Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vienna, Year Three

Months have passed since we sat in the Filmcasino, enthralled by Lillian Gish in “The Wind.”  We apologize for neglecting this blog for so long, but life has been transitional.  We are in Vienna for yet another year—number three for those who are counting—but circumstances have very much changed.

As I sit on the small outside balcony of our new apartment, grapes and a Stiegl beer on the table next to my computer, several generations of an Austrian family are just across the hedge, lounging by their pool on a hot Vienna day.  Our new landlord, Uwe (a retired Jungian psychologist or psychiatrist, we’re not sure which) is at work in his garden of wonders.  Just below our living room window is a rock enclosure with a bale of box turtles.

Wander though the jungle of the back yard and you hear a hum, or buzz, then realize there are a couple of hundred thousand bees in hives. Every now and then we smell the smoke as Uwe quiets the bees to gather honey.

Our new apartment is amazing, not to mention less expensive, than the Wahringerstrasse place, so we are glad we’ve moved.   Wahringerstrasse was big enough that Keir had his own room, own toilet, and own entry door … that is unusual and we’re sure he took advantage of his private door more than we know.

We’ll do an entire blog, complete with turtle pictures, on our new apartment. 

Enough things have changed that I’ll use bullet points to go through them:

Keir & Misti

  • ·      Keir graduated from the American International School in a class of 71 from 20 countries.  Graduation was in the Mozart Hall at the Konzerthaus.  One of the small benefits of the rational drinking age in Austria (16) is that all of the seniors could have a champagne toast to celebrate their graduation.
  • ·      After driving us crazy with his “What is the point of school?” attitude through much of his senior year, Keir managed to get into most of the colleges he applied to, and will start shortly at American University in Washington, DC.  That’s where I went to school, but based on the bills coming our way, there is no alumni favoritism.  He’s majoring in photojournalism and media arts and likely will use the same darkroom I used back in the early 70s.
  • ·      My contract with the IIASA communications department was not extended for a third year (the website I’ve been working on is essentially done, but is caught in a weird loop of scientific and cultural peer review typical of many international organizations), but the head of the World Population division hired me on a one year contract to write for his group.  I’ve moved to a new office in the Schloss.  The writing promises to be more intriguing than what I’ve been doing.
  • ·      Misti is slowly recovering from jet lag, reading depressing books about European history (Poland, this time), and plotting how to not only survive but thrive in her first year as an empty nester.  Goal one is to resume studying German with the drive she possessed the first year and utterly lost the second.
We’ve been neglecting our cameras as well as our blog, so the photos here focus mostly on our recent  annual visit to the States.  But it is worth mentioning that Keir finished up the school year in part by reviving his baseball career.  He hadn't played in a couple of years because of a bad throwing arm, but he was recruited because he was one of nine people at the school who actually knew how to play.  The team had a terrible start to the season. Cricket and fuss ball players tend to look like little leaguers when they step onto a baseball field for the first time.  No, you don't carry your bat to first base after you hit the ball.

Keir batting in Vienna
I don't think the team had won a game when they headed off to Frankfurt for the European championship tournament.  "Eight hours on the train and we won't score a run," Keir moaned as I dropped him off at Westbahnhoff station.  But the report came the next day that they'd defeated Tel Aviv 2 to 1.  The next report we got was that they'd made it to the championship game, where they were defeated by the Hague.  Keir came home with a silver medal.

When asked how it happened, Keir said the coach put the nine guys who grew up playing baseball  on the field all at once.  They surprised themselves.

We were in DC for much of July, where we enjoyed much too short a time with Erin, Will, Colin and their new family member, Henry.
Henry's the little guy 

We then ventured off to Misti’s home ground of South Dakota, where the heat was even worse than it was in DC and the crops were dying from lack of rain.  I study climate change as part of my job, and it is stunning to see all of the scientific predictions I’ve been reading and writing about since the 1980s coming true in a very scary way.  And it is only going to get worse.  More on that at a later date.

Keir managed to get his annual fix of shooting clay pigeons with a shotgun (he had to shoot them before they melted in the heat), hung around with his cousins, and earned a little college money painting his grandpa’s house and working for his uncle. 

We also met Trapper (see top photo), the big lab that lives with Misti's sister, Lois, and her husband Ron.

Keir and the pigeon
After three weeks in the US, Misti and I are back in Austria, Keir’s had a week with brother Dylan in New York City, and we are trying to find a new rhythm to life.

A final thought.  Our first year of blogs were written from the point of view of visitors living in a strange land.  We’ve been here long enough now that this feels a little like home.  We were struck in the US by the noise, the cars, and the difficulty of getting anywhere by walking.  The European lifestyle is far from perfect, but it is much more attuned to how people live their daily lives.  More on that later, too.

We hope to return to our almost-weekly schedule with the blog.  Heartfelt thanks to the friends and family who welcomed us into their homes, assisted with the onslaught of our practical challenges with impressive humor and thoughtfulness, and reminded us of all we hope to return to sometime in the future.


  1. I half think the reason why its so easy to walk about cities in Europe, is because its not 100 degrees outside, or -15.

  2. Wow, clearly I am not doing a good job keeping up. You and Misti are living fascinating lives. Do you consider yourself expats now? In any case it's a long way from Iowa on so many levels. As you noted in your trip to S.D., crop are bad. I would call it failure. There are predictions/fears the drought will continue through next year. Oh, boy.