Kim's Austrian Adventure

My year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Graz, Austria. Yes, there are other cities in Austria besides Vienna.

30. Mai 2006

German Literature 1945 - Present, Live Every Tuesday!

(Original date 23.März.2006)

  • Reading: Vienna travel guide

  • Listening to: Jens Lenkman: You are the Light

  • German Word of the Day: andrängen

  • Translation: to crowd

  • Example: Vor dem Deutschkurs drängen die Studenten immer an./The students always crowd before the German class.

The live music scene here leaving much to be desired (until this summer, at least), I’ve had to search for other ways to re-create one of my favorite things to do: see live music.

There is no better place to do this than in the hallway before my German Literature class. Last week twenty of us couldn’t even fit in the lecture hall, so we missed class. There were people everywhere: at tables, on the floor, behind the professor, on the windowsill… Insanity.

The insanity begins about twenty-five minutes before the lecture starts. Students jockey for position in front of the double door entrance to the “lecture hall.” (“” Because it’s basically a glorified classroom.) I usually end up behind the door by about five feet, and those five feet fill quickly. Yesterday there was a girl behind me, screaming at her friend.


No answer. Going to her friend makes too much sense, of course, so the girl screams louder.


Still no answer. I restrained myself from turning around and saying, “Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to you.” The screaming continued and I began to form an image of this girl in my head. She probably had her hair pulled back into a harsh ponytail, she was wearing too much eyeliner for 11:30am…

As I turned around my ideas were confirmed, along with another I had not even considered: she was wearing an orange velour track suit. I pray for our future.

Guys behind me speculate on their chances of getting up to the door. I turn around and give them my best “not on your life” glare, and their mutterings cease.

The door opens. Yes, door. Singular. Mind you, this is a set of double doors, but the last class begins to exit and the crowd surges forward. Two opposing lanes of traffic in one door. The professor pushes his way through the door and some people try to follow him to the front like he’s a security guard. He is eventually swept into the room.

Instead of filing to the back, which would make the most sense, everyone tries to sit as close to the professor as possible. Stragglers usually end up leaving instead of climbing over hoards of people. It's like a general admission all-ages free for all.

Ride the Wave

(Original date 14.März.2006)

  • Reading: Texts on immigration policy

  • Listening to: Mitch Hedberg: Mitch All Together: Arrows

  • German Word of the Day: der Zufall

  • Translation: coincidence

  • Example: Reiner Zufall, dass ich den Autor gestern kennengelernt habe./Total coincidence that I met the author yesterday.

Yesterday I was wandering around a bookstore, pricing books for my literature course [13 books including "Die Blechtrommel" (The Tin Drum), the 700 page monster from Guenter Grass] when I heard someone reading downstairs. Upon closer inspection I realized that a man was reading in English and it was being translated into German. I hung around for a while because it was a pretty interesting story --"Boot Camp"-- and went up afterward to introduce myself and ask him how he liked Europe.

Kim: [...] So, how long have your books been translated into German?

Author: Well, ever since I wrote "The Wave" about twenty years ago...

Kim: You wrote "The Wave"?!? OH MY GOD! I loved that book! And the movie!

[Kim proceedes to buy "The Wave" to have Morton Rhue, aka Todd Strasser, sign it.]

So that's my exciting story for the day.

25. Mai 2006

Some things change, some things stay the same

(Actual date 05.März.06)

  • Reading: Marian Keyes: The Other Side of the Story

  • Listening to: Margaret Cho: Notorious C.H.O.: Big Gulp

  • German Word of the Day: der Schnee

  • Translation: Snow

  • Example: Heute hat es heftig geschneit./It snowed a lot today.

The Austrians keep insisting that it normally doesn’t snow this much here, even through 65% of their country is covered by the Alps. I try to explain to them that I don’t care, as

1) I don’t have to drive in it and
2) They use pebbles instead of salt to melt it, meaning no salt rings on my pants.

There are a myriad of things I could be doing, including figuring out my budget (so much better than what it was at home!), finally finishing the Germany survey issue of The Economist, looking up Uni things online, writing in my journal, napping…In fact, napping has become my forte, seeing as how I don’t have to work this year. Since when have I been able to nap without feeling guilty?

Things I like about Austria include
-Recycling! Separated recycling! People yell at you on the street if you do it wrong, and it’s great!
-Public transport literally at my doorstep…well, 100m away from my doorstep.
-The great girls in my apartment, who are hilarious and help me with everything. They thought I was German! Yay! Apparently they weren’t listening clearly, but I’ll take it where I can get it.
-Cheap, fresh veggies and fruit at the daily farmer’s market.
-No TV in my room or in the living room.
-Proximity to Italy and the rest of Europe

Things I don’t like about being abroad in general
-Being in the south. The people are nice, but somehow I miss the rich, snobby north with the fantastic accent and three hour train ride to Berlin.
-The bureaucracy of everything.
-University administration only being open until 12pm.
-Lack of proximity to Matt.

When abroad one doesn’t only think in another language. I have to think in metric, six hours ahead, and in Euro too.

What a lovely day to have a slice of humble pie

(Actual date 02.März.06)

  • Reading: Uwe Timm: Heißer Sommer (Hot Summer)

  • Listening to: Dane Cook: Retaliation: At the Wall

  • German Word of the Day: sich verlaufen

  • Translation: to get lost

  • Example: Ich habe mich verlaufen./I got lost.

Just when I thought it was safe to go outside, I tried to go to the Meldeamt. Ha. I should have known how today would end up, because I fell on the way there. I wasn’t even wearing heels! Luckily there weren’t too many people around. A nice old man came over to help me up and ask me if I was ok, to which I answered yes, only my ego was bruised. When I got home I realized that my knee and palms were skinned and my ankle was swollen, but at least my pants were still ok.

I went to the Ämtergebaeude, where every possible Amt – except, of course, for the Meldeamt – is located. After working up the nerve to ask a stranger where it was located, I consulted my map and was off. And by off I mean I had no idea where I was. Eventually I found my way to Jakominiplatz, which is the main transportation point in the city. I asked again and found the building, went in and took (hideous) Passfotos, then turned in the form. I have to pick it up tomorrow. I still had time to make it to the Uni…but I couldn’t find it. Added to the fact that the office is only open from 9am-12pm means that I didn’t get to register today, even though I emailed the office and told them I would be there. Hence, I feel like a moron. I thought I would be able to get everything done and was disappointed when everything didn’t go according to plan. This means wake up time is 7:30 tomorrow, which should be enjoyable as I’m jet lagged and have been up until at least 2am for the past two nights.

I keep trying to remind myself that it’s only my second day in this country and that one is allowed to make mistakes, especially as an exchange student. However, there is the desire to prove my ability and do everything right, which includes being places when I say I’ll be there.

There’s always tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the university...

14. Mai 2006

Do you mean my 'e' or your 'e'?

(Actual date 01.März.06)

  • Reading: Graz map (der Stadtplan)

  • Listening to: Beck: Guerolito: Clap Hands

  • German Word of the Day: Bürokratie

  • Translation: Bureaucracy

  • Example: Die Österreicher sind für ihre Bürokratie sehr bekannt./The Austrians are well known for their bureaucracy.

So, I’ve survived the first day. It began with a visit to the nice ladies in the office of my dorm, where I experienced the greatness that is Austrian Bureaucracy. Here’s how it goes: first I go to the registration office (das Meldeamt), where I inform the Austrians that I am indeed here. From there I take my proof that I’ve visited the Meldeamt (das Meldezettel) to the university (die Uni), where I register for classes. Then I need to open a bank account (das Konto), and in order to do that I have to have my Meldezettel and my Uni registration (die Inskriptionsbestägigung). Only after all of this can I apply for my visa (die Aufenthaltserlaubnis/das Visum). Theoretically this wouldn’t be bad, but I need my visa in order to get my hard(ly) earned cash. In order to get the visa I have to have my passport (der Pass), Meldezettel, Inskriptionsbestaetigung, insurance (die Krankenversicherung), passport-sized picture (das Passfoto) and birth certificate (die Geburtsurkunde), which is silly, since I needed that in order to get my Pass. Hence, I need one thing after the other, and naturally my birth certificate is still at home in some fire-proof box. FedEx is going to learn to love me this year.

As I was downstairs learning the Bureaucracy, I had to write down many a street and address. When writing I realized that I’m not yet thinking auf Deutsch because I kept getting the letters wrong. Here is how the German alphabet sounds:

A = aah
B = bay
C = say
D = day
E = aay
F = ef
G = gay
H = ha
I = ee
J = jut
K = kah
L = el
M = m
N = n
O = oh
P = pay
Q = koo
R = er
S = es
T = tay
U = oooh
V = fau
W = vay
X = ecks
Y = ypsilon
Z = zed

(This doesn’t mean that Kimberly sounds Kah-ee-m-bee-ay-er-el-ypsilon; just that it would be described like that if someone asked how it was spelled.)

Many a letter can be confused, especially E and I. Didn’t know you were getting free German lessons, did you?

I’m staying in a quasi-Wohngemeinschaft – WG for short (Wohn = to live, Gemeinschaft = community) that has four floors with various suites. There are six of us [Chrissi, Katarina, Eva, Daria and Wang (Chung? No, I didn’t ask, though I would like to tonight.)] and we each have our own room, sharing the kitchen, one bathroom, and two showers.

Here’s the view from my room…

…and the view in my room. They must have known I liked pink. Note how organized everything is, and remember I’ve only been here 24 hours. I have plenty of time to mess it up.

Here’s the living room (das Wohnzimmer).

The kitchen (die Kueche).

And, of course, the bathroom (das Klo).

More later, after the continued Bureaucracy.