Getting ready for that freeze-frame jump...
On Saturday a bunch of Fulbrighters, British Council TAs and USTAs went on a wine hike through beautiful hills and vineyards just above the city of Vienna, so the view was fantastic. There were little stands placed every so often along the path where you could buy different kinds of wine or "Sturm" (shturm), which is a beverage made from partially-fermented grapes that is apparently really popular in Vienna. I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I partook of a glass of a sweet-ish white wine (whether it was a Riesling or Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio or some other kind of white wine is beyond me--it was "winey" and "grapey", though, so there's my sommelier skill coming back!) and spent the afternoon mostly walking uphill and enjoying great conversation with some of my fellow Fulbrighters and TAs. This experience was just another in a growing list of things about Vienna that are so picturesque and charming that they don't seem real--I feel like I'm going to find a Disney logo sticking out somewhere and find out it's all a perfectly-calibrated theme park, because the architecture, the views, the eclectic little coffee shops, even the old-timey font on some of the street signs--it's kind of overwhelming at times, but in a good way.
There were still lots of grapes on the vines, but I decided against eating them since I think it would technically have been stealing.
The hills are alive... with the sound of me breathing heavily as I walk uphill for what seems like hours, trying to remember that climbing Masada was worse.
I had planned on going home after the wine hike, but since it was the "Lange Nacht der Museen" (lang-uh nakht der moo-seyen), I decided to meet up with another Fulbright friend and go to the Kunsthistoriches Museum later that night. The Lange Nacht der Museen is a special event in Vienna where many of the city's numerous museums are open until 1am, so it was a fun way to experience a little Vienna nightlife, but also remain pretty firmly in my comfort zone. The Kunsthistoriches Museum is where you'll find the Old Master works--Raphael, Rembrandt, and even Vermeer are all represented in the amazing collection. For the longest time, I thought I would specialize in the Italian Renaissance as an art historian, so I was able to give my friend what I hope was an informative tour through the early and high Renaissance, along with Mannerism and the Baroque for good measure.
I wish I'd brought my real camera because the museum's interior architecture and decoration is ostentatious in the best possible way, and this photo doesn't really capture it well.
This past work week was where my duties in Vienna really became real for the first time--namely, I began my work as an English teaching assistant at the Graphische, which is a vocational arts school located pretty near to where I live in Vienna. I'm going to be rotating as an assistant for thirteen hours per week, teaching five different levels of English proficiency about various elements of American culture and politics. This week, though, was the introductory week, so I delivered the same basic spiel to a bunch of different classes--I talked briefly about myself, had everyone write their name down on a piece of paper on their desks, and then had them ask me questions about the United States, California, Los Angeles, or about me specifically. What I thought was pretty funny is that every class but one asked me if I'd seen any celebrities growing up in Los Angeles, so I was able to talk about a few of my random sightings, much to my students' delight. I was also asked quite a few times about the upcoming Presidential election, obesity and fast food, whether American high schools are like the movies, and was able to learn a lot about what Austrians, in turn, think about Americans and to what extent their preconceived notions are accurate. I also liked my students' reactions when I told them about how most Americans associate Austria with The Sound of Music, which, of course, none of them had actually seen--when I told them how The Sound of Music, which involves a family escaping the Nazis, is played on TV during Christmas on repeat back in the States, their reactions were hilarious. The kids themselves are really smart and good-natured, and dress way cooler than I ever did in high school--a bunch of them had dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, so basically every art student cliché brought to life.
Pictured: not me, inspiring students. (RIP Robin Williams.)
On Thursday evening I had my first University of Vienna class--an English-language lecture about "Outlaws, Rebels, and Misfits" in popular culture, media, history, and society. The first lecture was pretty interesting--a lot of time was spent talking about Western (specifically American) conceptions of outlaws, so when I raised my hand and asked/answered questions, I'm pretty sure the other students were looking at me funny because I very clearly sound American, not Austrian (or English or Scottish). I'm super excited for the next class meeting--the professor seems very interested in making sure our subject matter is intersectional in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality--we won't only be covering the classic cowboy image and Robin Hood, but also figures like Toussaint L'Ouverture (who led the Haiti Revolution against the French), Calamity Jane, and pirates as both anti-colonial heroes and threats to order and safety, depending on the political scenario at the time. We will also be reading Fight Club, so I have an excuse to do that as well as watch the film, which is supposed to be a classic, even if I don't look forward to watching a lot of violent fight sequences.
Next week promises to be just as busy as the last--and I'll actually be starting my meetings with artists for my research project! So my next post will talk a little about that experience.
Random observations of the week:
- If you tell your high school students your favorite Viennese food is the "Käsekrainer," which I mentioned in an earlier post, they will laugh at you. I figure it's probably the equivalent of a tourist visiting New York City and saying their favorite food is a hot dog from a street cart, but still. WHY DO WE NOT HAVE CHEESE INSIDE SAUSAGES IN THE USA??
- People from Austria will just jump over to Hungary for their dental work, because that's apparently something Hungary excels at. I can't imagine leaving Los Angeles county to go to the dentist, let alone another state or country.
- Once October hit, it got colder and grayer and rainier like clock work. My pathetic Los Angeles umbrella lasted for about a minute before it shriveled up and died, so I had to run to a grocery store to buy another one.
- Same-sex couples on crossing lights!!!!!!!!!! 'Nuff said.
Love is love is love. They also have lesbian and heterosexual couples on the crossing lights, as well as humans and their bikes.
(As always, if you want to express your love for me with material goods, my Amazon wishlist is here, and if you want to see many, many photographs of me and of Vienna, my Instagram is here.)