Monthly Archives: December 2015

Weihnachten

Today after class we had a party and our teacher Daniela explained the Austrian traditions around the Christmas holiday. Advent comes the beginning of December and lasts until December 24th. To mark the passing of Advent there is a wreath with 4 candles. Each Sunday in December you light one more candle, so on the first Sunday you light only one, the second Sunday two, and so on.  Children (and perhaps grown-ups too) also mark the passing of the days with calendars that have a door to open each day in December behind which is a treat of some type.

Santa Claus doesn’t come to Austria and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not here either, but Nicholas does on December 6th and brings candy to children. You better be good though because the night before Nicholas comes, Krampus comes and kidnaps and beats with sticks children that have been bad!

On December 24 in the evening is Christkind. It is not until then that the Christmas tree is brought in and decorated. It is also the time when presents are brought. A bell is rung to signal to the children that they can come in and receive their presents. Afterwards there is a small dinner of fish soup.

On December 25, 26,27…Lots of eating and drinking and playing and being with family takes place.

The rest of us shared some of our holiday traditions as well. In the Philippines they eat long foods (like spaghetti pasta) to give long life to those eating. In Spain gifts are not exchanged until January 6th, which is Epiphany (the coming of the Magi).

We held out longer than we normally would in America to put up our Christmas tree (mostly because they just opened up the markets for them last weekend), but we didn’t wait until Christmas Eve. I always enjoy putting the ornaments on. They are filled with memories of friends and family. Each of us, including my husband and me have our baby’s first Christmas ornament. There is one from our first year of marriage and one my sister-in-law gave me when I was expecting our first babies. There are ornaments my children have made. We added a new one for this year: Our first Christmas in Vienna!

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Finding My Way

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One of the newest things about life in Vienna for my family was the transition from driving everywhere we went in our car to relying solely on public transportation and our own two feet to get us where we needed to go.  The first few days we didn’t venture far from our temporary apartment. We walked a bit and found the grocery, an Italian restaurant, a market. We laughed when we saw a sign reading, “Papa Joe’s Cafe.” That is what we call my husband’s grandfather. It made us think of home.  My husband started work 2 days after our arrival, so he was the first to ride the U-Bahn. Our first Saturday here we rode all together to Stephansplatz to have our first look at Stephansdom, to see the horses and carriages, and to visit a shop that sold Mozart’s chocolate which we had heard about before coming to Vienna and which my boys were eager to try.IMG_8137

It was cold when we first arrived and we had not brought winter coats. With 5 children and 2 grown-ups needing coats I decided to venture out to the Christ Church Shop which sells second-hand clothes and household things. It was my first time to manage public transportation on my own.  I got on the bus, asked directions for the S-Bahn which I somehow managed to miss. I got on a street car that I thought would take me to my destination only to have it come to a stop and be told I had to get off. I asked directions again. I did eventually make it to the shop, 2 1/2 hours later and 10 minutes before they closed. I managed to buy 1 winter coat and some hats and gloves.  The trip home was much smoother and only took about 25 minutes.

Since then I have managed better. I do fine on the U-Bahn. It is so simple and I have this great map for quick reference.IMG_3616

I have learned a few buses that I have used on more than one occasion and a few street cars, but to be honest I tend to walk rather than get on these more confusing modes of transportation. Google maps has been very helpful, though I am glad to say that now I can get most places without having to have my eyes glued to my cell phone screen. There was a time that I wouldn’t dream of leaving our flat without my phone fully charged. Now I know I can get home if my phone dies while I’m out. I know which end of the U-Bahn to walk to to be close to my exit when I get off. I no longer have to read the signs every time to make sure I’m getting on the right train.  And I love not having a car and not buying gas and not having car repairs and insurance and not buckling children into car seats and booster seats. In fact, the only time I miss having one is after I’ve gone to IKEA and my arms feel like they are going to fall off before I get home. But even that is a good thing–it keeps me from spending too much at one time! My youngest likes it too.

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Home Remedies

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The other day in class we learned how to make an imperative statement and discussed words for various types of sickness. We asked each other the question, “What do you do for a sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, stomach ache, etc…?”  The exchange of ideas was so interesting as we heard each other, from very different countries and backgrounds, explain what we commonly do for these things.  Here are some of the treatments suggested:

For a stuffy nose (Schnupfen):

  1. Fill a bowl with hot water and put your head over it, covered with a towel. At the same time, put your feet in a bowl of hot water. This caused a bit of confusion followed by laughter since one of our classmates thought she meant this using only one bowl. She clarified it was two different bowls and that this should be done only if you don’t have a fever.
  2. Drink hot water or Tea
  3. Take 3 drops of Niaouli oil, the same oil that is in Vick’s Vapor Rub, 3 times a day. The oil itself is safe to eat; my classmate says he has many times and lived. But don’t eat Vick’s Vapor Rub!

For a cough (Husten):

  1. Drink tea with honey, ginger, and lemon.
  2. Take cough medicine.
  3. Drink orange juice

For a stomach ache (Bauchschmerzen):

  1. “When my stomach hurts, go to the toilet!”
  2. Drink Ginger Tea
  3. Put heat on your stomach

I also learned two very important phrases:

Gute Besserung!  Feel better!

and

Bleiben Sie im Bett!  Stay in bed! (Though for my children I would not use the formal. I am promised I will learn how to tell them this soon.)

Well-Timed Lessons

We are into the second week of German class. Due to the holidays interrupting and shortening the schedule, this intensive class is more intense than usual, compressing 4 weeks into 3. The extra thirty minutes make a difference. My brain feels a little foggy by the end of class, though perhaps that is due more to my head cold than the length of the class.

I have been surprised at the practical timing of our German lessons.  On the day we learned how to express having a problem with something I had to speak with a teacher about a schedule change. The day I am coming down with a cold we discussed body parts and learned vocabulary dealing with different types of sickness. The day after we talked about making and changing appointments and exams, I encountered the words for these things when talking with my son’s teacher.

These things are so encouraging to me as a student. It inspires and motivates me to keep learning when I see how very practically to my everyday life what I am learning is. I know there are people who manage to live in another country without learning the language of the place that they live, but to me it feels very cumbersome and limiting. I called the kindergarten yesterday to tell them my son was sick. I tried to communicate who I was and why I was calling in German, but they couldn’t understand me so I had to resort to English.  Today someone in class was asking me about my previous work as a nurse, but the words to describe it in German weren’t there.  But one day they will be. I work toward that end.IMG_3676

Die Kirchen

One of the things I love about living in Vienna is the beauty all around us. It is everywhere, both simple and elaborate. Walking through the subway stations, even sometimes on the subway, you can hear people playing music, both familiar and foreign to my ears. There are the formal concerts with stringed instruments and organs and trained singers. There are shops with beautiful window displays of bread or jewelry or clothing and Christmas markets with lights and decorations. There are paintings inside of buildings and out. I always enjoy the stop at Volkstheater with the paintings above the tracks. And there are sculptures and buildings that could keep your eyes occupied for months. Among the beautiful sculptures and buildings are the churches. In our first apartment we walked passed Brigittakirche every day on the way home. I passed by it again today while visiting a friend and it was a welcome site.

Brigittakirche

Brigittakirche

The Stephansdom is a wonder to behold. No words or pictures do it justice.

Stephansdom

Stephansdom

Peterskirche is smaller than the Stephansdom by far, but beautiful. They also have free concerts almost every day.

Saint Peter's Kirche

Peterskirche

Karlskirche was one of the first churches we visited.

Karlskirche

Karlskirche

And this church I haven’t yet identified the name of, but the sun shining through the windows tonight as it was setting was truly breathtaking.

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Finally, here is the inside of the church that I attend, Christ’s Church. This is a comforting place for me. The familiar liturgy and the people who speak my mother-tongue but are kind enough to encourage my German make me feel quite at home.

Christ's Church

Christ’s Church

The Joys (and Embarrassments!) of Learning a Language

My fantastic classmates and my instructor, Daniela.

My fantastic classmates and my instructor, Daniela.

I have finished my first full week of the intensive German class and have been trying to stretch myself to think and converse in German.  Yesterday I went with my children to a restaurant for lunch and ordered our food in German. It was a little slow, but I managed to communicate what we wanted effectively enough that everyone got the food they wanted.  At the end of the meal when they cleared away the plates I intended to compliment the food. My brain and tongue got confused though and while I meant to say, “This is tasty.” (Das ist lecker.), I said instead, “Das ist schleck.” (This is bad.) Both I, and to my joy, one of my sons, caught the mistake immediately and I was able to correct myself, but it was an embarrassing moment to be sure and I’m not sure I made my correction very clear. Perhaps our repeated presence at the restaurant will speak to our favorable opinion of the food.

Today in class we listened to a dialogue. It was humorous and I laughed and it was fun to understand. I picked up my son from preschool and had an entire conversation explaining a change in scheduling that she needed to know about. She complimented my German (which was very gracious of her). On the U-Bahn on the way home a lady asked my other son if he would like to sit by the window. He looked at me for understanding and I, without thinking about it or asking her to repeat herself as I so often do, was able to translate for him. At the store when I was checking out the cashier asked me if I had 2 cents to make the change less cumbersome and this too I understood the first time.  These are the joys of learning and I am grateful for the good teaching and classmates I study with.

This weekend I am working on vocabulary. My lack of knowledge in this area is a great impediment and one I hope to remedy steadily.

 

Beginning Class

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Today was the first day of my German classes. I started in 1A-2.  I confess to being a little nervous and I really didn’t know what to expect.  I came straight from dropping my children off to school and was the first one there besides the instructor Daniella. She began by asking me, in German, my name and where I was from and why I wanted to learn German. I appreciated very much her patience in repeating questions and speaking slowly and waiting for understanding to come instead of clarifying in English. There is a impediment to truth telling when you do not know a language. When asked what my hobbies were I searched for words I knew that could be considered hobbies. Swimming was one of them, because one of my children’s classes recently went. When I was young I swam quite a lot, but now I can’t honestly call it a hobby.

I’m not sure any of the ten of us in the class are from the same country. It was fun to work together, to laugh, and to learn. I learned an important difference between Austrian German and German German today. In German German chair is Stul. Austrian German chair is Sessel. Stul in Austrian German is excrement.  A very important thing to know before asking for a chair!

We began with prepositions and the dative case for definite and indefinite articles. English may be complicated in other areas, but it is a gift to all students of English that nouns do not have gender. There is no rhyme or reason to the gender of German nouns; they simple must be learned. My brain was full by the end of class, but there was something very satisfying in knowing for three hours I had worked in German.  And my children can take comfort in knowing that now Mama too has homework.