The day after I arrived in Mistelbach, I had to deal with a bit more bureaucracy. The first building I went to has several names. My instructions called it the “Gemeindeamt,” the map called it the “Stadtgemeindeamt” and the door simply read “Rathaus.” Basically, it’s just the town hall. Whenever anyone, even Austrian citizens, move to a new place, they must register or “anmelden.” Before they leave to go to a new place, they have to de-register or “abmelden.” I know what you’re thinking: big brother is watching! Well, I don’t know about anywhere else, but I know the US government always knew where I lived either from my driver’s license, voter registration or taxes. So, this really isn’t all that strange or different. I just had to fill out a single form with some basic information and have my landlord sign it. I took it to town hall, walked in, handed it over along with my passport and in just ten minutes, I had my “Meldezettel,” certificate of registration.
My next task for that day was to visit the “Bezirkshauptmannschaft,” district commission, to finalize my the processing of my “Aufenthaltstitel,” residence permit. Unfortunately, there was a line. I sat and listened to my iPod for about thirty minutes before I was able to go in. Basically all I had to do was be fingerprinted. I’ve never been fingerprinted before, but in case you were wondering, the days of ink are gone. They use a machine to scan your fingers. My residence permit will be ready to be picked up in just a week. All in all the bureaucracy of both these stops was not bad at all, especially since the buildings were literally side by side.
The following day I needed to open a bank account. My payments for work are direct deposits. Admittedly, I was quite nervous about opening a bank account. I’ve never had to do something like that before in a German-speaking region and honestly my bank vocabulary is rather limited. I first stopped at Erste Bank and found out that I could get exactly what I needed for free for the first year. That sounded pretty good, but the woman was speaking quite quickly and I was confused and wanted to check out some other banks. I was on the main strip of businesses in Mistelbach and could see four banks. After Erste Bank I went to Volksbank and it would not be free ever and he gave me less information. I then walked over to Bank Austria. The door was locked at 10:30 A.M. on a weekday. It was also about to rain, so I decided my best bet was to just go back to Erste Bank. I talked to the same woman, who was really very friendly, and she sat me down to help me start my account. I told her that I was not very familiar with banking vocabulary and asked if we might speak English. My experience is that most people do know English pretty well, but she said that she didn’t speak English very well at all, so we agreed that I would just ask a lot of questions and she would answer slowly and simply for me. Basically, it is much like your average American bank account except for a couple key differences. The first one is really positive. I can withdraw money from ANY ATM in a region where the euro is used and I am not charged any fee at all. I thought that was really cool. I also found out though that my bank card only kind of doubles as a credit card, like most American debit cards. I can use it at ATMs and in stores, restaurants and other businesses (although I think in general cards are still less widely accepted here than in the US), but I cannot use it to make online purchases. I almost never buy stuff online but if I needed to get a plane ticket, I actually have no idea how you go about doing that other than using a credit card. Fortunately, I think I can get one of those prepaid credit cards and just add money to it if I need to. In short, setting up a bank account was successful!
After a day of travel and two days of tedious tasks, I was ready for some fun. I decided it was time to spend a day in Vienna. On Thursday morning, I got on a train and headed to Vienna to meet up with my buddy Thomas. He played my tour guide for the day. First and foremost we went to Stephansdom, the cathedral in the center of Vienna.
Me trying to be the Godzilla of Vienna. This is a model of Stephansdom. It’s right beside the real one.
After Stephansdom, we wandered around the center of Vienna, saw a cool old clock and several statues and fountains. After that, we headed to the Habsbug summer palace, Schönbrunn. It was the very definition of neoclassical. We wandered around then expansive gardens for several hours. Everything was in perfect lines. The flowers from summer were still in bloom and gorgeous. There was a magnificent fountain with the god Neptune and above it a breathtaking gloriette. I should have taken pictures, but I was too absorbed in the experience. I will go back again, no doubt.
Afterwards, Thomas and I decided we needed food, so we went to this great restaurant. Anyone who knows me pretty well knows that I only take being a vegan so seriously. I try to make good food choices 80-90% of the time, but my first day in Wien (Vienna), I was going to have Wiener Schnitzel and that was just that. That along with a big plate of fries made for an excellent dinner. By the time we finished eating it was getting dark, so I decided it was time to make the trip back to Mistelbach. I bid my new friend farewell and headed back. All in all my day in Vienna was super.
In an email earlier in the summer, I told one of the teachers with whom I will be working that I would be happy to meet up the week that I arrived. On Friday I met up with her and she walked with me to the school where she used to work, but is not longer a teacher. There we planned out my schedule (between the two schools where I will be working) for the week after next, which is when I start, since next week I have an orientation with the other new English teaching assistants. As it turns out, one of my schools has a branch in a village outside of Mistelbach. I didn’t quite catch the name of the village, but apparently I can go with my teacher in her car, so, that should be fine. One of the schools is a very short walk from where I live. It may be a full five minute walk. The other is about a twenty minute walk, which is not as convenient, though it is totally manageable.
After setting up my schedule with two teachers (though it will change week to week), I sat and talked for at least thirty minutes with another two English teachers and talked about the school system, what their lessons are like, and what my role will be. We also got sidetracked into talking about travel, experiences abroad and politics. I think they were all relieved to know that I’m a democrat.
After meeting so many of them, though not all of them, I am incredibly excited to start my new job! It will be cool to get the students excited and engaged. I know it won’t always be a walk in the park, but I think I am going to enjoy it overall. Plus, it’s just thirteen hours of work a week so I will have a lot of free time to bounce around with day trips to Vienna and other close places. It’s going to be an amazing year.
Next week I am getting together with all the English teaching assistants from the eastern part of Austria. Our orientation is in Graz. Keep an eye out for my next entry which will be after I get back.