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"Home"

Last week at some point my personal email account was compromised, and spam was distributed to just about everyone in my contact list. If there was an upside to this most irritating event, it was that I heard from a few friends whose communication has been a little inconsistent but took advantage of the spam to send a few “hellos” and offer some updates on their lives. From some came the question of, “When are you coming home?” And this week, with the approaching exodus by many to the US for the holidays, or the arrival of family from the US, comes the question, “Do you need anything from home?”  I understand what my friends are asking, but it’s still a funny question to answer.

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Perspective

We all have a vice that comforts us after a rough day or at the end of a terrible week. Smoking, drinking, shopping, eating. I cook. I also cook when I have had a great day, but whatever. I cooked a lot last week.

Austria versus America: Five Things (I Think) They Each Do Better

I have been at the mercy this week of landscaping people (I learned that requesting “grass” is not the same as requesting “instant grass” (sod)); maintenance people (water damage in the house from the flash floods earlier this spring); and moving people (it takes three separate appointments, apparently, to arrange to move 100 kg of Jack’s “stuff” to America). I’ve also been largely to myself, as well, as summer and the lure of “home leave” draws many American friends back across the pond.  Though, the almost-teen daughter does look up periodically from her 85th or 86th book of the summer to ask, “What is for lunch?”

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Anti-Americanism? No.

A recent post touched on a sensitive topic for some.  I had portrayed the conduct of a neighbor as anti-American, and I was rushed to judgment as to the whole of a country I adore living in.  I stand by the statements of my previous post; our late neighbor expressed her hatred for us as Americans. Period. May she rest in peace.

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Amused and Bemused

Living in Vienna, I have come to learn, requires an appreciation for order. Everything has its place. I am mostly amused by this.

Plachutta, the city’s premiere restaurant with respect to Viennese cuisine, informs passersby regularly on the recommended seasonal eating. A couple of weeks ago, in the days preceding Ash Wednesday the placard told us all that it was Herringsshmaus, time for the herrings feast.
Herringsschmaus has passed, and the Viennese are no doubt now chatting up one another at outdoor tables of their favorite coffeeshops about their preferred way to enjoy white asparagus, the season for which “officially” begins in a couple of weeks. According to Plachutta.

Under the Tuscan Sun, The Viennese Version?

Or perhaps, A Year in Döbling?, the Viennese sequel to A Year in Provence?  So goes the repair work on our rented house. Peter and Annie may have owned their house, but I can sympathize with their efforts in contracting repairmen.

Blowing off Steam? In one of the World’s Best Shopping Cities?

I had hoped to share photos of my tour of Prince Eugene of Savoy’s Winter Palace today. But, no. “Kein Photography” was the phrase of the day.  All I could snap were a handful of photos of the Baroque entrance hall.

Hercules and Prince Eugene greeted visiting dignitaries at the top of the staircase, I learned. I leave the literary comparison discussions to you.

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Appreciating the Opportunity

In the weeks leading up to our move, I communicated often with the Trailing Spouse of one of Tony’s colleagues living in Vienna who patiently answered all my questions, dumb or otherwise. Once we arrived and were settled a little, the two of us Trailing Spouses got together for lunch.  She shared advice that she had received. “The Stayput-er Force is strong here. Appreciate the opportunity; go out and explore.”
I often go out alone. This does not bother me. The majority of my (American) friends are quite content to stay put and be HausFraus; quite a few have been here longer than I and can not be “bothered” to go out and explore even the major tourist sites. This bothers me. It’s horrible American diplomacy. But there is nothing I can do about it. I invite, they decline. 
Today again I went out to explore, all by my lonesome. I donned my rain slicker, tossed my camera into my tote and set off for Neubau, Vienna’s 7th district, for an exhibit on the World’s Best Press Photos 2013 at the Westlicht Gallery. 
I love the older U-Bahn stations; they’re so romantic. This is the Burggasse-Stadthalle station nearest to the gallery (taken with my antique filter).
En route to the gallery I poked my head inside Schottenfelds Kirche (Scottish Fields Church). Although the skies were gray, the interior of the church was light and bright. Just beautiful!

The Westlicht Gallery is tucked into what I think is former warehouse space, down an unassuming but artfully decorated arcade.

There were many categories for the press photos, but the photos in abundance seemed to be linked by sadness. Here, two young girls in El Salvador walk calmly by a “routine” anti-gang raid.

 In Somalia, armed men guard the women who play sports, as they are a target for harassment (and worse).

 This Nigerian woman earns €2 per day sifting through the trash dump for items that can be resold.

This Nigerian woman chose instead to be a roadside sex worker in Italy.

 A 38-year old Dutch professional prostitute.

 An Iranian woman dressed for mourning.

 Burqa-clad women crocheting clothes for dolls in Kandahar.

This Iranian woman told her husband that she wanted a divorce. He poured acid on her and their daughter while they slept. So much sadness.

There is also a permanent collection of vintage cameras and other photographic items of interest at the gallery. This camera is up for auction at the gallery in November should you be interested.

 This KGB Ring Camera does not seem very stealth.

It’s always nice to see something familiar. This camera is of the same series as the one used for the first moon landing!

It will be Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow (no time to bake banana bread!), and the bed linens can wait another day to be laundered (or perhaps two, as the weather looks good for a Stadtwanderweg tomorrow…) so that I have time to appreciate this opportunity.

Too Good to Be True

So much for the Nice Family living in our US home actually being as advertised.  In the spring the Navy Captain informed us she had asked for early retirement, would be receiving her orders “soon,” and was moving to one of two states. Thus, her orders allowed her to break the remaining two years on her lease.

Mostly lies, as we learned over the last few months.

At the same time she informed us that she had found another military family to move into our home, had showed them the house and the lease, had negotiated the rent and a move-in date, and was transferring our pool and tennis club membership to the “new tenant.” All of this was because, as we learned, she did not have orders that allowed her to break the lease.

That’s when we yelled, “STOP.”  And that’s when everything spiraled out of control.

Finally, the lawyers have now finished lawyering. In exchange for not filing a very arguable fraud lawsuit against the not-so-nice Navy Captain, a settlement for the damages has been agreed upon.

Among the least offensive of the damages?  The Navy Captain had the French wallpaper in the master bedroom removed (without our permission, and in violation of the lease) because she felt doing so “enhanced the value of our home.”  And, she replaced my functioning vintage kitchen faucet (also without our permission, and in violation of the lease) with an off-the-shelf clunker that, “works better.”

Some of the damages will never be repaired. We have a well-defined clause in the lease regarding care of the yard and garden. This is Sir Thomas Lipton, a hybrid shrub that I cultivated over 10 years. Each spring the bush produced between 1.000 and 1.200 blooms, and the aroma was noticeable several houses away. The photo was taken in late spring last year.

This is Sir Thomas Lipton (and the yard) a year later.
This photo set sums up well the state of our home, inside and out. The Nice Family? Too good to be true.

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