Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monkey Business

In times like these, where we've come to accept that I'm not going to deliver the stories I promise no matter how many times I vow they're coming, really, I'm posting a bunch of stuff over the next few days, I swear, I've got it all prepared and everything, etc... In times like these, we know that a new blog entry means that something extraordinarily exciting/devastating has happened or is in the process of happening or is about to happen. Plus/minus five points on the exciting/devastating scale. As in, there could also be a "moderately" or a "somewhat" before the adjective, it doesn't have to be completely out of this world.

Today, I'm back on this platform to tell you about one of each. And not to apologize for the silence, even if it seems that way, because what's the point?, I'm going to do it again no matter how sorry I insist I am about it.

Let's start with the positive: joy-sharing.

Evelyn and I saw monkeys today! --- Evelyn is an old friend from the golden days of CS Vienna, who's been living in Guatemala for a while now and who happens to have been sent to Trinidad for a few weeks for work. She sent me a message to let me know she was coming and I've been excited ever since. Hadn't seen her in ages and it's always wonderful to meet long-time friends again.

It took two weeks to arrange a get-together, because I haven't been at the top of my game recently (spoiler alert: more on that later), but today finally was the day. I tried organizing something fun as well as interesting for her, you know, show her something really cool and give her all the background info I have as a student and a tour guide. Without a car, though, that's a little challenging. In the end, we teamed up with my friend Daniel and went to Macqueripe early this morning. Early meaning he picked me up just before six and we picked her up at her guest house some twenty-five minutes later (because we couldn't find the place right away). From there we headed West, past a doubles and pie place on the Western Main Road in St James, and went to Macqueripe to see the "famous" bamboo cathedral and possibly go for a dip at the beach there.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I expected from the bamboo cathedral, but it was more than what we ended up getting. Kind of anti-climactic, that was. Nice and pretty, definitely, but not astonishing. And when we got to the beach it started raining, so we went back home. I know, that's not usually a reason to not swim, but the temperature of the water (low!) and basic democracy sent us back to the car and up the road.

How come, then, that this is the exciting part of the tale? The monkeys!

I knew that there were monkeys in some places in Trinidad, but I'd never encountered them before. I thought they might be a myth on the "mainland" and just exist in small groups DDI, down de islands. As in, on some of the small islands in the gulf. But no, they really exist!

As we entered the walking trail into the Cazabon Park, part of the Chaguaramas National Park, somebody told us to "look up, it have a monkey up dey." We looked up and, failing to play it cool, I was immediately reduced to squeals of delight and other similarly embarrassing behaviours that are not really appropriate for anyone over the age of nine. Couldn't help it. Just couldn't.

High up in the bamboo grove, right above our heads, there was a monkey. It completely ignored my invitations to come down and play, but I'm not blaming it for that. We're silly humans, after all. Why would he play with us?

After a while, we did start walking and it's like the monkeys knew the bamboo cathedral isn't that impressive, so they kept appearing from time to time, almost as if to make up for the lack of intrigue of the place itself.

There were even two little monkeys! Tiny, little ones! Hopping around branches after bigger ones! The cuteness was borderline unbearable!!!

Anyway, we walked for a little while, then I got too tired and we had to head back to the car, then the beach didn't work out, but, hey, monkeys! Worth it.

Evelyn, me, Daniel. Excited.

The munkie. Excited.

The bamboo cathedral. Not very excited.

Evelyn, I reallyreallyreally hope you had a good time this morning and we'll see each other again before you go back to Guate. Daniel, more apologies.

Now the not-so-positive: venting.

There's something I need to get out of my system, quite literally. Devastating isn't really adequate for describing this, but a few paragraphs ago I couldn't think of another word to use and neither can I now, so we'll stick with it. I'm sick. Like, sick sick. And I hate it. Like, hate hate.

It started with pain in my back, in the spine, that kept getting worse and worse... I could write a lot about this, but I shouldn't. My back finally doesn't hurt anymore and let's leave it at that. Thing is, though, the medication I got led to a throat infection. A very painful one. And because the immune system was on the fritz already, it spread. Quickly. Impressively high fevers, excruciating pain even when not swallowing or talking (I wish I were exaggerating), and exhaustion. So much exhaustion. Because my body was fighting who knows what - and on five different fronts. And more meds. When you take 17 (no joke) different things over the course of a day, let me tell you, it's no fun.

Anyway. The fifth person I spoke to (doctors and pharmacists involved in the process) finally figured out what was going on and prescribed something that helped. Had to nearly pass out in public first, but hey, better late than never. So that infection is cleared up now, but it left me with another infection. Don't ask me how that works, I didn't really understand the medical talk.

So I'm now ending the third (fourth?) week of this and I'm getting angry. I'm told I shouldn't take anything for this infection (which I welcome, because I'm understandably sick of pills and tablets), but the doc's recommended "rest and hydration" don't seem to cut it either.

I'm going to complain now.

For the first time today, the lymph nodes in my neck are not the size of ping pong balls, but they're still swollen and they still hurt. My ears hurt, like needles are being jammed into the ear canals. My throat hurts, but not like before, so that's good. My head hurts, which might have to do with the fever that comes to visit from time to time. It's nowhere as high as before and it doesn't stay as long, but it's nevertheless still here. I'm dizzy when I get tired and I get tired extremely quickly. Whether I'm lying down, sitting, standing or walking only affects the when, not the if. I am feeling sick to my stomach half the time, which seriously affects everything from nutrition to mood.

I made it out of the house and onto campus a total of three times this week and got a minimal amount of work done. When I go somewhere, I have to think hard whether I can walk that far and be up that long. Every time I think I'm better and I can get back to normal life, this thing punches me in the stomach or the ear - or both - and I have to almost literally crawl back to bed. That's how this morning I went from "oooh look at the cute monkey, I love it so much" via "I think I might throw up, please drive slow in case I need you to stop" to "I'm going to buy a club soda to settle my stomach, but could you come into the shop with me in case I fall" and it sucks. It seriously fucking sucks. I hate hate hate it.

I have work to do, but even walking to campus is a challenge, nevermind sitting in front of the computer for six hours. I'm still not hydrated enough, because every time I eat or drink is followed by an inward negotiation: keep it down, keep it down, keep it down. My ears hurt like a motherfucker, even when I try covering them with scarves or shawls to keep them warm and out of any air currents. Everything makes me dizzy. And I am still so exhausted. So exhausted.

I'm already not the best student or the most fun person to hang out with to begin with, no needto aggravate the situation by taking all energy away from me, for fuck's sake!

My question at this point is: What the fuck?!

You may think any or all of the following now:
- Stop whining so much and get your ass out of bed and to work.
- Self pity isn't going to get you anywhere.
- Don't be such a fucking baby.

And I understand you. Completely. Because I agree with you. I tell myself these things every day. And I swear I try, I really do. I drink as much water as I can, I try to sleep at night, I read as long as the letters won't jumble on the page, I have tea and vitamins and soup, I try to actually consume those things, I act like everything's okay whenever I can in hopes that I'll fool my body and mind into making it true. But this won't stop and I don't know what to do anymore because I've tried 500 things and it's not going away. I'm past sad at this point. And I'm past frustrated. All I am now is fucking furious.

And exhausted, of course.

So there we have it. A textbook isaontheway blog entry. Something fun with monkeys and humour and something the opposite of fun with pain and a lot of swearwords. Followed the formula down to the last comma.

I mean it, though.
This has to stop.
Right now.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shubh Diwali, parce!

Slowly, but surely, a small measure of social life and fun is making its way back into my otherwise fairly crowded-with-assignments student life. One of my goals for my second year at the University of the West Indies is to live more. As in, to spend more time with friends (old and new) than working or doing whatever else school related stuff on the office or the lab or the library by myself from Monday to Sunday. That means, there's a need for better planning and more structure, because I don't want my studies to suffer on account of me liming with people all the time; that's not how this works. No, the idea is to "simply" use the time I have at my disposal more efficiently, so that I can do both: work hard and play hard. I'm going let you know how that works out because - tadaah - I have no clue how to accomplish this. 

I had a good start today, though. It's Diwali and my Colombian friend who's staying at my house invited me to go to a little dinner thing with him. That turned out to be the most interesting Diwali I've ever had! 

We shall ignore the fact that it's only my second one. Shut up. 

Back to Diwali. We traveled up into Maracas St Joseph, just past the University of the Southern Caribbean, to Mr Persad's house. There, we were greeted by a sparkling display of lit deeyas and blinking lights, a whole bunch of people from all over the place, drinks and food that would have been enough to feed an army - and then send them home with bags of food to eat over the course of the weekend. 

Two things were especially great for me:

Everyone was super nice and I got to chat with plenty new people, from Trinidad as well as from different parts of Venezuela and Colombia. Spanish was spoken more than English. And there was even a Spanish professor from Barranquilla who amazed me by suddenly speaking to me in German. Our was insane - in the best way possible. 

The second thing was Mr Persad's love for all things latino and the colorful cultural collage that was its result. Speaking three different languages with some people I knew from before and a whole lot of people that were completely new to me, a mehendi drying on my right hand and a piece of kurma in my left, with Jorge Celedon singing over the crackling of the fireworks in the background. Yes. Freaking vallenato! It felt like being in Trinidad and Colombia at the same time, a meeting of two worlds in this already unusual space - so good!

Thanks to Alejandro for taking me along, thanks to Mr Persad for the invitation, thanks to his wife for the sweets that are now taking up all the space in my fridge (somebody come eat that, please).

Only one thing left to say:

Happy Diwali, my friend.
Shubh Diwali, parce!

Friday, October 10, 2014


The small nuisances of the Trinidadian rainy reason: when your shoes get soaked on the way to the office and you have to spend the rest of the day in wet socks. 

The small pleasures of the Trinidadian rainy season: when your shoes look sooo pretty in varying shades of grey!



Thursday, October 9, 2014

This one's an acquired taste.

Well, Facebook, aren't you the question and picture placement expert? Can you guess what my relationship status is? And can you guess why? 
Punspunspuns, ROFL!


PS: I learned how to take screenshots on my new phone!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Trolling fashionistas!

Trinidad is a place where the great majority of people are very fashion-conscious and even if they don't follow the latest international trends, hot off the runways and catwalks of the world, they'll at least do their best to look good in what they're wearing. Clothes fit properly, outfits go well together, hair is kempt, shoes are stylish, etc. Of course, that's a broad statement and quite a generalisation, but it's the sense I've gotten over the past two-ish years I've lived here. 

I've adapted myself, even, I'll be honest. I will never forget the time a friend told me the number one thing that made me stand out as a foreigner was that I was always dressed oh so comfortably. So, over time, my jeans have gotten a little bit tighter, my shoes a little bit "cuter" and my shirts and tops a little more figure-hugging, less flowy. Not by much, but they have. 

Can you imagine the fun I'm having now that none of my stuff fits right anymore and on top of that, because we've known that for a while, it's now too warm to wear the kind of shirt that my suspenders could go under? That's a bad thing, I know, that I'm constantly losing my pants, but that's not the point I'm making. Involuntarily, my style has now turned into something even less "appropriate" than back in those first months. 

I turn heads when I walk around campus in my 1990s dork clothes. Some people look like they're genuinely offended by my appearance, because it's the complete opposite of what any girly magazine would recommend. 

I'm not going to tell you I don't notice those looks. 
And I'm not going to tell you they don't affect me. 
Because they do. 


I revel in them! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Before I do tell you about the last week in Vienna or we explore some more, I need to tell you about today. Because today was an emotional success. I don't know if it really came through in yesterday's blog, but this first week back hasn't been the most awesome. You know, the stuff I need to take care of before I can settle into my work and study and live rhythm. Well. 

I got a break today, from all that, thanks to my friend Mark. He took me along to Macqueripe, where he was invited to an art showing by Che Lovelace, at his house and studio. I was slightly unsure whether I wanted to go or not, for a number of reasons. On one hand, I love art and I hate how little access to it I have here and I knew there would be lots of new people there. On the other side, I had a bad night and was still tired and a little sick from that and Macqueripe is so far away even from town and then I'm far from town on the opposite side and I knew there would be lots of new people there. Tough-ish. 

My love for art won. 

And, man, am I glad it did! 

I took a maxi into POS and Mark picked me up by City Gate and from there we drove out to Chaguaramas, taking a right towards Macqueripe just after the boardwalk and Pier One. Macqueripe is mostly known for the beach and the ziplining, but Mark taught me something new today. The residences in Macqueripe (and I didn't even know there were residential houses there...) were built for American officers and their families while the US had military bases on the island. Apparently, they still belong to the army, but can now be rented by anyone. They used to be the latest trend and pretty luxurious back then and while now they're not all that anymore, they're still really nice. 

And from the picture you can see how open the space is, so there's a nice breeze there that allows you to turn the fan off. I really enjoyed that today! 

What I also enjoyed very much were the people present. Mainly from the point of view of the researcher inside me. When you move around the arts scene, there's automatically a lot of people from outside. As in, from outside Trinidad. As in, the people whose lives I'm researching! I don't yet know why, but I hope to find out in the course of my project. So seeing those people and making new contacts was difficult but wonderful at the same time. Really, in that sense it was a rather productive day, because that experience can even go into my fieldwork diary! 

What did I like best, you ask? 

(Really, you have to ask?) 

Anyway, my favourite part of the day was the art. All of it. The paintings on the walls in all the rooms. The paintings just leaning against the wall and the paintings under the bed. The paint and the brushes and all the utensils. The books. The music. The air in the place, the whole atmosphere. Like, whoa... 

It felt really good to take it all in and Che Lovelace is a really approachable person, or at least that's how it seemed today. I've only meet him this one time so far, but it was definitely a good first impression. Everybody was asking questions and not only did he answer them patiently, he answered them expensively, showing his knowledge as well as his passion. That was interesting for me as a student, because his views on culture are very interesting and I hope to at some point be able to pin him down for an interview for my thesis. And it was interesting for me as a person who likes art and paints herself from time to time, because his style is very intriguing to me. The colours as well as the materials incorporated are just so similar to what I wish I could work with. 

Thing is, I haven't gone to art school and I don't have all the knowledge and experience and I'm one hundred percent sure I'm also not patient enough. I wish, though, how I wish...

Go check this guy out to get a nice look at Trinidadian art. And if you're as lucky as me, you'll get stories of influences and thoughts behind paintings and about the process and how it feels and even tips on where to go for inspiration. 

Now, the reason I say today was helpful is that now I feel more secure in my being in Trinidad. The homecoming obviously didn't go or feel the way it could or should have and I've spent this first week missing more than just my family and friends, pondering the quality of the life decisions I've recently made. (Whoa, this got really heavy really quickly!) Anyway, the point is that today I enjoyed landscape and cityscape. I got to present myself to people as a PhD student and explain my work to them - and they were more than just a little bit interested; some seemed like they're actually looking forward to contributing through an interview at some point. I got to breathe art again, one of the things I miss the most when I'm not in Vienna. Therefore, for all of that, I just feel a lot more secure in being here, in Trinidad and at university. A lot of assertion today, which was quite necessary. I'm doubting and second guessing myself a lot less since this afternoon. I believe the first step out of the hole has been taken. (Overly heavy stuff over.)

Thanks, Che, for the glimpse into this fantastic world, which I hope to see more of. 

Thanks, Mark, for bringing me along today. 

Thanks, you, for reading. 

Arriving, or something like that.

What's with the sudden silence on here?!

Coming home is a piece of work, let me tell you that. Be it because taking three different flights is just really tiring. Or because you went from the airport straight to campus, like a good little student/prisoner/zombie. Or because when you did come home the toilet was broken and the very first thing you had to do was find a plumber. Or, maybe, because D) all of the above. And more! But I shall tell you all that later. 

As always, the first glimpse: Toco.

First, some good news: my luggage was not overweight and I didn't have to pay extra for it. Also, it arrived with me and none of it got lost along the way. Kudos to all the airlines involved, and that was a whole bunch. And even more good news: the immigration people in Tobago gave me the full year!!! They took my passport into a side office and made me wait at the back of the arrivals hall, so my guess is that they just straight up called UWI and got the confirmation they needed. They didn't have to do that, though, they could just as well have given me 1-3 months and sent me on the stamp-getting odissey myself. Thank you, lady at that desk, for not doing that. You rock. 

When I reached Trinidad, a whole welcome committee was waiting for me. Not immediately, but they sort of came trickling in one by one. Originally, Dean was going to pick me up, he had my keys, after all. But he had class that evening and was going to "run away early" so I wouldn't have to wait too long. Obviously, that's not something I could stand for so I said no worries, do your thing and I'll meet you at UWI. So Hamish came to pick me up. And Hamish is a colleague and friend of mine who is seen on campus and even online extremely rarely, it's like saying a sparkling bigfoot-unicorn came to pick me up. People will, at random intervals, insist they've seen it. Then others doubt them until they doubt themselves. And somewhere in the woods that unicorn is laughing its ass off. Anyway, Dean apparently either didn't take me seriously or didn't want to risk my getting kidnapped somewhere in the dark and dangerous streets of St Augustine (yeah, I know, ridiculous but cute) so when I called him to ask where on campus to meet him he said he was actually on his way to the airport. But so was Hamish. That's the kind of dilemma you feel great to be in; honestly, that stressed me because I felt bad for them and for being the cause of trouble, but at the same time it also made me feel really good on the inside. We solved that by Dean turning around and going back to his own stuff and me coming by with Hamish to pick up my keys. In case the fifteen times I have already thanked each of you in person don't suffice, here's a public one: thank you SO MUCH for helping me come home, you are both awesome. I mean it. 

While I was waiting, a colleague from the - totally voluntary on my side - tourist shenanigans suddenly showed up, to pick up a couple of Germans who had been on the flight just after mine. It was fun to see his surprised expression when I was standing in front of the terminal - even better because he, by sheer coincidence, pulled up right in front of me. And then the boss showed up as well, for yet another group of tourists, if I understood that correctly. But it's great when you get to say hi to people you know as soon as you arrive, it makes the arrival feel more legitimate. Like you're really part of the place. Not just a visitor. 

There's another reason I'm telling you this, though. Look: 

This car was parked with the trunk open right in front of my very heavy luggage. The keys were in the ignition. The owner had gone inside to find the Germans and left his phone with me so I could call Hamish and Dean. How do you know I'm a good person? Despite ridiculously and invitingly ample opportunity, I did not just take the phone and take the car and go! (I'm patting myself on the shoulder right now.)

It was smooth sailing for the rest of the way too. Hamish came and we went to campus, but only to meet Dean where he was having his karate practice and get my keys - not to go into the office! We found Dean, so I got my keys and a hug, which was great. Then we went to the house, which was still standing. I'd been incredibly nervous about that. 

It hasn't been a full week yet, but I already feel like Austria was a weird dream and didn't really happen. I guess that's how it goes when you flip the UWI-switch to the ON position. 

During this time, I've been unpacking and doing laundry and putting away all the stuff I brought. I searched for, found and called a plumber, who came and fixed the toilet. I've been giving my little presents to people, but it's not making me happy, because if I could have my way then everyone would get way more and different things. I've been going around campus letting people know that I don't know where the rumour originated, but it's definitely not true; I am back and I am here to stay and I am doing a course and they need to find me work in the department and please put my name back on all the lists and directories. I've been looking for the person who started the rumour that I'd left for good so I can (verbally and emotionally) punch them in the fricking face (because I'm not a violent person). I've been working. I've been working. I've been working. I've been missing my Austrian lovelies while walking home from campus in the rain. 

I have a few more things to sort out before I can find my work and study rhythm, but once I do it'll all be good again. 

As soon as that rhythm is set and things are flowing naturally again and the rumour-devil has been figuratively given a few cracks in his or her facial bones, I'll tell you my leftover stories from Vienna and surely also some new stories from here. In the meantime, shorts for the DiscoverVienna series and the assurance that all is well. 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Undercity

Disclaimer: This is not an excerpt from a Neil Gaiman novel! 

The canals under Vienna are more special than you'd think and much, much more special than most people know. Not only, because a good and functioning sewage system is vital for any city and its population's well-being. 

First, for us history geeks: In 1739, Vienna was the very first European city to have an area-wide, extensive sewage system beneath its streets and edifices. 

Second, for us movie buffs: The awesome movie The Third Man, set in a hardly recognizable Vienna destroyed by the Second World War, features the Vienna sewers as part of its star cast, with Holly Martins' and Orson Welles' chase set largely in the undercity. Today, you can do a tour of the city based on the movie, which also takes you into the extensive tunnel system under the streets - don't worry, it's not what most of us would expect! 

I myself haven't done that tour yet, but I really want to. So wait until I make it back to Austria again and we can check it out together. 

Idea and historic date: Unnützes WienWissen

Monday, September 29, 2014

And off she went.

Today is a sad day. 
It's also a happy day. 
Most of all, it's going to be a very long day. 

I can't actually complain, I only had to get up this morning. I didn't have to steer three car that took me to the airport, I won't have to operate the flight to Frankfurt or fly the next one to Tobago or the next one to Piarco. 

I just have to shuffle from one vehicle to the next, sit still for some hours and not forget my luggage anywhere (again). 

I just left home. 
I'm going home. 
This is confusing. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

En garde!

Europe is a dangerous place. 
Okay, no, it isn't. 
But it used to be. 

And back then we had to be on guard (title pun!) so everyone could be safe. More or less. Or something like that...

When the Second World War raged all over the place, towers were built in Vienna - as well as other places - to better defend the city. They are called Flaktürme (the singular noun being Flakturm) and they still stand. You can find the one from the picture below close to the shopping mile Mariahilfer Straße and today it houses the Haus des Meeres, our aquarium. 

The towers are all of different heights, because of their different locations in the city. But all of their topmost platforms are at the exact same altitude above sea level.

On a related but less cruel note, there's yet another - very interesting - kind of tower in Vienna. On the university's campus grounds in Altes AKH, which used to be the general hospital before a new more modern one was built and thew put students instead of patients into the former one, you'll find the so-called Narrenturm. The fools' tower. 

It was built in the year 1784 as an asylum for, well, mentally extraordinary people. You get my drift, right? Thus, it was first of its kind in the whole world. 

Oh yeah, we can definitely be proud of that one... 

Idea: Unnützes WienWissen

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Grätzl Dinner

A short while ago, we - meaning a bunch of CS oldies - made an interesting discovery: a lot of us live in the Ten. Now, when I say in the Ten, what I mean is in the tenth of Vienna's 23 districts, Favoriten.

And by we I mean Stefan Hug, Stephanie Wo and Xtine (plus Fynn!). And because we're not mean and elitist, we also had Josef and Marcus over, at least some of the times, because both of them were otherwise engaged for two of our food nights.

To take full advantage of this awesome coincidence, we started a series of dinner parties in our Grätzl. Grätzl is a Viennese word describing a small area in an urban environment, like part of a district but not a whole one. In Spanish we'd probably call it a barrio. If I try to find you an English example, maybe the closest would be something like the Upper East Side..? An area comprising a few streets, a few blocks; it can be tiny or relatively big, but it's not a full district, always just part of one. Anyhow, because four of us currently live within walking distance from each other, we organized half-regular get-togethers over the last few weeks. 

The first dinner was at Stefan Hug's place; he lives around the corner from me in the same building as my dad. He made nachos with cheese and guacamole and veggie enchiladas, all of which was delicious. I decided to go along with his food theme and made an Aztec chocolate cake. That means I made a chocolate cake and then it chili flakes into it, because as far as I know, both chocolate and chili come originally from that post of the so-called new world. 

This even says hot chocolate in Nahuatl!

The next dinner was at Stephanie's place, who lives the furthest from me - a full ten minutes walking! Whoa!! At her place we cooked together, making a yummy pumpkin risotto. Then she made delicious Wuchteln (Buchteln in "Hochdeutsch") with vanilla sauce door dessert. Actually, Marcus made the sauce.

Dinner number three happened at Christine's place: also around the corner from me, but some three houses up the road. Still ridiculously close, though. She prepared veggie pasta and we all just brought juice and wine. You can see how the collective effort gradually goes down with every passing meal...

There will be more dinner parties, but without me. I'm leaving on Monday. I might get to swing by via Skype and thus repeat the Christmas experience. 

For now: Bon appetite, guys.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A night with Harry Potter.

A tradition was born last year, when Iris (the beautiful bride) and I started a Harry Potter marathon during my annual visit to Austria. Unfortunately, we didn't finish all eight movies so we had to continue this year. I'm calling it a tradition now because we (I) decided that this is going to happen every year from now on. And not just Harry Potter either, we're also going to repeat our Star Wars marathon and add The Lord Of The Rings and maybe even Pirates Of The Caribbean. 

Funny sidenote: I'm writing this on my phone and autocorrect had a great movie idea - Pirates Of The Vatican! Hollywood, please make that happen asap. 

Now, you've been through this with us before, I think, so you're aware of a very important detail: it's not a real movie marathon without themed food. In the past we've had a Whomping Willow Cake, and for the Star Wars night I brought Ewok Cupcakes and we made an amazing Yoda Pizza. This time, I made Gryffindor Spell Cupcakes and a Quiddiche (patent pending). 

The cupcakes are simple enough, I just made my go-to easy chocolate muffins and then used marzipan and icing from the wedding preparation to turn then into magical instead of normal desserts. 

The Quiddiche was a little trickier. But so much fun! 

For those who haven't caught on yet, a Quiddiche is a Quidditch-themed quiche. Oh yeah, we're at that kind of high intellect level right now. This specific one was autumn flavoured - meaning zucchini and pumpkin and pumpkin seeds and cheese - because the colder season had already started. This is a story from the beginning of September, but it was already almost as cold outside as it is at the moment. 

Here's my Quiddiche: 

Harry would have loved it!!! 

And, Harry, we love you.
See you again next year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frozen Traditions

It was my dad's birthday this past week and he said he wanted to celebrate by having ice cream at a place that, much more than just an ice cream parlour, is a true institution in Vienna.

What could this mean if not Let's go to Tichy? That's right, nothing. So to Tichy we went. 

An eternity ago (1955) a man named Kurt Tichy opened this ice cream place on the corner of Rotenhofgasse and Reumannplatz and business took off immediately. Theirs used to be my favourite ice cream in all of Austria, especially the hazelnut flavoured one. Oh boy, just remembering it makes me want to go back in time and get a big huge portion! 

Why go back in time? Did it close down? No, it's still right where it's always been. Is it not good anymore? Nope, it's still so delicious that select restaurants and cafes all over the country but their ice cream in bulk so they can offer their patrons a special treat. It's still so delicious that when I'm in the airport ore a train station I regularly hear the words: "The first thing I'm going to do now that I'm back in the country is get an ice cream from Tichy!" No kidding. But then what's changed? My tastes and preferences, unfortunately. I just don't like that creamy and thick kind of ice cream anymore. Otherwise, I would have been making daily trips to that corner of our district! 

You should definitely do that if you're visiting Vienna. If you live here, then I guess I don't have to tell you, because you know exactly what I'm talking about and your inner child is flashing everyone its sweet-tooth in a huge grin that says Oh Yesss! 

If that wasn't enough to convince you, then check this out: a ground-breaking invention was made here in the late sixties. 

In 1967, Kurt Tichy invented the Eismarillenknödel - a sweet apricot dumpling made of ice cream, apricot sorbet and ground hazelnuts. He got the patent for his sweet treat after a short while and since then has added other kinds of Eisknödel to his assortment. 

This, fortunately, is something I still like. No, love! My tastes haven't changed that much. That's why I ordered the four-Knödel-special when dad and I went there on Thursday. 

Wait, isa, you had four of these things?! No, duh, of course I didn't. I said I ordered that. Dad was the one who ate it. But that's what dads are for, isn't it? 

Even though he had his own ice cream cup as well! That's what I call a hero. 

Now, you've been given an important piece of advice: Go to Tichy! 


More about last week.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


The time since coming back from Rome has been action filled to a point where I can't even keep up with my own plans anymore. I just want to go back to bed and stay there for the rest of today. That's what Sundays are for anyway, isn't it?

But let me tell you what happened this eventful week: I got shot in the face with a laser - twice; it was my dad's birthday and we celebrated it the old-school way; I went to Mexico with some of my Favorite friends (this one's bursting with puns); Harry Potter came for a visit; school started. I know, it's crazy!

Let's start at the beginning: getting shot in the face with lasers. The day after I came back from Italy I had a life-altering appointment with my dermatologist. Un-un-un-un-unfortunately it was time to get rid of something that has defined my appearance for the last twenty years or so. Possibly more. I'm talking about the birthmark on my nose. The truth is that I have no memory of myself without that mark, I've only seen pictures from before I got it. But those don't count as part of one's memory bank. So, as far as my history of myself is concerned, I've always had this. 

This is the last picture of my face the way it used to look: 

I look absolutely terrible in this photo because of how nervous I was. Not because of the procedure, because you get injected with anaesthetic so you don't feel the laser burning of bits of your face. Not because of the injection, because I hadn't thought of that - but I should have been, because that thing hurt like a bitch! No, I was nervous because I was and still am scared that once the birthmark was gone I'd be a different person. Looks-wise, maybe even on the inside. Just not myself anymore.

Still, alas, it was time. 

The injection hurt so much I can't even describe the amount of pain I felt. I tried when somebody asked me about it and the closest I've gotten is saying that it hurt like seven bees stinging my nose in the very same spot and even trying to burrow into my face with their entire bodies, stinger-first. But that's wrong. First, it would have had to be wasps, not bees, because bees are not that mean. Second, it hurt more than that. 

The procedure itself didn't hurt at all, I just felt pressure when the doc wiped over the spot with disinfectant and I smelled said disinfectant as well as that terrible odor of charred skin and flesh - because that's what was happening: I got shot in the face with a laser that burnt of part of my skin. Helluva weird story. 

I can't show you an after-picture, because it's not over yet. My nose is healing and until it's fully recovered I won't see any difference; I look almost the same right now. 

Here's my reaction to taking off the bandaid: 

Apprehension, then shock, then SHOCK.

Now, I'm trying to be patient and just wait for the little scab to come off on its own so I don't hurt myself even more. When that happens, we'll know what I look like now.

The new isaontheway..?

Keep reading about this crazy week. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rome from Alpha to Omega

Because there are so many posts from Rome and it's easy to lose track of what you have and haven't looked at, here's a little clickable list of all the Italy and Vatican City -related entries:

Day 1:
Modo Roma ::ON::

Day 2:
From A to B, via history!
Art supplies, Warhol and the Pantheon.

Day 3:
A good start.
Castel Sant'Angelo has a poltergeist!!!
San Pietro - the square.
San Pietro - the basilica.
DeSpar - DeLiciousness
Fontana di Trevi? Not really.

Day 4:
My secret superpower!!!
Interactive Leonardo!!
Piazza trumps Pizza

Day 5:
Old things.
Cimiteri are awesome!
Piazza Navona Notturna

Day 6:
Black Bag Magic

I hope you'll have or already had a lot of fun visiting Rome with me!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Black Bag Magic

Let me be honest. I did go shopping this morning, as I'd said I would. I got the coffeemaker I've been dreaming about constantly since I saw it a few days ago. I got something for my mom. I got something for my dad. I didn't get anything for my grandma, because I already got her something in the Vatican on Saturday. I didn't get anything for anybody else. Let me tell you why so your opinion of me doesn't get worse than it already is.

I don't believe in cheesy souvenirs. Unless that's what a person wants and they explicitly ask for it. The thing I don't enjoy doing is giving a gift purely for the sake of giving something. That's superficial and devoid of real meaning and I don't like it. I always have trouble giving presents for special occasions, for the same reason. I'd rather not give you anything for Christmas instead of getting you something random that's not from the heart just because I had to and was put under pressure by social conventions. I'm the person who meets you for a coffee and brings you a piece of cake or a book or a necklace or whatever, just because. No real reason. I saw it and thought of you and that's all. That's how I like giving things.

And that's why 99% of my friends and family won't get any gifts from Rome. I could get everyone a key chain or a mass produced plastic ashtray that says "I LOVE ROMA - MADE IN CHINA," but I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for that.

I would have to spend a day scouring the city, getting the perfect thing for every single person - and, believe me, I have a mental list with what exactly I would get everyone - but I'm not made of money. And I'd need a lot of that, because those people are special to me. And when I say everyone, well then I mean everyone. Ask me what anyone would get, of you're curious. But please do understand.

That said, yes, I did buy a few things. But definitely nowhere near enough to cause my baggage to double. And that's in visible bulk, in volume! If we were talking about weight, we'd be dealing with triple of not quadruple figures.

How?!, I wonder.

Witches and black magic!, I tell you.

Anyway, I managed to pack everything up and am now sitting in the nice but ridiculously overpriced Caffè Tre Scalini, enjoying a cappuccino doppio, a glass of water, the fan + finely sprayed water outdoor cooling system, and the view of locals and tourists and musicians and artists and street vendors and probably a few pickpockets around my favourite fountain. You know which one I'm talking about.

I'm going to go ahead and say it's been a good visit. I got everything I wanted to get, I ate everything I wanted to eat, I saw everything I wanted to see. Despite initial stumbles I had great accommodation, my feet could have been even worse than they currently are, and the weather was brilliantly beautiful the whole time, even though the forecast had predicted thunderstorm after thunderstorm. I even learned a few words in Italian.

Also, before I forget again, his name is Salvatore.

See you in Wien!

Piazza Navona Notturna

My last evening in Rome was very nice, as I didn't spend it in bed. Not that spending the evening in bed - especially with a book - isn't nice, don't get me wrong. But I'm told that when you're in a new city you should at least pretend you're interested on the local nightlife. I'm definitely not, I'd much rather read and/or knit all evening, but I made an exception yesterday. 

My friend Bernadette is a sweetheart and got me in touch with her friend Giorgio, a local, a Romano! We met up in the evening and went to explore - bars and restaurants instead of ruins and museums. Unfortunately, it did involve food to which I didn't know how to say no, which is why I'm telling you this now and not after I came home (like you even care), but at least Giorgio knew where to find the real deal and the good stuff, so said food was authentically Roman and very well prepared. Not too bad, in the end. 


Also, I've now tried everything I was supposed to try: pizza, pasta, gelato and antipasti! 

After the extraordinarily late dinner came what was the evening's highlight for me: Piazza Navona at night. 

I insisted on going there again so I could see the square and especially the Fontana Quattro Fiumi all pretty and illuminated and, of course, to take pictures of it all. 

I wish I'd had my tripod, but thanks to light posts, intricate fences and benches, the photos are not too blurry. 

[PN at night] 

Now I have to go pack, which usually wouldn't take much time at all, especially now that I'm travelling über-lightly, but I need to make the maximum space in my bag because my last stop before the airport today is at that store I told you about in the beginning. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Cimiteri are awesome!

A cimitero is a cemetery. Specifically, the awesome one I'm talking about is the cimitero acattolico here in Rome. The non-catholic cemetery.

I like visiting cemeteries in general, whenever I'm in a new city or country. It's always interesting to look at how a people keep their graves, because it tells you so many different things. Do they have big tombs and mausoleums or the opposite, stone drawers in a wall? Are there flowers; live or cut or plastic? Are the graves well taken care of, or are they broken and dirty and overgrown? Are names and dates on the graves, or whole epitaphs, or nothing? Again, I just really think you can learn a lot there, aside from preferred architectural and artistic styles. It may not be living and breathing history and culture, but it nevertheless is pretty cool.

The non-catholic cemetery is especially interesting, because it's where all the foreigners who lived in Rome were/are buried - and a crazy amount of them were or still are famous!

John Keats!

There are also some of the most famous gravesite statues, like the gorgeous and much-copied Weeping Angel.

Many, many other graves there are simply beautiful, even though the people buried in them were not famous. Or at least not famous enough for a dummy like me to know them.

Pictures with creepy filter.

But, actually, it wasn't creepy at all. It was beautiful.

The cimitero acattolico is like a different place inside of Rome, because the noise and smell of the traffic outside doesn't penetrate the graveyard's walls and it's almost like its own microclimate in there. Especially because of all the green: trees and bushes and grass everywhere. And the gravel crunching under your feet as you walk around. As far as that's possible for a cemetery, this one's right out of a fairytale. 

And there's even a pyramid! 

There was one grave there, though, that I should have visited but didn't. I could kick myself for that, but I can't actually kick myself. I'll ask someone to kick me later...

Antonio Gramsci, the master who managed to get me to understand cultural hegemony, was laid to rest in this cemetery.

And I forgot to visit his grave!


I am definitely getting someone to kick me later, this is just terribleterribleterrible.

In my defense (like such a thing could ever be excused...), by then my feet were hurting so bad I alternated between sitting down - whoever invented the bench, I love you - and tiptoeing instead of walking (hobbling). On the way to the part of the cemetery where he lies, I came past the main gate and upon seeing that, my brain shut down from thirst and pain. I forgot everything and left. On the way home I bought six drinks (3x juice, 3x fizzie stuff) and then sat down at a tram stop with the intention of - for the first time while in Rome - not walking but taking public transport. I drank a litre of red orange juice with water, but the tram never came, so I had to walk back after all.

I took the short way, though, not like earlier.

But, gosh, I guess the truth is I deserved to have to walk, because of my worst of actions. Antonio, I'm sorry.