March 31, 2007

Pictures from Helsinki

One of the most phlegmatic Saturdays in recent history is about to end. Okay, in the morning I did some window shopping and bought food. Have I mentioned that yoghurt here tastes really good? Anyway, but after that - nothing really. Right now, we are in for the night. Thomas, who just came to wish me good night, spent much of the day practising as usual, coming home only to prepare lunch for us (spaghetti with sausages). Petra, too, spent all day studying. When this happens, she spends hours on her sofa which is covered with her laptop, papers, folders, dictionaries, other books, whatever. Still, there is always space for me if I pop in for a chat (more often than not, these turn into therapy sessions - but who's counselling who?)!

The Czech girls have left home for the holidays. Anna's boyfriend came to pick her up yesterday and brought us a water boiler Petra and I inaugurated today by having some delicious tea Hamsa sent me a while ago (Brazilian Baía by Twinings - try it now!). Maria's boyfriend arrived last night from Romania and is staying for a week. We still have a bunch of chocolate profiterols she spent all of the previous night baking.

Things sprang to life at around nine when I was asked out for a pizza at Tropicana, a place I pass every day on my way to the Kunstuni. The thing is, every day I pass it I think to myself I will never be found in such a trashy place. Well, that's exactly where I found myself, sharing a pizza diavolo and discussing destiny. After that, a short stroll around the sidestreets of Merangasse. Perfect! It's probably true that we all need days like this sometimes. By the way, Carlos took these pictures some weeks ago in Helsinki. I took the one below, check it out!

As you can see, anyone hoping of becoming this year's Miss Lederhosen still has time to apply! Other top news stories in Graz include the officials declaring the Stadtpark is once again a safe place to walk through at night - it's too bad next day two police officers were assaulted there. There's a festival on Islamic culture going on this weekend, it might be worth checking out. Good night!

March 20, 2007

Thoughts on a Tuesday

As I open my door to go to the toilet, I am blinded by the light in the corridor that nobody has switched off. The house is silent.

While drinking grapefruit juice and eating toast with cheese, I work on my presentation on Finnish a cappella - music, which is tomorrow. I have been sure of the pieces I want to present and the choirs I want to talk about, but now that it's tomorrow I'd like to just change everything. I'm afraid of boring everybody with Rautavaara and making my teacher frown at some really bad recordings.

At the counterpoint lesson, I always feel like I'm completely off track and suggest some very bizarre solutions to the problems, and still the teacher agrees with me every time. I don't know how I'm doing this since I am seriously clueless about what we're doing. S offers me chocolate waffles when I tell her I'm hungry. I take three.

Chicken fillet with curry sauce at the Mensa. Thomas has a rehearsal with his string quartet but he's with me anyway - after all, he needs to eat lunch just like the rest of us. I skip the piece of cake today. I like this day: it's varied, with different tasks and challenges, and I have a short train trip to look forward to. I feel more motivated than the last days.

Running from harp lesson to orchestral conducting, stopping at the copy machine to copy some music in a flash. Today, several people have called me - including two of my teachers! - and I have people I need to call. I get an SMS that puts a smile on my face and someone records a message on my answering machine from Turkey. I can't imagine life without a phone.

In the car with Erdmuthe from Gesangsverein Trofaiach, on our way to the rehearsal where I'm going to substitute for Natasha again. Sometimes, I am really bad at small talk. The social aspects of conducting choirs is one of the most attractive things in this line of work but let's face it - sometimes I wouldn't mind just arriving at the spot, doing the job, and leaving again without having to pretend to everyone how fascinated I am about the weather.

Waiting for the train back to Graz, a solitary dinner at Leoben's depressing railway station: sandwiches I packed at home and chocolate chip cookies from Spar. If this day was a movie, this would probably be the part where everyone hoped I got a happy ending.

Home. In the kitchen, we admire Thomas's dinner, a huge mess of congealed potato puree mixed with pieces of burned fish, and I get a hug from Petra who is still sick. We tell each other about our day, gossip about our flatmates (probably just as much as they gossip about us) and discuss the quality of Czech toilet paper. A happy ending if there ever was one!

March 17, 2007


Today's eight-hour Messiah-marathon rehearsal started promisingly when one of the altos burst into tears during the first five minutes. This provided a good opportunity for choral conducting students like me to brush up their people skills. In general though, the rehearsal went fine, and I have to say I have never ever seen so much food at a choir rehearsal. Everyone had packed lunch for an army and I came home so stuffed the only thing I could eat for dinner was a Marillenyoghurt Traum mit Pfirsisch (and some pieces of Milka's Nuss-Nougat Creme chocolate).

Maria, on the other hand, decided it was time for a gourmet dinner and invaded the kitchen by frying liver, the strong aroma of which delighted everyone in the house (the doors are being kept shut). Jana and Anna are off to ski tomorrow. They certainly seem to be making the most of their time here and are never at home. Thomas just came to my room to tell me about his hike outside Graz today, and the Hungarians (Petra's best friend is visiting) are probably somewhere out partying again, grabbing the attention of about 90% of the nightlife scene's male pairs of eyes (sorry for this sentence but it's really late and I'm not going to start taking it apart).

The last nights have been somewhat short - Thursday night was spent in Kulturhauskeller, much more pleasant because it was a bit emptier, yesterday in Propeller and watching a film at home. The alarm clock shall not sound tomorrow, but as soon as I get up it will be time to snap out of this neverending weekend atmosphere and get myself to KUG. There's work to do. Thomas and I have agreed to cook up our street's best pasta tomorrow evening - something of a once-monthly tradition. Unfortunately, Monday is again some sort of saint's day, which means I'll probably not have money on my cell phone, food stocks will run out and we will all despair in our boredom.

March 14, 2007

About me

Recently, I dreamed I pushed someone off the platform to get hit by the metro, something I thought could only happen to me in my dreams. I also dreamed a childhood friend told me he didn't want to see me anymore because my lips were too red. I started using a wrist-watch less than a year ago.

I like grapefruit without sugar. According to iTunes, today I listened to my favourite song for the 102nd time. I have cried in an airplane. I hear voices. My grandmother sent me an email today. I used to feel like I always needed something to look forward to. I believe everyone should be hugged at least once a day. I eat too much chocolate.

I have been in love. I like singing along to female jazz singers before going to sleep. I like closing the door to my room and creating a world for myself. I like German choral music. I like making lists. I had schnitzel for lunch today. I remember peoples' hands as well as I remember their faces. If I won the lottery, I would buy a grand concert harp and save the rest for trips.

I'm left-handed. The feeling I hate most is disappointment. Many things excite me. My latest fascination with music is Strauss's opera "Salome". I grew up in a Northern European capital but I have several places to call "home". I am afraid of knives. I have never eaten sushi. I'm a cat-person. Tomorrow, I have something in my calendar from 13 to 14 and from 18 to 22.

I'm good at remembering and bad at hiding how I feel. I don't want to be defined or categorised (although it's the only thing I’m doing in this post). I have been to all continents except Australia. Airplanes fascinate me. As a child I dreamed of being a tram-driver. I have been moved to tears by a film. I analyse my dreams. Actually, I analyse pretty much everything.

I care about what others think of me. I try to make people happy and like it when it works. My life now is completely different from my life three years ago. My life tomorrow will be different from my life yesterday. Most of the time, I feel lucky. On the street, I spread my arms and pretend I'm flying if I feel like it.

Who are you?

March 11, 2007


I don't know why every time I fry eggs for breakfast our frying-pan looks like a carton of paint exploded in it afterwards. All in all though, kitchen-wise we are doing fine. It's much tidier than it used to be (and I am not saying this to deliberately annoy our former flatmates who are reading this from Bucharest) and the fridge seems more spacious than before (it's been declared hoard-free - nothing more than short-term shoppings allowed!). Okay, so I recently threw away a lump of bread that had gone green and grown a beard, but I'll admit that one was on me.

Romanian honey. Be prepared for scary side effects.
Today, I went to sit in the garden with my book. I got some good ideas for pictures to make from there - one can see three of our windows from there. Before that, I had tried to get some practising done but with the sun shining outside and temperatures reaching 20 degrees this seemed like a crime. Jorge and I went to sun-bathe on the Schlossberg and afterwards I decided to venture into Graz's Westside on the other side of the Mur and get some train tickets from the station. It was dark when I came back and, as usual, I got to dodge the drug-dealers in the Stadtpark.

Explanation: the tomatoes in Spar were on sale.
When I told my flatmates where I was going I was swamped with money and culinary wishlists - the Hauptbahnhof Spar is the only place open on Sundays. It's a horribly crowded and unpleasant place but I plunged in to find milk for Maria, raspberry yoghurt for me and toast for Thomas, who has a fever and is walking around the house frightening everyone with his ghost-like appearance. I considered locking him in today after he threatened to go for a run.

French bacteria are not the only thing spreading here - Petra had the flu earlier but now it has been passed on to her roommate Anna. The light-switch of our bathroom is stuck and we can't turn the light off. We should probably call a technician before our landlady accuses us of damaging the flat and refuses to pay us back our 400€ deposits. She's looking for an excuse for that anyway. Our ground-floor neighbours may be invisible, but their notices to the rest of the house are getting more aggressive. Every time I stop to read them I am seriously afraid of the door opening and an ugly hand reaching for my neck and pulling me in. Their door must be sound-proof and probably nobody would hear me scream.*

However, light-switches are not the only things going crazy in this building. Petra and I got the shock of our lives yesterday when we were going out the front door on our way to the opera. She grabbed the handle of the very heavy door to pull it open (okay I should have opened the door for her but that's beside the point) when it came off, was flinged out of her hand and crashed onto the staircase, creating a minor earthquake on our street. It took us about five minutes to regain speech. Maybe this is a new attempt by the friendly owners of this building to lock the whole house in - it's nearly impossible to open the front door without the handle.

After the opera, I spent some time with the Spaniards watching boring football and eating the last hamburgers at the Jakominiplatz McDonald's, one of the most horrible places on earth. After that, it was Pastis with a very tired Finnish pseudo-mafia (do five people, two of who are American and one is Austrian, count?), after which I stopped by the cellar at KJH for the birthday party of Richard, who refused to let me go home and kept pouring strong drinks in my plastic cup.

*see how I contradict myself here - in the previous post I said one can occasionally hear voices from behind the door.

March 09, 2007

Short short story

Our neighbours on the ground floor are the biggest mystery in this house. Nobody has ever seen them, yet we know someone is there because one can occasionally hear voices from their apartment. In front of their door is a bunch of old and mouldy rugs, and a sign says "beware of the dog" although nobody has ever seen or heard a pet in this house.

Recently, a notice appeared on their door, accusing their neighbours - that would be us - of stealing newspapers from in front of their door. Coming home today, I saw that somebody had posted another notice in a venomous tone, informing that maybe it would be best to first check with the newspaper itself to see whether there have been delivery problems before accusing neighbours of theft. The case is getting somewhat intriguing and I'm already waiting to see what our invisible neighbours reply in their next notice.

The sun is setting and the clouds just turned into whisps of pink, I'm posting a picture of it here.

March 05, 2007

A beginning

Washing the dishes in the morning, Anna, one of our new flatmates, told me I looked like a doctor. I was so surprised I only now thought of asking her what exactly she meant. Something wrong with my style? The eyeglasses? Maybe the plastic gloves I was wearing (why do people make fun of me for using them? Isn't that what they're for?).

I was the first person to enter the library today, prompting an extra-enthusiastic "Guten MORGEN" from Frau Scherzer. After a couple of lessons, I came home to wash up (rough morning) and pick up Petra, still suffering from her headaches (my diagnosis: social stress aggravated by a new confusing situation at home) for lunch at the oh-so-romantic Mensa, where we were joined by Thomas, freshly back from France and already working 27 hours a day. The Finnish chicks were there, too.

A breather at home - I used it to throw out yesterday's pasta I had at midnight and clean the pot - and then it was out again to the KUG. I kicked out Transfer Flatmate C from a class which was reserved for me (sorry), after which I had another lesson. Then, the moment we had all been waiting for: our monthly stroll across the street to our landlady. On the way, we remembered we had forgot to bring along the receipts we always make her sign - after a debate at the front gate, Petra declared that if things went to court, we would all testify that we saw the others paying the money. There were no protests.

Of course, our landlady was especially sugary today because of the new flatmates. Us old cronies warned them not to be deceived by the false smiles and the oh-so-cute dog - they weren't going to get a summer discount. After our first casual house meeting afterwards, I went to conduct my first ever female choir rehearsal with the promising name "Frauenstimmung Lassitzhöhe" (One letter discarded to preserve anonimity). The set-up was the same as in previous similar situations here in Graz: I'm picked up by someone from the choir (Arrangements on the phone: "So I'll be the one in the white car with the license plate GU532CK - if you leave out the numbers it's Guck! Get it??") who drives me to the rehearsal, and on the way both try to think of entertaining conversation subjects (I usually ask one question about the choir's history and the subsequent ecstatic sermon is enough to let me not say another word the whole drive).

I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the rehearsal, and the women did a very good job sight-reading renaissance three-part music. During the second half of the rehearsal, I realised I was actually making jokes my teacher here makes. It looked like I was going to have to take the train back to Graz, something I was cursing in my mind when one of the singers enthusiastically told me she could drive me since it would give her a chance to show off her brand-new car, complete with a GPS machine (or whatever they're called) I knew how to interpret better than her ("I think Merangasse should be that red line there..." -"What, we have GPS in this car??").

Someone is in the kitchen. The light in Thomas's room is on, and in the corridor one can hear Petra chattering away in Hungarian. I am going to sleep.

March 02, 2007


Yesterday evening, chor pro musica was having another painstaking rehearsal of "Messiah" with me accompanying ("All we like sheep...", "And He shall purify...", "Hallelujah...", "What shall I make for dinner today..."). In the pause, one of the singers started giving out invitations. She came up to me and gave me one of the little purple envelopes. "I hope I got your name right", she said. She did. While others greedily ripped open their envelopes, I saved mine for later. When I opened it, I felt a strange sort of happiness that only seemingly small things make you feel - I am invited to a baptism and a garden party after that. It might appear a small thing but it still makes me smile to think about it. I can feel my "feminine" part stirring: what to put on?

After the rehearsal, I determinedly walked away before being sucked into the nearest pub with the general flow and headed home, stopping only at Rosamunde to get a kebab. We now have two new flatmates, both of them from the Czech Republic. One of them brought more things with her than I have ever seen, including boxes full of food! I hated to be the one to break the news to her and introduce our minisized fridge. Because of exclusively female arrangements I know nothing about, the grand rooms are going to be multicultural this time. It'll be a Hungro-Czech union next to a Romano-Czech princess paradise.

Otherwise, Petra and me have been walking around our silent house like zombies, desperately waiting for a prince to come and wake us from our slumber or an earthquake to bring some action into our lives. Maybe we shouldn't be complaining since next Monday will put us back in turbomode again, with my schedule full for 12 hours straight.

Transfer Flatmate C came by today, sporting a completely new look (hair, clothes, no eyeglasses) which made her completely unrecognisable. Something happened to me in the shower yesterday (very funny) and my neck has been hurting since. Oh well, I've been told one of my characteristic features is moving my eyes around without moving my head, so maybe this is life's way of laughing at me. Ha ha. My computer mouse has gone all tipsy on me - maybe the batteries are low.