This is a Set-up

So, I’ve noticed a pattern which started about my junior year of high school.  As I have mentioned in several post, I tend to take my time being single and don’t put too much stock into finding relationships.  I don’t like to stress over it, and I feel like if I do then it’s not really worth it.  Someone always comes along on their own.  This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy relationships, I do.  I just don’t usually obsess over it.

Despite my nonchalant approach to finding someone, my friends and family have a totally different view.  And while I know they are only trying to help, I just have no desire to be set up.  I may have made a similar post on this topic before, but it’s happening all over again.  Let me just say, I have had about 4 bad experiences with being set up.  My first experience was with a drugie stalker.  I never actually met this person, but one of my friends was scrapbooking one day, when her friend saw my picture and wanted to meet me.  Long story short, turned out he was a drugie and he ended up dating a strung out 40 year old woman with kids.

The second experience I was a little more open too.  My brother in law and sister knew this guy, who they thought I should meet.  He was gorgeous, and I, unfortunately, did not have the balls to talk to him.  Ended up dodging another bullet there.  Turns out he was popping pills and ended up proposing to his ex-girlfriend while strung out one night.

Another friend as some point, tried to get me to meet her friend.  His fine selling points: really sweet and helps his grandma around the house.  At 18 years old, this is not really appealing, heh.  The last experience was with a mutual friend.  We had known each other for a couple of months, and then one of our friends decided we would make the cutest couple.  So she proceeded to set us up (even though I kind of knew what was going on and didn’t really appreciate it).  That one ended poorly, needless to say.

So back to the present.  I have never really liked being set up since.  When I became single again, I knew it was only a matter of time before this same issue cropped up again.  What is it really about being single that makes our friends think we need help in the romance department?  It’s not that my friend’s friends are bad either, just not what I’m looking for usually.  And hell, I might be shooting myself in the foot for saying this, but sometimes there is a good reason that people are single.

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Japan Fest 2011

So let me start out by saying, JSO (Japanese Student Organization) has really grown this year (like exponentially).  I wasn’t even sure it existed last year because I never heard anything about it.  However, this year is different.  The club has a whole new officer line-up, which totally changed the dynamic of the club.  That and the fact that every group of abroad students has their own unique characteristics.  We sort of got off to a slow start, but we are making up for it since school started back.

Probably one of the highlights of the club for this year was Japan Fest in Atlanta.  It was also a test of our officers, as many of the people going could not drive.  So we ended up having around 30 people and having about 6 drivers (after much work organizing the driving list.)  After a slight delay, we headed out at around 7:10 in the morning our time, and got to the festival around 11:30 with only a few minor hiccups.  We ate lunch there, which for me was tonkotsu ramen (I haven’t really gotten to eat that except in Japan) and it was great.  We watched some sumo, sword demonstrations, and taiko drums before chilling outside in the “beer garden”, which was mostly a patio with some tables and chairs with a little beer stand in the back.  But relaxing nonetheless.  Ciara and I wandered around for awhile, exploring all the different little booths available.  I found a nice little bento box, and we both got our names written in kanji.  The best part is that almost everything that required money (except the bento) went to a donation for tsunami relief in Japan.

So after figuring out who would be riding in which car again (some minor transportation issues had to be worked) we went to a korean karaoke place near Super H Mart and rented a big room for two hours.  (If you don’t know, asian style karaoke involves a rented room with friends and your own microphone and such, so no embarrassment or waiting for others to do songs).  The room was about $80 for everyone, which divided came down to $3.50 apiece.  So really it was not bad for all of the entertainment we got out of it, and boy was there entertainment.

After that we browsed around in Super H Mart (mostly asian grocery store) and I found some peach yogurt drink (not specifically calpis, but for status purposes I call it that), daifuku (how can I not buy that at an asian food store?), and the highlight of my day, Ritter Sport (which I ate in Vienna and they are to die for!)  Best part about it, the wrappers still have German all over them, not even a cheap little sticker was put over the ingredients part, just straight up from Germany Ritter Sports.  I know, I love chocolate entirely too much…

Aside from that I drove back home, trying to keep myself awake by imagining clowns on both sides of the road (only two people I know who read this blog will get that, heh.)  Then I just vegged out after dropping everyone off.  But because I have only had about 5 hours of sleep last night (I had to work a closing shift), I think it’s bed time for me.

Ireland Part 2

So there are only a few pictures I can share with you on this post since we only spent 2 days in Ireland on the return trip. Most of this post will talk about airports and why I do not really like the ones I went to in Europe (*cough* Heathrow *cough*). There is a slogan for Vienna (and I think it’s actually the city motto) Wien ist anders. (Vienna is different.) Through most of my experiences there, I did see a couple of odd little quirks about Vienna, but I never really 100% believed the motto until I had to go through the Vienna airport. (Arriving in it was a little weird, but departing from it was much weirder so I wanted to talk about it here.) First of all, we could not find our ticket kiosk for the life of us because there were no clearly marked places for our airline. So after asking several people, we eventually got there. Unfortunately Becca’s bag was about 10 kg overweight which would have cost her about 300 Euros in fees. So we had to redistribute and throw away a handful of items.

After that crisis was sorted out, we went through a little ticket gate where we scanned our boarding passes, and I thought, “okay, we are about to go through security.” Wrong. We just kept walking and walking. And I saw all of those little duty free stores and wondered if that gate was the airport security. Then I saw immigration and thought, “okay, security will be after this.” Wrong. We got our passports stamped and walked past more stores. We did not go through security until we were right next to our gate. They sort of had three gates grouped together and you went through that certain security checkpoint if one of those gates was yours. We also did not directly walk from our gate to the airplane. We walked down to the tarmac and took a bus to our plane and walked up the rolling staircase to get on board. Other than that it was a normal experience I suppose. It made my day that the ladies beside me only spoke to me in German. I know, nerd!

Then we got to London Heathrow. We had about a 4 hour layover there, give or take. So we got off the plane and walked by immigration (because you usually only have to fill it out if you are staying in the country, not for a layover. And I distinctly remember going through London the first time for an overnight layover and not having to go through immigration. We never left the airport. We just waited for about 3 hours, and we decided to go to our gate about 40 minutes until departure (they only give you a gate number 45 minutes in advance there). Well, there is a lady checking our boarding passes, and she tells us that we have to turn around, go outside of the secure zone, and go through immigration because we don’t have our pictures in their system. 35 minutes until departure. So we ran through the airport, went through immigration (and in my picture I look like I am about to kick someone in the throat, mind you) and we ran back to security to get through. Let me just say right here, I have been through Atlanta airport security several times, and even if the line is backed up it moves faster than the 8 person line at Heathrow. Why? Only one security station was set up, but that was not the real issue. The guards were talking to each other and joking around while we stood in line and waited for them to grace us with their ability to scan a bag. We were only waiting on one more bag, and they had stopped for a chat and got irritated when we told them we had about 20 minutes to get on our plane and that we needed our other bag.

So not even bothering to put my things away, or even to put my shoes on, we sprinted through the airport (about a 20 minute walk) to our gate, only to find it was the wrong gate. We asked someone to call the correct gate (all the way across the airport) and tell them to hold the plane. So we did make our flight. When I got on the plane the stewardesses gave me some water (I apparently looked like I was about to keel over). Becca almost strangled herself when she took her bad off her shoulders. They both happened to be caught on opposite ends of her scarf and as she tried to alleviate the problem of the first bag, she only made it worse and had to force the scarf over her head while gasping for air. But other than that, uneventful and short flight.

We got to Dublin again, and we were all pretty tired and grumpy from the experience of the day, but we decided to walk around and find some food. We ended up at the same fish and chips place we went to the first time around. It was still good. Then we walked around to the Temple Bar area and drank a Guinness there. They had some pretty good live music there, but it was definitely a tourist trap. Each beer was about $7.50, which is way more than I paid in Galway and Vienna. So after a beer we walked back to the hostel and crashed.

The next morning we took an afternoon trip to Howth, which is on the outskirts of Dublin by the ocean/sea/whatever you would call it. There was a nice little harbor and we spent a lot of our time there. Joni braided our hair (which she is really good at by the way). The highlight was probably the fact that we saw wild seals in the harbor. One even poked his little head up no more than 20 feet away from where we were sitting. After that we ventured out to find some food, and ended up stumbling upon some ruins of an old church. We walked around there for a couple of minutes only to be driven away by our rumbling stomachs. We ended up eating at this little restaurant which served a whole host of things, but we all got Sheppard pie and split some seafood chowder. No complaints there, it was great. The last thing we did there was walk up to a church. But it was really awkward. The church was nice, but when we went in there was a lady with her old dog, who I thought was trying to get out so I went to stop it and she told me to stop because he might bite. There was also a sick lady in there praying aloud. We didn’t stay long.

So that was pretty much it for Ireland. The next morning we went to the airport and flew back home. I will say this, the whole time I was riding back I kept trying to imagine how hot it would be in Atlanta, but I could no longer fathom it. When I stepped into the sunlight, I honestly felt like I was dying. So the excursion ends here. I might make another post soon detailing the good, bad, and the ugly from Europe (most of it good mind you). We’ll see.

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Vienna Week 5

So our last week in Vienna began with our last excursion in our culture class to Schloss Schönbrunn, which is the summer palace of the Hapsburgs and was modeled after Versailles in Paris. I know I mentioned walking around the gardens in an earlier post, but we did not go inside the actual castle or anything. We ended up going in this time, armed with an audio guide and hopefully enough European rudeness to successfully navigate our way through the tourists without going crazy. There were no pictures allowed in the castle, so I have nothing to offer there. But you should know that it is really pretty. There is baroque and rococo architecture everywhere, with some rooms also being influenced by east Asia. Maria Theresa was a very important person who lived there (and it was her favorite place to live actually). She had several daughters, one of the most famous being Marie Antoinette. Napoleon’s son lived and died in the palace, but he lived a lonely and very sad life and ended up dying alone at age 21. But the most famous inhabitants of the palace were Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth (Sisi). There is a long and interesting history behind the two, and I will link to wikipedia for those who care to read about it.

After we toured the palace, we found an interesting little playground with all sorts of neat things for kids to do. There were fun house mirrors, xylophones, sound wave communicators (where you stand by these satellite dish looking things and you could hear the person at the other one on the other side of the playground), and jungle gyms. After re-visiting our childhood for a bit, we ventured on to the labyrinths. We walked through a maze and climbed up this little platform in the center (but actually the end of the maze part), then we went through actual labyrinths, some of which had little puzzles throughout to do, but we didn’t have time to dwell. After that we walked up to the Gloriette, which is that building on the hill which Becca and I visited earlier in the trip. It was kind of a cloudy and icky day, so it was not nearly as nice as when Becca and I visited it, and we were rushed to get back in time for the apple strudel demonstration, which was awesome, especially since we got free samples. The last thing we got to see was the Orangery, which despite its name, does not have oranges in it.

The next day we had our final in the culture class, which was pretty easy and I ended up making an A on it, so I was happy with that. Becca, Trevor, and I also ate at ATIB (the Turkish place) again. We aren’t sure what we had, but it was good. Mine tasted like some sort of casserole actually, and it have cauliflower and broccoli in it. We also drank some Turkish tea. The guys serving us were really nice, and they asked where we came from, and when we told them America, they got pretty excited about it. My favorite exchange was when he gave us our tea and was putting sugar in it for us and then stopped and said, “anymore and you will become fat like me!” and patted his tummy. The only thing I could think of to say in reply was, “it’s too late for that, we’re Americans!” After that we went to the Penny Market and I bought chocolate like there is no tomorrow.

 On Wednesday we went back to the Prater (the amusement park) because there were a couple of rides Becca and a few other people wanted to ride again. We ended up racing on possibly the most dangerous go carts ever. They went really fast, everyone almost spun out going around each corner, and there were no seat belts, just helmets. I would have preferred them have seat belts, considering I was slammed into a wall and almost fell out of the cart, but it was okay. I stayed in. However, I was really sore from it for the next three days. I also went on the most terrifying ride ever, the Black Mamba (go about a minute in). I was assured that it was the most exciting ride ever, even though every nerve in my body screamed when I looked at it. Every time I watched that ride go, I thought, “this is what death looks like…” So after much convincing, I reluctantly went. I screamed the whole time, only stopping when we were hanging upside-down to tell my friend it was the most terrifying experience of my life. Needless to say, I lost my voice completely for three days, but it was not 100% for at least a week. And as a side note, not fun.

The next day was my German final, and after that I was completely done with all of my classes. I think it at least went okay. There were a couple of things I was not completely sure on, but I was never really worried about it. Afterward a couple of us went to de-register and become tourists again. Pretty uneventful. Then Joni, Becca, and I went to Naschmarkt, which is an outdoor market. It was really interesting, but it was raining so we didn’t get to see the whole thing. I did find a couple of Asian markets, and Calpis soda, which I totally bought. We ate at a nice little restaurant, and I got fish, which was a mistake because it had bones in it. So I only ate about half of it.

The next day we went to the Albertina, which is an art museum right next to the institute. There was some really good modern art there, and we got to see works by Monet and Picasso. I would say I enjoyed 80% of the art there. The other 20% consisted of works like Black on Black, which was just a piece of canvas painted black. I was kind of mad that that was in there… Towards the end we also saw a part of the old palace which was preserved. It also had some famous works from Dürer as well as several Renaissance artists. I want to say a couple of sketches from Michelangelo were in there, but I could be wrong. After that we went to a cafe, where the waiter was incredibly rude so we left (and didn’t give him a tip!) and went to the nice little cafe beside the institute. The lady was really nice and we talked to her for about five minutes while we were paying. We ended up sampling each others cakes we bought. They were all good, but I don’t remember the names of all of them.

I think it was that night we visited one of our teachers (Pookey Rae Rae) and a student who came to Vienna last summer but was visiting after her abroad program in Spain ended. It was nice, we just sat around and talked. The most interesting part was when my roommate and I were going home. Pookey, Ella, and I all lived in the same district (the 14th) so it was not too far from our houses (maybe a 30 minute walk at the most). We had taken the Strassenbahn there when we went, but they had stopped running by the time we left, so we decided to walk instead of take the subway around (it would have taken about the same amount of time). About halfway home we saw a woman standing on the street corner, with a skirt so short we could see her actual bum, and no underwear to boot. We never thought we lived in the red light district of Vienna! So the rest of the way home, we played I Spy Prostitute. We counted 13 and we saw two get picked up. It made the whole walk home worth it.

The next day my roommate Ella and I ventured out the the 16th district in order to find the Turkish market. After navigating the Strassenbahn with only the address of the market and the maps at the station, we got there. It was a proud day. It was an interesting market. They had everything you could possibly imagine. Clothes, food, shoes, jewelery, toys, etc. Afterward we met up with Becca and did some shopping. Later we met up with those left in Vienna (as people from our group were starting to leave) and went to get ice cream and then we watched Carmen at the Rathaus (City Hall). It was really good, but I was about to freeze to death and it was also raining.

The next day we all met up by the Opera House and rented bikes and rode all around the city. We ended up stopping at another church, which was also really pretty (didn’t find one that wasn’t, actually). We rode for maybe an hour and a half all said and done, and stopped at an imbiss and got doener kabap (kind of like gyros, only Turkish). It was the best one I had eaten in Vienna, mostly because this time it was lamb. After that Becca and I planned out our return trip to Dublin (which we ended up not really following). Then we met back up with some people and rode bikes again around the Prater. It was pretty awesome, but I was really tired and hungry at that point so we turned around after a little over an hour. Then we went to the Stadtpark, which was a nice pretty little park. Which, I will have to make a separate post for this, but I will mention it briefly, there were a lot of creepers and weirdos that day. That aside, it was a fun filled last day in Vienna.

After the Stadtpark, I made the rest of my spaghetti for Becca (but we only had enough for two people, sadly or I would have invited more people). It was nice and we ended up talking for a long time. I also said goodbye to my host mom’s daughter (my host mom went on vacation a couple of days before and we said goodbye to her then, and she also gave us Manner while we gave her flowers.) So it was an overall relaxing end to a busy day. The next day our plane left kind of early, but that will be in the next post. There is a lot to talk about there and this post is already too long.

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