Wednesday afternoon I arrived safe and sound in Vienna, despite delays in Knoxville, Newark, and Frankfurt. My new roommate, Rachel Olney, met me at the airport, and a half-hour train ride brought us to our apartment. After a welcome dinner, I headed out for a walk, happy to find that after the first few blocks I was in familiar territory and could easily find my way to the Hunters’ home. (Brad and Stacey led the team I was on last summer, and Brad pastors New City Wien.) So good to reconnect with friends!
Thursday dawned cool and gray after a much-needed night of rest. My primary goals for the day were acquiring my year card for the Vienna metro system and taking care of paperwork in Mödling, the town on the outskirts of Vienna where I’ll be teaching. However, the day proved to be at least as much about discovering the unpredictability of starting life in a new city.
An assortment of documents in hand, I headed out after breakfast, only to realize half-way down the street that I’d forgotten a book for the train ride. So, back up the 71 steps to my apartment. (Lesson 1: Don’t forget anything on your way out the door.) Arriving by circuitous means (Lesson 2: Take a map) at one of the main train stations, I discovered that I’d need to wait for the year card till the next day when I could visit the proper office at a different train station. (Lesson 3: Be prepared for bureaucracy.)
But, on to Mödling, where I was to meet my English teaching supervisor (Axel Hoffman), tour the school, and attend to paperwork. “Every train on this track goes to Mödling” — or, that’s at least what I thought the station employee said. But, city changed to countryside, and I began to be concerned. Upon inquiry, I discovered I’d climbed aboard the one train per hour that does not go direct to Mödling.
Mercifully, I found myself at a rural train stop where the lone station worker readily shared his laptop and cell phone so I could work out a ride from my supervisor (retracing my steps by bus or train being hopelessly time-consuming). While waiting for the ride, I enjoyed chatting with the station manager, who had fine English. The station was built by the Germans during WWII, and the equipment dates from then. An array of buttons and series of knobs control the railroad crossing, and a set of gears determine which track is in use. He nonchalantly changed one set over to another line (and back) by way of demonstration, talking as he worked. Between trains, he rolled and smoked cigarettes; he seemed to think it cool that I am from Tennessee, home of Johnny Cash.
My ride arrived, and Axel’s sense of humor and enthusiasm for the new school year largely dismissed my navigational embarrassment. Whatever first impressions I left, my first impressions of the primary teacher I’ll be working under were very positive. Although the change in schedule meant no time for a school tour, at least I could finish paperwork — or so I thought. But, after being dropped off at the Meldamt (think township office), I was reminded of another aspect of Austrian bureaucracy — weird office hours. Discovering I had nearly three hours before I could turn in my form, I resigned myself not too unhappily to a cafe and my book (thanks, Melanie!). (Lesson 4: It’s always worth going back for a book.)
After turning in the one form (hurray, I didn’t have to resort to English!) and seeing that officialdom required another day and different office hours to complete the process, I headed back to Vienna. An impromptu stop at the home of the Beilmans’ (whose apartment I shared with the other interns last summer) morphed into a good visit over dinner, conversation, and watching baseball. Dan, the music minister at NCW, already persuaded me to play for church Sunday.
Now it’s Friday. This morning I purchased the year metro card, finding it strangely difficult to actually buy it. Not that I wouldn’t usually pause before spending €365, but there was an added sense of finality — not only welcoming the assortment of novelty, boredom, impatience, and convenience of public transport, but also saying another defining “yes” to a year in a new place with new routines. Popping up from the subway at Stephansdom, it seemed a perfect time to step into the quiet of the cathedral where pews and kneelers beckoned the new arrival to remember Who paves the way ahead….
And now, the quiet of a home, where friends of Rachel have allowed us to borrow internet till ours is up and running, offers a chance to stretch the limits of my readers’ patience. So, enough for now. Your emails or comments are welcome!
Auf wiederschreiben! (Till we write again.)