Diary of a Foreign Wiener Week 1

Grüß euch! (ha, as if there is a plural number of readers).

I have as of yesterday survived my first week out in the foreign, Godless boonies of Europe (I am sending Mike Huckabee voodoo-vibes from here so he'll get infected with "European Ideas") and have finally caught up on sleep, food shopping etc (the first week was almost entirely devoted to either bureaucratic failure or Fulbright orientation, which was excellent but extensive) to record my mostly-unremarkable experiences for the public (and by "the public" I mean "me in 4 years when I look back at how fun my life was before I had to come back to America").

DAY 1 (Sept 21): I land at the airport after a pleasant flight on which I nevertheless did not get any sleep. Was met by my blog-friend Florian (he's long-suffering!), who proceeded to help me schlep my luggage clear across to the other side of the city, under promise of a lunch paid for by me which I then abjectly failed to deliver, due to my total exhaustion. When everything dies down I will procure a proper meal for him, if he is willing to be seen with me in public. After landing I wasted no time phoning the ISP from a TeleCafe so that I could immediately have Internet because I cannot live without the Internets! The tech service guy had to switch to English because someone doesn't know what an Ethernet ID is in German. I beheld my new apartment–which to a non-ex-New-Yorker would be the smallest apartment in the known universe, but is actually the second-smallest apartment I've ever lived in (and at a fifth of the price of my erstwhile studio in Manhattan in 2002). It has two rooms, a what they call Wohnschlafzimmer (though there is only a schlaf-related apparatus; though again, to be fair, I do the fair amount of my wohn-ing on the bed as well), and an identically-sized kitchen, which has a minifridge, a ministove, a good-sized sink, a nice big window, a teeny table, and…a shower. If you ever wondered what it was like to watch your lunch pasta boil while you lathered your hair, I can dispel that enigma for you. It's actually the second kitchen-shower I have had in Europe, and so far superior to the sad, awkward, person-sized sink in Prenzlauerberg (in 1997) that I don't at all mind it; I think it's kind of charming. Plus it makes me keep my bathing area really clean lest I turn into Kramer in the episode where he installed a garbage disposal in his shower. The toilet is in a separate closet-room in the hallway and I share it with all my neighbors. No awkward or unpleasant shennanigans have resulted from this so far.  The best thing about my apartment–aside from the fact that it's newly-renovated, fully-furnished, cozy and ALL MINE–is that it is located directly on one of the tram lines that takes you right to the university (hence its classification as a Studentenwohnung).  I have already individualized it a bit with some wall stickers from IKEA and plan to put some more on the walls as soon as I get my first paycheck (more on that to come). 

SO, in my new apartment, I unpacked, and then I went out and bought a nominal amount of groceries, in that it was Saturday and I would be foodless for two days otherwise. I was also wary of the small amount of foodstuffs left behind by the previous tenant, though not wary enough to cook up some spaghetti after dropping all of my laboriously purchased Bio-Spaghetti ("bio"=organic) on the floor. "You won't eat the leftover pasta here that I can't eat, but you'll eat some fucking stranger's spaghetti!" Waldemar said, and he had a point–until later that day, when I realized that it wasn't at all a stranger's spaghetti, but rather the spaghetti left behind by my college friend Sarah, who JUST HAPPENED to be the previous tenant of this apartment. So now I am eating all of her leftover (nonperishable) food and I don't care. Why is it that a stranger's leftover packaged food is weird but a friend's is OK? I guess a stranger could have poisoned everything or injected it with veal juice or something. On the eve of my first night, getting back to my extremely exciting diary, I conked out around 9 and slept until past 10 the next day. You would THINK that would have had some effect on my jet lag, but instead…

DAY 2: I ventured out into the city to see how long it would take to get from where I live to where I'll be working . The answer is: beats the bejeebus out of me, because I got lost and ended up hatching this genius plan to find a streetcar whose eventual destination was somewhere near where I needed to go and follow its tracks. This is easier said than done, as the tracks crisscross and divert all the fuck over the place. In any event, I eventually made it into the city center and located both the Fulbright offices and the IFK, and was proud of myself. I also bought a week card on the public transport so my trip home was fifteen minutes instead of two and a half hours.
So you would THINK that I'd be nice and tuckered out after schlepping around all day, but that was not the case, and instead I was wide the fuck awake until 5:30 a.m. (or at any rate that was the last time I dared to look at the clock before I conked out).

DAY 3: I didn't wake up until 1 pm due to the aforementioned sleep issues, and this severely hampered my ability to sound like a coherent person on my trips to deal with Austria's astounding bureaucracies (they are currently in the midst of an election, I mean right this second, as I write this, and all its result will mean is that the bureaucracy will get bigger and, at the same time, legitimize xenophobia, anti-Semitism and jingoism. So Austria will become EXACTLY like the US, minus the anti-Semitism in certain areas where JEWY JEWBOYS live). My first task was to officially register myself with the authorities, which I did poorly, under duress (I pushed a pull door and then turned the light off in an attempt to buzz myself out), and incorrectly; I learned of my mistake when I attempted to use my "registration document" to open a bank account and was summarily denied the honor. I then went to look for a cell phone with absolutely no luck (until I bought the first one I could afford) and came home and sulked. The only good part of the day was meeting one of my co-FBrs, Anna, who brought me a bunch of produce from the farmers' market in Graz, and who probably thereby saved me from the scurvy, as the ensuing week left me absolutely no time to procure food (didn't so much matter, as most days I was too nervous to eat).

DAY 4: Fulbright orientation began. Everybody is smart. Austria is complicated. Free juice!

DAY 5: See "Day 4"

DAY 6: See "Day 5" with the exception that this day also included a 6-hour catastrpophic journey to IKEA, which involved a mismanagement of the S-Bahn (a GREVIOUS mismanagement), a mismanagement of which IKEA I was going to (there was a lot of me waiting at the cafe of one IKEA and one of my buddies waiting in the cafe of the other one, going "where IS she?"), and a very, very, very scary wait for the S-Bahn back (think: abandoned-looking train tracks in the dark). It was, however, worth it, because I got a coffee press, so now I can drink my Viennese coffee the way I like it, and I have been drinking coffee all day long (this may contribute to my current jitters, which I am perhaps falsely attributing to nerves w/r/t my first day of school at the IFK).

DAY 7: The Fulbrighters take a field trip into the Danube Valley, which includes a trip on a B-O-A-T that I survive thanks to three sips of wine. We also tour two monestaries, one in Melk and one in Dürnstein; they are both baroque but only one of them has a church with full-skeleton relics in it. I'll leave you to guess which one. In Dürnstein we also got the option to hike up to the ruins of the old castle, which was grade-a kickass. By the time we got back to Vienna I was bushed and threw all of my leftover food into one pot,
boiled it, and ate it.

DAY 8: For the life of me I can't remember what I did yesterday; all I know is that at the beginning of the day I didn't have any food in the house and now I have some. I think two stores and some wrangling of finances was involved (you can find all the fun organic veg food here that you can get in the States, but it's quite expensive). Last night the FBers and I went out, but it was one of those nights early on in study-abroad programs where you stand around in a circle on the street a lot wondering what to do (since I knew it was going to be like that, I didn't mind and found tromping around Vienna at night really fun at any rate). The FBers are a really neat group of people, and I'm not just saying that because they might read this (all right: I am. Actually, I hate them all–especially you, Kyle, joke being that there are two Kyles and NOBODY WILL KNOW WHO I MEAN). I had my token one glass of wine (actually I had Sturm, which is young fruit wine Austria specializes in this time of year; it tastes like less-sweet boozy juice and I LOVE IT) and went home. Oh, I remember what I did yesterday. I watched the first presidential debate on YouTube. It was stultifyingly dull. No matter who wins in November, the president will be BO-RING. Jeez.

DAY 9: Today I did some work on my dissertation and thought about all the Austrians voting. Then I took a little "urban hike" all the way up my street to the so-called Wilhelminenburg, atop which there is a castle (which is now a hotel), some cafes, and a lovely green park with a vineyard and sweeping views of the entire city (and probably all the way to Bratislava). It. Was. The greatest. And I live right by it! (Or a 45-minute uphill climb, which is good for the body).

If my first week in Vienna sounds boring and dissapointingly devoid of sightseeing, that is because I did not have any time to sightsee, and you'll just have to trust me that it wasn't boring, all right? I also drank a massive fuckton of coffee, but I figured that went without saying. This has been an extraordinarily long post that says almost nothing, but I wanted to preserve this week for posterity and writing in paper diaries is for losers!*

*Speaking of both "paper diaries" and "losers," no less than 10 people in this FB group have the "classy" Moleskine Vienna book that is SO SHARP with its hidden maps etc, except the maps are all inaccurate! By "losers" I mean "me" and not them, though in honesty I have found that stupid book indispensible.

**Footnote from nothing: I realize there is a miserable dearth of photos accompanying this post. I have left my camera at home all fucking week. I didn't mean to. I'll take some photos soon.

3 thoughts on “Diary of a Foreign Wiener Week 1

  1. Sounds like a fun week! Your description brings me back to April 1999, when I enrolled at the FU.
    Hah! And that thing about study abroad group people standing around in circles in the street — I have a distinct memory from 1997 about that. Maybe on the Ku’damm? Or getting out at S-Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz and all there were back then were cranes?
    Have tons of fun, Webecca! Geniess alles!


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