Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Austria So Far....

So... I haven't had the internet for a while, so decided to keep a diary in Word instead. This is where I got up to:

Day 1 in Austria Wednesday 22nd September 2010

Got up at 5 to leave the holiday inn at Stansted airport and got on plane at 7.30. Plane was however delayed and didn’t take off til 8.40. Didn’t really notice the waiting, probably coz I was so tired! Slept all the way – very uncomfortable and kept waking up with a stiff neck – but woke properly at 10 to 11 when we landed, went quickly through the airport check and baggae claim and went straight to Hertz rent a car. Got a shiny black Fiesta! :D Managed to squeeze 3 big cases, 3 lots of hand luggage and 3 people into the Fiesta, I sat in front to navigate and we managed to drive to saalfelden in just under 2.5 hours. I’ve never seen such windy roads! Though there are amazing views of beautiful green fields with a mountainous backdrop… Makes the peak district look flat and boring!
Parked near a spar when we arrived, to let my dad study the map and find out where our hotel was. Amazed that Saalfelden seems to have lots of free parking places! :D We decided to have a bit of a wander to try and find the hotel and managed to find a couple of big maps pointing the way. First impressions of Haus Hartl, basically an apartment in typically Austrian house are that it’s nice, clean and quite modern looking in the room. We also have a balcony with excellent views but it seems rustic in the sense that there’s no internet :(.
After we dropped luggage off at the room, parked at spar again and had lunch across road at La Piazza pizzeria cafeteria marvellosa (ok, that last bit was added) near the town hall. The pizza (ham and mushroom) was excellent but as it was so hot and sunny, lots of flies gathered round our table which kinda spoilt it. We then had a wander, as my mum says, ‘To wear off the meal’ and found a few banks and some clothes shops. Will have to look at these banks in the next few days as I need to get an account in order to get paid!
Walked back to the car and decided to buy some essentials for the next few days (food!) from the spar. By the time we got home, we were all knackered after a long day of travelling and so went for a ‘nap’ at 6. Strangely, we didn’t get up properly til 8 next day! :S Oops! There’s no excuse but I remember watching German Simpsons when my eyelids felt heavy….

Day 2

It was really foggy when I woke up today. Dad went for a walk early and said he’d found the other important places in town ie the post office and more importantly free internet at the tourist info centre! Went straight there after I got dressed. Had email from Gerhard (the main man in charge of accommodating me) and Johanna (a teacher at the HIB school offering accommodation) so Dad stopped stressing for a bit! Agreed to visit both places over the next couple of days.
Walked to post office after and discovered the bus station was round the corner! The timetables were easy to decipher and decided I would go by bus to Hinterglemm for the induction course on Monday. After reading the times of buses, we went to a huge supermarket ‘Interspar’ across the road. It turned out it was a medium sized Interspar which housed several other little shops, but I got over this outrage and bought some drink as it had gotten very sunny and hot again.
Travelled down the road towards home and found another supermarket Merkur. This is where we decided to have lunch, me and Dad opted for Cordon Bleu mit Butterreis and Mum had Schnitzel vom Schwein mit Pommes Frites. I really enjoyed my meal and the chips (stolen from mum) were amazing! Wandered down to the train station to see how long it’d take and seemed to be a lot further away from the town centre than I thought. Will definitely bus it on Monday. Had a quick look round an antique flea market outside the town hall before going home, but everything looked pretty valuable and ancient so was scared of breaking things or being accused of just being a window shopper, which of course is illegal in Austria.
In the evening, we visited the HIB school. It looks dead nice and quite campus-y! Gerhard came to meet us and showed us round the Haus I will stay in, if I choose to live there. He seems very nice and friendly but he’s so chatty, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways! And, the worst thing is, he has an American twang to his English! Grrr… But aside from minor laughable irritations, he was helpful with all the questions we managed to squeeze in, informing us that I’d have a shower and toilet cubicle in my room, it was easy to get lunch from the canteen and I’d have a set of keys that opened all the school buildings! WOOP! Think parents seemed convinced this was the place for me.
Johanna texted saying the room wasn’t ready yet so we weren’t able to compare the two rooms tonight. Came home to charge phone and I played around on my laptop, putting new photos on it and listening to some music (Brits 25 ftw!). Mum & Dad seemed tired straight away & kinda went to bed, whilst I stayed up a bit playing Bust-a-Move on ZSNES.

Day 3

Dad decided to drive us to Zell am See and Hinterglemm today. Really glad we went now because the Bundesschullandheim Saalbach (where my induction course takes place) was quite confusing to get too. Must remember to remind the organisers to include a map on next year’s induction course plan! Zell am See seemed like the perfect little Austrian town. There were lots of little craft shops, Austrian meat, cheese and alcohol shops and, to top it off, a real live Oompah Band! :O Naturally I took a picture. They may be there everyday of the year but it seemed novel to me. Managed to find an internet café to check my email. After Johanna’s text yesterday, it seemed like I wasn’t meant to visit her and see the room yet, but she’d sent an email saying she was surprised I didn’t go visit. How was I meant to with no address though?! So we rearranged to meet in the evening. As I was leaving the café, I realised I was meant to be paying for my interent usage, so quickly tried to leave without paying extortionate rates but the man spotted me and forced me to hand over 3 euros. OUTRAGEOUS! Took a look at the See, which had marvellous views, and managed to find the bus station, where no doubt I will be coming to very often.
After Zell, we went to Hinterglemm. As mentioned before, it took a while to find where the course was being held, but the afternoon was really enjoyable. Had lunch with my parents at Htoel Ritzenhof. Decided to branch out with pudding and have a ‘Topfenstrüdel’, which basically seemed like a warm egg custard with pastry surrounding it! Although this was nice, I won’t be having it again in a hurry as it was too filling! Unfortunately after all this food, my dad started feeling a bit ill and for the rest of the day, spent his time throwing up…
In the evening, we visited Johanna’s house. I really liked the room – had a nice comfy bed with a duvet, desk and chair, big double wardrobe and a brilliant view of the town – but as we discussed later, it seemed like nothing would ever be finished in her house! She told us that they were constantly redecorating and as my room, the upstairs bathroom and kitchen weren’t yet ready, it seemed like they may never be. Quite a shame as it was a lovely house, and I could’ve borrowed a bike for travel but as the only other real option was the school, it meant I’d only need to travel to one other area, not two.
After texting Gerhard that I’d like to live at the school, he seemed shocked that I wanted to leave my spare luggage somewhere before my parents leave on Monday morning. This caused some tension as no-one knew what I was going to do with it, and it was impossible for me to take three suitcases to Hinterglemm on my own. Eventually, Gerhard said I could leave it at the school (which I thought he had said originally) so everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. Got to sleep soundly at a normal time of 11!

Day 4

Woke up at 9.30 to take spare luggage up to the school. After a hectic text conversation with Gerhard last night, it was a massive weight off everyone’s minds, knowing I’d got somewhere to safely store my case. He was amazingly helpful – it was raining quite constantly heavily and he appeared at the school on his bike! Couldn’t believe how wet he must have felt! But he was as happy and friendly as ever and quickly organised somewhere to store my bag while I’m attending the induction course at Hinterglemm next week.
For the rest of the day, we went to Merkur and Interspar to look at duvet sets and kitchen equipment ie. kettle, microwave, toaster etc. but everything seemed quite expensive for what they were so hopefully won’t need to buy anything. After looking round the supermarkets, we went to the BEST MCDONALDS EVER! Ok, it doesn’t fly or have walls made of solid gold but they offered newspapers to read whilst there AND free wireless internet! Know where I’ll be going anytime I’m bored! Read the Österreich newspaper whilst eating my chicken nuggets. Bought a copy yesterday in Zell but not had chance to read it yet and today’s copy seemed really interesting and fairly easy to read considering it’s in German. Think it’s a fairly new daily newspaper but I like it and will definitely buy it again (or scam a free read at McD’s).
Later in the afternoon, it was all quiet on the roads and in town again (stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of this morning) and most shops seemed to shut earlier than on weekdays. This seems a little strange, as what do people do at weekends? Surely shopping or having lunch at a café, for example, is a fun way to spend your hard earned free time? Anyway, we realised there was a Europa fair on today, with stalls selling European goods and special activities on at the few open cafes and bars, but unfortunately we got there after it had shut! AT 4 O’CLOCK! Managed to find a hidden little road full of bars though, so GOOD TIMES!

Day 5

Sunday – everything (except McDonalds) closed, not much happened.

Day 6 First Day at Induction Course MONDAY 27th September 2010

Mum and Dad had to get up early at 6am for their flight home. Luckily they tidied the apartment before they left, so I only had to do a bit of packing before I did. I went back to sleep after they’d gone, however, so packed my things at 9.30 before I left. Had a strange dream that my heavy rucksack with my laptop in got stolen by a gang of thieves, and cousin Geraint was working for them! Was outraged! Then realised it was a dream…
Checked out of the hotel and made the long arduous walk down to the psot office/main bus station in Saalfelden. This was sort of tricky as I had a heavy rucksack and my red suitcase, full to the brim, travelling over gravely potholes in the road (no pavement!). After sticking out like a sore thumb tourist, I had a quick E-mail check on the tourist info outside computer screen and made my way to bus stop.
Got on the bus fairly easily (although walking down a narrow aisle with 2 big bags was pretty awkward) and managed to get off at Zell Am See bus station with no problems. The next bus was in half an hour. I decided to sit on a bench, away from my stop but still in view. However, as 11.15 came, the bus which I presumed was mine hadn’t changed its sign to the ‘Saalbach-Hinterglemm 680’ that I needed, which was odd considering this was Austria, with transport as efficient as Germany (I think). It suddenly dawned on me, when a bus BEHIND the one I was looking at pulled out. It was the 680. So I had to wait another hour for the next one – what an idiot! Had a tee in the coffe shop across the road and made sure not to miss the next one.
Arrived at the Bundesshullandheim Saalbach at around 1pm. Bumped into 3 american teaching assistants – Aaron, Rachel and Catherine. Didn’t realise Americans would be here (or be able to teach English in Europe)! All seemed very nice though. Had arranged to meet Lucy (the assistant in Zell) when I got here, so took the mericans with me to find her at a café down the road from the school. Had a nice chat with everyone; the four I already mentioned were completed by Callum, Helen and Holly (American) round the table. Returned to Heim and met Kieran on doorstep.
We all ‘checked in’ and were given dorms of 3 or 4 to sleep in. Luckily I got in one with the nice people I’d just met, Lucy and Helen, and we were joined by a girl called Sally. All seem friendly and chatty enough so hopefully, will enjoy the week. Decided to go on a short walk up the hill after but me and Rachel felt a bit tired/lazy so stopped and went back to get ready for tea. Tea was a typical German/Austrian choice of bread rolls, cheese and a selection of cold meats. Was very tasty though! :)
After tea we were separated into our regions and the Salzburg crew had Sally Kowanda, a fun, lively, middle-aged woman who made us feel all at home with introduction games that got us all chatting. Feeling a lot more comfortable, we got called into the dining room again for drinks. YAY!!! They only offered beer and wine (where’s the Bacardi, eh?) so had a beer, and by the end of it decided I was too tired to go out properly so stayed in chatting with Rachel, Pam (another Salzburger)and Elina. All lovely! Went to bed earlyish and felt really bad and un-ravey coz I was the first one back! :S ah well…

Rest of Induction Week

The induction week has been so busy and had lots of fun interesting things to do that I haven’t had time to write about it all! So here’s a quick summary:
• Had a few lectures about teaching – gained lots of good ideas for lesson plans eg. using pictures, games and music to make it more interesting for the kids. Learnt the main thing is to ‘MAKE THEM TALK ENGLISH!’ so will try to do this every lesson.
• Did some teaching – was in a group with Lucy and Rachel so did a lesson about the differences in American and British English. Aaron very kindly lent us his old TEFL sheets with plenty of English differences on, so we used that as a basis and made an AWESOME power point which we referred to as we taught. Went pretty well I think and got some good feedback.
• Went on a hike – One word for going up the hill: knackering. One for the café/bar at the top: musical. One for going down: relieved. Was pretty good overall!
• Spent evenings in pub! – On second night, felt I’d missed out on all the shenanigans of the first one so tried to make up for it by going to Rudi’s, the Biker Bar and Hexenhäusl and drinking lots. Started the night with Kieran, Sally, Holly, Pam, Elina and Rachel but majority of them went home so stayed with K rest of night. Bought the best shots ever – Hexenrammler – which tasted of Marzipan and had dodgy pornographic pictures on. LOL!
Basically, I had a good week, made a few new friends but as it felt so similar to uni, think it’ll be hard to return to living in a German-speaking alpine world. Oh, and I learnt a lot about Americans!

Friday 1st October

Returned home from the course today. Got a free coach ride back to Zell am See, which was handy as it cost €4.80 to get there and after walking to the bus station, managed to hop straight onto a bus that was going to Saalfelden! Good timing, I thought, then realised the bus stopped right outside the train station so could’ve got on it there…
Texted Gerhard to say I’d be in Saalfelden around 11 but he didn’t reply so figured he was teaching and would get back to me soon. I decided to waste time in McDonalds where I could use free wi-fi and read a newspaper. Ordered the cheapest thing available at 10.30 (a McToast ) and sat down, doing the aforementioned things, waiting for a reply. But it never came! Was getting a bit stressed out coz I didn’t really wanna buy any more food or get kicked out for being a complete scrounger so in the end, decided to trek up to the school with my massive red suitcase and a heavy, laptop-laden rucksack. After about 30 minutes puffing and panting, I arrived at the school. Hans the porter greeted me and gave me two keys – one for my room and the other for the school. At first, I couldn’t open the door to the building and had to go back and ask for help. Hans told me I had to go in through the cellar, not the front door! So went back and this time managed to get inside. Took my luggage upstairs, opened my case wearily and exhausted, decided to have a quick nap…
I awoke with a start as someone entered my room! It was the teacher on duty (I’ve forgotten her name, due to the fact I was still half-asleep when she told me… :S) just coming to say hi. Felt really bad for being asleep! She seemed really nice though and had her two playful kids with her. I went to fetch my other yellow case, which was being stored in the main office, and began to unpack everything.
A little later, another teacher Birgit, introduced herself. She was taking over for the night and wanted to know if there was anything I needed. Immediately she asked me about the internet and gave me a cable so I could use it. AWESOME! Except she told me I needed to use the proxy server and before I’d had time to write the name and code down, she’d gone! Not so awesome. She also suggested going for tea at the school at 6 and maybe having a coffee later if I wanted.
Gerhard came over around 5.30 with a MASSIVE box of useful language assistant stuff, left here by Kat and the previous assistant. It was full of teaching stuff, pots and pans, a couple of blankets and travel guides – all really useful stuff. So thank you, Kat! He also brought round a big boom box stereo. Was completely unexpected but I guess it’s cool to listen to every now and again.
He showed me round the school, saw classrooms, staff room, IT rooms etc. and then took me on a little drive to show me how best to get to the HTL/HBLA school. Was really useful and found where I need to go on Monday.
After all this, I’d missed tea at the school so just ate some of the Pom-Bär I’d bought in Hinterglemm. Forgot about having a coffee so stayed in, watched an episode of Doctor Who off Chris’ hard drive and went to sleep.

Saturday 2nd October

Had to go out and buy food and other essential things today. Went to the Interspar down the road (a 15/20 min walk) and bought general food such as cheese, ham, bread, milk and juice as well as an internet cable and a spoon. As I was walking back, I noticed there was a football match on at the pitch halfway up the hill to the school so decided I would go watch it, if only for the second half, as I had nothing better to do. I unpacked all my things at the school and walked back down to the football pitch.
It cost 4 euros to get in but amazingly, the match was just about to kick off! The previous mathc I’d seen on my way up was the under 17 match and the proper senior match of FC Pinzgau vs. Union Henndorf was just beginning. Excellent news!
At first I was stood at the corner of the pitch, as a ground security man ushered me over there, but then I realised I could go sit in the stand. I sat on the first bench available, right in front of the ‘Kop’. I say the ‘Kop’, but the ground is similar to Glapwell’s with three open sides and one main stand. The support was, however, phenomenal! There was constant chanting, a large drum, an air raid siren and some trumpets, sparklers and, at the end of the match, flares! It was so much fun! Considering there was only about 200-300 people there, it felt like there could’ve been 3000! Pinzgau won 3-2 so went home happy, knowing that their fans were happy with the result.
In the evening, Gerhard invited me out with his wife, Birgit, to go to the ‘Honky Tonk’ festival where 13 ‘Lokale’ were putting on live music. Started at the Nexus café, where a fairly jazz-y group, Groove Cafe, took to the stage. They consisted of a female singer, a keyboardist, a saxophonist, a bass player and a drummer and were from Vienna. Really enjoyed all their music, played some really good songs! We were joined by a couple of Gerhard’s friends, so felt a little left out as they were all chatting in German about their lives. This kept happening throughout the night. Gerhard and his wife seemed to know a lot of people (quite a lot of them ex-pupils, as far as I could tell) and then there’d be a brief introduction of me and they’d carry on their conversation. Went to La Piazza (where me and the ‘rents had had a pizza on the first day) where there was a reggae band playing. Here it got a bit better, as I met Gerhard’s eldest son David and his girlfriend Sarah, who were both around my age. They both had dreadlocks and a couple of piercings so fitted in really well with the reggae vibe, in contrast to me! Sarah seemed very nice and chatted to me a bit but eventually they all left so I decided it was time to go home. Gerhard and Birgit walked me to a street I knew how to get back from and I walked 20 minutes home. Was a bit scary in the dark, especially up by the school where there’s lots of shadowy trees and bushes but happily survived! Exhausted for another night, I watched Hustle (courtesy of the lovely, amazing Christopher Panda-face) before falling asleep.

Sunday 3rd Oct

Feel there’s going to be a recurring lack of anything interesting happening on a Sunday… Only thing semi-interesting that happened was that I made a power point about myself, in case I need it to teach tomorrow, and met Karin (?), another of the live-in teachers, who happens to teach English!

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