Monday, June 15, 2009

It wouldn't have been study abroad without at least one injury

My toe is seriously messed up from that rock at the Donau Insel. Last night it was throbbing so much and my whole leg was twitching. It’s massively swollen, all sorts of wonderful colors, and oozing. Lovely. At least this happened at the end of the trip instead of the beginning.

Today is my last day in Vienna. A taxi will be picking me up in just a few hours to take me to the airport. Even though there's plenty here to do to keep someone busy for a lifetime, I'm happy to go home. I've had a little taste of another culture, and am ready to enjoy the comforts of my own again.

Donau Insel

Tina and I went to the Donau Insel to lay out in the sun. We first went to a little eatery and she had a mango/peach smoothie and I had the American hot dog, which turned out to be like two feet long! 

There was this cool guy dancing in front of the food stand. We took a picture with him and he liked it so much that he asked me to email it to him.

After our lunch break we went to lay out. There were so many ants! We were completely covered. It definitely didn’t help the situation that I didn’t have a towel to lay on either. After maybe an hour I got up the courage and went into the Donau. After just floating for a little bit, I realized I was already 1/4 of the way across so I just spur of the moment decided to swim all the way across to the other side. I’m a good swimmer, so why not?

I was doing pretty well…then I hit halfway. Omigosh I was so tired but I kept going. Whether I turned around and swam back, or continued to the other side, I still had the same distance to cover. About 40 feet from the shore something ran into my shoulder. I thought it was just a clump of moss or whatever so I just brushed it aside, only to realize that it was not moss, but a dead squirrel. OMG. I think I had a miniature heart attack. Completely freaked out I sprinted to the sideline, this time noticing every little piece of debris. As I was nearing the edge I slipped on a rock. It didn’t hurt too badly, felt more like when you stub your toe on the edge of the bed (even though that can hurt a lot!). I clambered out of the river and sat on the steps and gathered my breath. I looked down at my toe and it was gushing blood. I guess I didn’t really feel it at first because my whole body was numb from the cold water and I had all that adrenaline from being exhausted and running into a dead squirrel and all. I thought I maybe just cut my toe so no big deal. But I still had to get back to the other side. After a few more minutes of rest, I plunged back in the water and made my way across the river. – This is no small swimming pool, either. It took me probably 45 minutes to swim across, rest, and swim back – although I was trying not to get my head wet because of nasty river germs so I was pretty much doggie paddling the whole way.

Cafe Sacher


Today I finally made it to Café Sacher. It’s been one of my main goals all trip. Samantha and I had to wait a few minutes outside to be seated – very un-Viennese coffee house. But this was a very touristy place, so it was quite crowded with camera bearing foreigners – mostly English speakers. We got our table inside and flipped through the menu, but I knew what I wanted going in there. Ein Stück Sacher torte mit Schlagobers und eine Melange. (The original sacher torte with whipped cream and a mélange coffee) The place was very cute – reminded me of tea at the American Girl Place. While it was nice, it was not at all like the Vienna coffee houses so if you want to get an accurate taste of Vienna culture, don’t go to Café Sacher. So I finally got my Sacher torte – the real deal – no more imitations. It was wonderful. But the whole time I kept thinking how the atmosphere was detracting from the experience.  In all other coffee houses, you’re free to stay as long as you like – all day in fact. But here the service was very fast and polite and there were lines of tourists waiting outside with their noses pressed to the windows eager for a glimpse inside. I felt like it was inappropriate to stay there too long so Samantha and I left a few minutes after finishing the cake.

But before leaving, we decided to check out the bathrooms – a place this nice had to have beautiful bathrooms. When you walk in it appeared like a normal, yet beautiful, bathroom. There were sinks to the left, and wooden doors for where the stalls would be. But then we opened the doors to the actual individual bathrooms and there were entire other rooms inside. Every toilet was designated a little room where the person could freshen up, equipped with a sink and counter! So posh.

We then went on a journey to a café that we could hunker down at for a while and found a sort of Italian/Greek run café. I ordered smoked trout appetizer and it was way different from anything I expected, but in a good way. The trout was served on top of a mound of whipped cream and horseradish. I would never have thought to serve fish with whipped cream, but it was excellent. After a couple hours feeling Viennese, we left to go back to our dorm.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Last night on the town with the group...or what was left of us

Today Vanessa and I hit Mariahilfer Strasse for some shopping and were later joined by Tina.  Shopping is difficult for me here because I'm not in love with the fashion - at least not when it comes to clothes. The purses and shoes absolutely. It's just too bad they're meant for millionaires.

We had a group dinner of those who were left from our group, along with Ryan and Ruthie.  We then headed out to the U4 bar. It was a major disappointment, so Samantha and I left early. Too bad not early enough. The subways stopped running just 30 minutes before we left and didn't start up again for almost 5 hours. But after several blocks of searching in the freezing rain we found a night bus that was going in our direction. We were determined to find a bus because a taxi from where we were would have cost probably 50 Euros. We get to the bus stop and have to wait half an hour for it to get there and then have an hour ride home. By home I mean to Lorenz-Müller Gasse, which from there was then a 20 minute walk to our dorm.  

It's a lot of work to experience the night life here. If it wasn't such a hassle getting to and from places, I might enjoy it more.

Folter Museum, Prater, und Theater

Donnie made us a wonderful breakfast of eggs to order. We were just like a little family sitting in the kitchen in our pajamas eating breakfast. 

Early in the afternoon, Tina, Vanessa, Ryan Godke (he's here with another group) and I wanted to go to the Prater. But it started to rain so we headed to Haus de
s Meeres (aquarium) where we met up with Marie Schramm. But entrance to the aquarium  was 10 Euro so we went around the corner to the Folter Museum (torture museum) which was much cheaper and our friend Ruthie Spicker met up with us. 
The museum was super creepy but even scarier than the machines, which were all the real thing, was the wax people used to demonstrate the torture devices. The figures were so old that they were disintegrating and it looked like rotten flesh. 

After the Folter Museum, we went to the Prater since the weather cleared up. We went on a ferris wheel, not the famous touristy one since it was so expensive, but a similar ferris wheel.
Everything at the Prater was so expensive. I'm used to fairs being relatively cheap because it's somewhat known as a white trash kind of place. But here in Vienna the Prater is more of a main attraction and there wasn't a single ride under 3 Euro!

After the Prater, we went to get ice cream, and then went to the theater. Our friend Ruthie works there and got us a great discount so we only had to pay 6 Euro instead of 10. The theater was very cute - only 10 rows and it was one of those where old people tend to go. We saw "Ein Mann für alle Fälle" (A man for every occasion). It was a comedy in German. I did find it rather funny, but what I enjoyed more was being able to sit down, and almost forget that it was in a language other than my own. I love being able to sink into another language - a completely other way of thinking and feeling.

Last day of class!

Today was our last day of class. All the coursework for the entire four weeks was due today, and it was rather apparent that most of us did not get adequate sleep the night before. In addition to turning in all of our papers, we each had to orally present our journals on translation. It was probably one of the most interesting classes we had, because the speaker and topic rotated every 20 minutes, rather than the same thing for 3 whole hours. We then all received our certificates for completing the program, signed by all of our professors.

After class, we were able to play in the translation booths, which was an absolute treat! I got in a booth and started fiddling around with the switches and stumbled across the channel of the booth next to me. The girl in there was taking an exam and was interpreting from Italian to German. I then played a German clip and attempted to interpret into English. It was so fast! I could understand just fine when I was only listening to it. But to listen to what is being said, translate that, while simultaneously listening to and absorbing what is currently being said while you're translating the previous sentence and formulating the next sentence is practically impossible. I felt like my brain was going to explode and I only did it for like 2 minutes. Every time I got a sentence out, I missed four others that went by while I was translating the first. I hope my audience doesn't mind getting only a portion of the story. Because interpreting is so taxing on the mind, interpreters are not allowed to work for more than 30 minutes at a time - due to mind fatigue. I only lasted 2 minutes in the booth and operated at maybe a maximum of 25%. Looks like I've got a lot of work ahead of me.
After the booths, we took a few hours to just relax. We had an intense morning of presentations and needed some quiet time. In the evening, we had our final group dinner at an Italian restaurant with the whole class and Professor Camilla Nielsen, Professor Bruce Murray, and Professor Lowe.  All in all it was a great day... except for the food poisoning from the Italian restaurant that caught up with me a few hours later. yuck.

Around the Ringstrasse

Today we had our last class with Professor Gehard Budin (even though we really only had three classes in total with him). He's one of those people who just has mass amounts of knowledge and "Bildung" accumulated. He just spouts out so much information in a given lecture that it's honestly impossible to keep up with him and I utterly become lost in his words.

After lecture, we had a couple hours before our afternoon excursion so we went to a McDonald's and had lunch and then took McFlurries to a nearby park and soaked in the sun. It happened to be the hottest day since we'd arrived.

We then had an architectural tour of some of the buildings around the Ringstrasse. We had just learned about the buildings along the Ringstrasse a few days earlier in class, so we were excited to see it in person. Most of the buildings along the Ringstrasse are fairly modern, but they were designed to look like they were from a different era, so they may appear older. The tour was a little disappointing, however, because our guide wanted to show us more discrete aspects of architecture that we would not have seen on our own and he assumed that we already knew everything about the big things, which was entirely untrue. I would not have minded learning about the landmarks one tiny bit.

After the tour I went back to the dorm and did a lot of writing since all of our coursework for the class was due the following day.