Thursday, May 4, 2017

Day 230: Stories of Strobl (also known as: why is it snowing in late April?!)

Hello dear readers!

This week's post actually has some news in it alongside the usual beautiful photos of me making faces in various European cities. On Thursday April 27, all of the Fulbright grantees--students and scholars alike--traveled to the lovely small town of Strobl (shtroh-bull), which makes Belle's "provincial town" look like a metropolis. It's closer to Salzburg than to Vienna, and was about 3.5 hours by bus, not including the short time we spent at a rest stop stocking up on snacks. The event in question was the Fulbright Seminar in American Studies, a much more intimidating-sounding conference than it ended up being (thank goodness!). Along for the ride with the American Fulbrighters were the new Austrian Fulbrighters--the ones who are going to teach and study in the United States later in 2017. After all, as we learned during our September orientation, the Fulbright Commission is binational, and works both ways: sending people like me to Austria, and Austrian students to the United States. 
Inevitable selfie taken just before the start of the poster session, where my quizzical brow fails to hide my nervousness.
When we arrived at the Strobl conference center, we quickly settled into our rather nice rooms and got to mingling and organized discussions. The little conference center was actually more like El Capitan--isolated, rural, with multiple buildings, although the buildings were not cabins, but rather more like the hostel we previously stayed in for the St. Pölten orientation way back in 2016. Each discussion group, which met several times during the seminar, was made up of both Austrians and Americans, and each discussed various important issues such as racism, social media, cities, the European Union, infrastructure, and more. It was incredibly vital having both Austrian and American perspectives on these issues, because the discussions really highlighted just how different these countries are in terms of how their inhabitants see one another, and how they see the role of government in their lives.
One of the cute little buildings at the conference site. On the day of arrival...
... the spooky lighting and vibe of the first night...
...and here is the campus the following morning, covered in SNOW. WHY. STOP.
Sprinkled amidst the meals and discussion sessions were lectures given by the American Fulbright Scholars on issues related to the discussions the students had taken part in. One of the professors was actually a Swarthmore alumna, and it was extremely statistically unlikely that two Swarthmore grads would end up at the same tiny conference center in the same small town in the same small country at the same time, but I've noticed that Swarthmore seems to pop up in places and in situations where I least expect it to. 

The centerpiece and main event of the seminar was the Fulbright research presentations. While most of my colleagues had lovely posters made detailing their work on this grant, I realized I had too many images and videos related to my artists to make printing something out feasible. So, naturally, I made another blog, which is now the living archive of my research (and is still currently in progress). It was a little awkward standing next to my laptop while everyone else had a giant poster, but I did get to have some really great conversations with both Austrian and American Fulbrighters, and because it was a poster session format, I didn't have to speak to everyone at once--people walked around the room and asked questions as they saw fit.
Courtesy Fulbright Austria: me explaining things about my project!!
People milling about the poster session. All very fancy and professional.
The morning of our departure, a few Austrian students/scholars and I decided to explore the small town of Strobl, beginning with an idyllic lakeside stroll. The scenery on that last day was fresh and green, and the shoreline looked straight out of a Scandinavian crime drama (just add fog and some dark electronic music).
This is what I get for not being careful with which direction the sun was shining.
See what I mean about the crime drama aspect? I wanted to put on some latex gloves and start pulling stones out of the water for the evidence locker, or something.
Too cold for a swim. But the water sure looked clear!
I just liked that the profile of this bust looked kind of like Frances McDormand.
Maybe? A slight resemblance? Hm.
It's just so strange that I have fewer than two months left here. I've been taking walks around Vienna in the evening now that the weather is generally warm-ish and the sun doesn't set so early, and I'm just struck by how much of it I haven't gotten to see yet. I'm pretty sure I haven't been in at least a third of the districts for any substantial amount of time, and yet I'm finding myself reluctant to keep exploring, weirdly enough. It's just that when I leave Vienna, I don't know when or if I'll ever be back, and I don't want to keep finding things that I know I'll miss, because I already have enough that will make me probably cry on the plane ride home. It'll be nice to be back in Los Angeles, and then wherever I end up (depending on the job hunt), but I would have liked to be able to stay a little longer. The more news I get from home, the more I wish I could stay at least a few more months. Sometimes when I go for my walks, I'm just struck by this awful melancholy about going. Part of it is trepidation about the future, but part of it is that I'm never going to have this kind of opportunity to live in Europe with relatively few cares and obligations at any later date in my life.

Teaching ends in late May, which frees up a lot of my time! I've already planned and booked a bus trip to Venice for a few days, because I haven't been in literally ten years, and it's such a magical place that I want to see again before it becomes completely submerged in the waters of the harbor. 

Miscellany of the week:
  • My new favorite weekend brunch place is called Treu Bleiben (troy-blye-bin) which means "Stay True." One of the employees is American, and they serve great fried eggs and American-style crispy bacon, which I have sorely been missing. It's a good place to sit and do work as well--people do smoke there, but they keep the windows open, so it's not too bad. 
Ugh. I missed this so much. Plus their wi-fi is fast and reliable, so this is where I plan to live on Sundays since not much else is open...
The interior of Treu Bleiben. Very cozy. I could see this place existing in Swarthmore, except for the fact that it's a bar on the weekdays. But the vibe is chill, and the prices are pretty good!
  • Walking along some street in Vienna, I spotted a bakery apparently designed for men who are worried that bakeries aren't masculine enough:
  • I also walk by this really cool building several times a week (since it's near my primo sushi spot), so I thought I'd finally include it!
I think it's both an art gallery and an art supply store?
  • Lastly, please enjoy some photos of the cat I met at the Strobl conference center after dinner on the first night. I am not sure if it was actually enough of a real black cat to be suspicious of, because some parts of its fur looked brownish. We'll see!
"What're you lookin' at?"
"Fine, fine, you win..."

1 comment:

  1. mariodelvecchioMay 5, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    great post. i was laughing like crazy. and she does look like frances mcFargo which i can tell from the photo. i will cook you some bacon when you get home if you miss it that much. booj will join you no doubt in the bacon fest. and nice town in the middle of nowhere, austria. i also caught up on a couple older ones. i like comparing the promenade to my fave vienna street - mariahilf...