Monday, June 27, 2016


Quite a few things have happened since the last time I posted, which I think was about a month ago.

On the 29th of May, I traveled to Vienna for a small concert put on by a band named Porches. Delaney, one of the Croatian exchange students I got to get to know on Euro-Tour, was staying in the city with her family at the time so we got to hang out one last time together at the concert which we both really enjoyed! I returned home to Kärnten the following afternoon.

In June an exchange student named Farah came to visit me and chill with us all in Klagenfurt. J-Max stayed with Owen and we all ate running sushi together and Owen and I showed our friends around Klagenfurt. 
The next weekend I attended my Rotary club's benefit concert on Friday night, and then on Saturday and Sunday I got to spend time with my newbies Elley and Lilli in Spittal.

And the following weekend was the Rotary district conference, which meant the final meeting for all of the exchange students. We all traveled to Kitzbühel, a ski-town in Tyrol, to learn how to waltz and to practice the showcase we would perform for all the Rotarians and Rotary World President who would be in attendance. We arrived Thursday and the eight pairs that volunteered to dance immediately were taught to waltz and to practice the choreography. For the rest of the day, we alternated between practicing waltzing and running through the musical acts (such as singing, traditional Latino dances, piano and guitar-playing) that a few others volunteered to perform. On Friday, the time came for our production. The whole thing lasted about 45 minutes long, and was the perfect timing for the World President to squeeze in a nap. I don't think our hard work went without appreciation however, the Rotarians gave us a satisfactory amount of applause at the end.
Following our performance, we were hauled up the mountain to a restaurant where we were left alone by our chaperones to enjoy our last Ma(h)l together. We had a sing-a-long and a dance party to forget about the tears that were being shed over our Wienerschnitzel. That night was very special for all of us, and when we got back to our hostel we continued the celebration. 

Saturday was the dreaded day of departure and good-byes. Although exchange students try to always have a positive outlook and we hope to meet up with one another again, we all understand the reality of never returning to the way things have been this year. If you think of exchange as a life in one year, we grew up together. We started off at language camp our first weeks in Austria with an infant's amount of knowledge regarding the country, language, and culture. Every meeting along the way (they were almost monthly) was a checkpoint for us all. At our last meeting we felt finally as if we had grown into our place here and especially with each other. That's not an easy thing to let go of when you're doing it all alone, not to mention with the 80 or so others that you have to part ways with as well. I can't say I was close with everyone, but we all shared such a strong and mutual understanding with one another that it didn't matter. I'm so grateful I got the opportunity to meet with and get to know them all - I didn't just experience life in Austria alone, I experienced it while I learned more about the world through the eyes of my international friends. I think that's a really special thing that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to say that I've done were it not for Rotary or exchange.

Anyway, Saturday was sad and for the entire weekend I felt heavy and like I had been crushed by a few boulders. So that inhibited my ability to Make the Most of the Time I Have Left and I moped around a bit instead. 

This weekend I visited Vienna for the last time for the Donauinselfest. (free music festival on the Danube) I stayed with the König family for the last time this year, but it was really nice to be able to say goodbye to them properly. I know I'll be seeing them sometime soon, though. 
It was so hot this weekend that we couldn't bring ourselves to do much besides swim in the Danube and tan throughout the day. We went to the festival during the night which was insane. There were so many people!! We had a lot of fun though, and I'm glad I could spend my last weekend in Vienna with some of my best friends.

And now I'm back in Kärnten, FREAKING OUT because there are TWO WEEKS from today before I will be returning to Montana. There are quite a few things that I thought I'd be able to visit and see that I never got around to and probably won't now because time is running out. I can't say I regret anything, but it's certainly taught me a lot about seizing the moment and being spontaneous which has produced a lot of good memories for me this year. 

In these next two weeks I'll be spending time in Kärnten with my class and newbies at the World Body Painting Festival in Pörtschach and for three days in the mountains with my class during the last week of school. We'll be up there on the Alm for the 4th of July so we're planning a little Americanized day with an American breakfast and s'mores around the campfire. I'm really excited to finally share MY culture with the Austrians ;). Next Thursday and Friday are our last days in school and they're field days, which I'm excited for. 

And then that Monday morning at 6:00 am I'll be on a plane home. 
I've given up on being sentimental and philosophizing everything because honestly, it's exhausting. I know it's going to be really strange to be in Lewistown again though. I'm most excited to see my dog, so I let the thought of that distract me from the rest of the weird feelings I'm having.

Okay, I think that's all. Tschüss :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Month of May

The reason I have waited so long to write a post about EuroTour is because I wanted to win the award for the exchange student who waited the longest to get it done.
Just kidding. The real reason is because I wanted to wait until I could upload my photos from my camera to my computer, but the cord I need to do so is currently being flown across the European continent and I am tired of waiting for it. Since my phone storage situation is a nightmare, I took most of the pictures on my camera, so we all have to deal with these repetitive and mediocre phone pictures until that stupid cord arrives some time in the next two weeks.
So, as you may have noticed, I went for a two-week tour around Europe with the rest of the Austrian exchange students, as well as the Croatian exchange students from April 30th to May 15th. We took up two buses and a lot of hotel rooms every night. Here's what went down:

April 30th: departed from Kaernten to Graz, got on the bus for the drive to Croatia to pick up the Croatian exchange students

Day 1, Zagreb: we visited the city center and observed a church, bakery, and a man picking coins out of the fountain.

"Idiots throw money away - it is up to the smart people to take it."

Day 2, Trieste/Jesolo: we visited the city center of Trieste, ate pizza, and strolled around. Our hotel was in Jesolo, right next to the beach, so we swam and hung around the beach in our free time. It was really nice, and swimming in saltwater was a unique and special experience for me.

Day 3, Venice: Rotary organized for a boat to take us from Jesolo to Venice, which was very cool despite the rainy weather in the morning. We wandered around the city and Claudia, Erica, Susan, Sarah, Chloe, and I took a gondola ride. Erica is from Italy, so if we had any questions she did a great job of translating them between us and our guide. We stopped in a restaurant to have some delicious pizza and pasta. Claudia also had to carry me across San Marco's or whatever it's called Square because of the lethal amount of pigeons that paralyzed my legs with fear.

Day 4, Florence: we arrived at around 1:30 from Jesolo, and took a walking tour around the city. We saw il Duomo, rubbed a nose on a pig statue, and wandered around some more to take in the city. I now understand why it was such an important city in the Renaissance.

Day 5, Rome: we drove from Florence to Rome and received immediate free time after our arrival in the afternoon until that evening. Giulia, Claudia, Kelsi, Jake, Olivia, and I stumbled upon an incredibly good and reasonably priced panini shop. All of the paninis were named after celebrities so our lack of Italian skills was not a problem. We quite literally stumbled onto the Colosseum, we took a left turn and there it was. It's massive - unexpectedly huge, and it's kind of strange to see it sitting in the middle of the city the way it was. We walked around it and then around the grounds nearby. After that, we met up with some others and trekked to the Trevi Fountain. After meeting at the hotel we went to dinner and had more free time to explore the city at night.

Day 6, Rome: that day we had a bus tour around Rome. We saw the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. In our free time, Owen, Lachlan, Claudia, Jakob, and I spent some time looking for lunch and wandered Romed around some more.

Day 7, Vatican City: we visited St. Peter's Basilica and were given free time after. Claudia and Jakob and I used our savviness to find tickets that would get us into the Sistine Chapel cheaper and faster than if I hadn't done any previous research on line lengths. We toured the Vatican Museum on the way into the Chapel. It was an extremely long line - the Vatican Museum is essentially just a very large waiting room. Despite all of the time we spent on our feet, we saw a lot of old Roman statues and made our own classical art memes which made waiting a lot less boring. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking - if you ignored the man yelling "silence" at you in twelve different languages through a megaphone every two minutes. We weren't allowed to take pictures either - but it was enough for me to just stand under the beautifully painted ceiling and look.
After we finished at the Vatican, the three of us went inside the Colosseum. As Claudia was using her selfie stick, we were approached by a man who asked us if we wanted "to take a picture with Captain Jack Sparrow". We shrugged and the guy pulled a pirate hat out of his backpack. Since we are so aware of tourist traps, we asked if it would cost us anything. The answer was no. The next five minutes was a photo shoot - not only did we get a picture with him on Claudia's camera, he had to take a bunch on his phone with his selfie stick. The dude knew his angles.

Day 8, Lucca and Pisa: so that morning was a bit of a disaster. Our bus got robbed the night before. So on our drive from Rome to Lucca, we had to make a stop at the police station. For three hours. All of the documents we needed (vouchers to pay for hotels, gas, and dinner) were snatched, along with Roland's (one of our chaperones) jacket. Our passports were okay, however, because they were luckily kept in a safe on the bus. After waiting for things to get sorted out (which it did, thanks to Giulia's three hours of translating between the Mafia Italian police and our chaperones) we were on our way to Lucca. Upon arrival, we grabbed lunch and went for a walk around the town. Lachland, Claudia, Jakob, and I rented bikes and went 4 km along the city wall. We visited during the days of a music festival, so we ran into a few marching bands. We stopped at Pisa for an hour to get bombarded by poor African immigrants trying to sell cheap souvenirs with compliments and catcalls and to also take pictures with the leaning tower. (Mine turned out dumb so you can not see them unless you offer me money.)

Day 9, Cinque Terre: we took the buses up the coast, which was a beautiful scenic drive. From our parking spot, we walked down into the town to take a boat to Vernazza. (Cinque Terre is made up of five villages.) For the whole day, we swam, sunbathed, and ate really good pizza, pasta, and gelato. Pesto was invented in the area, so I had some on my pizza.

Day 10, Monte Carlo: we drove the bus from Cavi di Lavagna (where we stayed the night before) to Monaco! I walked around with Delaney, and we explored the city. They were in the middle of building some Grand Prix track which made it difficult to navigate the streets, but we ended up going to the castle and getting some really pretty views of the coast. After, we drove to Eze Village in France for a perfume factory (Galimard, Parfumeur en 1747) tour. Our guide told us she gave a private tour one time to some guy who looked like Leonardo DiCaprio. Wasn't until after he left that she figured out it actually was Leonardo DiCaprio. Now the company makes bank on the cologne that he bought. 
After spending all of our money on fancy smelling soaps and perfume, we walked around the village and then drove off to spend the night in Avignon.

Day 11, Avignon: our chaperones took us on a tour of the city walls and grounds, and then during free time Lachland, Claudia, Jakob, and I walked around and bought cheap crepes and gelato and tourist bracelets.

Day 12, Lyon: spent the morning in Lyon, but it was raining so much we had no motivation to do anything. So we spent a good part of our morning in McDonald's. And then we walked to a grocery store where I found Doritos (!!!!) and the boys bought 1 kg of rubber bands for €18.00. Then we drove to Straßburg.

Day 13, Straßburg: we had a quick bus tour, as well as a walking tour of the city before we were given six hours of free time. So what did we do? We wandered around, bought souvenirs, and ate kebaps. 

Day 14, Vorarlberg: We took our bus from Straßburg to Dorbirn. It may have been one of the most beautiful drives I've ever done. It was so misty (because rain) and very green (because rain). When we stopped in Lindau im Bodensee (Lake Constance) for lunch and a quick self-guided tour. I went into a restaurant with Jake, Adam, and Tamara, and as soon as I open my mouth to ask for a table for four, in German, the waiter asks me in English if I'm from Poland. 
"Poland? No, I'm from America."
"You're sure you're not Polish?"
"Nope, I'm from America."
This is when he yells "OBAMA!" to the waitstaff and cooks. 
After that over-priced meal (I think I paid €7 for my water) we walked around in the rain and saw a church and a bakery. And then we went to Dornbirn to stay for our last night. But it was raining so badly we couldn't do much with our free time, so we all stayed in the hotel.

Day 15, going home: much to my distress, our trip to the "Sleeping Beauty Castle" in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein, was cancelled due to the rain. So we drove straight from Dornbirn to Salzburg, where the Croatians, Salzburgers, Steiermarkers and Kaernteners (me) got off. I took the train home with Owen and Adam and it was a lot of fun. 

And that was EuroTour :-)

Since then, I have been trying to squeeze fun spontaneous cultural experiences into every second of my day because I have about a month and two weeks left and I'm panicking.

I went hiking with all of the Kaernteners (besides Lilli, but I am going to hang out with her tomorrow so it's okay) which was very fun.

Also, the presidential elections happened! Norbert Hofer lost! I think the Austrians made a good choice, not letting someone with the name of "Norbert" be the face of their country. In actuality, the Bundespräsident really isn't in charge of much, he just represents Austria. The Bundeskanzler is the one who does the things (and the vote for that is in 2018). If you're interested in hearing a bit more about it, just check out all of the articles I shared on Facebook because they explain it a bit better.

What was interesting for me, as an American observing what I assumed to be a very liberal country on a very liberal continent (because European socialism and sexual freedom and low drinking ages and Finnish kids don't have homework, etc. etc.) was actually divided between people voting for the far-right and the rest of them voting for their only option that wasn't far-right. And what really ticked me off is that almost whenever I talk to an adult here and they figure out I'm American they always have to bother me about Trump. Whose anti-refugee stances are shared by Hofer. Who(m?) half of the country voted for. Another striking resemblance between American and Austrian politics that I wasn't expecting was ignorant political Facebook posts and memes! Here are some of my favorites, translated by yours truly:
"we do not recognize Van Der Bellen as our Bundespräsident"
"Dad, what does 50-50 look like?"
"Look here, son."
cities voted for Van Der Bellen (green) which on the above map looks quite outnumbered by blue (Hofer) but it's a population vote, which is shown in this above map. Which is kind of a dumb thing for Austrian citizens to not know about, and make a meme out of it instead.

Today is some Catholic holiday hardly anyone knows the reason for, so I went with my host mom and two host brothers to Slovenia today. We visited Lake Bled, which was very beautiful. All three of them speak Slovenian too, which was rad. Here are some pictures:

And that's been my life in Austria since I last posted. I have a few things planned in the next coming weeks, such as going to Vienna for a concert this Sunday, and the 1920 District Conference in Kitzbühel in mid-June, and in the meantime I am going to try to jam-pack my schedule with fun. I'll let you guys know how that goes.

Thanks for reading!
Bis bald,

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April: Budapest, and Snow

Okay so after Easter a few things happened. For example, I switched host families. Also I took a trip to Budapest this last weekend with Rotary. And EuroTour starts on Friday!

Host family switch: I am now with my third and last host family, the Müllers! I live in a town called Wasserhofen which is considered to be basically St. Kanzian or Kühnsdorf, and to which I can both walk to in about five minutes. I'm having to take the train to St. Paul for school now. It's about 30 minutes, and that means I have to be at the train station at 7:00 am. But I get to nap on the train, so that's okay. I also have my own small apartment! Because our house is so close to Klopeinersee (a popular lake for tourists in the summer) they rent out about six apartments that are connected to their house motel-style, and I get to take residence in one. I have two host brothers, Julian and Nico, who are around my age and both they and my host mom are fluent in Slovenian which I think is pretty neat.

On Thursday the 21st, I was invited by the Königs to go to one of their performances in Vienna. I took Claudia with me, and we really enjoyed it, as well as the backstage tour we got! The next morning on Friday, a bus came to pick up us and the other exchange students to take us to Budapest which is about a 3 hour drive. Once we arrived, we met the Hungarian exchange students and all took a walk to Heroes' Square and Vajdahunyad Castle. After that we returned to the hotel to play some games and hang out.

The next day we took a bus tour around Budapest. We learned that Budapest is actually two separate cities- Buda is on the west side of the Danube and Pest is on the east side. We stopped at Fisherman's Bastion, Heroes' Square again, and the Parliament building for a tour. After the Parliament tour we were sent loose in the city, without functioning phones or any knowledge of Hungarian. Claudia, Owen, J-Max, Connor and I set off to find the famous street market. We were told we could by tram tickets on the tram. When we inquired immediately after getting on to the tram, we were told we would each be fined for riding the tram without tickets. So after 30 Euros and a half hour, we were once again on our way. Then we discovered the market was closed. So we sat down to eat some goulash which took about 20 minutes longer than it was supposed to, and the man who fined us gave us wrong directions to the hotel, so we ran probably about 3 km or possibly more, and ended up being 20 minutes late, which surprisingly, did not get us kicked off of EuroTour.

We went to see Les Mis, which was probably the best part of our trip. It was in Hungarian and actually sounded really pretty. There were English subtitles on a screen that made it very easy to understand, too.

We left after breakfast on Sunday morning, and after spending a half hour at a rest stop twenty minutes outside of Vienna, we returned home.

Today, it decided to snow. Like, a lot of snow. On the way home today, trains were delayed and had to be switched out with buses. Hopefully it won't ruin the rest of my week which are the days I've got to do some shopping in Klagenfurt to get ready for EuroTour on Saturday!! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Explanation for All of My Most Recent Obnoxious Snapchat Stories

Maybe all of my posts should be titled like this.

Anyway, after I returned home from Ski Camp, I had no school for the week because my class was in London. On Thursday, my host family flew to London for the weekend in order to pick up my host sister Chiara, who is home now for the rest of the year. On Thursday I departed to Retz in Upper Austria (about 1 1/2 hour away from Vienna) to stay with Claudia until my host family got back on Tuesday.

Thursday: celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Vienna
this kind Irish woman was walking around the bar soliciting "authentic hats" she brought with her from Ireland, and face painting

Friday: joined Claudia for her German class, and tagged along to her Rotary meeting where we were able to watch Mauricio and Olivia make presentations about their home countries, and Tamara arrived that night to join us for the weekend

Saturday: went to Vienna with Claudia, Tamara, Adam, Mauricio, Georgina, Tom, Malena, and Sam. We went to Naschmarkt which basically a flea market with a lot of food options. We ate really good noodle boxes, got compliments shouted at us from merchants desperate for our business, ate some good gelato, and bought matching bracelets for three Euros that ended up falling apart two days later. I got my hair chopped off, and Claudia and Tamara got themselves some highlights with some box dye we found at Bipa :)

before and after of my hair - wasn't a "new hair new me" thing, it was just getting tangled and caught in anything that came within two feet of me, and I didn't want a pool drain to be next

Sunday: Claudia's host mom joined us in the Czech Republic, which is about 10 minutes away from Retz by train. We walked around a town called Znojmo and struggled to order food because we know no Czech. Since we are so poor and were unable to communicate, we ended up just taking pictures of each other like the white teenage girls we are to instill Instagram envy in the hearts of our followers.

Monday: got a tour of Austria's largest historical wine cellar and the town's windmill

Tuesday: Tamara departed at about 11:00, and Claudia and I hung out at Donau Zentrum and Burgerista until I left that afternoon

Laid low on Wednesday, went to a pajama party Thursday night with some school friends, and chilled Friday. Saturday the Easter celebrations began. In Carinthia, Easter is celebrated on Saturday. (Which still doesn't make sense to me - Jesus was dead for three days, so why are we skipping a day of mourning?? Jesus was still dead on Saturday, why would we celebrate that???? It is truly a mystery to me.)
I joined my host family in a town called Vorndernberg in Styria, where we met with my host aunt, her boyfriend, host cousins, and some other family friends. We celebrated in the mountains, in what seemed to me an aristocratic hunting lodge.
Napoleon wrote on this table

Our dinner was a lot different from what I'm used to eating for Easter: wurst (sausage), cold cuts of ham, bacon, and salami, white and schwarzbrot (black bread) and a lot of spreadable cremes for the bread, as well as hard boiled eggs and Reindling, which is a traditional Carinthian Easter cake that is extremely delicious and I ate a lot of it.
Another very different tradition was the Easter fire. It was a bonfire that was burned for most of the night. We drove back to Carinthia that night, and we could see everyone else's Easter fires burning in the fields as well. Cool stuff. 

And right now, the mom of my host brother Aurel, who is living with my family in Montana, is visiting this week. I got to Skype with all of them. (Which was really weird, let me tell you - I've met with and stayed with Aurel's family a few times in Vienna and then seeing Alexandra in my house with my family was rather strange. Cool, but strange.) So that's what I've been up to. The month of April will include a host family change, a weekend trip to Budapest with Rotary, and the beginning of Euro-Tour. 

Happy Easter / Frohe Ostern!!