Your Ad Here

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Welcome to Austria!

We finally landed in Vienna, and the cultural saturation was pretty incredible. Everything is the same, but yet different, which forces you to examine and assess everything around you. Yes, I just called it “cultural saturation”-- the reason we were checking out these 6’1" Amazonian blondes in every direction.
Hey, blame it on cultural assimilation.
Anyway, we touch down in Vienna, get our bags (about 150lbs total) and go to find our guide, another football player who apparently speaks “excellent American.”
Enter Ramon.
Ramon, for lack of a better word, is hilarious. Wearing a purple Baltimore Ravens hat and shirt.
“American football…eh!?!?” Great. Someone get this kid some Bills' gear.
Anyway, one of the other players missed his connecting flight, which means instead of taking our chartered bus straight back to Klagenfurt (about 400km away….3 hours) we have to wait. What better to do than go see the city, by bus, at 50mph (excuse me, 85kph).
The next 45 minutes was a blur of “Dis iz Parliament. Dis iz ver ze President lives. Dis iz the Major House.”
Forget asking what a Major is. Or who he is. Or what he does. I tried. It is either lost in translation, or too ludicrous to ask.
This is where it gets funnier; we stop to get some “café.” Its all about the “café” here. Over and over again, “Café?” “Café?!?” Sipping espressos; taking in the day. How incredibly European of me!
I notice at this point, two things. Our bus driver, who looks eerily similar to Santa Claus, is on his third “café.”
This is not American coffee. Okay? As Ramon explains, “Ze American coffee? Ha! Ze American coffee is shit!” This coffee is deep and black as crude oil, and is probably equal parts tar and methamphetamine. I loved it. My head was buzzing in minutes. But here is old Saint Nick putting these things away like they are going out of style.

The second thing I notice is that Ramon keeps asking us if we would like some McDonald's. I don’t actually see a McDonald's, but I am sure we could find one. When pressed he declares, “Why, all Americans LOVE McDonald's.” I’d like to contest him on this point-- “how ignorant Ramon!" But alas, as my fat brethren can attest, all Americans do love McDonald's (and you are lying if you say you don’t).
Finally, hours later, the other American arrives: Ryan, a tight end.
We are on our way.
Three hours and then it is on to the feast of a dinner that we were promised.
Or so I thought.
Five hours later we are at an Autobahn Rest Stop (btw, rest stops in America do not hold a candle to those in Austria). Someone forgot to explain to me the rule that bus drivers cannot drive more than an 1.5 hours before having to stop for 30 minutes. So every one and a half hours we stop, while Kris Kringle slugs more coffee. At this point I am delirious. Slap happy. 30 hours of travel and 4 hours of sleep will do that to you. So I write myself a pass as I explain this next part.
We started cracking jokes at our driver, because his lack of English, portly stature, and infuriatingly slow driving pace made him an easy target. You know what? I’m sorry that I’m not sorry. Okay?
Put me on the naughty list. At least we had a good laugh.
We finally made it to Klagenfurt, and sat down for a literal feast.
We exchanged jokes about our respective countries. “America is all Dirty Harrys.”
“American beer is, hmmm, how is it…BULLSHIT!”
“Austria: the Sound of Music.”
Which drew rave laughter. “The Sound of Music? Bullshit.” (Bullshit is very popular word apparently). They continued to dispel the Sound of Music stereotype, saying it was unfair and that not everyone could “sing and dance” (or hate the Nazis). Then (and I can’t make this up), the only other party still at the restaurant began to sing. All 13 of them. In perfect harmony. Well, to put it bluntly, I just about shit.
Talk about comedic timing.
There was schnitzal (which tastes very similar to chicken cutlets), sausages, beans, potatoes, poached pears and cranberry sauce, steaks, turkey. And of course, beer. (And yes, also 13 harmonizing Austrians at stage left.)
Then the head of the organization rose. "Coach, I’d like 3 minutes. My name is Manfred I'd like to velcome ze Americans to our proud organization….”

(our morning drive)
Peter is driving. And I'm scared...

Peter: There was an election recently. See the signs?
Rob: Was it local or was it like for the President?
Peter: No it vas for government.
Rob: Oh, okay.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Rob, as long as you keep putting samples of your struggles to get your point across to your foreign teammates and vice versa, I will continue to read this blog every day. I can promise you this.