Sunday 11 November 2012


I got all artsy this week. I went into my wardrobe, found my ‘culture coat’, lurking at the back looking all dusty and forgotten, and I slipped that bad boy on. Because, last night something unexpected, astounding and possible exciting happened: Amstetten launched its ‘Kulturwochen’. Yesterday, with a sheet of music in one hand and some Milka in the other, I cheekily remarked (IN GERMAN) to a new friend of mine (who, may I add, is AUSTRIAN) that “I cannot believe that Amstetten would have a Culture Week!” We pissed ourselves (!) (MADE A JOKE IN GERMAN!)

However, as was said by my personal Austrian idol, Maria Von Trappe, “Let’s start at the very beginning”!!!! (Maria Von Trappe is my idol because she was played a british person. This is like me – I’m in Austria, but I’m a british person).

Last weekend was a long weekend. Austria seems to have a wonderful tradition in Autumn, were every other week there is a bank holiday. Sometimes these fall on Fridays, which is depressing because I have firdays off anyway. This time, it landed on a Thursday. This meant I spent Thursday in bed, apart from when I went to my powerplate class and exercised my right to exercise like Madonna. Then on Friday I took a voyage of discovery to Styria. Styria, I discovered, is a magical part of Austria. They really embrace the Austrian spirit by having a hundred different traditional alcoholic drinks, all of which were presented to me in the form of a series of extremely lethal shots. I stayed with a friend and she was a wonderfull hostess and took me into the mountains were there was snow(!). The views were breathtaking, especially compared to the views in Amstetten. Amstetten has traditional Austrian architecture (big, square yellow houses) but apart from that it could easily be some random town on the M6. Sometimes, it reminds me of Bilston (not NECESSARILY a bad thing…)

Anyway once I got back I was back in Melk, where I had to get up at 5.30 every day in order to get the train. I’m telling you this because it makes me feel very sorry for myself and I want sympathy.

What about Culture Week!?!? I hear you wail, in a desperate attempt to make me quickly reach the point (!!!) Well, three weeks ago a little male teacher in my school came up to me and spoke in very fast German. I did what I always do when this happens, and nodded enthusiastically. On this occasion, nodding enthusiastically resulted in me agreeing to come on a school trip to the theatre. It seems Amstetten has one venue, where everything happens, so the play was in the same place as the ball was.  The play was called “Der Bauer als Millionär”. In a moment of enthusiastic for-thought I asked if I could have the text to read to prepare myself. He gave it to me, but of course I never got past the third page. This meant I understood only the first two minutes of the performance and then it was just a jumble of colours and dancing and confusion. The hall was full of school children which reminded me of when Lily and I went to see Journey's End in Manchester and had to hide from all the school children afterwards because we were crying too much. I don’t have much to say about this play, except that one of the characters was a fairy who had six breasts and at one point an old man sucked on one of the teets. 

THE CULTURE, HOWEVER, DID NOT STOP THERE! My attempts to join the local orchestra had not been as fruitful as I had hoped. However, having met up with a local English teacher she successfully shoe-horned me in. I’m sure my regular fans will be excited to hear that I’m extending my extremely-talented musical wings whilst abroad. I always say, if you have talent like I do, it’s just selfish to keep it to yourself. I was given the part of the cymbal in the final piece (they played a total of seven pieces – it was a long concert.) This was quite easy because I’d already played the piece before. After they’d witnessed my prowess on the cymbal they enthusiastically offered me the part of the triangle on the encoure.  This didn’t go quite as well in rehearsals, but after the performance my fellow percussionist gave me two enthusiastic THUMBS UP(!!!).  The best bit about the whole thing that was after the performance they gave us a 15 euro voucher to use in the Concert Hall restaurant. Being the absolute mental arithmetic badass that I am, I spent exactly 14.90 and got 10 cents change. In hindsight, I probably should have given this 10 cent to the waitress, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! Additionally I was forced to communicate in German with my fellow performers. They were very friendly; a couple of them kept making jokes in German and then laughing uproariously. This gave me a great chance to practice my ‘I understand what you’re saying and also find it funny’ face, which is the face you always pull when you don’t understand what anybody’s saying and therefore don’t find it funny.

Finally, my friends at the Gymnasium (i.e. the school I don’t actually work at who are, in many ways, more friendly than the school I do work at) invited me to come with them to the opera in Vienna. We’re going next Monday and we’ll see Tosca by Puccini (though she told me it was Tosac which apparently caused GREAT AMUSEMENT when I emailed my parents, ho ho ho ho, Sarah doesn’t know Tosca from Tosac she’s so stupid hahah we’ll see who’s laughing when they come and visit and they can only speak pig-latin.) ANYWAY I told my landlady who was truly beside herself with excitement for me – she gets so happy when I do something sociable! She left me some knee high black boots outside my door, because she said I should dress nicely to go the opera, and presumably thinks that evidence suggests I do not have nice enough clothes. She also gave me a bag full of walnuts and, when she couldn’t find a nutcracker (or – my new favourite German word – a NUSSKNACKER!!) she presented me with a huge hammer to open the walnuts. They’re very tasty.

And it’s not just the opera I have to look forwards to! The Amstetten Kulturwochen last for three weeks, and I’m planning to go to everything there is on offer. Some of the events are free (these are ones I’ll definitely go to)! Additionally the other assistant and I have planned an English Stammtisch, which I renamed ENGLISH NIGHT (for marketing reasons) (I stole the name from the Spanish event in Manchester, OKAY? SUE ME.) I’m making a funky poster and I’m going to stick it in my classrooms. I feel very enthusiastic about it, but whether my students will share this enthusiasm is yet to be seen.


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