Archive for December, 2009

Servus, Salzburg

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Servus is Austrian/Bavarian dialect for both hello and goodbye. It’s the German “aloha.” And while I’ve been home for two weeks already, it still kind of smarts to think that we ever had to say goodbye to Salzburg and to each other. Our last weekend excursion took me, Rachel, Rachelle, Kirsten, and Phil out to the little town of Oberndorf with Frau Schoettke to see the little chapel where “Silent Night” was first written and sung. It was dark and cold, but we walked around a bit and laughed at our ability to stand with one foot in Austria and one foot in Germany for a portion of the trek. Austria decorated for Christmas will always be one of my favorite memories, and Oberndorf and the towns around it did not disappoint in the decorations department. The chapel itself was impossibly tiny but well worth seeing. Just when we all thought we’d freeze for being out in the cold for so long, a friend of Frau Schoettke’s invited us all back to his house for tea and Christmas cookies. He and his wife stuffed us full of delicious foodstuffs and talked to us in a combination of German and English about all of the things we had done and seen while in Austria. And we rather enjoyed tormenting their two cats, Sammy and Selena. When we caught the train back to Salzburg later that evening we laughed and talked about things yet to be done and purchased and homework yet to be turned in. Our days in Austria were rapidly coming to an end.

I had a final exam on Monday as well as some half hearted attempts at cleaning and packing and some not-so-half-hearted purchasing of epic amounts of chocolate and gummy bears to bring home. Tuesday we woke up to snow, Salzburg’s wonderful way of seeing us off. Packing began in earnest on Tuesday, and Rachelle and I plotted out how we were going to finish all of the food in our kitchen before leaving Thursday morning. We dumped a lot of our stuff, lucky them, on our friends who are staying in Salzburg for the full year. Tuesday night we walked through the snow to the other dorm, Haus Humboldt, to laugh a lot and take our minds off of leaving. And laugh we did. Nearly everyone showed up at one point or another, and we got to witness one last mass panic when the dorm staff unplugged the Stiegl beer machine. Just before leaving we took notice of the shopping cart that had been hanging around the Haus Humboldt kitchen all night just waiting for me and Rachelle to climb in. Together we barely fit, but the real mistake was allowing Phil and Max control over where we were going. Somehow, we made it out of the situation alive. As it turns out, Phil took over the role of shopping cart passenger on the way out, and Zach, for better or worse, offered to steer the cart back down the street to our dorm. It wasn’t long until both Phil, and Rachelle, who had climbed on as well by that point, were both on the ground in the snow. Phil persevered, however, and he and Zach decided to take us on a snowy midnight detour down a random road behind the dorms. One thing led to another, and before we knew it we were in the middle of a playground in the woods. This playground held significant entertainment value because of its zip line. So there we were, the five of us coming up with new and ingenious ways of flying down the zip line, at nearly one in the morning, in the snow, in the woods, and with an 8:30 am class the next morning. Somehow no one died, though Phil’s ill conceived plan to run up a slide could have ended in a concussion, and we laughed harder than any of us had in a while, which, considering the amount of laughter that surrounded us on a regular basis, is saying something. When our fingers were numb and we had snow down our backs, we finally made it back to the dorm, where Phil managed to fall out of the shopping cart yet again. I think the clock read something around 2 by the time I climbed into bed that night.

We were tired the next morning, and most of us had bruises to show for many failed attempts at maneuvering on an icy playground, but I made it through my three classes that day as well as miraculously fit all my things into my two suitcases. That night after our Culture final exam, some of us went out for one last kebap before heading to O’Malley’s to suffer the inevitable goodbyes. Virtually the entire group, all 36 of us, sat around the otherwise empty bar (It was only 7 o’clock, mind you) and chatted and reminisced. Eventually everyone was on their feet, singing and dancing and laughing like it was just any other night out. That mood collapsed when, almost simultaneously, we all broke down and started crying. I’m sure the rest of the bar’s occupants thought we were all insane. Rachel and Kirsten were two of the first to leave, and so Rachelle and I were a bit of a mess from the start. Then, as people began making their exits in ones and twos, you would no sooner get over one goodbye before having to hug and cry over someone else’s departure. Almost everyone, guys and girls alike, was red eyed by the time we decided to leave.

When we got back to good old IK, we had to eat the rest of our food, so we made a second dinner of leftovers and the dozens of sausages Phil had failed to cook at a reasonable time. What followed was a ridiculous night involving Rachelle, Max and I collapsing on Zach’s bed while he and Phil tormented us with a “who can pick the saddest song and make the girls cry contest.” I do believe Phil won that one when he decided to be absolutely evil and play “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” But we had to laugh too as we watched all of Zach’s completely ridiculous video diaries from the semester. His atrocious camera work and very Zach-like commentary deserved all of the mocking they received, but at least they kept smiles on our faces. All too soon 2 am rolled around, and Rachelle had to meet the van that would take her to Munich for a 7 am flight. We’d been bracing for what we both knew would be the hardest goodbye, and we cried good and hard for a few minutes before I had to rip the band aid off and let her go. After her leaving, and some more crying, I eventually attempted to get some sleep before my own 8:45 taxi to the airport.

In reality, I only slept for a few hours and was awake again by 6. I sat in Phil and Zach’s room as they put the finishing touches on their own packing up before their 7 am van. I cried again saying goodbye to the two of them and Jessica. When my eyes finally hurt so badly that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to cry again I took a shower, took out the trash, and packed up the last of my own stuff. Max came over to help lug my huge bags down the three flights of stairs, and all too soon it was my turn to leave. There were six of us in our van, and we started out the drive to Munich telling stories from the night before and laughing about all of the things we were going to miss about Salzburg and each other. Then our long nights caught up to us, and we slept the rest of the way to the airport.

Once in Munich, things just got more interesting. When we checked in at the British Airways counter many of us discovered our bags were overweight, and, according to one BA employee, simply wouldn’t make it through our connection in London if we didn’t get them lighter. I managed to reach the weight limit just by moving my German dictionary and one other heavier item into my smaller suitcase. Other friends were not so fortunate. Jimmy found himself throwing away his shoes. Ryan came over to all of us with his arms full of clothes he had pulled out of his bag. Obviously not able to carry a wad of clothing on the plane as a carry on, he then proceeded to put many of those shirts on. Needless to say, that was entertaining. Meanwhile Ryan and some of the other girls who had arrived in a different van discovered that their flight had been changed to an earlier one so as to ensure that they would have time to catch their connecting flight to Boston in London. This left Jimmy, another Boston-bound kid, confused as to why his flight had also not been changed. Everyone rushed through security to get the Bostonites to their flight on time, and we found ourselves greeted by another group of AIFs kids at the gate. Turns out the earlier flight was the same one that our friends who had left Salzburg at 7 were on. This meant one last round of goodbyes before those of us remaining settled in to wait for our afternoon flight. A one hour delay meant we waited longer than we had intended. Jimmy saw his chances of making his flight home dwindle by the minute. When we finally got on the way to London we were all a bit relieved. Except poor Jimmy whose only consolation came from the fact that the flight attendant assured him he would make his connection because he had brought his running shoes, the lone pair of shoes that had made it through the earlier purge and which he was now carrying by the laces. Minutes before landing this same flight attendant informs him that his flight has in fact been changed to one leaving two hours later, so he’s alright after all. Once we land in London, we somehow manage to drive practically the full way around Heathrow as we wait for crew to de-ice planes. The three of us headed to Philadelphia are growing increasingly concerned at this point because our connecting flight is leaving in less than an hour and we have yet to be anywhere near to getting off of the plane. When we finally disembark we have to go through security yet again where we said quick goodbyes to the girls headed for JFK, and what was originally scheduled to be a three hour layover in London ultimately ended up being a case of having to run to the gate only to get there and find them already boarding. Of course by boarding I mean putting us all on buses and sending us halfway across London to wherever they had managed to park our plane. Once on board we of course managed to sit on the tarmac for over an hour before takeoff. Lots of fun. Somehow, I suppose because the pilot managed to, in his words, “put the pedal to the metal,” we only landed in Philly a mere ten minutes later than scheduled. Our long day of epic travel and tears was ended. At this point my internal clock was striking somewhere around 3 in the morning and begging me to go to bed, but I managed to stay relatively awake and coherent for my parents on the drive home.

Jet lag was not my friend for my first few days home. I found myself keeping the hours of an 85 year old woman, going to bed at 9 and getting up at 7:30. But I’ve since adjusted. And it has been good being home for the holidays and seeing friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in so long. But I remain terrible at goodbyes and looking through the nearly 700 photo prints I got in the mail a few days ago has done little to convince me that I wouldn’t drop everything and head back to Salzburg tomorrow if I could pick right back up where we left off. Those three months were more than I ever could have asked for, in every way possible. More fun, more exhausting, more educational, more challenging, more jam-packed full of laughs and friends and languages and Kodak moments than any three months have any real right to be. I learned a lot about Europe, about the US, and about my own ability to take everything as it comes as well as the fine art of laughing when you’re starving but dinner is taking two hours because your two little burners barely work and you don’t have a microwave. I wouldn’t trade a single moment. Many thanks to the best group of new friends a person could have, a group of people who played a huge role in helping to make the experience the chaotic, entertaining cultural exchange that it was. So, Servus Salzburg, with your so-pretty-they-look-fake mountains and church bells and pastry shops on every corner. You will be missed. ‘Till next time.

Best of…

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Here are my list of favourite songs and albums from 2009. The one thing I realized from making this list is that I didn’t listen to many whole albums and more individual songs (damn you Zune!) and that my taste in music has expanded considerably over the course of the year. Also, per usual, my list doesn’t match up with any other list I’ve read this year save for the inclusion of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in my top songs list. And Miike Snow and Franz Ferdinand. Everything else is just proof of how not indie I really am.

Top 15 Songs (In No Particular Order)

Top 5 Albums (In a Kind of Order)**

  1. Miike Snow – Miike Snow
  2. The Boy Who Knew Too Much – Mika
  3. It’s Not Me, It’s You – Lily Allen
  4. Tonight – Franz Ferdinand
  5. La Roux – La Roux

Honorable Mentions for Top Albums

  • Fortress ‘Round My Heart – Ida Maria
  • Ignore the Ignorant – The Cribs
  • Fruit – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

Albums I Wish Had Been Better (Or That I Would Have Liked to Have Liked Better)

  • Quicken the Heart – Maximo Park
  • It’s Frightening – White Rabbits
  • Humbug – Arctic Monkeys
  • Strict Joy – The Swell Season
  • The Resistance – Muse

And finally an explanation for the album order: As with my choice for my favourite Mika song, I didn’t want to be too obvious in picking my #1, so I went with the most consistently really good album. From there I ordered the albums according to a) how consistently good they were and b) how many tracks I consider to be above par. Hence why Franz Ferdinand comes after Lily Allen (the entire end of the album being crap as compared to the one or two tracks being not very good.) As mentioned in my foot note for this section, there are albums that I probably would have included if I had listened to them in their entirety :cough: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Noisettes, Gossip:cough: and some I’m sure I would have included if they had been released in the US this year :cough:VV Brown, Little Boots:cough: So there’s the logic for my top 5 albums. There is no logic for my top 15 songs because I basically just picked songs that I listened to a lot that were released in 2009.

*I picked this based on the fact that a) “We Are Golden” is too obvious and b) it’s the second most listened to song according to Zune from that album.
**The problem with this category is that a lot of the albums I would like to included (I’m sure) haven’t been released in the US. That and the fact that I didn’t listen to many whole albums from 2009, just individual songs. I plan on emending that for some artists, but again I’m limited by what has and hasn’t been released in the US.

Bargaining in Beijing

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

You can read a lot of bargaining tips online to assure you are not getting ripped off (i.e. your first counter-offer should be a quarter of the amount the seller gives you).  The one piece of advice I wish I saw on every site was to tell me to enter these supermarkets with balls of steel and to never let go of them.  If one does not hold their ground when haggling with these inhuman shopkeepers, you will either find yourself withdrawing unnecessary amounts of cash from the ATM, or just flat-out making a fool of yourself.  It also helps to know what you want to buy and how much you intend to pay.  For instance, I wanted to buy a pair of basketball shoes because Ben bought a pair of Adidas for 70RMB (about $10).  I thought I could get a pair of baller-kicks for under 100RMB, so I went and sought my own adventure.  The following is a textual depiction of how I bought a pair of yellow and black Air Jordans from these Wicked Witches of the East.

(David is walking through the market when a 5′3″ woman grabs his arm and pinches his skin with her 3-inch faux nails)

Demon Seller:  Hello you look-ah for shoes?  We have very good quality shoe for very good quality price.  Come inside my shop.  (David walks inside the shop, clenching his arm)

DS:  Which one you like-ah?  All good quality.

Me:  I like those yellow ones.  Can I try them on?

DS:  Of course.  You look-ah Chinese.  You speak-uh Chinese?

Me:  No, I’m Filipino.

DS:  You look-uh like Chinese.  (David tries on the shoes and continues to b.s. with the seller.  He likes the shoes and they fit well.  The battle begins)

Me:  I like these.  How much are they?

DS:  Okay.  These shoes.  Very good quality.  The best-ah.  (She takes out a calculator) Original price is…(types 1,400 RMB).  But because you look-uh Chinese, I give you good price-uh (types 1,200RMB)

Okay, so at this moment I freak out in horror, and I make sure my face shows it.  My plan of buying a pair of shoes for under 100RMB is kaput.  But I stay true to myself.

Me:  Wow, I think that is too expensive.  I cannot afford that.

DS:  Okay, you give me your best price-uh.  (David types in 30RMB.  The Demon Seller looks at him blankly, then looks at the calculator, then back at David, and begins to laugh).  What, you pay in Euro???  That’s impossible price-uh for me.  I give you four numbers and you give me only two.  That price impossible.

Me:  Okay, 35 RMB.

DS:  (LOL) C’mon, impossible.  These shoe, best quality.  Make just like American shoes.

Me:  Um, I think the shoes are good quality, but not the best quality.  So I don’t think they are worth 1,200 RMB.  I think they are worth 35 RMB.

DS:  Hahahah, you are very joke-ah.  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  No, no, no.  I do want the shoes.  But can you please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay, okay.  I give you this price-uh (types 1,150 on the calculator)

Me:  No way.  That’s just way too expensive.  I think you “joke-ah.”  I’ll give you 40 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  I lose money.

Me:  Fine, 45 RMB.

DS:  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  I do want these shoes, but your price is too expensive.  Nobody will buy these shoes for that much.  I’ll give you 50RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  You really joke-uh.

Me:  60 RMB.

DS:  (LOL and turns away).  I think you go somewhere else.

Okay, so at this point I feel like I’m losing this battle.  I’m thinking that I’m going to have to pay more than 100 RMB.  Maybe like 300 or 400 RMB.  I don’t want that to happen.  Even the nearby shopkeepers are listening to our conversation and hackling my outrageous efforts.  But I continue to dig through my guts.  It’s time for these tables to turn.

Me:  Okay, maybe I will go somewhere else.  But I know you don’t want me to.  Nobody is buying your shoes.  I am your only customer right now.  I know I can go somewhere else and buy these shoes cheaper.

DS:  Okay, you go-ah.

Me:  I don’t want to because I think you are pretty and I want to buy these shoes from you (I, unfortunately, actually said this).

DS:  Oh, you joke-ah.

Me:  I don’t.  I’ll give you 70 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  My final price is 1,000.

Me:  80RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.

Me:  I lose money too if I pay that much.  These shoes are not worth 1,000RMB.  These shoes are worth 80 RMB.  You will lose money if I don’t buy these shoes from you, because nobody else will come here and buy these shoes.  You have many many many shoes in your store.  I don’t think people are buying shoes from you.  But I want to buy shoes from you.  Please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay.  You give your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  90RMB.

DS:  You joke-uh.

Me:  Okay, then I go.  Bye-bye.  (David stands up from the chair and proceeds to head out.  Demon Seller steps in front of him and puts her hand on his chest)

DS:  Okay, I give you 900.

Me:  Too expensive.  I am leaving now.

DS:  No no no.  You give me best maximum price.

Me;  Okay…my best price is 100RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.  800.

Me:  No, bye-bye.  (David successfully walks out the store this time.  He makes it a couple feet out and Demon Seller is not continuing to bargain, like he was told on the interent would happen if he walked away.  And just when his hopes were about to go away…)

DS:  Okay, I give you 700 RMB.

Me:  Nope.  100 RMB.

DS:  Okay, this is my final final price.  You take it or leave it okay?  (She types in 500 on the calculator)

Me:  No.  Too expensive.  I will go now.

DS:  C’mon.  Give me your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  Fine.  105RMB.

DS:  Oh you joke-uh.

Me.  Okay, then I leave.  (David walks away, this time he makes it to the stairwell.  Demons Seller yells from her store and runs after him).

DS:  Okay, 400!

Me:  No thank you.

DS:  200!

Me:  Too expensive.  Bye-bye.

DS:  Oh, you too difficult.

Me:  So are you.  Bye-bye.  (David walks away)

DS:  150!

Now, I probably should have taken this price.  But I noticed how quickly her prices went down when she got to the mid-hundreds, so I figured this should end with me paying my price.  So I continued to be “difficult.”  If I lost these shoes, so what.  I personally thought I already lost this battle just because I intended to pay way less than 100RMB.

Me:  No thank you.  (David walks through doors and is about to go down the stairs).

DS:  (In a very disgruntled and exhausted voice that also inferred defeat).  OKAY!  COME BACK!

Me:  105?

(DS nods reluctantly) DS:  You are very impossible, you know?

Me:  I know.  Thank you.

$15 Air Jordans (made and haggled for in China)

$15 Air Jordans (made, and haggled for, in China)

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

On Christmas Eve, I’ll be on an overnight train headed to Beijing, arriving Christmas morning and staying for two days.  Pretty cool, huh?  I’m very excited to see what China is like on Christmas Day, and I’ll make sure to let you know what it’s like too.

Before I go, I just want to say to all my friends and family, Merry Christmas!  Enjoy the holiday, play in the snow (I heard the East Coast has been getting inches and inches of it!), and keep my presents under the tree!  I’ll be back before you know it…

Happy Holidays

Xmas cards from my students

Xmas cards from my students

A New and Improved Purpose

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

So I’m requisitioning this blog for a new purpose: a thorough record of my semester in London. I’ll still post reviews (of which I hope there will be many) but I’ll also be posting about my classes, living in London, and any other being-in-a-foreign-country-related things. So let’s start with a description of the three classes I’m signed up for thus far:

Music Radio
This class is the one that confuses me the most in terms of scheduling. We meet twice a week from 10am to 5pm but it’s only listed for meeting for the first half of the semester. Which confuses me because I’m getting a full 15 credits for it (4 in the American system). But in terms of content I’m really glad I got into the class because it’s going to teach me an invaluable skill: How to incorporate quizzes into my radio show. That and other technical stuff that will be really good to know once I graduate from free form radio to regular programmed radio. Also one of the books we’re suppose to read for the course I’ve already read, so that’s nice.
Law and the Music Market
Contracts! We meet once a week for two hours where in I will learn about intellectual property, copyrights and you, and contracts! I’m actually really quite excited about this class because…well because I am. The copyright and intellectual property stuff is actually very pertinent what with illegal downloading and mash-ups and all that good stuff. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s going to be interesting dammit. Even if I can’t explain why.
Principles of Music Marketing
This is the class I’m least excited about largely because I have no plans for going into music marketing. Sure it will be interesting from an intellectual standpoint and in terms of transfer credits it will do quite nicely, but in terms of real life interest…not so much. So yeah.
Well those are my classes. I have three more weeks until I’m actually in London so unless something super exciting and related to my studies and/or reviews pop up (or I finally get down to reviewing the Cribs and Arctic Monkeys most recent albums) there won’t be any updates until at least Jan. 17th (day before orientation.) I may post a “best of” list at the beginning of Jan. but don’t count on it. So yeah. Welcome to my new and improved blog.

Hello world!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Welcome to UMW Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging! If you need some help getting started please refer to the support documentation here.

1st Post

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I am studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland for the spring semester! I leave in early January!

On the Home Stretch

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

For better or worse, but mostly for worse, we’re almost done. Almost to the point of packing suitcases and getting on transatlantic flights headed for the States. Even with finals looming and the calendar telling us flat out that we only have four days left together in Salzburg, it’s a bit surreal. Last weekend, though, it seemed like we were never leaving. That I was going to spend the rest of my life cooped up in my dorm room writing research papers. Because of my three independent study classes I had three very large papers to write, and fortunately for the procrastinators among us some conveniently timed Austrian holidays gave us a five day weekend to work on them. Over the course of those five days I managed to finish nearly all of the work I have left for the semester, my only remaining tasks being editing one last paper and writing a short summary for my International Conflicts class. My papers will not be the best papers ever written, but they definitely include some creative turns of phrase included to help reach the 6,000 word minimum.

But tales of homework make for a pretty boring blog post. Saturday night Rachelle and Max and I took a study break to head into town and catch a ‘Krampuslauf’ which means Krampus Run. The Krampus are creatures said to accompany St. Nicholas the night before he makes his rounds, and they weed out the naughty children by hitting them with whips or switches. It’s a tradition that basically only exists in Bavaria and this part of Austria, so we figured we had to see it for ourselves. There are officially sanctioned Krampus who aren’t allowed to really hurt you, but then there are also unofficial groups who have no qualms about actually beating people. A combination of both types floated about Salzburg the week leading up to St. Nicholas Day, and many friends reported having not so pleasant encounters with the terrifying men in furry suits and scary masks. When the last Krampuslauf of the season rolled around we were a little nervous, but mostly convinced that they couldn’t possibly be as scary as everyone had said they were. We bravely made our way to the route of their run and then stood in wary anticipation. The crowd got thicker and we eventually heard bells in the distance. When the six or so Krampus got to our spot on the street we found ourselves struggling to reconcile our desire to take photos with our even stronger desire to run for our lives. Krampus are scary. Really scary. They are huge and get right up into your face threatening to hit you. Everyone in the crowd was screeching and attempting to hide behind one another as the Krampus grabbed random people from the crowd and tormented them. When the Krampus (plural Krampi? Krampese?) finally shuffled past us we heaved a sigh of relief and made our way to the bus to get back to our dorm and back to safety. It must have taken a good half an hour before my pulse returned to its normal rate. All I can say is, no wonder Austrian children are perfect little angels. If American kids were threatened with a Krampus instead of lame coal in their stockings, they’d be much better behaved too.

The Krampuslauf was the most drama I experienced this week. We went out for Italian food with Kirsten and Rachel on Tuesday night but that was just about the only other time I left the dorm during our five day homework marathon. Thursday night brought the last karaoke night of the semester at O’Malley’s, an evening of terrible singing and smoke inhalation to be enjoyed by all. Friday we ventured back out to Hellbrunn Palace to see the Christmas Market there. I had been with my parents, but Kirsten and Rachel had yet to see it, so we wandered around for a bit, though their lack of reindeer disappointed me yet again. Friday was a shopping day, and Rachelle and I trekked through the Christmas Market in search of various things for ourselves and our friends. I’m trying real hard not to think about the fact that each time I go into a certain store or catch a certain glimpse of the town might be the last time I do so this semester. Taking my mind off of our imminent departure was a Christmas party at Frau Schoettke’s today, which was fun and probably the last time a large group of us AIFS kids will be together outside of class. It also snowed this morning and again tonight, so we got to experience something at least resembling a snowy Salzburg. It didn’t stick on the roads, but walking home from Frau Schoettke’s tonight was about as wonderfully Christmassy as it gets. This week: the Silent Night chapel, final exams, one last kebap, packing, and more crying than I’ve done in a while.

Christmas in Salzburg

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Last Saturday Rachelle, Maya, Kirsten, Rachel and I woke up early to spend the day making Christmas cookies. We lugged our baking ingredients and cookie cutters to Frau Shoettke’s apartment and spent the rest of the day crowded into her tiny kitchen improvising recipes and taking hot trays out of the oven with tea towels instead of hot pads. Apparently Frau Shoettke doesn’t believe in them. Hot pads, that is. She did, however, have a set of American measuring cups so we managed to mix most of our four types of cookies (plus fudge!) rather well. Our biggest debacle came when we realized we had forgotten that sugar cookie dough needs to chill before it gets rolled, and we had somewhat stupidly saved the sugar cookies for last. When we finally attempted to roll it, the dough stuck to the table and refused to allow us to pick up any cut out cookies we managed to create. So into the freezer it went. Eventually, after adding an alarming amount of flour and learning to roll the smallest amount of dough at a time we got all of our cookies made, hedgehog shaped ones and all. More importantly, they all tasted quite good. Later Saturday night we went to a “Latin Party” hosted by another university here in Salzburg, and the girls attempted to teach me some semblance of actual Latin dancing. Not sure that worked out so well.

Sunday was busy yet again as we had planned to get out to the stadium to see a football game at least once while we’re here, and Salzburg was playing Vienna on Sunday, a rivalry worth seeing. We met our friends at the bus stop about two hours before the start of the game in the hopes that we could get there and get tickets before they sold out. We weren’t quite anticipating what happened next. At a bus stop outside of town, in front of a random fire station, the bus driver turns off the bus looks at the five of us strangely for staying in our seats and says “Ende.” The bus was done. According to our map and all other available information that bus went all the way to the stadium. Just not for us, apparently. At a lose as to what to do, we got off of the stopped bus and tried to assess our situation. We were in rural Salzburg and an unknown distance from our destination. I had carried my road map with me every day for the entire semester until I gave it to my parents the weekend before and forgot to get it back, so of course we had no actual map when we needed it. Turns out Kirsten is directionally skilled even when it comes to bus maps, and she managed to lead us on a scavenger hunt of sorts from bus stop to bus stop until we found the stadium on foot. Never a dull moment.

When we got to the stadium we got in line for tickets and managed to get five for the fan/student section. This meant we got cheap tickets, but we had to sit with the crazies. Or stand, because the only time we got to sit was during halftime. But before we even found our seats we had to get into the stadium which involved going through security. We got in line and were soon thereafter informed that we were in fact in the mens’ line. Oops. So we got in line again. After we’d all gotten through the correct line they told us we couldn’t get into the building through that door because our seats were on the other side of the stadium. Cue walking back around, through a third security line, and then finally into the stadium and into the fan section.
We cheered on the Red Bulls for the next ninety minutes or so, clapping and yelling German gibberish like the crazed people around us. The section had its own drum to beat out the chants, and two men who led the crowd in cheering. We picked up some of the words/meanings of the chants, but for the most part it was just fun being around all of that enthusiasm. The Vienna fans were across the field from us, but they had their fair share of flags and choreographed chants as well. They even had flares. As to why they took Rachelle’s water bottle away at security but let the fans in with flares I haven’t a clue, but it made for quite the scene. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, but perhaps it’s better no one scored a goal. Regardless of which team it had been, I think I would have feared a bit for my life.

Monday and Tuesday were homework days. I still have epic amounts of papers to write, so the spare moments I have are mostly spent pretending to work on them. Wednesday morning AIFS treated us to chestnuts, gingerbread, and punch at the Christmas markets so that was fun. We watched lots of adorable Austrian school kids walk through the market on outings with their teachers. At one point a teacher bought one cotton candy for the whole class to share and then held it high and the air while tearing off small pieces to feed to the kids. It was like watching little birds. Adorable. Later on Wednesday, for one of our last Womanly Wednesday’s of the semester, a few of us got together to eat cake for dinner and watch movies. I’m fairly certain there’s a direct correlation between eating cake for dinner and craving vegetables for days afterwards, but no regrets in the nutrition department.

Thursday morning we had our departure meeting which really brought home that we’re leaving in less than two weeks now. We got information about our return flights and filled out program evaluation forms. Paperwork shouldn’t make anyone sad, but I almost burst into tears just thinking about how hard it’s going to be to say goodbye to Salzburg itself and all of the people I’ve met. Good thing it’s a long drive to the Munich airport because I’m going to need all of that time to achieve anything resembling dry eyes I’m sure. Trying not to think about it. I have papers to write this extra long holiday weekend so that’s at least distracting me. Happy that it snowed a bit this morning, enough to stick for a while but only until it started raining. Hoping to catch the Krampus tomorrow night. What are Krampus you ask? That, my friends, is for another blog post.