Slater In Graz's Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 14 most recent journal entries recorded in
Slater In Graz's LiveJournal:
|Wednesday, July 25th, 2007|
Just a few more little tidbits:
1) I had talked to Drajen, the Croatian priest, about God and religion on the... second day of class? It was during the tour of the city. Well, he came up to me a couple days ago and said "I've been thinking about what you said." At first I thought he had been talking about something I'd said in class, but I had no idea what it was, so I was just like "...uhh... oh? What's that?" He explained a little more, and we had another discussion about it.
I'd said that there were two main things I knew about religion - that there is a God, and that I'm not him. Apparently the simplicity of it caught him off guard; he told me during our last conversation that he thought it was a great start, but that it wasn't really enough. So he and I talked about it some more, about knowing God and acceptance and trust and faith... it was a really good conversation. And I was really flattered that he had actually thought about what I'd said before. A priest trainee put energy into thinking about my views on religion... so cool.
2) I went to a castle in Graz today - Schloss Eggenberg, I think? It was really interesting. I've got pictures of the Gardens, but wasn't allowed to photograph anything inside the building proper. I'm not really sure what I can say about the castle, though... it's hard to explain.
OH! They've got a little church in there, and apparently you can get married in there. Imagine how many brownie points you'd get if you told your wife she could get married in a castle? Imagine her bragging rights?
"Oh, you got married! Where? The Baptist church down the road? Oh, that's nice... the one near the bar? Was it before or after Happy Hour? ...oh, me? Well, we've got this really nice picture of us coming out of the castle gate... it was a beautiful ceremony. I'm glad we chose to get married in Austria, it was so..."
3) One more day of class, then test and party on Friday, then I fly home on Saturday. :)
That's all for now!
|Sunday, July 22nd, 2007|
Huzzah! Movies are working!
Firstly, a tour of my dorm:
Secondly, a tiny video of my VCU group at dinner:
All righty. I figured out that I can configure my camera to be treated like a portable drive, and got the pictures and videos off it that way. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 so far, though most of them aren't very good.
So, I am alone in my apartment now. Alexander and Jacopo left on Friday and Saturday, respectively; it's not a great loss. They were good guys, but good lord! I mean, I'm cluttered, but they were just dirty. They would leave piles of dishes in the sink (or simply on the stove) for everyone else to clean up, they left trash not only in their rooms but in little piles around the apartment...
Not to mention, I was getting really
tired of walking around and seeing Jacopo wandering in low-rider boxer shorts (and nothing else). I really didn't need to see that. So while they were vaguely amusing, I'm not too sorry for them to be out of here. I didn't realize, however, that Ido was also leaving on Saturday, or I would have said goodbye!
Since I have a nice little balcony and no roommates this weekend, my place was designated as a sort of party spot. We had ten to fifteen people here on Friday night, and a handful on Saturday as well. I cleaned up the mess that my roommates left, but I'm going to have to clean again to get rid of cans and bottles and generic stuff which has been left here. I should probably get on that, too, because I know that the longer I put it off the more likely I am to simply not do it.
Anywho, that's really it. I was supposed to go on a hike today, but my feet decided that it was far too long to go in ninety degree weather.
|Wednesday, July 18th, 2007|
Just a couple things before I get back to work:
1) The dryers here are less than fun. That is to say, they do not work particularly well - took me three hours to dry one load. The other took about an hour, but... still! And I was doing everything right, which is why I was like "grr..."
2) Two of my roommates bought a gallon keg from the grocery store, and weren't sure how to use it. They accidentally sprayed themselves with beer trying to figure it out. :) It was funny.
3) I met a couple of guys (and a girl) from Vancouver in the elevator. They asked what EG stood for (rhetorically) on the elevator, and I went "Erdgeschoss - ground level." They introduced themselves, I introduced myself... when I said I was from Virginia, they went "West or East Virginia?" I answered "East..." "Oh, so if I started singing 'Country Roads,' you'd know all about it, right?" ...well, I do, but that's beside the point.
Wasn't offended, more amused. But it's interesting to see how other people view you.
It's... really hot, here.
Honestly, it's not that hot. But there's no AC in most of the buildings (including our school), and the AC here in the dorms is not particularly good - my room tends to be cooler when I open the windows, so that's what I've done. So I've been sweating a lot. I'd packed for almost two full weeks, and in the beginning thought I might be able to get away with reusing shirts - it was a lot cooler and so I wasn't sweating, so I figured the shirts would be clean enough that I could spritz a little cologne and make them as good as new. No such luck.
So I'm doing laundry now. The entire laundry scenario has been a bit of a fiasco, actually: we were told there would be on-site laundry facilities, which there are, but it turns out we needed a QuickCard in order to use them. Guess what? In order to get a QuickCard - or, for that matter, to charge one - you have to have an Austrian bank account! It also takes like three weeks to process an account here, so we couldn't just open one and pay the seven Euro fee to get the card. We just got our laundry cards... yesterday? The day before...? Yea, Monday. We got them on Monday.
There are two cards for our group of eleven dorm residents. They're both charged with 20 Euros... and I've got three loads of laundry I need to do. Possibly four, honestly. Right now I've got about half my jeans and 'delicates' collection washing, and at 3:10 I'll go down and dry them and put the other half of my jeans. After that is whites, and that should get me through until I get back.
We only had a half day today (Wednesdays and Fridays are only morning classes), so our group had planned to go to the Kunsthaus. It's a modern art museum. Some of us, myself included, had already gone to see some of the exhibits. It wasn't really to my liking, so I decided not to go this time, and instead to get some clothes cleaned. I think I made the better decision. One of Will's roommates was talking about a hobby store in the area, so if I have time I may go with him and check that out - buy some cards to sell back Stateside.
That's... really all I've got for now.
|Monday, July 16th, 2007|
I think one of the best parts of this trip is not my German education, but my spiritual one. I just found out that my roommate, Mose, teaches Torah (if I've misspelled that, let me know; I've done so unintentionally) and works as a historian. He's 33 years old. We had a long conversation about the differences between Catholic and Protestant churches, about the differences among Catholic priests, Protestant priests and rabbis, and a lot of other religious topics. It's been very interesting.
Combine that with the discussion I had a week ago with Drajen (Drajen or Rajen, I'm not quite
sure which, but I know that -rajen is a part of his name) and a discussion we had about religion in class (Mustefa went into some detail about Islam, which I don't know much about and so was eager to listen to), and I feel like I'm getting a lot of good information.
It's interesting. I'd never really thought about it much before, but here everything really is divided into Catholic and Protestant. Graz is 80 or 90% Catholic - there are crosses in the classrooms, statues of the Virgin Mary on top of buildings, and carvings of saints and suchlike in and on the walls of various places. Here, I am not a Christian - I'm a Protestant, and I've never really had that distinction made to me before. It's not necessarily a revelation, but it's made me think a little more.
I just drank a liter and a half (I think that's how much is in this bottle) of water in the short time I've been back in the dorm. It's warmer today than it has been all week - to the point that the other people in my class mentioned that it was really, really hot. To me, it's not hot. It's... warm, definitely, but nowhere near what it could be in Richmond. Feels like it's maybe eighty degrees? I really don't feel it that much. But why'd you drink so much water just now?
...'cause I was thirsty and it was really good. I haven't had much to drink today - I didn't have breakfast (and I'd like to point out I kept trying to type "didn't fruehstuck"; "fruehstuck" is German for breakfast, and can be both a noun and a verb) and had .33L of water with lunch. That's what's on the side of the bottle, at least.
I have more homework I should be doing. I don't want to do it... but I'm going to, don't worry. Just wanted to complain a bit more, 'cause we got another packet. Also on the note of complaining about school things, I was corrected by my professor today about something I didn't understand. Well, technically I understood it. Here's how the conversation went:
"Wenn ich allein moechte..." (This will be the only line to be purely German, because its technical merit is what was questioned)
"It should be 'Wenn ich allein sein moechte'."
"You can say 'I would like a Cola', but there has to be a verb otherwise."
"I had heard that you could also leave off the sein when it came to modals."
"This is a modal verb. You need another verb. For instance, you can say 'I would like a Cola,' but there has to be a verb otherwise."
"Right, I understand that. But I thought that you were allowed to drop the 'sein' when you used a modal because that was understood. Was that wrong?"
"...this is a modal verb. You need..."
At that point, I didn't press it because we were speaking in German and I wasn't expressing myself as I thought I should have. I understood what she was saying and I understand that she's technically correct, but I had heard that you were allowed to leave off the verb 'to be' in sentences like that because it was understood. I've heard other German speakers (native and otherwise, and even a couple other people in the clas) doing it, so I had been wondering why I was corrected. And it's not even a big deal... just irked me.
Mmkay. This weekend, I turned on the TV for the first time. I watched a few American movies in German - Holes, and one with Dan Akroyd where he marries an alien who drinks batteries. It's really interesting to see how much I can understand, both from listening and just from knowing the movies. I also watched a little bit of a German show where you could call in and guess the answer to a question: which country names include the first name of a man? People had answered the Philip
en (Italy), Frank
reich (France), and a few other wrong answers. I wanted to call in with Amerik
a, but wasn't entirely sure how to go about it - or how to collect my winnings if I did.
I also went shopping. I DID find Grandma a thimble with a clocktower on it that says "Graz Uhrturm"! (In German, 'thimble' is 'der Fingerhut') Hopefully it will survive the trip back, because I don't want to have to explain that the reason she doesn't get a thimble is because it shattered on the airplane. I wandered around for a while but didn't really pick up anything else interesting. I'm thinking about picking up a second piece of luggage - a bit bigger than the one I have - for 19,99 Euro so that I can bring things back quickly and easily. It's cheaper and easier than shipping things back, and I don't have enough room in my bag to fit anything else in... so it makes sense that I should do that instead of other solutions. I plan on picking up a few more souveniers (sp?) like T-shirts und so weiter, but I'm not entirely sure what yet.
Doing fine money-wise. I still have all the American money I was given before I left, as well as a fair amount of the Euros I've been provided. So far so good - let's see if my frugality can extend throughout the entire trip. The Kunsthaus won't be a problem, because I don't think I'm going to go on Wednesday. My group went there a few days ago, and modern art really, really
isn't my thing. Plus, I don't want them to catch me with the pictures on my camera of their exhibit.
Anywho, that's about it for now. OH! I've sent postcards out for the family, so y'all should get those soon. At least, you better, 'cause I definitely had to shell out 1,30 Euro apiece for the stamps for those things... oh, well. Such is life. Tschues!
|Friday, July 13th, 2007|
My feet are tired.
Ordinarily y'all wouldn't get more than one post a day - I had been planning on waiting until tomorrow night to update again. Unfortunately, it turns out that I have a lot of homework... I told the group I'd been travelling with that I might not be able to go with them to dinner, and that I'd figure it out when we got back to the Studentenwohnheim. Well, I decided that I'd actually go out, so I just dropped off my stuff and went back downstairs. I waited for about ten, maybe fifteen minutes for the others, but no one else came. It appears they have left me behind - probably because they thought I wouldn't go.
It does give me time to actually do my homework, though. Think I'm exaggerating about the workload? I wish I were. One of the group members thought I was, so I showed him a couple of the packets. One is seven pages, the other is four. I have two other worksheets to do and two essays to write - one on whether or not marriage is an outmoded institution and why, the other more of a tour of the Richmond area. I think I'll talk about Lewis Ginter and Maymont. I know a fair amount about both... more than I do about the city itself, that is.
Mmkay. The tour. We went to the Puntigamer Brewery (Brauerei Puntigam) today. It was surprisingly fun! They took us around, showed us what the wheat (both unprocessed and processed) looks like, the various types of wheat, their hops (which looks pretty cool), etc. Then they showed us the equipment they use to brew it and bottle it. And finally, they took us back to the beginning of the tour, where we got the opportunity to drink our fill of Puntigamer beer. It wasn't really to my taste, but it wasn't bad, either.
I picked up a lot of stuff to bring back from the brewery. Yes, y'all are getting touristy things. Still on the lookout for a thimble for Grandma and something for Allison - didn't know her shirt size, couldn't call to find out, and didn't want to get one that didn't fit her. I've also got postcards that I need to send out, because that way there's concrete evidence that I haven't forgotten my family: I'l go tomorrow and mail them, hopefully, so that they'll get to Richmond before I do. :)
Anywho, time for dinner and homework. I hope to update again soon!
We had a full day of classes yesterday - from 9 to 10:30, 11 to 12:30, and 2:30 to 5. We discussed relationships, the differences between romances in the past and present, marriage and the nuclear family (as well as its importance and ease of existence in modern society), and differences from country to country about such things. We had nearly a full class of ten students in the morning, but only three of ten showed up for the afternoon class. It's not as bad as it sounds - four or five of them aren't enrolled for the afternoon classes - but was still interesting in terms of logistics.
After that, we went to see Harry Potter in English. It wasn't a bad movie, but it felt... almost rushed, to me. The scenes were short and just sort of drifted into one another. It was more artsy than I had hoped for, and would have been a lot better and a lot more fleshed out if the scenes had been just a smidge longer. Still, I enjoyed it.
Today we only have classes until 11:45, and then we've got a tour of some breweries in the afternoon. There's the Vienna trip for those who're interested, but my roommates, classmates and fellow Virginians tend to agree that 210 Euro is too much for an overnight trip (in the same way that 110 Euro is too much for a two-session grammar review provided by the school). I'm going to stay here in Graz and get a feel for the locals, as well as do a bit of shopping for stuff to send back stateside.
I'm a little bit sunburned, but am too stubborn to put on sunscreen.
That's all for now!
|Thursday, July 12th, 2007|
Graz pt. 4
So far, so good.
Peter, one of my classmates (from Ungarn - which I think is Hungary), lent me a CD of German hiphop. It's not quite to my taste, but it's definitely interesting! I've put it on iTunes, so I'll be able to show everyone what it sounds like when I get back.
Yesterday we only had classes for half a day, so Professor Skolnik planned a tour of the Zeughaus - the Armory. It's the largest collection of weapons and armor from that time period in the world; there are 32000 pieces of gear there. It was built something like three hundred and fifty years ago, and at one point had nearly ten times that when it was actually in use as an armory and not a museum. We saw racks and racks of armor and rifles, pistols, sabers, pikes and halberds. They've also got one of only 15 or so complete suits of plate barding for horses, which looked really
After that, we split off into two groups and went to other museums: the tickets from das Zeughaus were for the entire day and for something like seven museums in the area. We tried to go to the Hall of Memories, but apparently it was being renovated so we ended up going to das Kunsthaus instead. It was a lot of modern art. We saw an exhibit called "China Welcomes You," which was not to my taste but had others in the group really excited. I have pictures and a short video of some of it, which I took before Chris (one of the other VCU students) informed me that we weren't supposed to take pictures.
We met back up with the other half of the group about five PM and went to dinner at a nice little restaurant near the Hauptplatz. I continued my tradition of ordering without knowing what I'm asking for: this time, I got Zwiebelrostbraten, which I knew was a roast of some sort but was unsure about the details. Once more, I was not disappointed. After dinner, we went to the Hauptbahnhof - the train station - because it was something like 8 o'clock and things close early around here, so the supermarket there was the only one open. I got some water and milk - I've been missing milk something fierce - and waited for the others. Then we headed back to the dorm.
My roommates and I had a discussion from nine to about eleven PM about cultural similarities and differences. We talked about drinking, about the military and how it affected us (Israel and Russia requires all men to serve a certain number of years in the army, but Italy and America don't) and about life differences in general. We also talked about misconceptions - how people think that someone from Israel lives in a cave or somesuch, how Italians don't actually drink the entire day away, and how Americans really aren't as bad as we're made out to be on the news. As Alexander said, "I'm asking now because this will probably be the only time I have so many people from different countries to ask."
That's all for now - going to grab some breakfast and suchlike. Harry Potter tonight! Whoo!
|Wednesday, July 11th, 2007|
Graz pt. 3
I woke up early - about 6:30 - took a shower, finished the rest of my loaf of bread (it was fairly small, but tasty), then went outside to pick up some fruit from the Farmer's Market down the street. Will caught up to me there, so I showed him where it was. I bought blueberries, which were also very tasty; I'm really getting into this "buying food every day" thing, because it means I get exactly what I want.
Oh! I also had a conversation with Mose about how to charge our laptops abroad - he didn't have the adapter but noticed that I had a computer, so I showed it to him and said where I thought he could buy one.
Yesterday was technically our first full day of class, but we weren't in the classroom the entire time. We met at nine, had a thirty minute coffee break at 10:30 (which lasted until 11), then continued class until 12:30 when we broke for lunch. We learned a great deal about Graz - the sites, the history, a little bit about the people. Then, at three (yes, our lunch break is two hours long) we met in front of the Kunsthaus - the art museum - to go on a tour of the city. That lasted until about five thirty.
Most of the tour was spent walking, in which a Croatian named Rajen and I had a nice discussion. He talked about the war between Islam and Christianity and how important it was over here - to the point of explaining battles that had happened five and six hundred years ago. We also spoke about God and religion - he's a devout Catholic, training to be a priest. He wears robes - one of my group mates thinks he's Franciscan (sp?). I don't know, but he's definitely a good guy, and I look forward to talking to him again.
After the tour I met up with our VCU group again. We had planned to go dancing, but a two and a half hour tour by foot kinda took our will away - we chilled by the fountain (near the Rathaus - I have pictures) for a while, then went our separate ways. Dr. Skolnik took some students to go to dinner, while another group went off to wander the city for a bit. Somewhat tired and still not completely adjusted to the time difference, a girl named Kaitlyn and I decided to go to the Supermarket and pick up some groceries, then head back to the dorm.
I asked the cashier "Wie geht's?" (How're you?), and she lit up. I'd forgotten that most Europeans don't talk to cashiers other than hello - she was very excited that someone actually asked her how things were going.
Came back to the dorm, and my roommates were cooking. Jacopo and Alexander (a Russian student) were making pasta; when they finished, Mose made a potato dish that looked tasty. I felt a little weird because I had bought bread, cheese and fruit - Alexander asked if I were a vegetarian, because he'd only seen me eat bread and fruit. I don't think he saw the cheese. But we all had a nice conversation. The professors were right - Europeans like to talk politics. And they all speak English... I've been going to the local Austrians to speak German, because whenever students - regardless of whether or not English speakers are present - get together, they're speaking English. German, which I was told would be our common language, isn't spoken as much as I thought it would be.
Mose has made sure we understand that we're all welcome in Israel - he lives near Jerusalem - whenever we want to visit. I'd never really thought about it, but it might be a good place to go. There's a lot of history for all of the Abrahamic religions, and it would be nice to see things firsthand. He pointed out that it's not nearly as bad as the news makes it out to be - that there are only isolated places where there are problems.
I ate some dinner and went to bed early - about nine PM.
|Monday, July 9th, 2007|
Graz pt. 2
We took our tests today to see what German class we should be in over here. I took mine and felt like I'd bombed it, but it turns out that I'm now in Testgruppe C. We're the highest level of all the test-takers. Apparently there's a fourth class - D - for people who ace it, but no one managed to get that high. I'm the only one from the VCU group - 14 strong - to make it into that group. While they were finishing up the "Name Game," my class was discussing politics and modern art. It wasn't the most complex conversation grammatically, but it went well.
Our group keeps picking up people. I'm not complaining - they tend to be hot foreign women - but it's definitely interesting and worth taking note of. This morning, we were sixteen - fourteen students from VCU, one Ukrainian girl named Katya who is a roommate of one of the girls from VCU, and our Professor. Then we went for a tour of Graz after the placement test and picked up Natalie - an Australian - and a Spanish girl whose name I can't quite remember. And that makes me very sad. Then, after class, we picked up Jacopo and a Russian friend of his on the way to the Stroussburg.
After classes, we all went to the Stroussburg. I've probably misspelled it. It's a sort of mountain near our dorm: they've made a lift inside the mountain to bring people up, as well as a few sets of stairs and mountain paths. It was a great deal of fun; the woman who runs Deutsch in Graz said a few words, then provided drinks and finger food. I was on my third drink when I found out that the orange juice had champagne in it - I only drank one more after that, despite their tasty alcoholic goodness.
Twice, I've ordered food that I was unfamiliar with - a fish ("plaice" in English) dish as well as a sort of corn meal dumpling in meat sauce. Both were delicious. I'm going to see if I can keep my record for Austrian food by ordering strange things.
Caitlyn, Madison, Sara, Aaron, Katherine and I went to eat at an "authentic Irish pub". The waitresses spoke English automatically, so we ordered a few beers and some food. The beer came out quickly, but it took an hour to get our food - and the order was messed up. We sent what we didn't order back, and waited some more. It got messed up again - and when we pointed it out this time, the waitress apparently told another server, who came to try and push it on us again. Eventually, we got roughly what we ordered, ate and left. It took two hours to get through that dinner.
All in all, though, it's been a nice day.
Graz pt. 1
I made it to Graz without any particular troubles. The passport check-in in Frankfurt took longer than I expected and was a little confusing, but I got through and got here quickly. Met up with some other VCU students, split a cab with them, and went to the dorms. Met with a few other VCU students - we wandered around for a bit while we waited for Professor Skolnik, got something to drink, etc.
Technical difficulties abound, it seems. My camera won't connect to my laptop at the moment, which means that until I figure out what's wrong I won't be able to upload my videos and pictures to it. I hope to be able to do so at an Internet cafe, but it's hard to tell if that will work. What I may end up doing is getting another 1 GB card for my camera and holding off uploading everything until I get back. It's not an ideal scenario, but if necessary I'll do it.
We don't have access to the internet yet. Apparently we need to talk to the receptionist downstairs so that she can set us up. The beautiful part about this? She only works from 10 to 12 - the same time we're all in class. She also doesn't work on weekends, which means I may not be able to get the internet in my dorm during my stay here. I hope that's not the case.
I've got three roommates so far: an Italian guy named Jacopo ("Yahkopoh") and two guys from Israel (Mose ["Mohze"] and Ido ["Eedoh"]. They're nice guys.
|Saturday, July 7th, 2007|
I'm going to try and make video posts as well as text-based posts. We'll see how this works out.
|Monday, May 21st, 2007|
The First Post
This journal has been created as a sort of record of my trip to Austria, so I figure I should explain a few things - about myself firstly, but possibly some other things as well - well before I actually leave the country.
My name is Daniel Slater, though I just go by Slater. I'm twenty-one years old, and a student at VCU. Officially, I have yet to declare a major; as soon as I fill out the proper paperwork and suchlike, however, I will be a German major with a minor in Philosophy. I've been studying German since high school, and fell in love with the language.
This will be my first adventure outside of the country. I've travelled to a variety of locales within the US, but never outside it; similarly, I've never been in a plane. And I'll admit, I have a bit of a phobia of flying. Or, well, I have a phobia of falling, and tend to worry a great deal about things that I probably shouldn't. It should be... interesting, to say the least, to see how I react when I get to the airport.
I will post more information as I have it. I also hope to post pictures of whatever seems interesting at the time (I'll post a picture of myself fairly early on, but I most likely won't take many pictures of myself while I'm there; the camera will be in my hands), stories (of blunders, of what I like and dislike, new experiences) and various other things that aren't coming to mind at the moment. Current Mood: accomplished