Do you remember when I arrived in Austria and got in a car with a strange man who spoke a language I didn’t understand? That man turned out to be Willi, who took me back to the house he was born in in 1943 and has since proven himself to be International King of Banter and All-Round Bae. On that first day, I tried to make my ten words of German stretch into an hour-long conversation, and at one point I asked if there was much Schnee (snow) in Rohrbach, to which he burst out laughing and I thought I must have mispronounced something. Arriving in Austria after Christmas, I understood his laughter.
It has reached lows of -18 degrees in Rohrbach and there’s 2 feet of snow. It’s beautiful, but makes for a treacherous walk up and down the hill to and from work every day.
Coming back from Budapest for my final week in Austria before Christmas, I was feeling really happy. I had some great lessons in school, in one of which some boys in my class brought in all these fancy organic oils and vinegars to try for a presentation I’d set them for homework.
We also had lovely parties, drinks and games of Cards Against Humanity with our American buddies.
Rohrbach gave me some very lovely sunsets to add to the photo gallery…
And Austria provided us with more giggles, yet again.
Much to my surprise and delight, some of the teachers bought me Christmas gifts! My favourite was Fucking Hell beer, a light beer (‘hell’ is German for ‘light’) from the Austrian town of Fucking (natürlich). I also got an array of local sweets from my Betreuungslehrer including the classic Austrian Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls, ooerr) and Rumbapflaume which turned out to be plums soaked in rum and covered in chocolate (have you ever heard of anything more perfect in your life?), Willig made me some more Likör and Eva baked me some Keks and gave me a small gift to take home with me for Christmas day.
I had a lovely (and hectic) time at home over Christmas. Three weeks wasn’t enough, and I was feeling unexpectedly sad about leaving again – although I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve left often enough that by now, you would have thought I’d expect the dull ache of leaving, but it always catches me by surprise. After the second most stressful airport journey of my life, I arrived (very flustered and tired) at Stansted, and as soon as I saw Emma, it was although I’d never left Austria. No sooner had I hugged her hello than the final call for our gate came and off we went to rejoin our other lives. We touched down in Linz and were greeted with the kind of cold that makes breathing painful and a poster for a film called ‘Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies’. I’m not joking.
After a brief catch up with Bryony in the McDonalds at Linz Hauptbahnhof (my third home, after Rohrbach and Emma’s flat), I was back on a bus to my flat. I went to say hello to Eva and Willig and to wish them a happy new year, but as the classic grandparents they are, I ended up sitting with them for two hours whilst they fed me homemade soup, pie, schnapps and cider, and showed me photos of their lives including their wedding photos and Willi’s skiing photos from when he was the 7 time winner of a downhill skiing competition – or the Vereinsmeister, as it’s called here. Of course he was also a ski instructor. I also saw photos of him with the Taj Mahal and Machu Pichu (before they were cool). He will continue to surprise me.
I ate with them against the next day. Linsey, a former speaking assistant from America who lived in my flat and subsequently met her husband, Hans, and has stayed in Austria ever since, also came over for lunch (with said husband). They were both so lovely and we had an amazing homemade meal with yet more of Willi’s Likör. Willig made me cry with laugher when he shouted out ‘FUCK KNOWS’ in an Asutrailian accent during dinner, having picked it up on his travels and not fully understood what it meant. I had the giggles for a good ten minutes afterwards.
It hasn’t taken long to get back into the routine of school, lesson planning, going to the gym, starting the next level of my German course and scheming for wonderful weekends away – we’re going to Salzburg this weekend to ease the pain of starting work again.
I have finally been asked outright by a suspicious staff member if I was a student when I came through the teachers’ entrance (which is absolutely forbidden for students), perhaps because I have finally given in to Austrian life and now wear my Hausschuhe around school, which makes me look even more like a student that I already do. It’s great fun though because you can slide around on the floor. I was also interviewed for the school newspaper this week – 1) lol and 2) yes of course there will be photos of it on this blog when it’s published, do you think I’d ever do anything embarrassing and not talk about it here!?
The best thing about this week has been embracing my inner Austrian and going on a huge walk around the village in the snow. Rohrbach is not a pretty village, but sometimes it has a certain charm.
Until next next time, Wiederschauen!