So, my second week in Vienna started with a bang but ended quite decidedly with a whimper (or, at any rate, a hacking sound followed by a whine).
MONDAY: My landlady and landlord stopped by to re-sign my Official Registration Form (Meldezettel), because here in the Europeland they like to keep tabs on people. The first time I "registered myself," I mistakenly declared this apartment my "secondary residence," because everyone knows my primary residence is in Monte Carlo, obviously. Anyway, this bureaucratic snafu made it so that it was hard for me to open a bank account (though I did), and impossible for me to apply for a residence permit, so my landlady was nice enough to redo it for me. And her husband, who is American (and currently renovating the apartment two over at a breakneck pace!), was kind enough to fix the overhead light in the bedroom. FASCINATING, I know. In the afternoon I met some of the other Fullbrighters for coffee in terrific Viennese tradition, and then whatever I did for the rest of the day was uneventful enough that I don't remember it. All I know is that I am finally beginning to get a sense about where everything is in this city, which is pretty remarkable considering I get hopelessly lost everywhere except the island of Manhattan (which is on an idiot-proof grid except in the weird west village and down in blow-up-ville, where big surprise I used to get lost all the time). And by "everything" I mean "my neighborhood, the university, and the ultratouristfivethousand city center, which is still so low on tourists compared to Prague's Old Town that I barely notice them.
TUESDAY: My first stipend payment clears my fab new Austrian bank account. I rejoice, and hie me immediately to the bank, where I withdraw cash and no longer live on 3 euros a day like I had been before. I also spend the better part of the morning at the Immigration Office, where I am sent to two different waiting rooms erroneously before finally being allowed to present my highly-anticipated stack of paperwork and character-vouching documents so that I can become "legal," oh hooray. I liked it better the 7 months I lived in Berlin without so much as registering myself with the police. Good ol' under-the-radar Schuman, that was me. (That was also before the EU).
WEDNESDAY was my first day at work at the IFK, or "das Institut" as everyone there calls it. On the off chance that anyone there would ever read this, I will refrain from offering any details and say only that my workspace is super cool, I have had excellent opportunities to improve my German, and within two minutes there I blabbed to the legendary Prof. Dr. Helmut Lethen that I was nervous and now that is all he thinks about me. At night there was an opening party where everyone's project and picture was projected on a giant screen, and it was simultaneously terrifying and electrifying (with electrodes of terror).
THURSDAY at the Institut we had a meeting where everyone had to go around in a circle and describe their project. My German immediately plummeted to the far reaches of I Barely Speakville and remained there for the rest of the day. Why does that always happen? When the stakes are not high I can speak in German about as well as I speak English (or at any rate almost as fast); there are very few conversations I could not have in German at this point (this is not to say my grammar is always, or even most of the time, correct, I just no longer care about sounding perfect because I know German native speakers who sometimes make endearing errors in grammar or pronunciation in English and I don't think *they* are stupid), but for some reason in the situations where it "matters" (that is, I find myself talking to anyone I feel might be judging me: store/bank/restaurant employees, academics, the native German speakers in my own home department, around whom I largely refuse to speak in German at all) I immediately start sounding like Sarah Palin. Speaking of which, the great downfall of my week came when I stayed up on Thursday until 4:30 a.m. local time to watch the Biden-Sarmageddon, and was not at all surprised that because that fucking nutjob didn't actually trip on her own stilettos and drool all the right-wingers are saying she killed it (when in reality Obama's poll numbers are inching ever higher). I really wish the election were right now, because right now I feel like Americans are really focused on the shitty tanking economy and the US's similarly plummeting international relationship (without money, guess who won't be the number one bitchass bully on the block anymore?) and for the moment don't actually give two shits that Obama's a secret muslim/black liberation theologian/black guy/Weatherman/secret Mayor Daley relative. Who knows what kind of deplorable Willie Horton/Swift Boat debacle will develop in the next month, but no matter what actually does happen, I will always have the last eight days to look back upon when I was briefly optimistic about America. And needless to say even though I am ecstatic to be here in Vienna I am somewhat bummed to be missing one of the very rare times America is exciting and unpredictable round the clock. At any rate, speaking of clock, this decision to watch the VP debate was actually really dumb, because:
FRIDAY I was awakened at 9 by the aforementioned renovations of Apt. #10, and proceeded to feel sicker and sicker as the day progressed, and by the time I got home last night from meeting some of the other Fulbrighters for wine (I can now drink TWO WHOLE GLASSES without being drunk again, who's proud of me? Austrians aren't, that's for sure, they think I drink like a five year old; to which I say, there is a *reason* you are all astounded to find out I'm 32, and that reason is currently pickling your liver and gumming up your lungs, not that I am an asocial prude like they are accusing me of being–didn't you hear me? TWO GLASSES!) I was officially so sick I caved and turned on the heat in my apartment despite how much it will probably add to my rent to do so.
TODAY (Saturday) I cooked Everything Noodle Soup and ate approx. 5 bowls of it at two hour intervals and pickled my organs with ginger tea and Multivitaminsaft. I dragged myself out of my sickbed to go to the birthday party (an astoundingly old 24) of one of my Fulbright buddies, and scooted back here in time for a midnight Computer Machine of the Future Double Television Chat with Waldemar, who recently got Skype hooked up (much to the delight of his cousins in Germany and mom in NY, not to mention me). I still feel pretty crappy, but not crappy enough to whine about it at great length, thanks to the astounding amount of honey I just put down by way of aforementioned tea.
Again, I realize that by most accounts this week was boring, and the day by day recaps will be going by the wayside as soon as I establish a routine (Friday was a good indication of things to come in that respect, though I was a little tired at work–did I mention that at the IFK I get to drink AS MUCH VIENNESE COFFEE as I want and as much mineral water as I want, up to eight glasses a day, for free? And that there is someone there named Björn and that is fun to say? Well, I do, and there is). And if you want photos you can just look on my stupid Facebook (where you can also see some photos other FBers took on our outings) where they will be posted as interesting or not-so-interesting things occur (or don't).