A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad

A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad: May 2013

May 31, 2013

A Dog Abroad

We are obsessed with our dog. The people closest to us know that we affectionately call him "our kid". This dog couldn't have been luckier to be rescued by us. He eats high-quality grain-free food that's produced in Canada (which we order online from Germany so that we didn't have to change his diet while we are here), we had a grooming truck come monthly to our house stateside, his first plane ride was in business class, and he gets to experience life here in Dogtopia. People love their dogs here, sometimes more than their own kids! They are permitted on public transit, restaurants, shops, etc. What a lucky dog indeed!

waiting patiently for the bus
on the bus

May 29, 2013


A friend told me that "just by being here, you've changed". She's right. I'm more resilient than I've ever been.  I've taken more chances. I've fallen a few times and have sprung back stronger. It surprises me how independent I've become also.

Coming from a traditional and typical Asian background, I never really lived away from home until one month before I got married (eloped). And as luck would have it, I only moved ten miles away from my family. Fast forward to November 2012 and finding out that we are moving across an ocean, I had a lot of anxiety built up. I've been extremely dependent on my family and Hubs up to that point in my life. What was I going to do without my mom and sister by my side? I was starting to regret not learning a lot of my mom's traditional Taiwanese dishes. And who was going to make homemade chicken soup for me and drive it over when I'm ill (willingly without me asking)? Those who know me well know that I'm a constant worrier.

In the past four months, I've had a few breakdowns of wanting to go back to the familiar. Back to the life I had built in the last 30 years. Back to my family who I miss terribly. But then I have days like today, where I'm out with a friend and have a sense of normalcy for a few hours. It's days like today that I spring back up and feel like I can continue to endure and embrace this new life I have. This new beginning that I am so privileged to have.

Most people would love to hit that "start over" button.  However, hitting that "start over" button is a huge uphill battle. And from what I've been told, we haven't gotten to our lowest point. Usually that happens at the six month mark. I hope it's brought on full force, because it will really test the resiliency that I've built up. Will I buckle? Or, will I just pick myself back up and carry on like the last couple times? Only time will tell...

May 26, 2013

Stadtpark on Sunday

Sundays have always been our "catch up" day even before we moved here. Back stateside, it was a day of running errands, laundry, cooking for the week, getting work clothes ready, etc. We never made plans on our calendars nor wanted to venture out. It was the only time that we could get a lot of things done without worrying about the next workday.

Living in a predominately Catholic country where everything shuts down on Sundays, it has reinforced our usual routine minus the running of errands. And with nice weather like today, it gives us opportunities to explore the numerous parks in the city. We went on a leisurely stroll in Stadtpark and then walked over to Cafe Sacher for some eiskaffee and pastries. Now it's back to catching up for the coming week. Wishing everyone a pleasant week!

"whoever feeds pigeons, feed rats!" (meanwhile, you see little kiddies nearby feeding the ducks and pigeons)

random "pond" with penguins

statue of Johann Strauss

May 24, 2013


Getting any kind of repair done to your flat here is a big to-do. In our particular case, we usually contact our landlord and he would make arrangements for a company to come out and do what needs to be done. For the most part, they get here on time, get the job done and go on their merry way.

After getting back from London, we had repairmen set to come during the course of this week. I knew that the first set were going to be a quick one, because they were only here for a yearly check on our water heater.

The next one is a bit more complicated. After snow melts and heavy rain, there is a consistent leak at our front door. Usually it doesn't come into the flat, but when it does it's a pain in the butt to clean up. So after taking numerous pictures and our landlord going back and forth with the building management, we got them to come out on Wednesday. They started with the roof and tried to emulate a rain storm with a water hose. When that didn't work, they started to tear down the ceiling in front of our door. And when that didn't do it, they had to take down the ceiling in our entry way. After a day and half of pounding on the roof  and tearing down ceilings, they finally found the problem.  They said that the problem would be "quite difficult" to fix. Oh wonderful. So as I sit here on day three, and none of the workers showed up because they don't tell you the real important facts, like when they are leaving and when they will be back. I pray that the roof part is fixed enough so that if it does rain this weekend, Hubs and I won't have a waterfall coming into our apartment. Oh the joys of living on the top floor!

Let's hope that they show up Monday...

Close up of the hole on the inside of our flat

Yes, because the flimsy taped plastic will really help if it downpours!

May 22, 2013

Lovely London (Part Two)

London has so much to offer. In just a few days we packed in a play on the West End, had real high tea surrounded by locals and not tourists, saw a few Harry Potter sights, and Harrods.  Hubs got to see all the famous landmarks and I got to see them from a different perspective as well.  It was truly an amazing time.

We were both sad to get back on the plane and come back to grumpy town. As soon as we boarded, I was seated next to an older Austrian man. He was huffing about the fact that he had to get up to let me into my seat. That was the moment that I realized it was back to reality. A reality that I'm not sure I can stay optimistic in for three years-at least this week. I wonder if I will become just as crabby at the end of all of this?

The famous Harrods Department Store! Interior pictures below.

Memorial for Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed inside Harrods

The famous Abbey Road
The Queen was not home, so we got to be in the guard posts :)

cool display of antique Singer sewing machines in a clothing store

May 20, 2013

Lovely London (Part One)

Even though I've been there before, this time around felt like my first. I felt so appreciative to be surrounded by English speakers, smiley faces, and all things English. For such a large city, the people are very friendly and willing to help when needed. Such a stark contrast to Vienna. Hubs and I agreed that for our sanity's sake, London would be our refuge when we have bouts of homesickness and in need of reviving our taste buds.

When I first arrived in London, I was actually afraid to speak English and thought that people were speaking German! It took a few hours to get acclimated and realize that I was not dreaming or hallucinating. I didn't have to "dumb down" my English in order for the locals to understand me. It felt so liberating. I told Hubs over the phone that I may never come back to Austria after my first night there.

Hubs joined me a day later and we went along and did all the touristy things. We were so happy getting in some authentic ethnic foods too. It's not that big of a surprise that a lot of our favorite foods are so hard to come by here. We've found a great Indian and Vietnamese restaurant, but have failed on numerous occasions for other favorite cuisines. We were so spoiled where we lived stateside and made a few trips to NYC to get what we wanted, sometimes. We were known to travel great distances for food to those who knew us best. London definitely fits the bill on this side of the pond.

Great view from our apartment!

Our tube station

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey
Portabello Road in Notting Hill
One of John Lennon's residences

May 14, 2013


My least favorite part about planning/getting ready for a trip is packing. I dread it. It doesn't help that I'm also OCD about the whole process. In the past I would start the process about a week to two weeks before a trip, depending on the the length and location. In all the years of traveling and having gone through all the horror stories you can ever imagine, I've compiled a full proof list. Most of which are common sense, but for those unseasoned travelers it's something to keep in mind for when you do decide to go somewhere.

  • Make you sure have all your documents in order at least a week before. Nothing like not being able to find your passport the day before and having to scramble to the Embassy first thing the next morning and changing all your flights (didn't happen to me personally, but has with family members)
  • If you are traveling internationally, leave all your contact information and copies of your passport with family members and friends. In this day and age, social networking sites are great for this too (not the passport part). Although it wouldn't help if you are in a location that doesn't have great internet services.
  • ALWAYS pack extra underwear and socks. 
  • If you have several flights or connections in your itinerary, pack a few outfits in your carry-on. If the airlines happen to lose your luggage along the way or on a cancelled flight that never left the airport (yes, that has seriously happened to us personally...on our  honeymoon no less!), you can still try to enjoy your destination for a few days until you get your luggage.
  • Make sure you have medication (particularly life saving ones) in your personal effects and not in your checked luggage. You don't know how many times I got yelled at by clients for this one. Um...how is that my fault that you were an irresponsible idiot?
  • Check the weather forecast every day up until departure and pack/repack accordingly. Nothing like going from spring like weather to just below freezing or vice versa in a matter of hours. LAYERS ARE KEY!
  • In Europe it's common to pay to use the toilet at a rest stop, tourist areas or train station.  Hold on to .50 and 1 Euro coins.  
  • Tourist areas are prime-time pick-pocket areas.  ALWAYS carry wallets/passports in front pockets and purses slung across your body at all times, even while eating.  A friend of ours hung her purse across the back of her chair while eating in London and didn't notice it had been taken until she and her husband were done eating.  They never even left the table, but somehow "they" got it.  Her money, credit cards, and passport were gone on the first day of their trip.
  • This may sound silly, but sometimes dressing like a poor person is good too. I don't mean rags or shirts with holes either. If you were a thief, would you go for the tourists who wore head-to-toe name brand everything or the t-shirt and jeans person?
Anyways, I think I've hit on all the major points. Just be vigilant, it's so common for people to leave their brains at home when traveling abroad. With that, I need to do the finishing touches to my packing list before I leave on a jet plane again.

May 13, 2013

Sights of Salzburg (Part Two)

You can't go to a place without doing at least ONE cheesy touristy thing. In Salzburg, it was checking out some of the filming locations of the movie "Sound of Music". One of the most interesting facts about the movie is that Austrians don't really know much about it. It brings back too many bad memories of the Nazi era. I have to be honest, it wasn't the highlight of the trip for us.

In front of the Leopoldskroner Weiher. This was in the scene when the children fall into the water. The castle in the background should look familiar too:)

We've also made a few side trips during our time in Salzburg.  Hallstatt is such a gorgeous town with lots of history. It's so popular that China replicated the town in the Guangdong province.

Gorgeous even on a rainy day.
Ghostly image my camera captured (I think a raindrop was on the lens)

On our last full day, we ventured into Germany, specifically Bavaria. I first fell in love with the Black Forest when we took a trip to Germany five years ago. The beautiful scenery and towns are so captivating, almost like being transformed into a fairy tale.  After all, the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and Passion Play town Oberammergau are located there.

Hubs and I are both fascinated with many parts of WWII, so it was fitting that we went to the Eagles Nest and the Berghof, where Hitler resided. The 'Berghof" is now a museum that dates back to the 1930's, even before the war started. It's one of the most comprehensive museums that we've been to in a long time and agreed that more time is needed for when we head back to finish it!  Somewhere on the order of 2-3 hours.

Eagles Nest is at an altitude of about 6000 feet and it snowed the day before we went up. We were lucky to even go, because it's usually not opened until late May! Needless to say, we didn't get the great views. It just means we have to go back, and maybe, with family and friends who come visit?

To sum it up, Salzburg has a lot to offer and a must when in Austria. The train ride from Vienna is only about two and half hours. So for those who would be interested in coming to visit, plan on tacking on a few more days to your itinerary.

Mozart rubber duckies

May 12, 2013

Sights of Salzburg (Part One)

Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart and for the film "Sound of Music". Its literal translation means "salt fortress" and rose to prominence on the back of its salt mines. Salt is now affectionately called white gold in Salzburg.  It's such a cute town and was named a UNESCO World heritage site in 1997. We only spent 4 days there and fell completely in love with it. Since it's situated in the valleys of the Alps, the landscape is breathtaking. It also rains quite a bit and therefore is very lush and green.

One of many cafes that first opened even before the United States existed!

Dom Salzburg
Interior of the Dom Salzburg

View of Salzburg from Fortress
View from the other side of the Fortress