Today I would like to introduce you to Katherine, a central Kentucky girl who ended up teaching English to Austrian secondary school students in the town of Eisenstadt, the capital city of Burgenland which is about 45 minutes south of Vienna. Katherine has inspired me for a long time because she is the kind of person to never let anything bring her down. When things get tough, Katherine gets tougher. I hope you can enjoy this interview with a strong woman of Vienna!
Adventure. I mean there’s a whole world to see, so why limit myself. I can always move back to the US, I can always move to California or New York, so why not try to live away as long as I can? I feel like I am very well suited to living abroad. Like we were talking about earlier- the more I am abroad, the more people tell me I am calm and relaxing to be around. I am starting to realize that, in a way, is very true. Being abroad you learn to kind of let things roll off your back. The first time I went to the grocery here I bought fabric softener instead of detergent. And my laundry was really soft, but totally not clean. You learn to let it not mess with you. You just go with it. You just go, “Ok, so my clothes are really soft and I have to wear them today, but tomorrow I will buy laundry detergent and make it better”.
I will always remember all of my teaching experiences, even the kind of shitty ones. They stand out because of the things I learned from them. Compared to when I first got here, I talk to people much more easily. I can pretty much talk to anyone now and I’m not shy. If I like fall on the street, it doesn’t bother me. If I have my fly unzipped, it doesn’t bother me. Because once you’ve done all of those things in front of 15 year olds its fine. Go through an entire class with your fly unzipped and no one tells you. Once you’ve done that, I mean, what can get you down? I’ve gained a little bit of self-confidence and a little bit of a lack of caring. I mean I care, but if it’s not going to bother me in a week or it’s not going to bother me in a month, it doesn’t bother me.
All the people I’ve gotten to know through tutoring in Eisenstadt and getting to meet the grandmother and the aunts and the uncles and some of the cousins and getting to have home cooked Austrian food. Because the Austrians are hard to get to know- the people I have gotten to know will definitely stick in my mind. Also experiencing weird culture events like the wine days or the balls and not really understanding them or why people do them. Like Kirtag- which no one has been able to explain to me what it is or why it is celebrated. But I still experienced it! I don’t know what it is, but I experienced it. Just kind of having the acceptance that you are not going to understand; I think people who haven’t lived abroad don’t get that. If you’ve never lived abroad in country where you only kind of speak the language or you don’t speak the language, you don’t understand how difficult and also how rewarding day-to-day tasks are. I am still really happy excited when I make small talk or can actually manage to like get the food that I want exactly how I want it. It’s still exciting even though I’ve been here two years. It’s this ability to let go in a way.
I live in Vienna, but my heart is in Burgenland. Eisenstadt is like my second home town. Going there feels like home. Seeing people who maybe you know them, maybe you kind of know them, maybe you’ve seen them somewhere. It feels like home. Vienna, its comfortable here, but it still feels foreign. And maybe not because it is foreign, I mean to me it is. But it doesn’t feel cozy like Burgenland does. Vienna has this kind of edge to it- and not in the way New York is edgy- but really this kind of wall you have to fight to get past. And in Burgenland it’s not there. In Vienna I feel like I get this sort of, “what do you want from me, why are you being so nice?” Sort of that going out of your way to help people. Yea, I feel like that’s what you have in Burgenland that you don’t have in Vienna.
I like how multi-cultural Vienna is. I like that there are so many people from so many different cultures and in a way it sort of meshes really, really well. And I like all the opportunity that is here. It is really like an international city. And also I like the history. Around every corner there’s something. You don’t know what’s there until you walk around the corner and then “BAM” there’s this palace. I guess I like the fact that Vienna really wears its history. You can see that something used to be a bakery or you can see that something used to be a restaurant or this or that. It’s really obvious. In the US you have to ask or just know. But Vienna really wears its history on its sleeve. It’s there. I feel like every time I go to Kärtnerstrasse or somewhere I see something new. The first time you are just looking at the stores and maybe through the tenth time you are doing that, but then you start to look up and it’s this whole other world up there. Murals, frescos, statues and god knows what.
So in the fall I’m starting a master’s in human rights at the University of Vienna. And besides that, I want to change the world. I don’t know. I don’t know what my exact future plans are- I know that there are certain things I want to affect like poverty law, LGTB rights, immigrant rights, particularly rights for people who are like traditionally transient peoples. So like the Roma or plains Native Americans who traditionally travelled. Because there are a lot of people who are not being represented, not getting what they should get from the government where they are citizens or they just have no citizenship. I want to be helpful in some way for the world. I don’t want to get old and I don’t want to die knowing that I haven’t done anything productive.