Forgive me. I apologize for slacking so hard. I’d like to say I’ve been incredibly busy. While that is true, I cannot evade that I have also been incredibly lazy and haven’t exactly been in the mood to write anything. But I am here now, so hopefully that’s showing that I’m at least trying a little. And I’ll be back in Georgia in, what, eleven days? Surely not being in Europe anymore will inspire me to reminisce a little and hopefully entertain somebody.
I hope this can suffice for the meantime. Here is a list of the things I’ve really come to love while in Europe and will miss once I’m back in America and drinking iced coffee in an air-conditioned setting (those are some of the things I miss now).
- Good fast food. One of my favorite things about Europe is that no matter how much you pay for food, it’s going to be good. Even the really cheap food is delicious, which was hard for me to grasp at first because, well, I’m not necessarily used to that. I’m not saying that all cheap American food is bad, but, you know, sometimes it is. I haven’t had a bad food experience here yet. Even the sketchy restaurants have good food. I’ll get to the important part now. There’s this chain sandwich shop here called Baguette, and they sell yogurt cups. Well, the first time I ate one, it was so good I almost cried. I’m not kidding.
- 20-Pack Chicken McNuggets. Maybe this wouldn’t be so good for America, because some people might eat a whole 20-pack independently, but I do like the concept. They’re fun to share, okay? Also the chicken nuggets here are much better than they are in America because the standards for food are so high. Speaking of which…
- Stricter food laws. Because if another country can make better Chicken McNuggets than the country that bore McDonald’s, that country is doing something right. Oh, and because lots of people in our food industry should care more about what we eat than how much money they make off it.
- Vending machine coffee. It’s good, it’s fast, and it only costs 60 Euro cents. And did I mention that it works? The machine will even give you 10 cents back if you return the little solo cup your coffee comes in. What’s not to love?
- A greater appreciation for other languages. Every local I’ve met here is at least bilingual and maybe even trilingual – several people I’ve been around are actually very fond of the English language. They don’t just read English books – some of the people I’ve met here actually aspire to write books in English. That takes serious dedication, especially for a language that isn’t one’s mother tongue – or at least I think so; I might not be the best person to consult on this since I’m only fluent in one language. But still, it’s very admirable.
- Beautiful money. Maybe I just don’t think American currency is beautiful because I’m so used to it. I’m not saying it’s ugly by any means. I’ve always thought the backs of dollar bills were pretty impressive, and when I was little and realized that a tiny Abraham Lincoln was on the back of the penny in addition to the one on the front side, I was enchanted. It’s just that some Euro coins have Da Vinci on the back of them and I think it’s really cool.
- Extremely well-behaved dogs. Most of the dogs I’ve seen in Europe walk alongside their owners without the strain of a leash. They come into restaurants and ride buses and underground trains and sit placidly on the floor. One dog I saw in Vienna even made a point to pee over a sewer drain so it wouldn’t make a mess on the sidewalk.
- Nice public drinking fountains. I’m a thirsty girl, and I like my free water. I don’t like how there aren’t any drinking fountains indoors, but the outdoor drinking fountains almost make up for it. These aren’t your typical, metal, rectangular prism beasts. These fountains are beautiful and made out of stone, and the water comes from the mountains so it is cold and pure instead of surrounded by a ring of algae at the spout like the water fountains at my high school were. If you ever come to Austria, drink the public water.
- Gelaterias. It might be possible that gelaterias do exist in America and I just haven’t seen one since I live in Georgia. And I’m not talking about chain pizza restaurants with a gelato booth next to the cash register; I mean entire shops dedicated to gelato that carry flavors like kiwi, melon, yogurt, passionfruit, and Nutella. I don’t know how I’ve actually managed to lose weight here, because I have eaten gelato at least three times a week since I’ve gotten here – I think I even ate it every day for a straight week a while back.
- Outdoor bars. Again, these might actually exist in the States and I might just not be aware of it because I grew up in Macon, Georgia for god’s sake. I’m not just referring to biergartens either, although those definitely exist here. One of the most popular bars here is in the middle of a park. It’s beautiful. And for somebody who is only really used to bars in Athens, outdoor bars are a really nice change.
I’m cutting it a bit short, and I really apologize. I kind of have a reading journal due tomorrow, which isn’t really a big deal at all, but it’s due after I leave for my field trip so I need to finish it tonight, and then I have a paper due Thursday. Have I mentioned that I get really bad writer’s block? I feel like I have.
I’m off to Gertrude Stein and a paper about the decline of religious morality that is evident in Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s work (how fitting for my major concentration).
It was pouring torrentially when I left my dorm today, so, as you can see, I didn’t take my camera and instead resorted to the camera on my phone.
Just some things I did and actually took pictures of today.
I went to the carnival with Evelyn today. Carnival rides are definitely more expensive here. They also last three times longer, which is alarming. Oh, and I almost lost my cell phone on a ride, so I learned something valuable today: don’t go on carnival rides with shit in your pockets. Especially phones. Especially phones that aren’t technically yours. The fair food is way better here, and please notice the beautiful airbrush art. Some lady bitched at me for taking pictures, but I was able to salvage Michael Jackson.
Here are some things I saw and ate:
Last night I turned in early yet again because all I could think about was how exhausted I was and revising something that I’m writing. Determined to top four and a half hours of sleep, I popped a whole sleeping pill in my mouth, grimaced because it started dissolving before I had swallowed it, and plopped into my bed.
When I awoke, my first thought was, “fuck, it’s 4:30 and I’m awake.” My alarm went off five seconds later.
Realizing that I actually had gotten a full night’s sleep for the first time in a week gave me an added surge in my energy. The window didn’t feel too chilly, so I could wear a tank top, I hadn’t lost any sleep, and I was about to drink some tea and enjoy my breakfast. You know how I love my breakfast. I wouldn’t even need a cup of that wretched coffee!
Since I wasn’t a zombie, class went better than usual. I aced my Daisy Miller quiz, and even though I fully expected it since I’ve read the story before, I still felt a brightness as I looked at the 20 with the smiley face in the 0 scribbled on the top of my page.
Evelyn said she would go to the lake with me tomorrow. I haven’t done much with any locals aside from talking to creepy older men in bars and impressing our housekeeper and Joyce, so I really want to go. We can talk about things I actually care about: food; literature; places; our families. And why shouldn’t I befriend a local? We have common interests, and I haven’t really been able to bond extensively with many people here. Well, girls at least. It’s so much easier for me to talk to guys here. They like food, and good food at that, and they don’t give a fuck about counting calories. I should probably hang out with more guys.
After my class ended, I walked around the city for a while. Aside from a store where I could buy tweezers and a gelato stand, I had no destination in particular, and that was really nice. I haven’t managed to find a portable keg like the one I saw somebody wearing the other day, but I did see a Mozart shot glass, and that amused the hell out of me. I want to say I walked past a few useful places too – a bike shop, a Thai restaurant, places that sell sunglasses. Even going out was okay, because the dollar drinks for today actually tasted good and I befriended some guys who really like food. Maybe I’ll go eat with them one day or something, because they are the only other people I’ve encountered who are as excited as I am about a Thai restaurant being here. And I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
All that’s really been on my brain is editing and producing. I really want this story I’m working on to be good. I mean, it is good, but I really want to make it the best it can be. I’ve been rereading it relentlessly – learning about Hemingway’s revising techniques is getting to my head. At the same time, I’m really excited because I’ve never thought about writing so much. Sometimes all I want to do here is separate myself from everybody else and expand my ideas, edit my story, and churn out some reflections to post on here. Sorry if this post didn’t really have a point. I’m just in a great mood. I’m finally starting to feel like an active writer.
If I go to the lake with Evelyn tomorrow I’ll put some pictures up. I don’t really feel like the pictures I’ve taken so far are very blog-worthy.
And for now? A shower, a little The Sun Also Rises, and ideally, some more writing and editing.
Never in my life have I felt like such an old woman. All I seem to care about is going to class, reading, writing, drinking hot tea, sleeping, and eating – my priorities aren’t necessarily in that order, though, because I’m finding that sleeping overrides nearly everything. I don’t even know if I’d be going to class if I weren’t subject to penalties for skipping; missing one class drops an entire letter grade, and I’m kind of banking on making A’s in both of my classes here – and I should, because they’re easy classes.
My sickness is finally subsiding, and for that I am grateful. Now sleep deprivation is the only thing that can make me feel like shit. Unfortunately, I’m not coping with my jet lag very well. I don’t think I’ve ever had it this bad, honestly, and part – well, most – of that is because I have complete liberty in what I do after my classes are over. After class, I should be eating lunch, walking around the city a little and taking pictures, eating gelato, and working on my plans for weekend travel. But am I doing that? Of course not. Because I’m waking up at 4:30 every day, my mind turns into complete mush by 10:00, which makes sense since that’s 4:00 a.m., the time I’m used to falling asleep, over in the Eastern Time Zone. Once I’m out of class, nothing matters more to me than going back to bed, and it sucks because unless I get at least five hours of sleep, I’ll remain in a complete fog. And that means I don’t really have time to walk around the city and learn things, and that would normally devastate me, but at this point I’m far too tired to care.
But it bothers me that I have barely taken any pictures here and haven’t even bought new shampoo (Garnier Fructis does nothing for my hair but clean it and make it ridiculously frizzy) or gone out and bought some of the things I forgot to pack. It bothers me that I don’t have many things to talk or write about. I feel like I’m not living up to my potential – hell, I know I’m not.
I know what you’re all thinking: “coffee exists.” I’m very aware of that, and coffee is definitely not scarce here. The thing is that ice is. And guess how I prefer my coffee? Iced and loaded with milk and sugar to help camouflage the bitterness. I refuse to grow up with coffee, and I know that isn’t good, but how am I supposed to like something that sends shudders down my back? It’s the same with alcohol! That’s another thing- everybody drinks here. No, let me edit that sentence. Everybody completely abuses the opportunity to get wasted every single night. And, you know, I don’t have much against going out. Nothing is wrong with being social, especially because I’ve never really been that social. Sure, I’m quieter than everybody else and not really making a fool of myself – but can you blame me? Every time I get drunk I end up in tears, and nobody needs to see that. – but I like to convince myself that people aren’t grieving my company. I mean hey, I’m the camera girl, the girl who is occasionally hilarious and has lots of great stories about colonoscopies and a Nazi housekeeper. People like that kind of stuff, right? Plus we took shots with a middle-aged Asian woman named Joyce and the housekeeper for our dorms the other night. Where else can I do those kinds of things but Europe?
I need to quit complaining. I’m in Europe! On a lighter note, breakfast opens in 30 minutes, and I am going to stuff my face with muesli and yogurt. I’ll drink some peppermint tea, and maybe they’ll even have those crazy good pancakes today. And I’ll be an adult today and drink multiple cups of coffee. I’ll need them.
Here is a picture of me at a pizzeria. Service in Europe is impeccably slow, and the kitchen actually forgot about my order. Nevertheless, my parma pizza was incredible.
I’m sorry for being so behind. I’ve been exhausted, sick, and busy. Also I have to start getting ready for class in five minutes, so hopefully I’ll get to post after I’m done with school and lunch.
A is for alcohol, which everybody but me seems to be bingeing on.
B is for bro, because there are tons of them here.
C is for creepy older dudes. It seems they hit on me wherever I go.
D is for diary. I didn’t bring or buy a notebook, so I’m writing everything in there.
E is for Evelyn, the only other student in my literature class who actually cares. Everyone else is just taking the class for a necessary credit and is highly unenthusiastic. They’re all going to hate me.
F is for fried foods, which are in abundance here.
G is for grilled cheese, meaning that I ate the best grilled cheese of my life the other night.
H is for heat, because it is hot here. Also the dorm has no air conditioning.
I is for ice, or lack thereof.
J is for James. Henry James. I’m reading Daisy Miller right now.
K is for kindness. I’ve tried to have superb manners so the people here won’t think every American is rude and selfish. Plus I’m trying to make up for the next letter…
L is for language barrier. Hardly knowing any German makes me feel pretty stupid.
M is for muesli, a super-healthy European cereal that I now have the pleasure of eating with yogurt every day.
N is for new people and new friends. An obvious one.
O is for outdoor bars. One bar I went to is in the middle of a park and right next to a playground.
P is for pizza, which every other restaurant here is dedicated to.
Q is for questions. “What” and “where” are my most common so far.
R is for rain. It’s been raining a lot, which means everything is about to get colder. I’m glad I packed so many sweaters and pairs of pants now.
S is for sickness, because I’m still not better. Well, I’m almost better. The only issues at the moment are my sore throat and sneezing. It beats pinkeye.
T is for tours and traveling. Tours will take up my weekdays, and traveling will hopefully take up my weekends.
U is for unable, as in, I’m unable to adjust my sleeping schedule to this time zone, and it really sucks.
V is for Vienna, because I really want to go and I’m having trouble finding people who care about Vienna as much as I do.
W is for water. Bottled water, specifically. I have been downing that like crazy.
X is for xenophobe. Okay, the locals aren’t afraid of us, but they don’t really like us. I don’t blame them. We’re loud people.
Y is for yesterday, because that was my first day of classes. I know, I’m running out of ideas.
Z is for… no, fuck z.
I never think any big events in my life are going to happen. I didn’t ever see myself graduating from high school or moving to Athens or accomplishing some huge task. I did it last week with Bonnaroo.
I’m currently doing this with Austria, and I’m becoming scared because I just realized that I’m leaving in 18 days. 18 breakfasts. 18 nights where I’ll wake up at odd intervals. 18 (well, probably fewer) showers.
I’m trying to pull together a list of things I need for this trip. Ideas. Plans. A level head. A plug converter. My big bottle of Ibuprofen. It’s hard to find Ibuprofen in Europe, so I’m going to bring a huge bottle and deal it. Just kidding. I’m going to share it, and that’s how I’ll win peoples’ hearts and friendship over there.
I’m getting nervous because it’s hard for me to imagine what my life is going to be like over there because, well, I’ve never been to Austria. I hardly know any German – I’ve been slacking on studying it. It might get really cold there. I’m going to miss people and there won’t be anything I can do about it. I’ll be a whole ocean and several countries away. Mostly I’m afraid of ending up alone. What if nobody likes me there? I’ve got some bad qualities.
The one thing I have complete confidence in is the literature class I’ll be taking. I’m great at English and I’m very passionate about words if you can’t tell. I know I can say something impressive and be able to bond with people who get starry-eyed over the same writers, books, and punctuation marks that I do. I think I will make a friend in my literature class. I need to, actually. I can’t be reserved like I normally am since all of this is going to happen over a span of six weeks instead of a semester. I’m got to give myself a crash course in branching out to other people, and that happens to be one of the things I’m worst at.
I just end up fantasizing every time I try to construct a controlled thought about Austria. Instead of thinking about how to make friends, I think about things like how often I’ll be able to eat gelato and how I want to rent a bike and ride it around Innsbruck every day I’m there. It’s funny that I’m thinking this way, because usually I’m very rational. Actually I’m never rational when it comes to thinking, because that’s how anxiety manages to take over me so easily.
What is good advice for studying abroad? What is a good way to make people like me? Does anybody have any recommendations for where I should go and what I should see in Europe, particularly Vienna and Germany? Or anywhere that’s close to where I’ll be? What kind of food should I try?
Any advice – or any statement that will calm me down, really – would be much appreciated.
I just looked up the textbook list for my study abroad classes. It was probably the best idea ever.
I love the expatriates, so I’m really glad I found out about this course. And I’m being serious. I was hyperventilating in the theater when I saw Midnight in Paris. Taking the expatriate literature course makes up for not being able to take the travel writing course. I mean, I think it’s a class at UGA too, but I’d much rather take it in Austria. I’m going to pretend to be an expatriate there. Maybe I’ll look into what the expatriates did and ate and mimic them. I’m sure they had good taste in food. I wonder which writers decided to get fat in Europe. I’d like to know who I share that fantasy with.
But! The list! I have to share it because I’m really excited about it.
- Another Country by James Baldwin
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Daisy Miller by Henry James
- Three Lives by Gertrude Stein
This list looks damn good. Like every other English major out there, I’m obsessed with the Realist and Modernist movements. In case you didn’t know, the writers on this list are associated with those movements. (I think James is the only author here who is really associated with Realism, though. The others are typically associated with Modernism.) I don’t think I’ve ever read any Baldwin, but at least I’ll be introduced to his work this summer. I’m very excited about all the books on here. I mean, I knew the list would have these writers on it, but I’m still just happy to actually read it. Hemingway! Stein! Fitzgerald! And Henry James? I read Daisy Miller in one of my English classes last year (hopefully this book is a collection of short stories rather than just one – I’m sure it is – it has to be!) and I really liked it. I think I read one of his essays. I don’t remember which one it was, though, and I had to read four essays that week, so I get them all messed up.
I really wish this class would have a field trip. I’ve already looked over the calendar, so I know it won’t, but it would still be so awesome. The class should just go to Paris and do a literary tour of the city. Beautiful. Hm, Paris is a little far from Austria. Did any of these writers ever touch base in Munich or Vienna? I do know my anthropology class is going on two field trips. One is to Dachau and the other is to Bolzano, Italy to see some frozen guy. I’m kind of nervous about visiting a concentration camp.All I know about the Italy trip is that I’m going to eat really good food that day and nobody is going to stop me.
My mind is really starting to wander now so I should probably knock some things out for my trip. I still have to submit this form (and I might have to fill out a few more, yikes) and buy a Eurail pass so I can go on the trains and actually go on trips. I also have to get my textbooks, which is why I ended up looking at – and fantasizing about – that list in the first place.
Also I have to start packing what I imagine is going to be a bulky suitcase and get a Typhoid vaccine tomorrow because on Saturday I’m going to South Africa, and boy, am I terrified. Oh, and I have to go to the doctor early tomorrow morning (it’s at 9:30, but anything before noon is early to me), so I need to get my face away from this computer screen so I can actually start trying to sleep since it takes me forever. I think I might actually write about going to the doctor tomorrow because this particular experience will be a first for me, ha.
Do you think I could just buy these books at Barnes & Noble or something since they’re not actually textbooks? I do have to get that anthropology textbook anyway, though, so I’m not totally convincing myself to just run to the mall and buy these books tomorrow.
My summer reading experience is gonna be so good.
You know how clothing stores will start displaying their warm-wear apparel when the last thing you want to wear outside is a swimsuit?
I hate that. I don’t even really understand why they do it to us. Oh boy, fashion is so complicated that the clothes have to be shown off half a year in advance. All you’re doing is distracting me! I just started school again, don’t get me daydreaming about spring break or summer. I do understand why stores start showing off clothes an entire season ahead from a marketing perspective, but that doesn’t really motivate me to buy anything. Why would I want to buy something I couldn’t wear or use?
All those displays do is make me daydream about summer and going on trips. The time when I’ll actually have an opportunity to wear the vibrant yellow hat or sundress I’ll ogle over but refuse to buy, because I actually can be rational. I just remind myself that I have school the next day and won’t be going anywhere and the weather won’t be warm enough to wear whatever I’m looking at for a long time, and force myself away from the summer clothes.
Now it’s actually happening, though. The opportunity to actually wear these clothes and live out my daydreams, I mean. School is actually almost over. I will be en route to Austria in 63 days. And that’s just one of the places I’ll be going this summer. I’ve got two beach trips, a weekend in New York, Bonnaroo, and a week in South Africa to get through first.
All of those locations are going to require different types of clothing, especially because there will be some drastic temporal changes. Like the beach? I’ll probably be in my swimsuit or a dress the whole time. Plus I’ll be with a bunch of guys, so there’s no reason to dress elaborately or even bathe – okay, I’m kidding about that part. Then comes New York, which isn’t really that tricky except for at night or if I actually want to dress like a young woman. Bonnaroo will be the complete opposite. I feel like everybody there will practically be naked. I’ve got to figure out the best way to keep cool without getting a sunburn. Lollapalooza was hot enough, but this is the south. I stand a much higher chance of getting heat stroke in Tennessee than I did in Chicago. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be a slut or anything, but I don’t want to be uncomfortably hot, especially since I get dizzy easily.
I have more anxieties about South Africa and wherever I end up going in Europe because those places can get pretty cold. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, after all, so it’ll be winter when I go. Okay, I just looked up the weather. It’s not too bad. This website I found says the average low temperature for Cape Town is in the 40’s. I guess I will be wearing pants between now and October (and I just pledged that I wouldn’t do it yesterday in celebration that it finally warmed up again here, rats!) and will just have to get over my stigma towards them.
For some reason (and a stupid reason at that) I thought Austria would have perfect weather all summer long since it’s so damn beautiful. Apparently this is not the case. At the Innsbruck trip orientation, a few weeks ago, we were instructed to bring warm clothes because the weather there can be unpredictable. It seems I had forgotten a very important factor while I daydreamed about how beautiful Austria’s weather would be: mountains.
The town is in the mountains. It’s right in the middle of the Alps. I can’t believe I overlooked that, especially because I’ve been in mountainous areas before. It gets cold. Winter is freezing. Summer isn’t, obviously, but it gets chilly and I still classify that as freezing because I can’t really tolerate any temperature under 75 degrees.
I guess I’m worried because we were advised to pack lightly. Usually packing lightly isn’t a huge deal for me. I’m really good at it, actually, minus the toothbrush or socks I’ll forget to throw in my suitcase. I can pack a bag for a weekend in Destin or New York in five minutes. Packing for Utah takes a little longer, because I have to pack anything that can withstand snow (rain boots are actually really good for that).
I feel like packing for Austria is going to be a nightmare. I’ve got to bring my own towel, my school books, and enough clothes for six weeks (I will obviously be washing them). I also have to bring all my prescriptions and any medication I might need since I’ll be in Europe. Apparently Ibuprofen is really hard to get in Europe. I guess I’ll be popular over there because I plan on bringing my bottle with 495 Ibuprofen tablets in it to Austria. You know, for uterus issues.
I have packed for a really long trip before, but it wasn’t as far away or in Europe. Plus I actually goofed and didn’t pack enough warm clothes (apparently winter doesn’t end until July in Massachusetts – at least it felt that way, because it rained the first two weeks) so I had to get my mom to ship me pants and sweaters. I just don’t see how I’ll be packing lightly when I have to account for radical changes in weather. It could get up to the 90s and down to the 40s. I pray to God it won’t get down to the 30s, because that range starts to mess with me. Ice becomes involved in that range.
I don’t exactly plan on sticking to their suggested guidelines, because there is no way I’m bringing two pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, and one dress to Europe if I’m going to be there for six weeks. That is just not going to fly. I hate pants, so I’m not really concerned about that part, but I’m going to be in other countries! A different continent! I’ve got this huge country and multiple cultures to represent in Europe. I want to look nice for it, you know?
What is the best way to pack for a six-week trip to Europe? Do I need more pairs of pants than I think? How should I dress if I want Europeans to respect me? And should I just not wear that fanny pack of mine anywhere outside of a music festival? It was a hit at Lolla, but will it be appreciated in Vienna or Munich?
Does anybody have good packing advice? I could give you some of my tips in return. All I do is throw some outfits, undergarments, one pair of pajamas, and my toothbrush in a suitcase. What else is good to have in Europe?