Monday, April 25, 2005

bad ischl

i’m back und ich habe ein brand OR, for you monolingual folk, “i have a fire in me” ~ otherwise known as a hangover ‘cept it doesn’t mean you feel sick, or have a headache, it literally means you have a fire in you (curable by drinking cream, apparently) and, after a night out [at bloody irish and australian pubs] with my favourite fugazi and a bunch of austrian/british/american rugby players (spanks aplenty must go to alex and his broken nose!), that fire should come as NO surprise! now, after a lazy day in the klosterneuburg sunshine, i’m relaxing on the best balcony in the world, listening to cat empire, and attempting in some way to relay my experiences in bad ischl, home of the famous zaunerstolle...

it started seven days ago, challengingly early on an intensely wintery monday morning ~ really i thought i’d done a dorothy, somehow clicking my red sparkly heels together in my sleep and waking up in mid-winter melbourne complete with howling wind, driving rain, gloom and doom fixed on everyone’s tired n grumpy faces, red-suited ambulance workers disappearing off the bus and into the misty streets of the city. i had no idea what lay ahead, hutteldorf u-bahn station and a green minibus being my only clues to the exhaustingly enjoyable schnitzeljagd that would become my week with mandl sprachkurse.

i got there half an hour early and sat in the railway station cafe, injecting the necessary caffeine i knew i’d need just to get as far as the exit, let alone all the way to bad ischl. when i’d had my fix and made my way out into the dim light of that day, i was greeted by a cold n sorry looking bunch of auslanders and mr mandl’s somewhat anxious welcome. johnny, a scotsman, and steve, a brit, introduced themselves straight up and when i climbed in the car alex, jolly and florence said hi. but when i replied “hi i’m leonie”, pete [later to be known as “the controller”] retorted “WOT?” and complained that i was the third australian he’d met recently with a name like that ~ i almost turned around n went home, hey.

after a few minutes little miss late turned up, introduced herself as beata and we were on our way to the youth hostel that would become our home and school for the week. the three hour~ish trip passed quickly and, considering only a few of our group had met before, tales of getting shot at and mugged in norfolk [virginia], performing jackass~esque stunts and meeting traditional austrian farmers who played guitar [but only whilst atop their tractors with the engines running] were not what i’d call par for the course. although you prob’ly wont believe it, i was pretty quiet, partly from my usual nonmorningness, but mostly just coz i was trying to figure out what strange track i’d suddenly found myself wandering along.

so now, having done full circle along that curious path, to salzkammergut and back (!), i’ve had my first real osterreichisch teaching experience and, if i was forced to describe it in one word, that word would definitely be AWESOME!! but you must know i’m not much chop at one word answers so, indulge me, if you will: five long and mostly misty days; nine pretty fun native english~speakers harking from england, scotland, wales, canada and australia; four friendly and yet characteristically quite reserved austrian teachers; the one and the only mr wilfried mandl; and 73 fresh-faced austrian schoolgirls from vöcklabruck! oh, CAN you imAGINE??!

the first afternoon was pretty cruisy: we met the four friendly austrian teachers [joe, margit, mary and christine], had some lunch [vegetarians also provided for, except on fish friday] and a preparatory meeting and launched straight into classes. there were nine groups, with seven or eight girls in each. at first it was a bit daunting, the 20~something male native~speakers amongst us [and me] particularly nervous about being confronted by a bunch of thirteen year old girls.

but our worries were entirely unfounded, these girls were lovely, sweet, smiley, curious and polite little things who behaved themselves almost too well all through the week. and mr mandl, to give him credit, had prepared more than enough material for the twenty classes we were to carry out and, while there was a leetle leeway and room for impromptu activities, he was the boss and he knew what he wanted which made it, honestly, pretty easy for us...well, the classes anyway.

the hardest part was finding the energy to keep up with all those girls, high on excitement and wide~eyed with fascination at these strange foreigners in their midst. our job was really to get these girls more comfortable with speaking english, shyness being a tricky hurdle for many of them. but i also felt like i was in a bit of a big~sister role too.

so we really tried to spend as much time with them as possible, eating a few meals with them, playing cards with them in our free time, joining in some of their afternoon and evening activities even though we weren’t obliged to, even performing a half-hour play for them on the last night. jeez, that play is a blog entry in itself (!) but i think i’ll let the photos do the talking (more coming soon). suffice to say, our efforts made a difference ~ the deafening roar of applause and cheers we got from the kids on our last day confirmed their appreciation beyond a shadow of doubt.

kanyeshna, there were the usual hiccups associated with having 70+ kids cooped up inside all day and a bunch of pommy bastards trying to get along (!) but minor theft, illness and injury was really nothing out of the ordinary and certainly NOTHING like you’d expect from a bunch of british or even viennese schoolkids, or so i’ve heard. and when the leetle treasures finally went to bed each night, we native~speakers were free freE frEE fREE FREEEEE to roam those dark shiny cobblestoned streets in search of that precious amber liquid we know fondly as beer.

and, our search having been a roaring success, i can highly recommend k n k and stehbeisl, should you ever find yourself in the beautiful mountain village that is bad ischl. but please, bear in mind, if you fall asleep at the bar and you wind up late for breakfast you just wont get none ~ luckily there’s a “bar” at the hostel so if you’re a likely contender, i’d suggest you drink there. AND they certainly don’t expect foreigners to order a radler at stehbeisl so if you try it and get yourself a macchiato instead, don’t say i didn’t warn you. lastly, it could be good to remember, that five grosses weissbeers after a long day at the “office” will probably NOT find you fighting fit the next grey morn.

other highlights of the week included:
visiting the imperial palace where the anorexic empress sissi and her opium smokin hubby lived;
steve and johnny’s irish/scottish/english violin/guitar and strange drum performance;
the siriuskogel which we reached via the schnitzel hunt (otherwise known as a treasure hunt) on a sunshiney thursday arvo;
the final concert on thursday night complete with our ten million euro lottery winning play and numerous singing, dancing and comedy performances from 70 something not so shy teenage girls!

and finally, coming home to receive a pile of much welcome international snail mail including cocktail recipes (spanks mumbo), the fine work of mr alex parr international man of art, as well as YOU letters aplenty and wicked zines from the superhero himself!! keep your eyes peeled ‘round smelbourne town for the latest installment of starnawskirestlessness in YOU letter form and if you see luke, tell him he RAWKS!!!

and this week’s potentials??
teaching zeiselmauer swimming teaching st andrä-wördern arrinking schikaneder swimming and trivia~ing and anD aND AND...the thursday night arrival of the one and only, the wandering adventurer, the chocolate fiend, the tofu theif, that’s right, you heard it slash read it here first, the SQODGELATORRRRRRRR is soon to be here, caught in the clutches of chaos house kburg city...look out grumpy weiners!!


oh yea and mumbo jumbo, can you puh~leeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaase bring me some peanut butter! and either a kangaroo or a crocodile for markus ~ he’s not fussy. tarr muchly, love lots xx

Monday, April 18, 2005

mad maD mAD MAD goa party!!

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well, i might be a beer* with a sore head today but it's worth it coz the goa party that stephan and claudia took me to last night was, as above, mad maD mAD MAD!!

whether we would actually go or not was doubtful coz after sitting around at stephan's place for hours, we [especially HE] was feeling a leetle, how you say...? *lethargic* and asked me if i really wanted to go.

an outdoor goa party? do i wanna go? kanyeshna! who do you think you're talking to??!

i just said i didn't mind where we went as long as we went SOMEWHERE. lucky for me, niko was coming with us and stephan didn't think he could be talked out of going. so, after we picked him up from weidlinger bahnhof, we were on our way.

it was supposed to be about a forty minute drive or so, south of vienna, and our directions were pretty sketchy. somehow, after an uncountable number of wrong turns and calls to ingo, we found ourselves driving up a dark narrow road into the forest.

at the end of the road we were met by torch-weilding party people. in the darkness we shook hands and introduced ourselves (standard practise in austria the first time you meet someone) and they led us a short distance to the wicked leetle party set up in what may or may not have been a disused quarry.

pics can be found in my photobucket but they just DON'T slash CAN'T do justice to the amazing location and the craZy excited feeling that hit us as soon as we saw it. the whole party was set up in a grassy clearing almost entirely surrounded by sheer rockfaces.

there was a good fire going, surrounded by logs to sit on, a bbq with free potatoes (oh, they know the way to my heart!!), a bar backed by a massive horizontal tree trunk, laser projections on the rock face, other cool decorations and even a tiny vip chill out tent but, as ingo told me, everyone that was there was a vip.

there was probably about forty people or so and all the ones i spoke to were really friendly and interested slash bemused by my presence in austria ~ i'm actually having to learn to speak slowly now coz otherwise there's a lotta people i just can't have a conversation with and you must KNOW that i couldn't handle that!

there wasn't a whole lotta dancing happening but we got a few ottakringers into me n my posse ~ claudia, stephan, niko, markus, gerald & dani ~ and we were havin a boogie before long. it was the first party put on by this crew ~ and i reckon i'm not the only one who's hoping there'll be more!

heading to bad ischl early tomorrow morning and wont be back til friday evening so YOU will have to survive the week without any starnawskirestlessness ranting...think you'll be hokay?

hope you're all awesome!!


oh yea, forgot to say, i went swimming yesterday too! OUTDOORS at happyland!! i thought i was going to die either from the cold or the strange sensation of physical exertion but well, i guess it's obvious i survived.

*note: bear is often mispronounced as beer by austrians, the the funniest incident was gerald showing me photos from romania and telling me that the area was famous for it's beer ~ a believable statement until he told me he'd seen a mother beer a baby beer!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

beer cerveza pivo biere beer ol birra bier bere piwo sor etc

we're all here drinkin beer...o! sorry, seems it's just me...but ade n stav, well, dear family in your entirety, you'll be proud to know, i''m drinkin none other than austria's finest, goesser! and how piss funny (pun, NOT intended) that the website asks you if you're over 18 or not!!

yeh, so it's late~ish on friday night and everyone who's anyone in chaos house is already sleeping. fugazi and supermum have got an excuse, they're heading off to italy at 2am. but me, well, i couldn't be arsed going out to the goa party that stephan called me about tonight. just couldn't face the bus slash u-bahn shemozzle to be honest. and, my seesaw-atop-a-rollercoaster-on-the-edge-of-the-ravine-over-the-void-of-the
-indefinable-future week has been a bit much for leetle ole me.

but, first things first, congratu-spatu-fatu-farking-superfantastic-lations to poppadaddysupapaddy and the uberlubblylisa for the six week early appearance of the healthily adorable aurora jane!! sorry if you can't handle the gushiness but i've moved onto a stiegl now and there aint no holding me back...

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(the proud grandfather and impatient aurora jane ~ sorry they're a bit squished, i couldn't resize the picture properly)

...cept p'rhaps that damn big nasty looking eight-legged so-and-so that's crawling right by me looking rather deadly...deep breath squeonie, gulp that stiegl and keep your feet up high...katie! i think it's the same one!! and now it's disappeared back down to the nether regions where, unfortunately, i have to stand at some stage...okay, more breathing, have to cope, haven't blogged for way too long.

Monday, April 04, 2005

loneliness disappears at the end of a pen*

it’s sunday night and we just came back from a sexfest...

oh, sorry! i mean a sexTETTfest, kanyeshna!! which, in case you’re too lowbrow slash uncultured to know, actually means a classical music concert performed by a string sextet. and in this case, ensemble neues kunstlerforum at the camineum-saal (hofburg) performing the work of strauss, mozart, dvorak and a contemporary viennese composer, barcaba. yea, that’s me...high society n all that.

well okay, do ya wanna hear the truth? or would you rather my highly fabricated version of reality?! oh, if only i could write this blog as a choose your own adventure ~ maybe that’ll be my next project. after getting a job or two and writing a travel piece for the age and finishing the da vinci code...

shite, i didn’t think i’d admit it but, yea, i’m reading THAT bloody book. don’t ask me about it now though. according to the meticulous review system christian suggested, i will only rate books in comparison to the one or two i’ve read before it. and given that the two before it were pattern recognition and down and out in paris and london, well...i reckon dan brown’s got two chances.

truth is, i’ve had a wickedly fun AND cultured AND musical weekend which started with a surprisingly fine evening out at cafe kafka on friday. i was in two minds about going coz i don’t usually get into open mic all that much (or poetry for that matter) but i thought an opportunity to meet some english speaking arty farty types was probably a good idea.

unfortunately, or so i thought at the time, no one could be convinced to come with me. i guess it was friday night, end of the working week, waterpolo training night, scout meeting night and all that and...well, let’s face it, poetry can be rather dull at the best of times. so, i put off my departure, not quite making up my mind whether to go or not and then it was already ten past eight by the time i finished blogging to you lot.

one small thing that must be considered when you’re planning a night out in wien is that the buses from maria gugging to heiligenstadt (the nearest u-bahn/underground station) only come every half hour. and we ALL know how superfantastically good i am at missing those things with wheels, don’t we?! so sure enough, i decide to leave at exactly the time the bus is due.

shoving my feet into passion t-bars, dropping things left right and centre, hurriedly double-kissing supermum and markus their goodbyes, slamming the gate and racing time to the bus to the stop was, if not a good start to the evening, also not an unusual one. a coupla u-bahn’s later and i was at mariahilferstrasse, shopping district massive by day (see flickr pics for some idea) but at this time of night, almost a leetle threatening ~ probly just coz i didn’t know where THE HELL i was going!

cafe kafka was quiet when i walked in. someone was reading german. and there was nowhere to sit. it didn’t seem particularly exciting, but at least it was no carl rickard "book" launch, someplace where you want to hide your head and pretend you’ve never HEARD of poetry, let alone coordinated a writers’ festival ~ that bloody apostrophe still makes my blood boil!

so, pretty soon i realised how practical it was that i’d come alone. for who, but the deeelightful sqodger perhaps (and even then only with a steady stream of amber ale), could have been convinced to stay there with me, propping up the bar whilst simultaneously drowning in a mass of nyemetski yazik of the self-indulgent kind and rapidly running out of cashola.

but i stayed, and i’m damn glad i did. after poring through a vegan magazine for wiener vegetarian eateries, gulping a stiegl or two whilst waiting out the guest speaker’s incomprehensible (to monolinguistic moi) forty minute rant and buying a somewhat average english poetry zine, this tall, kinda daggy looking guy got between me n my beer and, well, if that wouldn’t make me talk, nothing would.

after the break and some impromptu menu translation, steve performed two pieces one of which [it’s a fucking bad day ~ check out his site for the mp3] had me laughing out loud and then clapping my hand across my mouth in embarassed surprise. it was a pretty friendly crowd though and i found a guy across the room imitating me in my embarassment: grinning and putting his hand over his mouth too. steve’s second piece was “a word from our sponsors” and was about “vienna, where death is at home,” an interesting comment about this city i don’t know so well yet which, according to supermum, IS kinda obsessed with death.

so yea, there was a bit more poetry in english and some which was annoyingly introduced in english but read in german. they also announced a few other literary events that are coming up, i met a few more people and then it was time to hightail back to the u-bahn. there was a half-hour wait at heiligenstadt where the april air closed around me like an unfriendly lover and i tried to ignore it by noting down the entire bus timetable. but eventually the last bus to maria gugging came and twenty minutes of tousled hair and brake lights later i was home sweet chaos house again.

saturday morning came, apparently, but no bastard woke me up so i missed it. by the time i dragged my lazy arse outta bed the sun was high in the sky and cousin gunter was over with his maniac kids. supposedly he was asking for me but, as usual, little to no conversation ensued and he showed extremely predictable reluctance in helping me get a job in a bar. but meh, who needs his help?! well, yea, okay, maybe me...

anyway, i’m getting tired so here’s saturday in fifty words or less:
museum quartier
meeting victoria!
buying californian wine
drinking an apfelsaft gespritz
square time at spunky werner’s supercool flat
planet music
death metal avoidance
muchos beeros
girlie chats mit fugazi
milk plus’ psychedelic rock!!
bastard hill climb
fire on the buchberg
hiccups n home

you’ll just hafta wait for the malakofftorte and rudesheim kaffee update (~ yes! they really serve it in a cup like that!), patience my dear sweet things...oh no, i’m so tired i’m confusing YOU with the malakofftorte...

bed beckons, immediately!

*thanks to victoria the unknown at the labyrinth reading for the quote about loneliness...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

und then there were zehn

chaos house. i'm sitting at a computer desk in a room which contains more bookshelves than i can count ~ let's go with nine for now ~ as well as a dining table that seats eight, two couches, a sewing desk, the tv, two computers including mine and more...the floor is covered with three or four different carpets and the dining table with a colourful cotton cloth. the walls, or what remains between the bookshelves and the windows, are adorned with large photographic prints of africa ~ libya, i guess.

s'mum is sleeping soundly (slash having a nap) on one of the couches ~ her current bedroom because of oma's recently broken leg and subsequent extended stay at chaos house. we've had dinner already but it's still light outside coz it's daylight savings. atop the computer monitor in front of me lies a mini zezbbles and beyond that an array of baseballs, photos, trophies, statues, candles, vases, ashtrays and other odds n ends. i can see, but just barely, the mammoth front hedge and the top of elisabeth's house across the road.

nichts (pronounced "nix" = nothing) but my fingers clicking on the keyboard. the coffee was bubbling but it's stopped now. s'mum was snoring but she's stopped too. i think she operates in tandem with the coffee, you would too if you drank that much of the stuff! i can hear the cars going by outside on kierling hauptstrasse, that's the main street between klosterneuberg, tulln and beyond.

every now and then oma (grandma) coughs or shuffles about. but the house is quieter than it's been all week coz the schierach kids are all at waterpolo training and markus is keeping to his sleepy self upstairs. it's a good opportunity to complete the final module of my tefl course, the young learners module. but i can't be arsed.
i got my grammar results a couple of days ago and with 94%, i'm giving myself a break. don't actually know how useful or necessary that piece of paper is going to be. seems i might be okay for a job without it.

today, s'mum and i met with stella (christian's friend AC's mum), who's british and teaches at the vienna international school. we talked a bit about different teaching opportunities in vienna, and a lot about travel and life and all sorts of other things. i'm going to meet her next week at the school, hopefully to meet with the head of her department and some other teachers from australia and nz and see if they've got any ideas for me.

but i'm not too worried coz i had a pretty successful day yesterday. i met with the principal of zeiselmauer primary school where our neighbour elisabeth teaches. i visited the school a few times last time i was staying in kierling and, together with gabs once, managed to teach the kids a few games and some bad habits! it was a lot of fun though and i'd be keen to work there again...if i get paid, and it seems i might!

the principal, karin, was really friendly and excited to meet me and keen to have me working there assisting the other teachers with their english classes. only thing is, she has to find out how keen THEY are. and how much the parents are prepared to pay. it probably wont be all that much per student but, because of the number of students, will work out to be more than enough for me.

karin also made an appointment next tuesday, for me to meet with the principal of klosterneuberg gymnasium (that's what they call the more academic high schools here, as far as i can gather) which is closer to home and would involve working (potentially) as a teacher's assistant with high-school aged kids, i think 12-18 or we'll see how that goes!

oh yea, and i've got an interview with biztalk on monday too. and another meeting scheduled for the following week with teachers representing all of lower austria and the man who writes the english language books for each year level for ALL the schools. should be interesting whether or not it involves any chance of employment.

so my life's been pretty busy coz that's not even the half of it. yea, if you can believe it, chaos house got even MORE chaotic this week. with the sudden arrival of cousin olivia from salzburg, our population rose to zehn (ten, duh!)...including the ghost and the dog. i wouldn't have thought there was room for more but i don't know that s'mum would be able to say no if she tried.

olivia's gone home now though so we'll be back down to seven, coz i don't really include the ghost and the dog! fugazi and i have been hangin out a bit too, which has been cool. we met with J meister T (fugazi's mate who travelled to oz with her last year) and her brother gerald (fugazi's ex who used to live at chaos house too) at cafe leopold last sunday and it was, honestly, much better than i expected. JT was FULL of beans and had a million ideas for us to go out dancing, to bars, to yoga(!) and to circus workshops too!

but for now, i gots to GO, coz there's english language poetry on tonight at cafe kafka and i wanna check it out!!