Wednesday, January 1, 2014

See Ya, 2013!

My posts these days have been few and far between. I wish I could say it's because my life is just so thrilling that I'm far too occupied to write anything...but that would definitely be untrue. Parenting teenagers is not exactly the most scintillating of occupations. However, my life is rich and full and mostly satisfying. I am privileged to live in an amazing community and to be developing relationships with colleagues and friends that enrich my life.

Last year, I examined 2012 and how amazingly good it had been to me. Let's do it again with 2013.

I rang in the New Year not on my parents' couch--as I usually do--but at a fancy, every-girl-there-wore-a-black-dress, very adult party in Oslo. The sky was full of fireworks and it was extremely fun. I went to the ball for my Stammschule. An odd warm spell led my friend Veronica and I to take a day trip to Udine, Italy, full of lovely views and cheap, delicious cappuccino. Naomi came to visit from Salzburg, the snow came back, I applied for mass amounts of teaching jobs in the US. And then...I took off for an amazing weekend in Vienna, where I was finally reunited with my other half after seven long months.

With Aliza in Vienna!

I tried to take my half-marathon training a little more seriously. I started to feel burnt out at work and let myself wallow in homesickness a little too much. I experienced my first real Fasching--streets full of hilarious drunk people and a massive costume parade! My favorite city (and friends there) and I were reunited, accompanied by Rachel and Naomi, and a grand old döner-eating time was had by all in Berlin.

I'm running a half-marathon in a month? Oops...Spring started to arrive, I saw Mumford and Sons live in concert in Vienna with Veronica, which was incredible. One of my colleagues took me snowshoeing up a mountain on election day (Kärnten's conservative party was finally ousted), I played with puppies, and finally cut my hair. And then Veronica and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Rome, where we actually saw Pope Francis become papified--and I finally got to gaze at the Sistine Chapel and lots of other amazing art. Spring break arrived at the very end of the month, so off I went to Budapest with Erin and Katie, and onward to Munich with just Katie--though the weather was more snowy than springy. Both cities were amazing, but in Munich I got to play tour guide in a city I already knew, and got to see the German teacher from my high school.

The tail end of spring break, and the beginning of April, sent me on a whirlwind day trip to Venice to meet up with my favorite babysitting family from back home. April brought decision-making, with a very exciting offer to spend a second year teaching [this time in Vienna], and another offer from a school back in the states. Unless you're new to the blog, you probably know which one I chose--the decision wasn't easy. On a perfectly sunny spring morning, I finished the Vienna City [Half]Marathon in a time that is too embarrassing to put on the internet, but which I am still proud of. Walking was pretty difficult for a few days after, and my students definitely called me Oma when they saw me. Naomi and Rachel came to visit, I cooked a lot, I started feeling better about my job and much less homesick--time in Austria was running out! I wrapped up April with a trip to Innsbruck, where I visited an old friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years, and had wonderful adventures.

I could hardly believe that my last month in Austria had arrived. May was full of doing lots of things one last time--one last visit to that coffee shop, that lake, that bar, and trying to accomplish everything on my list that I hadn't yet seen! I--almost too late--found a good friend in one of my colleagues at Perau, and we adventured to Austria's only Camphill community as well as the Millstättersee. Emily came to visit from Salzburg and my students did some very hilarious things in our last lessons together. Along with the hilarity came heartfelt and touching notes, goodbye cakes, goodbye parties with students and colleagues, and goodbye gifts. I spent a fair amount of time wishing I'd known earlier how much I was appreciated, and wondering if it would have changed my decision. May felt like one long grillparty and lake trip, because there were so many of them.  A colleague and his wife took me on a Sunday adventure to Italy and Slovenia [finally made it!!]...

...and then suddenly, with a few dirndls and a lot of schnitzel, my time in Austria was over. I said many tearful goodbyes,  lugged my many suitcases across the country alone, ate one last amazing meal, and off I went. Thankfully, I only lost my passport, and only after re-entering the US. June was a strange time of re-entry culture shock, readjustments, and reunions. As sad as it was to leave Austria, I was excited to be back. June took me to Los Angeles, where I finally got to meet my "niece", Rivka Leah, and see her mama too, then back to Santa Barbara to be reunited with lots of old friends, and finally to San Francisco, to meet my gdmother's baby son. As it seems to every summer, the end of June had me on a plane bound for New York--where I eventually arrived after a serious airplane fiasco. This time, I made a pre-Triform stop in Rochester to visit with Aliza, where we had excellent adventures despite the humidity. One of the last days of June brought a big adult milestone: my first car, in my name. Sam II and I recently celebrated our six-month anniversary and she has been serving me well, even in the snow.

July kicked off, as it does every year, with my birthday. 24 felt old then, though it doesn't really anymore after six months. I got to see my friend Stephen Bluhm perform at Helsinki (my favorite music venue) on my birthday, and spent the rest of the night celebrating with Triform friends. July was a whirlwind of hard work, cooking, adventures with friends, swimming, and a few pies. A day trip to New Hampshire to register Sam II and sign papers for my new job, and some afternoons spent in solitude at my favorite spots in Hudson.

In August, I moved houses, as I always do when at Triform, and experienced a little bit of heartbreak. There were bonding moments with friends old and new, and a feeling of finality to the summer, a chapter closing. On the 22nd I drove a carful of my belongings many hours north to Vermont for a mini-vacation at Heartbeet Lifesharing, where I got to meet another baby and spend quality time with my good friends Sarah and Joel. Then it was south again, to Wilton, New Hampshire: a new job, new people, country living, and as my mother says, my "first grown-up apartment". August wrapped up with a flight out for a weekend in California...

...and on the first day of September, my sister got married! The rest of the month was nothing too thrilling--getting the lay of the land, trying to remember names and faces, and trying to understand teenagers (I'll get back to you when I've figured that one out...) I realized that I am actually a pretty decent soccer coach, and this was reinforced with win after win for my varsity girls.

I took a weekend trip to New York to visit Triform and another friend, met up with my grandparents in Boston, and took a day trip to Portsmouth to finally be reunited with Rachel. Life was busy and I started drinking a lot of coffee and tea.

I started working in the admissions office, it snowed for the first time, I had my first Friday night off (finally!), the soccer season ended with a bang, I drove on snow for the first time, and I spent Thanksgiving in Vermont catching up with Sarah and Joel and cuddling their babies. I made somewhere in the vicinity of 75 latkes for my students and my apartment smelled like oil for days.

December was a whirlwind of campus Christmas decorating, chapels, singing, cookies, and celebrations of all sorts. Simultaneously the shortest and longest three weeks...and then I hopped a plane for California, just in time to skip an ice storm! Being in Sacramento has been relaxing, full of reunions with a lot of people I haven't seen in two years (longer for many and shorter for a few), yummy food, days warm enough to go without socks...I ended 2013 casually hanging out at home with a few friends and a lot of champagne, and at midnight we burned slips of paper with our wishes for 2014 and things [both good and bad] from 2013 that we wanted to let go. I am not making any resolutions, but looking forward to a year filled with new adventures and growth.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Things I Miss About Austria

Just a few, because I could go on like this for hours.
  • Granite curbs
  • Glühwein
  • Coffee in fancy cups on silver trays and sitting for hours to drink it up
  • Ducking into a cafe to avoid rain and snow
  • Villacher Märzen
  • Kasnudeln
  • Running along the Drau
  • My view of the Mittagskögel mountain
  • Apfelstrudel
  • Bernold, my favorite cafe right next to the Drau [also the only place I could acceptably use my computer, so I spent a whole lot of hours there lesson-planning]
  • My walk to and from work each day
  • The bus ride through the Rosental on even weeks
  • My morning Käsestangale, a seeded cheese puff-pastry
  • Interspar, the world's best grocery store
  • Coffee that is actually good
  • Speaking German daily
  • Speaking Kärntnerisch
  • This time of year, Christmas preparations, and soon, Christmas markets
  • Vienna, everything about it
I'm just going to stop here, because I will go on and on, make myself cry, or both. Also, I need to get started with my day. Maybe eventually I'll start writing about my life here, but it is significantly less interesting than my Austrian life, so...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Missing This

These days, I have really been missing waking up to this view & seeing it every afternoon.

Now I'm off on a field trip to Walden Pond and Emerson's house with the senior class. The Austria nostalgia will have to wait a bit, I suppose.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vor Ein Jahr, Ich War...

I have an iPhone app called Timehop that is super handy for nostalgic old me, though it tends to result in a twinge of sadness, especially now. Every morning, it delivers a feed of my Facebook and Twitter posts from the date one, two, three, and so on years ago. Of course right now I am getting items about starting college after a year away (2009), going to Oktoberfest (2010), starting my senior year of college (2011), and of course the big kicker...moving to Austria and beginning my first grown-up job (2012).

This week last year was the first time I stepped into a classroom as a teacher. The first lesson I gave was to a wild, rambunctious Matura class (8th graders, also known as 12th grade in the US). They were loud, disrespectful, and asked awkwardly personal questions...and I was terrified. Could they smell my fear? Probably. They gleefully informed me that they had made the previous year's American cry, and afterwards she refused to teach their class. I wondered if I was really cut out for teaching, especially in a foreign school. Would all of my classes be this awful? Three things happened over the next couple of months. 1) I grew to love the 8E; in fact it became my favorite of the too-many-to-count classes that I taught, and I looked forward to it each week. 2) I discovered a few classes that were even more poorly-behaved. 3) I learned that I love teaching, and my 8th grade classes in particular helped me discover how much I truly have to offer a bunch of wild (as well as those who are not so wild) teenagers.

I have spent a decent amount of time this week wondering if I made the right decision in coming back to the US for work. I have a tendency to second-guess myself, and after a solid angsty text-messaging session with another returned-from-Austria friend a few days ago, I found myself deep in a pit of unsureness. I love my job, and I'll hopefully tell you more about it soon, but I will say I'm suffering a bit not being in a classroom and teaching formally--it feels odd, as much as I like what I am doing.

Hindsight is 20/20, right? The decisions we are unsure about and the things we shy away from always look so much brighter when we're on the other side of them. I am looking forward to discovering as the year goes on why this was, in fact, the right decision to make. I'm also continuously reminding myself that I did hit a point during my year in Austria (more than once, actually) when I thought I'd made the wrong decision in coming there. It's always something, I suppose.

For perspective, a year ago, I was feeling like this and the most-asked personal question was "do you have a boyfriend?". Interestingly enough, though I get asked many questions here and they are often "can I go to _______?" or "what are we doing at soccer practice?" or "have you seen my lost _______?" the most-asked personal question is still similar... "do you have a crush on anyone?" I think this perhaps says something about the culture--in America, people have crushes and they talk about it. I smile, shake my head, and continue rocking my colleague's baby [because let's be real, all I do in my free time is hold the baby].

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vermont, Tah Do What I Wantah

After spending most of Monday on an airplane, I got a grand total of four hours of sleep last night--and then was in meetings all day today. Life as a grown-up, I suppose. Before I tell you why I am so sleep-deprived, though, let's rewind.

I wrapped up my summer at Triform two weeks ago, and then hopped in Sam II for a drive to northern Vermont. The "northeast kingdom", they call it, and it is lovely. My friends Sarah and Joel recently moved there, to Heartbeet Lifesharing, and though they are hippies, they do not love tie-dye as much as the average Vermonter. I was so excited to visit them in this beautiful place!

Sunset over Heartbeet!

I lived with Joel and Sarah for three of my four summers at Triform--this one was a sad one without them as my co-coworkers or as my houseparents--and have gotten to know their sweet son Silas. Now they've added a brand new baby boy, Hunter, to the flock, and I got to spend lots of time cuddling, taking walks, and playing with both kiddos while their parents got some work done. Sarah is one of my dearest friends (Joel's pretty high up there too!) and getting to catch up and spend time together after a year apart was so good.

Life in Heartbeet--another Camphill community, where everyone lives and works together regardless of ability--is simple and loving and good. The people there care deeply for each other and for the land, and this was evident to me after just a few hours! It was fun to be welcomed right into the life of the community, and very special to experience another way that Camphill life could feel.

My sweet buddy "flopping on the bed"
Darling baby boy
I couldn't get enough of this view

After just a couple of days of wonderful, I had to head south again, to move into my apartment in New Hampshire, where I am now...more on that soon!