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Greetings from Vienna, #48

November 16th, 2004


In this issue:


Mea Maxia Culpa
My friend Chris "D'Artagnan" Ebert had a birthday in the first part of this month. We were even invited by his wife, Lisa, to a birthday party, which we wouldn't've been able to attend even if we had flown on the old schedule. Alas, I totally forgot to wish him a happy birthday in the newsletters, so, a very belated Happy Birthday, Monsieur. I promise that the Musketeers shall ride again (as soon as I get back in town) in "The Quest for the Best Sushi" (an unpublished sequel to "The Three Musketeers", written by Dumas arrière-arrière-arrière-petit-fils).


Greetings from Vienna (New City)
Part the Forty-Eighth: Homeward Bound

I write this on Tuesday afternoon, just under eighteen hours before we board our plane to London, where we will change planes (and terminals, the latter which I'm not looking forward to) for San Francisco. There are about a half million last minute details to be taken care of[2], from turning in the license plate on Karin's car, to getting a replacement Austrian visa because the Consulate made me get a new passport (a story to be told in a future newsletter). And getting the newsletter out. The Vienna Airport's website says that they have wireless internet coverage, but I think that we'll be spending most of our time taking care of Tobias and making sure that our bags will get to San Francisco. Thank heavens for pre-boarding; I have to remind myself that we are now part of the "people traveling with small children" group.

It's a strange feeling, this particular trip. On the one hand, I'm going home, or at least to my house, in California, where most of my possessions and many of my friends live. On the other hand, I'm also leaving home, one which I've had a hand in building. At the end of the movie "Big Trouble in Little China", the hero asks the character "Egg Shen" about plans for a vacation in his homeland. "Egg" replies: "China is in the heart." I suppose that this is how I would like to feel. After all, Karin and Tobias, the two most important people in my life, are coming with me, so "home" can be any place where we are together as a family.

Our friends here, and especially my in-laws, have been asking me if I've felt homesick, and if that feeling has gotten stronger the closer we got to our departure date. I'm not entirely sure if "homesick" correctly describes how I feel, though I'm sure that's a part of it. If "home" suggests a state of comfort, or at least the familiar, then being "homesick" describes both a "discomfort with the unfamiliar", or a longing for the familiar. I think that I'm not so much the first as the second. In many ways, this newsletter has been a perfect medium for me to stay in contact with my friends, which goes a long way towards easing the psychic discomfort of year-long stay in Austria. And having already experienced the culture shock of one emigration (from Taiwan to America), I'm probably more accustomed to cultural dislocation. However, as I've tried to point out in these newsletters, it's the small things that have the biggest effects. Sure, everyone speaks German here, but it's easy to forget that (especially since many people, especially those who are my age or younger, speaks good English). It's things like the traffic (which makes me want to force remedial driving classes on most of my countrymen) or the local attitudes to Turkish immigrants (which echoes what I've heard people in the States say of Mexican immigrants) that makes me think about "home".

Of course, Karin has her own take on all this, which I hope she will share once the jet-lag is past. I don't think I can really evaluate my own state of mind until after I get back to California, so we definitely will revisit this issue in a future newsletter.

Shutting Down the House
Just because we're packing for a long trip away doesn't mean that work on the house has stopped. While painting the outside door has been delayed until next year, when it's possible to living in the house without a front door, other things are being done inside and out. The biggest job (and one which I did not work on) was the extension/reconstruction of the walkway back out to the front of the (entire) house. As you can see here:
the "exposed aggregate" tiles now form a complete walkway, which is now raised above the level of the "lawn" (you'll probably need to look at the larger picture to see this). My father-in-law has also rebuilt Grandma Reißner's terrace, though she'll probably not get to use it much until Spring.

While I can't claim anywhere near that level of work, I did have two small projects: one in the bathroom:
and one in the kitchen:

The bathroom would've had racks for soap and shampoo quite a while ago, but for the fact that Karin positively loathes 99% of the fixtures we see. In Vienna, we had a plastic rack with several "dishes" mounted against the corner on a vertical pole. Unfortunately, that rack came with the apartment, and we've not be able to match it. I was thinking that we'd have to find one in the States and bring it back, but then we found these small racks. What is a bit odd about them is that they have magnets mounted on the bottom, with steel "crowns" attached (looks like a bottle cap, but with "teeth" like a crown instead of a crimped edge). Karin tells me that there are soaps with magnets in them, which I've never seen in stores.

The kitchen rack was something that was high on my personal priority list (being chief cook and bottle washer). At first, we thought of installing a shelf there, but finding something that was made of wood (but not "good" wood) and of the right dimensions (deep enough to hold cleaning supplies, but not so deep that it blocks the sink) seemed impossible. Eventually, I stumbled across this rack, which is more than adequate, until we decide to put in a "real" kitchen in place of the hodgepodge that's there now.

Now we just have to figure out where to put the hot-tub.

All Night Long
Tobias has been reverting to an earlier sleep schedule, that is to say: not through the night. It's hard to tell if this has anything to do with the fact that we're trying to get him to drink at least 100 grams/ml per feeding (doctor's orders, he is a bit light for his age). Since we've been weighing him before and after feedings, we've come to know just how variable his feeding habits are. He could slurp for an hour and then fall dead asleep after drinking only 40 grams, or he could empty a 130 ml bottle in ten minutes. Last night, he slept through the night for the first time in over a week. Of course, we're putting him on a plane and moving him nine hours in time zones, we'll have to see what his next schedule is.

And here are some of the last pictures of Tobias in Austria in 2004. First we have Grandpa Rudolf playing with Tobias:
IMG_5366_tobiasXSL_rudolfR IMG_5380_christaR_tobiasXSL_rudolfR

And we finally have a picture of great-Grandma Kessler holding Tobias:

Here is a nice picture, covering four generations:

And finally, prediction of Tobias' drink of choice as an adult: Beer!:

More Tobias pictures (including ones with Beer) are at:


Time to hit the internet cafe and get this posted. Farewell from Vienna (old and New City). And as the song goes: "California here we come."


Bis Bald,
- Karin (playing with Tobias), Tobias (hiccuping when not trying to suck the fingers of passing music school students), and Paul



[1] "Night Owl": Someone who is active at night.

[2] "Half million last minute details": This was actually a full million, but the delay in departure gave us some breathing room, just not enough to avoid the final rush. :-)



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