Celebrating birthdays

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In a class that is represented by numerous nationalities “Happy Birthday” is sung in every language.  So when one of Claudia’s classmates had her birthday this week the children sang to her in English, Portugese, Spanish, Hungarian, German, Arabic and Italian.  All to the same tune.  And then they ate cake.  People really are the same everywhere.

P.S.  That delicious Linzer Torte in the photo isn’t around anymore 🙂

 

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An Australian story

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In the big old gum tree in our backyard in Australia there was an ongoing war between a koala we call ‘Cranky Lenny’ and a couple of crows we call ‘Rocky’ and ‘Bullwinkle’.  Many an afternoon was spent sitting on our deck watching a fight ensue between these locals.  The crows would attack Cranky Lenny at every given chance and were sometimes assisted by a team of myna birds.  They would swoop at him from above and below and he would swipe at them to leave him alone.

But just days before we left I witnessed Cranky Lenny and one of the crows sitting next to each other in the tree like a couple of old blokes who had finally decided to lay down their weapons and end the feud.  It’s not the best photo because the tree is quite some distance from our house but I absolutely love that I got to document them like this.

With all the storms and floods in Brisbane at the moment I wonder how our old gum tree is holding up and how our beloved wildlife is faring.

To everyone in Brisbane and Bundaberg we are thinking of you and hoping you are safe.  Look after each other x

Fun Facts about Austria! (by Claudia)

1. Where is it?     Austria is the (pink coloured) country in the middle of this map.  It has borders with Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland.

map of Europe

2. What language do they speak?     German.

3. What is their currency?     Euro and cent.

4. What do they eat?     Wiener Schnitzel.

5. What does their flag look like?

Austrian flag

6. One of the most well-known places is?     Innsbruck.

7. What is the capital city?     Vienna.

8. What is the current population?    8,199,783.

9. How do they say hello?     Hallo

10. How do they say goodbye?     Auf Wiedersehen.

Adapting to change

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There are no lunchboxes to pack the night before school.  No drink bottles to freeze so they stay cold throughout the day.  No brown paper bags to write on for tuckshop.  Claudia comes home for lunch every day.  That’s what kids do here.  Her school is one building.  No library, no hall, no playgrounds for different age groups.  Frequent snowball attacks.

I see her growing in confidence day by day.  She walks further by herself now.  She has someone she can walk with sometimes.  Someone who is a friend.  But the language barrier is still difficult.  They talk to each other in short sentences trying to find a common language between German, Hungarian and English.  There is none of the giggly banter we are used to.  That is hard for her.  But I often see them leave school with smiles on their faces, having the odd snowball fight on the path, and know that once their German improves things will be easier.

Claudia is picking up German quickly.  Now she will often ask me for things using the German word.  When we first got here we hated watching tv in German and would quickly switch to the English channels, irritated by not being able to understand anything.  But in the last week we have both started watching the German language channels.  It wasn’t really discussed, it just happened.  I often watch a German show with German subtitles because I find that hearing it and reading it is really helpful, especially if I watch a movie that I have seen before in English – probably because I have context to help me with the language.

In a new country with a new language you can sink or swim.  To swim you have to adapt and fight your inner need to hang onto what is familiar so that you can embrace what is different.  It isn’t easy but we are trying to swim.

Australia Day but not as we know it

DSC_0184Our winter holiday was over.  We were leaving town on a clear and chilly (-13 deg C) day while it seemed the rest of Europe was trying to get into town.  Cue the weekend skiers whose cars were lined up as far as the eye could see.  The dots in the top of this picture are snowflakes frozen to the windscreen.  I was driving on this fine Australia Day from Austria back to Switzerland.  Yes, the shoulder injury is slightly worse than my neck injury so I just had to be a big girl and drive the car.  The man and the child had to check left and right because I couldn’t actually rotate my head very far but all was well.

DSC_0187These gorgeous little numbers are my Ugg gloves 🙂  Deliciously warm, cute, and flying the flag for the mother country.

When we got home we celebrated Australia Day with a dinner of home-made hamburgers.  I was dreaming of soft buns, juicy meat patties, fried onions, lettuce, cheese, tomato, beetroot, and a swirl of tomato sauce.  Of hot days on sandy beaches and lifesavers in red and yellow caps.  None of the ingredients I had here were the same – the rolls were crustier, the meat finer, the lettuce a type I have never seen in Australia.  Topped with gruyere cheese.  Outside it was snowy and cold.  But the hamburgers were delicious.

The burgers, I think, sum up how I feel about being here.  How I feel about comparing being here and being at home.  It is not better or worse than what I am used to.  Just different.

Gliding not falling

IMGP0059We have been for a wander through the neighbouring village of Schruns.  A quaint old town like those found in so many villages in Europe.  No glorious sunshine today.  Delicious fresh-baked brezels.

IMGP0060A museum that looked promising but was closed until 4pm.  Perhaps they wait for the skiers to return from the slopes.

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We ended up here.  This circus tent is the local ice-skating rink.  Someone had dreams of pirouettes on thin blades.

IMGP0066From the rink looking out you can see that it is open to the weather.  It was freezing in there.  It took a while for my legs to defrost enough to move but eventually we were gliding around on the ice.  No big falls to report today.  Thank goodness!  And there may have been a pirouette or two.

Two down, one standing

DSC_0159The last couple of days we have been battling poor visibility and snowflakes the size of saucers.  But today this…. hello gorgeous blue sky!

DSC_0161The gondola ride was beautiful today.  You can see the dam that is part of a massive hydroelectric power station.

DSC_0174One of us skied beautifully…..

DSC_0182One of us had a strained neck after a spectacular crash yesterday and took photos and sipped hot chocolate….

IMGP0056One of us enjoyed ‘Diabolo’ in the glorious sunshine – this is a new black run that skiers like me will never see.

IMGP0052The very same one of us then crashed on another slope and is now wearing a sling I fashioned out of a pair of green stripey thermals…..  oh if only you could see!

DSC_0176But thankfully none of us required this….

DSC_0177And there was more than one emergency chopper landing on the slopes today.  Hope they are ok.

Keep your goggles on

IMGP0047It is hard to take good photos in some conditions.  Ditto skiing.  I can’t really blame the weather though.  We have been taking lessons at Golm.

IMGP0048Franz did his best.  He spent two hours teaching me and spoke English in that endearing way Europeans do.  Goot, look me.  Centric.  Knees bend.  Bottom facing slope.  Chest facing downhill.  Look up. Tilt shoulder.  Ski only with legs.  Arms out wide.  Need relax.  Follow me please….

I watched the skiers gliding effortlessly down the slope, gracefully weaving their way down.  God it looks easy when it is done well.

And then there was Mrs Gumby.  Body rigid with the fear of shooting off the side of the mountain out of control.  I might add that this is not a totally irrational fear.  You know when you are lacking control.  I am the girl that was a good runner at school.  A good high jumper.  Not too shabby at ballet.  But the minute you put a stick of any sort in my hands it is like the co-ordination switch has been turned off.  Tennis – forget it.  Softball – you want me to hit that tiny little hard ball with this skinny little bat?  Ski poles…. oh god.  I can’t co-ordinate something on my feet and in my hands at the same time.  Are you kidding me, Franz?  Follow me please.

I’m sure you can see that this was all heading to a crash of spectacular proportions.  I don’t fall quietly on a slope when no-one is around.  I have to go cartwheeling down the hill, legs and bum in the air, past two large groups of stationary skiers, and then face the ultimate humiliation of having the kindergarten ski class swish past me with a minimum of fuss.  One small saving grace was that Franz was not around to witness his student fail so miserably (I really deserve an F for that effort).

No, it was my husband who patiently helped me to my feet, dusted me off and encouraged me down to the bottom of the hill.  I may have been crying behind my googles – who will ever know???

IMGP0051Later that day he took a more competent skier out for a run on the slopes while I drowned my sorrows with a large hot chocolate with extra cream.  It was the blizzard that made me do it……

Sledding and a gross schnitzel

IMGP0030We were unable to organise ski lessons for today so headed to Silvretta to go sledding.  There are really cool sled trails there.  You take the gondola to the top of the mountain and sled down a 5km trail.  It can be pretty hairy until you get the hang of steering because the sleds hurl along at a fast pace once you get going.  We all managed to stay on the trail and I think I have discovered my inner speed demon.  These sleds are heavy and steered with the poles at the front or with your feet if all else fails.  If you have never sledded on a proper trail I highly recommend it – it is a lot of fun.  A Spanish man at the end of the race {I mean trail} declared me Women’s World Speed Champion.  I blush!

IMGP0031Do I need to say any more?   Actually I don’t think I really captured the sheer size of it.   We ordered a Wiener schnitzel for lunch {as you do after a morning of racing} and this came out.  ‘Gross’ is the German word for large.  Large apparently means the size of the plate not an adult serve.  A man seated at a nearby table asked me if he could take a photo of it.  True story.

Montafon

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I know, I should be too old to snicker.  I don’t care.  I still think ‘gute Fahrt’ looks hilarious on a billboard.  Actually it means ‘have a good trip’ and I am laughing as I type this.  And I will probably laugh the next time I see it.

DSC_0151We headed to the Montafon Valley in Austria on the weekend for our ski holiday while all the tourist buses were heading to Innsbruck – more room for us on the slopes I say!  It was a ridiculously easy drive and took us only an hour and a half.  I took these photos while we were driving so excuse the quality of them.

DSC_0156We are staying in Tschagguns and the village was decorated ready for Carnival on Sunday.   Carnival or Karneval or Fastnacht {as it is known in Switzerland} is a time of celebration in Europe.  Many towns have colourful costume parades and parties abound.  The origin of it is thought to come from a last feast or party before 40 days of fasting {for Lent} begins.  Fastnacht in our town will be celebrated in February.

DSC_0158We arrived at our accommodation to find a bottle of champagne waiting for us.  It wasn’t chilled so we popped it in the European fridge.