I don’t suppose I could ever understand how people studied and travelled abroad before the invention of the Internet. Since I have finally gotten it in my room, an entire world of freedom and independence has opened for me. Without the added hassle of trekking to a café to get WiFi, I’ve been stuck to Google Maps, a German-English translator, and “Damn You, Autocorrect.” Thanks to the translator, I’ve been able to research what it is I’m actually eating, and as such, I learned that tonight’s dinner was enjoyed with Wojnar’s bread gypsy upstroke. And it is indeed some of the most delicious bread gypsies upstroke that I have ever had. Direct translation fail. Now I understand why most of the material handed in by group members sounds like: “For the people living far away the exploitation areas, the influences are presenting a chronic status; but for the employees who are working there and the people who are living behind, the personal health and safety issues are instant and crucial.”
Fun Fact: That quote was actually taken straight from one of my unedited group papers.
Thanks to a scattered brain moment followed by a highly coordinated international effort, my credit card has officially been lost/stolen and cancelled. I have significantly less optimism to have it returned like my folder was previously. People tend to get quite stupid when money is involved. So, I again lie in monetary limbo. I figure as long as I have enough change for a coffee and perhaps a collect call to my bank to get a new card, I should be all right. I finally found a phone in our lobby to call Visa to get things straightened out, but the phone gobbled up my money too quickly to explain that while, yes, my permanent address is listed as Calgary it needs to be sent to Austria. As luck would have it when I tried to call back a second time, I got one of the few agents who for some reason couldn’t contact Visa himself, and while he put me on hold, my call time and my change ran out. So again, I was stuck. I considered using Skype, but lo, you need a credit card in order have money to call landlines. A quick Skype chat with my mother put a more productive Ball in motion, and after a few times explaining, “No, Austria, not Australia”, I should have a new card in my hot little hands next week. Fingers crossed.
My tour group visited Schloß Schönbrunn (or the Hapsburg family’s summer palace) yesterday for another guided tour. I wasn’t that impressed as mine is much larger and they only used 23 karat gold leafing on every.single.square.inch.of.the.palace.
In all honesty, though, I probably could have just sat and listened to our guide give the history of the Hapsburg family rather than bothering with the actual tour. Had the palace been furnished as though it was freshly lived in, I probably would have found it more interesting. But given its barebones interiors (trinkets and other items were put away as tourists often felt the need to take home their own souvenirs), it was difficult to really imagine the palace beyond a museum of really fancy hallways with overzealous gold leafing. My favourite part of the tour was how he detailed the Hapsburg family quirks. The guide explained the Hapsburg’s pride in their genetic features, however, after several generations of playing Incest: The Game the Whole Family Can Play, their looks turned from cherubic to caricature. As he showed us a bust made of one of Austria’s more recent emperors, it looked unreasonably close to someone I knew and then I realized incest would explain a lot of things. Oh I know, I’m terrible. Boo hiss!
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the palace, but were permitted to run wild the garden (and many groups of small school children were taking to heart). However, it’s the middle of February and what is presumably a lush garden is currently several patches of grass and dirt.
While I couldn’t get excited about the view nor the dead hedges, I’m ever grateful for the fact that I can say, “I can come back when the weather’s nice.” Since I’m at the front end, five months seems like a very.long.time.
They warned us in our pre-departure sessions that we would go through several stages of adjustment while we’re here. My aunt who lived abroad also told me that the first three weeks would be the hardest. While many other people around me have become homesick or anxious, I’ve found myself to be relatively normal (I just happen to be an overly anxious person naturally). However, I have noticed that I’ve recently been a bit more disenchanted with this experience. It’s incredibly frustrating to not speak the language, to not have a routine, and the weather here is cold with brown, dead grass/trees. I’ve even tried to take solace in the architecture here, but nothing ruins Rococo quite like having a McDonald’s in it. Drab weather has always been a surefire way to kick my mood down several notches, and I’ve survived in Vancouver only because it stays green year round. I’m assuming/hoping that as the weather turns to spring, Vienna will become more beautiful and my mood will blossom a bit too. I’ve been kicking myself lately for not going to France for my exchange because I actually speak the language making grocery shopping, talking to the housing office, setting up phones and bank accounts, etc… that much easier. And yet, I don’t know if I fully believe that “easy” is supposed to be a part of the study abroad vocabulary. If it was normal and familiar and easy, then what would be the point?
And hey, in France, they might not have my favourite bread gypsies upstroke.