The Best Place

I’ll start by briefly acknowledging there’s been some sort of semi-hiatus going on in the past few months since I posted and will admit that the reason for said inactivity is, as before, my laziness. I can’t deny that I have been alive and kicking and doing one or two cool/interesting things during this period but that’s all history now.

Here we go, starting afresh.

So, some of you know, and some of you don’t, but I ended up staying in Krems until the end of June, going home for a few months to work and catch up before arriving back in this beautiful citown* to begin a second and final year as an English language assistant in the same schools as last year. As time does, time has already flown and it’s been nearly four weeks since I got back. Somehow, though it still doesn’t seem like it, I’ve already finished my first three weeks teaching and assisting at school. And the school autumn holidays are two days away. Easy life, right? Or is it? Try it for yourself.  These past few weeks, however, I’ve not only been teaching, I’ve also been working at the side proofreading, translating and tutoring. All in all, for one of the first times in my life, needing and using a diary is functional, and I can safely say I have had very little time to spare. Not like normal me at all. But I wouldn’t change anything. 

Allow me then, now, to present some of the best things about being back:

1. Brief warm weather (view not included)

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The thing about arriving at the end of September means that you enjoy a hot weekend before the temperature just drops drastically and the next thing you know, you’re standing in layers freezing your assets off and no mug of mulled wine can save you from the chill. The above photo was after the temperature decided that things needed to change.

2. Seeing the students again?
If any of you are reading this, I’m being completely honest here. Mostly. One or two have also already produced a couple of gems. Calling your parents your ‘adults’? Not wrong, ever so slightly genius.

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-acted.

Continuing on from my previous post then…

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…and February started with a short little overnight trip, at long last, to Salzburg. I’d wanted to go there for ages, so when a friend of Katherine’s was visiting and wanted to go there with her, I jumped at the chance to tag along. So, on the very first day of February, before we could even get our heads around the fact that it was February already, we were off to St. Pölten to catch a three-hourish long westbahn train to the city, famously known outside Austria as home to the story of the Von Trapps. Please don’t start singing yet.

In order to make the most of the daylight hours, we deposited all our belongings in one of the station lockers, before setting out to see all the various sights that this city had to offer, but I was already stopped in my tracks. See, I may have mentioned before, that there’s something about beautiful natural sights that just overwhelm me and I could see mountains. Snowy mountains. So far, yet so beautiful and in reach. Not in Ireland anymore, are we? Just in case I’d forgotten. Moving on then, we went around the city to see more and one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been to. Why? It wasn’t so grand or ornate, but it was just the sheer simplicity of the St. Andräkirche that moved me. Opposite that, we saw Schloss Mirabell, and its gardens, where a scene or two from a certain movie had also been filmed. More importantly, where some very cool artistic photos featuring yours truly were taken. Alas, I jest

I guess it’s impossible for me to cover the entire two days because I take an entire paragraph to cover just one hour, but if you’re looking to go to Salzburg, take your time on both sides of the river! One side I’ve mentioned a little about above, but on the other you will probably find a lot more, including Mozarts Geburthaus (where he was born), the University of Salzburg, Dom zu Salzburg (the big boss of all the cathedrals and churches there sizewise), Die Festung Hohensalzburg (a big fancy castle overlooking the city, basically, worth a visit)… and that’s just mentioning the one’s I visited. It was after all, a day and a half’s worth of sightseeing. And it wouldn’t be true me style if I didn’t go there and mess myself up a little bit first of all, though, right?

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Distr-

I think the title of this post and the next one coming pretty much sums it up – these past two months, I’ve been majorly distracted and haven’t got round to writing anything. Apologies. Here’s where I fill you in on what I’ve been up to, without giving too much away…

Home for the Holidays

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If you remember way back when I posted a little bit about Christmas, you’ll also remember that I went home for a short time to spend time with my nearest and dearest and cram three months’ worth of catch-ups into 9 days. I saw my family, obviously, every day, as well as Charlie (our dog), but most other people that I wanted to see, I saw at least once. Apart from Jenna, the lucky duck, she got to see me twice – birthday privileges. And perhaps just as importantly, I got to eat plenty of good food. Mmm.

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On my first day back, I was reunited with some of my closest friends from university (Caolan, Jared and Jenna) and it was just great to see them in person after spending those past few months only seeing their faces on FaceTime. And what better way to spend time together? Let’s go eat Chinese food. My second day, I reunited with my closest friends from school, and enjoyed hearing what all was going on in their lives, especially as some of them had also been outside N.I. Where did we do this? Eating burgers and drinking Starbucks. Are you seeing a pattern here? Because it continues. The next day I went into my old workplace, M&S Junction One, to see all my favourite colleagues, who I’d actually missed working with so much and of course, this was followed by lunch with two of them, Niamh and Amy.

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Christmas Eve I spent wandering around doing some last-minute shopping with my parents, before kicking back at last, because on Christmas Day I was going to be stuffing my face once again first at my house, then at my Auntie’s. Traditions and all that. It truly was good to see some family again. On another food-related note: if you’re heading up the North of Ireland and are looking for somewhere good to eat, check out Lir Restaurant in Cushendall – I know the chef to be very good at his job! – where I spent Boxing Day evening.

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Frohe Weihnachten ;)

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Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a lot to catch up on still, but I just can’t skip Christmas without posting something about Christmas. This one, at least, is on time. So while I’m at home (and have been since I flew back the 21st) celebrating Christmas Eve this 24th December, my sweets back in Austria shall be celebrating Christmas today, getting their presents in the next few hours when the Christkind (Christ Child = sort-of like Santa) leaves a nice surprise in the house. To be fair, I’m not even feeling all that overly Christmassy myself – it’s just nice to be home and see my family and friends again. But it has been a month of Decembers (whatever that even means) and Austria has not been short on providing a taster of how they do Christmas while I’ve been there.

So the first Saturday in December came along, and it was time to experience a little…tradition. As you may or may not know, several European countries celebrate St. Nicolas Day on 6th December, and as far as I know, you may even be so lucky as to get some chocolate on this day too. And I’m more than okay with that. But would we be so lucky as to meet the man himself? If you said yes, eat some chocolate. Or don’t. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. Where would we find dear St. Nick though? In the middle of the town? At the shopping centre? On someone’s roof? Or even, in the pub? Apparently, even Father Christmas needs a drink sometimes. But, correct me if I’m wrong, it kind of ruins the look when he starts to take his beard and wig off.

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Guess who(‘s coming to Krems)

Well, guess who came to Krems at least. And I literally gave that away in my last post, so if you guessed Michael, you get zero prizes. If you had absolutely no idea, you also leave with nothing except the sheer pleasure of reading here. Who am I kidding, that’s never guaranteed. I can only hope, pray and not stoop to begging that you enjoy at least some of what you’ve read here.

ANYWAY. So, yes, over a month ago now, the young Michael Michaelson (not his real name) came to visit me in Austria for a week from 26th October to 1st November. Flip me, that’s ages ago. Sorry about that. Totally making up for it now though, right? Safe to say, it was nothing short of fun and hilarious and contained just the right hint of mystery  and all that. So, what did we get up, you ask? Here’s the run-do.

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So Michael arrived safely, and for once I actually managed to find him straight away among the sea of people flooding out of the  Vienna International Airport arrivals doors. And there was no time to waste really, as sunset was becoming an increasingly early affair and as beautiful as the city lights are, let’s face it, most of Vienna’s sights need to be seen in daylight. So we did the basics: Innere Stadt, Hofburg Palace, Rathaus, Parlament and then saw Maria-Theresienplatz (where the Natural History Museum and Art History Museum are located) all lit up with different designs – basically they had a light show. But it was so busy and packed with people that getting a decent selfie or any photo with it at all was a wee bit of a challenge! We then topped off the evening with Michael having his first burrito in the first place I ever had a burrito (burrito bond much?), before making our way to Krems.

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What happens in the rest of October stays in the rest of October.

“End of the week” yep. Let’s skip the introductions.

6. Wine & Mean Girls night

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I’m not kidding. This is a very important thing to a group of English native speakers. Mean Girls is easily the most quotable movie of our generation and even if you’ve seen it 12324 times, you can surely watch it again. I don’t and shouldn’t need to tell you that though. PS. This one features Nikki, Colleen’s friend who was over staying. Pfft, we’re friends now too. She good. Just like a fine wine… Who am I kidding? I know nothing about wine, despite living so close to the vineyards. Carry on.

7. Mini-Oktoberfest

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Kate and her “shoehorn”

So, Oktoberfest was already over mid-Septemberish… but that was only the real Munich Oktoberfest. World, make way for Krems. This was probably the first proper night out (if you can call it that, it was super casual) that we had in Krems minus Colleen – there’s always one. So it was just Kate, Katherine and I chilling and making friends that night…and ending up super separated and having to just leave because losing people is not fun. Jimmy’s is…

8. Katana rituals

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The night time is the right time, right?

Not to be confused with whatever Kate and I’s ‘couple name’ would be, not the Japanese sword of the same name, Katana is the collective term for Katherine and Anna. Although the name wasn’t coined until earlier this month, October was the month in which some classy things we just happen to do together were born. Billa and Chill refers to shopping at Billa, buying the best chocolate ever, having a soup starter and then eating some sort of proper meal that includes meat. Garlic soup though…

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What Happens in October stays in October, lest we forget.

Can you believe I’ve been here now over a month, and it’s 6 weeks today til I go home for Christmas? Nope, me neither. And it’s been a whirlwind of an experience already. I know my posts are still a little on the slow side, especially with so much going on these days, but bear with me. Today, I’m not going to deliver you paragraph after paragraph of dialogue, but rather going to list some of the most interesting (well, to me anyway) experiences I’ve been having so far.

At this point, I’d say I’m pretty well settled into the routine of things, my flat and my friends, albeit being ever open to making more. It’s a small town remember, and it’s not over til we know everyone… 😮 I’m totally (half-)kidding. Only the ones worth knowing. I’ve also gone through my week of training in St. Pölten and gained at least a few ideas of how to stand up in front of a classroom of countless children (yet some not that much younger than myself, when you really think about it…) and tell them something they don’t know in an accent they haven’t heard. And for the most part, that’s equipped me for the past 5 weeks of being a TA pretty well.

So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to. (Note: check out my Instagram for more frequent snapshots of it!)

1. St. Pölten

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Always on the lookout for these opportunities…

So, I already mentioned this, but I stayed in St. Pölten, about 40 minutes from Krems by train, as part of our orientation/training course. I shared a room with the lovely Colleen, from NY state, also a teaching assistant in Krems, and over the course of five days, we were given free breakfast, lunch and dinner (because food is the most important thing to mention here), mingled with the other British and US assistants, explored some of the city,  gained some ideas for teaching games and methods, drank coffee, visited schools and explored some of the finest bars. Not to mention, the taster session in Austrian traditional dancing on the farewell evening. That was…not my finest hour, but something anyway. There’s not really too much to say on the whole week, but it gave everyone a chance to get to know each other better and calm some nerves for the coming weeks. Hey friends.

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Ich bin angekommen!

Yes, I have arrived. As of almost three weeks ago. Well, at least I arrived in Vienna airport on the morning of Wednesday 23rd feeling dazed and disbelieving (as well as totally exhausted from a lack of sleep that night) to be back in Austria at long last. After a tearless goodbye (for once), I spent the 2 and a half hour-long flight drifting in and out of sleep. And then suddenly, I was there! Cue all the German-language signs, the signs for Vienna and all the Austrian business advertisements and yet it still all didn’t – and doesn’t – feel real. But it totally is.

I was really lucky to have a friend to stay with in the Hauptstadt (capital) for the next two nights until I was planning on heading to Krems to officially become a resident once again (thanks Irma). She met me off the train from the airport and then after dropping my stuff off at her dorm room, we spent the majority of the rest of the day going back to all the old haunts of our Erasmus time last year, where we’d first become friends! One particular place was our favourite place for lunch, Café Votiv, where there was one thing and one thing only that I wanted – SCHNITZEL . And it was sooooo worth it. Right up until I went to leave, and managed to mistake a customer for a waiter and embarrassingly have to run out of the place – but yeah, I can totally show my face there again. Not.

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When you have to screenshot…

Then again, we did all the usual city centre sightseeing, with the Stephansdom, Hofburg and Parlament, for example, and even managed to throw in a dinner at Vapiano’s (please open a store in Northern Ireland) with another girl who I’d met during my Erasmus time last year, Caitlin. Not to mention just casually trying on a dirndl one morning. It all just felt so surreal to be back, when I’d wanted to return since the moment I left last July. I also even managed to get my phone and bank account sorted on my first day in the country, which was a big plus… even if my new bank details still remain unbeknownst (is that a word?!) to me because apparently these things take their time to arrive via the good old postal system, even when the address is now 100% updated. More

Here I go again… (on my own).

Right now, I’m guessing it’s about 3 hours til I have to leave this house to get to Dublin Airport, check in all my bags and board that plane. And yet, it still doesn’t feel real. The true question on the forefront of my mind is actually… to sleep or not to sleep?

I’m sure I could find some small part of me tired enough to succumb to a power nap, but then again, I want to get ready my plane playlist (yes, that’s a thing, for me anyway). So while this is fresh in my mind, here’s my top 10 songs that you should listen to when you’re setting off on your year abroad or leaving home, at the travelling stage. They’re actually in no particular order, but literally just some of the ones which are featuring on my playlist for the morning. Also, this may just reflect my own taste in music, sorry I’m not sorry.

  1. Rascal Flatts – I’m Movin’ On

    – This song has always meant so much to me and if you listen to some of the lyrics in it, perhaps it could be mistakenly taken offensively by the people you’re leaving – but, like I said, mistakenly. It’s a song about leaving home, and going to a new place, basically because it’s time to. A beautiful song like all those written by this country band.
  2. Will Smith – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

    – This song doesn’t even need an excuse to be on a playlist, but think of the story that goes with it – surely you can apply that to your situation and be the prince/princess of wherever you wish. Think positively and not too seriously.
  3. Loreen – Euphoria

    – This one is especially for those European travellers. What better way to go to the continent than with your ears full of a Eurovision-winning anthem?! Maybe not necessarily applicable lyric-wise, but again, it’s best to not take the journey too seriously when you’ve just come through a wave of goodbyes (tear-filled or otherwise) and are ready to just generally enjoy yourself.
  4. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me

    – This song I’ve chosen in full keeping with the travelling theme of it all. I love Frank Sinatra, honestly, and his voice just makes me melt. This also reminds me of some advert at home, someone jog my memory as to which? Another honorable mention of this specific style of music would have to be “Beyond the Sea” (The Bobby Darin version), especially if there are some people you’re finding a particularly difficult time of missing!
  5. Selena Gomez & The Scene – Hit the Lights

    – Gomez’ “Hit the Lights” to me, is really about taking chances and risks. What bigger chance is there than making the big life of change of moving it all over to a country you may or may not be familiar with, to meet new people and have a whole wealth of new experiences! Be brave and jump in.
  6. Walk Off the Earth – Rule the World

    – Okay, so I may be a bit biased in choosing this song – I literally am listening to it non-stop these days. But hey, use this against all the nay-saying voices in your mind. No matter what anyone tells you you can’t do, you can do itSo inspirational there. Travel the globe? Sure. Live in a place where you know absolutely nobody? No sweat. Rule the world? You know the answer to that.
  7. Carrie Underwood – Don’t Forget to Remember Me

    – This one should really come with a ‘heartstring-tugging’ disclaimer. A classic Carrie number about leaving home for a fresh start (perhaps to college even?) and the journey of goodbyes, keeping in touch and getting on in your new life. I know I already said #1 was beautiful, but this one is equally so.
  8. Billy Joel – Vienna

    – So I’m not exactly going to Vienna, and maybe whoever is reading this isn’t either. But I could not travel that way without throwing in any song featuring its name in the title. I still love this song. Seriously though, Vienna does wait for you. You don’t know what you’re missing!
  9. Onerepublic – Good Life

    – Ahhhh this song!! Keeping it simple here and probably repeating myself, but have fun. This is going to be an amazing year.
  10. John Denver – Leaving On A Jet Plane

    – I’m sure you knew this one was coming. Fairly, fairly obviously so. Bit bittersweet and maybe not completely always applicable. All those people you’re missing right now – you’re most likely going to see them again. And if you’re not coming home, just keep on going on at them to come out and visit you. Just like I do with my friends :)BONUS!

    John Murphy – Adagio in D Minor

    – This final bonus song is one of my absolute favourite instrumental tracks, and if you just fancy a relaxing break away from the lyrics, this is perfect. Originally used in the movie Sunshine, it’s since been heard elsewhere such as in The Walking Dead’s first season.

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Prelude to a Krems.

I’m going away again. In 12 days.

Wait, hold on a second, did I mention? I’M GOING AWAY AGAIN IN TWELVE DAYS. Second year abroad. Year abroad: take two. Year abroad: the sequel… but it’s going to be completely different this time.

It all started back in December, or maybe earlier, when I decided I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and after going a whole 21 years with no desire to dabble in anything to do with teaching or education, I went and considered that I might actually want to at least give it a shot. So I applied to the British Council’s Language Assistant Program, actually with the initial determination to make it to Canada and help teach English in that part of the world because it all just sounded so amazing. But then I remembered the place I fell in love (with) – Austria – and I knew that I was going to have to switch up the whole application because that’s where I had felt most at peace with myself home.

So let’s skip forward a few months of university stress, life stress and formal organising to the day of our final year languages formal (a.k.a. the best night I’ve ever had ie. Thursday 30th April 2015) where myself and a few other friends got emails confirming that we had been provisionally been accepted onto the program. It wasn’t 100% but it was definitely something to dance the night away about. In complete style.
Here’s a wee picture of us all scrubbed up and in our Disney princess formal attire, just because, and keep in mind we were celebrating this, the end of classes and the end of university… except that we still had exams on the way.

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L-R: Perry, me, Jenna & Grace

And before we move back just yet to the finer details of the incoming year, can I just say… I graduated! On July 7th 2015, I graduated with Second Class Upper Honours in BA (Hons) Applied Languages and Translation in French and German. Can’t help but feel like I have to give this full drawn-out description. You may address me with BA from now on…

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(some of) the class of 2015!

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Classic ‘with-parents’ graduation photo, folks.

Anyway, let’s move on from that and touch on the next couple of months, when I finally got allocated my Austrian region (Niederösterreich) and not a bit too soon, my exact location and institutions. Its name? Krems an der Donau. At last, some clarity! Except I had only ever heard of this town (or is it a city? hmm…) and knew next to nothing about it. That was nothing a bit of google couldn’t solve, however… but you can only learn so much while not being there, right? Aside from the lack of connaissance, was I excited? But of course. And am I still super excited to go there and live and work and learn?

DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION?!?!?!

Yet I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing or what’s going to happen when I get there. I’m still super excited though. And nervous. And a bundle of emotions which, if I wasn’t used to feeling so many things at once, could otherwise make me ill. I can sum up my pre-expectations of the town as: “well, in my head, Krems looks like a much greener and much bigger Ballyclare (my hometown). I don’t really want to inject any negativity into this at all, I’m trying to be open minded and all. But google maps-ing it tells me that everything I need is pretty much within walking distance.”

So, what was the actual point of this post, you ask? Mainly to update everybody on my current situation and recent events!
I really can’t wait to go back and I’m looking forward to having visitors! 😉

Let’s catch up soon, eh?

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