Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Checking In

Hey all,

Not too much to report here. I woke up with the chills last night and then felt weak when I woke up in the morning. After showering and eating some delicious breakfast I decided to skip the morning activities and get more sleep. Wonderful decision. I slept with the faded noises of our street filling in as background noise. Maria (my host) gave me some medicine to take, which I was very grateful for. I woke up in time to go to a landscape architecture firm that happens to be working on a lot of projects on the former Iron Curtain. Their work really seemed to invite communication between two sides that have not communicated for over 60 years, very refreshing to see.

The separation of Western and Eastern Europe keeps coming up on this trip as Vienna sits very close to that border. Vienna definitely resembles a Western city these days with its commerce and tourism, but its location makes it easy to visit former communist countries very easily. I have visited Bratislava and Krakow thus far and the attitudes there towards Vienna is that the city is as flashy as New York or London. I must say that I tend to prefer smaller cities like Bratislava and Krakow because they offer more intimate settings and better food :), but each time I return to Vienna it feels more like a home. This city is so big, but I am learning to traverse it reasonably well. The times I love Vienna the most are when I leave my house in the morning or come back to it in the evening and everywhere I look there are people sitting with coffees and/or beers talking to each other or reading. I don't know how many of these people are tourists, but I think the people here generally try to enjoy themselves over the entire week rather than just the weekend.

For instance, yesterday we met with Gregor again at a site he is currently renovating. He is renovating the site to a Jewish theater in a property that used to be a Jewish theater before the war. In 1938 the theater was swiftly shut down and many years later it was turned into a supermarket, an obvious degradation of the once vibrant cultural property. Now, there are many people hoping to reclaim this spot for the community. I talked with a theater director from Switzerland whose Jewish background became reinvigorated with the proposition to renovate the property. We talked for hours over wine, crackers and cheese, and cigarettes (his, not mine) from the afternoon until the late evening. Later I realized that this man had not intended to stay all evening to talk with our class, but because I had started a conversation he indulged me and we (well, at least me) had a wonderful time. Viennese. (Oh yeah, and the class was much more responsible with its wine consumption this time :) )

I have done and seen so many things now that each day seems like a blur. The morning feels completely removed from the evening. Last week seems months ago. The first days of this trip are long forgotten. What looms ahead, however, is the end. I now have about 10 days left on this trip. Although I feel that I've gotten so much out of it already, I still feel like I want to stay much longer to soak up more inspiration from this place. Likewise, I'm also very eager to come home and begin life after college. Ten days seems so short, but everyday here contains so much and I am confident that I still have rich experiences waiting ahead for me.

Ciao for now,

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