Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Well. I promised everyone a blog, and then I got wrapped up in adjusting to life here in Austria...and then never posted anything. So here I am, finally writing something! --over a whole month after I first arrived in this lovely country! Sorry, guys...

I had intended to write a huge beginning post, but I suppose it's better to just write something and start posting, for all of my impatient friends. So, I'll start with an overview of my life here and the past month or so.

Austria is as beautiful as I remember it. The town I live in now, Baden, is quite bigger than Gaming, where I lived almost six years ago, but just as charming. It's pretty well connected to Vienna via trains and trams, so I go pretty frequently. I've mostly stayed in the Innere Stadt and the Mariahilf areas, but I'm hoping to explore the entire city during my time here. Still, I've had fun exploring the few areas I've found. I've established a "regular" parish--the Kapuzinerkirche, where the bodies of generations of Habsburg monarchs (including the last, Dr. Otto von Habsburg, whom I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago) are buried, which has a Latin Mass in the evenings that I often come into town for. I've visited various Christmas markets (which I really should see more of!) and have had plenty of Viennese I don't know if you've heard, but Vienna has been rated as having the highest quality of living for the 4th year in a row--so, you know. Difficult life.

The adjustment to au pair life, in comparison, has been a bit bumpier. I don't really have official child care experience, other than occasionally taking care of my nieces, so I didn't have a lot to draw from as I figured out what I was doing--specifically with the 7 month old baby. I think the thing which terrified me most was learning how to identify why she was crying and what she needed at a given time. It always seems like parents have an instant knowledge of what their child needs, and I felt rather hopeless in comparison. But I've found that with time, I've adapted to Marilena's schedule and also to what she's trying to tell me, and it rarely gets to the point where she's really crying anymore--nowadays it's only because her food isn't ready fast enough, or something. So it's been a learning experience.

One thing I've noticed with the older girls is that I am CONSTANTLY saying things that my parents have said to me throughout my life. I've had a lot of time to reflect on my upbringing and how my parents have raised me, and now that I have a taste of dealing with children, I'm so thankful that I have such wonderful parents who raised me with a strict but loving hand. I'm a great deal stricter with the older girls than I think they expected, and apparently they've complained to their parents a bit--though thankfully, Michael and Kristina tell me (and them) that they are 100% behind me. Woohoo!

I feel pretty fortunate with the family I have here. There's no such thing as an absolutely perfect situation, of course, where everything is just to your liking all the time, but overall I'm really happy with the choice I made to be here. While all of the families I corresponded with seemed wonderful, I'm glad I went with my gut instinct. My host parents are very loving parents to their children; I'm really only here as a babysitter when they need me, and when they're home, they are present to their family. I'm not entirely sure what they do and what their positions are in their respective companies, but it's my understanding that they are relatively high on their totem poles, and in the US I think people in their positions at work tend to be a little detached from their children. But my host parents are really family-oriented, and I don't feel like I was brought here to raise their kids, for which I'm really grateful. They're also really considerate of me, which I appreciate a lot, and it's made my transition here a lot easier.

The children are generally pretty sweet, though they have their moments: Carina is 12 and entering pre-adolescence, with quite a bit of attitude, and Victoria is 10, retaining her childlike innocence but with a...flair for the dramatic. They have access to a lot more gadgets and technology and things than I had growing up, and get most of what they want, it seems--the 10-year-old has a better smart phone than I've ever had, and the girls watch quite a bit of TV. I've learned that I'm really conservative about technology access with children, partly because my own parents didn't let me use much, but also because I know that I was exposed to a lot of things at a young age that I wish I hadn't been, for various reasons. I've been restricting their technology access as much as I can, but I'm learning that it's better to provide alternatives and incentives than restrictions, so I'm using the movies I brought to fill their "TV time." I feel safer about it because I feel like I can more closely screen the content. I don't think their parents are nearly as conservative about those matters--of course, I spend time with people who straight up don't own TVs at all, among other things, so perhaps this is normal for children of this generation.

Overall, the family is great, they have a cute dog (and a cat that keeps coming into my basement and which is slowly learning to hate me as I keep kicking it out), and I've met grandparents on both sides, who are exceedingly sweet. Actually, my first week here, Kristina's mother decided to take me to the store and buy me a new winter coat, a purchase which I've been using quite a bit as the temperatures get lower. She's around often when I'm looking after the kids, at first coming to help me out for most of the day as I adjusted to my duties, and then less and less as time went on--though, she often comes to make lunch. I don't mind cooking, and I'm actually a pretty good cook, but usually either Hanni (I don't know if that's how you spell it, but that's what they call her) will come cook, or someone will have cooked something the night before. I suppose it makes my job easier.

I've also made some friends, thanks mostly to Gudrun Kugler, who really got me started on this au pair journey in the first place. I had first heard about a position with her family and applied, but she ended up finding someone else--which I'm thankful for now, because their au pair Mary has become one of my friends in the city! Gudrun sent my information to her friends who were looking for au pairs, and I was going to go with friends of the Kuglers in Lienz before I found my family here in Baden. Once I got here, I let her know that I had ended up by Vienna after all, and she immediately invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at her house. I was really glad for that, because I met a lot of people at that dinner, and at the ITI dinner which came after it. ITI, or the International Theological Institute, had been at the Kartause in Gaming back when I was a student studying abroad with Franciscan University, but had moved to Trumau in recent years. Trumau is really close to Baden, but almost impossible to reach without a car, unfortunately. Still, it's nice to know that they're so close! But for the most part, I hang out with a couple of girls I met through the Kuglers in Vienna.

This post has been...probably pretty boring for most people, who may be wondering, "where the heck are the pictures?!" Weeeeeell I'm really bad at taking pictures of things, usually preferring to just be present in the moment, but here's a few which I've taken so far:

The baby! She's so cute! :D

Little town, it's a quiet village...

Behind the trees, you can see a really impressive-looking house...thing. I don't know, it was pretty.

Okay, really, I just thought this was strange.

An adorable house closer to the center of town
omg Beethoven!

omg Beethoven! Right here!!

A typical column, like what you would find in most cities or towns--I think even little old Gaming had something like this.

mmm chocolate

My first visit to the Christkindlmarkt!

A goodie bag filled with...chocolate! Hooray for the feast of St. Nicholas!

Since this was sort of trying to fit the whole first month into one post, I haven't been able to recount very much, and I'm sure it sounds like droning. Stay tuned, it'll get better! I've had so many experiences here, I can't possibly hope to write them all down, but I'll do my best to keep you all updated. Bis sp├Ąter!