Tuesday, September 30, 2014

24. Geburtstag in Österreich

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Today I turned 24 years old. For some odd reason, 24 feels like a bigger jump than from 22 to 23. It probably has more to do with the transition from college graduation to the work force (a.k.a. real world). Either way, I'm no stranger to celebrating a birthday abroad: Germany at 19, Argentina at 22, and now Austria at 24...and like the other birthdays abroad, this was splendid...in its own, low-key sort of way.

Before hitting the hay, my official birthday started with a Skype session from my parents and brother. Despite a struggling internet connection, I felt the love and certainly do miss my biggest supporters at home.
Thanks, Mom, Dad and Brian!

In the morning, I woke up to a plethora of birthday wishes from family and friends through Facebook, Whatsapp, e-mail, Snapchat, text messages, and snail mail. Via Skype, I was sung to in German by my dear friend, Wiebke, from my sophomore year in the TCNJ I-House. I'd say everything was off to a wonderful start! I felt that I deserved a little bit of Netflix before lunch time, so that's what I did. I met up with fellow teaching assistants, Leah and Mel, for lunch prior to meeting the rest of the group for a trip to Pöstlingberg.

Thanks, Leah!

Pöstlingberg is a popular overlook with a world record-setting history for the tram (die Pöstlingbergbahn) that climbs the 554m climb in less than 20 minutes. I'm convinced it had to be a greater power that pushed away the clouds as we departed Hauptplatz for the top (it was cloudy the entire morning and early afternoon).

The day was enjoyed by looking down at Linz and the fog in the distance, checking out the Pöstlingbergbasilika (church), and lastly, with a drink from the Biergarten. I was treated to a pear wine known as Most - a tasty choice!

 My TA (teaching assistant) friends!
 View from Pöstlingberg!

 Pöstlingberg Basilika

Mostly my fault, we got a little creative with the group photos!

The most awesome teaching assistants in Linz!
 
Most (an Austrian drink)!

Afterwards, a portion of the birthday crew stopped by the Urfahranermarkt for a quick snack. It started to drizzle, so everyone made their way home. Back at the apartment, Matthias (my flatmate) was quick to wish me a happy birthday (like Germans, the Austrians prefer to wait till someone's birthday to wish them all the best for fear of jinxing it if said too early). I prepared myself a bowl of pasta before him and I returned the Urfahranermarkt.

I met a few of Matthias' friends from university. All were very kind and quick to compliment my German, but I struggled to grasp the context of some points in the conversation. I found it that I was better with 1-on-1 discussions, especially when there was a fluctuating mix of standard German and Austrian dialect. Nonetheless with more time and beer, the conversations became more comprehensible and I had more context clues to understand where the conversation was going! Matthias also treated me to a glass of "Sturm," a super sweet fruit wine that is only served in autumn...finally I think I may have found something here that has defeated my sweet tooth...but darn was it good!

Birthday dinner: Kafka (sausage filled with cheese, covered in onions, 
ketchup and curry sauce, on a flaky bun) and a beer!

 Urfahranermarkt
 Matthias and I
 Thanks for all the Birthday love! xoxo

Having had only arrived in Linz two weeks ago, I was not sure how my birthday would go. Quite honestly, I set the bar low because I wished to enjoy the day for its simplicity. The greatest blessings of the day became obvious as my loved ones and friends reached out to me from all over. My new friends--British, Irish, America, and Austria alike--in Linz were equally as eager to celebrate this day with me! Simply put, it is a bright sign of the friendships and wonderful experiences that I have to look forward to. For that I can only feel thankful for all the old good and the new promise in my life!

Tomorrow is another big day because October 1 marks the official start of my job as a US English Teaching Assistant. I have an introductory meeting with my contact teacher at my second school. I expect my actual teaching responsibilities to start on Thursday...wish me luck!

Ois guade / Alles Gute zum Geburtstag,
Matt der Glückliche :)

P.S. My blog post about last week and weekend is still a work in progress. I'll do my best to have that up sooner rather than later. Danke für euer Verständnis!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ein guter Start...

Friday, September 19, 2014

I thought life would be easier in Europe now that I have an Irish passport (thanks to my grandmother). During my visit to set up a bank account, it only confused the hell out of the bank. First, we tried as an Irishman, but the fact that I was born in the USA yielded more paperwork. When I mentioned that I'm an American citizen as well, my banker's (yes, I have an Austrian banker now) eyes jumped out of his head. After an hour of paperwork, signatures, deposits, and clarifications, I was successful in setting up an Austrian bank account. I'll sum it up by saying that the IRS does do a good job of complicating things, but now I will be able to get paid...and more importantly, pay the rent!

My day brought me back to the center of Linz, meeting up with a handful of USTAs. It was nice, and I had my first Käsekrainer for 2014, a delicious, cheese-infused Wurst. Plus, on yet another lovely day, who couldn't enjoy a stroll around town? There is a casino in Linz, so I press my luck...eventually. Knowing me, probably not.

The tasty Käsekrainer

Some interesting art near the Volksgarten


The evening really stirred up my enthusiasm for Austria. My flatmate, Matthias, invited me to a dinner where a group of his friends and colleagues were testing out a new cell phone application (app) that they developed, with which a smartphone-user could order their food and drinks through their phone.. The food at the Fischerhäusl was wonderful, and the conversation even better. It was music to my hears and the utmost compliment to have the group assume that I was from Germany. :-) There was some good feedback for the app that will be fine tuned a bit. But on my end, it was rejuvenating to spend some time with Austrians - the immersion experience that I've sought after in this rather English-filled week. This was a great start to the weekend!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another beautiful day in Linz! Apparently five days is the longest that it has gone without raining in Linz. (Spoiler alert: It rained on Sunday). I had a lunch gathering with some more USTAs from the Linz area. Facebook can certainly work miracles when bringing new people together. It was nice to hear the wisdom from some second-year teaching assistants and know that my worries of the program are shared with other first-year USTAs too. The ordering process was comical since people arrived at different times, but it seemed like we all got bagels, just with different toppings.

I got an "Italian bagel"


From lunch, I went back to my apartment to begin the trek for a bicycle. I found an ad on willhaben.at (similar to eBay) and got in touch with someone who had two bikes for sale. The price was right, so I wanted to check it out. Since teleportation was not a feasible option, walking was the most efficient way for me to get there without the option of a bus. Google predicted the 1.5 mile walk would take 40 minutes...I learned that was because it was uphill....very uphill...the entire way. I arrived to the house in a full-on sweat, tested the bike out, bought it, and was back to my starting point in a matter of 10 minutes thereafter. Gravity was kinder to me on the way back. From there, I enjoyed checking out the bike path along the Danube that I will be taking to get to the center of Linz. The only thing left on that to-do list is purchase a front and taillight for the bike...Talking from experience, I won't be taking any chances.

My trek for the bike took me beyond the city limits...

...and the steep hills led me to this view!

My new wheels. The important thing is that it brings me from 
point A to point B and back - knock on wood.

One of the bridges I pass under in the Danube bike path.

In the evening, an international student gathering introduced me to a bunch of the exchange students at the Johannes Kepler Universität - I'm intrigued to see that Linz is so diverse.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

As stated in my spoiler alert, it rained most of the day with pockets of sunshine. I took it easy, hanging out in the apartment the whole day. I'm just getting my ducks in a row for tomorrow's USTA orientation. I'm excited to find out more about my role in the Austrian classrooms as well as to meet the whole gang of US and British Teaching Assistants.

Bis dann,
Matt


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Linz. Verändert,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today was just great. Breakfast on the balcony. I finally had some success with registering as a resident of Linz. I meandered over to my schools to canvas the area. So now that I have a functioning cell phone, a monthly bus ticket (that also provides discounts to classes at the community college and to museums!), and a sense of what my commute to work will be (a 10-12 minute walk), I'm feeling pretty swell. With each day, Austria continues to grow on me more and more. It could also be that my mind is catching up with my physical location - flying across an ocean can do that to a person, ya know.
Breakfast with this view!

The path to school

The two schools that I'll be working at are nearby the Johannes Kepler Universität

After registering with the city, I took the opportunity to wander the Linz center. My goal: to navigate my way around without a map. My outing connected new streets with familiar plazas and intersections and also provided a very cool place to sit and observe the sky. Ultimately, I did struggle to return the Hauptplatz (the main square and my tram stop) and the map came in handy. I think this was the turning point of my day that showed all the cool opportunities ahead in Linz!


Don't forget to look up!

In previous posts, I've used the phrase "In Linz, beginnt's." That is the old motto of the city. The new one is "Linz. Verändert," or Linz changes. I found the explanation behind this to be extraordinary when I asked at the Tourist Information Office today. In fact, a play on the old motto is "In Linz stinkt's." or In Linz, it stinks. The city has a rather industrial history that at one time did smell and was quite polluted. "Linz. Verändert," (P.S. I don't understand the punctuation) is an effort by the city to shift its focus from industry and history towards culture and innovation. And just like any other city, Linz is constantly evolving, or better said, changing.

Schöne Grüße from the balcony,
Matt

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In Linz beginnt's!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'm here! I have made it to Austria. I had a great flight, albeit minimal sleeping comfort. Time just kept ticking away as I bid adieu to the USA until 2015, and the trip went off without a hitch. From the plane to the bus to the train, everything was on time.

Yes, my luggage and I arrived in one piece.
     

My flatmate and his girlfriend kindly picked me up from Linz Train Station around noon. Throughout the day, we toured, by foot and by car, various parts of Linz. In the afternoon, the three of us went out for lunch to a new Italian place and then picked up some necessities from IKEA. Most of our conversation catered to my questions about Linz and Austrian German (some words in Austrian German are like a different languages for me right now), but I'd say that fun was had by all. :-)

After IKEA, I signed my apartment lease - a complicated document that varies from the traditional rental agreement because those are intended for several years, whereas mine is for ten months. Lucky for me (especially during the lease discussion), everyone was attentive to speak a little slower to my Americanized brain.

The last part of the day involved a visit to Höhenrausch 2014: an exhibition that boasts interactive art, gathering spaces, and the "Keine Sorgen" Tower. This was on my Linz bucket list, and it beyond exceeded my expectations. I'll let the photos do the talking for me. Did I mention we went at sunset? Thus, we got to see the colorful transition from day to night from this creative Linzer vantage point.

Bouncing boxing balls

Keine Sorgen (Worry-free) Tower with the Hobbs Tower (yes, the actual plant)

Linz at Sunset

Raining swing: with every swing, 
the water would pause for a moment to clear an opening for the person on the swing to pass through. 

At points, my body required a few cat naps. Otherwise, I fell right into a normal sleep cycle. In fact, I feel as if I have yet to experience the signs of jet lag. Thus far I have felt very, VERY welcomed, but I'm still trying to get a more solid footing in this new place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Although the jet lag has been virtually nonexistent, Austrian bureaucracy has been a test and a half. It's a lot of signatures, information, and appointments. Honestly, it's better than other countries I've stayed in, but the first few days will continue to be planned around getting the city registration requirements off my list. And I've noticed a number of differences with Austrian German that may require a larger learning curve than I expected. Then again, I should really relax since it's only Day Two for me...However, that can be rather challenging for me when I feel so vulnerable and where everything is so new.

On a lighter note, I spend the afternoon and early evening with some other US Teaching Assistants - Kenneson, Adri, and Elizabeth - who are also teaching in Linz. It was mostly in English, but nonetheless nice to hear about some other my fellow USTAs. And, I look forward to becoming better acquainted. It was interesting to hear that we each had different obstacles in navigating our arrivals to Linz - some have already been here for a few weeks, so they have been very helpful in assisting me row through the fine print.

Our time together involved introductions at a café, a meander to Linz Castle with Adri, and lastly a cheap, yet tasty dinner with Kenneson and Adri. For some reason, most of my meals thus far have been Italian (a.k.a. pizza). It was a beautiful day that helped me get to know my colleagues and new city quite a bit better!

Hauptplatz (Linz's main town square)

View of Linz from Linz Schloss (Castle)

Left: Upper Austria flag
Right: Austrian Flag

The Danube River cuts through Linz.

The Pestsäule at Hauptplatz - the main attraction in the main plaza of Linz

Landstraße in the City Center

A soft drink that may soon be my new obsession. It's unlike anything I've tasted before.

That's everything in a nutshell so far. I figure I'll still need some time to be sure that I'm more acclimated to Linz and all its glory...but as they say in German: In Linz beginnt's (It begins in Linz)!

Bis später,
Matt


Monday, September 15, 2014

Gleich geht's los nach Österreich!

Hello again! 

I'm back for another adventure. It has been a hectic and transformative year in New Jersey since I left Leipzig, Germany in August of 2013. In short, a crazy senior year at The College of New Jersey involved many changed plans, re-adjusted priorities, and some good times. In the end, everything worked out splendidly, and I feel rather blessed to have spent most of it with family, friends, mentors, and teammates. Plus, it's nice to have a Bachelor of Arts hanging on my wall.

If you don't know already, you're probably wondering where I'm off to now...the answer is Austria - it's in Europe, next to Germany...and they DO NOT have kangaroos. The congratulatory e-mail was in my inbox on April 1st. I had the sincere hope that it wasn't a joke. I'm glad to say it was for real and not an April Fool's. I have received a US English Teaching Assistantship from the Austrian-American Educational Commission (Fulbright Commission), who manages the program for the Austrian Ministry of Education and Women's Affairs. For the next academic year, I will be working at two secondary schools in Linz, Austria, supporting the English instruction both in and out of the classroom.

As the summer cools, I look forward to this time abroad...but to be honest, nerves and anxious excitement are not how I'd describe how I feel right now. I just feel like it's time, like just another day. I suppose reality will sink in upon my jet lagged arrival in Europe. I have my European Union passport, a one-way flight to Vienna, two suitcases, and an apartment nearby my schools. Otherwise, I'll be figuring out the rest along the way. I feel very blessed and prepared to embark.

Bis bald,
Matt