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Stories from the Trafik

14 Jan

This morning, as on every Saturday I’m not teaching, Maylo and I went to the Trafik on our way home from our morning walk. He got his treats and I got mine (newspaper and instant lottery ticket). Then because it wasn’t busy we got into a chat, quite a heavy chat as it turned out.

The Trafikant, nearing 80, was born in Vienna during the Second World War and told how his mother would wrap him in a blanket and carry him down to the air raid shelter in the cellar.

One of his employees then started talking about her experiences during the war in Bosnia before her family fled to Vienna, how she, too, spent time in bomb cellars. From her accent, I could tell that she wasn’t Austrian born, but we had never talked before about where she came from. (I personally am so allergic to the question “Where are you from?” when I have lived here over half my life that I very rarely ask it of others.)

We had gotten onto the topic of how each time we thought it was the last war in Europe and how the whole misery is being repeated now in Ukraine when another customer came in and Maylo and I left.

I think Trafiks are often microcosms of the world around us.

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Pelé

30 Dec

One more great lost this year. Of course, his soccer playing was incomparable, but I will miss most his smile, his humanity, and his humanitarian efforts. I’ll never forget that the day David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles with great fanfare, Pele was playing in a match to benefit UNICEF. The article in the NYT reminded me of the beauty of Rob Hughes’s (essentially philosophical) writing about soccer and introduced me to that side of Pelé’s greatness.

Haiku 2022

26 Dec

With warmest holiday wishes also for a healthy, happy New Year full of peace!

Pension office

22 Nov

I went to the pension office this morning to clarify a few points and saw that some things have really changed in Austria and some things haven’t.

One thing that has changed: the woman in front of me in line at the reception desk was talking about her “Partnerins” (female partner’s) appointment. When there was some confusion about her name, she explained that when they had married she had taken on her partner’s family name and officially changed it on all her documents. Then I overheard that she herself isn’t self-employed but rather her partner, and she would like to be covered under her partner’s insurance.

This would have been unimaginable even five years ago (Austria enacted “Ehe für Alle” or “Marriage for All” on 1 January 2019, building on the civil union that became possible in 2010). For anyone who would like more information, here is a website (in German) giving an overview of the history of same-sex marriage as well as legal details: https://www.familienrechtsinfo.at/eherecht/ehe-fuer-alle/

Something that hasn’t yet changed? When I came out of my appointment, there was a man waiting, with his large, well-behaved, non-service dog. Wish I’d known I could have taken Maylo!

ecb in Rome

24 Sep

If you are ever in Rome near the Termini train station and need a bite to eat, you could do worse than Cucina da Luciano on the corner of Via Giovanni Amendola and Via Danieli Manin. All the signs are in Italian (Orari Mar – Dom) but the staff speak English. The pasta is al dente and the drinkable house wine costs EUR 2 for a quarter of a liter. A nice experience on a Saturday, when some Italians also seemed to be enjoying a leisurely lunch.

Changeable weather today

18 Sep

These two photos were taken from the same spot on the canal — the dark clouds were upriver and the blue sky was down. Maylo and I did get quite wet as we were walking upriver. It’s a good thing that we are not, as one says in German, made of sugar!

Lillehammer 1994

2 Apr

Today’s Kurier has an interview with Oksana Baiul, the 1994 Ukrainian gold medalist in women’s figure-skating. (She beat Nancy Kerrigan in the final seconds of her routine, as I remember it, by adding a rotation to a jump.)

Just seeing her name and the photo of her with her pink costume and frizzy 1980s hairstyle reminded me of how, in those days, no one except Ukrainians knew the Ukrainian anthem. The way I remember it, the award ceremony was delayed because they were searching backstage for the music so the anthem could be played. In the interview, Baiul says it was because the organizers couldn’t find a Ukrainian flag.

We are now all familiar with the anthem and the flag. I wish it for different reasons.

A peace tree

27 Mar
In front of a school in the 18th district

As spring comes in full force to Vienna we continue to keep our Ukrainian neighbors in our hearts as the war rages on. Schoolchildren in the 18th district were inspired to express their desire for peace and their solidarity with Ukraine in this way.

With many thanks to my friend Petra for the photo.

Heading into the 4th week

17 Mar

A number of years ago, I started a gratitude practice I call my gratitude session. I sit at my breakfast table and, before I take a bite or sip, I get into a slightly meditative state and ask myself: What am I especially grateful for right now?

Often the answer is simple and quick — the sunshine, the flowers in the park, my central heating, or the food on my table. Sometimes it takes longer and says more, like in 2015 when I had been helping distribute food to largely Syrian refugees at Westbahnhof. Then it was that I have some control over my life.

The last few days the answer has been the same: that I am still here in this city I love, that I can still practice my profession and earn a living, and, today, that I can still meet friends for a drink in the evening.

Update

10 Mar

A few days ago, I heard that the friend’s sister mentioned in my post from February 24 (link below) and her charges, co-workers, two cats and a dog had made it safely to Poland and will be relocated to Germany.

I haven’t seen my Ukrainian neighbor in the last week.

I have once again been amazed at how wonderful the “children” in my life are. When I, at my wits’ end, asked the older of my Viennese nieces what she wanted for her (29th — you see why “children” is in quotation marks) birthday, she asked me to donate to Neighbor in Need, a very reputable Austrian charitable organization that did wonders in the Balkan war.

And so we stumble into the third week of war in the Ukraine.

https://ecbinvienna.com/2022/02/24/ukraine/