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