Snow is everywhere. It is making me want to throw snow balls and stand in snow drifts. It is turning cars into cartoon characters — exaggerated, rounded hoods and mirrors poking out like cold-nipped ears. It is pulling the camera out of my pocket, making me look the snow-surprised Tennessee girl that I am. When I get to school, I find I’m not the only one excited. Walking to class at the end of the hall, I pass another room just in time to see a snow ball hit the black board. (Oh, the possibilities when the teachers are switching rooms between classes!)
A Glimpse Back…
Thinking back to my last post, I realize I have plenty to catch up on! Highlights will have to do. (Who wants to hear about rainy weather, anyway.)
New Year’s Eve included three hightlights. The first was a knock at the door. Since I had been practicing the piano, I knew it would be our neighbor. Sure enough. But, she was actually smiling! Turns out she had a completely un-piano-related question and even admitted that the quiet music in the background was “angenehm” (“pleasant”). Definitely a wonderful year-end surprise and answer to prayer. Even if we keep complying with her practice time requests, it’s not so burdensome!
Highlight #2 was visiting the home of one of my colleages at Bachgasse, a middle-aged religion teacher. She invited her daughter (about my age), too, and we had a splendid time getting acquainted. It’s hard to put into words, but her home was so welcoming, comfortable, peaceful — from the old furniture, family photos (and stories attached), and simple Christmas decor. Conversation was intriguing, especially the friendly “argument” between mother and daughter about church doctrine and the relative merits of Roman Catholicism and the Old Catholic Church.
Highlight #3 was a New Year’s Eve celebration that my pastor’s family hosted — visiting and a plethora of goodies, complemented by a roof-top fire-pit and FIREWORKS. Vienna at New Year’s offers a new meaning to the term The Big Bang, with the citizenry setting off substantial fireworks in a 360° show. The best part of the evening was sitting around the fire talking with two friends till 2:00 in the morning.
New Year’s Day was special as well. My Betreuungslehrer (head teacher) at Bachgasse invited me over for the afternoon. Besides getting acquainted with the family and black lab, we talked about hiking possibilities, music (the prerequisite for the visit was that I would bring some piano music along), and Christmas traditions (they re-lit the Christmas tree candles).
The days between New Year’s and school starting back up filled up with visits, lots of piano practice, and time to catch up on odds and ends. One lovely (and sad) visit was seeing Julia off to New Zealand for six months — now I’ll have to Skype with my Austrian friend, but I’ll be the one in Vienna!
On the 12th day of Christmas, I was lazily sitting around at home when the buzzer at the front door rang. I knew I hadn’t invited company, and I didn’t really want company either. But, I let whoever it was in, glad that they had to traverse three flights of stairs before I had to appear in something a little more presentable that pajamas. When I opened the door, there were three boys dressed up at the Three Kings. Every year, Austrian children dress up as the wise men and go door-to-door collected money for charity. After they sang a song and gave a little speech, their chaperon wrote the tradition blessing in chalk on our door. They disappeared down the hall before I thought to send along some cookies or take their photo.
The same evening, roommate Rachel and I attended part of a service at the Russian Orthodox Church, where our friend Marianna sings in the choir. (The Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve is January 6th.) Very beautiful and very foreign. Candlelight, murals, huge gold chandelier, worshipers standing or quietly moving about, a seemingly endless liturgy spoken or sung by the festively robed priests and choir hidden in the balcony. (If possible, imagine music a bit like Rachmaninoff’s Vespers). At one point, I forgot where I was standing and backed into a candle stand. Thankfully, there was a lot of incense, so that not everyone smelled the not-so-nice scent of singed hair….
Of course, Christmas vacation had to end some time. Good to see teachers and students again, even if I was dragging my feet about going back to work!
As already mentioned, the snow has been the primary topic of conversation in the last 48 hours. Thursday afternoon I walked home from school with my friend Alexandra, who is the Russian teaching assistant at Keimgasse. She (a Moscow native) was quite amused by my enthusiasm for the snow. However, being a remarkably enthusiastic person herself, we were quite the lively pair trudging through Mödling, taking a photo of a funny statue (the lady in the photo was also taking pictures — turns out, she made the statue herself!), and helping Alexandra’s landlady (another Eva) shovel the sidewalk (well, I’m afraid I watched). I got a good internal laugh out of the fact that the savory smelling fish Eva was frying for lunch was one she had brought home from the biology class she was teaching that morning. Waste not, want not!
A Glimpse Ahead…
The big news on the horizon is that Mom is coming for a visit! This is a wunderbare Überraschung (wonderful surprise). As I have another Klassenabend coming up (this time, a bit of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff cello/piano music) and more holidays for the semester break, it seemed like an excellent idea to suggest a visit. I just didn’t know she would be spontaneous and actually book tickets — two weeks from today!