Prague 2.0

So, two weeks after my arrival in Vienna, my husband is still not at post! Right now, after much confusion involving three different doctors plus M/MED, it look like he will be flying over late next week. Meanwhile, he’s twiddling his thumbs in a hotel room on medevac status while we get settled. It’s the complete reverse of every previous transfer. (My husband has often preceded us to post.) And apparently quite unusual–no one seems to know exactly what to do with me. But there isn’t much I need an Embassy ID for at this point, so it’s no big deal. I just hope we all stay out of trouble until we get diplomatic status, lol.

Everything is working out pretty well (for us, anyway, I don’t know if my husband would agree). Not only does this post not suck, but the TDY apartment is quite nice; both kids are safely here, plus a couple of my daughter’s traveling companions; and the stinky, sniffly old cat was found, thanks to a kind Austrian neighbor, after jumping out a window and disappearing for two days.

Our permanent housing should be ready next week, and it looks very nice indeed. It’s right next door, so we don’t even have to get to know a new neighborhood.

Perhaps most important, my son’s new school looks like a very good match. Not only did the registrar not fall over when she saw his epically bad 9th grade report card, but the support services that the school provides sound like exactly what he needs. He will be meeting with a counselor twice a week who will help him keep his work organized. In addition, they offer math tutoring on-site. My favorite quote of the interview: “well, of course all students can’t be good at all subjects.” Really?? 🙂

The axe-murderer seems ready for a fresh start. He was up and ready to go for his math placement test–even showered and shaved. He was perfectly alert and polite to everyone, and very interested in all the art on the walls, and in the music program. In fact, he came home and practiced his guitar and bass all afternoon, after the music director told him they could probably use him in the band. So, as long as no one is expecting him to be a straight-A student–and it doesn’t seem that they do–I am very hopeful indeed.

As I told the registrar, our sole goal at this point is to get him a high school diploma. Bottom line is: no kid of ours is going to be a high school dropout. What the transcript looks like is a secondary consideration. Community college, trade school, or just going to straight to work are all options on the table as far as we are concerned.

So, why Prague 2.0? Well, many years ago, we transferred from Central America to a post in Africa, then back to another country in Central America. That transfer was the easiest we ever experienced.

First of all, we were just really happy to get out of Africa! Different strokes, you know. But, the second country was so similar to the first that settling in was largely a matter of logistics. There was really no culture shock to speak of, and of course we already had the language.

Arriving in Vienna was a comparable experience. There are so many similarities to Prague–after all, they were once in the same country–that settling in is mostly about logistics. I don’t feel much in the way of culture shock at all. In fact, I hadn’t realized it at the time, but apparently many of the products we used in Prague were not German, but Austrian.

A trip to the grocery store here is déja vù, both in terms of the brands and the efficient little routine. Put your groceries on the belt and be ready to dump them into your cart with lightning speed, while simultaneously getting your money ready (it helps to be ambidextrous). Bag up the groceries at the little table at the front of the store, where you won’t impede anyone else. It’s not what you might call a relaxed pace, and I’m not sure what the rush is, but when in Rome…

Czechs really do have a lot of Austrian in them or vice-versa. As my daughter observed, in both countries, they like to “process” you. The Austrians, taken as a whole, are just more friendly about it than the Czechs were, not having been made terminally grumpy by several decades of Communist rule.

Other similarities: the architecture (minus the Commie “brutalist” buildings), the transportation (same trams), the weather (65 degrees and rainy in late July), and of course, the beer. In fact, the neighborhood pub (“At the Mushroom,” complete with gnomes in the garden) serves Pilsener on tap. I

It’s all just a bit cleaner and more modern than Prague. A major difference that I am quite grateful for is that people have to pick up after their dogs here, or pay a fine. Nothing against the critters, but I got really tired of cleaning dog crap off shoes in Prague after a while.

The primary challenge for me is the language–I have very limited German, and what I have certainly didn’t come with a Viennese accent–but this being a HUGE mission community, there are lots of German classes offered for family members, and I’ll be signing up as soon as I can. There are quite a few people who speak English here, in any case. Certainly not everyone, and not usually fluently, but I am able to make myself understood. Thank heaven for cognates!

After four years in Prague, I am used to not understanding what is going on. That’s not to say I like it, but I am used to it. The funny thing is, the environment is so similar to Prague that I keep wanting to speak Czech! I’m sure I’ll do it by accident at some point. Since I don’t look remotely Czech, that will be very confusing to people. In fact, when I lived in Prague, everyone thought I was German. I’m really not very German as far as I know, but for whatever reason, this is what people assume when they see me. Hardly anyone initially spoke English to me there–they always started with German. So, for the first time in our Foreign Service career, I might actually “blend.” Oh, the irony!

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