A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad

A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad: March 2013

March 30, 2013

Outlet Shopping & Lunch in Bratislava

We spent the day with a few of Hubs' co-workers and their families. We started off by heading out to the outlets, which are about thirty minutes outside of Vienna. A few hours of my first retail therapy since living here was a wonderful treat. Since the two other families rented cars for the long weekend, they offered to have us along.  It was great to get out of the city and spend time with other friends who speak English.  After shopping, everyone was trying to figure out where to go for lunch. A few of the guys mentioned going to Bratislava for lunch. Why? Because it was only about a twenty minute drive from where we were. How freaking cool is that? So the eight of us hopped back in the cars and off we went to Slovakia!

In other news, check out my new car!!!*

* not really, but I wish!

March 29, 2013

Frohe Ostern!

I'm incredibly proud to have successfully completed the first half of "A" level of German. It's a great start to a long weekend packed with many activities. Wishing everyone a great weekend!!!

March 27, 2013

A little bit of socializing

Last week a few classmates and I exchanged numbers and casually mentioned having lunch sometime soon. We made good on it and had a lovely lunch today. It felt so good to finally have some sort of social life outside of Hubs and Hershey.

By nature, I'm an introverted person and although surprising, I haven't always been that way. Probably from my childhood til my early twenties I was a social butterfly. My relatives have said that I was a 'wild child', always getting into some sort of trouble. I loved being the life of the party. In college, my weekends were spent at clubs, drinking, dancing with friends and meeting new acquaintances. I even met my first serious boyfriend at a club and that lasted three years. Fast forward to today and it's a complete 180. I can't stand the taste of any alcohol, beer or wine, and I hate crowds. Go figure!

With that said, it takes an awfully LONG time for me to warm up to people. Many would say that their first impression of me is that I'm reserved and extremely shy. I'm more of an observer. To move to a country where the locals aren't exactly open to foreigners doesn't bode well for anyone- it's even harder for those like me. I am grateful for days like today, where it gives me a sense of belonging and normality. Having lunch with classmates is another thing to look forward to on a weekly basis. Slowly, but steadily, I'm putting down more roots where I now call home.

March 25, 2013

Midnight Scare

I am usually a very deep sleeper, meaning that I could literally sleep through a bad thunderstorm and not be affected by it. However, last night I kept waking up because Hershey was acting weird and out of his usual routine. He would sleep for a few hours, get up and go downstairs to get a drink of water. This time it took him a while to get upstairs (he would pause after every few steps) and then proceeded in making more funny sounds. My instinct was to hop out of bed and switch on all the lights and also wake Hubs up. I've never been so frightened for our dog after what I discovered. His 'boy' part was swollen and completely exposed. We started researching emergency veterinary offices near us, found one, and their website said "We speak English" - perfect. Thankfully, the doctor on call spoke perfect English (as advertised) and told us to meet at the office in thirty minutes. Hubs scrambled to get dressed while I called a taxi service for him to get there. The doctor said that we were lucky, because if we would have waited til opening hours, it would have been much much worse. With boy bits exposed like that, Hershey could lose blood circulation to the area and if not treated immediately could result in amputation. Oh my goodness. Hubs's got back home a little after 3:00 AM and we had to closely monitor Hershey in shifts for the rest of the morning. Needless to say, we both had to call out sick today. 

March 24, 2013

A Very Wiener Wochenende

Schönbrunn Palace

We spent the weekend on the grounds of the very famous Schönbrunn Palace. It was a beautiful, but bone chilling cold day. The main purpose of this visit was the Easter Market. It happens every year for a few weeks leading up to Easter.

 After strolling around and buying a few things, we decided to warm up in one of the many cafes offered on the grounds. It was even our first time tasting the famous Wiener Apfelstrudel.

We couldn't leave without taking in the free show of how they make this yummy goodness!

If and when the weather decides to warm up here, we will be back to tour the inside of the palace and the gardens. It was truly a great weekend playing tourists!

March 22, 2013

Die Toiletten

Before moving here, it was no surprise to us to have to pay to use public restrooms. We have encountered this practice during our travels throughout parts of Europe and even in Egypt of all places! The first time that we saw this in 2008, we thought it was a crazy idea. It's common for these to be in high traffic areas such as train and U-Bahn stations, tourist areas, etc.  The price is also usually fixed at about the equivalence of sixty-five cents. It affords the services of a restroom attendant that cleans every stall as people leave and keeps the sink area pristine.

By far the best public restroom to date!

Wouldn't you pay a small price to ensure a clean toilet? 

March 21, 2013

Two Months

Has it really only been two months since we got on that plane and left Maryland? It seems a lot longer than that to me.

I had a great conversation with a classmate of mine. He's a Spaniard who moved here to be closer to his girlfriend and one of the few in my class that speaks English really well. During the break, he asked questions in German of what brought me to and where I lived in Vienna. I answered back in German of course and then we transitioned to English when the topic got too complicated for us. He found out that I would not be able to work while I lived here. His response was "Wow, you really did give up everything to come here." He truly started to empathize with me. He couldn't imagine being in my shoes. Since he's from another European Union country, it's technically easier for him to move here and set up on his own outside of his girlfriend's life. That's like that with most of my classmates. It's surprising that the friendliest people I've encountered here are in my class. Right now, my life revolves around learning the language/culture, our family of two and half, and exploring this city. I look forward to getting up and going to such a nurturing sanctuary for a few hours. It gives me purpose and somewhat counteracts the loneliness that I feel at times.

My classmate made another great point "It feels like we are children again, having to rely on so many people for simple tasks".  Like our neighbor incident yesterday, I would have known what to say without having to ask for anyone's advice stateside. Instead, I called our Austrian landlord's daughter to see how she would handle the situation. It's like having to ask your mom permission to go do something. Ugh, I hate doing that and it makes me feel helpless, but it did feel good to be able to exchange similar frustrations with someone that was in the same boat as me.

I've learned more about myself in the last two months than I have in a long time.  I'm stronger than I give myself credit for, braver for taking on this huge endeavor, and more fearless because of this experience.

March 20, 2013

Random Ramblings

  • My first attempt at executing my whole food order in German was a complete success! It's a minor step into becoming more comfortable in my own skin here.
  • It's nearly impossible to make friends here. Austrians are reserved and keep to themselves. Smiles are not welcomed. Even my classmates agreed and most are from other EU countries!
  • PDA is rampant here. Although reserved, Austrians aren't shy when it comes to having full on make-out sessions on the streets, u-bahn stations, etc. As a hopeless romantic, it feels like being transported into a Nicholas Sparks book, that is until you see tongue action. 
  • The transportation here works on the honor system. Technically, you could ride for free, but if you get caught, one would pay a hefty fine. I've gotten checked a handful of times by uniformed and plain clothed workers.  And no, I wouldn't dare ride for free!
  • When you get your hair washed at the salons here, the stylists wear plastic gloves (like the ones dentists and surgeons use). From my observations the other day, the stylists also don't really strike up conversations with you either even if you spoke German.
  • My classmates have kept me sane. Even though we are unable to have deep conversations with our native tongues, we are all in the same boat and that alone gives us great comfort in one another.
  • I got home today and there was a bright post-it note on our door. It was entirely in German, so I had to try to read it myself and also got help from Hub's co-worker. It had to do with our beloved Hershey.  The note basically said that our dog cries too much and if we don't take care of it, they will call Animal Protection Services on us. SH*T! As Hub's coworker explained it, Austrians are super sensitive to "disruptive" sounds and to animals. So I contacted our landlord's daughter and asked for advice. We will attempt to make contact with the neighbors tonight on top of leaving a reply at their door too. Let's hope we can work something out. We really don't have to option to transport Hershey back stateside and it'll be over our dead bodies before we have to hand him over to Animal Protection Services!
Hi, I'm Hershey and I have major anxiety issues when my humans leave the house. And yes, I sound like a human baby wailing when I cry.

March 17, 2013

Wiener Staatsoper

Last night was truly a magical night. The Opera house opened its doors in 1869, but was devastated by the bombing in 1945. Only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared from the bombs. It was then rebuilt and opened again in 1955.  Today, it is one of the most famous Opera houses in the world.

Snapped this picture as we got off the tram. GORGEOUS!!!
Gasp!..literally took my breath away

We were delighted to take in the performance of  Le Nozze di Figaro, which happened to be composed by Mozart (fun fact: this piece premiered in Vienna on May 1, 1786 at the Burgtheater). How fitting to have our first opera experience here in Vienna with this beautiful and well known piece. The summary of the story is that the Count, who is married to Rosina, now seems to have a wandering eye for other women, especially his servant Figaro's fiancee, Susanna.  Figaro, Susanna, and Rosina devise a plan to embarrass and restore the Count's love to Rosina, while the Count tries to delay Figaro's marriage to Susanna. 

Truly an amazing night and we can't wait to partake in many more performances during our time here.

In awe of the architecture!
Just like how movies depict Opera houses
Waiting for the show to start

March 14, 2013

To chop or not to chop?

I'm due for a haircut and have been toying around with chopping off my hair for the last few days. The length of my hair is the longest that I've had since ninth or tenth grade. With that said, its been quite an interesting experience trying to find a hairdresser here. I've actually been putting it off. It doesn't help that I'm very particular about who touches my hair. It took me a LONG time to find someone stateside that "understood" and knew how to cut Asian hair (you'd be surprised by how many butchered cuts I've had until I found my guy in Towson, Maryland).  After class today, I trekked over to the other side of the 1st district to make an appointment. With the snow and crazy wind it was hard to navigate to my destination. It also didn't help that I was hobbling all over the place! Usually I like to find my own way, but with the handicap I needed to know the fastest way to get to the salon.  I called Hubs and asked him to give me walking directions from the tram station. I made my way through and made my appointment.  Come Monday, we shall see what I've decided to do.

On my way back to the tram I spotted where the Easter market stalls were being set up. There are two Easter markets that I know are opening this weekend. It's set on our calendar to roam them over the next few weekends. I'm am so giddy with excitement! They are probably not as famous as the Christmas markets, but I'm still thrilled to be able to experience it! We are also going to our first show at the world famous Vienna State Opera this weekend. It's definitely going to be a great weekend compared to last!

March 13, 2013

On the mend

Since breaking my toe last Friday, things have been uneventful around here and therefore a lack of blog posting by yours truly.

I've never broken a body part in the thirty years that I've been around and it HAD to happen in a foreign land. It happened right as I was leaving for my German class. I don't even remember how I tumbled down our staircase. It hurt like hell, but I still hobbled to class not thinking to check my foot. After getting home, I took off my sock and was literally scared for my life! I've never seen my toe so black and blue before. I posted a picture on my Facebook, and thankfully, a few friends pointed out that it looked more broken than bruised. A few hours later, it was confirmed that it was indeed broken. Being the big baby that I am (anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a very low tolerance for pain), Hubs helped tape and elevate it. Our weekend plans were ruined and I was practically bedridden. I felt so bad. If you can picture it, it was quite hilarious trying to recite my recipes for Hubs to make our meals, while I was sitting on the couch. I truly appreciated him for all that he's done for me during the last few days.

Getting to/from class the last couple days have been quite interesting. I've resorted to sneakers, which makes "limping" a lot more comfortable and keeps my toe in place.

Speaking of class, I've almost survived week two and am already registering for the next level tomorrow. I love my class! Everyone is so encouraging and helpful. My classmates consists of Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Brazilian nationalities. I can't believe I'm the lone American, but love the dynamics and diversity of the class. Almost everyone speaks more than one language and for some- the only way to communicate is with the little German we know and our made up version of Sign language. It really forces you to get back to the basics of communicating and I think it's fantastic! If we all took a little more time and extra work in communicating and connecting with others, wouldn't the world be more peaceful and understanding?

March 9, 2013

Taking it in stride

As we continue to adjust to life here in Vienna, there are a few things that would irk most of you, stateside. It did at first for us, but now it has just become the norm.


The washers are half the size than those in the States, and the wash cycles take twice as long...So what would normally be a 45 minute wash cycle in a front loader, takes two hours here! That's not including drying either. Also, when you rent a place here, the washer/dryer does not usually convey. We lucked out that one did come with our place and still have the option to get another washer/dryer combo to put next to our downstairs bathroom. But with just the two of us, we only need the one that was already here. I could see how that would be an advantage to some to have two washers, especially with the long cycles.

Grocery Shopping

There are several options here and these are the four that we tend to go to for our needs.

Billa  - These are about half the size of Trader Joe's and it's usually in almost every neighborhood. Ours is right around the corner. It's great to get everyday needs, such as milk, eggs and veggies.

Merkur:  Our favorite. It's basically like the Wegman's equivalent. It's the closest in size of what would be a normal grocery store back in the States. They have amazing selection of cheeses, meats, fresh pastas, baked goods, etc.

Denns: Miniature version of Whole Foods. It's been my recent discovery and I love it for getting produce (especially for the "dirty dozen") and great selection of cooking oils, baking materials, etc.

Nakwon: General Asian store with most of our needs.

Cashiers are seated at check out and you bag your own groceries. So as your groceries are scanned, it's a race against time to throw them back in your cart. After payment, you take the cart to the "loading/bagging" area and bag your goods. Like many locals, we've invested in a trolley. It truly makes lugging groceries on public transportation A LOT easier!


These are definitely smaller, although some flats are starting to cater to expats. However, the freezers are of the size of a medium-large cooler at best. We actually don't throw out as much food as we did back in the States. We buy what we need for a few days and go back to the grocery store when needed.

March 5, 2013

How did travel become my obsession?

Growing up, I've always wanted to see the world.  I envied family and friends who got to go places and vowed someday that would be me. In college, with so many majors to choose from, somehow I stumbled upon Travel and Tourism. It was then, that my passion grew into an obsession. At that point in my life all my jobs were hospitality related - that was all I knew (or wanted to know).

Shortly after graduating, I got a job as a travel agent with one of the bigger travel agencies in the United States. It was literally the best job I've ever had up to that point in my life. I learned so much about so many destinations, helped people make their "dreams come true", and even dealt with all the horror stories that came with traveling. I loved every minute of it!  This is also when I started traveling extensively.

Traveling truly enriches my soul. It makes me so happy.

Hubs usually has some input of where we go and what we do, but leaves all the planning to me. After all, that's all I've ever done and it's one thing I can say I've mastered. Even though I'm far from it in my natural state, I'm completely a "Type A" person when it comes to planning every detail of our trips. It's so satisfying to hear "That was the best trip so far!" every time we come back from some place.

Many of my closest family and friends know this about me. My goal was to have traveled to all six inhabited continents (penguins don't count) by the time I turned 30. Why? So that I could technically say that I've traveled the world. My sixth would have been this past December, but a BIGGER plan sidetracked us for now...

In the last decade, I've traveled through five continents, 23 countries and over 180 cities. That list will only continue to grow and I'm so thankful to have a life partner that shares the same passion/obsession. I couldn't imagine doing it without the love of my life.

Neuschwanstein Castle (June 2008)

Whistler, Canada (October 2012)

March 4, 2013

And I thought Mandarin Chinese was hard...

Today was the first day of my German immersion class. I had the nervous jitters that one gets when starting something new. After the first three hours, I walked out feeling like all the energy was zapped out of my body. They weren't kidding when they said it would be intense. People have said that this would be the fastest way to integrating German into my everyday life. I've also heard a few people say that they become fluent after taking five consecutive months of these immersion classes. I honestly can't see myself there in July nor have I even set a deadline or goal of that sort! This is one of the hardest things I've ever encountered. Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese are cake walks compared to German.

I can't and won't give up. This is essential and I will need it in order to stay sane while living here. It's something that I will actually be using and not something that gets stored and collects dust in my brain (i.e.- quadratic equations).