It's Saturday morning, I am just back from breakfast, and it is now hitting me... it's the beginning of the end of my time in Linz, Austria. Oh, sure, I have known this for some time, and I am really looking forward to getting back home, to my wife and kids, to familiar surroundings, to my back deck to relax, etc. Even so, my hope is to squeeze in a bit more fun, and a few more memories, while here in Linz. So here are some of the plans for the weekend.
* Today, I will do lots of little things, including buying a new belt (my current black dress belt has begun to separate near the end and looks rather tacky in my opinion). So I might head to H&M or a place like that, near the Hauptplatz, for a brief shopping spree. I also plan to go to Saturn (not the planet, but the electronics store in the Taubenmarkt "mall") to buy some new earphones. The wire on my current ones is fraying at the connector, so they are starting to "cut out" from time to time. I definitely do not want this on my extended trip back to the states. So that will also be part of my shopping time today.
* This evening, I am attending a free concert at one of the city's many Catholic churches (St. Magdalena's Kirche to be exact). The music is to be performed by the Austrian Baroque Ensemble. Should be fun! (And it's free, just a donation, so I am doubly pumped.)
* Tomorrow, the packing will be done in earnest. And, I will finish handing out my "thank you" gifts... I have already given out three bottles of wine to three RISC colleagues, as well as potted plants and money to two of the secretaries in Linz who helped me and the family immensely before and during our time here. And tomorrow it will be cards and money to my Bella Casa waiter and waitresses, the breakfast staff at Julius Raab Heim, and the cleaning lady (who still seems to walk in just before, during, or after my shower each morning... it's a bit stalker-like to be honest! :) ). My hope is that they will all be thrilled with the gifts. I need to thank my wife, Mary, who taught me the joy of giving such gifts so many years ago; there is such pleasure to be gained from such small acts of kindness!
* I will definitely go to Bella Casa tomorrow evening for dinner. That's a no-brainer for me! Tonight? Probably McDonald's for one last chicken salad (and I think I might treat myself to an ice cream of some sort there if I remember).
* I will spend tomorrow evening relaxing in front of the TV watching the championship game of the fussball tournament Euro 2012. The match will feature Spain vs. Italy and promises to be quite entertaining and competitive.
* Time permitting, I will do some mathematics today or tomorrow (although that is currently a low priority for me at the moment - I need to get many details accomplished in preparation for the travels home). I actually finished a project yesterday which now needs to be typed up....
I'll close with this comment. I had completely forgotten that the end of this summer semester implied the end of the academic year at JKU. (I guess I was just focusing on my own experience in this sense.) So there is a ton of activity in the Julius Raab Heim parking lot today as students pack their belongings into cars and families take them back to their homes for the summer. Looks just like it would look at PSU, although much less crowded/hectic. All this activity made me a bit sad... everyone gets to leave today, but I must wait until Monday morning. (Oh, get over it!!!) But it also reminded me of something very important. With all the differences between Austria and the US, and there are many, there are still many things we have in common. I need to remember this very important fact as I return on Monday!
It's my last Tuesday evening in Linz, and I just got back from my favorite restaurant here, Bella Casa. I really enjoy the food, including the desserts (the tiramasu tonight was, as usual, fabulous), and the wait staff are really nice. But I am a bit sad tonight. Why? Well, tonight ends a "streak" for me of 16 consecutive Tuesday dinners at Bella Casa. (Technically, it isn't a streak because the family spent Tuesday, April 10 in Vienna visiting Schonbrunn Palace and we had dinner at a restaurant in Vienna... a different, and far inferior, Italian restaurant to be exact.) So tonight was a bit bittersweet for me as I walked away from Bella Casa for the last Tuesday for the foreseeable future. :(
But don't despair - I plan to return this Sunday evening for my LAST dinner in Linz for this semester. I can only imagine how I will feel when that meal is over. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I will probably get emotional as I say goodbye to the very kind people there. In fact, I'm tearing up as I type this.
Well, today was a special day. The main goal of the day was to travel from Linz to Vienna to serve on an interview panel with the Fulbright Austria staff as they met with their final cohort of Austrian student applicants who wish to go to the US via the Fulbright program. But before I speak of that, let me start with the beginning of my day.
So, in my usual way, I started my day with the cleaning lady entering the room while I was cleaning up (brushing teeth, etc). I am not kidding - she seems to enter quite often either just before or just after my shower. UGH! Oh, well, I have learned to stay behind closed doors (or very close to a door) during these early morning hours. So no worries!
Then went to breakfast as usual (always yummy), walked to tram, and got over to the Linz Hauptbanhof (main train station). I made sure to give myself plenty of time - this is one of the lessons I have taken to heart while in Austria - give yourself some extra time so that you don't have to rush anywhere! This meant that I actually arrived at the train station with about 20-25 minutes to wait. I already had my ticket purchased, so I relaxedly went to my train platform.
While standing there, I thought I recognized one of the soloists from the performance of Handel's Messias (Messiah for those of us who speak English) which I attended in May as part of the Musica Sacra program in Linz. I am much less shy than I used to be, so I walked over to him and asked him if indeed he was that soloist. He admitted to being so, and we struck up a wonderful conversation. Manfred was a very friendly and kind man. We spoke for those 20 minutes about music, teaching, family, and life in Linz. I was so pleased that I had approached him.
Then I got on my train. I had a reserved seat (a lesson we learned some time ago). I sat and did some math work (which I want to continue over the next few days - I may have found something really cool!). I also used the free WiFi on the OBB train to do some Internet stuff (like looking up some sequences in Sloane's database, updating Facebook status, etc.). About 90 minutes later, we arrived in Vienna. While walking to my underground platform, I accidentally saw Manfred again! Very coincidental because the Wien Westbanhof is huge. We struck up our conversation again and spoke for a while before we ultimately had to split because we were taking two different underground trains. It was a great experience.
I then walked over to the Fulbright office, chatted with the folks there for a while, then went to lunch with three Fulbright folks. Very nice. Possibly the lightest wienerschnitzel I have had since arriving in Austria. Extremely good! Then we went back to the office and started our interviews.
I was the least experienced at these Fulbright interviews, but I certainly enjoyed being part of them. After about 2.5 hours of this work, we completed our tasks and I walked back to my hotel, Hotel Zipser here in Vienna. This is the same hotel where Mary and the kids and I stayed when we FIRST arrived in Vienna back in late February. It was a very sentimental arrival for me today; I can't say exactly why, but in essence this is where we began this "journey" back in February. Interesting.
So after working for a while in my room, I decided to go to dinner. Decided on an adventure (rather than just eating at one of the familiar places near the hotel), so I went to 1516 Brewing Company in Vienna. This required me to take the U again, but I am an old pro at this system now. Found the restaurant, no trouble, had a burger and potato wedges and a PEPSI (yes, that's right, even though Coke is king in Austria, this place only served PEPSI!). And the place had a no smoking section, a true rarity in Austria! When done, I decided to wander that neighborhood a bit. And what did I realize? I was exactly in the same neighborhood where I attended the 2010 performance of Mahler when I was in Vienna!!! OMW! I couldn't believe it. Very cool!
After that, I went back to my hotel. Now I am relaxing and waiting for tonight's Euro 2012 soccer (or should I say, fussball) match to begin. I am looking forward to that!
Tomorrow, I will hang out in Vienna for the day, then I will attend an end-of-semester get-together in the evening with the other Austrian Fulbrighters here in Vienna. It promises to be lots of fun!
Wow, I can't believe how long it has been since my last update. Oh, well, here's a bullet point list of some of the things I have done since that last post:
* Attended a performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony at the Brucknerhaus here in Linz (on the banks of the Danube River). It was a wonderful evening!
* Visited Jorn Olsson at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. It was a wonderful trip, and it also marked my 6th European country to visit since arriving here in Austria in late February. Huge landmark for me (given that five years ago I had never left the US, unless you count walking across the border into Canada at Niagara Falls... :) ).
* Visited Graz, Austria, and spoke at Technical University of Graz. Very enjoyable trip as I took trains through the middle of Austria and enjoyed wonderful views of the Alps!
* I have also spoken in the RISC Combinatorics Seminar twice in the last few weeks. A true privilege and enjoyable experience.
* Logged 1000 wimp push ups and 1000 sit ups since Mary and the kids left Austria. This was a major accomplishment for me.
* Submitted one paper with my primary co-author here, and we are working on a second. I am also working on a manuscript with Jorn Olsson now as well. So the research has definitely picked up as of late.
* I will finish my official teaching this Tuesday, although the classes will meet once more afterwards. But I will be giving exams on that day.
Just 16 days to go before returning to the US. I am excited for what will be accomplished here in the last couple weeks, and I am also excited to go home.
As many of you who know me know, I love numbers. I am constantly thinking about numbers - funny little patterns, cool mental arithmetic tricks, etc. I guess it's good that I am a number theorist then! :) Of course, that does NOT make me a numerologist - folks who often add mystical or spiritual significance to numbers. Even so, I do enjoy thinking about numbers.
So when I moved to my current apartment (after Mary and the kids left Austria, 23 days ago), I taped two blank calendars on the back of my door, one for May and the other for June. I depart Vienna on July 2 to head back home, so these were a fun reminder of the days I have remaining in Linz. On these calendars, I have been adding reminders - go see Handel's Messiah at Friedenskirche, go see Beethoven's 9th symphony at Brucknerhaus, take laundry to dry cleaners, etc. And I also added a reverse countdown on the calendar, one for each day remaining. So how many days do I have remaining here in Austria? Exactly 40.
And that got me thinking - 40 days and 40 nights. What are some of the literary references that come to mind when we hear the phrase '40 days and 40 nights'? Well, several Biblical references came to mind:
* The length of time that the rain fell during the "Noah's flood" (Genesis 7)
* The length of time the Egyptians took to embalm a dead body, in this case Jacob's (Genesis 50:3)
* The amount of time Moses was on the mountain to receive the tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24, Deuteronomy 9)
* The number of days the spies checked out the land (Numbers 13:25)
* The number of years the Israelites wandered in the desert (related to the number of days the spies took in the land) (Numbers 14:34)
* The number of days Elijah lasted on one meal! (I Kings 19:8) (I don't think I could do this, even with the best wienerschnitzel here in Austria!)
* The number of days Ezekiel was to lie on his right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah (Ezekiel 4:6)
* The number of days Jonah warned would occur before the people of Nineveh were to be judged if they did not repent (Jonah 3:4)
* The number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan (Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2)
I do NOT think my 40 days here in Linz will be nearly as significant as the 40's mentioned above! But it was definitely significant to me to think about these references to the number 40. And, heck, if Noah and his family can stay in the ark with all those animals for 40 days and nights of rain (plus a ton more while they waited for the water to recede!), then I think I can enjoy my time here with no worries! It gives me lots more time to enjoy my research and teaching here, which I am enjoying more and more each week.
Can you think of any other significant 40's mentioned in the literature, Biblical or not?