Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Mexican Food & American History
And now it’s time for another “Story-time with Steffi” :)
Where to begin? So many adventures to describe and so little brain-power with which to do it (I’m getting sleepy; it’s late here.) Let’s see….
On Saturday, I went skiing. It was beyond beautiful, like seeing a little glimpse of heaven. The mountains were gorgeous, the view was incredible, and I somehow managed to hold my own and come through unscathed. (I actually fell three times—all at level places when I quit paying attention. Isn’t that how life works? When things get easy, we get distracted and start coasting… then wipe-out.) Anyway, skiing was absolutely lovely. I had a fantastic time with my friends Marie and Anne-So (short for Anne-Sophie) from France and Anna from Sweden. Definitely worth my 56 euros (60 if you count the hot chocolates) :)
Sunday I went on a freezing-cold tour of the city of Graz. Despite the arctic conditions, the city was quite beautiful, and I learned a lot on the tour, thanks to David Zottler, the wonderful tour guide. Graz is far more impressive and important than I ever realized; now I have a much better appreciation for my home away from home. Founded in the 1200s, Graz is now the second largest city in Austria with 300,000 citizens (Vienna has 1.7 million. That’s a pretty wide first-place margin.) During the glorious days of the Ottoman Empire, Graz represented the frontline in Christendom’s struggle against Islam; today Graz still boasts one of the largest armories in Europe, if not the world. Much of Graz’s buildings were designed by Italian architects, so the city has a distinctly Italian Renaissance feeling, complete with brightly colored buildings, a Franciscan monastery, and inner courtyards. Johannes Kepler, famous astronomer, lived in Graz for six years and developed some of his important laws during his time here. His house still exists; one of the stops on the pub crash was actually right next door to it, but I had no idea! Napoleon had a personal grudge against Graz; he besieged the fortress that is now known as the Schlossberg but was unable to take it. Irked, the miniature French conqueror had his revenge; after taking Vienna a few years later, in the terms of peace, he ordered that Graz’s fortress be completely destroyed, since he couldn’t capture it. Fortunately, the residents of Graz were able to raise enough money to buy the Clock Tower and save it; it remains the primary symbol of Graz to this day.
All that being said, I definitely have much more respect for Graz; what a fascinating history! And after the tour, our group went to a pub—of course—and ended up hanging out for three more hours. And—of course—it was a blast. I especially enjoyed talking with my new Scottish friend; his accent is phenomenal! I love it! I also learned some fun new Scottish words that you might enjoy. Here’s a wee sentence for you: “I’m going to wear a wooly jumper and drink some soft juice.” Translation: “I’m going to wear a sweater and drink some soda pop.” Pretty sweet, eh? :)
I had some trouble in the last week and a half with sleeping. And by “trouble”, I mean that I was barely sleeping at all. The combination of social activities and staying out late and getting up early and having a diskothek (dance club) on the first floor of my building made it virtually impossible to sleep. On top of that, it felt as if my body had forgotten how to fall asleep; I was lying awake for 2-4 hours before finally sleeping, regardless of how exhausted I was. (And after skiing, I was pretty darn exhausted). Fortunately, on Monday I was able to make my first visit to an Austrian doctor. Bertie Klinger (awesome name, isn’t it? Reminiscent of Star Trek, maybe?) gave me some melatonin, and I could not be more grateful. The last few nights, I have slept like a baby (do babies sleep well? I’ve always wondered about the validity of that expression…) But I feel much better, and I could not be more grateful.
Oh, and guess what! God still does miracles! No really, I can prove it! : I am learning to cook!... and I’m enjoying it! Is Hell freezing over? Are pigs flying? Did the Chiefs win the Super Bowl? The impossible does happen! Steffi can cook! :) I tested out my newly-honed cooking skills on some international friends tonight; Igor from Macedonia, Jodie from Canada, Anne-So from France, Nik from Switzerland, Marin from Croatia, and Miroslav from Czech Republic all sampled my Mexican cooking, and from what I can tell, they loved it! (I don’t have any leftovers; shouldn’t that be a good indicator?) It was a really enjoyable evening, and I think everyone had a good time. And my cooking didn’t do any bodily harm to anyone, so I am officially happy. :)
Okay, now it is time to temporarily shift into a slightly more serious mode; I have a quick story to share with you about God’ goodness and provision. It may seem really simple and unimportant, but it meant so much to me. Let me explain.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I went through an adventure when trying to enroll in classes here. Bring a life-jacket while trying to wade through European bureaucracy; you might drown otherwise. But I finally got enrolled and went to classes and everything should have been hunky-dory, right? In theory. In reality, though, things became very complicated. I found out yesterday (Tuesday) that my German intensive course will likely not count as an upper-division German course at Oklahoma State. That is very, very bad because I need those credits as upper-division. If they don’t count, my schedule for next year gets very messed up, and I would need to take 18 hours in either the spring or the fall to graduate on time. Doable, but definitely not ideal. Not ideal at all.
Once I found this out, I sent out a series of frantic-ish emails to my advisors at OSU, the director of the language courses at my Austrian university and the study abroad coordinator at OSU. I thought maybe I could enroll in another German course here and have it count as upper-division; the deadline to enroll had already passed, but it might still be possible. Yes, it was still possible, but then I realized that the course I needed was at the same time as my Hungarian history class (in English with a professor from Toronto. I am so excited about and would not consider dropping this class). After several anxious emails with the advisors at OSU, I realized my situation was pretty crummy; I didn’t have any options, and the OSU study abroad coordinator (who needs to approve the German course as upper-division) was at a conference and wouldn’t have access to her email. So I was basically up a creek without a paddle. And from what I understand, that is not a good place to be.
Well, then I thought, maybe, just maybe I could try to enroll in an American history class here in addition to the 12 hours I am taking (actually only 9 because 3 were the German course that is already over). That would take care of some credits for next year, and the class would be in English (a definite plus). Why not give it a shot?
So I looked up the courses and found one about the American Constitutional period that would be worth 3 US credits—exactly what I needed! The time fit into my schedule perfectly; it seemed to be ideal. But there was one problem: the class meets on Tuesday afternoons. I was looking at this on Tuesday night. That meant that two class sessions had already taken place. Since this was labeled a “proseminar” and not a lecture course, I wasn’t sure if I would still be allowed in. But I decided to send the professor an email anyway. What could it hurt?
It was then I realized that I had already met this professor. Not only am I in another of his classes (Modern State Since 1500), but we had chatted briefly at the welcome lunch for all international students hosted by the Rector of the university last Thursday. At the pub crash on Wednesday, one of my friends reminded me about it; otherwise, I would have completely forgotten to go. While I was at the lunch, I talked with this professor Siegfried Beer (now THERE’S an Austrian name for you!) for a couple minutes; he had done a Fulbright in Connecticut back in the day, and now he teaches classes on American history. So basically, we talked for five minutes maximum and then he left. But I remembered him because the Fulbright program intrigues me; I plan to apply for one for Austria, and I thought maybe he could help. But I never even introduced myself, or vice versa.
So last night (very late. We had Stammtisch last night, and I didn’t get back until 12:45), I sent him an email and then said a quick prayer, asking God to work out this situation with credits and courses. Then I went to bed. This morning, I woke up to see that Professor Beer had replied. Here is his email:
of course I remember you and believe it or not, I even recently thought of you wishing I would have asked your name at the ERASMUS festivity. The reason: I am in search of more students for exactly the course which you are applying for. How lucky can we get? You need another class and I need you.
We had our second session yesterday afternoon but it will not be difficult for you to catch up. I suggest the following: you come by my office at your convenience, preferably already today (my only class-less day) and I will give you the scoop on what already happened in 505.526 and what will be expected of you in the course which is what we call a pro-seminar. Just send me a response and let me know if and when you can come by at Attemsgasse 8/III so I can make sure to be at the office at the hour you suggest.
You will not be able to register on your own; maybe through your advisor but it will be no problem at all for me to do that for you through our secretariat here in Attemsgasse 8/III.
So, let's fly it.
Crazy, isn’t it? I had to read it a couple of times just to believe it. I met with him this afternoon and am squared away to take his class—and graduate on time in May!
God cares about the little details of our lives. I don’t understand it at all, why such a huge, all-powerful, and almighty God would be interested in me. But for some unfathomable reason, He is. Even in the little things, like enrolling and graduating. He cares about me and about you even if we don’t always recognize it. I was so blessed to get to see His caring today in a very tangible way. I hope and pray that He opens your eyes to see it today in your life as well.
Now go enjoy some Mexican food and think of me. :)