Archive for the ‘Groceries’ Category

Checking Out, Moving In

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

With orientation having come to a close it was time to get situated into what would become my life in Sydney. At 10 am I met up with the other students who elected to live in Glebe, which is a suburban area in the northern part of the city.

The bedroom I was leaving in the Metrion World Towers

Incredible views of Sydney from my hotel room for Orientation. The white circle looking thing in the upper right hand corner is the olympic stadium

Stunning Sydney views from the 72nd floor

My apartment in Glebe where I will be spending the next four months is very nice, and a lot more than I was expecting out of temporary student housing.

New bedroom in Glebe apt! One guess as to which bed is mine.

Out my window on the second floor.

One of the many birds of this variety that frequent the tree outside my window

Kitchen/living room/ roommates.

Kitchen with our nifty space age dishwasher drawer. Its the silver thing to the left. Its a drawer that pulls out. Whenever we put dishes in it we say we are sending them to space.

Our living room. We are going to treat the wall behind the couch as an ongoing art project and keep adding to it as the semester goes on.

Bathroom! The steam shower has a waterfall shower head that is DIVINE.

My lovely roomies. Jill (the feisty brunette) and I share a room while Kayla is living with our other roommate Courtney who was stuck in New Zeland due to the earthquake when this picture was taken

SO after I got moved in and situated to my apartment I of course wanted to get on the interent because I had been without it for five days (read: an eternity) but only one apt had their internet already set up, number 29, and I live in apt number 18. Since we were all told this, the kids living in my building have taken to sitting in the hallway to steal the wireless connection from apt 29, the inhabitants of which have been great sports about it. Its actually turned into a funny bonding experience and a quirky way to meet people. So after catching up with the world via wireless internet connection Jill and I set out to find groceries. Our apt is about a 10 minute walk from the main shopping mall here which houses a grocery store and a K-mart and Target. As you can see only the absolute best parts of American culture  have made it to Australia.

We purchased a few household items like a bath mat, hand soap for both bathrooms, extra pillows, and a shower organizer. Then we made our way to the grocery store and spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what was what. There are almost no american brands to be found in an Australian grocery store, which turns grocery shopping from a menial task into a grand guessing adventure. I think we may have gone a little overboard in terms of number of items purchases as we were loosing circulation in our fingers about 4 minutes into our 10 minute walk back to our apartment. Never the less we made it back with all of our digits in tact.

Once all the groceries were put away and we had settled in it was about dinner time. Jill and Kayla were very sweet and made three cheese tortellini with chunky tomato sauce and salad for dinner. My contribution to this, since I was told that it was their meal to cook, was a frozen tirmasu that we all ate with spoons out of the plastic container. It was a wonderful bonding girly thing to do. After the dishes had been put away in the dishwasher drawer and a few more hours had been spent sitting in the hallway stealing the wireless connection from apartment from apt 29 my two roommates and I along with one of the residents of apt 29 set out in search of some nightlife in Glebe.

We walked past a few sketchy looking dives illuminated by neon lights and not wanting to sell our bodies on this particular evening landed instead at a karoke bar. Based on the miniscule population sample I observed at this random bar I am prepared to force the following mass generalizations upon the entire population of Australia.

1) most australians appear to be tragically tone deaf and without a sense of rhythm even when not intoxicated

2) They do not produce any music in this country, either that or nobody likes australian music, as every song we heard was from the US.

and

3) Australians dance like awkward elderly white people. Meaning, with lots of peculiar hand motions and without touching the person they are dancing with at all. It’s kinda precious, they are so adorably innocent seeming even at their most inebriated.

We stayed until last call and then sang our way all the way back to our apt building. Exhausted, we all fell into bed still chatting about anything and everything.

Any reservations I had about this trip, or feelings nervousness I felt in the days prior to leaving seem far away from me now. I am so excited to be here and get to know all the people who I have met. I am so glad everyone in my life pushed me into doing this when I wavered, I am so glad I did.

In Which Taco Tuesday Gets Its Start

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Hohenwerfen
After the ultimate of lazy days on Sunday (I never even left the dorm), we went as a group to Burg Hohenwerfen, which is about a half hour south of Salzburg and well into the Alps. We parked at the base of a rather large mountain, and our “culture expert” and tour guide, Andreas, calmly informed us we would simply be walking up the hill. Our epic 4 hour city tour last week taught us that Andreas tends to underestimate the amount of effort involved in things like mountain climbing, so we we weren’t all that surprised when he directed us towards the dirt hiking path that led up the mountain instead of to the incline train that started in the parking lot. Some of us got bored with the endless switchbacks and started climbing straight up the mountain. Lots more effort involved but we had some laughs attempting not to fall over backwards on the steep trail. When we finally got within the walls of the fortress we still had another steep climb and dozens of steps to go until we got up to the building itself. Really Andreas, a walk up the hill? But the fortress was gorgeous and the view from that high even more so. Hohenwerfen also has several birds of prey, from local falcons to a bald eagle, and the staff puts on demonstrations to help illustrate the way people would have used birds in hunting way back when. We sat on the side of the hill and watched the birds soar over our heads and occasionally dive straight for us. The falconers used whistles and bells to call them and tossed them pieces of food every so often. I only understood about every eighth word of the spoken presentation, but I don’t think it mattered. When the show was over we trekked back down the mountain, a much easier feat than the climb up. Our bus driver decided to take the scenic route on the way back to Salzburg. We drove through the mountains for a while and then through our driver’s hometown. He even took us past his house, which involved squeezing our huge tour bus down a narrow small town street. Sometimes I wonder about Austrians.

On Tuesday, when we discovered the supplies in our cupboard basically consisted of stale bread and Nutella, Rachelle and I decided it was time to either brave grocery shopping again or starve. We chose a different store this time and managed to have a much less spastic shopping experience. We’re really enjoying working our way through the cookie aisle. Chocolate covered gingerbread? Heck yes. Also, Pringles are huge over here. I feel as though there are about twenty different flavors in the snack food section. Most exciting though was that we found all of the ingredients to put together a pseudo-Mexican dinner for that night. Some of the girls got together and, though we made a huge mess and had to borrow stove space and silverware from friends, Taco Tuesday was quite the success. I think it boosted our confidence in our abilities to cook in our little kitchen closets, too, so meals more elaborate than canned soup may be in our future. The rest of the week appears to be devoted to figuring out how to do laundry and studying for our German final exams. Real classes start on Monday!

And So it Begins

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

London Skyline
Somehow it just doesn’t seem real that I was getting on a plane to London only a week ago today. I feel like I’ve been away from home for months. In a good way. We’ve crammed so much into such a short amount of time. My first weekend abroad was spent exploring London and getting to know the group of fun people I’m going to be in Salzburg with for the next three months. Jet lag attempted to hold us back, but most of us managed to stay sufficiently awake to avoid getting hit by those always unexpected other-side-of-the-road drivers. We fought The Tired long enough to see some of London’s major touristy spots even while still managing to sneak in a bit of a very much needed afternoon nap. In our free time some of us decided to tour Buckingham Palace as it’s only open to the public through the end of this month. After having seen so many castles long since devoted to tourism, it was a bit strange to walk through the hallways and know that, no matter how glitzy it was, people still lived there. Though I do have to say, the Queen’s backyard was a bit disappointing. It was a large field. I feel as though flowers and hedgerows should have been involved.

Our time in London came to an end far too early in the morning on Sunday. We got up in time to leave our hotel at 5:15 AM. For most us of this meant we were traveling on about ten hours of sleep spread over two or three days. Lack of sleep made the news we got upon getting to the airport, that our luggage van had broken down somewhere along the side of a suburban London highway, all the more depressing. So we sat on the floor of the airport and guzzled coffee. For hours. Finally we greeted the arrival of our rescued suitcases with more enthusiasm than any of London’s sites had gotten out of us. We made our flight with only a little time to spare, and my sleepiness induced crankiness was eased somewhat by the even more exhausting tale of my German seatmate, a girl who had come all the way from Costa Rica via Miami and was finally making her way home to Germany after more than a day of traveling. She still had enough energy to chat, so she told me about Salzburg, and her school, and whether I would understand anything the Austrians said, because “they don’t speak real German.” When we finally got to Munich we had changed time zones yet again, but all of us piled onto a bus that would take us to Salzburg and our home for the next few months.

Dorm Room
It was on the bus that we found out for the first time where and with whom we would be living. Turns out my dorm resembles a bit of an Ikea ad. It’s a whole lot different from the red brick, white columned buildings at Mary Washington, but it will do for now. My roommate, Rachelle, is from California, and we’ve been having a grand time laughing as we figure out what to make of the ridiculous situations we put ourselves in. Our shower is a death trap, our kitchen is inside a closet, and we can’t turn the fan in the bathroom off even if we wanted to. But it’s fun. And I’m loving it. We’ve bonded with the other Americans in the building, and it seems that just today there are Austrian students moving in, so soon enough the dorm will be a interesting mix of people and languages and customs.

Salzburg in the Fog
We had orientation for the first few days that we were here. We learned how to use the bus system, how to find our classes, and spent a few entertaining hours emptying out several stores of their cheapest cell phones. Virtually everyone in the program now has the exact same phone, and how we’re going to tell them apart if we should ever put them down together I have no idea. Our orientation tour of the city showed us how lucky we are to be living in a town that goes back thousands of years. Our overly enthusiastic guide informed us we would be trekking up mountains, girls in flip flops and all, and though we mumbled a bit about the rain and the cold and the endless walking, the views from the hills were stunning. Every time you turn a corner in this city you’re greeted with a new view even more dramatic than the last. Having a fortress on the hill is still something I’m getting used to.

We spent our free time scouting out the cheap yet tasty restaurants, buying bus passes, and figuring out how to get by speaking an awkward combination of German and English. Germish, if you will. Rachelle and I had our first real culture shock experience when we attempted to go grocery shopping. We had been warned that we would have to bag our own groceries. We were prepared for this. We muddled our way through shopping, which is time consuming when you have to guess at what a lot of the items are, and worked up the courage to go up to the register. I have never seen a person scan groceries as quickly as the woman at the check out counter did. As she’s scanning them she’s practically throwing them at us, even though Rachelle is throwing things in our bag as quickly as she can. It was stressful. And afterwards highly amusing. And now we know that we just have to push everything into the cart until after we pay; once that’s done we can walk calmly over to the “bagging area” to organize things and recover from the trauma of watching your groceries moving at the speed of sound. It’s the strange little things like that that keep making me realize we really aren’t at home anymore.

We started intensive German classes this week, and they run through the end of next week. We don’t start our real academic classes until almost October. Three hours a day of grammar is a bit much, but I do know far more of the language than I realized. I’ve started working up the courage to speak German to the Austrians, though they don’t do much for a person’s confidence when they instantly switch to English. All in all though, the Austrians we’ve spoken to have been amazingly friendly despite their reputation as being standoffish. We’ve gotten tips on everything from which train to take to Oktoberfest, to which spicy peppers to avoid eating in our Indian food, to which bus stop to get off at when we’ve looked lost and confused. Some of us had a highly amusing time of it attempting to communicate with a group of older Swiss men at a restuarant, but somehow between our broken German and their handful of English phrases we got quite a bit said. But I feel like something got lost in translation the other day when someone asked me if I was Amish upon finding out I was from Pennsylvania.

I’m starting to feel like I know my way around a bit more, and it’s fun planning our future weekend excursions. We don’t have classes on Fridays so three day travel weekends here we come. Italy! Slovenia! Croatia! Czech Republic! Plans to see them all! Stay tuned.