When I found who Hannes' replacement was (an Austrian girl named Eva), I emailed her right away to introduce myself (as her future co-worker) and asked if she had any questions. She is 25 and has lived in Vienna for 5 years, so she definitely didn't have any "Vienna questions", but had a lot of questions about the office itself, our co-workers, etc. We corresponded for 2 weeks until I finally got to meet her.
Hannes was very concerned that I would like Eva more than I like him. Now, after having worked with Eva for 3 weeks, I can say that he has reason to be concerned. ;) Actually, our relationships are so different that there is no way to compare them, really. But I love her so much already.
Before she even met me, she invited me to go back to Wels (her hometown) with her some weekend this summer (which we have planned for late August, before I depart for Germany). She immediately initiated friendships with all of the other American interns and we were so flattered by this and began to include her in every group activity. She already has an established social life here in Vienna, along with a set group of friends, yet any time we ask her to do something, she'll drop everything to hang out with us. Like I said, it's really flattering.
I am amazed (I cannot express how amazed I am) with her English. Oh my goodness. She studied abroad for a year in high school in Kansas City, Missouri. She speaks perfect English without the trace of an accent. It's unreal. The first time she met Aaron (another American intern), this is how their conversation played out.
Aaron: So you just started your internship, that's great. When did you arrive in Vienna?
Eva: Oh, I've been here awhile. I did my University studies here.
Aaron: Oh wow! Do you have family here or something?
Eva: Well, my family is in Upper Austria, in a town called Wels.
Aaron: Oh wow, so do you ever go to the States?
Eva: Yeah, I went back last year.
Aaron: So is it extended family or immediate family who live in Austria?
Me: Aaron, she's Austrian.
Aaron: Oh cool, so your grandparents are Austrian, then?
Me: No, Aaron, she was born and raised in Austria.
Yeah. It's confusing. She is 100% convincing as an American. She says words that even the best Austrian English speakers don't know. The other day she said something about "crumbs" all over her desk and I was amazed because I'm sure Manfred would have no idea what that word meant. Hannes spoke English extremely well but I had to teach him the word for "bug" because he was calling them "little monsters" (which, in a way, is a very accurate description).
Eva loves Americans though and she loves the U.S. We talk about Missouri a lot because she misses it very much (actually, I miss it, too). She's so incredibly sweet. She studied abroad in Hong Kong (during her college years) so she befriended an Asian girl who went to the Uni. here in Vienna. This girl was being badly mistreated by the staff at her Studentenheim (dorm) and Eva was apalled by it. The dorm had given the girl a room infested with mold, a stained mattress with holes in it, broken windows, etc. Eva called and complained to the dorm staff since the girl couldn't speak German very well. The dorm staff told Eva that it was a perfectly normal room and "that's just what Austrian dorms look like" (which is obviously not the case). Eva informed them that she had once lived in a dorm in Vienna and it looked nothing like this and they said, "Well this is a Studentenheim, not a hotel". Upon further investigation, Eva realized that only Asian and Middle Eastern students were living in the dorm and that the Studentenheim advertised to them in particular. Eva was even more appalled and continued to call the Studentenhem and accuse them of discrimination. When they still refused to improve the conditions, Eva said, "Alright, well my lawyer will be calling you by the end of the week to discuss this further". The next day, her Asian friend was moved into a perfectly clean room. I feel like this story represents Eva so well. She interceded on this helpless girl's behalf multiple times, as if it was her own room she was fighting for.
It made me so happy at the 4th of July informal party when the Ambassador sat at our table and began talking to Eva. As soon as he found out she was Austrian, he said, "Oh my gosh - you have the best American accent I have ever heard. I would have had no idea you were Austrian". He went on to say that he works with so many Austrians who speak perfect English but that he's never heard anyone speak it as well as Eva. It made me so happy; it was as if I was the one receiving the compliment. She really deserves all the recognition she gets because she is so intelligent and driven (she also speaks French and Mandarin).
Erica (American intern/my best friend here) and I always talk about how rare it is that a non-American understand our sense of humor. It really is rare. If we're sarcastic about something (which is, let's face it, 90% of the time), people often stare blankly because they don't understand it. Or sometimes non-Americans will tell a joke that I'm sure is funny in their country, but to us it seems stupid. Hannes was an exception to the rule and Eva definitely is as well. Peter (see previous blog post for photo) speaks no German and often buys the wrong products at the store (as in, buying water softener and using it in the dishwasher instead of detergent). We had an intern dinner the other night (we have these once a week) and Peter's job was to bring the meat. Erica said, "I wonder what kind of meat he is bringing" and Eva monotously said, "probably some kind of brain-like goose meat", referring to his inability to properly select items at the grocery store. I was literally doubled over laughing. I know I could not be that funny speaking a language other than my own...I'm so lucky to have had Hannes and now Eva as my co-workers. It makes the work days so much fun.
***Also, her parents run a hotel/restaurant in Wels, Austria (her hometown). At Christmas, they have a Christmas market connected to the hotel. My mom is going to love this: