a day in London

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pierce and I saw Jay-Z in Hyde Park on the 4th and then spent a full 12 hour day in London on the 5th. Our hostel experience was alright..... we stayed in a 6 bed room (bunk beds) and returned from the concert to find that the other 6 guests were all asleep, which meant we had to be extra quiet (somehow, this always happens to us, even when we come back early). Also, the room was somehow flooded from the shower in the bathroom. Luckily, we got to check out in the morning...and I couldn't complain too much because the hostel was something like 13 pounds a night? Super cheap.

This was my 5th time in London, I believe, so there wasn't much I wanted to do. Nothing much to do other than Notting Hill, obviously. Pierce had been to London before but never to Notting Hill. I assured him it would be worth his time, so Notting Hill was our first stop the morning of the 5th. My dad first took me to Notting Hill my first time in London and it was my favorite day of our family's trip to the UK (although he wouldn't let me go in all the stores I wanted...). Pierce and I spent 3-4 hours there. I have made it a point to go to Notting Hill every time I've been to London so I have a few favorite spots....I'd lying if I said my absolute favorite place isn't Falafel King. Pierce and I got falafel pitas and then I had to stop Pierce from going back to get another.

After this, I stepped into one of my favorite vintage stores. The woman in the store was styling the manequin in the window and struggling over which clothes looked best on it. She told me she liked what I was wearing and asked if I'd style it for her. I did and she said, "You should do that for a living"...I wanted to say, "Yeah, I did this for a living in Stillwater for 3 years."...but I didn't. I did, however, purchase a few things and she gave me a very nice discount that she probably gives to everyone.  But I didn't care!  A discount is a discount.

Following our Notting Hill adventures, Pierce and I went to the Aquarium, only to find out that it cost too much money for our very tight budgets so I decided to get a sweet treat instead. What's ironic is that I ended up paying almost as much for a waffle covered in homemade ice cream and strawberries. And let's face it -- I'd rather have a sweet treat than admission to the London Aqaurium, especially when the treat is as good as this one was (though I really only ate the ice cream and strawberries and gave Pierce the waffle....once again, my parents' voices echo through my head as I think "my eyes were bigger than my stomach").

Following the sweet treat, I convinced Pierce that we should go to Top Shop. 3 hours later, I was convincing Pierce that we needed to leave Top Shop because he wanted to try on every single item on the boys' floors. He also wanted me to follow him around and tell him what looked good and what didn't. I think he spent over 200 USD that day on clothes. Luckily for me, I did not.

I love London and I think I could live there someday. There are few places in Europe that make me feel that way -- in fact, other than Germany and Austria, there's only London. I definitely could never live in Paris. No way. Ironically, a few hours after Top Shop, I was on the Chunnel to Paris. By myself. To see Bubba. (And Emma!)  More to come about that.

The actual 4th of July / Beyonce's husband

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blogger is not letting me rotate my photos.
I have tried rotating these before uploading
and they are right-side up,
yet when I upload them,
they are sideways.
This happens on Blogger a lot
and it's aggravating.
So if you want to tilt your head
and imagine what these photos should look like,
then be my guest.

Pierce and I went to London
on the actual 4th of July.
We took a bus to the U-bahn,
an U-bahn to the train station,
a train to Salzburg,
a bus to the Salzburg airport,
a plane to London,
a Stansead Express train to the city,
the Tube to the hostel
and walked to Hyde Park.

There, we saw Jay-Z,

This seems fitting for the 4th of July,
as I can think of very few entertainers
who love America (or at least Brooklyn) more than Jay-Z.

However, it was a little odd
experiencing this with the British,
since we (Jay-Z, me, Pierce)
were celebrating our independance from them,
which occurred precisely 234 years ago.

Also, the lyrics "Long live the World Trade"
(of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind)
seemed to make much less of an impact on the British,
we noticed,
whereas it gave me chills from head to toe.

But I loved the concert itself,
and Beyonce was there.

The end.

July 3rd: the after party

After the July 3rd informal party, all of the interns met up to watch the Portugal v. Spain World Cup game and Pierce came along.

A note about living in Vienna with other American interns:
When I think back to my life in May,
it seems like a completely separate experience.
These interns didn't come until 3 weeks after I did,
so the first 3 weeks I worked M-F,
traveled on the weekend with Oklahoma friends,
hung out after work with Martina (my original roommate)
and that was the extent of my life.

Then the rest of the American interns arrived.
There are 6 others besides me
and we are a very close group.
In fact,
we're a little exclusive
but not too exclusive for Eva
(or Pierce, when he's visiting).

Peter (Ken, of Barbie and Ken) also had a friend come to visit
(seen below).
He originally intended on coming for a couple of days
and stayed for a couple of weeks.
I think it's because our group of friends is just that fun.

I think I might be the only intern
who hasn't interned with the Embassy before
(in other countries, naturally).
The rest of them have repeatedly told me
that the closeness of our group is by no means normal,
that in all of their experiences
(for some, this is their 5th internship),
they have never bonded so well with the other American interns.

We eat dinner together once a week;
each of us hosting a different night,
each of us bringing a different item.
We travel together,
hang out after work together,
go to lunch together
(the benefit of working with your friends),
we do mostly everything together.

5 of the 7 of us even live on the same street.
I live next door to Laura and Erica
and for that I am very, very grateful.

How boring was my Vienna life in May?!
I had no idea what was coming.

I know what is coming at the end of August, however:
saying goodbye to a city I love
as well as friends I've come to love even more.

All too familiar, I say!


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.
Aaron: What?

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:

4th of July: part 2

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The day after the huge 4th of July event,
there was a mini 4th of July event.
Same place,
same decorations,
just less food
and less formality.

There was still really good food, though,
and I ate cornbread
and it was sooo delicious
and it reminded me of home
and Oklahoma.

For some reason,
the week before this party,
I thought it would be a smart idea
to sign up to be a judge
in the pie baking contest
(not a pie eating contest).

I guess it could have been a pie eating contest, though,
because there were 12 pies entered,
and we were expected to try them all
and after 5,
I thought I was going to throw up,
so the bites I took out of the last 7 pies
were the size of M&Ms
and I asked 3 people if I could call for a substitute.
Apparently, that isn't allowed....
something about "consistency".

I finished the judging
and managed to not throw up.
Pierce had taken the train down from Graz that day
to be my date for the party
and he kept asking if I'd introduce him to the Ambassador.
I told him no
and that the Ambassador barely knows me
and that he is too important for Pierce.

So imagine my surprise
when Pierce and I were sitting at the party, eating lunch,
and the Ambassador randomly walks over
and asks if he can join our table.
He and Pierce were more than chatty,
which Pierce was more than happy about.
The Ambassador told us funny stories about Obama,
because they have been friends since before Obama was a senator
(obviously they are friends,
Obama appointed him Ambassador in Vienna).

He told us a lot of really funny stories
and talked to us about his German classes.
Like I said,
he really loved Pierce,
which was funny because Pierce has no relation
to the Embassy whatsoever,
and the person who actually works for the Ambassador daily
sat there trying to get a word in edgewise
while Pierce used his fraternity social skills
to control the conversation.
Cool, Pierce.

There was also a water balloon game taking place,
which I wasn't paying much attention to
because I was talking to my intern friends,
Laura and Peter (bottom photo),
until I looked up
and saw Pierce was participating in the balloon game,
along with all the Embassy children.
So he had no trouble fitting in at all.

Other than me feeling like I was going to vomit
due to the excessive pie-eating,
it was a good day.

Some fun facts:

* Laura thinks it is so cool that my dad makes honey.
* I think Peter looks like Ken (of Barbie and Ken).
* Laura goes to A&M.
* Peter goes to Stanford.
* The 3 of us all live on the same street.
* They are interns at the U.N.
*I love them both.

4th of July Embassy Party

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(Disclaimer: I downloaded the following photos from the Embassy website)

When I accepted this internship in November, I remember my boss told me over the phone, "The summer term is the best time to intern. I think you'll really enjoy the events. The 4th of July celebration, for instance, is the social highlight of the year. It's a big production". That is an understatement. Quite an understatement.

I was sent to the Ambassador's Residence (where the party was held, of course) the day of the party, to help decorate. I had to be at the Embassy at 7:20 for the Embassy car to drive us to the Ambassador's Residence, which, in case you didn't know, is early for me. Once we made it all the way out to the Residence, I somehow became known as "the bow expert".

I think it's because I have tied a lot of bows in my lifetime, whether wrapping gifts professionally (at Mitchell's Jewelry, where I think I once wrapped 3,098 gifts in one day) to tying bows in my hair, to tying bows around my waist (I'm the girl who wears a belt with 78% of my outfits...because as I once told Sally and Julie, "I'm always looking for something to tie around my waist"...which they quoted almost daily in our Sunset house), to tying bows around outfits for Luna Lyn(n)....I just feel like I've tied a lot of bows in my life. So, when the Ambassador's wife saw the first bow that I tied, I became known as "the one who ties all the bows". At first I thought this was so cool because the Ambassador's wife liked my decorating abilities. Then after I had tied over 100 bows in 1 hour, I found it a little less cool. Then after I stood in the sun tying millions of red, white and blue bows around all the tent poles, I started to semi-resent the bow-tying talent.

...But then I saw all the decorations come together and I was so proud of my contributions and so excited for the evening's festivities.

(the entrance to the Residence)

(an example of my bow-tying and ribbon-draping ...and I have no idea why there is a Segway there)
(just in case any guests forgot....this is America we're celebrating)
(The best part of the event...all the food! There were so many restaurants who had set up booths at the Residence. TGI Fridays had set up a booth....Starbucks had an entire cafe set up...you could order anything you wanted...there were dozens of booths - It was like Taste of Norman but free! Amazing..)
(This was taken before the guests arrived...pretty soon the Residence was so crowded with over 1,300 guests in attendance)
(It was so weird walking up to this booth and ordering a frappacino... they literally had their entire menu available...and again, free - free - free!)
(Speaking of frappacino's....that's me drinking one and talking to Manfred!)
(They were serving hamburgers and hotdogs...
I opted for a very delicious Caesar Salad...so good!)
(With over 1,300 people in attendance...that's a lot of hamburgers and hotdogs.)

(That's me and Erica in the background with some other interns!)
(They had beer, wine, champagne, etc. ...like a wedding, but with beer steins.)
(Photo opportunities with the Ambassador before the event.)
(The Ambassador and Mrs. Eacho - she is so classy and the nicest woman
...and she loves my bows. This was during his speech which gave me chills. I've asked Erica of Public Affairs to send me a copy.)
(The Marines)
(This somehow reminded me of a very extravagant Good Morning Monroe assembly... something that only my mom/Maddie will laugh at.)

(And at the end of the night there was a fireworks show,
and the band played America the Beautiful,
and I thought of the movie The Sandlot,
and I thought of how much I love, love, love
the United States of America
and I love working for the Embassy,
and how my country is my favorite country in the world
and that's the end.)

Oh -- and here are some photos from my camera:

This is me and Robee, who works with me.
Hannes calls her "The heart of the Department"
and I couldn't agree more.
She is really fun
and one of the sweetest people I have ever met
and her husband is so nice.
He drives her to work every morning
and picks her up every evening
and even brings her lunch sometimes
when his work schedule will allow it.
I've loved getting to know those two
and I am dreading the 2 weeks in August
when she is on vacation leave!!!

And then of course there's Manfred.
Enough said.

I have spent the majority of my 4th of Julys in Sapulpa, Oklahoma on a farm with a house full of cousins, aunts, uncles, my Grandma and Grandpa, shooting off fireworks, smoke balls, snap pops, eating cherry pie and drinking Grape Soda.
This 4th of July was spent in Vienna, Austria at the Ambassador's Residence, which included a house full of photos of Ambassador Eacho and his good friend Barack Obama, a yard full of diplomats and Foreign Service Officers, all types of Armed Forces, a million dollars' worth of gourmet cuisine and a little bit of fireworks, too.
Ironically, last year's 4th of July, I spent crying because I had moved home from Austria the day before and didn't know what to do with my life that next year.
I think my life turned out okay.
We'll see what happens next.

so. excited.

(Kayla and me at Schonnbr├╝nn Palace in Vienna, circa March 2009)

There is really no way for me to properly express how excited I am to announce this.

Kayla Marie Clark is moving to Germany in less than 2 months. I want to jump up and down and cry from joy at the same time. I basically had that reaction when she called me last night and told me that she had accepted a nanny position in Rosenheim (which is only a train ride away from where I'll be teaching). She has Skyped with the family, emailed them for weeks and is finally accepting the job through an au pair organization and her German will get to improve soooo much!

Kayla, Caroline and Lindsay were my 3 closest friends in Salzburg (though I had so many other close friends as well...too many to name). My friend Erica and I were recently discussing friendships and how there are some friends who are more or less dispensible. They fill a void and then when you part from them, new friends fill that same void (although you still love and care about the old friends). No one fills the Kayla, Caroline and Lindsay voids. They are irreplaceable.

Last year, as my 22nd birthday approached, I told Lindsay all I really wanted was to spend it with the 4 of us together. She flew to Oklahoma the week before my birthday and we ate wonderful meals together, reminsced with JC and Hunt, toured Oklahoma and watched episodes of The Alps. A few months later, when JC's girlfriend told him he couldn't ever be friends with me again, Kayla heard about it and called me. I told her that it was annoying and upsetting that I was losing a friend of 4 years over something so petty. This made her far more upset than I ever imagined and she called me back the next day and said, "Can you pick me up from the airport on Thursday?". When I was having a weird panic attack about moving back here (which was odd, since that was the goal toward which I had been working for months on end), I told Caroline that I would probably spend my last weekend in Stillwater crying because I had to leave a place I really love. She booked a ticket soon after and spent my final weekend in Stillwater with me and made it one of the best weekends ever.  During the short time I spent in Oklahoma between Salzburg and Vienna, these girls paid hundreds of dollars, missed classes and work, and put their lives on hold just to come to Oklahoma and see me. I repeat: no one can ever fill the Kayla, Caroline, Lindsay voids.

If Caroline and Lindsay found jobs over here (and this is really not out of the question), then I would cry for 3 days straight and probably pay for all of their plane tickets.

world cup

Friday, July 9, 2010

i have been known to become unhealthily obsessed with sports.
the olympics.
OU football.
the world cup.

living in europe for the world cup is awesome.
especially because we're the same time zone
so the games are at 8:30 pm
and we (the other american interns) always meet up
to watch the matches together.

here is a photo of me and Peter, another intern.
we are both cheering for spain;
him, because he studied abroad in madrid
and me, because i love sergi, roman and david villa.

kunsthaus hundertwasser

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My good friend Erica, who works in the Embassy's Public Affairs Dept., gets invited to fun events through her job. She got invited to a photography exhibit at Kunsthaus Hundertwasser and was allowed a guest so she chose me. :) In my German class last year, someone did a presentation over this art museum so I had heard a lot of great things about it. I told Erica I would meet her at Schwedenplatz at 6:50 and walk there together (the exhibit event began at 7:00).

I left my house at 6:20, because I had to go by bus and U-bahn to get to Schwedenplatz. I didn't want to be late, so I was really frustrated when the bus was delayed a few minutes. That meant that I would probably miss the subway and have to wait 7 minutes, and I had strategically planned this to meet Erica right on time. I ran to the U-bahn station (in heels) only to see my subway leaving.

I got on the next one, which left 7 minutes later and I was about to call Erica and tell her I was running late, when the doors opened and Erica walked onto the subway. Vienna is huge and the odds that we would be on the same subway (let alone the same compartment of the subway) were slim. It ended up being perfect that we were on the subway together because the subway broke down... This is so unusual for Austria. In fact, I kept thinking, "Are we in Italy??". If I had taken the earlier subway, I would have made it to Schwedenplatz on time, Erica would have been stuck on the broken down subway (the delay time in total was 1 hour) and we wouldn't have been able to go together.

We had to get off 5 stops early and walk a long way (again, in heels). Erica kept saying she felt like we were on a hike, because Vienna has become atrotiously hot, yet again, so we were sweating and probably looked pretty dissheveled by the time we arrived. Also, Erica had to stop to get a bottle of water during our "hike." Twice.

We finally made it to the Kunsthaus at 8:00. We had to be at a dinner at 8:30, though, so we literally stayed at the Kunsthaus 17 minutes and then took the tram to dinner (where we arrived 30 minutes late). The Kunsthaus was nice, though, and it would be worth visiting again, we decided. They have a really pretty restaurant there and since the featured photographer had Mexican roots, they had live Mexican music and it reminded me a lot of San Antonio.

Vienna is so big and I feel like it will be impossible for me to truly know it by the time my internship is over. As we were walking to the Kunsthaus, we realized that we were in a completely foreign area (and a really nice one at that). I keep making a mental list of all the places I want to explore here....there just isn't enough time!

Apparently, working 40 hours a week is slightly different than studying abroad, where you have zero responsibilities and go to class for an hour in the afternoons. Go figure.