May 16, 2010


Lots of news to share, but here are some birthday photos for now.

April 25, 2010

The State of Things, Including Me

The other day I spent approximately two and a half hours scrubbing the wooden stairs in our apartment. Scrub brush in hand, and a bucket of water beside me, I knelt scrubbing away and wondering about all of the other women who had scrubbed the same stairs over the five hundred year history of our building.

By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs (there are only sixteen of them and yet so much time had gone by) I knew that I'd been wrong, that there had been no other women. Nobody could have ever washed those stairs before. The wood is an entirely different colour than it was when I began, and there is still a grey film over them that I know I should get rid of with a second wash, though I can't bring myself to further abuse my poor, sore knees.



Our apartment renovations are coming along, though. The bedroom is nearly completely finished: the trim still needs to be painted and the floor in there needs to be scrubbed too. The office is the only reminder that we still have work ahead of us, but Christian and I have decided that having someone else do it for us is looking increasingly appealing. I cannot bring myself to rip that wallpaper off the walls and then have to deal with what is underneath it, again.

Anyway, we went to Ikea on Thursday for a few things we'd forgetten the first time and managed the entire expedition without a breakdown or an argument, which is probably a first. (I've told plenty of people that I genuinely believe Ikea should have relationship counselors wandering their stores.) Getting some stuff to decorate rather than renovate was fun for a change, and it's nice to know that our elusive Housewarming Party is not just a chimera.

I am procrastinating by writing this blog post. I should be either washing the mountain of dishes that are on my counter or else working on the oral presentation I have to give on Wednesday which I completely forgot about. However, we went out on Friday and Saturday this week and I am having a bit of trouble doing anything other than sitting. I just got back from having coffee with (my new friend) Adrieanna, but two coffees and Baileys later (her idea), my hands are still a bit shaky and everything I do is done v e r y s l o w l y. On the Katie Peacock hangover scale, I'd say, I would hold a baby, but I wouldn't... am too slow at the moment to think of something more breakable than a baby. My dad's four hundred year old liqueur glasses from Amsterdam? I wouldn't hold those.

OK this needs to end. I will probably write something about Brussels soon, or at least post photos. Here is my new favourite part of our apartment.

PS Learned an excellent party trick last night: we were in a building which is normally a Boyscout Club House, and the hosts had taped plastic over the walls, like the kind that you would use to protect the floor while painting. It wasn't very noticeable since the room was so smoky and dark, but prevented marks and spills from ruining the walls.

PPS I don't think my mom is very impressed by that party trick.

April 2, 2010

It must be the full moon.

My 80 year old landlady just let herself in to my apartment - a behaviour that echoes past traumas for me, but is much more harmless in its Austrian than in its Greek form - and saw me standing in our living room-cum-bedroom in the midst of packing for my trip to Brussels wearing nothing but a bra and some 22-year-old-girl-who-lives-with-her-boyfriend-sized underpants. Thank God, at least, that I had already listened to the whole Taylor Swift album and was no longer singing at the top of my lungs. As I darted behind the mirror (propped up against a chair) and frantically looked for something to cover up with, she advanced through the kitchen and into my dressing room. She stood in front of me - at this point I am lamely holding my inside out bright red McGill hoodie in front of my body - and said, matter of factly, "It's a bit cold in here, no?" before beginning to explain her reasons for entering the apartment in the first place, the light in the hallway, which was incorrectly repaired this morning. Should I really be surprised anymore? This is, after all, the land of bathroom doors made of glass.

I knew there was some big cosmic joke being played (on April Fools, no less) when, after a full, long day of renovating, having finally finished applying plaster to the raw material of our bedroom walls - a thankless and messy job - I had just got out of the shower (once again, a small mercy) and was in the kitchen when I heard a crash and then a swear. Christian was upstairs in the bedroom still, and when I reached the stairwell, it was dark. As a last step in our plaster application, we had removed the light fixture from the ceiling, and as he finished up the job, Christian wisely decided to bend the exposed wires away from the floor-- when they touched. It wasn't just a blown fuse. The fuse box for our entire second floor was rendered completely useless-- and once again, sheer luck is what saved us from going to bed without dinner, because the kitchen and living room are on a separate grid downstairs.

As I made our late dinner - at this point it was already about 10 pm - Christian figured out that the master fuse box in the stairwell contained the switch that would reactivate ours, but this box was locked. When a trip out to the hallway and an internet search revealed that to have someone come open this locked case would cost us 76 Euro that night or 36 Euro the next morning, Christian showered in the dark, then came down determined to learn how to pick the lock and solve our problem DIY-style. It was this decision that indirectly lead to the darkness spreading to the stairwell: while attempting to reset the switch for our second floor with a knife stuck through a crack, C. accidentally flicked the wrong switch, and the hallway and stairwell lights went out.

This changed our situation; we had now - however inadvertently - made our problem the whole building's problem. Our landlady leaves the building at 6 am. Even if we were going to call the electrician, it wouldn't have been before then. So, if she were to call the electrician regarding the problem before we had the chance... what could we do to stop her? The snag in the stocking was that the electrician would inevitably see that our fuse was blown as well, and if he were to mention this to Frau Poltsch, it wouldn't take much of an effort to connect the two occurrences.

Which is why, at 5:30 pm, about 8 hours after Christian went upstairs and realized that the lights were, in fact, on again, without any calls having been made on our parts, as my landlady advanced through my apartment without invitation, my heart was beating quickly not only because I was significantly less than half dressed.

"Ist dein Schatzi da?" she asked me, looking at my face. "No, he's at work. He'll be home in about an hour," I said. "Is something wrong?" My face, other than surprise, hopefully exuding innocence. "The light in the stairwell was out this morning," she said. "Oh?" "The electrician came to repair it and he must have done something wrong, because now it won't go out anymore." "It's not working again?" I ask, because I haven't entirely understood her German here. "It's supposed to come on for 8 minutes and then go out again," she explains. "Well anyway, if your Schatzi isn't home..." I ask if there is anything to do, but she seems resigned. I don't really know what she wanted Christian to do about it anyway, since I know very well that it is impossible to get into the box without the key, but I can't say this to her and betray more intimate knowledge of the box than I should have. "Is there anything I can do?" I offer. "No, thank you. Wiederschauen." Phew. And then I got dressed.

January 30, 2010

I'm still in Canada...

but just in case you were hoping for something new, here's:

which is based off of:

and then there's this one:

etc. So yes, I'm still here, in the land of Heritage Moments like this one, for now.

Love from Canada,

December 17, 2009

Yes... He smokes.

Today I was sitting in Cafe Beano waiting for Danny to finish putting sugar in his latte, when I looked outside and saw Santa Claus smoking a cigarette and drinking a coffee. He looked a lot like this guy, except less creepy and more wholesome, and no, I didn't let this one hug me.

Anyway, he was standing on the corner wearing a Santa hat and a grungy looking winter jacket with his untucked shirt hanging out. He was facing me, and as I watched, he turned around to face the other direction, just as a little girl and her mom were walking by. As soon as he noticed them, without missing a beat, he covered his face with his jacket, as though he was hiding from her. Although I couldn't hear them, I assume the mom said something like, "Don't look at Santa on his day off," because the little girl pulled her jacket in front of her face too. She peaked back at him a couple more times and the Santa Claus played along until they were out of sight, then tossed his cigarette and walked away.

I am back in Calgary for awhile, and, since this blog is about me in the E.U., I will be taking a break until the new year. Unless I miss you too much or have something irresistible to recount. Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, etc.

December 2, 2009

Home Sweet (and Chilly and still not Repaired) Home

Christian left for Vienna today, so I am spending my first night in our new apartment alone tonight. We have neither phone nor internet, so I am planning to stay out with Christina as long as possible in order to avoid ennui. Until both of those problems are resolved, you probably won't hear much from me. I am currently at our old apartment poaching WIFI.

Now that all of our stuff is there, the apartment feels much more like home, even though we have everything either of us own packed into the living room. Heating with a woodburning stove is definitely something we will have to get used to, particularly very cold mornings. Luckily the weather has been really warm here, otherwise I might not be nearly as charmed by having to build a fire every four hours.

Other than that, we are both very happy with our "new" home and its two floors and abundant light. I even broached the formerly creepy attic door yesterday and discovered that the attic is just empty and cold and not really that scary. Christian is still adapting to having to duck through doorways, but I am sure he will get used to it after a few bruises.

I am tutoring another student (Herr Paier) at the university tonight, hopefully making more progress tomorrow, and then driving to Vienna on Friday with Michi and Toni, which should be ridiculous. Not only is it Toni's birthday, but Christian's class is participating in something called Roboexotica, the basis of which is robots that serve alcohol... Yeah, I wish I went to his school too.

Reports of that adventure to come.

November 28, 2009

Mostly Cloudy, 6°

This week: my computer stopped working, my camera stopped working, my ipod stopped working, I met with 5 different handymen about our apartment, who quoted me between 1300 and 3000 Euro to make our bedroom liveable. I got up early on a rainy Saturday to go there to meet yet another handyman, who turned out to be only a painter, and couldn't help anyway. I was thinking about all of this as I unlocked my bike outside of our building.

And then I noticed this man standing there looking at our house. And holding a book. And that's when I realized that he was a tourist, holding a guidebook, and looking at the building that I get to live in as an attraction. I dawdled a little bit longer so that I could spy on him because I am nosy like that, and he walked in a semi-circle around the building and looked through the little alley way between it and the house beside it, and then looked in his book again and kept going.
That's when I realized that all of the stuff that has been bothering me lately will eventually be resolved, and that until then I should just stop moping and be happy.

PS: The Everything-Is-Alright-Alarm went off just as I finished this post.

PPS: Have I told you about the Everything-Is-Alright-Alarm? No? There is an alarm that they can set off if something is about to happen to the city; I have always assumed that this is a leftover of war times. Every Saturday at noon the alarm goes off for about 30 seconds just to make sure it still works, and also to let everybody know that Everything Is Alright.