It’s been seven months since I last posted a blog entry. In an effort to “catch up,” I’ve cataloged the past months in a series of five posts that will appear weekly for the next month or so. To start, backing up to May….
Finishing the Semester
After I returned to Vienna in mid-May after Dad’s death, I was in some sense catapulted into finishing up the school semester. At the end of May Marianna and I had a voice-piano concert, so there was scrambling to do to have the music ready – several Lieder each by Ullmann, Schumann, and (a new set to me) Rachmaninoff.
I’d also been hatching a plan for New City Wien to participate unofficially in the city-wide Long Night of the Churches. Not wanting the idea to fall through the cracks, I rounded up ready volunteers, put together music with Maria (a classical flutist, who is also fond of improvising), and handed out flyers at the university. Sadly, hardly anyone showed up, partly because we couldn’t be part of the official booklet of participating churches (not being a state-recognized denomination). But, the ONE person who did come seemed to very much enjoy the evening and stayed and stayed: “Do not despite the day of small things.” …For me, it was new experience, as it was the first time I’d tried improvising with another musician for an audience! Quite fun, actually!
The school semester sort of felt like it petered out, rather than winding up for a stressful conclusion. This year I managed to go along for the teachers’ end-of-year outing – a day to the countryside along the Danube, in an orchard and vineyard region. We enjoyed a long and hot walk and ate well – a welcome chance to connect with colleagues outside the hurry of normal school-day interaction.
At Uni, I had taken an especially light load. Providential, as the semester turned out. My only exam was an oral exam for a class focused on the Easter narrative – biblical accounts, Pauline interpretation and application, and the interpretations of various theological and philosophical camps since. It was a bit nerve-wracking getting grilled even for just 15 minutes by the professor, but also vaguely fun.
Outdoors weren’t completely neglected, though no big hut-to-hut hike this summer. Instead, runs with friend Anne, and a splendid day hiking with roommate Jessica.
There were hellos and good-byes. A series of visitors or house guests continued the trend from the spring. Two friends from college came, and I met up with an Indian friend our family’s known since I was maybe three. I also spent an afternoon with my aunt’s old German professor and his wife. This was a special treat. Professor Schwarz is 94 and comes often to his native Vienna, a city he was forced to flee as a teenager at the outbreak of the Second World War. Besides welcoming friends from afar or meeting people who know Vienna much better than I ever will, there were also some good-byes. Besides telling friends good-bye before heading home for the summer, there was the reluctant task of saying bon voyage to my French friend Pauline, who was moving to Chicago.
A backdrop to the end of the school term and arrival of the summer was the ongoing unknowns regarding why Mom wasn’t feeling well. Many doctors’ visits, plus hospital stays, had turned up mostly question marks – until an endoscopy unwittingly revealed a lump on her thyroid. By the time I left for the States, we knew that she was suffering from metastasized thyroid cancer, but we were consoled by the encouraging news that thyroid cancer is typically curable, due to its unique responsiveness to iodine treatments.
The day I flew home I made a last run by the visa office, hoping to have the awaited visa in hand after a particularly trying run of visits and paperwork demands. Unfortunately, it was not ready. Nothing more to do about it for now – except to lay the matter aside and anticipate a week with cousins in New York before heading home to Knoxville for Hannah’s wedding and whatever Mom’s needs might be.
Catching up with cousins for a week outside of NYC was truly splendid! Hoyt cousins Ben and Bryan are two of my eight “New Zealand cousins,” and the two whom I’m closest to in age. Ben and wife Franci, and their three girls, are strategically located in New Jersey/New York City these days, meaning that their home is the ideal launching station for flights to Vienna. But, it’s way more than a matter of practicality – and always also a chance for hearty laughter, tasty meals, meaningful conversation, and a place that easily feels like “home.”
However, although I’ve seen a good bit of the Ben Hoyts the past few years, seeing cousin Bryan again was a long time in coming – the last visit 2005/2006 when we Holders were in New Zealand for three months. And, I hadn’t met his wife Alexia or their four children! Needless to say, I didn’t want to miss out on a corner of their U.S. tour this summer!
Hence, a wonderful week, full of cousins and second cousins. The seven little people pretty well entertained themselves, and the adults had a surprising amount of time to “hang out.”
We had a day in the city – who could guess that asking the doorman at a fancy jewelry shop if the children in our midst could borrow a bathroom would turn into a friendly and funny encounter with a New York shop assistant? Or that one “must” eat donuts after a happy walk across the Brooklyn Bridge? Or, for that matter, that four adults could without mishap keep track of seven youngsters in the Big Apple? We walked a lot, took the ferry to Staten Island (the views of the Statue of Liberty fun, but just standing at the ship’s rail, hair flying in the wind, was more memorable).
Another day Ben and Bryan and I headed into the city on Ben’s normal commute route. We got a tour of Ben’s work setting (great, though I don’t know the least thing about computer programming), and then Bryan and I headed out for a visit to the One World Trade tower. …Now, admitting readily that we were every bit as much tourists as everyone else, it still felt a bit odd that the whole thing was so decidedly a tourist attraction. The underground elevator access area felt a bit like the start of an amusement park ride, and the elevator itself was part of the “experience” – showcasing an audio visual history of the rise of NYC, the soaring buildings digitally displayed on the elevator walls matching our own rapid ascent to the viewing level. Another audio-visual presentation greeted us at the top before we were “allowed” to see out the windows. We bypassed the cheesy ipad building locator interactive and finally got to take in the amazing views of the city. Quite impressive, even after all the hype, and worth doing once. That said, I probably enjoyed our bus ride home and a good talk as much as touring the NYC icon.
The few days with Bryan and Alexia and family and the rest of the week at Ben and Franci’s were so full of good things that it seemed almost longer than it was…not the usual feel of a vacation that disappears almost before you started to relax. Probably a good thing, as the rest of the summer was anything but restful.