Full day in Graz: Nummer 2
Today was yet another full day. I've been in the city only 2 full days, but it seriously feels like a week. Oh, and I'm starting to use German sentence constructions for English on accident. So if my updates sound somewhat awkward, that is probably the reason. Es tut mir Leid (I'm sorry.)
Okay, so jetlag is overrated; I got up at 6:30 this morning so I could shower and read my Bible before being at the University by 8:30 for the placement interview for the German intensive course. I was planning on taking the bus since I had taken it to the university the night before because my "buddy" Lisa had me meet her there. But this morning when I was walking out the front door of the apartment complex, I ran into Jodie, the Canadian girl I met yesterday. We ended up walking to the Uni and spending the rest of the day together. At the Uni, all the students for the intensive course split into pairs for an interview in German to determine which class level would be appropriate for them: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Jodie and I were partners, which worked out well, I think. We find out tomorrow which class we are actually in. While we were waiting, I met several friendly Erasmus students from all over Europe: Finland, Italy, Sweden (I didn't ask her if she liked Swedish fish, but I will next time) and other places like New Jersey and China. From what I've heard, the language intensive course is the best way to meet lots of people quickly. So, fingers crossed. Or as they say in German " Druecken die Daumen" (press your thumbs).
After the interview, Jodie and I began what became a day-long trek around the city. We went to the housing office to get her contract signed and to the City office to register with the city (By the way, bureaucracies = obnoxious. They make things incredibly complicated, the offices are rarely open and when they are open, they have the most bizarre hours--like 9 am to 1 p.m. with a 2-hour lunch break--and the information on the internet is never right. Like I said, obnoxious.)Anyway, once we figured all of that out, we finally made it back to our flats/tops/apartments for a break. But before that, God answered an important prayer of mine.
Yesterday, if you recall, I was incredibly discouraged because I couldn't find any gluten-free food at the grocery store, which meant that this was going to be a very long and hungry five months. But when were walking around the city, I mentioned my problem to Jodie. Turns out that a few years ago, she thought she had a gluten allergy, so she went on a gluten-free diet for a few months. Now she no longer has to eat special food, but she still notices it whenever she goes into a grocery store. And yesterday, she just happened to see that there was a gluten-free section at a different store five minutes away from our building. Perfect. So today I ate a sandwich and later some toast on very heavy, but very gluten-free bread. It was fantastic. They also have pasta and other products. Things are certainly looking up.At the same time, though, this gluten problem is kind of discouraging because I can't really eat the local food, like baked goods, cakes, schnitzel (think chicken-fried steak but much better), spaetzle (noodles), along with Italian food and lots of food when I'll be travelling. It really stinks. I wish this gluten thing had waited until this coming Christmas, not the one a month before I left for Europe. Schade (Pity). I guess God will have to provide for me. And I guess I'll have to trust that He will.
Oh, and I bought some milka chocolate too. A really big bar of it. That alone made the day brighter still. :)
Jodie and I were originally going to venture to Ikea on the other side of town this afternoon, but our plans changed when Jodie's flat-mates invited us out to coffee. They are two Americans (Edmond, OK, and Louisville, KY) and a girl from Portugal. There is also a Korean girl and a French girl, but they didn't come to coffee. We went to the Cafe in a nice hotel only a short walk away, and I drank the best hot chocolate of my entire life. For all the deprived Americans out there, it's called "traenk schokolade" or "drinking chocolate." They bring you a glass of hot milk and a block of gourmet chocolate on the end of a stick. Then you put the chocolate inside and melt it and stir it together and drink it--and discover what heaven tastes like. Yes, it's that amazing. :) Sooooooo good. The American girls have been here since September, so they gave Jodie and me the scoop on the town, partying, traveling, their random adventures. It was fun to listen to, but, to be entirely honest, it was pretty intimidating. If you know me at all, you probably realize that, while I like to meet people and have a good time, I don't really drink and I'm not much of a party-er. I hope and pray that I can figure out a way to be myself and maintain my standards and beliefs while still making friends and experiencing the culture. How do you be "salt and light" to strangers in a foreign city? And how do you do it without alienating them? I want to fit in, on the one hand; but on the other hand, I don't want to compromise what I believe, you know? It's going to be tricky. But I'm praying that God will give me wisdom and insight as I try to figure it out. :/ He's been faithful so far, though, so I'm doing my best to trust that He will continue to be. Faith is harder than it looks.
Jodie and I finally made it to Ikea after a 23-minute bus ride through the sketchy part of Graz (strip clubs everywhere? really?). But Ikea was REALLY cool. For all you confused Americans out there, imagine a fancy Pottery Barn or Nebraska Furniture Mart meets Sam's Club / Model home with Target's style. It's insane. It's a huge Swedish department store chain that has EVERYTHING. Or pretty close. Amazing. After staring wide-eyed and walking through it (following the arrows. yes, it's so big that if you don't follow the arrows, you WILL get lost. Really. I'm not kidding), I came out with only a pair of cheap orange slippers (go Pokes) and a jar of jam, but it was still worth the experience. For sure.
This evening, I hung out a little with Marta, my Spanish flat-mate and her Hungarian boyfriend. I feel really terrible, but I don't remember his name at all. We talked about accents and slang and other interesting cultural things. He tried to teach me a little Hungarian, which, P.S. is one of the hardest languages EVER. Like, I'm not kidding. But he said I had good pronounciation, so I guess that counts for something, right? But let's just say that I won't be moving to Budapest any time soon. ha ha
After that, I hung out at Jodie's flat with her and her friends. Rochelle, the French girl, made a crepe meal with salad crepe, main course crepes, and dessert crepes. I couldn't eat them because of the wheat flour, but she said she would do it again with corn flour. Maybe that will work...? Hopefully. They were all very nice, and I enjoyed spending time with them. I do need to start speaking more German, though, I'm afraid. We only spoke English. But I think I'll be hanging out with them a lot.
Anyway, ich bin ganz muede, und ich muss jetzt ins Bett gehen, weil ich morgen wieder sehr frueh aufwachen muss. Deshalb muss ich jetzt schlafen. Ich liebe ihr, und danke sehr, dass ihr dieses gelesen habt! Bis spaeter! Tschau!
Anyway, I'm completely tired, and I need to go to bed now, because tomorrow I have to wake up really early again. Therefore, I really need to sleep now. But I love you all, and I thank you very much that you have read this! Until later! Bye!
Or, in Hungarian, "Szia!" (Bye) :)