Friday, January 23, 2009

And All That Jazz!

How do I keep getting so far behind in my posts?! I think I'm going to have to condense some things!

Every year on January 5, there is a parade of lights and bells in Stainach. The participants are dressed all in white and wear giant bells around their waists (like Krampus). On their heads they wear enormous luminarias in the form of astrological symbols, flowers, stars, coats of arms, which are illuminated from inside with real candles, not with any artificial light source. It is by far the most romantic custom I've experienced in Austria!

SUPPENEINLAGE (video link)
The junior business league at Stainach sponsored a cabaret on January 8. The comedian started the show with the premise that his wife had divorced him and now he had to cook for himself. He talked about all the fad diets that his wife had been on, all of the weird health kicks she'd subjected him to, and statistics about world hunger. All the while, he is standing on stage slicing vegetables and making soup. At the end of the performance, everyone in the audience gets a bowl of the soup he's cooked. Ingenious!

RAUMBERG BALL (pictures and more pictures)
January 10 was the most anticipated ball night in the Enns Valley. The Raumberg Ball takes place at the boarding school where my roommate, Rob, is an assistant. The students transform the school and its classrooms into a paradise of discos, bars, and "exhibition halls" (pun intended... ask me about my wardrobe malfunction!) There were 3000 people there, and only two rooms were "smoke free". At the end of the evening I felt like I had passively smoked an entire pack of cigarettes! Saw lots of students, friends and colleagues, all dressed beautifully. It was quite an experience, but I think I prefer other venues for my dates: long walks, ice skating, quiet cafes, concerts, and....

Last year I was introduced to Eisstockschiessen, which is an Austrian variation of curling. In my ever-increasing circle of friends (see below) there is one family with a curling alley in their backyard. I've been several times this winter, and evidently my success last year was no fluke... I'm actually pretty good at this! I also understand a lot more about the game. There are two teams. Both teams stand at one end of the alley, and the captain of each team tries to hit a 5 inch wooden block (known as the "cat") with an Eisstock (a flat disc of wood or plastic weighted with metal, and gripped by a handle on top. Looks like a big parcheesi piece). This determines which team shoots next. The object is to slide the Eisstock across the ice and come as close to the block of wood as possible. But because it's not fixed, the wooden block can wander all over the ice, often repositioning itself closer to an opponent's Eisstock. Strategy comes in when you have to hit your opponents' Eisstöcke out of the way so yours is closest to the cat. Got that? There will be a test!
(l-r: Susi, me, Judith, Sebastian, Gerry, Yvonne, Raimund, Anita)
Last year I lamented the lack of people my age in the Enns Valley. This year my handler, Bernhard, introduced me to his adult evening class in Aigen. These are students who will take their English matura in July. In exchange for speaking English with them, gently correcting their grammar, and giving advice on their special fields, they invite me to dinner, plays, day trips, concerts, and other excursions. They have also lent me their cars, welcomed me into their homes, and made me feel like part of the family.

I am never going to talk about my age again. Ever.

That having been said, Wednesday Irene made potato gulasch and invited Rob, my yoga teacher and a close neighbor to celebrate. Thursday two of my classes made cakes for me, all of them sang happy birthday, I had a special birthday lunch at a colleague's house, and then bought myself a printer/scanner/photo printer to go with my new Canon IXUS 80 IS camera.

On January 8, an Austrian postal truck burned. A few days later, I received slightly charred envelopes with an apology from the Austrian postal service.

I'm beginning to see how I've gotten behind in my posts. I've been busy, busy, busy!

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