Erica's last week

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Erica was my other half this summer. As I said before, we spent every waking second together. And.....her last week in Vienna, I got to live with her! She lived next to my house and once the family returned, I got to live with her (before moving in again with the family). I keep thinking how I found 3 lifelong friends in Salzburg (if not more) and now Erica in Vienna (along with others, too). I hope I haven't used all my luck in the friend department because I'm afraid my Fulbright experience won't be able to live up to my Salzburg/Vienna this point, though, I've learned there's just no way to compare experiences so no wasting time over that.

 Anyway - Erica's last week was fun but sad. My consolation is that I'll see her soon since she's studying in Italy. She's from Wisconsin and I got to Skype with her parents a lot (since I was always over at her house and she Skyped with them often). I feel like I know her family so well now. I love her parents! I can't wait to visit her someday in the US (even though neither of us really know when we'll be back) and I am 100% sure that she will visit me/my family in Oklahoma.....someday.

I learned a lot from Erica. Some people say "he/she made me a better person". That very well may be true for Erica's and my relationship but Erica definitely made me a better employee. That girl is the most professional, honest and loyal individual an employer could ask for. Just from being in her presence at work, I benefited so much. She is really inspiring; I can't wait to see what she ends up doing for a career.

One special note on our friendship:
The week after Bratislava, due to the events that occurred while I was away, was one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I was so, so stressed - there is no way I can even fully convey how terrible that week was. One day that week, I was so stressed that I didn't even take a lunch break. Eva and Eva went to lunch without me and I hadn't seen Erica yet that day. Eva saw Erica and said, "Hey Erica, how are you?" and Erica said, "That depends - how is Jennifer doing today?".  As soon as I started to feel better, there was a noticeable difference in her mood, too. She is such a good, good friend.

I have so many memories with her over the short course of the summer. I don't even want to imagine what the summer would have been like without her! One of my favorite memories was her saying, "I have a confession....I just bought the entire season of The you want to watch it with me?" I had never watched The Bachelorette (but I have watched one season of The Bachelor!), but the funny thing about being in Europe is that you do American things just to feel American (like paying 5 euro for a box of Pop Tarts when, at home, you can get them for half that much). In the week and a half that followed, we watched 1 episode of The Bachelorette every night - something we probably never would have done at home, but we loved it nonetheless!  I feel like I'll probably watch it every season now and think of her. :)

These pictures are from one of her last nights in Vienna when we met Eva at a really fun Vietnamese restaurant. You can tell how cold it is now in Vienna! Erica bought that coat here at Zara....I love it!


I have been wanting to go to Bratislava since I first arrived in Vienna. It's only 50 km east of Wien so it was my one goal before I left: make the trip there before I leave because Nuremberg is so far west that I know I'll never go after this summer.  Erica and I quickly made plans to go and off we went.  The trip would have been REALLY fun had I not received awful news halfway through....but more about that later.

Mishka and Jerry (our native hosts, whose names I am completely misspelling for pronunciation purposes) proudly showed us around and....made us a terrific Slovakian dinner, which took hours (3 hours, total!) of preparation. I have been so humbled by the gracious hospitality I am constantly being shown in these countries. I'm such a fan of Eastern Europe - I never would have guessed.

They also took us bowling (I don't really like bowling but the shoes I got to wear were actually really cute) and then they took us to a We paid 10 euro to drive the go-carts and then.....we entered what can only be described as a warehouse-turned-go-cart-track. Erica and I were terrified. In fact, I wish someone had taken a picture of our facial expressions upon entering this place (or a photo of the place itself). There was no "track", but rather tires lined-up strategically throughout. There was a sign in Slovakian indicating what each flag means, ie "if a blue flag is waved at you, it means _____."  There were 7 different flags that can be waved at you while driving. Since Erica and I couldn't read the sign, Mishka translated for us. Our eyes widened more and more with each rule; "If the blue flag is waved, it means you have to reverse and go the other direction"..."If the orange flag is waved, it means you have to let the person pass you on the left"..."If the purple flag is waved, it means you have to let the person pass you on the right"..."if the red flag is waved, it means you get kicked out because your driving is a hazard to the other drivers"....halfway through the translation, Erica and I simultaneously said, "Yeah, we're not going to do this." The other 3 thought we were kidding and when they noticed we weren't putting our helmets on, they realized we were being serious. Mishka asked us what was wrong and Erica said, "Well, to be honest, this is an abandoned warehouse, through which people are driving what appear to be homemade go-carts at ungodly speeds, while the mechanic in the corner is working on said go-carts with a BLOWTORCH, which, personally, I find unsafe, especially considering that sparks are flying around while gasoline drips from these go-carts, on TOP of which, I also find unsettling that some of these drivers appear to be no older than the age of 3 and we're just not comfortable with any of that." Everyone then looked at me and I said, "We're American. There are some things we can't handle. This is one of them".

Jerry and Mishka shrugged, Erica and I happily forfeited our tickets, and the rest of the group made their way around the track (and did, in fact, survive).

Afterward, Jerry asked us, "Are you sure you don't want to give it a try? You already paid the 10 euro" to which I replied, "I am already going to have to call my parents tonight and tell them my house was robbed last night and I don't want to have to tell them that, hours after my house was robbed, I died driving a go-cart in Slovakia."

Erica and I ended up giving our tickets to Jerry and Mishka as a "thank you for hosting us" gift, so hopefully our 10 euro wasn't wasted.

They were still slightly confused, though, and I realized this when they asked me over dinner, "But what were you girls expecting?". I said, "I'll tell you what I was expecting. I was expecting Perfect Swing; a wholesome little place in middle America, where children have to be a certain HEIGHT to drive these cars, and the go-carts' speed does not exceed 20 mph." Jerry looked at me and said, "Oh, yeah, you can't find that here".


6 American interns in Vienna: 3 guys, 3 girls.
Erica, Laura, me (and Eva, who isn't an "American intern" but close enough)
+ Aaron, Chase, and Peter.
This is how I spent my summer.
When I came to Vienna in May,
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had a meeting with my boss the first week I was here.
He encouraged me to meet other interns from other departments.
I didn't really know how or where to meet them, so I didn't.
Turns out...I was the only intern for the month of May!
The other 5 came in June...and for that I am so, so happy.
I didn't know what I was missing.
May was fine. I wasn't unhappy.
But June was so much better.
July was the best.
August was great too,
but sad because people started leaving.
Over the course of summer, I grew to like these interns a lot.
A lot, a lot.
Looking back, I wish I could re-live the last few weeks of July
and first week of August.
Now they are all gone.

The best part is that we all lived on the same street. We had intern dinners once a week, where we would meet at one of our homes and each person would bring something to cook...then we'd all eat together and talk for a few hours. This started out being a weekly event and then became bi-weekly toward the end of the summer. There's something about the feeling of, "we are all each other has"...this is similar to how I felt with the Americans in Salzburg. I was one of the only ones who had never done this internship before (although everyone else had been posted at different locations - not Vienna), and everyone agreed that our common bond was not normal. In fact, they all described their previous relationships with interns doing this same internship as "cut throat" and competetive. I'm so glad we all got along and blended so well. Aaron is back at Princeton, Peter at Standford, Laura at A&M.....luckily for me, though, Erica is at grad school in Italy, so we won't be too far apart. :) We've already planned a trip together for my birthday! :)

10 Memorable Places in no particular order.

I love Vienna. So much. People have often asked me how Vienna compares with Salzburg and the truth is, the cities couldn't be more different. It's a different kind of love, but I do love Vienna. Here are some photos of my favorite places that have become some dear to me these past 4 months.

Sushi cafe

I ate lunch with Erica every day for 10 weeks (not exagerrating). She came after I had already been here for 6 weeks and I had a bit of a "lunch routine" by the time she had arrived. When she got here, she started asking me to lunch and I remember thinking it could be a weekly event but probably no more often than that. ....It quickly became a daily event and we tried a variety of places over the course of those 10 weeks, the most frequent being a sushi restaurant around the corner from the Embassy. Nobody actually knows the name of it and there are 2 tables inside of what literally could be a hole in the wall. Chase, another American intern, was obsessed with this place...obsessed to a fault. We ate here so often that I eventually had to ban it from our lunch routine. We haven't eaten there in weeks and I'm still not planning on eating sushi for a very, very long time.


There are several Heurigers in Vienna. Heuriger is not a brand name but rather a type of wine, so each "Heuriger" restaurant name is preceeded by a more specific name, differentiating the companies who own each one. We never really knew the name of this one so we just called it Heuriger. It was about an hour away from us (pretty normal for Vienna), so we didn't eat there too often but the food there was amazing and the atmosphere is so Austrian.


St. Stephen's Cathedral

This is one of the classic Vienna landmarks. I took this picture with my disposable camera. Piotr (the new Piotr, not the Salzburg one) came to visit me/Erica in Vienna and I couldn't find my camera charger (I later found it at Erica's) so I bought a disposable camera, with which I took the above photo. I remember standing here in 2009 with all of my Salzburg friends (we had come to Vienna on a weekend trip). It's funny to think that I had no idea I'd be living in that city a year later.


Schloß Schönbrunn

During Piotr's visit, I took him to the Schönbrunn Palace. We didn't pay to go inside but spent a couple of hours walking the grounds (and taking pictures with my disposable camera). It was such a nice day and even without paying to enter the palace (which I've done before), there is still plenty to see and enjoy.


Kunst Historisches Museum

More pictures I took with my disposable camera of another place I showed Piotr during his visit. We didn't pay to go inside the museum, but the area itself is nice. That is the giant statue of Maria Theresia (the only female Habsburg ruler and one of Vienna's historical celebrities). There are always many tourists taking photos with her. I spent a few hours inside the museum last year when I came with the other American students from Salzburg.



This might be my very favorite place in Vienna. Jenny Clem and I spent about an hour here, relaxing on the giant benches (which are more like beds). There are several cafes and museums (hence the name of the area) and it's always filled with young people. I took Piotr here and this is where I learned to count to ten in Polish! Also, each year you can vote online to change the color of the benches. Last summer when I was here with Jenny, the benches were they are pink!



Prater is like the Oklahoma state fair but with slightly classier people. ;) Only slightly, though! You still see all walks of life here at Prater.... I first came when Piotr was visiting. I took him (partly as an excuse for me to go) and it was so much fun. I love riding rides and Piotr agreed to go on one with me....we got off the ride and I felt great. Piotr, on the other hand, had turned a shade of green and needed to rest...At first I was a little concerned but as more time passed (half an hour), I could only laugh at how sick he was feeling....we ended up having to leave and go to a gas station to get him hot tea (which I ordered for him while laughing). Luckily, this minor incident happened at the end of our day at Prater. I also returned there with Kim when she was visiting and Erica came along. Kim and I rode the same ride that made Piotr so sick. This time, the ride hurt my neck and Kim kind of hated it! Speaking of hate....we rode the ferris wheel and I'm sure I look like I'm having a pleasant time in the photos, but in reality I was dying of terror. I hate heights.



Okay, I must have lied. This is my favorite place in Vienna. These restaurant booths are set up every day and night for the summer. It's not far from the Embassy, so we have been several times for lunch. They have every kind of food you could imagine, so it's great to come as a group because everyone can choose their own food and then meet up to eat together. The above photo is Erica at Rathausplatz one sunny day on our lunch break.


Kärtner Straße

This statue is right off of Kärtner Straße, which is one of the main shopping streets in Vienna. It's pretty high-end, so I haven't done too much shopping there....but it's always bustling with people and it's certainly fun to window shop.


Belvedere Gardens

Erica took this photo. I love it. It's so Vienna.

There's a reason Vienna was voted most desirable city in the world!


The 900 year old Riegersburg castle

After the Zotter factory visit in Riegersburg, we stopped at the Riegersburg castle. Eva ate grapes from the trees as we toured the castle grounds and watched the sunset. We took a cable car to the top and then walked down (which took over half an hour and, since we had come straight from work, I was wearing heels).

Then Manfred invited us to his house for dinner and ice cream. He lives with his wife and their 15 year old daughter in a house that looks like it could be an Ambassador's residence. We were amazed!

Even though this was supposed to be Manfred's birthday trip, I think the day was more of a treat for us. I am so spoiled at my job, working with the best staff.