Happy Halloween!

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I’ll be leaving for London tomorrow so I’m not sure when I can update this blog again as I’ll be busy walking around and discovering new corners in a city that has conquered my heart so completely.

In the meanwhile though my granddad and I carved some pretty cool pumpkins yesterday. Halloween is not a huge tradition here. In fact, it seems like the hype that I experienced when I was a kid is slowly dying down again. This tradition is something we want to keep though as it makes for a perfect granddad/granddaughter bonding time.

Mind you, I’m not allowed to actually touch that knife. I could cut myself. Yup. When it comes to my granddad I’ll forever be five years old :)

We usually have two stencils we like to do each year. One was a pretty cool bat, the other one a quite scary looking face. This year, however, we braved two motives we’ve never done before. Personally I quite like the simple lantern kind of carving we did. The cut outs could maybe be a bit slimmer and some more of them but for a first try I’m quite pleased. The other one is for my grandmother, who said “I want a happy one!” but I insisted that usual happy faces are boring and said that if she wants a happy one it needs to be at least somewhat cool. This was the point where my granddad told me no to almost every motive I showed him because they were too intricate. Finally my gran conceded and said the pumpkin could be either happy, or really, really scary. Her wish, my command. :)

(Not sure the scariness translates that well on these pictures but seriously, the teeth are quite cool, non?)

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Happy pumpkin carving, you guys. And be safe, don’t cut yourselves ;-)

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Way of life

A lot of time here has been spent thinking about life, mentality, motivation and cultural differences here. These are the topics which we discuss without fail every day. Heated and passionate.

Us Europeans, are used to everyone minding their own business. We walk along the streets and don’t look at people, people don’t look at (never mind talk to) us and if they would we’d ask them “What are you staring at, huh?”
Here, everyone talks to you. No matter if it’s just a quick “Hello, my friend” or “Mambo!” on the streets, or a full on demand to get on this taxi or in this shop. People to me seem loud, direct, and very… how do I put it? In your face? Maybe.
I’m used to the European way of life, maybe even the Asian as well. And while many things in Africa are so very similar to how they are in Asia, the approach in Asia seems generally a bit gentler. Not as rough, not as demanding.
To me, if a person talks to me in a way that I think is rude, I will just close myself off.

I’m starting to learn that a lot of the things I see as rude, aren’t meant that way at all though.
Granted, I’m still having difficulties with shouts of “Mzungu!” (“white person”) because that is just so weird. I don’t want to be singled out because of my skin colour. Locals here have told me time and time again that it’s not a bad thing, but actually a good thing but to me it still feels like reverse racism. I don’t want anyone to be nicer or less nice to me only because of the colour of my skin.
The same goes for bargaining. Of course I don’t want to pay the full tourist price, but I also don’t want to go to the lowest price possible, because let’s face it: if it’s 20 cents more or less, it doesn’t really hurt me at all, but makes a huge difference for the people here.
For now I have found a way to bargain which I’m really comfortable with. I usually try to cut the price in half (which is generally recommended, also by locals) but before I start bargaining, I try to calculate and make up my mind about which price I’d be willing to pay. What price would be ok for me? This way I might not get the best bargaining deals, but I feel more comfortable and at ease with this.

Talks to local people have taught me about a usual income per month and year. It’s not a lot. And prices can be quite high. Supermarkets offer some western products – but don’t be fooled, they charge western prices as well. Sometimes even double (cereal, for example, is crazily expensive!).

Another really good question I’ve been asked (and keep asking myself now) was “Would you be able to live here for the rest of your life?”
I’d have to say no. I might be just a tad too European for this. I’d miss my clean city, the courteous, if not distant and rude people. I’d miss being able to go out by myself without being scared that I’d get harassed or robbed. I’d miss not having an elbow rammed into my back when boarding a bus. I’d miss the food (CHEESE!), the smell, the weather. I’d miss a lot. For now I’m happy, and I could imagine living here for even longer than I’m here for now, but for the rest of my life? I don’t think so.

We will continue having heated discussions and while I’m not closer to truly understanding their reasoning, I’m trying my best to adapt. It’s going well so far. I feel more at ease and so very blessed that I’m surrounded by local people who are more than willing to answer every possible question I have.

Every few days we throw some highly philosophical questions in the mix as well (“What makes you happy and how is it connected with your travels here?”). I enjoy these conversations so much. They make me so happy. I’m so content and my heart feels so full that I have to put down my cup of chai, calm my shaking hands and take a deep breath, before launching into the next discussion again.

Kirtag!

Or more like: living the cliché.

This weekend there’s the annual Kirtag (funfair) in my town. There are some rollercoasters like bumper cars and stuff, but mostly there’s a lot of food and alcohol.
I went to get lunch with my parents today. Grillhendl (grilled chicken) with Erdäpfelsalat (potato salad) and beer. Some chocolate covered strawberries and lots of very loud brass band music.

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Jungweinstrassln

– The yearly wine fest.

The part of Austria where I live is pretty known for its “Heurigen“. I used to explain a Heuriger as a kind of Austrian-style pub, only with wine. Wikipedia says it’s more like a wine tavern though. I think that explanation works well too.
In any case, Heurigen are lovely. It’s a great place to meet friends, have a relaxing night out, eat some yummy, austrian food and drink local wine.
Perchtoldsdorf, a town near to where I live has an event called “Jungweinstrassln” every spring. There, the owners of the local wineries (which are also the owners of the Heurigen) are introducing you this years wine.

In the past years it was held like this: you pay a small fee, then you get a bracelet with which you are free to go to every Heurigen that’s participating and try as many types of their wine as you want. It was always a lot of fun. We’d stroll around the cute little town, drop into a tavern, drink something, eat something – go on to the next Heurigen and so on.

This year however, they changed the procedure and now you could only try one wine per tavern, even though they’d offer you up to five different types of wine.
I was with a group of friends last night and in the end we decided against buying that fee. Instead we just went to one, sat down, bought a bottle of wine (then another and another) some food and had a nice evening.
We went on to a second tavern as well, but the character of the event wasn’t quite the same. However, the way it was organised this year was a bit too stressful for us. I really hope they change the system again next year.

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Merry Christm… I mean Easter!

(Or for the German speaking folks: FROSTERN!)

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Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it.

We’ve been kinda snowed in here – it’s pretty insane to be honest, but I don’t even have an opinion on this anymore to be honest. Spring will come… some time (soon, I hope).

I started my day with a delicious breakfast in bed, then went to hunt for easter eggs at my grandparent’s house before we had them over for lunch. It was super, super yummy. In my family we love to entertain and cook for guests, so that’s a huge plus.
We enjoy simple, good food. High quality food that you don’t haveto do much with. Something that’s easy and quick to prepare but pretends to be really lavish. Maybe you could say that we just like to cheat ;)

/snowed in in April? I’m so done.
/successful easter egg hunt.
/drinks (strawberry punch).
/fried eggs with red beet.
/lamb with chard and fried polenta.
/brioche with orange-curd cheese and orange slices on top.