Friday, August 7, 2015

Things I've Learned about Moving and Living Abroad

    Because yesterday was our official one year anniversary of arriving in Innsbruck, I've decided to look back on the things I've learned in the past year.

The world is both bigger and smaller than you expect
While the sheer number of languages and customs in Europe makes my head spin and reminds me how culturally sheltered I am, the media (movies, tv shows, music) consumed here is (and has been) largely American/from English speaking countries. One of the most surreal experiences of my life was going to a New Year's Eve party in Vienna where a cover band played all kinds of music... and I recognized every song. It's so strange to me that I've come halfway across the world and people will make The Big Bang Theory references to me. That being said, the language barrier is thiiiick and the customs here are super different.

Your life cannot be lived to meet other people's standards
I care about what people think about me. I know that's not the cool or confident thing to say, but it doesn't change the fact that it's true for me. This can be crippling when you move to a country where openly staring at someone is not considered rude, you don't know the language at allllll, and you're concerned about what people "back home" think about your joblessness. I've had to learn to adapt and not make external validation so important to me as well as not take everything so seriously. So what if for a while this year "successful" to me meant getting everything we needed from the supermarkt and not crying that day?  Along those lines....

You need to do what makes you happy
As long as that doesn't mean hurting anyone or anything,of course. When we first arrived, I really wanted to dress more "European" and stylish to fit in more. I'm not European or stylish so this was basically an exercise in futility. It sometimes weirds me out when people stare at my T-shirts (which are mostly beer related), but I just tell myself that they're trying to read it and move on. I do many activities "for fun." I run (slowly). I read books about teenage ghost robot wizard werewolves. Sometimes I write. At this point, finding something to feel joyful about is everything to me.

Language immersion is (probably) a myth
I had to add the probably because Dr Husband and I are not truly immersed in the language here. We speak English to each other, and most coworkers, colleagues, friends, and servers (although we now usually order in German) speak to us in English. We are taking classes, and we've gone from knowing 0 German to being able to speak terrible, simple German and write awkwardly phrased emails/texts to people. So progress is progress. But the notion that by simply living in a foreign country you will somehow learn the language by some sort of osmosis needs to die. Especially if that country is German-speaking.

The thing we miss the most is normalcy
Friends and family are always on our mind here. However, sometimes, out of tiredness or laziness, you just want what you know. You want the store hours to be more convenient. You don't want to have to think so much about words and translations. You want a delicious American fast food pizza. You try to focus on what you have now instead of what you're missing... but it's hard.

Europeans don't hate Americans
In general. Obviously not speaking the language makes some people very annoyed. Also not acting like a jackass helps too.

That's all I can think of for now. Thanks for reading! Having this blog as an outlet has been really great for me this year.  Cheers!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Prague: Race Day!

  I woke up on race day morning eager and nervous. It was finally time to do the thing I'd trained for months in the snow, ice, and sleet to be able to complete. Pre-race jitters set in while I was eating a smallish breakfast and prepared my body for a really long run (hint: so much vaseline). I packed my running supply belt (read: running fanny pack) with my race fuel of choice, gummy bears, then we headed  to the starting line! Unfortunately the start wasn't right outside of our hotel like my only other marathon experience so in order to run 26.2 miles (42k) I had to walk.  After a short metro ride, we followed the crowd to find the line up.

Because I am far from being an elite, or even "fast" runner, I put 4:30:00 as my projected finish time. While this is far from being a great time, it is certainly respectable, with an avg. pace below 10:17 min/miles. In most American marathons this pace would place you slightly behind the middle of the pack for line up. So you can imagine my surprise when I while searching for my corall, I walked right past everyone. That's right. My "respectable" might as well have been a casual stroll in Europe.

   I got one last good luck kiss (from Dr Husband) and pet (from Hundie) and took my spot at the end of the line. I shared some smiles and thumbs-up with my fellow slow pokes when a slow classic music piece started. "Ah. This must be the Czech National Anthem,"I thought. It was very dreary sounding, but given the somewhat depressing history of the Czech Republic it made sense to me. In fact, I was pretty sure I had heard that song in a WWII movie as people are being led into concentration camps. "Hopefully they will play something upbeat for the start next!" I thought. But then I noticed the line was moving forward. "Oh no!" I thought. I wanted something much happier to put me in a better mental state for the race. But alas, I could only picture super sad WWII images as I began my marathon.

    Then I ran. I don't remember much about the race, other than thinking about how much fun I was NOT having and the realization I would not come anywhere close to my goal despite being on target for over the first 20 miles. It was difficult. It was heartbreaking. It was impossible. But I finished. Teary-eyed, the first thing I told my smiling, cheering husband was that I didn't PR (personal record).  My official chip time was 4:52:19 which is far from terrible and better than not finishing, but I took it pretty hard (especially when I was on my target pace until mile 22). Here is a cool video Volkswagen Prague Marathon put together for me: video.

    While I was contemplating my intelligence and foot-falling-off-ness. Dr Husband visited a beer garden and a castle on the other side of the city. He got some cute pictures of him and Hundie so it seemed like they had fun sight seeing. He was definitely in a good mood when we finally met up at the finish line. Since the marathon finish bag consisted of A) water and B) sparkling water, I asked Dr husband to get me some food and a beer. He complied, and I sat on Prague's ancent historical old city center and ate a sausage and drank a beer while segways circled around me. It was a pretty surreal experience. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to request for my picture to be taken, and I think it's a classic.

    Not too long after that, we walked/limped our way on to the metro and then back to the hotel. I climbed the stairs (maybe on all-fours), then descended the stairs to take one of the most cleansing showers of my life. After that I laid in bed until Dr Husband started to sober up and decided he wanted more beer. So we ventured out to a super local bar (Dr Husband held up two fingers to order beers) (Restaurace U Vodárny). Czech beers must have some curative properties because I started feeling better almost immediately. Then we fulfilled my promise to myself by going back to Beer Geek where I tried a number of their beers. After some time there, we went to a restaurant (Vinárna Palečka) nearby where I had one of the best burgers of my life. I'm not just saying that because I ran a marathon, either. Dr Husband tried it, and he was super jealous of my tasty tasty dinner.

    Then we went back to the hotel to sleep an prepare for our journey back to Innsbruck. Which was mostly uneventful except for the super nice breakfast and coffees we got from a local coffee shop! Then we walked/limped around for a bit until making our way to the train station and back to Innsbruck.

Edited to include the names of the bar and restaurant we went to after the marathon and to make the 4:30:00 marathon pace correct. I highly recommend the burger from Vinárna Palečka if you are in Prague! It was delicious!