Besides the end of the school year and the delight of visitors, what’s filled the weeks since I posted about traveling to Croatia?
This deserves its own blog post, practically. If you want to get a visa to live in Austria, it’s certainly possible — but expect it to be a real process!
Step 1: Decide to become a student (the easiest way to get a visa). Find out the deadline for non-EU citizens. (It is more exciting if you find out 2 days before the deadline.) Pick a university. (That’s pretty easy: who wouldn’t want to study at a school founded in 1365?) Choose what program to apply for. (Pick 4 or 5, just to up your chances of getting into one.) Apply (incredibly basic form — but why not try making a good impression with letters for each department, especially if someone offers to translate them into German for you?). Bring in missing paperwork. Wait. After 2 months, discover you are welcome to study at the Universität Wien, provided you pass a German test.
Step 2: B2 “intermediate German” test. Don’t join a class — too little time, too much money. Instead, pay your test fee (150€!), buy the study book, and gratefully rely on the feedback of friends who agree to read your practice texts. For the test itself, gear up for 90 minutes for reading comprehension; 90 for writing (a letter of complaint and a short opinion text); 20 minutes or so for reading comprehension; and a speaking exam (a) introducing the examiner to your hometown (a standard question, so you can prepare as much as you want), b) choosing and describing one of three pictures provided, and c) exchanging opinions (and trying to persuade the examiner) on a theme you are given shortly before the exam. (I got something about how much kids should or should not be expected to help with household chores, and I was happy to work in a real-life illustration of the joys of washing dishes to the tune of Mom reading to us after dinner.) Wait. Spend the weekend trying not to compute how many points you may have gotten in each section and adding the hypothetical figures to determine whether (pessimistically) you just missed the minimum requirement or (optimistically) have nothing to worry about it. Call on Tuesday and be ecstatically grateful for a good score.
Step 3: Make a trip to the Gebietskrankenkasse and sign up for Selbstversicherung. (Actually, the obligatory insurance was an easy step.)
Step 4: Visit the MA 35 (visa office). Wait. (Show up at 6:30, so as to avoid long lines. Somehow waiting 90 minutes as the second person in lines feels better than coming at 8:00 and being 50th, perhaps.) Pray you have all the right paperwork. (Best to take ever document in the house.) Discover that the lady behind the desk is actually friendly — not the stereotype, and therefore the more wonderful. (Enjoy the country-style radio backdrop: “I have a friend in Jesus.”)
Step 5: Sometime after July 17th, I’ll go pick up my new visa.
…Every summer the Vienna Philharmonic plays an outdoor concert at Schönbrunn, an event that demands days of technical set-up and draws thousands. Two French friends and I thought it would be a lovely excuse for a picnic and free concert. It was certainly memorable, but more for the rain and cold — and humor of the whole situation — than for the music! We spread out ponchos on a bench, shared umbrellas when the rain faucet turned back on, and enjoyed left-over homemade pizza while hoping for clearing skies. We didn’t end up staying for the whole concert (though long enough to hear Lang Lang), as it was too cold (even if no longer rainy)….
…After school ended, I wanted to say thanks to the organizers of the teaching assistant program. I wasn’t sure if baking an Austrian recipe was the best idea; but with my Sachertorte success for Julia and Rob, I figured it was worth a try. Showing up at the Fulbright office, I was delighted to find familiar faces in the office and to be able to thank them for all their work (multiple emails answered promptly and cheerfully, activities planned during the school year, school placements, etc.). I ended up with an invitation to hang around for a coffee and to share the cake.
…One of the more novel things I’ve been asked to help with lately was taking engagement pictures for a couple I met at church. …Not just photos of the happy couple posing –but pictures of the groom-to-be actually asking “The Question” in the picturesque Belvedere park. George and I mapped out where they would enter the park and where I would be hiding, but it was hard to know if I could really alert him to the fact that the “photographer” was present and ready without spoiling the surprise for the bride-to-be.
As it turned out, I managed to “hide” just well enough behind a large sculpted bush for George to see me and Rachel (with that special oblivion bestowed upon people at such times) not. (A park personnel asked me to get off the nice grass. I must have looked rather distressed, because he didn’t question my refusal.) What with sunshine, the backdrop of a royal palace, and the ring sparkling, it was quite a happy success. I enjoyed being the fly on the wall, so-to-speak!
…The 4th of July was duly celebrated, even if not on American soil. My pastor’s family filled their home with 25 or more guests (most Americans) for a lovely evening…a rousing rendition of the national anthem before dinner, the typical pot-luck abundance, and some fireworks.
…This past week I’ve been delighted with three visits with teachers. It’s comforting to be staying in touch, even if I’m now out of the school setting work-wise. A walk downtown, a quiet afternoon in and out of a flower garden, a picnic with a feast not just of things to nibble but of stories of God’s provision and revelation — these meetings confirm and deepen friendships I am very grateful for….
I’m a bit of a nomad again this summer. A lovely French girl is renting my room for the summer, while she completes a biology internship in Vienna. (We overlapped for a month. I actually rather liked the spacious living room being transformed into a bedroom each evening — and it was a real pleasure to help introduce our new roommate to Vienna and just enjoy “hanging out.”) The rest of the summer includes house-sharing, house-sitting, and traveling.
At the current moment, staying with friends from church, I’m enjoying two small kids in the house. Sunday morning superhero-cape joy for a 2 1/2-year-old:
…Speaking of traveling, the bags are packed (oops: should be)! Tomorrow I leave for 12 days or so — first seeing a friend perform Bartok’s Blue Beard opera in Tirol, then visiting a friend in the far western state of Vorarlberg, then back to Tirol for a hiking tour with another friend. Five nights at four different huts are booked, and we’ll see what the weather and the Berliner Höhenweg have in store!