My European Grams

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My favorite place

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Typical egg day breakfast

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Nutella banana crepes in Vienna

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I died

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I don’t know grass is trendy in Europe

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Palace gardens in Vienna

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Don’t let looks deceive you – this was fantastic

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Just riding a bus

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Pho in Munich

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Italy

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My friend, the potato

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I just liked the typography

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My favorite

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I got really drunk this night

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I love it

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Can’t you tell I read here a lot?

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Oh my god, eggplant

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Before everything turned pink

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Happy Time Dusche

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The fanciest coffee I’ve ever had

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Italy-boot bottle

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I did not get really drunk this night

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World’s best grilled cheese

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Caprese sandwiches all the time

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I just really love snails

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Who knew?

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They terrified me, so now I’ll terrify you

10 European Things (Mostly Food) I Wish America Had

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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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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).

Confessions of a Luddite Part 2

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Prepare yourself for an ode to Chrome. Oh, and some more Facebook-bashing – I’m kind of in a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love being able to talk to people, share photos, and research others (ahem, stalk them) from my bed. Well, I can do it from other places too, but I usually set up station in bed. Fortunately I can’t do that here because my ethernet cable is pretty short, but I really like this table in my room. It’s like a booth in a restaurant and has nice windows next to it.
Anyway, back to hating things. My biggest issue with Facebook is that it wants to monopolize features from all the other social networking sites. Chat. Memes. Apparently Facebook is getting video chatting soon, evidencing its attempt to win Skype users over. If Facebook can’t copy something well, it just buys it – this opinion is, of course, coming from somebody who knew about Instagram ever since it first came out (I’m so damn cool, I know).  I like having multiple social networking counts. It helps me waste more time, and I can have a slightly different identity on each one. The Facebook Sarra is different from the Tumblr Sarra, the Instagram Sarra, the YouTube Sarra, the WordPress Sarra, et cetera.

I’ll get to my point now. Like I said, I upload an extensive amount of photos to Facebook, and that’s especially true now since I’m studying abroad. Austria is beautiful, and I want people to be able to see what I see. Plus people can know that I’m still alive!
I took pictures at the carnival the other day. If you keep up with this blog at all, you’ve probably seen them. After I got back to my room, I imported my photos to my computer and prepared to upload them to Facebook – a process, that should not be that difficult for somebody who currently has 162 photo albums on Facebook, right?
Not this time. When I clicked “add more photos,” Facebook told me that I needed to install the latest version of Flash Player. “No big deal,” I thought. “Facebook is probably just about to completely change its appearance again or accumulate a feature from another website.” I updated my flash player. I guess it took about five minutes. I wasn’t really paying attention.
Glad that the minor nuisance was over, I returned to Facebook so I could upload my photos. I went to my album and clicked “add more photos.”
Nothing happened. I kept trying for about ten minutes and decided that perhaps I wasn’t the only one facing this issue. Facebook’s help page didn’t really do it for me, though. There was an option where I could actually tell them what was wrong, so I clicked on the link, remembering how helpful Joey from Tumblr was when I randomly got locked out of my account, which really sucked because I put a paper I was writing on there and couldn’t access it. I ended up getting a C+ on the paper. Kind of stung.
Facebook emailed me back, and I have to say I’ve never had better help:

Hi, 

Thanks for taking the time to report this to us. We’re sorry to hear you’re experiencing an issue using Facebook. While we aren’t responding to every report, we may reach out to you for more information as we investigate this. 

To receive more information about on-going issues and updates when we fix reported problems, check out our Known Issues Page:

https://www.facebook.com/KnownIssues

Thanks again for taking the time to help us improve Facebook. 

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

“We may reach out to you for more information as we investigate this.” May. So nothing. 
Since The Facebook Team wasn’t nearly as helpful as Joey from Tumblr was, I just decided to see if I could try and fix this issue myself. For the next three days, I would randomly log on to Facebook and see if the photo uploader had decided to work in my favor. That didn’t exactly work. Then I though uninstalling and then reinstalling my Flash Player might do the trick. Nope. After sending The Facebook Team a slightly caustic report on my struggle, I finally decided that I couldn’t solve this on my own.
I, the stubborn little half-Iranian, asked for help. How did I do it? By posting a Facebook status, of course. I don’t know, I thought somebody monitoring posts or something (I’m sure Facebook is monitored. Can’t you see how much I don’t trust technology?) might see my wonderful little passive-agressive status where I called Facebook a bitch.
Help came in the form of Kevin Lobo Jimmar. I have to say, I had no idea he was good with computers. Or maybe that just reveals how bad I am with computers. He suggested that I enable safe browsing, because sometimes having that “s” after the “http” helps. It’s also a great way to get on Facebook in high school. Although enabling safe browsing did cause a reaction, I still couldn’t upload my photos. I couldn’t even get the simple uploader to upload photos, and I haven’t had to use that thing to upload photos in two and a half years.
Kevin suggested that I download Google Chrome. “Why the hell not,” I thought to myself. I didn’t really have anything to lose but time, and I am an expert at wasting time. Plus it had just started raining, so there was no way I would be leaving my room anytime soon.
I’ve used Chrome before and really liked it, but I never really thought to install it on my computer. Most of the reason I liked Chrome was that its icon looks a little like a poké ball. I’m a luddite, remember? I don’t need two internets! I never really had any issues with the internet except that time I got locked out of Tumblr for some mysterious reason – that was absolute torture.
Once the Chrome installation finished, I opened a window and got on Facebook. I went to my Austria photo album and clicked “add more photos.”
Something actually happened this time. Chrome had fixed what Facebook could not.
My Facebook issue wasn’t the only problem Chrome fixed. The internet is kind of slow here. So slow that one day it took me 20 minutes to check my email. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have to use an ethernet cable. I’m not really sure. I just kind of thought that Austrian internet didn’t like Americans. Now I just realize that Safari kind of sucks. I guess it doesn’t suck. I just can’t update it for some reason – yes, I tried doing that to fix my Facebook problem too.
But none of that matters now, because as of about an hour ago, I am a Chromophile.
Here’s to having an even better internet experience, something I thought I could only dream of.

Carnival

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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:

So cheesy, I know. It was just a really pretty day. The light was nice!

Victory!

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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.

Jet Lag

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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.

My First Few Days in ABC Form

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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.

is for alcohol, which everybody but me seems to be bingeing on.

is for bro, because there are tons of them here.

is for creepy older dudes. It seems they hit on me wherever I go.

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.

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.

is for heat, because it is hot here. Also the dorm has no air conditioning.

is for ice, or lack thereof.

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…

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.

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.

18

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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.  

 

Vaccines

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I like to say I know a bit about getting vaccines. I’ve had to get shots for the nerd camp I did at Harvard and last year’s trip to Thailand, and I’m sure I’ll get a few more before I go to Africa with my dad and sister in May and ship off to Austria. Actually I don’t think I need any for Austria. I got that immunization form faxed over to the University of New Orleans within a day of finding out I needed to. Plus I’m a doctor’s kid, so I’m pretty used to having to get shots. My father is paranoid about my sisters and me contracting various diseases.
Want an example? Hepatitis. Oh, my father is obsessed with hepatitis. You’re getting a pedicure? You have to buy your own nail kit. They don’t clean their utensils at those kinds of places. You’ll get hepatitis. (Just for the record, I agree with this statement. My dad did a great job with ) Your friend has tattoos? He needs to come to my office so I can test him or you can’t see him anymore. And I guess my dad has complete faith that I’ll never do heroin, so I have been spared the lecture about getting hepatitis from drug needles. Is my father’s obsession with hepatitis annoying? Hell yes it is. But the thing is that he’s right. Hepatitis B and C aren’t fun to deal with, and they can take anywhere from months to years to treat depending on how bad the cases are. Plus there’s that risk of dying from the disease. Can’t forget about that.
I guess I’m about to make you squeamish. I wonder if I haven’t gotten an important vaccine. Well, I guess not. Actually I haven’t gotten all of my hepatitis vaccines yet – I’m due for my second one pretty soon, I’m guessing. Polio. Meningitis. Whooping cough (that one hurts like a mother.) Influenza (not necessary, but I’m in college, and I got a terrible flu bout my freshman year and did not want to repeat it last fall.) Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that’s supposed to lower one’s rate of cervical cancer. And this isn’t a vaccine, but after I got my appendix out, my IV got inflamed, and that was scarier than any shot I’ve ever had.
Here’s what I know about getting needles stuck in my arm – and hand, because that happened to me once. First of all, and most importantly, you need to find some sort of distraction if you’re afraid of needles like I am. Lots of doctor’s offices have TVs in them, so I’d start there. No TV? Look up. Count the tiles in the ceiling, look for odd shapes, whatever. Or you could close your eyes and repeat a mantra. Mine was “The Oven Bird” by Robert Frost and the first eight lines of Paradise Lost. And if you can, make sure whoever is sticking that needle in you is good at it.
What else do I know? Getting blood drawn hurts way less than getting  a vaccine. And yeah, no matter how much needles terrify you, you should probably get your shots. It’s kind of better than dying.

Borders

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One thing that sold me on studying abroad this summer is how close Austria is to so many countries. UGA’s travel writing professor, who is teaching the class this summer – and hopefully I’ll get in during drop/add – calls Austria the “hub of Europe.” I don’t really like the word “hub,” so I’m going to try to avoid that term. (It’s just not a very euphonic word, you know? It’s boring.)
I’ve always been good with maps. When I was little, my parents and I would play a game where someone would name a country and I had to say which continent it was in, and I was damn good at that game. At 5, I knew things my 17-year-old sister still doesn’t know. The schools I went to before high school really pushed geography. I’ve labeled maps, pasted countries made out of construction paper together, and put puzzles where every piece was a different country together. And even though my high school curriculum covered very little geography (which wasn’t exactly a huge issue for me since geography has always made sense to me),  I have had to make a few in high school for my AP history classes. Well, I didn’t physically draw the map of Europe for my European history class. That one I filled in while riding an Amtrak from Boston to New York.
Anyway, back to the point I was discussing in the first paragraph. Here’s a map of Central Europe, just so you (and I, since I definitely don’t have it memorized) can get a clearer picture of it.
 Look at how many countries Austria brushes up against! I knew I’d be close to Germany (Innsbruck, where I’m staying, is an hour away from Germany) and some hours away from the Czech Republic, Italy (which isn’t in this map but borders Austria), and Slovenia, my latest obsession. I didn’t realize that so many countries are packed into Central Europe. (Actually that’s a lie. I’m fully aware that Central Europe’s demography has changed drastically since World War I. An easier way of explaining this? The pre-WWI map was way easier to fill in than the post-WWII one because I didn’t have to worry about all the names overlapping. So let’s just say that I forgot that so many countries are packed into this area. Literature and journalism are taking over my life, after all.) I’ve always wanted to go to Hungary – the name amused me when I was little, I’ll be honest, and I can just pull so many puns out of that one – and Croatia caught my attention a few years ago. The March issue of Conde Nast Traveler actually has a short story on Croatia, and oh good god that place is beautiful and so green. And Slovakia? I forgot that borders Austria.
So what’s the point? Well, I’d like to completely exploit the fact that I’ll be living somewhere so close to all these countries for six weeks. I can see places, watch people, eat different kinds of food, and get lots of stamps on my passport, which will make me feel really awesome about myself – I have this thing about passport stamps, okay?  My passport is completely naked! Oh yeah, and I want to get shot classes from each country I visit. Central Europe would be a nice start to the collection. I’m in college, okay? It’ll be awesome.
So here’s to chaotic long weekends in other countries, new passport stamps to fawn over, and yes, new shot glasses.