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Monday, May 23, 2011

A Good Life

I made the mad dash to grocery store – just in time. I quickly found my new favourite Austrian wine to have with dinner. The cloth bag for my groceries was tucked under my arm. Once at the checkout I was able to answer all the questions asked of me – in German. When I walked in the door I noticed that the big bouquet of white roses I had bought myself had filled my flat with a beautifully fragrant air.

Earlier today I had a wonderful exchange with my son back home. Then a few texts with a special friend reminded me that I am indeed loved.

As I make dinner tonight I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have learned so much since moving Austria. Particularly about myself. My personal idealism of how to be a good mother has been challenged. I have had to count on the kindness of others to help me make my way at times, and without that, my days would have been much more empty and difficult. I know now the tremendous gratification that can result from knowing how to answer someone in an unfamiliar language, if only a handful of times. I have learned to ask for help.

I know that the small triumphs and beautiful moments that made up my day today were the result of the many amazing people that have entered my life. Whether it’s my son who makes me feel like the world’s best mom even though I am an ocean away, or the friend up the street that feeds me when I have not the time, or the colleague who helps me book a hair appointment when I am too shy to make the phone attempt –I am lucky. It’s the small moments that make up a life, and because of the support of everyone in my life, I can enjoy and savour them.

I have a good life. Thanks for being in it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

13 Things I Have Learned

After five months of living in Voralberg, Austria, this is what I have learned thus far,

1. Speeding is bad. There are cameras everywhere and they don’t fall for tear filled stories here.

2. Police here are scary. I don’t know why, but they frighten the heck out of me.

3. Never call an Austrian – German. That’s akin to calling a Canadian an American.

4. Three kisses. Some countries it’s a kiss on each cheek, but in Austria it’s two and one. Got it.

5. Furniture takes six to eight weeks. If you are looking for instant gratification, skip furniture shopping. Ain’t gunna happen.

6. Flats do not come with lights. Not even bulbs!

7. Forget the carb free diet. Bread, bread, everywhere bread. Life is too short not to indulge when surrounded by so many amazing bakeries.

8. People smoke. Everyone! Kids, adults, athletes – I simply can’t wrap my head around that one.

9. Mahlzeit. That means good eating. People say that nonstop between 11am and 2pm. Sometimes event at dinner time.

10. Austrians are passionate. Don’t let the structure and formalities fool you. Underneath that calm, rational exterior is an outburst just waiting to happen.

11. Friend means lover, colleague means friend. I think. I am not 100% on that one, but I am sticking with colleague - it reduces the potential of a seriously awkward moment.

12. Aperol Spritz is great on a hot day. Particularly with Prosecco.

13. Caipirinha’s are not for wimps. Don’t drink one of those at the end of the night. Trust me on that one.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I came. I weighed. I conquered.

I bought lemons today. Oh yeah. I rocked this whole Austria thing big time. For months I have been terrified of the produce section – but today no longer.

This past week I shared with someone from the office how intimidated I was by the produce department. The weighing in and tagging prior to the cashier hadn’t worked out so well for me in the past and lead to some pretty embarrassing moments. He took his time and explained the process. Produce on the scale. Type in number that is displayed on the items sign. Sticker comes out. Place on bag with produce.

Got it.

But first I needed cash and I had none so off I went to the bank machine to use my Austrian bank card for the first time.

Not good. The English language button was nowhere to be found and my attempt to logically select the right buttons was failing miserably. The machine kept spitting my card back. No money. This was a bit of a problem. I needed food and a pair of shoes was calling my name. So I did what any other person in my predicament would do. I went to my favorite bakery and ordered a cappuccino to go and pondered my options.

That’s when I heard “hey American girl!”

Seems walking around with a coffee is not a very Austrian thing to do. Nonetheless, that cappuccino proved to be the perfect Segway for a little bank machine tutorial. Money now in hand I decided it was time to head to the busy Interspar and stock up my weeks groceries.

First stop produce section. I circle the area. I decide to only try one thing just in case I did it wrong – one oops is much less embarrassing than 10. So I decide on lemons. Just three little lemons. I bag them and begin searching for the machine. Instantly I panic. There is a line up at the weigh scales. I nearly bail, but instead go back to the lemon sign and double check the number. “You can do this,” I silently assure myself.

My turn arrives. Place on scale. Check. Push button. Hmm…where is the tag? Nonchalantly I start examining all sides of the machine. I start looking for an enter button, something, anything that I could have overlooked. Nothing. Just before I am about to walk away I notice the sticker. I place it on the bag and head to the till. Reading the label I think whatever it happens to say does not look much like the word “lemon.” Should have taught us lemon in German class I think.

In the end, my lemons were accepted at the till. It was a euphoric moment for me. I paid for them with the money I took from the bank machine.

Today there is an extra bounce in step as well as a renewed sense of pride. And I will likely share this anyone and everyone who is misguided enough to ask me how my day went. And why not? I conquered the heck out of it!