even for me who did not understand all of the German. But I was proud, I figured out the plot by picking up on some German words. :) The costumes were so fun there were two people dressed as bats, the monster had a extra large foot, and the aunt wore crazy purple clothes! We ended up leaving before it was over, but it was a blast. 
Once we left, Emily and I headed to a cafe that we heard was wonderful behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Cafe Diaglas. We ate dessert instead of dinner (what had become a  tradition over these days to save money and enjoy the sweets!) and got a huge slice of a nutty, chocolaty, banana puffy cake. It was so rich I could not even finish it. The cafe was so adorable with the lowly lit red lamps and people around us reading from books or having private conversations over coffees. :) A very busy but great day. :)

Tuesday March 2nd, 2010
Our last day in Vienna was filled with a morning tour of the Austrian National Bank for the European Union Politics and Economics and Marketing classes. Definitely the most boring tour I have taken in my entire life! I thought it was going to be interesting but the guide barely spoke English and took us around glass cabinets that had a few coins here and a fish there and other examples of what had been used to barter. Maybe because I had already known about that made it boring. But, the presentation was painfully dull. The two highlights were seeing the money change over the decades, and the tools used today to make the Euro. An interesting thing that we were told was that the money that was printed before Austria was taken over by Hitler, was the same as the bill designs after Austria regained its independence. This was done to bring back a sense of familiarity and nationalism to the people. A cool idea I think, the only difference was the colors of the bills. 
We got to see some of the metal sheets that are used to print the bills, there are so many metal plates that are used to make one side of a bill we decided it definitely makes it harder to forfeit! It was awesome seeing the layers of the colors of printing on the bills in different stages, and the metallic stripe not on the bill yet. The best thing though, was the fact that we got to see examples of the modern way that they make the metal plates. They use to do it by hand, but now they have created a computer program where the artist draws the lines on a board and the computer records it. Then the computer has a program to engrave where the lines are to make the bills! We saw an example of a fictional bill with Gustav Klimt on it that was a really amazing design. 
We also found out that the reason for no one euro bills. Side note; it is so hard to talk using the word Euro, I always want to say Dollar! The bills wear out too quickly so they make them coins and they last longer; pretty clever. The other thing that was interesting to learn was that some other countries have the European Union’s factories produce their bills, like Singapore! I never imagined this. I just assumed that every country made its own money. But, apparently the costs of security and production are so high that it makes it rarer than we think! I never realized either how much producing your own money in a way gives a country more power. For example if the United States needs to produce more money to keep the country they simply can, but Liechtenstein cannot. That is huge! We learned all the interesting things in the last two minutes of the hour and a half tour of course! Dr. Kecht was so upset with the tour she was ranting about how she should have translated for him from the beginning. Lol she was so upset. After the tour we all got our bags and headed home on the train. :) 
Wednesday March 3rd, 2010
It was tough going to school today because being at home finally was really nice. We had had a super long weekend but it had been filled with learning and school. I feel like that is a lot of studying abroad. We see amazing things and it is “vacation” but it takes a lot out of you when you are trying to absorb so much new information 24/7 that sometimes it doesn’t feel like a vacation. 
We were learning something interesting today in Economics that I would have never thought of. Our professor informed us that the United States is working cleverly at paying off our debt to China even though we do not really see it. The United States has “100,000,000.00” loans it has to pay off to China, so in order to do so the National Reserve is slightly inflating the dollar on purpose so that we can pay off more of our debt. Because our bill has a number, it does not mean that the power of that dollar has to be a certain amount! Pretty clever. 
Thursday March 4th, 2010
Today no classes as usual. I did a few errands and went to Bergita’s lovely lunch - her desserts are just sinfully wonderful! Always worth the 30 minute walk. After spending sometime studying in the afternoon, Emily and I decided to go to the grocery store right by our house called EuroSpar to get milk (which we haven’t had a glass of milk since hmm ... well the United States ... and the one time we tried drinking the milk in our host mom’s fridge it was so thick it was like drinking a cheese paste!) and some cookies, hoping for American Oreos maybe!? Walking down the spiral marble steps in our house I fell down eight steps and ended up passing out at the bottom of them. All I wanted was milk, was that really too much to ask? I woke to Emily, one of my roomies, saying my name and I wondered what I hit to make me pass out, at the time the adrenaline covered up the pain. :) So I felt just a bit out of it; but no pain. I decided I still wanted milk, and stubbornly and stupidly went with Emily to the grocery store where I spent a whole euro on the tiniest jug of milk and a delicious chocolate bar with raisins in it! I went back and ate it and then fell asleep. I woke up to Emily knocking on my door when she got back from her Austrian Cuisine class with a slice of Sachetorte cake she had baked! What a great waking up present. It is the famous Austrian desert, a chocolate cake with 9 eggs and an apricot jam between the layers. :) Thanks Em!
Friday March 5th, 2010
Well I decided that yes I have hurt my body; in particular my left shoulder. Last night it began to hurt, but this morning it really hurt! I was pretty sure that I had just heavily bruised my middle and upper back, but I planned on going to the Dr. just to make sure and to make a lot of people at home feel better. :) I had told my host mother at breakfast what had happened the day before not for sympathy but I thought she should know. It is always scary talking to this old lady cause you never know her reaction. I told her and she looked at me like, so. Like I had stubbed my toe, I felt like such an idiot even though it was a big deal. I worked to clarify if she did not understand, she apparently understood just perfectly and did not care. We really are just like tenants. Oh well. 
So after lunch our cook Bergita took me to the emergency room, because Phoebe nor Dr. Kecht were in and all of the doctors offices close at noon on Fridays. One thing about Austria, the Dr.s never seem to be open! Bergita was so wonderful because it is not her job to take me there but she did! We rode the bus and ended up right next to the hockey stadium (makes sense; an E.R. room by the hockey stadium). I would have never guessed it was a hospital in a million years. It is the most boring average building; good thing she brought me! She helped me fill out the German forms and waited with me a total of two hours through xrays and examinations. Oh, she is a blessing! The Dr. I saw spoke perfect English and was really nice, despite the way he examined my shoulder as he discovered new ways to make it hurt. I got what I believe is my first xray of a body part! The lady doing the xray was so cute, her English was not great but she put enough words together to ask me the name for “hair clip” lol. I found out that I did not break or chip anything but that the swelling and internal bruising were high. So Dr. Lang started to prescribe some pain killers until I asked the cost, because I had to pay for this visit upfront before submitting it to insurance, yah a beautiful 200 euros fee for later! He asked if I was studying in Austria and for how long, apparently since I am not just a tourist he felt it was ok to give me some cream and super power Aleve for free. Yeah playing the poor student; wait I wasn’t playing. I am the poor student! He asked what courses I was taking and I mentioned I was taking Economics and Politics, and somehow he came to the idea that I was going to be “President of America” someday so I had to promise to remember his name. Lol. Well after a very positive experience with socialist Emergency Rooms I had to run back to school for a photography class that had to be made up due to a cancelled class. Just one question; who reschedules a class for a Friday night? Anyhow, I got to make a few prints which is always fun, and then off to home after a super long day. A very chilly walk home too.
Saturday March 6th, 2010
I slept in and watched a movie on the internet, did homework and napped. With my back it was so hard to sit up and read or do typing. So, it was not a very productive day but nice to have some down time and see a movie. Especially since you can’t watch any movies here because none of them even have English subtitles. The internet is our only hope. :) It snowed heavily so it was great just to stay inside. When we went down for lunch - freshly baked homemade pretzels and sausages - our host mom was baffled how we could waste a day in our rooms and not go outside. Emily and I looked at each other like is this lady crazy?! Emily is coming down with bronchitis and has been coughing like crazy - even though Bea has yet to apparently notice, my injury and Jane has an old back injury that kicks up when it is cold and limits her comfort! Well silly us we should have been outside in the freezing cold today.
Sunday March 7th , 2010

Sunday it continued to snow a lot! We all slept in a bit and crammed to do lots of homework. My shoulder hurt even worse. So ,writing papers was a work, nap, work, nap process. 

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Capri by Courtney Tracy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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