Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Der Traum des Laufens (The Dream of Running)

If you don't know already, I am a runner at heart--a stomper of earth and concrete. Ah, the cool air rushing by as it whips around your hair. The sparkle of sunlight as it lights up the path. The rhythm of the thumping work-horse in your chest. All the while euphoria floods and fills behind the stillness of eyes. A run is not just a run, its another moment, another state of being. For some its the dread of their daily bread--but I'd like to disagree for obvious reasons.

Anyway, in the city of Graz there is much to see. The eruption of mountains as you approach horizon, the rushing of the river, and lots of well-groomed dogs. I could swoon your imagination with imagery, but let's the pictures do their work.

I wish I had a camera with me every time I ran--also a disclaimer, some photos are from hikes or bike trips.

I don't think I mentioned this, but I enrolled in a marathon-training sport course. We meet every Wednesday night and go out trotting for about 2 hours or so. I type this as my calves throb from the previous day I ran in the rain for almost 2 hours. I was as soaked as Ryan Gosling's t-shirt in the movie cover of The Notebook. Strangely I have never seen this movie, but the movie cover sticks in my head--good advertising.

A result of my marathon-training course is that I have gain a better understanding of how my body functions:

1) Do not eat within 4 hours of running a long duration--especially meat. Your stomach will cry.
2) If you need to use the bathroom, do yourself a favor and plan ahead of time. Not taking this into account will result in an unpleasant running experience that may lead to crying the whole way.
3) If you are not used to running for two hours your legs will cry.
4) Stretch them legs, hips, and feet good--or cry yourself to sleep.

If you listen to these golden rules & tips--chances are the run will be good and you will be happy.

Despite how awful I might of made my marathon-training course sound, it is something I love doing. The harder the run, the better it is--I like to think. Am I mad? If you were able to love something more, how would you accomplish this? By doing the same thing over and over again? Probably not, but to bring yourself into a deeper love with something or someone, you must endure the pain it takes to get to the next level. When you love something you never get comfortable. There is always a challenge ahead of you. That is the adventure and part of the ride we call life. Whether it be research and the pursuit of knowledge or a relationship, there is always a challenge that must be overcome in order to gain a better understanding. This is what running is for me and why I always take on these challenges. So the harder the run, the better it is. The harder the life, the greater opportunity we have to love--don't miss it.

Well ciao for now! and tune-in next post for the next Austrian Adventure! --oh wait will it be in Austria? find out next time!

Sporting the MSU Track & Field shirt. Miss my teammates! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Essen (Food)

Okay, it is time for the highly anticipated post of...FOOD! Austria has many tasty dishes, that I have not tried yet nor heard of. Despite this, I will go ahead and reveal the delicatessen of foods I have consumed. Hopefully I do not confirm any stereotypes.

Food 1. Two-dawgs in a bread-pocket. I had this tasty hot dog my first day in Vienna.

Food 2. Pork Schnitzel with too many potatoes underneath, and a lemon wedge. Was the first schnitzel meal worth taking a picture of--my first was homemade and let's say it didn't make the cut. 

Food 3. (self-cooked) Weiss-wurst (white sausage) with fried potato slices...oh and a side of broccoli. 

Food 4. They call it Pfandl--which to my American-taste-buds seemed like a fancy-deluxe mac & cheese. My toppings were feta cheese, Olives, tomatoes, and spinach (I think). The cool thing about ordering at these kind of restaurants is that you take slips of paper and mark what you want. Whether it be Pfandl, pizza, bread. breakfast, and egg-dishes. It is similar to the way you order at Which-wich for you Montclair people.

Food 5: (self-cooked) I made this wrap-thing to rid of all my vegetables and random tortillas. Nothing interesting here, moving on. 

Food 6: (self-cooked) I made stuffed mushrooms topped with mozzarella cheese (first attempt, came out pretty darn good) and some kind of hot dog made with paprika. Not sure how Austrian this was, but I had the hot dogs.

Food 7: This lunch was a little upscale, because I cannot eat meat on Fridays during Lent. So I scouted out a fish-dish (them rhymes doe). Before your eyes you have finely sliced tuna, as thin as ham. Topped with a neatly-plush salad with a scoop of something that looked like fancy potato salad. Oh and don't forget that one brown potato chip in the potato salad. It doesn't look like much, but trust me it was both delicious and filling. 

Oh and for all you Austrians out there, I topped my salad with your beloved Kernöl. It complimented my salad very well, so thanks for the countless suggestions. For all you that are trying to pronounce Kernöl in your head, it means pumpkin seed oil. If you mention it or pronounce it in German to an Austrian there face will light up like a Christmas tree. More simply put:
Kernöl = Austrian happiness 

 Food 8: (self-cooked) Alright, this was my most successful attempt at cooking schnitzel. It actually came out very good this time, crust actually stayed on and it wasn't dry and flavorless. One can also spray a little lemon juice for added flavor--I typically do this.

Food 9: Pizza baby! This one is topped with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and some mysterious vegetable I never heard of. This is another dish one can get with that paper-slip system I mentioned earlier with the Pfandl. Usually fairly cheap and always a good idea. 

Food 10: What could be the 10th meal on this list? Could it be something exotic? Is it still alive and squirming on my plate? It is super Wiener Schnitzel: Fries on the side edition. Yup 3 schnitzels in one post--hey its food that gives you those good feels. I ordered this at a restaurant by the Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I can't say that I'll be back. Though the dish was good.

***Added creepy photo capturing my friend at an awkward angle.

Well that should suffice for now! Hope the food was appetizing to look at!

Bah-bye! and tune-in next post for the next Austrian Adventure!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Castle Lov'in!

So I wake-up every morning to a beautiful view of the remnants of a castle on a large hill--it goes by the name Schlossberg.

Then I teleported to the Schlossberg, made the sun come out, and took a selfie with no hands...phew it was quite exhausting. 

Where I am getting at with these photos...is that this city is gorgeous! The sun has been out and about lately, so it has been nice seeing everything with a touch of sunshine. As the sun comes out, people's moods lift and there is a lot more smiling. There is a aroma of joy in the air among my fellow young travelers. So you may ask--what do they put in the water? Whatever it is, it is safe to drink, because I am still walking on two legs. But in all seriousness, what creates this happiness? Guess what? I do not have a good answer for you. For some, happiness is family and friends--others a bottle of fine-wine and even God. I have my opinions  and beliefs, but that is not my intentions of this post. I pose you with the same questions I am facing.

So we got this thing, we call the heart. Is that really referring to that meaty-thing pumping in our chest? Well let me tell you, I think I'll need a transplant after having to endure all the beauty I find in the city of Graz. Whether it be the fluttering and frolicking music or a humble-bike-repair-dude--there is so much to seek and find. The thing is, in this space we call "the heart" I am enjoying a lot of peace and stillness. Moments to stop, be quiet, and maybe smile if you got those feels. I mean sure, it cannot always be like that. There are moments when my heart races in excitement or aches in a little home sickness. Actually, let me try something:

It longs, it chases
to take me places
It beats, it races
to whom it embraces

It quivers, it quiets
in the midst of riots
It cries, it tries
despite the lies

It heals, it shows
through high's and low's
It smiles, it sows
because a heart grows

Shout-out to Graz for this poem and being so beautiful! Traveling evokes so many feelings!

Well, ciao! and tune-in next post for the next great Austrian-Adventure!

One more for everyone back home! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Leute (people)

Clank, clank, chugga, chugga...the train glided through the Austrian Alps. My train from Vienna to Graz was a beautiful experience. Though I should have slept after being jet-lagged, I was to busy pressing my face against the cool-glass scanning the strong, sturdy mountains in the background. The snow-sprinkled pine trees covered many of the mountains (can't see in any pictures posted).

A pole photo bombing this awesome scenery. Would've been my favorite photo...

So my train ride was quite a trip! When I finally got to my last stop, I was excited to put my 90lbs of luggage in my room. There of course were complications...so I met up with an Austrian student who was designated to help me get around. She was very nice and helpful with getting me moved into my room. Of course it took like 15 minutes for us to figure out how to get Top 11. I mean what the heck does that even mean? Apparently after running around the building for about 15 minutes with the 90lbs of luggage it was on the 4th floor. Was I going to take the stairs? Noooooo...but I did and found out my room was on the other side of the building (face palm). So long story short, I took care of all the preliminary stuff after 2 days (including one day, 3 hours of walking around--lost) of staying in Graz. 

So two Americans, a Swede, and a Spaniard walk into a bar...

Yes, this is how my first bar trip in Graz played out. So I went to a pub that is known as a hangout for international students. There were a descent amount of Americans and a few Montclair Students there! Exciting! There I tried the following beers: Gösser, and Murauer. Both beers are brewed in Austria. 

....But enough about beer, I'll probably make a whole post dedicated to that later on. Let's talk about people! It was like freshmen year of college all over again. So let's make a bar graph to get a good idea of all the people I've met thus far! 

So I've met people between the nights I went out, in my apartment, and class. Maybe I will keep adding to this graph and see what happens overtime. I am just as surprised as you, that there are so many Americans here. I guess it is just that time of the year when American students decide to study in Graz, Austria.

Some people that fall under the list above are my roommates ("flatmates" for all you British-English learners). They come from Spain, Sweden, Lithuania, Texas (USA), and Saudi Arabia. Each has their own story, as does every human-being. I would like to have a little bio for each individual, but that is what Wikipedia is for. Anyway, I am happy with my roommates (flatmates) because they are all chill and lots of fun. Here is a little montage of mostly embarrassing photos:

My double roommate: "The Spanish Conquistador"

Viva la Texas! ***not a communist

Selfie with some of the neighbors...the gentleman to my right: "The Suave Swede"

"The Amazing Australian" himself. Trust me you couldn't handle a smile if I posted one.

I hope you enjoyed my little montage of photos of some of the people I have met. It really opens you up to meet others that talk, walk, and eat differently. I have learned so much in the short time that I have been in Austria. Of course there is plenty of photos I wish that I had taken, but sometimes you just get lost in the moment (or forget your camera). When I think about it, cherishing each moment is a lot better than a picture. If a large tower of Legos represented my entire life, how would I reach the top? Each brick represents a moment that stacked on top of each other to help construct a piece of the Lego tower. Yes, sometimes I went astray and the blocks made some crazy architecture down below--but I kept building up. When I look back on the craziness that was my life, I stop and smile but continue to build up, because trust me--its a long way back down. 

So friends, family, and colleagues...remember the world that is out there and all the different kinds of blocks that were used to get you were you are. Every Lego tower can be a great Lego tower, just drop the metaphor, and remember each moment that made you...well, you! 

Bis Später! and tune-in next post for the next great Austrian Adventure! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A day in Wien (Vienna)

As I was getting closer to my destination, Vienna International Airport (VIE), my eyes lit up as they scanned the scattered clouds of the morning sun. I pondered about the clouds, they are like the topography of the sky--but always changing and always on the move.

You can imagine at this point, this was it. I was about to land into a new life. As the landing gear hit, skidded, and rumbled--it was time to get ready.

So my first story that I have for you all starts when I was looking for the train station to go to my hostel. I first asked some man at an information booth, and after hearing my German with an American accent, he immediately began to speak English.  I was thinking to myself, "huh, it's that obvious." So I listened to his directions and I walked to what looked like a train station--with like 80 pounds of luggage. I was really confused, anything that information guy told me was completely out my head. I wandered, went up and down some elevators. Then I went up some ramp and somehow ended up back at the same guy at the information booth. I told him I walked in a circle and he explained it again. This time I proceeded and wandered to some place that ended up being a train station. I wasn't sure how to buy a ticket and wasn't sure what the guy at the info booth said. So I got on a random train. I tried to act cool and  got really nervous I would end up in another country. I got off at some stop that said "Wien Mitte"--that sounds important I thought. After some random back and forth train-taking, I ended up in Wien Mitte, again, after 30-40 minutes. I pulled out some paper and found the correct train to take--finally. So I got off at some stop that was apparently within 100 meters of the hostel. Feeling good about myself--I walked about 100 meters and found a Chinese grocery store. "That's not right"--I thought. I decided to take a detour, a very stupid decision. I wandered the streets for about 40 minutes with 80 pounds of luggage. Sweating, I stopped at a Chinese Travel Agency. The ladies inside told me that the hostel I was going to was just around the corner. By my surprise, I found the hostel in some kind of a concave entrance--so it was hidden right next to the Chinese grocery store, just where I decided to take a 40 minute detour. I wanted to straight up cry, out of frustration and joy of finding the hostel.

Chapter 2 (of this post): New friends, new places

So I check-in my hostel. It's basically a dorm that is cheap to stay at. My room had two bunk beds. I had two roommates who were from Brazil or one was from Lisbon...something like that. If I got that wrong, they spoke Portuguese and some English. Below is a selfie with my roommates in front of some big fancy building in the central area of Vienna.

I may look happy, but behind that smile is a very tired jet-lagged individual. Some other sites I visited: 

Cool row of buildings with common architecture to this area. With added fountain and statue. 

This one is the inside of St. Stephens Cathedral. Very nice!!!

Majestic horse-rider and more common architecture in the background.

So, in this area I was wandering around I also went to a Schmitterling-Garten (Butterfly garden). It was super cool and made me really happy and almost broke my camera because it was steaming hot and moist in the indoor garden. After looking at butterflies or Smitterling to my hearts content I headed back to the hostel around 4:30pm.

Later that night I went to the hostel bar. I could swear, every drink allowed more and more German to come out of my mouth. At one point in the night I spent an hour conversing with a guy from Argentina who also spoke some German. It was a lot of fun joking, drinking and talking in German all night! The bartenders smiled at me whenever I ordered in German...they were also dudes by-the-way. So it was definitely the fact I started the night speaking English then went full-on German. Viel Spass--a lot of fun!

I could also tell you guys this proud moment I had when I successfully bought a magnet and a bratwurst in German...but not at the same time, because we ain't crazy.

So, auf wiedersehen! Good bye! And tune-in next post for the next great Austrian Adventure!

P.S. Above is a picture of a "Schmitterling" in the butterfly garden --while my camera was sweating itself into brokenness.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wherever the wind takes me...

I now have less than a day before I embark on my journey to Austria. My itinerary/to-do-list: 

-Arrive Feb. 2 at 8:30am, in Vienna, Austria. 
-Spend the day in the city as a clueless tourist. 
-Somehow find and check-in to my hostel I booked by 2pm.
-After sleeping close proximity to strangers, wake-up early and catch a train.
-Arrive Feb. 3 at 1:30pm in Graz, Austria.
-Stretch back out after lugging heavy luggage.
-Stay in Graz, Austria for a little over 5 months. 

--that is a pretty descent list. 

So do I have any fears going into this trip? Not really, probably has not hit me yet. Though I am going into this trip with an open and adventurous mind! I mean I am going to be running in breath-taking scenery, living in a new place, meeting new people, and picking up lots of German! This gives a whole other meaning to "2015, new year, new me." 

Traveling (outside of the U.S. and Canada) has always been a wondrous experience for me. Wherever the wind takes me I say. For I am a boat just floating around a ocean waiting for its next encounter with land. Again I find myself sailing towards a distant island. After many months of being tossed and turned by stormy seas, and enjoying clam waters while bathing in the sun's rays--it is time. Now it is time to anchor my ship again. What happens next is a mystery, but the winds have been fair so I feel optimistic. 

So come and join me on this journey! There is much to learn and see! 

Island #1 (2012): This is me in Speyer, Germany eating a Thüringer.

Island #2 (2014): A picture of my legs dangling off the back of a pickup truck heading towards Jinotega, Nicaragua.