Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's The Final Countdown

Monday, December 9th, last day of photo classes for me. Everything was printed and presentations were being out together for Thursday. Before I knew it, class was over and I had to say goodbye to Andrew (my photo professor) because he will not be able to attend the farewell party as he will be in Paris again. When I got back to the dorms, our room was beginning to look like a mess, well Sam's side. Lol. The packing has begun.

Tuesday, December 10th, the last general assembly at the college with everyone. We wore our Salzburg College shirts again to take a photo, we talked to Phoebe and Konrad for a while and they went through the winners and different categories of a photo contest we had. Afterwards, I was off to do some more gift shopping at the Europark. It was very relaxing spending almost 3 hours shopping around by myself and I got plenty of gifts to bring home for my family! The Europark was decorated for Christmas so beautifully as well. Then I headed back to the dorms just in time for our last dorm family dinner made by the one and only Martin (the dorm cook) who I will miss dearly and didn't even get to say goodbye. :(

Wednesday, December 11th, time to start packing. I did laundry for the last time in the dorms and I even used the dryer, not something I'm used to because I always hang my clothes here. I put my music on and the packing commenced. Of course I got distracted and started making some videos on my computer. Afterwards I headed I the kitchen to make another batch of Oreo balls. The dorm family was going to Sissi's for dinner tonight because she was making us what she likes to call "Kids Meal". She cooks 3 different types of sausages (one normal, one filled with cheese and the other wrapped in bacon) and French fries with lots of ketchup. Then she puts out cookies for dessert and I brought over some Oreo balls for everyone. During dinner Sissi always has wine out but this time she brought out some vodka, or as they say wodka. 

After we were all in a Kids Meal coma, the boys headed back to the dorm and then Haley, Sam and I got to Skype with Lukas! (Lukas! I miss you so much already, not as much as Haley but still. Haha. You must find a way to get snapchat and keep following me on vine. It's not have a good life because we will meet again I hope!). 

Skyping with Lukas was great but it was time to head back to the dorms and head to bed. 

Thursday, December 12th, the finally full day in Salzburg. Finished my packing, got my deposit back from the dorms, then around 1pm the 15 of us went to Il Sole (the restaurant we ate lunch at everyday during the first 5 week block) and had our final lunch meal together. Phoebe treated us all to pizza! We walked to the college after and I got my deposit back from Phoebe and with that we also got a little envelope with a photo of all of us on one of our first excursions together. Sam, Allie and I walked to an awesome souvenir shop to get some last minute gifts and then Sam and I walked to the Christmas market for one last time. I've spent so much time at this Christmas market, whether it be eating the delicious food, getting hot White Russians to drink by the ice skating rink, shopping or photographing. I will definitely miss this beautiful market of happiness. We went back to the college and waited around before we had to make our way over to the place where the final concert was held at 4:15pm by the music students. The room where the concert was held was pretty big and all the host families were there too! 

Within minutes, the concert began! Everyone performed at least once and the talent in this group was incredible. Cody plays the trumpet, John plays the French horn, Taylor and Julian play the piano, Beth and Judi sing (sopranos) and Konrad even played the cello during the last performance piece. I was making vines like crazy! Haha. 

Once the concert finished, everyone headed back to the college to go to the photo exhibit we set up in the art studio. It wad a gorgeous night and we got to walk through the Christmas market one final time during the night. 

Gavin and I had out portfolio projects up, Allie had a large print from her emulations project and I also had my emulation project layed out. All of us (me, Gavin, Allie, Sam and Becky) had out emulation work going through a looped video projected on the screen and we introduced our work to everyone. 

And now that everyone has seen the photo exhibit, it was time to go downstairs for the real farewell party. There was sparkling wine, lots of food that was catered by Il Sole and cake! 

Phoebe and Konrad made speeches, read out short letters that we all wrote them and gave each of us our little certificate of completion for the program we studied during our time at Salzburg College. Phoebe then told us she had one last test for us, this was the cutting of the cake. The test was that we had to cut the cake all together, all somehow touching the knife, no matter how we decide. She asked who wanted to volunteer as the leader of holding the knife and while no one spoke fast enough and without hesitation, I raised my hand and said "I'll do it!". I was given the knife and our plan of action was that we all held hands around the table that the cake was on, making a completely closed in circle. I don't know is this is considered cheating but we were all linked to touching the knife so we passed the test. 3...2...1...the cake was cut! I passed out the cake, and then again we were all in our last Austrian food coma. The 15 of us planned to head to the Augustiner after the party was over but first we had some goodbyes to say. I said farewell to Phoebe and Konrad and even though it's like typically Austrian, I was able to give them both hugs! But now was one of the hardest goodbyes for me, saying goodbye to Frau (one of the host moms and our cooking teacher). Frau and I created a special bond over the course of the cooking classes and even during all the baking we did for the market. If I had lived with her during the past 3.5 months like Tracey and Michelle have, I can only imagine for difficult it was to say goodbye. She is such a sweet and funny lady and I really do hope to come back and see her. When we hugged goodbye and I started to walk away, she said to me "I miss you already and you haven't even left". :( 

The dorm family headed to the dorms quick to drop off whatever stuff we had and then took the bus right to the Augustiner where we all met up for the last time. 

Gavin was a no show, a total "different fart" (insider with the group) move. Shortly after we were there, Taylor received a notification on his phone that Gavin posted something and tagged us all in it. He explained how sorry he was and how he didn't show mainly because he is a big softie and hates saying goodbyes. Who would have thought. Lol. Most of us had our last Augustiner beer and we all said "Prost!" to a complete study abroad semester. But now everyone began dropping like flies, either tired or needing to pack still and wake up early for their flights. Becky and Haley were the first to go. Becky was in tears once she started hugging everyone. Haley was composed but saying bye to Haley was the second hardest next to Frau. She was the closest thing I had to a friend while I was in Austria and she told me the same. We were going through a lot of the same things during our time there and we were able to talk to each other about it sometimes without offending one another. I can't remember the order everyone left in but then Cody and his host brother left, Judi left, Beth left, John (John told me that I was one of the coolest people he had ever met and that my love for music had been an inspiration to him and he has never seen something like it and he's told so many people, so sweet) and Taylor left, Julian left (Julian's goodbye was probably the most epic goodbye). He was pretty drunk and after saying bye, he stumbled out the door and we all were hoping he was going to find his way back. 5 minutes later Cody realized Julian left his bag here so John went running after him but came back with the bag and no Julian to be seen. About 10 minutes or so after that, JULIAN WALKED BACK IN! Haha! He said he couldn't find his his stop and then we have him his bag and once again, he stumbled out, hopefully getting back safe. Too funny. Sam, Elliot, Tracey, Michelle, Allie and I were the last ones and we all left together. We walked just a block before we parted ways with Allie and said goodbye. When we got to Murphy's Irish pub (out next stop) we said goodbye to Tracey and Michelle because they were heading back to Fraus house. It was down to the final 3, Elliot, Sam and I. We had some beers at Murphy's and then continued on our little pub crawl of the night. We stopped at flip bar for a tequila shot (with orange and cinnamon of course) and then kept a move on to the next destination, Shamrocks. And then the final stop was Flip bar (one of mine and Sams personal favorites). Always a good time at flip bar and always good people to meet. We said goodbye to Elliot and then Sam and I continued the night. It was such a successful night. Sam and I made friend with these 2 Austrian guys who lived in another dorm facility in Salzburg not far from the Flip bar. The 4 of us left the bar after a while and were walking along the river. Of course the last night can't go completely smooth, I had finally lost favorite fancy blue peacoat with the gold buttons. Gone! I have no idea where it went, darn those tequila shots. Haha. Daniel (the Austrian guy I was talking to from Flip) and I continued walking along the river and we lost Sam and the other guy. But we found them eventually. Sam wanted to go back to our dorms so I unfortunately had to say bye to Daniel. The timing of meeting him couldn't have been worse, I wished I wasn't leaving the next morning (for once). Hopefully we will keep in touch. Sam and I got a taxi home, for the last time and we made it back safe and went straight to bed. I had a long day ahead of me. 

Friday, December 13th, it's time to come back to America! Bittersweet I suppose but I am ready to come home. I've grown so much since I've been in Salzburg and traveling Europe for the past 3.5 months and although it wasn't everything I wanted and expected, I would not trade it for the world. The things I've seen, the experiences I had, the people I have met along my way, and the memories I have will always be a part of me now and it's hard to believe I am only 20 years old and completed this journey on my own. I woke up a bit later than expected because I forget to set an alarm but I woke myself up at 7am, took the fastest shower, packed whatever was left on my desk, said goodbye to Sam and walked out of my Salzburg dorm room for the last time at 7:30am. Walking to the bus too with all my luggage was a struggle and I planned on taking the bus but I with time restrictions I hailed a taxi right next to the bus stop. 15 minutes later and I wa at the Salzburg airport. During backage check, they told me that I had to check my camer bag. The lady told me it was 70 euros and they weren't going to let me carry it on with my other carry-on items I already have. I told her that they let me do it on the way here but she wouldn't allow it. When she printed out the ticket she then said to me "okay that will be 150 euros." WHAT! She literally just said 70, and I asked her why and she replied "yes I was wrong." I think this lady is scamming me for my money, silly Austrians. I emphasized the bag was of high importance so they put a special sticker on it. Security went quick and the airport is small so I was at the gate 5 minutes later and only waited to board the plan for less than 30 minutes. Now boarding! Salzburg, I'm going to miss your beauty and these mountains but thank you for this experience, it's time for me to go home. 

The first flight was only an hour and I slept for a good 45 minutes, before I knew it, we were in Dusseldorf, Germany. My layover was 3 hours but it went fast. I brushed my teeth in the bathroom, got some water and blogged at a cafe and then went through security to my gate where I relaxed and watched The Art Of Flight. I almost got through the whole movie before we boarded but I was in the first boarding group so it was time for my final travels. I had a window seat AGAIN on the plane and by about 1:15pm, we took flight! New York baby, I'm coming home! 

They had these awesome tvs with a moving map of where the plane was at all times. The guy next to me wasn't as impressed as I was I don't think. Haha. 

A couple minutes later, I took a nice nap. Then I woke up right when we were being served a meal. I got chicken with mashed potatoes. And there was a piece of cheese on the side! Also, the guy next to me offered me his cheese because he didn't want it, what a great flight! Double cheese!!! :) I was on and off of sleep and I kept checking the tv screen to see where the plane was and how much time was left until arrival. So close yet so far. The flight takes about 7.5 hours and with an hour and 45 minutes left, I started to get anxious and my butt was numb. Haha. We were given another small meal that consisted of 2 chicken nuggets and potato salad. Again there was cheese and the my neighbor gave me his again! I asked him if he didn't like cheese and he told me he used to be allergic when he was younger but now it's just a mental thing so he doesn't eat it. A life without cheese!?! I don't know how he does it. An hour and 15 minutes remaining, it's 8pm in Austria but I look out the window and it's so sunny still. Here comes the time change. 

The last hour seemed to be the longest hour....and then only 10 minutes until landing, I could see Long Island and it never felt so good to call it my home. 

Landed safely by 3:30pm. AMERICA, SWEET AMERICA. Once I walked off that plane and waited for my luggage, I headed straight to the exit, just waiting for that moment of finally seeing my mom. But I walked through those final departure doors, it wasn't just my mom. Lindsey, Michelle, Dawn and Emily were all there too for a surprise and with "welcome home" balloons in hand. The second I saw them all, especially my mom, I lost it. I'm not one to cry often but after being gone for 3.5 months, in a different country, alone and just counting down the days until I'm back, I suppose some tears are okay. Haha. Time to drive back home. 

Salzburg, (and the other European cities I saw) it was great and I will see some of you again someday but for now, I'm going to hang out and enjoy my life in America for a while. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

London, 2 Days Was Too Short.


Thursday, December 5th, Oreo balls are finished, I catch the bus to the airport at around 12:30pm and 20 minutes later I made it to the Salzburg airport. Everything went smooth and I boarded the plane with an amazing view as I walked onto the plane. 

And then take off, see you later Salzburg! 

The views were just incredible. I was able to take a short nap during the plane ride and then we arrived safely around 3:45pm. When we landed the girl next to me looked at me, we both smiled and then she raised her fist and said "still alive!" Haha. But my travels were not over yet, I was still about an hour away from Charleenes dorm (my friend from home for those of you who don't know, and she is studying abroad in London for the semester). I got a train around 5:15pm that should have only been 45 minutes but due to track delays it took a little over an hour. I got off at the stop Charleene told me to and it was a pretty huge train station, I was totally lost. Haha. (Took a selfie while I was lost and in an elevator). 

Then I had to take a bus for 30 minutes and transfer to another bus for 5 minutes. Finding the first bus wasn't easy though. There were a bunch of stations and I asked some people but no one really seemed to know where the bus station I needed to go to was. I asked a group of older people and they told me I had I cross the street and go the opposite way but then when I asked on that side, a younger girl told me it was back across the street. At this point, I saw that my bus was just leaving so I had to wait another 15 minutes. By about 7pm I FINALLY got to the final station where I needed to meet Charleene and within minutes I saw her and her friend George walking down the street towards me. I was so relieved! We stopped to get food on the walk back to her dorm and ate in her friends flat. Their kitchen was so cozy and everyone was so nice! After we ate, we all headed into the main part of town to see the Christmas tree! 

There were these huge lion statues in the area and Charleene told me that she has seen people climb them before. She didn't have to say another word... 

We made friends with a security guard right after that too. Haha. And her friends were singing some carols and we just walked around enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations all over town! 

What a perfect first night in London. Afterwards we headed back to the dorm and hit the hay, we were exhausted. 

Friday, December 6th, I can't believe I'm in London. I woke up and was so excited to go back into town and see everything! They all brought me on a little "touristy" walk. I saw beautiful churches, Big Ben, the London Eye and I was just in awe the whole time. Oh and the buses that you see in movies, they're so much cooler in person! 

And the sun began to set as we crossed the bridge, it was gorgeous. We walked right behind the London eye too! And we saw some interesting performances going on around the market area that we walked through. 

We eventually made it to our destination at a place called Wagamamas to eat (Japanese style food) and it was awesome. 

I got this awesome curry chicken with white rice and then there was a small salad on the side. On the tables they had 4 different things you could add, I put on chili flakes and chili oil! So spicy and delicious. We were all here for a while because after we finished eating, we flipped the menu over and there were instructions to make oragamie! The server came over and gave us all a square sheet of paper and it asks you to write a wish and then your name. I obviously can't tell you all my wish but I did complete the oragamie and I left it in the jar at Wagamamas! 

Now it was time to shop and walk around the beautiful town again! 

We also passed a sick skate park which I heard they are trying to shut down, so they have a table in front of it where you could sign a petition to keep it! 

And then there was an area that was pretty much an outdoor library! 

At this point, Charleene turned her 3G on because had a Skype date with Ariana! (Ariana, miss you sosososo much and I cannot wait to see you so soon, I wish you were in London with us at that time too). If I thought things weren't too beautiful already, we were about to cross over a bridge and get an amazing nighttime view! 

We headed back to the dorms/ flat and hung out. I got to Skype with my brother too! I hate that he moved to Florida sometimes.

Charleene and I started to get ready to go out and by 11pm we were off to find some clubs. The first 2 that we went to were pretty awful. The reviews that we read online made it sound awesome and full of young people but it was a strange little club filled with drunk 35+ year olds and bad music and bad dance moves. We took some jäger bombs but then we were off to find something better. Haha. We took a bus and sat on the upper deck and were the only ones up there! 

And the lights decorating the town looked amazing as always. 

We got off the bus and ran into a club promoter who brought us to this ticket room to get discounted entry into 2 clubs. So sure, why not. 15 euros later and we headed to the first one. It was pretty horrible again, the dance floor was the basically the size of my bedroom at home and that is no bueno. Off to the final was better than all the previous ones but still nothing special. Took some more jäger bombs and the night continued. Basically it was a night of watching drunk people dance and mocking them with their dance moves. Also pretending to dance behind people is one of my specialities. Charleene and I had a grand old time. The club began to close so we left and started making out way to the bus. We stopped at a little Chinese restaurant and I got an egg roll and Char got some sesame chicken. We continued our walk, passing by multiple groups of drunk people and seeing them stumble by us was extremely entertaining. When we finally got to the bus stop, the entertainment continued. A drunk homeless man walked in from of everyone and said he was going to put on a magic show. He had a bandana in his hand that he was waving and he kept saying he was going to make it into a buffalo for about 5 minutes. I couldn't stop laughing. Haha. It was a long night but we made it back safely by 4:30am and then we finally got to sleep.

Saturday, December 7th, time to leave London. I can't believe this trip was over already. 2 days was not long enough in London, I was having so much fun! I woke up at about 7:20am and by 7:45 Charleene and I walked to the bus stop. We said our goodbyes and after my 25 minute bus ride, I arrived at the train station to take the train back to the Stansted airport. 

Everything was going so smooth. I arrived at the airport, checked in, went through security, got myself some food and starbucks and had a solid 2 hours before my plane was departing. Unfortunately, things only got worse from here. They made an announcement that there were some delays so I looked on the board and my flight was delayed 50 minutes, not too bad. Things only got worse once again. More and more flights were getting delayed. There was word around the airport that air traffic control was down and flights couldn't take off. At this point, some flights were even being cancelled. I started to become very worried. My flight on the screen now said "DATA ERROR" and had no estimated time of departure. All I wanted was to be on my way back to Salzburg. I was so tired and I wanted to shower. The airport was becoming complete chaos. I had already used my 1 hour of free airport wifi so I was just people watching at this point. I went to a free charging station for my phone and hung around for a while. There was a German lady yelling on her phone at the station. Then I started chatting with the man next to me. He was from Poland and his flight was delayed an hour so far. He was going skiing and he told me his girlfriend lives in South Carolina when I told him I was from America. At about 1 pm the gate number to my flight was released and it said now boarding (mind you my flight was supposed to depart at 11:50am). everyone was rushing to the gate and we waited for about 30 minutes, watching them load the bags into the plane. Then there was an announcement that said the flight was delayed due to air traffic control again and the next announcement for more information will be made in 30 minutes. Once this happened, everyone seemed a little annoyed and started sitting on the ground. This is insane.

10 minutes passed and they announced our gate is beginning to board. THANK THE LORD! 

Finally seated on the plane at 2pm and they make an announcement that air traffic control just told them there are more delays, unfortunately it is currently 3 hours of delay but they said it was improving. The whole air craft crew was called in. We waited for about an hour before we finally took off. Salzburg here I come, FINALLY! But London, I will be back for sure :)

The view of the clouds during the majority of the flight was unreal. Flying through the sunset was a big plus. And another positive was that the couple I was sitting next to was so nice. They were from London and they were heading to Salzburg to go to a bunch of Christmas markets. We talked almost the whole flight and it was great. The family behind us was super annoying because they kept complaining about how they wanted free tea since there were so many delays. They were British snobs, sorry if I sound rude but if you were there you would have thought the same. Me and my London couple friends were making fun of them and she was hoping someone would throw free tea onto them to shut them up. I really love these people haha. (Mom, this couple reminded me so much of Aunt Margaret and Uncle Mike, it was like a taste of home). After we landed, they invited me with them to take a taxi into town so I didn't have to take the bus and they told me I wouldn't have to pay. Such kind people! Of course I went and we chatted a bunch more. At this point it was 7pm and we arrive to their hotel and I walked to the dorms from there, only about 15 minutes. I am so glad I met them and we took a nice photo so I didn't forget them! 

So now safe and sound back at my dorm by almost 7:30pm, should have been here almost 4 hours ago but hey, not everything works out as planned. Later that night I finally hung out with some of the Austrians and other people that lived in the dorms in the basement common area. We drank and played cards until almost 2am! I was finally making friends with them but it was a little late in the game, however better now than never I suppose!

Sunday, December 8th, time to go snowboarding! Awake and ready to go by 8am for our 'Day In The Snow' field trip! We met up with Alex (the guy who came on most of the hiking excursions with us), got on the train, and after a little over an hour of beautiful views, we were there! 

4 of the girls went to the thermal spa and the rest of us went skiing and snowboarding. We all took about a 10 minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain. I could not believe my eyes, I WAS IN THE AUSTRIAN ALPS! This all seemed like a dream. Gavin and I were the only ones who went boarding and knew how to so we were shredding on the mountain together for the majority of the time. I stopped multiple times to just sit and take photos because it really was unbelievable. I WAS SNOWBOARDING ON THE AUSTRIAN ALPS!!!! :)

Yeah, that was real life. 

After some sweet runs on the open trails, we had to finish up and catch a train back to salzburg at around 4:30pm. We arrived back into salzburg a little before 6pm. When we got to the dorms, the 4 of us that live in the dorms made some American Mac n cheese and chicken nuggets! Then bed time. It was a perfect day!