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December 19th 2005
Published: December 19th 2005
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On the Alm, I found a car with stickers of Arnie all over it. I decided to do the muscle pose in honor of him.
Three months here in Köflach, in der Steiermark, in Austria and it's almost set in stone that I will be staying here for an additional academic year. I'm not a student, thank God, for I've finished my studies at UC Santa Cruz this past June. And even though I myself hate studying, I find that I love being in a classroom and being the one to infiltrate my beliefs into the heads of young people (I sound like some sort of propagandist, but for those who know me, they know I am only joking).

I have decided to stay because of the unending feeling of belonging here that I receive from all walks of life: from the family who owns the house I live in (who has also taken me in as some sort of daughter, and whom I respect as family), from my "colleagues"...gee to use that word makes me sound real grown up...who I enjoy working with, from the students who make me feel like I'm doing my part in the world (or small town of Köflach). Anyway, I get what I give, so I feel, and that's why I feel more satisfied than I ever had while studying. I realize that my studies were something that I had to do, without which I wouldn't be here today, although I hated papers and worry and deadlines more than anything. Also I felt useless, as I was living off my parents' tab and drinking their hard-earned cash away. I guess that's what students do because of the way you have to cram 4 years of information in your head, and you want to explode, so you drown it every weekend with booze and who knows what else. A seemingly meaningless way of life...no wonder so many college students are jaded existentialists. Most of them don't do anything for the world, I myself was included in that group.

Austria is such a strange place for me. Köflach is a small rural town in western Styria, and the Bundesgestüt Piber, where the Lippizaner horses are raised, is right around the corner. The locals speak of these horses with pride, and pride themselves that they live with these horses. From an outsiders perspective, I see this as a remnant of the elitist culture of the Hapsburg Empire, but who am I to judge.

These horses are white and beautiful, although I admit I dont know a thing about horses at all. They are raised in Piber, and only the finest get "educated" at the Spanische Hofreitschule in Vienna, where they learn to hop and dance around in sync with each other and their riders. It's really something to see, but I can't get over how much Austria still thinks it's an empire with high culture.

At the school, many kids are Anti American, which I can understand from what some teachers infiltrate into their brains. And it seems the boys are more likely to stay in Austria forever and have no plans to go abroad. No wonder this country is run by right conservatives, for those in power are many times men, proud of their national heritage and high culture. Look at Vienna for God's sake.

Anyway, I think what I like about this place is my position in it. I have no room to judge how these people think; I can only postulate why it is so that people think the way they do. And because America is doing such a terrible job with international diplomacy, I take it into my hands here in this small town to be a representative of my country. I don't try to tell them America is a good place: what I do is be myself and they can judge from that. That's all I can do as a human being.


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