A collection of grievances, memories, occasional musings, and everyday happenings

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Concerning Piercings

*Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart.

In my near 24 years, I’ve had a total of 7 piercings done: 3 in my left ear, 3 in my right ear, and 1 on the right side of my nose. In the time I’ve had these, I’ve admittedly done some stupid and painful things to myself. When I was younger, I let two of my piercings grow back partially. I remember standing in my parents’ bathroom with my dad, staring at myself in the long, huge mirror as I winced in pain while my dad carefully and quickly pushed a stud through each ear to renew the piercings. A few years ago, after just getting my cartilage pierced, I was at my apartment and carelessly took off my outer sweater, resulting in a single thread wrapping itself tightly around my brand spankin’ new piercing. If you’ve ever had a piercing done before, you know this is one of the top worst things you could do to yourself immediately afterwards. If not, all you need to know is once a part of you is pierced, that area hurts for awhile, especially on the first day. It’s like getting a shot, only the pain from the shot dies down pretty quickly. The pain from a piercing, while not constant, definitely hurts like crazy if the area is accidentally touched, or, like in my case, pulled on really, really hard. The pain I felt from yanking on my cartilage was so severe, I immediately fell to the ground and for the first time in my life understood what it meant to see stars. I laid there in a crumpled state for several minutes, still half in and half out of my sweater, waiting for the pain to subside. I oh-so-very gently tried to unravel the sweater from my ear, but despite my best efforts, did not succeed. My best friend wound up coming to my rescue after I called her – Um, hey Erica? Are you busy? My sweater is stuck to my ear and I can’t get it off without almost fainting. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Then this past April, right before I left for Vienna, I had a spur of the moment “I could really go for a piercing right now” urge, and I got my nose pierced. This being my first facial piercing (and the last), I was especially concerned with taking care of it properly, it being in the center of my face and all. This was also the first time sea salt was required for taking care of a new piercing. The directions are as follows:

Dump bag of sea salt in diluted water
Mix water
Soak piercing in saltwater (via cotton ball) for two minutes in the morning and evening
Continue this routine every day for the next 4-6 weeks, or when healing is completed

Easy to follow. I made the saltwater, cleaned the piercing twice a day with no problem, and the healing process seemed to be a breeze. Then Vienna happened. The two days leading up to the move involved me and Will hanging out with friends up to the last possible sensible hours of the night, usually ending with me swimming in a bucket of tears, so piercing cleaning did not take place either of those two nights. It for sure didn’t happen on the flight to Vienna because I’m terrified of bathrooms on planes, so time spent in there is absolutely minimal. When we arrived in Vienna, it took me a few days to locate my special salt mixture as I had stupidly packed it in a place that wasn’t easily accessible. Total, I probably went close to 1 and a half to 2 weeks without touching my nose piercing. I wasn’t super concerned about it since it looked fine – maybe a little red – but it didn’t hurt or anything. Plus my routine was back in action, meaning my piercing was totally protected and normal. My piercing and I had a good run for a couple of weeks or so, then one day I came back to the apartment to discover that the precious cleaning lady of the apartment complex had poured out the remainder of my saltwater mixture so she could put the glass in the dishwasher. I was sad and a little worried, but water and my face wash were all I had access to, and I figured both would do the necessary cleaning for me anyway.

It wasn’t too much longer after I had this incorrect notion that a small little bump appeared next to my tiny diamond stud. It didn’t go away, didn’t go away – in fact it grew a little bit, to the point that Will could actually see it when he was standing a slight distance away from me. The side of my nose got more and more red, and I, being a borderline hypochondriac, panicked and searched Google for “nose piercing bump”. The results were surprisingly positive, each of them telling me that bumps and redness are normal side effects of a new piercing, and to leave the piercing alone. And I did! Well, I tried to at least. I bought Meer Salz (sea salt) and remade my mixture, and upped the minutes of necessary piercing-soaking. But the redness didn’t die down and the bump continued to make me self-conscious about my face. Finally, after looking at myself hard in the mirror and deciding that perhaps I just simply was not meant to be the wearer of a nose piercing, I succumbed to my anxieties and took out the stud. I was so saddened by the outcome, as I had grown to love my nose jewelry, and Will loved it too. I went two days without it, and in just those two days, the bump went away completely and all that could be seen of my piercing was a teeny tiny hole that looked like a freckle. It was amazing how fast the piercing healed. But I still missed my piercing! I found myself back at the mirror again, studying the perfect healing and glancing at my lonesome diamond stud lying on a hand towel. I fought with myself for a little bit as to whether or not I should put it back in. I mean why put it back in if the bump is going to come back? But what if it doesn’t? I decided the bump was history, picked up the stud, and proceeded to put it back in the hole in the side of nose.

I unfortunately didn’t take into account how rapidly skin grows back in two days. While the bad parts of the piercing were healing, the hole in my nose was closing, and now, two days later, was almost completely closed. With the force I had put into getting the stud back through my nose, then realizing that its home was rejecting it, I had put the stud in my nose in a very awkward position. The stud was in far enough to make it the rest of the way, but out enough that I would have to make it go the rest of the way. Basically my options were go for it and be in a lot of pain, or give up and be in a lot of pain. The love I had for this piercing motivated me enough to go for it, but I should have had a stick or something hard to bite down on while I essentially re-pierced my nose.

I have never purposefully inflicted that much pain on myself and never plan to again. I also intend to follow the ‘leave the piercing alone’ rule for the rest of my life unless directed otherwise by a professional. You’ll be happy to know, however, that I was right in my assumption that the bump would not reappear. My nose looks totally normal (as normal as a nose can look I suppose) and no pain or redness have resurfaced. Maybe I should be a professional piercer. Just kidding. I would be the worst at that, as my pain tolerance is extremely low and I have a hard time watching piercings take place. I’ll just stay here. But seriously friends – leave your piercings alone. Re-piercings hurt like the dickens.


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This Week in Grievances: Lack of the ‘Net

Wir haben kein Internet!

Still waiting on it. I hoped it would be here by the end of this week, but I was mistaken. We’re now hoping for it to arrive early next week as we are successfully using up all of our data (currently typing this on my phone…).

So quick update:
Just got my new washing machine – from Germany! I love it. And it’s easy for me to understand. Not planning on getting a drier anytime soon. Turns out it’s actually not super common to have both a washer and drier because most people use drying racks. We’re going to follow suit and do the same, only we don’t have a drying rack, which I just now realized, so we’re getting one today. Laundry is a MUST right now.

German class is still fantastic. We’ve completed our third week and will take a test next Thursday which will determine whether we’re ready to move up to the next level or not. Don’t worry – we’re confident in moving on up.

It’s hot here today.

That’s all I can think of for now. Also my phone is about to die. But anyway, I’ve got something written and ready for next week for my Grievances (when we have Internet!!) and Will has something written and ready for our Vienna blog (when we have Internet!!). Thanks for being patient. You guys rock.

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This Week in Grievances: Learning a Language

After nearly two weeks of three-hour-long German classes every day, I’ve a learned a few things:

1. Learning German is not easy.

2. Learning German is not easy.

3. Learning German is not easy.

There are 6 of us in class, each from different parts of the world and in different phases of our lives: a 14 year old from Serbia, a 16 year old from Croatia, a 23 year old from Saudi Arabia, a 26 year old from Mexico, and of course myself and my husband representing the US of A. Our teacher is a 31 year old native Austrian, which she makes clear to us at least once in every class period. Not in a “I’M FROM AUSTRIA” sort of way, but more like a “We’re learning Wienerisch (Viennese), NOT Deutsch” way. It’s been really interesting to see our teacher react to various solely-German words. She’ll be giving us an example from the book, pause, and very quickly explain that a word like “Stühl” (chair) is German whereas in Austria, chair is “Sessel”. Sometimes during these explanations she shivers and has this disapproving look on her face – the same way I react whenever someone says “preggers” or “prego” (GROSS. Don’t say it. They’re not a words. Prego is a pasta sauce. Just stop.)

From the moment we walk into class till the time we leave, our teacher speaks only German (Österreichisch) which I find to be extremely helpful. It’s to the point where if she does speak in English for some reason, it’s weird. English actually sounds weird when it’s used in class because we’re so fully immersed in the German language, and I totally love that. Sometimes we get lost or don’t fully understand, but with the help of our teacher’s excellent miming and acting skills and two white boards, we get back on track fairly easily. We go over something new every day but always review what we learned the day before. For the most part, I understand everything we’ve done so far. There’s really nothing that confuses me or has me crying in my pillow at night. If I can see it, I understand it. Can I say it back to you? Not yet, but I’m working on it. My problem with saying it back is my lack of word-gender knowledge, and I MUST know the genders, or else I may end up saying something that makes me sound like I’m from a different planet.

There are three genders: der, die, das. Der Tisch (table), Die Schule (school), Das Bett (bed). Who decides these things? Is there some sort of, I don’t know, “Gender Kingdom” similar to the kingdoms in The Phantom Tollbooth complete with a king who decides on the genders for new nouns? I think it’s possible – someone somewhere had to have been the decision maker on the i-Phone and i-Pad being neutral, while Apps are feminine and the i-Pod is masculine. How else are you supposed to know if the Post Office is a boy or a girl, or a neutral-nothing? Well, unfortunately for me and other new learners, in the words of the two teachers I’ve had in the past 8 months: You don’t. There’s no way to know, and there’s no logic as to why one object is masculine, one is feminine, and one is neuter (so no kingdom I guess :-\). Hear it, see it, memorize it, know it. Each gender does have some shortcuts you can take, like if a word ends in -e, it’s probably feminine. Or if it’s a “platz”, like Stephensplatz or Spielplatz, it’s masculine. I feel like neuter, das, gets all the leftovers. Like I kind of have a thing against das – just be whatever you want to be and commit to it! It won’t happen though – but I digress.

Another trick to figuring out genders is to say the word as the gender. Take for example, a word that’s gender is masculine, like Park. Der Park – Huh! Park! Grr! Manly! Park! You can do the same thing for a word that’s feminine as well, like Metzgerei – Oooh lala! Metzgerrrreeeii! How girly sounding! Lalala! Ok, so did you feel the manliness in Park? Did you feel especially girly saying Metzgerei? Here’s where the gender trick doesn’t always work. After planting my foot down and grunting “Park”, you’d think you could do the same with “Post” – Huh! Post! Gr! Ahhh, but you can’t. Because “Post” is feminine. Take away the grunts and the grr’s and replace them with ooh-lala’s with an awkward “Post” in the middle, and you get “die Post”. And you thought Metzgerei was almost beautiful, right? With all its flowers and femininity? Do you know what Metzgerei means? Butcher. Die Butcher, the opposite of all things floral and graceful. And just when you think you’ve found a word that does sound floral and graceful and isn’t something related to slicing up bloody pieces of meat, it’s neutral. Natürlich.

Despite all the issues I have with genders not necessarily making sense with its object (like bikini is somehow masculine), I understand the importance of knowing them – the importance being what I said at the beginning: if you don’t know them, you could be saying something entirely different than what you’re trying to say. The other danger is not knowing the double meanings of words, like Kater. Der Kater is a male cat. It’s also a hangover. So, depending on how I use “der Kater”, I could either be saying, Yes, I’m married, I live in an apartment in Vienna, I have a brother, a mom, a dad, and a cat, or,…I have a brother, a mom, a dad, and a hangover. Until I figure out how to properly tell people I have a male cat, I’m going to continue to introduce my cat as being a girl. Sorry Tobias. Sicher ist sicher.

Side note: Timehop Abe informed me that today is my blog’s 1 year birthday! Go here to read my first Comedic Grievances post.


I’m Not Here Today

Absence makes the heart grow fonder… Right…?

Zuerst (“first of all”- I just learned it, gotta use it), I apologize for my lack of posts. The move from our temporary apartment to our new and actual apartment has taken much of our energy (and also our Internet access), thus resulting in no blogging and the strong desire to never go back to IKEA again (I know – crazy, right?). However! I’m back, but not really, as I am posting from another blog today. Guest post! You can find me on Emily’s blog, here, and read about my first experiences in Vienna from 2008, including the time I went to the hospital (get excited). This guest post is for her blog series called Tuesday Travel Diaries, a series I stumbled upon about a month ago. If you have time you should stay awhile and read the other “diary” entries, as well as Emily’s own personal blog. She’s currently living in Australia so you know she’s got some pretty awesome stories.

So. I’ll see you cool kids over at Emily’s blog for today and return to my Grievances later in the week. Tschüß!

Tuesday Travel Diaries – Vienna


This Week in Grievances: This day

My husband Will and I have been struggling to get a full night’s rest for the past week or two due to a couple big factors. One, we’re sleeping in someone else’s home, and sleeping in a place that’s unfamiliar is always a difficult adjustment to make. And two, as I’ve stated many times to the point of sounding like a broken record, it’s very hot, and we spoiled AC kiddos haven’t entirely gotten used to that yet. Every day that we don’t get a full night’s rest, we get a little crankier, and a little more ill-feeling. Last night Will and I spent a wonderful evening with Austrian friends at their home in Donaustadt. We had a traditional Austrian meal complete with 4th of July decorations made for us by their precious children. We ate and talked and before we knew it, it was 11:30pm. Will and I headed back to Leopoldstadt and arrived in our apartment around 12:15am or so, then immediately jumped on Skype to wish my mom a very Happy Birthday. We talked with my parents till about 1:00am, went to bed, and I think I woke up about 4 or 5 times throughout the night, each time dripping with sweat.

We woke up at 7:00am this morning in order to make it to the office by 8:30am. I was especially excited about today because my American friend Amanda who has lived here for 5 years was taking me to a Viennese thrift store to help me shop for inexpensive but awesome finds for my new apartment. While I was getting ready, my stomach was hurting just the tiniest bit, but I attributed it to the lack of sleep and feeling overheated. Will didn’t feel very well either, but we both filled up bottles of water and made it to the office on time. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the office, I felt myself going downhill. I was hot, dizzy, and felt like I was going to toss up last night’s schnitzel at any moment. But my strong desire to thrift shop with Amanda trumped my need to lie down somewhere preferably near a trashcan and 500 fans, so we got in the car ready to thrift.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that perhaps thrifting should have waited another day. The AC was blasting cold air on me, I was sipping water constantly, and I tried describing my new apartment to her in full detail, but I was only able to describe the entrance and kitchen before realizing that talking wasn’t a good idea. I looked around and asked Amanda if there was a bag around in the total off chance that I needed to throw up. The only thing she could find was a small diaper bag that had a hole in the bottom. I took the bag but was still convinced that the massive heatwave I was experiencing would pass and I would be able to talk and thrift without a problem. We arrived at the thrift store and my sickness had still not disappeared. In fact it was worsening. The antique vases all blended together in one blurry colorless form. The furniture I so badly wanted to look at only resembled 40 different places for me to collapse. I think we had been in the store for less than 5 minutes before I dismissed myself to WC (watercloset, bathroom). After some minutes of being convinced of my demise inside a tiny WC with a cleaning lady on the other side of the door, nothing happened. While I was a tad frustrated that I wasn’t getting sick where it was convenient, I was also a little relieved. Will says that hearing me throw up is one of more terrifying things he’s experienced and that I sound like a Velociraptor, so with that in mind, I didn’t want to unleash my dinosaur-like characteristics in a small thrift store warehouse and scare everyone away. I gave up and met back up with Amanda and we both decided that thrifting would have to wait its turn, so we got back in the car with both of us now in a little bit of a hurry to get back to the office.

This time I rode with my eyes closed. The tiny diaper bag was clutched firmly in my hand as I tried to swallow as much cold air as possible. The last thing I heard was Amanda asking how our cat was – I said, “He’s good…” and that was it. I didn’t miss the bag so much as I… overwhelmed the bag. In three coughs, my dress was no longer pretty, the passenger side was no longer clean, and I felt 100 times better. Obviously I felt horrible about making such a gross mess in Amanda’s car, and on our thrifting date too. She pulled over in a grocery store parking lot in order to equip me with actual bags, tissues, and kitchen cloths. I cleaned myself up as best I could and spent the rest of the ride back apologizing and picturing Will’s face at the sight of my newly decorated self.

I haven’t thrown up since but did end up sleeping for over 5 hours straight this afternoon. We’re still not sure what I came down with for those 3 brief hours other than simply lack of sleep and too much heat. My pride is a little wounded but I’m feeling better and enjoyed two more episodes of Planet Earth with my husband. Hopefully next time’s thrifting date won’t be quite as exciting as it was today.

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