Eine Einladung

On Friday Rukiye invited the class to her wedding reception. It was a bit tricky to piece together with the language issues, but I think she was married in Turkey but is having the reception in Innsbruck. Lauriane from class (hope I am spelling your name correctly L!) and I, both displaced Moms in need of excitement, decided to venture out for a bit. It was certainly an interesting cultural experience. Lauriane’s partner was out of town so we brought her sweet 4-month old baby girl, Juar Jua. (Now I’m pretty sure I am not spelling that correctly, so I’ll fix it up on Monday. All fixed up. Jua, I believe, is an African word for the Sun. How beautiful. Lauriane also calls her by her middle French name, Lizon, which is also très belle.)

We arrived at about 5:30 to a big hall that reminded me of a Winnipeg social (1), complete with pretzels and pop on the table, minus the alcohol of course. It looked like we were the only non-Turkish people in the hall of about 300. There was a band playing what I guess was contemporary Turkish music.

At 6:30 Rukiye and her husband arrived. Friends and family held up rose-garlanded arches and there were sparklers lining their path. Rukiye’s dress was a strapless white traditional cut with a full, multi-tiered skirt. She looked stunningly beautiful. When she walked in she had a red sheer scarf or veil covering her entire head and face. When the couple arrived at the stage, the veil was lifted with great cheers and then the couple kissed and started the first dance.

I particularly noted how the women danced to the faster music. I would have had no idea how to negotiate dancing to the strong, regular Turkish beat (Lauriane and I kept joking about asking each other if we wanted to dance. As if I would subject my very North American self into all this ceremony!), but noticed that all the women moved similarly. It is a fairly contained dance, with slight movements of shoulders, hips and feet, small isolated movements of the ribcage, in perfect rhythm to the music. Very self confident and suggestive and leave-you-wanting-more rather than overt.

Her friend and another of our classmates, Canan, was what I would call her maid-of-honour, but I’m not sure exactly how this plays out in the Turkish tradition. She was also gorgeous in an satin red dress with her thick black hair twisted up.

We decided to leave around 7:30 to get Jua home for her bottle and bed. (Lauriane has what must be the world’s best baby. She sleeps 12 hours a night without waking, naps during the day and hardly ever cries. I’m not jealous. No. No envy here. Hmph.) So I’m afraid I can’t report on the remainder of the evening. I know that after the dancing there was a gift presentation, but I’m not sure of the rest. If I’m ever invited to such an event again, I’ll have to brave the rest of the evening.

I’m sure Rukiye will never read this (I don’t think she speaks any English), but I am so grateful for the invitation. Living in another country certainly puts you in the path of the unexpected. I’m glad we came.

(1) Ahh, the Winnipeg Social…or I guess I should say the Manitoba Social, as the tradition certainly extends beyond city boundaries. With no Wikipedia entry, I found an accurate and amusing definition on a blog for my non-Prairie readers:

A local tradition that [probably came] originally from Manitoba’s large Polish/Ukrainian immigrant community, a social is when the friends and family of a to-be-married couple (or a sports team, or a Ukrainian dance troupe, or a singles group or whatever like-minded group of people) rent a hall (often in a community centre, a curling club, or a church basement) and throw a [party.]

They rent a social hall for 100-300 people (most Catholic church basements/bingo halls or community clubs will accommodate) , where they hire a D.J. to spin CDs or records, get a one-night-only liquor license from the provincial government, and throw a party (or, to be more accurate, a thrown-together one-night-only bar) as a fund-raiser. Around midnight, a bread-and-cold-cuts buffet is put out (food must be served as one of the conditions of the liquor license).

People sell social tickets ahead of time to their coworkers, friends and relatives, and whoever else wants to go out dancing and drinking on a Friday or Saturday night. You can often get a really bizarre/interesting mix of people you know (uncles and cousins and aunts) and complete strangers who heard about the social second- or even third-hand and buy tickets at the door, if there are any left.

The music is always a real mix too… not just contemporary pop/rock stuff either. We may have a snowball dance to start (especially if it was a singles social), and a couple of spot dances during the evening to give away door prizes. The music ranges from the latest dance pop and country two-step to waltzes, polkas, and the schottise (butterfly)… everything from conga lines to the macarena (in my opinion, the only dance that straight people do better than queer people). I have fond memories of one particular Transcona social where the conga line went in and out of the men’s and women’s washrooms, outside the social hall, around the block, and back inside again.

That is a great description that sure brings back visions of trekking out on freezing Winnipeg nights in tight jeans and asymmetrically cropped hair. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Rilke, whoever you are.

Schloß Neuschwanstein

Yesterday Markus and I dropped Annie off and drove for an hour and a half to Bavaria in Germany. It was a beautiful Autumn morning and it was great to get out of Innsbruck for the day. Our destination was a castle called Neuschwanstein. It is a 19th Century palace near a small, pretty town called Füssen. It is a bit of a tourist machine, (apparently over a million visitors annually), so I was very glad we went in off-season, as we all know how much I love hanging out with pushy crowds.

The brief history we were told was very interesting. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, construction of the building lasted from 1869 to 1886. The castle still is not finished, because in 1886 Ludwig was officially declared insane and then died shortly after; all work stopped when he died. After all those years of work and planning, he lived in the castle for only 4 months. My pictures of the front were a bit wonky, so here is one from wikipedia.

Only guided tours were allowed, so we didn’t get as much time to study the paintings and woodwork as I usually like. But it was beautiful nonetheless. The paintings are mainly depictions of the works of Wagner, a favourite of Ludwig’s. The intricate woodwork in the king’s bedroom was incredible; it took five workers four years to complete.

We also went for a walk to the Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge); here are pictures from the bridge and then one of the bridge from the castle.

The valley below
The valley below
Marienbrück seen from the castle.
Marienbrücke seen from the castle.

As you can see, the fog was already rolling in and by the time we left it was thick and spooky. Very appropriate for our castle tour.

After a traditional lunch in Füssen, where Markus was able to have a tasty Bavarian beer, we drove back to the warmth and sunshine of Innsbruck (the micro-climates here are crazy!)

We bought a book of castles in the area, so more to come I’m sure.

Cute Kid Update for the Grandparents

Thought it was time for some cute toddler updates for the grandparents. You might want to skip this one if you are feeling anti-cute-kid or have had enough of your own cute child at the moment.

This was the conversation in the kitchen the other night.

A: I want some pasta

H: Wie bitter?

A: Bitter?

H: O.K.

A: First you have to cook it. I’ll get you a pot.

H: That’s right Annie!

A: Here you go (handing me a strainer when she couldn’t find a pot as they were all in the dishwasher.) It is a green one! (Everything is green or orange right now, even though the strainer was silver)

H: Thanks!

A: You’re really welcome. (How cute is that!? I love the ‘really’ in there. And with a slight lisp thrown in to shoot it over the cuteness scale…”you’re rweally welcome.”)

Annie’s Germ-glish is coming along nicely. The latest is “I’m too schwer!” said with a big family pout on her lips. Schwer is heavy or difficult, so she really means whatever she is trying to move, usually to somewhere she shouldn’t be going, is too heavy. But we get the point.

I tried to take a good picture the last couple of days, but Annie has discovered saying ‘cheese’ and makes a very hilarious face like this:

Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?
Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?

So here is a cute one from the summer which I don’t think I’ve posted before:

Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)
Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)

Small Steps in the Right Direction

It was a good day today. Markus woke up with Annie, which is always a delicious way to start the day…for me at least. (Geneva could confirm the time by that girl’s internal clock!)

And it was the start of the second 4-week course at school. (Hard to believe I have only been in Innsbruck for 7 weeks. Feels like much longer.) We had treats on Friday to celebrate the end of the first session and had some German-learnin’ fun playing games. Here is a picture of the class in action and one of the group. Not everyone finished up the course for one reason or another so the class is a bit small in the pics.

This morning two new students joined us, one woman also from Turkey (that makes 8,) and one woman from France. I find it so fascinating to learn what compels someone to move to another country where they don’t speak the language. Stories of work and love and hardship. Old family businesses, upcoming marriages and new babies. This is an adventure-spirited bunch for sure. Our teacher, Bernhard (hi Bernhard!), does a wonderful job of using our stories and experiences to make the learning applicable. Because really, connecting with people is the most important thing for most, if not all, of us right now in this new home.

And I am feeling that I am making some progress. Ana (from Serbia/Russia) and Amal (Egypt) and I finished our exercies and so were chatting in German. I learned a sad story about Amal losing her husband to a heart attack 11 years ago when her youngest of three children was only 3 months old. She made light of it in the end…kein Mann ist gut! and we laughed. It felt lovely to connect with someone about something real while speaking German. Markus commented that sometimes I will feel like I am moving ahead and other times feel like I know nothing. That sounds about right. I’ll just appreciate this ‘moving ahead’ day and enjoy.

Love, Schmuv. All You Need is Friends.

I love my friends. Really, really adore them. I must have done something very lovely in a past life, because I’m pretty sure I’m not deserving in this go around to have such amazing people in my world.

You know what else I love? The Internet. Here I was at 6:00 in the evening after a tough day and my beautiful friend, Stacey (see picture below), pops up a chat on gmail to say hi. Amazing and magical thing, that Internet. During our chat Stacey reminded me that I need to appreciate whatever comes to me this year, and not expect it to be a Perfectly Charming Year in Europe with no problems or rough patches. She also reminded me that when I was pregnant, my attitude was basically: I have no idea what this is going to be like, so I’ll just take it as it comes and appreciate all facets of motherhood, good and bad. Good advice for this year as well. I guess I’ve talked myself into the myth of, “How can a year (or two) in Europe not be amazing?” Well, I think it can be amazing, just not Pollyanna-perfect every second. And there are incredible things to be learned from the tough times, as we all know.

Here is a picture from the summer of Stacey and Annie feeding the ducks in Government House in Victoria.

Overall, I feel like I’m on the upswing again. I have done an excellent job of getting out of shape in the last decade (hard to believe I used to be an elite athlete), and have vowed to try to recapture a little of my lung capacity while in the Alps. I made the first start with a 2-hour walk on Wednesday along the river and then up to Hungerburg, a residential area in Innsbruck. It was fairly steep and it certainly got me breathing.

Then today Markus and I biked to Shloß Ambras for lunch. Those royals sure knew how to live (no camera with me, so I swiped this from a tourist page.) You can actually see the table we sat at for lunch at the bottom of the picture.

Hopefully after a relaxing weekend, I’ll be feeling even more like myself. Thanks for all the support, my friends.

This is a Show About Nothing

I discovered a new word in German last week: faulenzen. It means to do a whole lot of nothing. We could use a verb like that in English (I nothing, she nothings…). This word was very applicable for us this weekend.

When I was in the depth of misery last week, my sister-in-law, Susi, suggested: “Why don’t you just give up. Everyone tends to be happier.” Hmmmmm. So basically that is what I did this weekend…give up.

“I want some pasta.”
“For breakfast?”
“Ya!”, (or maybe ‘Ja!’)


“I want to watch Kleiner Dodo.”
“How do you ask nicely?”
“Please may I watch Kleiner Dodo?”

No problem.

“Do you want to come and watch with me?”

“Sweetie, do you want to get dressed and go to the Spielplatz?”

Fine, we’ll stay inside all day.

“Can I eat it (eggs) with my fingers?”
Go to town blue-eyes.

This was pretty much how things went for 48 hours. Luckily the tot did get some fresh air as Rebecca piped up Saturday afternoon: “I’ll take Annie out with me for €10.” Sold!! Rebecca was hoping to catch a school soccer game, thus the hilarious dressing up of Annie in a soccer shirt (sorry that it is blurry, but just had to include it.). The game didn’t work out, but they had fun at the playground and then shared some decadent torte while Mommy watched the Kremlin Open.

Rebecca decides Annie should be a soccer fan.
Rebecca decides Annie should be a soccer fan.

Of course now I have to try to clean up the mess from two days of outright sloth before Markus gets home. But overall it was worth it. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t live this way most of the time, but it sure is a good tactic in times of crisis.

Deep Breathing Required

(Thought I published this on Friday. Oh well…here you go. I’ll have another one up today.)

I have been trying to start this post every day for a week. I’ve been waiting for things to become less depressive before exposing my life again to friends and family, but that might be a bit of a wait.

This last couple of weeks have been hell…HELL. Rebecca was sick…like cleaning puke up off the floor sick. Day 15 of waking up between 4:30 and 5:00 with Annie. (I read a funny post on Dooce where she was talking about her mean, mean baby who cried all the time. I’m starting to relate and think Annie is just starting to expressing some inherent cruel nature where she will torture her mother until death.) The neo-Nazi daycare (perhaps I shouldn’t joke about that in Austria) wouldn’t let Annie spend the afternoon, even when Annie fell asleep in childcare-provider Gabby’s arms. So Annie had a 10 minute nap that day and was just a treat for the rest of the afternoon. (It has only been 3 days that I have been allowed to keep Annie in daycare full time.) And yesterday I came down with the family cold (Markus has been tasked with smuggling great quantities of ColdFx into Austria.)

I finally realized how much I’ve taken my friends for granted, since I always have had so many everywhere I have lived (no more…you are all getting Christmas cards this year for sure.) I am quite lonely. And Markus has changed his return date from the 11th to the 13th, and also may be returning to Canada mid-November; I have suggested he pull an AbeBooks Christmas party special and only stay 3 days plus travel. We’ll see.

But I guess that there are going to be rough times in life with such a big change…some crap about appreciating the great moments or something.

The last couple of days Markus’ sister has tried to rescue me by inviting us over to her place, which has certainly helped. To prove to myself that there still is good in the world, I took this sweet picture of the cousins.

So what is good? German classes are very interesting, although it will be many months before I am able to express more complicated sentiments than your average toddler. (I was talking to our friend, Beth, whose daughter Haley has been in Eastern Europe for several months. Haley hit the nail on the head when she proclaimed she felt like a genius after returning to Canada, since she could actually formulate complicated, coherent and grammatically correct sentences.)

I continue to be in awe of the natural beauty in Innsbruck. The leaves have started turning on the mountainside and Rebecca called me to the window about a week ago to see one of the most brilliant deep red sunsets ever.

And on the cute daughter front, Annie can now have real (albeit short) conversations with people over the phone, which is so sweet to listen to. Especially the multiple goodbyes: Tshüs, Chow, Bis später, Bye! A little Sound of Music re-enactment.

And I am going to try to go away next weekend for some recovery. Salzburg is about a 2-hour train ride away and is on my list of places to see, so that is a likely destination. And visiting high school friend, Maria, in Antwerp is definitely on the horizon so I can see a friendly face. (Although I shouldn’t put it that way; Austrians are incredibly friendly and kind…I just don’t know what they are saying.)

Next time…more pictures, less complaining.