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

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My Newly Obtained Super Power

After living 9 months in Austria immersed in the Austrian culture and German language, I can now confidently struggle with the choice of selecting German “Elementary proficiency” or “Limited working proficiency” on my Linkedin profile. For now, I’ve selected “Limited working proficiency” because I can A.) speak a limited amount of German at work, and because I still B.) chicken out on the phone and switch to English. That’s the meaning of “limited proficiency” right? Still, it might be more correct to select “Elementary proficiency” because I can A.) understand everything that 4-9 year olds are saying, and I can B.) have entire conversations with those little guys.

Scenery from the top of Katrinberg

Scenery from the top of Katrinberg

It may not be a huge step in my language learning process to be able to claim “Elementary” and “Limited” proficiencies, but still, I’m pretty stoked about my progress regardless, especially after I made an important discovery a couple of weekends ago. My husband and I went out of town with our friend Thomas who took us outside of Vienna to a tiny, 300 person town called Lauffen. There we stayed with an adorable, sweet, elderly woman named Frieda who blessed us with free housing and morning coffee. During this time away, Thomas tried to kill us by claiming there was jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery to be gawked at if we hiked up to the top of a giant mountain with him. We barely survived the hike but Thomas was right and we did in fact drop our jaws at the scene that surrounded us. He also took us to Bad-Ischl – a similarly quaint and cute town in the mountains – to tour a summer home built for and regularly lived in by Franz Josef and the ever still popular (and still dead, if you don’t who she is) Sisi, as well as to tour and taste a famous salt mine in the mountains. Following our time in Bad-Ischl, we spent quite a bit of time in Hallstatt – a gorgeous town that is unlike any town I have ever seen in Europe – and toured a well known ice cave in which I was the coldest I have ever been in my entire life. It was during these tours that I made my important discovery.

The important discovery being: Tour guides leave out stuff! And I don’t mean just “stuff”. I mean like, really interesting and huge parts of history that have to do with whatever or wherever it is that one is touring, and I now know this thanks to my German elementary/limited working proficiency. At first I felt a fair amount of nervousness as my husband and me knowingly paid to take an all-German tour of Franz Josef’s mansion, but much to my surprise, I understood our German-speaking tour guide as clear as day as did my husband and thus felt that we could do the rest of our tours all auf-Deutsch. The next tour we took, the salt mine in Bad-Ischl, was conducted in German but immediately translated into English due to the diversity of our group. This is where knowing both languages came in handy and cracked my husband and me up consistently.

It wasn’t so much the tour guide in the salt mine that made us laugh, but the short films we watched at various parts of the tour. The voiceover in the film was a German man, and ALMOST all that he said was translated into English subtitles below. What was so hilarious was that the voiceover would take minutes explaining the complexity of say, the discovery of a dead man whose body was preserved in salt since prehistoric times, or “Der Mann im Salz”, in great detail, while the subtitles below said something like:

A dead man’s body was found preserved in salt. It was important to the history of the salt mine.

Silhouette of our tour guide, probably mid-ice bear story

Silhouette of our tour guide, probably mid-ice bear story

That was it. No science, no list of facts, no explanation about how no one really knows where the men who discovered the body buried it, nothing – just, “…It was important to the history…”. A similar instance happened again while touring the ice cave. Our tour guide spoke excellent English, and we genuinely felt that we learned quite a bit whenever she switched over to translate for the English speakers in our tour group. We understood her German, but we found it helpful to know both languages in case we missed important facts during her German explanation, specifically scientific terms. For example, we knew Stalaktit and Stalagmit had to be Stalactite and Stalagmite, but if she threw a word out like “Kalkstein”, then yeah we would just nod our heads and act like we totally knew what she was talking about until she translated everything in English. I mean seriously, who doesn’t know about “Kalkstein”? (In case you’re looking to impress someone the next time you’re talking about caves and such, Kalkstein is the German word for Limestone. You’re welcome.) The best part of the tour though, was when our tour guide told us a story about a bear. The story was fascinating (and sad) – a bear wandered in the cave hundreds of years ago and couldn’t get out due to an obvious lack of food in the ice cave, so it froze and years and years later, cave explorers came in and discovered the bear’s bones. It didn’t take her a long time to tell the story, but it was very interesting and informative and so we looked forward to hearing the fuller story in English. But we didn’t hear it. Instead, in English, she went straight to, “And now we are going up this flight of stairs here…”, leaving out the bear story entirely.

I was tempted to blurt out “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BEAR?!” in English to make sure I hadn’t missed any details and also so my fellow English speaking companions could learn about the ancient bear too, but I figured our nice tour guide wouldn’t appreciate my language flip-flop, and I also very much enjoyed feeling like I had obtained a super power. I believe all those who understood German left these tours feeling knowledgeable, informed, and further interested while all those who did not understand German left the tours feeling, well, probably exactly the same, with maybe a hint of “Does anyone else feel like the guide may have left out some things?”.


Vote for Comedic Grievances!

ExpatsBlog, a diverse blog where expats from all over the world share experiences and stories from his or her country, has launched a series of contests centered around different aspects of living abroad. Expats are challenged to write on a specific theme for the chance to win prizes totaling $350 in Amazon Vouchers. Whoa. Comedic Grievances entered this week’s contest and has been featured! (insert excited squeal here!!!)

This week’s contest challenged expats to write on their experiences in Working Abroad. While there were quite a few culture related experiences to choose from, I chose to write about the…abrupt interesting awakening from working a full-time job that was separate from my husband’s in the U.S. to working a full-time job with my husband in Austria, ending the post with what I’ve found to be 5 helpful lessons learned that hopefully others can learn from, too.

Votes are what determine the winner of this contest and I would of course love your support. Please show your support for Comedic Grievances by clicking on the link below and leaving a comment below the post. Comedic Grievances can also win by receiving the most “likes” on Facebook. Be sure to press “Send” after leaving a comment, and feel free to share the link directly above “Contest Comments”. The more shares, the merrier! Voting ends Friday, May 31.

Comment to vote HERE.

Thank you for your support!


You Chose…

A huge thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s Comedic Grievances forum, Du Hast die Wahl. I thoroughly enjoyed the WordPress Challenge and all of the interaction that came from it. Culture Shock: The Worst of and The U-Bahn: A Culture of Its Own were tied up for the majority of the vote, but as of this morning there was a definite winner. You chose:

Culture Shock: The Worst of

Awesome – I can’t wait to get started. Look for the first installation of Culture Shock: The Worst of next week! And to those of you who didn’t vote for this category (my U-Bahn voters), no worries. The other categories will make their own appearances in due time, and if you need some convincing, here’s a photo I found of me wearing my “culture shock face”:


Ha. Schönes Wochenende!

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To Oklahoma

Will and I got in late last night after an adventure-filled, body-aching, “volles Programm!” weekend trip in the Austrian Alps with our language partner and friend, Thomas. It wasn’t until we finally got into bed and checked Twitter one last time that we found out about the tornado that ravaged a part of our home state. We checked-in in the midst of the tornado’s destructive rampage through Moore, Oklahoma and watched tweet after tweet after tweet from friends and family posting pictures and alerting everyone to each other’s whereabouts and safety. Will and I stayed up far past the storm’s activity just to be part of and clued in on all of the relief efforts as best we could. As 1:00am drew closer, we reluctantly turned off Twitter and Facebook and gave in to sleep knowing that the truths of the tragedy would be what we’d wake up to this morning. All of our family and personal friends are safe and okay, but many of our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma aren’t able to write the same sentence.

Photos by my friend, Kelly. In awe of the outpouring of help from the community. We love Oklahoma City.

Photos by my friend, Kelly. In awe of the outpouring of help from the community. We love Oklahoma City.

Though “Culture Shock: The Worst of” is reserved for humorous purposes only, things like this – like tragedy in one’s home country – is probably the worst culture shock we’ve encountered since our time here in Austria. In this last year alone, we’ve watched multiple horrific events unfold in different parts of the United States from the screens of our phones and laptops, and now it is particularly surreal to see our home make national and international news. I won’t dwell on it, but I will say it’s hard. It’s hard to go to sleep while rescue efforts or squadrons of police are being sent out to handle a traumatic emergency. It’s hard to see what’s happened on the front page of every newspaper in Vienna. It’s hard feeling useless an ocean away. But thankfully God is bigger than the difficulties of culture shock. Thankfully God is bigger than me, He is bigger than my husband, He is bigger than all of the other international American families and individuals who wish more than anything to be able to give hugs and pass out water. It is in God’s incomprehensible size and boundless love that we can take hope and comfort, and have peace in knowing that He is giving hugs, He is passing out water, He is doing more than any of us could ever do if we were in the United States at this moment. And while we can’t do any hands-on work from here, we can certainly pray, and pray we will.

For those living or traveling abroad who would like to help the victims affected by last night’s (May 20) tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, you can help in the following ways:

  • American Red Cross: Donate online
  • Salvation Army: Donate online
  • Operation USA: Donate online
  • Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief: Donate online

Of course those living within the U.S. can do the same. More information on how to help out in Oklahoma can be found here.

To Oklahoma: We LOVE you. We are here for you. We are praying for you.


#okwx #okc #prayforoklahoma #moore


Du Hast die Wahl


This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge explores the creative use of forms. 

It’s almost been a year since Will and I sold all of our stuff, said goodbye to friends and family, hopped on a plane, and settled down in the number one city in the world – Vienna, Austria. We’ve gone through quite a bit this year, some good and some bad. We’ve mastered attempted to speak German to a decent degree, been eaten alive multiple times by the monster that is IKEA, fallen madly in love with the location of our apartment, eaten pounds of Wiener Schnitzel, and sang church songs next to a couple of topless bystanders in a park (true storyies). We’ve been deported, we’ve been granted residency, we’re in the middle of a secret war with our Austrian cleaning lady, and our Austrian neighbor is not so secretly terrified of us. I un-helped my German teacher’s pronunciation of “consumption” by accidentally getting it confused with “consummation”, said I had a cold sore behind my toe (Zeh) instead of my tooth (Zahn), and just today I unintentionally thought of Cher after not being able to decide on “Danke sehr” or “Danke schön” in time for the waiter’s arrival and instead blurted out “Danke Schehr” which is of course not a thing. It’s been a pretty great year.

While I try to fill you all in on the things I’ve experienced living here in Vienna, there’s so much more to tell and I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll think to myself, Ah – that’s a good story. Definitely gotta remember that one for later, when it happens, but of course 3 hours and two scoops of gelato later I’ve forgotten what I wanted to write about. So as a way of both celebrating our one year anniversary in Vienna and getting my thoughts together, I’d love for you to tell me what you’re most interested in reading about.

“Du hast die Wahl” or “You have the choice” is a tagline I see frequently around Vienna. I love this tagline. I love it specifically because it’s one of the few for which I don’t hear an irritating translating-voice in the forefront of my mind. Most of the other advertisements I see around the city make me feel like I’m doing on the spot math in my head as I try to dissect every word down to where it makes some sort of sense to me. I think this ad is for a Fruit Bar, but it could also be about fertility… No wait, there’s a picture of a strawberry and an orange. Fruit Bar. Got it.

Below I’ve narrowed the poll down to 5 possibilities. What would you like to read about first? What are you itching to know more about? Pick your favorite, and I’ll write about it. You have the choice.