letting the days go by.

24 April 2008

a week for words.

It was a red-letter week in terms of correspondence. On Monday, after sleeping through my Internship, I found an missive in my mailbox from one Mr. Henry Leung, all the way from California, perhaps having flown over China and the mighty Pacific. This of course called for a large cup of coffee at Aida, the retro-tastic chain coffee house with the same color scheme as the bathrooms and kitchen of the house I grew up in on 58th street: Nifty Fifties Pink and Brown. And, I'll admit, as wonderful as the letter itself was, I was just as amped about seeing my name on the envelope, above this crazy foreign address that still makes absolutely no sense to me.

And then, on Tuesday, after a glorious day with the chit'lins and an afternoon of pure unbridled malaise, what should I find but a package from Ariel, containing, as described in her own words: jeans, a letter, a few pieces of candy. And what jeans! Glorious, American, Old Navy Jeans! Without those dratted holes in the attractive inner thigh region (it's called friction, friends. Maybe you have been blessed with regular-sized hips, but I'm an Okie with a pelvis just begging for birth. I can't put it less weirdly than that)! This also called for a large cup of coffee, at another Aida cafe, in the middle of a rainstorm.

And I'm only blogging now because, goddammit, there are words in me and they want to get out somehow. We had some new age "group chat" about our expectations, goals, blah de blah, and I was the only one in the room who didn't list "Improving My German." Because, truthfully, and maybe it's Herr Mosburg's fault from back at Booker T, but German has never inspired me. I joked about it with Rob, saying this German business wasn't one of my priorities, but then, I didn't know what my priorities actually were, which was probably a problem. But he said, "Well, reading and writing are up there, aren't they?" And that's true. Being bilingual would be great, sure, but I haven't got the Itch to learn it, the way I do with writing. And that's what it is - call it passion, call it a rare literary disease, but right now it's like a mosquito bite that I'm sure would probably heal fine if I'd stop nagging at it, and then I could go on and become a happily mediocre Grown Up who sometimes remembered her wild delusions of writerly grandeur (see also: My Father), but I'm young and stupid and full of wild ideas and there are few feelings better than a good scratch when you've really got an itch, metaphorical or physical. Which is probably why Penny is so happy all the time.

Speaking of tiny dogs, it was also a red letter week in terms of them. Annie and I went on a late night dessert hunt following a dinner of waffles (we are very healthy beings) and headed to the Votiv Park Cafe, a little local joint where the lone waiters are an old man and an adolescent boy, where the Sachertorte is handmade, and where there was a tiny dog running around, being typically Austrian and indifferent. So I leaned down and scratched it, and it took a shine to me and hopped up on the seat and stayed there. Exciting stuff, I know, but Dog Withdrawal is one of those things they don't tell you about in all the Culture Shock Bullshit.

And speaking of tiny things, let me give you a profile of some of my favorite citizens of Vienna.

Felix. 9 years old. Looks exactly like he'll grow up and be the lead singer of Frog Eyes. Makes a point of reminding me about his English Great-Uncle every time we interact, but also asked me how to spell my name when we were learning "I like" and "I don't like" so he could announce, "I like Rachel." So great.

Lottie. 8 years old. Actually, she is Rory Pavach from Hammyton. It's downright freaky. Translated the entirety of "Where is Spot?" for my benefit when we read it this week. I learned the word for "turtle" and then they quizzed me on it.

Kid Whose Name I Do Not Know, but he's probably 10 years old. Very impressed by my sneakers. Also asked me if I liked Guns N' Roses.

Kid As Tall As Me Though He Is 10 Years Younger. Actually that is just disturbing to me.

There's more - the tiny Indian boy, the girl who speaks immaculate English already, the Raised By Indie Parents boy with his blazer and bandanna around his neck, the ones with glasses and lisps, pretty much any one who says hello to me in the hallways, and so on and so on. They're pretty great, altogether, though I wish I didn't have to get up at 7 to teach them, because I'm mostly dead by the time noon rolls around.

And that's the news from over here. I'm looking forward to: seeing The Go! Team next week, eating a banana with some Nutella tomorrow, running around in the Springtime weather, deplaning in Oklahoma and waking up at 6 a.m. for a week from jet-lag, having my first legal drink in America, finally perceiving this wealth of time as the rare opportunity it is.

20 April 2008

i'll have the weekend, light on epiphanies, please.

It was and it wasn't, to be honest, but I'll make a meek attempt at avoiding existential anguish this time around, head more towards the "WHOO STUDY ABROAD BLOG" post. Something to enjoy while your latest NPR Podcast downloads - speaking of which, I'm addicted. Nothing like a nice hour of This American Life while I'm riding through the hills of Bohemia on a bus, highlighting Jerry Springer's former political career and the evolution of Appalachian nuns. Really. Dude, I do go to a liberal arts college, and that does make me unique and chill. Srsly. But, as for that last pseudo-meltdown, I apologize for going bonkers on the internet - I have a written journal which I'd been neglecting when we last spoke, you being the wide cyber audience, me at my microphone/keyboard, and I just got back from buying a new notebook since I have a mere 30 pages left in the old one (being the Italian Leather one we got for being National Book Foundation campers back in '01, when I was a wee 14 year old).

So! Prague Part Two, then. Our program went on a most-expenses-paid trip to Prague this weekend, which was grand aside from the weather, which was gray and rainy until we left, but did provide some nice sunnage for the 5 hour ride back to Vienna. Last time I was in Prague (and can we all just take a minute like I just did to acknowledge the mere ability to truthfully start sentences with phrases like that, and hopefully not writhe in our seats with jealousy and/or self-loathing), it was all party and people and madness - the city was a terrible, incomprehensible maze of consonants and Czech, and it still was, this time around, but it definitely upped itself a few notches for approachability. I mean - I like Prague. I've decided that. It's a lot more exciting than Vienna - as I said to Rob, Vienna is all 18oos imperial, and Prague is more 1904. I think I lean towards 1904. Feasted our eyes on some Art Nouveau, sampled Czech beer on Central's bill, took in all the sights on a massive tour around the city (which was unbearable solely for the never-ending rain), basically touristed as well as we could, but Prague, unlike Vienna As Far As I Know It, doesn't make you strive towards having a massive night.

For instance: Saturday night, after a good hour and a half lying in our hostel beds drying out from the rain, we headed to a restaurant for a feast, since we weren't footing the bill. It may seem childish to order Beef Tartar as an appetizer solely because it's the most expensive option, but when it's not your wallet doing the work, and when it's being paid for by the same people who didn't tell you any of the things you actually needed to know about living in Europe (such as the need for an Austrian bank account to do laundry in an actual washing machine - I'm getting pretty good at old-fashioned sink laundry, doo-rag and all), a "free meal" means soup beforehand, schnitzel for dinner, strudel for dessert, beer to wash it down and coffee afterwards. We were pretty much dead with sheer calorie intake by the end of it, but man - I have not eaten that well since The Diner. So we go out to take the Czech streets, knowing the exchange rate is for once on our side, and we literally stumble into the main square, with those Gothic towers and that Astronomical Clock and all that. Our chosen bar turns out to be the best idea ever, since there's a live band playing 1920s standards - clarinet, standing bass, a drum kit with only a snare and a cymbal, trombone, trumpet, and banjo - and I proceed to order a Bloody Mary and pretend we're the Lost Generation. Awesome.

On the way back to our hostel, liberally liquored after a Pina Colada (which was a Lotta Colada, really), Prague proves itself to be as surreal as ever. First, a black man in a pirate outfit, just chilling outside. Then, some people shouting in English: "YOU HAVE SEX AT HOME?!" "You're so loud." "I'M SHORT!" "That's why." Also, though I wasn't there to here it: "Fuck you, you logical being!" Lastly, three guys in head-covering Mickey Mouse masks, looking sinister and bizarre. All this in addition to the drag queen wielding a dildo we saw the night before. When we make it back to the hostel, the madness continues - two British dudes, drunk off their skulls and searching for a lighter, which, of course, I had. So I gave one of them a light, tried to get rid of him, only to have his friend come barging into the room - fortunately not my room, but room of other Central kids - and it was awkward and disturbing until I re-learned what I'd discovered in Oslo - British people are awesome. So, for the next hour and a half or more, wasted British fellow babbles with us, having as weird of a night as we are. Truthfully, I was tickled because he called me "quick" and "clever" which are things that I take for granted at Hamilton since Hamilton itself is supposed to be proof of such attributes - but a compliment's a compliment, and it was nice. The next morning we saw him and his band of British mates leaving the hostel in full Smurf attire, blue paint and all. A better ending I could not have invented.

I bought myself a cigarette case, because if I'm going to keep up this retarded habit, I might as well look classy doing it, and I was playing with it all the way back to Vienna, listening to Beirut (of course) as Bohemia rolled by. It was a nice weekend, really, and though a phone call to my family killed my buzz a bit afterwards, I went to bed at peace.

And that is the news for now, darlings. Back to wasting time and washing my socks in the sink.