10 days later it was time to leave the mountains. My bag was full of delicious jam, pickles and bread that I had helped make. I left on Sunday night, with a lift through carpooling.co.uk. A man called Viktor was driving from Villach to Bratislava, and I managed to get a lift to Vienna for only 10 Euros! (the train was 50 Euros). I was feeling pretty tired, as I had had a late night and a few drinks the night before. I was looking forward to listening to my music, staring out the window and perhaps having a little nap. Not if Viktor had anything to do about it. Viktor was a very inquisitive man, he could speak 7 languages and was thirsty for knowledge. He made it his mission to get out all the information I had on Australia. This involved 1000’s of questions ranging from what were some famous Australian icons/celebrities/brands/foods; the metric system; the Australian dollar; house prices; Australians’ average annual income; the distance between capital cities; the population and demographics; the weather… and the list continues. I had to make up a few things, but I’m sure he checked everything I said when he got home anyway. He had little interest for the 3 other Austrian passengers sitting squashed up in the back of the car. I guess there was probably nothing about Austria that he didn’t already know.
A small kite festival I stumbled upon on a Sunday walk
I got back to my miniature flat in the student residence where I was staying. The hospital-like interior and grey atmosphere didn’t bother me at all, I was just happy to be away from the endless Australia-related questions. However the contrast between the mountains and city was felt straight away, and I immediately missed the fresh air and happy little routine that I had had. The next day I started my 2 week intensive German class. I found out why it was called intensive. 4 hours of German a day, for 10 days. Intense.
A lot of the other students in the class where European, and had experience at learning other languages, at least by learning English and in some cases other languages too. It makes me angry that Australian schooling is so lax at teaching foreign languages. There is a certain arrogance at thinking that because English is a dominant language that no others are useful. I understand that because Australia is so far away from everywhere it is difficult for students to practice the languages that they are learning, but I still think that it is a skill that every brain should have to concur. And they say that it’s much easier for children to pick up new languages. I struggled initially in the German class, and felt that I was behind the students in picking up the language. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have any experience at learning a language, or that I had other things on my mind at the time, or simply if languages were not my strong point. However, it did get a little easier. The class became a lot more enjoyable as everyone got to know each other. We even went out for drinks a few times, and would chat in the breaks about our troubles and successes in our new homes.
We learnt a lot in the two weeks. Everyday I could understand more and more German words written on advertisements; in the metro; on street signs; or spoken in the street. It was really useful learning the numbers, as I began to know how much my shopping cost at the vegetable market; which meant that I didn’t have to guess or always hand over way too money just to be on the safe side.
Me at the fruit and veggie market outside the metro station near my house. Much cheaper and fresher and friendlier than the supermarket.
During my first two weeks in Vienna I wasn’t so happy. After my busy and fun time in the mountains the realisation that I was all alone in a big foreign city hit me. I have traveled a lot in the past, but always with friends. This makes the difficulties that you come across not such big dilemmas, as they are shared with others and solved together. Now I was the one solely in charge of the map (not my strong point) and getting lost was a frequent occurrence. I was really missing my friends, family and lover back home, and was wondering why I had chosen to come and live on the other side of the world from them. Small things, like washing my clothes or getting my film developed, became difficult tasks. I knew it would get easier as it all became more familiar, but I still felt lost and frustrated a lot of the time.
To all the new students joining the blog for the first time or just having a bit of a look before you take the plunge, welcome. Please explore the blog – have a look at the different posts by theme (you’ll see the links on the right hand side of the blog page), read up on the photo competition, and immerse yourself in all the different stories and images students have shared over the past year. We can’t wait to enjoy yours!
As soon as you have received your blog invite from Greg or from WordPress (let Jan, Tonia or Greg know if you are still waiting…), you can start new posts; in the meantime, we woud love to hear your comments on other people’s posts !
We look forward to all your stories.
I have been spending my semester abroad studying in the city of Thessaloniki in the north of Greece.
My first impressions upon arriving in Saloniki were of disappointment. The sky was grey and overcast, the weather barely 10 degrees and the buildings seemed dirty and un appealing. Nothing seemed to work as it should, or as it does back in Australia. Nothing can be achieved in one day, for instance if you want to post a letter home it will take a few days as you need to go and buy and envelope one day, and then try the post office a few times until its open to send the letter. It can be frustrating and exhausting as you try to push past this to make life work the way you think it should. This view was soon overturned as I made friends, the weather improved and I began to really appreciate the beauty of the city.
The streets are lined with citrus trees which means that there is constantly a faint citrus scent wafting down the streets. You see past the graffiti and the ugliness of the buildings and instead begin to appreciate the undercurrent of the Greek culture which pulses through the city. The art of taking a coffee with friends and family for hours every single day. The sharing of dishes at meal times, which also last for several hours, the Greek version of siesta which means most of the shops close in the afternoon every day. You begin to adapt to the lack of urgency which surrounds everything, and it no longer bothers you that it can take days to fulfill a simple daily task, as that’s part of the charm of Greece.
At first I was overwhelmed with the daily life of living in Saloniki, but now I know im going to find it really hard to adjust to being back home in Australia, where it is rude to be more than 10 minutes late to meet a friend, a coffee takes 30 minutes to drink at most. You also can’t leave everything to do tomorrow like here. Whilst today you don’t have anything specific to do, your too busy having a coffee and enjoying life to do it today so you will do it tomorrow instead.
the latest travel disaster of the trip so far: the journey from Les Deux Alpes back to Norwich.
O man I was just reminded of this when I got sent the link for the survey…
Anyhow, I’ve been in Germany for almost a month and a half and heaps has happened.
I found out that I actually like having my family around when I was travelling alone to Erlangen. It was a week. Horrible jet lag in London, followed by my tour of said city had been screwed up somewhere in the system. It was fun shopping though. (I’ve been told my sisters are thoroughly enjoying the video games, that although in pounds, were still half the price of the same ones back home). It was ironic that the day I flew out the sun came out. It was pretty sweet to see Stonehenge, but I found it funny that when in Bath the tourguides made no mention of the fact that King Edgar, first king of England was crowned at Bath Abbey, and instead went on about the Roman Baths.
So I flew to Germany, arriving in Frankfurt am Main about 7pm. It was dark and wet and you physically walk down the stairs onto the tarmack. I felt like JFK and then wet, as it was raining. I took a taxi to my hotel, and absolutely failed, almost got in the driver’s seat because everything is on the wrong side of the road here. Then in the pooring rain, in a Mercedes taxi, on the wrong side of the road, I decided I could never drive in Germany. My buddy here in Germany told me all about how hard it is to get your driver’s license. The way these people drive, I can understand why. Maybe they can drive the way they do because they had to be so well trained to get their licenses in the first place.
The language wasn’t too bad for me, I could confidentally say “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” and understood basic numbers so I functioned. Well, my impressions of Frankfurt weren’t so good, but that was probably because I had issues with getting money on my Travelex Card. (I did manage to forget that I had about 150 pounds on me, that could have easily converted to a larger amount of euro). O and also the language barrier is bad when, in a somewhat large city, lots of people refuse to, or just can’t speak much English. However, Nutella is huge here, so I’ve got a comfort food from home at my fingertips.
An exact week after I left Australia I arrived in Erlangen. To say I was impressed with the rail network is an understatement. Slightly expensive but when it seems to work so damn well, why wouldn’t you pay for it? I woke up on a sunday morning, my first morning in Erlangen, and there was snow all over the ground. I was so impressed. Here’s a picture of a frozen leaf.
Apparently there is a saying about Erlangen. “They say that Erlangen makes you cry twice, once when you arrive and once when you have to leave.” Let’s see if the second half of the saying will come true too.
“VICTORIA (CUP) – Every Wednesday at 4:20 p.m., dozens of University of Victoria students gather near the campus fountain to show support for sick people who struggle to treat their conditions with medicinal marijuana.
While nearly all the students are healthy, the university’s Hempology 101 club attracts attention by supporting the use of illegal drugs. During meetings, members of the Cannabis Buyers’ Club provide updates on current events involving medicinal marijuana while dozens of students pass joints around a circle.” here is the full story: http://media.www.thestrand.ca/media/storage/paper404/news/2004/10/20/News/Uvic-Pot.Trial.Delayed-778710.shtml
So I got out of class today and happened to walk past the front of the library (It was at 4:20 on wednesday) and there is a big circle of students with a guy with a mic in the middle talking about pot. I have heard about this time and this day being pot time but i had no idea it was this big, i just thought it would be some sneaky swapping of pot and cash. Pretty much everyone has smoking and passing a joint, IN PUBLIC!! and in the middle of the day! Then they had a BONG COMPETITION of who had the best looking bong; there was: ‘puff the magic dragon’ ‘willy bonka’ ‘alfonzo’. I am not used to seeing them in pubic let alone a contest at a uni in the day…. crazyyyy. Next week is a joint rolling competition, BYO hash… I really wanted a newsletter (yes they even have a news letter!) to send it to my friends, so i went up at the end to get one but everyone was coming to the middle so i couldn’t it so i stood back and they all huddled together and put their hands in the centre and said “The 4:20 CLUB!!” – it felt a bit like a cult… There were about…100 people there? but i am bad a guestimating. And there was a guy filming it all aswell, i am trying to find it to show you.
So that was an interesting afternoon! I am so ignorant to these things, and i know that they are popular in BC especially as i can smell it walking around the campus (i now know what it smells like). But seeing it openly displayed with heaps of people around blew my mind!
“The UVSS Hempology 101 Club and the International Hempology 101 Society will be hosting its 11th Annual Cannabis Convention Sunday February 28, 2010 at the University of Victoria.”
a facebook page says this:
“Does anyone care about the UVSS elections?
Are you sick of self-righteous students trying to change the world?
Tired of college-level election ‘parties’ competing with each other with identical platforms?
Do you see any benefit to voting for one person as opposed to the other?
Are you of the opinion that the UVic 4:20 Club holds more political sway than the UVSS student society, and has higher attendance?
THEN: THIS GROUP IS FOR YOU”
It’s been my first week back at UOW this week and I found myself a little scared to be back! So much had changed and was different and yet so much was still the same! Every now and again I find myself thinking “I’m homesick.” I had this really weird moment the other day, where I was sorting through my UK photos for printing and I thought “I miss being home.” Huh? Was? Ich wohne nicht in London/Scotland/Wales. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still homesick.
I was thinking about what was discussed at the ‘welcome back’ session with Tonia, and I can definitely say that I feel like a bit of a hybrid of an Australian and a British girl now. As I posted on my personal blog, “I love Australia. I love the bush. I love the sun. I love my friends. I love to write Australian bushland poetry and I love going to The National Park for swims and picnics. I even love the song ‘I am Australian’, in particular these stanza’s:
I’m the teller of stories
I’m the singer of songs
I’m Albert Namajira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian.
I’m the hot winds of the desert
I’m the black soils of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the droughts and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky,
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.
But see the UK and Ireland have my family and they have the culture we don’t have.”
I decided in light of how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll sum up the things I liked best about the UK using pictures.
1. Seeing real snow for the first time and understanding the meaning of ‘proper cold.’
2. Meeting my relatives overseas in both Ireland and England for the first time!
4. The history and culture in the UK
All those old buildings and churches were so awesome. One fond memory is of my American flat mate and I doing a guided tour of Lancaster castle with a truly creepy guide who seemed ghoulishly obsessed with death. On the entertainment front, I went to the theatre four times when I was in the UK itself! That’s a play a month! I couldn’t help it. The tickets were so much more affordable then back home and I loved the atmostphere. And after all, who wouldn’t have fun trying to explain the three hour plot of Les Miserables in London’s West End to their Chinese flat mate throughout the entire performance without annoying everyone around us?
It’s funny. When I got towards the end of my trip in the UK I was so homesick and just wanted to come home to Australia. After a week or two I instantly wanted my travelling life back! Anyone else going through this?