October 11, 2007

A Series of Increasingly Fortunate Events

In stark contrast to my rather tranquil weekend, the past few days have been almost overwhelmingly progressive. On Monday I went to another class at UniGraz: Canadian Literature, which I had been really excited about. The teacher took attendance, which was nerve wracking, and I spent the time it took him to go down the list praying that I would not be the only one whose name he didn't call. I had to explain my situation in front of the whole class, which actually made me grateful that he had made everybody move into the first few rows, so that I didn't have to yell it loud enough for those who had stayed in the back to hear. Anyway, the class was really interesting in terms of getting an idea of how Canada is perceived by other countries, though it wasn't really satisfying as a literature course because they seem to be reading the books to learn more about Canada, rather than just analyzing the books themselves. The prof. went through a slide show of every province, with pictures of the biggest cities. Despite the fact that the photo from Calgary must have been 15 years old, it still made me a little bit homesick -- though the one from Montreal did the same. "Canada has 9 provinces and 3 territories", the prof. kept repeating. It was frustrating being there knowing that I was not a real student.

Having not made any progress with school, it was nice to be moving forward with other things. On Tuesday morning, we met with our new landlord to sign the lease for our apartment. He went through every point with Christian, and I followed along as best as I could. His name is Herr Walcher, and he is the anti-Martha, who said that he would only go into our apartent if he saw smoke. After our business with him was finished, we went over to our apartment and met the people that are in the process of moving out of it, to talk about which of their things we would like them to leave behind. Neither Christian nor I remember ever having heard their names, so we refer to the couple collectively as "The Germans". The Germans are planning to move out of the apartment by Saturday so that we can move in around Monday, because they want us to pay them half of this month's rent. Hopefully it will be possible, because every time we go over there I get really excited about having our first apartment alone together. Tuesday night we went to see one of Christian's favourite bands, I AM X. I had never heard of them before arriving in Austria, but because of Christian's oh-so-endearing habit of listening to a band's albums on repeat in preparation for seeing them in concert, at least I was familar with some of their songs. In the end, I had a really good time. They put on a really good show, with cool visuals playing behind them, and the crowd was really into it, which is always kind of contagious. There was a guy and a girl in front of me who had dressed up like the lead singer, and brought along their own fake microphone so that they could sing along all the more realistically, who were fun to watch whenever my attention wavered. After the show we stopped at a bar where I drank an Edelweiss - it's not the national anthem, but it is a beer - and then Christian's very obliging friend Micky drove us all the way home.

Still a little bit disheartened by my experience at the Uni on Monday, I got up on Wednesday morning to go find out what the results of my German test from the week before had been, and hopefully register for some German classes in order to be able to learn something this semester. When I got there, I told the woman my name, and she handed me a time table with 18 hours a week of German classes. I start at 8:00 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which, it must be noted, is the earliest I have ever had school in my entire life. Nonetheless, I was happy to have something to fill up my days again. I bought groceries on the way home, and Christian and I made Mittagessen for Anja and ourselves. A day full of German, I had my first German class at the Office Pub last night as well. In true new-to-the-city fashion, I managed to get lost and fall off my bike in the middle of the Hauptplatz on the way there. I had expected the pub to be full the way it had been for the pub quiz the week before, so that when I walked in and the pub was almost empty, I was sure that I had made such a treacherous trip for nothing. When I asked at the bar, however, the bartended pointed me to a group of about 8 people sitting at a table with pints in hand, notebooks nowhere to be seen. The "German Class" at the Office Pub apparently consists of some German speaking, but mostly English speaking, and lots of comparing, contrasting, and complaing. The class finished at 9, but I ended up staying until 12, just talking to the other people. It was nice to speak English to native English speakers again, mostly just because I didn't have to feel guilty that I wasn't speaking German, and it was nice to finally meet some new people. I think that I am really lucky to have Christian here, to live with, just to spend time with, and to steal some friends from, but it also shelters me in a way that I think I have to consciously try to overcome.

Wednesday night ended on a high note, and Thursday morning came soon after. Too soon, actually, as I was woken up by the doorbell ringing twice before 9:30, though with two important deliveries. The first was the plug that I had ordered off of Ebay, so that I can finally write these posts on my own computer, instead of Christian's endlessly frustrating Austrian keyboard where the y and the z are switched, and the second from UniGraz. After thoroughly stating my indifference about getting in or not, I opened the envelope. "Sehr geehrte Frau PEACOCK!" it said. "You have been admitted to the Karl-Franzens-Universtitat Graz for two semesters." Of course, the letter was all in German, so I still don't know exactly what it says, but I know that I have to go pay my tuition tomorrow, and then I can register for classes, and then I can go to school! I am so happy that they didn't reject me. My indifference was a sham! I am still nervous about going to classes, but now that I will be able to go to the same kind of classes that I have already been to, but with the added assurance that I am actually supposed to be there, I think that it will get more comfortable quite fast.

So, tomorrow I am going to the University to pay my tuition so that I can start to register, and maybe even get an ID card, and then we are taking the train to Salzburg for the weekend to visit Christian's grandma and see the city. If we can move in to the apartment some time next week, everything will actually be almost the way I had imagined it. I bet you can picture the look on my face right now.

"Welcome Fraulein Peacock"

October 7, 2007

Strange Days

This weekend has not been particularly eventful. Friday night, after having met with our new landlord, we were both soaking wet from biking home in the rain. We ended up staying in and watching a movie with Christian's parents, and then watching the episode of House that I had downloaded. All TV series here are one season behind, and in German, so in order to keep up with the ones that I want to watch, I am left at the mercy of the Internet. Anyway, on Saturday it was a crummy day outside, spent reading or messing around on the computer until the entire family + me drove to a nearby shopping mall. It was a fruitful expedition, but except for one minorly funny incident, pretty unremarkable. For Saturday night we had made a commitment to go see one of Christian's friends' band play at their CD release party. Christian had played their music for me before (at http://www.strangedays.at.tf/), and I thought that I might not really enjoy it. But, they were surprisingly good, and they put on a pretty good show.

Perhaps as a result of my less-than-thrilling weekend, I have decided to start compiling the following list, which I will update as necessary.

1. Everyone has three types of recycling, including "Bio-müll" which is compost, and the apartment building has a giant, well cared for compost downstairs, which is more awesome than ridiculous.
2. It is usually cheaper to order a half liter of beer than 250 mL of Coke in a bar.
3. You can smoke in the malls, and most public washrooms have an ashtray in the stall.
4. It is legal for the passengers of a car to drink while driving, and it is legal for the driver to drink while driving, as long as they are under the legal limit.

These are the things that have struck me so far as the most different between Austria and Canada, for better or for worse. I'll update it with more ridiculous things as I notice them, but for now I have to get off the computer.