So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog

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EAGALA at last- yaaaaaaaaaay!

Our partners, Avarkur and Lucca the Icelandics

Last week Edith and I  finally began our work  under the Tu Was project.  After so many set backs, delays and  frustrations, we collected our first little group of four from the Asylum Seekers’ Hostel in our cars. We can get their bus fares paid, but we have to take the money to the Hostel, collect the used tickets and then take them to the Caritas office and get a refund – completely impractical, so for the first few times we’re collecting them and maybe it will sort itself out.

We began with some grooming, just so they could have their first contact in an unthreatening situation.  One girl (the 15-year-old translator) was dabbing delicately at the horse, scared of the dirt and  hurting it.  Two other kids cleaned just the tummy, keeping away from the head, but they all quickly relaxed and got into it.  Unlike most situations, we know nothing about these people except they have been through some sort of trauma to be there. We cannot talk to some of them as their German is limited and we rely on one of the group translating.  They are mostly children and mothers with a few teenagers, I would be a bit worried with younger men, but I don’t think they would come. Asylum seekers have such a negative press these days, but I hope I’m seeing them just as people to help, faith and culture are irrelevant.

 All became accustomed to the horses, so we lead them over to the school, freed the horses and asked them to collect a horse and bring it to us.  We did make the mistake of giving them the headcollars, we should have let them choose how to do it – well it was our first official session too!

The small girl got quite upset as the horse repeatedly walked away from her, then when she came over to us, he followed her.  I asked her what had happened, and after trying so hard not to prompt her in my bad German, she realised she had achieved her goal, having brought us a horse and was thrilled.  The boy was more concerned with working out how the halter fitted, but eventually to his joy made it.  Grandma helped our translator and after doing  the task herself.  She was  talking to the horse and I saw her smile and surreptitiously give the horse a kiss on the nose!  She was adamant she has never worked much with animals, but I would say her body language belies this – but maybe it was only donkeys!   The translator also achieved with some help from Grandma, and was so pleased she wanted to do everything including  riding back to the Hostel! 

We did a leading exercise with cones, but our younger horse read too accurately the boy’s body language and ran away as he was asking her to trot, so we had a break.  After that we did Life’s little obstacle, where one horse quite happily walked over the pole while they were trying to get the other over and they missed it.  They couldn’t keep quiet, but achieved it easily.  We then took the horses away as they were both becoming a bit uptight, it was their first full session too!   The group was so excited, it was so much fun, the only negative aspect was the formerly full of confidence girl  lost it around the horses.   They all signed up for next time, lets hope they will come. Coming with nothing, we’re also having to find some of them  shoes and jeans, to protect them a bit.  We will also never know if they’ll be suddenly moved on, and so have to treat each session as an entirety.

Under their situation in the Hostel and language difficulties, several of those who said they’d come to the first session didn’t, Doctors appointments, something to do, or maybe just fear held them back.  Hopefully the experiences of our first group would encourage the others.  I would so like to find out their stories but as yet feel unable to ask.  Next time, we’ll repeat the haltering with any new guys, then try to get them to find a metaphor the in obstacle for their lives, or we’ll suggest one and try to go a little deeper.

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Being Austrian

Graveyard at Ramingstein with a few Pansies 'Stiefmutterchen'

April 2011 – posted a bit late!

I went to the Ramingstein graveyard today with Linda.  We’d bought three trays of pansies and took them to fill the graves of  the Gautsch’s from whom we’d bought the flat and her relatives.  She was sprinkling water on other graves where the flowers were looking thirsty, all of family or people she knew.  The Graveyard was awash with colour, most of the graves have been done with pansies and some with Pussy Willow bushes decorated with plastic ,coloured Easter eggs.  It was incredible to see the care taken, I’ve not seen anything like in England, and it struck me I was really doing something Austrian in Austria.

Since then, feeling the part I’ve filled my window box with Pansies, a nice splash of colour till its warm enough for Geraniums and Petunias.

Later that afternoon I went to see Gina’s new Icelandic horse at the stables, what a stunner. Pure white (well except for winter brown at the edges) and ghostly blue eyes.  It’s difficult to relate to a horse that doesn’t have the usual brown ones that are so friendly and true.  Yet he was friendly and calm like a good Icelandic.  I think he’ll be good once he’s properly broken in.  I then took Gina to Edith’s to pick up Avarkur who was being borrowed for a lesson.  We talked a bit about the lessons going on at the weekend.  As I drove away, I was overwhelmed with a deep sadness, almost to the point of tears.  Was it because they were just being friendly and I’ve felt alone of late, especially with Dave working so long hours?  Is it for something lost, as my heart is with working with the kids and horses as I’ve wittered on about for so long?  I don’t know.  But it does remind me of the feeling when I started to look on the net  about transporting Monty (my English horse) to Austria and each time I did, I was overwhelmed with grief almost to the point of tears and so went no further.   I couldn’t explain why I felt like that at the time, except three months after we arrived in Austria, Monty died from cancer.



Lungau Penguin, yes really, it was stuffed in the Museum so it must be true!

 Last Sunday we trotted off to church and could see the snow had fallen on the tops of the hill. On the radio, Obertauern was calling for snow chains  and I was getting lectured about having put my big geranium out too soon in the garden. A late burst of cold and snow is not unusual.  The Pastor from over the mountain was there, and we had a sheep theme to the service, with a song about wandering sheep that Jesus looks after and similar Psalms.  As we prayed I could see myself as a sort of manic  Shaun the sheep, going around in angry circles, ignoring signs and getting off the path.  Help, Jesus, come and shepherd me back to the fold I prayed, imaging a swift gentle replacement in the field.  The answer was, just what do you think I’m already doing????  In my dim way, I’d  always imagined  a comfortable way back, never seeing shepherding as  being taught things, shown things, making changes in thinking, sometimes difficult things.    Now I’m begining to get it!

Prayers are so often answered.  I’d been thinking of how I wanted a break from German, and Sunday became one as we went to the local museum with Miles, had lunch, looked at St Leonhard’s’ church in its scaffolding, and had a cup of tea at home, all the time nattering in English. No misunderstanding, no struggling for words, wonderful!

That evening Dave and I had a chat like we haven’t hd for ages – Joyce’s Meyer’s teachings have reached him too!  He’s aware of the wall too.  Having achieved all that we’d looked to do when first married/younger.  What is there left to do?  A sense of futility.  Is this common to our age group?  He is convinced we couldn’t afford to gp back to the UK even if we wanted.  I won’t countenance that, if that felt true I would be fighting to leave.  I need to feel the option is open.  I would like to find a way to run a business together from home.  So we could be our own bosses, take time off when we want and still earn a living.  but how to do it?  I dream of taking over Lois’s – together it wouldn’t matter if we worked weekends, we’d be off together during the week.  Or a small B and B.  I need more people, I want to meet and bring God’s love to them. I know God says we should do with what we have already, so we could use our room as an overnight room, but it’s not en suite, but it would be a start.   I hear Dave’s  voice going on and on about winning the lottery. I wish he  wouldn’t this creates unbelief in God to work in other ways to help us.  Still God is up to something, maybe something great is around the corner!!!!!!

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Integration in Lungau- have we?


Me being a scared Icelander on Rodi at the Burg Moosham riding festival, 2008

As I’ve blithered on ,we’ve been here four years, so are we now a part of the community?  I somehow expected Dave and I to change with our new life, but although we did loads of stuff when we first arrived, maybe we’re more back to where we were in England – a backsliding into laziness and we need to jerk oursleves out of it.  It was all exciting at first and people were surprised to meet new folks- they just couldn’t understand how we could possibly want to move here!

We know our neighbours Paggy and Linda quite well, but we’re not in each others hair.The others are polite, but not on the popping in for a cup of tea basis (or do I mean beer?).  The older couple across the way only had us in for coffee after we’d given them a lift home and the other has a slightly odd reputation for being nosey.  All the shrubs in our garden were planted to block their view of our window and he spent all day rubberknecking when we were moving in and the builders were here.  Poor man is ill now and although we’ve offered any help, they keep more to themselves.

Most of the real friends we’ve made are bilingual apart from Linda and Paggy!  We know more of the English incomers too and thats been a joy – just to have a girly natter in my own language is wonderful!  Its great to have supplies brought such as gravy powder, bread sauce and malt vinegar which you cant get here – although I’m using these less and less.

We know  a few folks through church and we went to the Bible group but have never really become close – probably becasue the majority were in theri 30s with families.Then  of course, I musn’t forget  my first horse friend, who took me to meet her horses.  It was just after we’d arrived and I was a bit sad for Monty* although I swore I’d given up horses! One came and just stood by me and blew into my hair, I closed my eyes and it was a moment of pure bliss. Horse therapy for me!

Are we still looking at the place with rosy tinteds?  I do read the local papers and know whats about, there’s a very low crime rate – down 33% last year, they must have nicked someone!  The evening news presenters don’t have the cult status as our previous South Today ones did, and sometimes they really struggle for news. Headlines have been about a telegraph pole falling down, is there enough wood and a new design of patio chair! Wonderful! But local gossip and bitching and backbiting we know very little.  Is it due to the language differences or simply the people we are?  All I know is,that in England, even in my own town I felt an outsider, now that I really am one, perhaps I’ve come home!

We do go to some concerts and ocassionally to the pub – but we’re not pub people, it doesnt sit easily.  Now we do get by quite easily- except for deeply spoken dialect, although Dave struggles a bit.  When we start the therapy, Edith and I will know more people, and certainly I know as acquaintances loads of kids and mothers  from Lois’s.  We are happy here, apart from the weekends when we can’t make up our minds what to do.  Roll on when we can get up into the mountains! I thought of moving back recently, how would we do it?  The plan I came up with would be to find a service job through the Lady magazine, they are always seeking couples of our age, and rent here here out so we can come back.   But then I thought, I dont want to, here is where I live.

*Monty was the horse I had on loan in England for about three years, but felt he was too old to try and bring over.  He died from cancer about three months after we arrived so I was right.  He’d had a ling problem with colic and I had suspected a problem.

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Lungau reflections – looking forward

Flat on our arrival, 2007

I’ve written several blogs to come, evaluating our four years so far in the Lungau. It’s a cliche to say this, but the time has flown.  I’ve changed so much in this time, I think I’m more patient, closer to God, less manic, less driven, chilled. When we went back to England at Christmas, it put things into perspective. I could see how we’ve started to be absorbed into this land and closed rural community, because it’s so different from English  life and it feels good.  Or am I kidding myself?  We’d have undergone the same process if we’d moved to Wales or Scotland or somewhere,  but without the language barrier.  My brother made the interesting comment that it would be easy to get trapped in a place like this and never want to leave!

I’m at a really exciting phase.  I’m  going back to the Burg and hope that I can wangle an almost regular day off so that when Edith and I get customers we   have a set day for them.  I couldn’t really afford not to go back, and take a gamble on our week being filled.  I would like to do the Therapy at Edith’s house, but the best bit of land she insists on keeping for hay, even though I say we should take the money out of the business.  The alternative is to work at Lois’s which is fine during the day up until the schools break up and then there’s kids everywhere.  He’s offered us the old riding school up on the hill but I don’t fancy taking two geldings through there when he’s running the stallion with  mares in the next field.  Oh, I hope it’ll work out.  We’re off to see Caritas ,the charity which works with Asylum seekers again tomorrow as the boss lady is back.  I didnt’ like the idea at first myself – the whole thing has got such a bad press, but these are families from all over Europe and of course, when you know their individual stories it’s different.  There’s been a couple of case in Austria where well integrated familes have been frog marched away by the Police and sent home, even at the cost of splitting them up and there’s been such a hue and cry that they’ve been allowed back to settle.  Austria is now apparently looking at their methods on this. We had a hostel in Ramingstein when we arrived.  Then one lad attacked another with a knife at the Easter fire – saying he had a problem with the Cross. So why send a radical Muslim to a strongly Catholic country?  The mayor just simply shut the Hostel down in six weeks, no pleading human rights, blah blah blah.  It was done.

This line of work means that we have a basis to put in for ‘Tu Was’ as mentioned previously, the local government  initiaitive to fund Lungau people in projects so that they can live better together. The Lungau has a very high rate of depression and suicide. If succesful we could get a couple of thousand and that would help with the advertising costs and so on.  We have to do a ten minute presentation -argggggggghhhhhhh!  But thats not till May. We’ve been to see various governement peeps all with the ‘very interesting but we dont have any money’ spiel.  We’ve made a brochure and business cards, so we need to cover the costs of that!

The church initiative, ”The magic of faith’ is just over  ten days away, at last something for God! This will be a great year! We have a speaker/magician, workshops organised, tea and biccies and a follow up ‘Stammtisch’ in a local restaurant.  Very Austrian, not how we’d go about it at home, they have no idea about the Alpha course!  Maybe we’re finally getting to be on the path we thought we were on when we started here!

Dave and I have begun to realise we’ve begun to sit on out laurels a bit. We haven’t explored Austria at all for ages and it was a major excursion to go to Europark near Salzburg last weekend.  Its all too esy to sit and watch a DVD at this time of year.  So we’re going to have a holiday somewhere ourselves this year, we’re going to visit the castle at Hochwerfen and the Salzkammergut, maybe with the kids.  I love having visitors but after doing the local sites ad nauseum itll be good to go elsewhere.

Roll on spring! When I hear how the Daffs are out and the trees about to blossom in GB I get a little envious!

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Diary Extract Three, Finding our way, 2007

Flippin woodworm

Quite a week. On Saturday we walked into Tamsweg and my teeth that have been playing up all the time suddenly seemed to get really bad. It was like a spasm, and the pain was like being drilled and it became a constant ache. Sunday was ruined by the continuous pain, so I was down the dentist at 7.30 on Monday morning! They took me although no E card – I have to take in straight away when it arrives. Was there for nearly 3 hours as they fitted me in. The Dentist began by hitting my teeth and then said I have a big infection and need root treatment, Oh the relief when he gave a jab. He didn’t speak English at first and my German soon ran out. I was tipped so my head was lower than my feet and the techno is about 10 years behind England. He has three treatment rooms and three victims on the go at once and goes from room to room. To think I had that check up in England and if I’d mentioned how that jaw has been sensitive for ages…….. I spose the stress triggered it. I feel ok now, lower jaw playing up but I really think I may be clenching that with stress. So I was high when the pain went.
We then went to meet a couple from the Bible group, for language swop. They have three girls and live around the corner from the flat we turned down in Tamsweg – so was it the wrong decision? Edda (also Bible group) lives near there too. We found out about each other, dogs and horses – they ride at the school mentioned by the dentist and who is advertising for staff – invited me to go ride too. Got onto church matters – they seem very frustrated even angry. I realise how much we take for granted in our large well organised church, even support and freedom to meet. The Parish priest put stop to a Christian group meeting in a café in Tamsweg. They say there is a big mix in the Housegroup – which I must say on reflection I would have thought was a strength, but some are complacent Catholic, some Protestant like Zuglinda. We really need to know them more. I felt F was very angry to, maybe issues with losing her mother. Said we should start to pray, so Dave and I will prayer walk. Have been praying that I have humility here – all we can offer is love and experiences that could help. Told them about New Life starting small – maybe Madling is the place to start?
Have had more beer with Mr P, who was feeling cross with Zuglinda for her obvious irritation with him, he’s a sad old man. Then yesterday when I was waiting for phone man, he had to barge in, so I left him with Dave, now feel ashamed. But maybe he’s the mate for Dave – will now worry about Dave and beer! We must show Jesus’ love!
Have just cocked up sending my hundreds of emails – did them in Outlook and couldn’t send them and then H said the floors may still be too wet, slipped into a pit of completer despair. It’s the waiting, I don’t want to go home, I just want a home! Just wallowed in frustration and sadness. Then decided well, if the furniture is here, there’s a lot we can be doing – could even camp in the sitting room (has its original floor) if they would do the kitchen, Will paint outside and do the windows and will have curtains and pictures to do, so wont be idle if its another week – oh for a person who is SO inpatient!
Dave and I are waking about 7, read and pray alone, tea and coffee and chat and I’m really beginning to treasure this. We hare going round in circle s over windows and doors in that room – so much must wait until we are in and I want retail therapy – really don’t think my curtains are long enough. May go to a catalogue. We did buy mattresses locally as they will be delivered – Dave will have alter our bed the continental sizes don’t match the UK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Günter taking us to a horse parade on Sunday – looks good. Said he felt I needed some horse contact. It stuck me, all our new contacts have something to do with horses and I hadn’t sought them out – wow what a blessing when I was ready to give it up!
See lots of Learning Difficulties people – is it better they are all at home like this – what about the parents, or is it the culture of family? Are these guys able to grow? Realise after we had little Elias in here being sweet then running amok that if you do not have control of the language, you will not be able to control or have respect from these guys. G talked about working teaching English corporately. Its an idea. Feel we must work sooner than later, but then what will we do with all our visitors in the summer? August start would be nice – lazy moo! H has offered us a car, we really want one for all our shopping and maybe for work but are really worried about junctions and motorways! We could go tourist on Sundays. Found it so hot walking up the hill behind Madling that I had to turn back – may have been hunger at the moment feel so unfit, just don’t want to walk any flippin hills! Dave and I playing endless patience on card and computer, fed up with filling time, don’t even have the flipping German courses! Have found radio Salzburg – Austro pop and 1970s – better than other station which just repeated English hits.
Trees are all coming out – many cowslips and fields of anemones – white ones. River rising with snow melt, but still really hot and I came here to be cold! Forsythia out and now some fruit blossom – Bishofen where we shopped was about 2 weeks ahead of this and the air so much more moist. Peter (over the road) told us that all these old farm buildings get left – you either cant find out who owns them, or they wont sell so they just rot – and no local would spend a lot of money doing them up. What a waste. Parts of Ramingstein are like Epsach in 1979, small herds of cows in until the second hay is cut, the smell of cows and silage and rotting spuds, A few Holsteiners in fields. Much poo spreading on the fields but not enough rain I think. Some store the fresh dung in heaps until the next year – so it doesn’t burn the grass I spose. Austrians were hobbit like cleaning houses and gardens over Easter – maybe a sign of cabin fever. Found our broken wall outside the flat was done by a lorry!
Found some photos of the house – was a veranda balcony that they built on at the front. Zuglinda said that there was no water in the houses in 1963 when she moved in. Also found a snuff pot – hope its worth shed loads of money! Giving Gunter the bikes – wont use them!
It all gets more and more complicated………
We had the floors tested on Thursday and found that the concrete is still too wet and it will be another two weeks, before they will lay the parquet flooring with a guarantee. I’d been feeling pretty hormonal the past couple of days, homesick, not for England, but my home, my things, my place. So I’d said to D(who thinks I’m mad giving up a nice furnished place) that we would camp in the sitting room, put a bad and settee in and use the wood cooker. So H bless him got the fire moved in Friday morning. So we go over and start clearing, only to find that the wood surround in the sitting room had got not only ants under it but WOOD-BLOODY-WORM. Rang H who said a naughty word – after all he should have looked at it – if I were a nasty person I could really throw a wobbly after all the other cock ups – and he got G to meet in Tamsweg to but more stuff kill the blighters. We look at the board, decided it was too far gone and ripped it off only to find a huge patch of mould and falling off plaster. So we spent the day peeling, so it will now it needs plastering and painting and maybe fixing, so we probably can’t sleep in there.
AW, 87r498573970950398098~:{:?@>{::>’;#>[;@>_!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Went to the Horse Blessing with G today and his little boy who looks just like him. Funny I didn’t want to ride anything and didn’t get horse – itch, still enjoying not mucking out too much – having given it up – have I become a fraud and got over horse-itis? With the hormones playing around I’ve got very aware of how difficult I am to be with and really want to be close to Dave. Felt a deep pit of sorrow/remorse/misery, just wanted to give upon everything.
Now Rob (furniture man) has rung, he will be with us Tuesday evening –staying overnight. Will need to book and hotel for him. D has a blinding migraine and feels sick, mattresses coming tomorrow morning and H needs to get into flat. Will we EVER get in?
We felt guilty taking G from family the other day, but he said he had heart attack in 99 from overwork, so will always lead a less stressful life. Had a big chat about faith. The Tamsweg Christians are so unsupported, educated and are so full of fear from family and hierarchy. We need to pray for boldness, hadn’t heard of prayer walking. Had also idea for young drop in place – like our Christian coffee shop. Still see Madling as a rretreat centre. Have met another neighbour – woodworking musician. Boldness!