A damp spring morning, still a bit chilly. It’s Sunday on the Donauinsel, and a handful of people dot the paths along the 21-kilometer island in the Danube. The city sounds and sights fade into the background, and a little group of three runners lopes along, motivated by the others’ presence and the happy distraction of a pleasant morning’s chat. As I run, I’m reminded of the special community around me. A German, a Zimbabwean, and an American — who busy themselves during the week with geology, chemistry, and music, respectively — all find themselves in the same city, discover a shared church community, and even find a common hobby.
…With spring on the way (and training underway for the Vienna 1/2 marathon in a couple of weeks), it’s high time to recall some winter activities and generally catch up. The budding trees and sprouting flowers are as good a signal as any that time has passed since I blogged about the 12 days of Christmas!
For the semester break in February, I joined a sizable portion of the Austrian population in planning a ski holiday. A friend from church comes from western Austria, where there is certainly no lack of mountains; and she invited a couple of friends to come home with her for the holidays for a bit of fun in the snow.
Skiing was fabulous and completely exhausting! The first day we had sort of a warm-up day in place called Laterns. (This is ski-land. We put on all our ski gear by about 8:00, traipsed to the bus stop 5 minutes away [free if you are going skiing], loaded up our skis/snowboard on the back of the bus [ski rack provided instead of a bike rack], and headed up the road half an hour or so.) Visibility wasn’t great, since it snowed pretty much all day, but the snow surely was pretty coming down. I had a lot of fun, and the Hutte lunch was pretty delicious (a sort of Tyrolean dumpling).
The next day was great, but also overwhelming. We headed to Silvetta-Montafon, which is a huge ski area with 37 lifts and 140 km of slopes. (We saw only one corner of it all!) The sun was out (and the wind blowing, too); so, it was pretty spectacular (and freezing) riding the lift up to our first run for the day. Unfortunately, we got off at a very steep red slope (the only other option where we were dumped out being black!), and I felt like I’d forgotten everything from the day before and was a puddle of non-energy. However, after slipping and sliding, more or less, down to a hut (including a jaunt through a ski tunnel),
I took a break while Stephen and Rebecca made another short run before lunch. The afternoon was great, and I stuck mostly to blue slopes. Not crowded, sun glinting on snow close at hand and showing off peaks in all directions; the shadows of ski lifts making elegant, slow-motion shadow-art across the mountainsides; ski paths, made by those venturing off the prepared slopes onto deeper snow, forming patterns like rustic embroidery or an unraveling thread.
Perhaps my favorite part of the day was the start of our hour’s descent at the end of the day — the sunlight of the late winter afternoon and the sense that I was finally getting the hang of things. Even managed a bit of red slopes with a measure of aplomb! Needless to say, by the very bottom, the snow quality has totally deteriorated, and my style had been downgraded to seeing how often I could fall (and perhaps add to my total of lose-a-ski adventures), but it was a splendid experience all in all. And, so tiring! I feel into bed about 8:30!
The last day we spent the morning in Bregenz (the small capital city of Vorarlberg) and took a snowy walk in the afternoon. …In between the outings and wintry fun, I so enjoyed our wonderful Austrian hosts — a warm-hearted welcome (and a lovely warm wood stove), laughter and conversation, an abundance of good food, and an amazing view from the kitchen window (below)!
Chamber music practice/rehearsals/lessons are underway for the new semester (which started in March). The primary project last term was a Beethoven violin sonata with a friend from church, Olga, who is studying in Vienna for the year. We started rehearsing together on the 7th of January, I think, and had a concert on the 28th. It was a lot of work, but also fun — rehearsals being frequently interrupted by a good laugh and accompanied by encouraging conversation. For the concert, we joined with friend Maria (the singer I accompanied for a voice competition in September) for three Handel arias, and Maria and I repeated much of the competition program — this time for an appreciate audience rather than a row of judges.
Current projects on the horizon are another violin sonata with Olga, a modern flute/cello/piano trio for a friend’s grad recital in the fall, and maybe (?!) two items (a Rachmaninoff cello sonata and a Beethoven piano trio) well underway but awaiting chamber music partners who have time and interest to rehearse and plan a recital.
Since I last wrote, my new part-time job at the Catholic school around the corner from my flat has gotten well underway. Teachers are friendly, and there are two other teaching assistants — one Canadian and one British — who are great. I accompany various teachers for their subject area classes that are taught partially in English. I’m enjoying refreshing (and expanding) my 20th century history with the 11th graders, particularly.
I’m also on my own for two English conversation/project classes with 6th and 7th graders. So far, we’ve done posters and presentations about various U.S. states. I’ve started a bit outloud reading (Narnia), and there have been lessons on idioms and winter-themed haikus. Here are the best two:
While the snow is a
pride in white, some trees are free
of leaves, thin air cuts.
The silent air, the
silent snow, everything
is pure perfection.
Vorfreude (“anticipation,” literally “prior joy”) is one of my favorite German words. In the church calendar, I suppose most of us are more likely to use the word in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but it must be equally or more appropriate to Easter.
However, before Easter arrives, I’m also anticipating a week in Moscow (leaving today!) to visit a friend and then the arrival of a friend here from the States. So, plenty of Vorfreude in the air, and no doubt an abundance to write about next blog post.
I’ll close with a few photos of Olga and my trip to a Easter market (and my growing collection of Easter eggs at home — displayed in Austrian fashion on willow branches).
And, reminded of a quote from N. T. Wright (in his Surprised by Hope) — “Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air?” — I wish each of you a wonderful Easter celebration — marked both by a joyful celebration of Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection and by the Vorfreude of what His resurrection means for those whose faith rests in Him.