"Every morning in February has been magestic, and for this - I thank you, February."

I am a margin writer.
a firm believer that emptiness can be filled with words. white space aches.
Uli bought me this german book that I began doing German in - still do - but it became quickly apparent that it not for foreigners but rather native speakers wishing to improve on their own language. On one incredibly tedious tedious tedious day I smoothed the creases on page 15 and began with the words: "Stefan throws spitballs, Tina looks less than thrilled. Vicki falls asleep to the monotone voice of the Physik professor, while Wolfi spins his rubix cube in a rainbow vortex..." and that was the beginning. I have written everything from homesick woes to exchangie philosophy to classmate observations to libbi-isms sprinkled upon page after page.
some of excerpts:
"David hurls a wadded up piece of paper at Benita. She fires it back. Matthia laughes, it lands near my toe. I hand it to David, who looks intently at me for several seconds, and decides on 'thank you'. You retard, I know what thank you is in German."
"I am a conversationalist at heart. Conversation is my bread and water. I believe this exchange has been difficult because the lack of words and good conversation. Words have lost all their meaning in the last 5 months, I no longer thrive on them."
"I love that when I write ink splatters on my palms and fingertips. It's beautiful to see something of such a vivid hue stain skin so colorless. I am in love with this occurence."
"The spontanity that the train allows is incredible. The idea that you are allowed the freedom to move as you please, explore as you desire, act upon your immense wanderlust for the scarcely unknown... lolita. lolita, fire of my loins! such passion! viva la LIFE!"
"Today is against me. I am positively fuming. The geography teacher can't possibly blame Dominik's bad mark on me because we don't even sit near each other or talk during that class. The unfairness of this situation overwhelms."
"A pen change is like the summer. The chance of rejuvination and being reborn hangs in the air...but this is the chance for my words to start all over. What a lovely concept."
"missing the diversity of American foods. Mia and I had the most intense skype convo last night about how we want miss being able to walk out of the house at 2 am and grab a cheeseburger and fries at Denny's...go to the Walmart at 11 to play hide and seek...Krispy Kremes at 4. Such convenience does not occur to the Austrian people, sdjkfhskjfh."
"Marius is happy today - I think he's in one of those moods when he's liable to grab somebody's crotch. Achtung, Robin."
"Ich werde tot sein: my mantra."
and so much more. More personal and private, more deliciously in depth, more than what appears to skim the surface. I am not a complex individual - but musing is definitely a defining trait. A conversationalist and a muser. though, sometimes it's poetry. bits of prose glued together with the faintest of themes.

On my mind now: I got my flight information last week. July 16th, leave Graz Airport at 6 am, arrive in Frankfurt at 7:25. Leave Frankfurt at 10:50, arrive in Detroit at 2 pm. Be awesome in Detroit until 8:00, and then arrive finally in Portland at 9:36 pm on the same day. I am unsure what to think about this - good or bad? As eager as I am to leave I will miss everything I've complained about this year. The USA seems foreign, big, unfriendly...


it's the hap happiest season of all

my days have been

skiing in a winter wonderland

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise

Canada, Oregon, Idaho, Ohio
you can't see our faces but rest be assured they are amazing

THIS GIRL is one of my best friends in Austria.
She was one of the first people I met at language camp, and we severely disliked each other... then at the Rotary Alps hiking weekend we became more friendly and on a whim decided to meet up in Graz, an in between city because she's a Vienna girl and I'm stuck in the South... we had the most incredible time and since that September weekend we've talked almost everyday and are inseparable. A friend I'll take away from Austria.

glutwein stand
christmas market in the neuer platz

klagenfurt christmas market: (noun) heaven for lovers of festivity and christmas frivolity.

weihnachtszeit decorations of the alter platz. I felt like I was at Tauplitz again, a carpet of stars overhead...

mark your calendars : december 6th, st. nick pays an overdue visit to one's actual home. he comes baring gifts. I was impressed when he seemed to know about Marlena and Arto's past year...and not so impressed when I saw his give away clipboard and Oma Ugovsek slip him 20 Euro. I believed for 10 minutes.

my st.nick haul: old school cuties and walnuts

christmas eve dinner. I believe I have eaten more sushi in Austria than I ever had in the USA... not complaining or anything

so this was the product of sneakiness...christmas eve I went to the cemetery with Opa Ugovsek (Benno) and family to honor the deceased Ugovseks, and I hastily took a picture of the rows of shuddering flames enclosed in crimson glass...
well you can imagine.
KRAMPUS. an Austrian tradition that makes me scratch my head and ask why? the krampus exists for a very bizarre reason... to scare children into being good. my host mum has vivid memories of being chased by a krampus at age 15 and hiding in a bathroom with a glass wall... the krampus relentlessly hammered on the wall and attempted to get in. she to this day is terrified of these hideous creatures, as are my host sisters. under the krampus masks there lays a hushed secret - most of the actions are alcohol induced. typical austria.

austrians know their hot chocolate

essential : chocolate advent calender, courtsey of LINDT

a typical morning march to school

this was a particularly slushy day that was only compensated by the SKY oh the glorious glorious Austrian sky

the heavens opened.

I would put a hairbow on my snowman
a photo for the scrapbook: libbi leigh's first snowman

canada, usa, canada
endless kababs
Uli and I went to St. Peter for an exhibit on old books and monasteries... I was prepared for the inevitable pang of boredom and disinterest to come, however when my eyes skimmed the rows and rows of books, gold leaf printed and exquisitely with the touch of an artist done, I suddenly got the feeling that only books can give you (sort of warmness. like you're standing near a fire, and your stomach curls and you feel all crinkly and lovely), breathed in the fragrance of withering pages and leather bindings, and the rest of the exhibit was simply fascinating.

STYRIA the green heart of Austria
the klagenfurter landhaus + a goof

heim. ikea has become somewhat of a haven for me, it's *exactly* the same as the one at home...even the mcdonald's here is different, but ikea and it's swedish goodness remains sure.

and what does it feel like to be about halfway in my exchange?
it's relieving.

exchange has been everything and nothing I've expected... I mean, I didn't expect to hate and love Austria as much as I do. You can't truly have hatred for a place until you experience the exchange life: loneliness. confinement. homelessness. not being able to communicate in any language. has all the strife been worth it?

but it's making the thought of returning to the USA a bit easier. I will now be returning to home a month earlier... not because of Austria, I'm just more eager to get on with my American life and see my family again. It's like this year has been a pause in the film of my life, and July 2010 the reel will begin to roll again and things will move along like Austria never happened. it will be kept alive by memories, wispy memories. friendships. a new tongue. a fresh perspective on American living.

I hope your winters have been as captivating as mine :)
bussi bussi


school daze (ahh, the cliches are astounding)

It's about time to tell you a bit about my life here, everyday, because it's not regular occurance for me to travel and embark on journeys all the time - no, I hold a student visa, am on an educational exchange, and so attend school. 
aren't they adorable? 

it's the most incredible thing here.
  my classmates have known each other since they were 10. Since they made the crucial decision to take the "realistic" course, the science and math route, they've endured the ups and downs of the Austrian school system together. Ups: independence, self sufficiency, flexibility. Downs: unconsistancy, lack of attention from unmotivated professors, precious little incentive. The class is small - about 18 - and dwindled further when they turned 13 and went into the 4th class. Half the class left to go to other educational institutions (specialty schools, easier high schools) and now the rest is who I know and have grown to love. Sure, they are like any other group of teenagers: not void of cliques, stereotypes, emotional baggage with each other, lack of privacy. It was difficult to delve into the complexity of a class who had spent their entire school careers together, and still it remains. I feel like an intruder often. Their last year, before Matura, interrupted by a hopeless American foreign exchange student who sits in the back of the class like a juvenile delinquent and accomplishes the pointless. I hope to fracture this enclosed circle of friendship. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don't mind being alone. I rarely make an effort to make friends - but I'm content with a small but good number. Here, I am not. Austrian relationships have changed my outlook on thinking: friends for life, freunde fürs leben. 

I've learned a lot from school, not all necessarily academic. I've discovered the importance of ambition and self drive. How education is such a privilege. Procrastination hurts, just get it done. Multi tasking is possibly the greatest talent one can possess with a mound of work looming ahead. School has helped me sort out a few things; the school day is usually 6 hours long, and 2-3 of those hours are thinking in German, listening to German, and reading in German. The others are usually dedicated to day-dreaming, thinking, and observing. I wrote earlier in the year that "thoughts are the single most dangerous thing an exchange student can encounter" and it still holds true. 

However school isn't always so serious. I laugh often. I smile often (especially when I don't understand something). my classmates are endearing. 
there are things I'll never understand, even after this year.
1. unidentified flying objects. I have been hit with countless pieces of paper, gum, a football, books, a slipper, erasers, and god knows what in the classroom. A wadded up piece of paper wizzes past my nose as I read. I send an sms to a fellow exchange student, I feel something faint brush my shoulder. I get hit on the side of the head as I walk down the corridors at school to buy pretzel bread with a football - a betrayal, as it is an American football. A vengeful classmate levies a marker at another, and lucky me is in the middle. I am terrified of flying objects now. Austrian boys seem to have the weirdest obsession with throwing things. I am usually a causality in their never ending wars, however the other girls and I are also frequent targets. The other exchange students and I have discussed  Austrian males' love of the flight, and have come to no reasonable conclusion. It is so peculiar. 
2. snow. that snow. that pesky, wet, disgustingly useless mound of white sitting outside our classroom. the hindrances it generously provides. ugh, der schnee. and when the foreign exchange student comes bouncing into the classroom singing "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" well that's just the jam on top of our sachertorte. 
3. slap happiness. When Austrians get excited, they slap your legs, arms, whatever. Enough said. 
4. chatter boxes. Fruitful conversations. They talk during the breaks, they talk during work time, they talk when the professor talks - and promptly glares, they talk talk talk.  Not even a scowl from the most loathed professor, a Viennese 20 something with an art degree, discourages these passionate lovers of the vocal word. 
5. entschuldiung!  unabashedly says Marius, with an demeanor of unperturbedness and coolness ..he strolls to his seat - motorcycle helmet resting on the hips, clutched by a carefree hand and an unruffled spirit - and sinks into his seat, a faint smirk tugging at his lips. The professor glances up from her work briefly, and only offers a brisk nod and a lukewarm "Guten Morgen". The flexibility here to tardiness is astounding. 
6. games. I look to my left, there's a classmate with his gameboy under his desk and his thumbs in a flurry. I look to my right, and there's a group of boys surrounding one with his phone, playing a game. I look up, and the glow from a city of handheld PSPs and DSs illuminates the ceiling. sigh. 
7. DEUTSCHSPRECHEN! du musst mit der Austauschschülerin nur deutsch sprechen! Mein Gott, und du, die Libbi, musst Deutsch lernen. Come on now. Even though we have an English and High German matura, and half the class is miserably failing, let's not converse with the fluent foreign exchange student even though it might benefit us! 

the school.
the work.
the work?
their work.
the classroom.

the cozy window seat in the library that is mine

mein Vater kommt nach Österreich in zwei wochen für Weihnachtszeit. ich freue mich, sehr :)


I love to live and I live to love

the times we've had together. 
the laughs we've shared - the cries. we've been though  the toughest of times and the most marvelous. 
oh what you have brought out - lured, entranced, coaxed - of this infirm vulnerable little body in another life
something beautiful and buried
you fought for it, didn't you?

But you knew.
my resistance was and continues to be futile in lights of your vainglorious persistance. for if any country is able to possess the sin of unadulterated and pure pride, it would be you dearest Austria. red white red red white red red white red. those colors represent mistakes and redemption. bluntness, decisiveness. power. strength. the legacy of a dynasty and an empire that ruled the ancient world.
I knew when the tip of my toes brushed the Austrian soil apprehensively stepping off Flight 3632 Frankfurt to Graz nonstop, heart faltering and hands fluttering, that my life would never be the same. No, I would not board my plane back to America as the same person with that attitude, that demeanor, those experiences - no, because Austria, you are in intertwined into my thoughts. Everything is a pre Austria and in time there will be a post Austria. One monumenteous step marked my world as I know it, for this, one of discoveries of the divinest kind and unstable sentiments, is my life now. 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

so here's to the future, 9 months. 
our love is beautiful.
coming here, I constructed a list of goals...one is put love in a person or place. I believe I have found success :)

(It's the most eerie thought that I am now immune to sights that 3 months ago would of induced peals of rapture and appreciation...my environment is no longer unfamiliar, hearing German constantly doesn't excite me (no, understanding excites me!). How lovely and terrible it is to have resistance to such a magnificent city. )