This is how you pronounce “meme”:
And just for my wine snob Husband, how you also pronounce “Chateauneuf-du-Pape”:
One of the little-known benefits of living abroad is that you are relatively cut off from American pop culture. It leaves more space in your brain, space you can hopefully designate for foreign language skills.
Unfortunately this also means that our current American cultural context is pretty much limited to a dusty mental time capsule from 2009. Hit TV shows have come and gone and movies have made it all the way to the Oscars without us even knowing they existed. Music that’s blaring out of every iPod back home sometimes shows up on the radio here, but is often sandwiched between German pop songs and Shania Twain, which is very disorienting. That new hit single from Fun? For months I thought it was Freddie Mercury, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the Austrians were playing obscure Queen songs every time I got in the car.
Anything that’s gone wildly viral in the States is also often slow to reach us, simply because we’re just a bit more disconnected over here: no TV, limited time listening to the radio, barely a few minutes to check email. Any cultural commentary we could read in print is in German. Which is how Husband and I found ourselves doing internet research on the Harlem Shake the other night:
Me: I keep hearing about this Harlem Shake thing. What the hell is it?
Husband: I don’t know! Let’s check The Wikipedias.
Husband: Hmm. It says here it’s some kind of internet “meh meh.”
Husband: See! “meh meh”
Me: Pull the screen closer! I can’t see the text!
Me: Dummy, that’s meme.
Husband: I don’t know what that is either.
(we keep reading and then proceed to watch about 30 Harlem Shake videos)
Husband: Dude! We could TOTALLY make one of those! We could put the kids in it!
Me: YES!!!! And you could wear your spedo! We’ll plan it out after nap time.
(At which point we both stopped for a minute and looked at each other in horror)
Me: F*&%. We’re not clueless expats. WE’RE JUST CLUELESS OLD PEOPLE.
Remember how I said the dairy aisle in Parisian grocery stores was ridiculously stocked with 1500 different kinds of yogurt and cream? Well in Vienna, the aisles are resplendent with every kind of processed meat you could imagine. There’s fresh wurst and salami and hotdogs galore. The deli counter is the most popular spot in the entire store. And if you want to go the pre-packaged route, you’ll find a dizzying ham selection, including this interesting “wellness schinken.” The next time I feel a cold coming on I guess I’ll have to pick some up.
Whoa. Where am I? What day is it? Last thing I remember I was face to face with a giant cutout of some guy’s manjammies, and the next thing you know it’s been 2 months since I last wrote a blog post. I guess a larger than life cardboard penis has that kind of effect on people.
Really though, maybe I just got caught up in holiday celebrations. Or maybe The Babe decided to start making this noise from 5am until my head exploded every morning. It could have been that last minute emergency trip home to the States for a month and the ensuing jet lag. But I think the final straw was the last minute ski weekend while we were still recovering from the jet lag, and the ensuing stomach flu that greeted us when we finally got back to Vienna.
That’s all to say that ever since I saw that big naked guy, I’ve barely been able to catch my breath, let alone unscramble my brain long enough to write something semi-coherent here.
(In case you’re wondering, that’s what children do to you. They beat you down to a frayed wisp of your former self, and leave you striving for nothing more than semi-coherence. Good thing I love those little A-holes!)
But you know what? That’s no excuse. There are plenty of people in this world that have it waaaaaay tougher, who have way more demands and hurdles and expectations to juggle, who still manage to blog something fabulous every single day. There are bloggers with 5 kids and one leg who still find time to share a detailed recipe and photo spread of their homemade dinners each week. There are bloggers that work full time jobs and write award winning, book-deal garnering blogs for fun on the side.
I want to punch all of those bloggers in the face. But instead I’m going to try to use that jealous rage as fuel to get this blog motor running again. So I hereby promise to carve out a chunk of time each week to write semi-coherently about funny things in Austria, and the occasional funny story about my children. But not too much kid crap, because then you’ll want to punch me in the face.
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Backfeifengesicht: (noun) literally, a face badly in need of a fist. As in, a person you just want to punch because they’re so annoying or obnoxious or, you know, just fist-worthy. Where has this word been all my life? Hear how to pronounce it.
HEYYYY-OOHHHH! That’s a whole lotta man. Sitting in the middle of a city that otherwise looks like Santa’s North Pole holiday paradise. But I am going to resist the very strong urge to make jokes about Christmas balls because this is art, people. This fella was parked outside the Leopold Museum, where there’s currently a slightly controversial exhibition about the depiction of male nudity. It’s aptly titled “Naked Men.” I haven’t seen it, but please watch this video on it from the BBC, if only to hear the elderly Austrian lady say “I’m not scared of a penis at all.”
Radiating from my television screen! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HAL-LEYYYYYYYYYYY-LU-JAH! Yes, I have been TV-less for more than 4 months now. Which is not such a bad thing, unless you’re cooped up with 2 small children while the alpine winds whip through your city and it only hits a balmy 25 degrees outside at noon before it gets dark for another 17 hours. Then you need some TV, even really crappy TV, just so you don’t go absolutely batshit crazy reading Hokey Pokey Elmo to your one year old for the 500th time that day.
Side note: I wish a pox upon the house of whoever wrote Hokey Pokey Elmo.
Anyway, we did two major things this past weekend: first, we put up a Christmas tree. Then we installed Apple TV. When The Babe woke up, we ushered her into the living room, waiting with a camera to capture the glee on her face when she saw that a giant tinseled evergreen had sprouted where her favorite chair used to be.
But The Babe was unimpressed. In fact, she barely noticed the tree because she was too busy shrieking with joy at the screen saver images floating across the 42 inch Panasonic in the corner. And when we put on Sesame Street? She almost passed out.
I just hope she knows that Momma gets first dibs on the remote. And I am not above playing all the really scary scenes from Game of Thrones as payback for all that Hokey Pokey Elmo.
Hello world. I’m writing to you from that strange other universe where parents of newborns exist in a hazy half comatose state of consciousness, unable to perform anything other than the most basic of life-sustaining tasks with any real precision or competence. I have passed the land of spontaneous crying and moved on to the realm of magical thinking, a place where chronic sleep deprivation sets in and you actually think you feel OK but really you just boiled a cup of milk and stuck a box of rice in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Needless to say, I have neglected the blog. And I am a huge wuss when it comes to not sleeping. I don’t know how doctors do it. I can barely operate a can opener on less than 6 hours of sleep, so I cannot fathom how medical professionals are expected to pull all-nighters AND perform life-saving surgeries. Or, you know, roll up to the hospital at 2am to deliver a baby.
Which brings me to Ulli. Ulli was hands down the most awesome part about giving birth a second time. Where my first birth experience was full of feisty French nurses and a lot of hilarious miscommunication, Ulli made sure this time around was nothing more than calm, soothing words (in English!) and bubble baths with lavender oil. Seriously. She drew me a bath and brought me snacks. And her soft blue gaze never registered anything other than confident encouragement, reassuring me through the whole labor process that I was going to be fine.
Lest you think I’ve gone all hippy earth mother on you, let me explain that here in Austria it’s customary for midwives to handle the labor and delivery process, while the doctors just kind of hang out in case there’s an emergency. That goes for the hospital staff midwives or the private ones, like Ulli. She came highly recommended from my obstetrician, and has been delivering babies for 23 years. Her office is covered in photos of all the little nuggets she’s helped into this world. And she promised to deliver my baby while leaving my hoo-hah largely intact. Which means if she had asked me to hang upside down from my toes while singing Kumbaya through my contractions, I would have done it.
But she didn’t. When it was go time, she instead greeted me at the geburtshilfe wing of the hospital with a reassuring smile, while Husband searched for parking and some poor woman down the hall shrieked and moaned in an almost comic fashion. I mean, I’m not one to judge what kind of noise someone makes during birth. I think I shouted lengthy strings of curse words, Exorcist style. But this was like something out of a movie, too exaggerated to be real and too loud to just ignore.
I kind of giggled and said that whoever was in the room next door didn’t sound so good. Ulli looked up from the heart monitor and shrugged. “Eh, first baby.”
She’s a tough one, Ulli. But the best in Austria, I’m sure of it. Danke Ulli!
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geburtshilfe: midwifery or obstetrics. As in “Hopefully if you come to visit me in Vienna you will not have any reason to visit the geburtshilfe floor at the hospital. Although I can highly recommend their fruit and cheese plate.”
As everyone back home battens down the hatches for Frankenstorm, I’d just like to point out that it’s snowing here. In October. For the second time. Just sayin.
Apologies for the radio silence, but Cletus finally made his way into the world 2 weeks ago and we’ve been a bit preoccupied with diapers and boob juice and the dueling cries of 2 little people. Oh and the not sleeping. Spending A LOT of time over here not sleeping. It’s amazing how not sleeping really just starts to take up large chunks of your day until you can’t form complete sentences anymore!
The good news is that it’s snowing and we’re hunkered down for winter and not planning on going anywhere for a while. So I’ll update you soon on Cletus and his Austrian arrival. Until then, be safe on the East Coast!