Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas in Vienna

The streets of downtown Vienna are decked out in lights during the month of December. The red lights above remind me of Target and the chandelier lights below are glamorous no matter how many times you see them.

This is the Spittelberg Christmas Market, one of my favorites. The Christmas markets are especially fun to visit at night when they are all lit up. Fresh roasted chestnuts and hot fruit punch are common treats at the markets. Austrians frequent the markets to socialize with family and friends and to enjoy the Christmas season as much as to shop.

Elementary Christmas Program

The Elementary Christmas Program was held on December 7th. It was a delightful evening of songs and recitations about the true meaning of Christmas. The students sang so beautifully and remembered all their lines. Click the play arrow to hear them sing!

Rathaus Field-Trip

Our class took a field-trip to the Rathaus (City Hall) Christmas Market. Here we pose in front of a giant advent wreath for a class photo before heading off with chaperones to shop the different booths at the market.

After exploring the market, we headed inside the Rathaus to participate in a craft workshop for children. The students painted and decorated wooden boxes. Everyone had a great time!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Shopping in Sopron

On the day after Thanksgiving, a group of school staff piled into the school van and ventured to Sopron, Hungary. While there, we ate a delectable steak meal at Papa Joe's Steakhouse (my first since moving to Europe!), browsed through quaint shops, and wandered through the historic center city area. I was particularly pleased to find a shop that shared my name in Sopron. It was a wonderful day trip full of fun memories!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter Has Come to Wien!

Winter officially arrived this week with four to five inches of snow blanketing the city Thursday night. This made for much excitement and fun at recess on Friday. The fifth graders rolled a gigantic snowball that was nearly as tall as them! It took all their muscles to continue rolling at the point this photo was taken.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Science Class

At school, we've been doing a science unit called Food & Nutrition. In the first lab activity, students tested the amount of fat in common foods by spreading a one-gram sample on brown paper. After two days, we observed our food samples and measured the size of the grease spots on the paper.
In our second investigation, we learned that yeast is an indicator of sugar in food. Here students tested samples of cereal to determine which cereals have the greatest and least amounts of sugar. And the low-sugar winner is...cheerios.

Fall Colors

The fall colors are at their peak. Here's the view from our apartment.

Very Scary Party

Two staff members from school threw a Very Scary Party around the time of Halloween and All Saints Day. Sandi and I went dressed as very scary chefs who had a bad cooking accident. To our surprise, our costumes took the prize in the "Most Original" category!

Fall Break in Prague

For Fall Break weekend, I took a bus to Prague to visit a friend I made this summer at my orientation training. Sheila (center) and her roommates took me to a Czech restaurant on my first night there. After dinner, Sheila and I walked across Charles' Bridge and up a hill near the embassies where we enjoyed a great view of Prague lit up at night.
Sheila and I visited the royal palace where the Czech President lives and works. At noon, we observed a very traditional changing of the guards ceremony. Notice the trumpet and drum players in the second-story windows of the palace.
The Astronomical Clock is a famous sight in the center of Prague. On the hour, the clock chimes and the two doors at the top of the clock tower open to reveal a procession of the twelve apostles. The Astronomical Clock dates back to the 15th century!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall Festival

Last Friday night was Fall Festival at school. This is a large event that draws many families into the school with their student(s) for an evening of fun social activities. The evening began with carnival games for the kids. Here I am running the mini-golf game. Some of my fifth grade students dropped by to say hi and pose for a picture.

This was my second post for the evening - a game called Blow 'N' Go. Students raced to blow their ping-pong ball across the finish line before their competitors. The kids loved this game and quite a few came to play even after the prizes were all gone. One of the most exciting parts of this game was watching the players dodge people who happened to step out of the bathrooms in the frenzy of a race. The hallway location may not have been ideal, but the kids took on the extra challenge like pros.

Fall Festival concluded with choral performances by the elementary, middle-school, and high-school choirs. One of my favorite pieces was "All Things Bright and Beautiful", sung by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Field-Trip to the U.N. Center

Last week, fifth graders took their first field-trip of the year. We went to the U.N. Center to participate in a celebration of "50 Years Exploring Space Together". One nice thing about field-trips in Austria - no need to reserve and pay for a yellow school bus to get the group there and back. We took the u-bahn both ways.
Here we are getting all checked in before going through security to enter the U.N. facilities. Each student had to wear an official ID tag and all accompanying adults had to show their passport to enter. Thanks to Miss Woodbury, this field-trip was well organized and lots of fun!
Once inside the U.N. Center, we saw pictures and video clips about space exploration. Our guide shared a summary of all that has been accomplished in the past 50 years of space exploration and the goal to put astronauts on Mars within the next 50 years. Students got to drive a remote-control rover on fake Mars terrain and try on astronaut gloves. We left with posters and astronaut figurines as souvenirs.

Staff Retreat Weekend

VCS staff members enjoyed a weekend retreat at the Karl Beck Sportschule. The camp facilities included beautifully manicured sports fields, a newly remodeled cafeteria, and dorm rooms for all. The camp provided kitchen staff who cooked in an authentic Austrian style.

A highlight of our weekend away was enjoying time with other staff members in a relaxed environment. Here I am with Sandi (left) and Yvonne (right). The weather was beautiful and we took advantage of the chance to hike nature trails during the day and watch the stars at night. Some parts of the weekend were also spent in structured group activities, such as the "No Talent" talent show on Saturday night. It was great to laugh together!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Yeah for Dinner Parties!

Sandi Joy and I made tacos and invited the Averys and Pitottis over for dinner. Ron and Judy are our neighbors (Judy finds all the apartments for new staff members at the school) and Nels and Sandi graciously welcomed Sandi Joy and I to stay with them until our apartment was ready in August. Good food and conversation made this a wonderful first dinner party in our home.

Here is Nels when he first arrived, expressing his excitement at the meal to come and showing off his new houseshoes. It is customary in Austria to remove your shoes when you come into a home and wear houseshoes on your feet.

Home Sweet Home

Here's the view of my new home from the outside of the apartment building. Sandi Joy and I live on the top floor. You can see our apartment windows in the upper left corner of this picture.

Here's the view of our neighborhood from the kitchen window. You can see the tall buildings of downtown Vienna in the distance and the hills surrounding Vienna beyond that. Sandi Joy and I have a small breakfast nook built into our kitchen just below this window, so we often enjoy this view when we eat meals there.

This is the inside view of the kitchen. The washing machine is located right next to the dishwasher. It is fairly common in Austrian homes and apartments to find the washing machine in the kitchen.

This is the living room, with large windows/doors that let in plenty of light and air.

No home tour would be complete without a view of the bathroom. In European fashion, the toilet is located in its own room (the watercloset) and the shower and sink are found in this room.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kahlenberg Hike

These brave friends agreed to go hiking with me at Kahlenberg on Sunday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend. We took the u-bahn and then a bus up into the hills around Vienna. We chose to hike the red path and enjoyed picturesque views as we wound our way down through the hills. Halfway through, we lost the red path and chose not to finish the "straight back up" portion of the hike with the stroller. Instead, we caught a bus and ended our excursion with a picnic supper at a Viennese park. It was refreshing to get out of the city and spend a few hours enjoying the outdoors together.

Indoor Recess

Last week was very rainy (I joke that we're in the rainy season now) and we spent many recess periods indoors. The students found creative ways to take a break from their studies and had a lot of fun. Here Timothy, Samantha, and Maika test their coordination in a round of group juggling.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Meet the Fifth Grade Class!

Martina, Ms. Stevens, Laura, Anna Maih, Samantha, Maika, Nidette, Immanuel, Timothy, Evan, Patricia, Genevieve, John, Nipun, Jericho, Yun Ju, Seong Ok

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Sad End to Frenchie

While most items I shipped to Vienna arrived in good condition, my bike was not so fortunate. Despite being well packed, it looks like it might be bent beyond repair potential. Here's to my Peugeout, affectionately nicknamed Frenchie. It had many happy rides in Madison, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul. It was well loved and will be missed. Tributes to loved vehicles run in the family - to see my brother's farewell to his Astro minivan visit and click on February 2006 under the archives section. While Frenchie's end might not compare to that, I'm sure she was heroic to the end and I'd be remiss not to publicly share my sadness at the loss of my dear bike.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trip to Grinzing

The new staff at school enjoyed a trip to Grinzing, on the edge of Vienna, where we got a beautiful view of the downtown area. On our way back, we ate traditional Austrian food for supper at a lovely restaurant called Figls.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Container Arrived!

The container has arrived and the items that the new school staff members shipped from the States are here! A large group of school staff, students, and volunteers came to help us unload the container. We had two hours to get the boxes unloaded, but completed the task in only 15 minutes with an impressive show of teamwork. Here's our principal, Mr. Pitotti, moving a heavy box from the truck while I stepped back to catch the action in a photo. I'm looking forward to unpacking and having a touch of home here in Vienna.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Welcome to Vienna! The flights went smoothly, the luggage arrived, and I even caught a few hours of sleep on the plane. Some school staff members met me and other new teachers at the airport when we arrived. They packed all our suitcases into the school van and brought us to school for lunch and our first tour of the building. It was an exciting afternoon of reconnecting with the new staff I met this summer at PFO and meeting returning staff members for the first time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tee Time

I took to the green this week for a round of mini-golf with my brother, Ben, his girlfriend, Linnea, and my cousin, Dan. Following a late afternoon rainstorm that broke the humidity and drenched the parched ground, we headed over to Putter There, a small (but thrilling) course near Como Lake. We opted to play 9 holes of our choice on the 18-hole course, generally sticking to those holes not submersed in rain water. The golf round got off to a quick start when Linnea hit a hole-in-one on the first hole. A celebration round of Blizzards followed at Dairy Queen on Lexington Avenue. Well done, golfers!

Weekend in Chicago

Charity, Kari, Mel, and I spent a girls weekend in Chicago, where we stumbled upon the filming of a Batman movie. Amidst visiting Millenial Park, eating Chicago-style pizza, walking through the city, stopping at Starbucks, shopping, more walking, and a trip to an outdoor market, this was by far the most exciting part of our weekend. Each evening, we'd walk home by way of Wacker Drive and stand on the bridges over the river to see what action we could see. One night we saw the bat mobile being filmed in a chase scene. Another night, we arrived at the bridges just after this Gotham SWAT truck had been driven through a cement wall into the river and then hauled back out by a crane. Even though we missed seeing it for ourselves, we got play-by-play details from other enthusiastic observers and met stunt man Mike on our walk home, who told us all about a stunt driver's role in filming a shot like that. Great memories with great friends!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

4th of July Weekend at the Cottage

On my way home from PFO, I joined my extended family at my grandparents' cottage. It was very hot and we spent most of the weekend swimming in the lake and tubing on the Crystal River. It was fun to have the Ware cousins visiting from Virginia. Good food and sunburns were plentiful!

PFO in Houghton, NY

From July 23 to August 6, I attended Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) in Houghton, NY. Along with 180 other attendees, I learned about the phases of transitioning to life in another country, dealing with culture stress, what to expect in the international school classroom, and how to effectively teach students from a wide range of cultures. I also made new friends and had a chance to meet many of the new staff going to Vienna Christian School (VCS) this fall. Pictured here with me are three other VCS staff members and our advisor for this training, Laura (center). While most days at PFO were devoted to training, we did have the opportunity to visit Niagra Falls on Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Idaho Visit

The first week of summer vacation was spent visiting my mom and Ron in Idaho. I took long naps, read books, and enjoyed the sunny weather. I also got an up-close look at a realtor's life and learned how to feed and water animals. Here's a picture of me feeding Jackie a delicious meal of oats. A highlight of my visit was a trip to the mountains for an overnight stay. The scenery was beautiful and I even had the opportunity to learn how to drive a four-wheeler! It was great to spend this time with my mom before leaving for Vienna later this summer.