It’s Friday, late afternoon. Hmm, should I try to go to the opera this evening? If I hurry, I have just enough time to pack a book (maybe it’s time for another re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring), sandwich, and camera before hopping on the train downtown to the Staatsoper. …I arrive just before 5:30, when standing room spots go on sale; and I am barely into Bilbo’s birthday party before I have acquired my standing room ticket, marked my spot with a scarf (nice tradition that lets people find a place and then go out for coffee or whatever), and traipsed back downstairs to sit outside and enjoy book and picnic before the opera begins. …Happily, even though I don’t know anything about the opera (Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudinov), it will be a cultured evening for all of 4€.
Teacher training in Graz
Most of the past week I spent at a seminar in Graz, a beautiful 2½ hour train ride south of Vienna. The seminar was for us English teaching assistants working in Wien, Steiermark, Burgenland, and Niederösterriech (my province, though I’m living in Wien).
Initially, I was taken aback by feeling like a freshman in college all over again, with everyone asking everyone, “What’s your name? Where are you from? Where are you teaching?” However, despite the disparities of age (20 to late 30’s, but mostly 20-23ish), culture (American, British, Irish), and free-time interests (meaningful conversation versus excessive drinking), it was a great time to meet other TA’s, find common interests or shared faith, gain a more practical idea of our classroom responsibilities (although the word of the week was that “it really depends on your school”), and see a bit of Graz.
About half of us stayed at a lovely Catholic retreat center — a quiet and peaceful setting with a beautiful garden tended by the nuns associated with the adjacent and typically picturesque church. Our seminar was held at the castle of sorts where the rest of the group was staying. Morning and afternoon lectures and smaller group meetings were supplemented by a walking tour of Graz led by local high school students and a morning teaching and observing in area schools.
Meals were a further cultural experience. “Continental breakfast” takes on a new definition here in Austria, with a seemingly unending abundance of breads, cheeses, yogurt, muesli, etc. And, I don’t think most of us were expecting 4-course lunches or unusual dishes like red cabbage and chestnuts wrapped up in pastry!
All in all, I came back to Vienna grateful for the week away and more ready to dive in tomorrow morning. Although I’m still working out scheduling with my two supervising teachers in Mödling, it looks like I’ll spend 4 mornings a week at school and have the afternoons more or less free for piano practice and other commitments.
Friday I got back to Vienna just in time to go the Music Uni and pick up my completed student ID card. Afterwards, standing outside on the university steps in the bright sunshine and cool breeze, I felt so happy and grateful. I stood in about the same spot 13 months ago, with more questions about studying music in Vienna that I could have verbalized at the time. Now, by God’s grace, the documents are in hand, semester fees paid, first meeting with my professor scheduled, and my teaching supervisors in Mödling willing to be flexible regarding scheduling.
Bis später (till later),
P.S. For those of you Knoxville friends who have put up with my determination not to add texting to my phone plan, you’ll be pleased to learn that I’ve finally given in and entered the modern age. The humor of it hits me mid-stride as I navigate through a subway tunnel, trusting my peripheral vision and focused on my phone. Although the text message takes shape with painstaking slowness, I do have the excuse that there’s an added twist — mentally hunting for vocabulary and finding that β and ä for the German equivalent of “I’ll be a bit late.” Hey, this is kind of fun!