2006-07 Outbound to Austria
Hometown: Gainesville, FL
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor: Downtown Gainesville Rotary Club
Host: Wien Gloriette Rotary Club
District 1910, Austria
Guten tag, freut mich. My name is Kenny and I’m a junior at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida.
I’d like to start out by saying I GOT IN & I’M GOIN’ TO AUSTRIA!!!!!
I’m 16 years old and have lived six years of my life in Gainesville. Before I lived in Gainesville I lived in northern California for ten years in a town called Santa Rosa. My family basically consists of two sets of parents. There’s my mom Jill and my step-dad Bill, and my dad Ken and my step-mom Jodi. I have two wonderful sisters, Kerri and Kristen and a baby brother on the way, Bryan. Kerri has her own apartment and works at Starbucks Coffee Co. and my other sister Kristen is a freshman at UF.
At Buchholz I do a lot of different activities, which sadly enough I probably won’t get to do in Austria, seeing as most Euro countries focus on the school work and not so much on extra-curricular activities. Here in Buchholz I pole-vault on the track team and also run on the cross-country team. Apart from sports I do a lot of acting and I’m about to start a play in March.
Some of the things I also love to do are to read, listen to music and drive my beautiful ’93 Honda Civic (which sadly enough I’m gonna have to sell before I leave; but don’t say anything to her, she doesn’t know yet.) I also love to travel. So far the places I’ve been are the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica. From these trips I could tell right away that studying abroad for a year is exactly the thing for me, and I know I’m going to have a great time!
I want to thank Rotary District 6970 for this wonderful opportunity.
September 6 Journal
I have now been in this country for 25 days. At 8:27 AM, I stepped off the plane into what would become my home for the next ten months. Before I had boarded the plane I was confident in almost every aspect of the trip. I had all my luggage, all my papers and I was ready to go. So I said goodbye to my parents and charged forward to the security checkpoint. About twenty feet later I had realized that I had walked straight into the handicapped line. Okay, good start. I made my way through the correct security line and headed to my gate. Thirty feet later I had realized that I was headed for the wrong gate. Okay, second good start. But now I was serious! I turned around very casually and headed toward the right gate and boarded the plane. Twelve hours later I landed in Vienna and made my first step into my Austrian exchange.
Waiting for me when I got off the plane was my host family. I was greeted with hugs and kisses and a lot of German words I didn't understand. During the trip I had prepared a whole line of what I was going to say to my host family when I first saw them. When the moment arose for me to deliver my lines, I choked and all I could muster out was, "hallo!" It was a weak start in the country, but it was a start.
We packed the car with my luggage, and immediately made a tour of Vienna. The whole drive my mouth was to the floor as we drove by six-hundred year old buildings and stared up at gigantic historical monuments.
Finally, we pulled into my new home. The neighborhood is beautiful. All of the homes were lined with flower gardens and a lot of garden gnomes. As we came out of the car, I grabbed my bags and headed up the four flights of stairs. In Austria, land is very expensive, so they all build their houses up instead of out. Well, my room was on the fourth floor, and I had a lot of fun lugging my bags up that flight of stairs. As soon as I reached my room I unpacked my iPod, switched it on to some easy music and passed out before I even hit the bed. Seven hours later I awoke to my host brother telling me that if I was hungry, I could come downstairs. I hopped out of bed and bolted to the kitchen. For the past twenty hours all I had eaten was a lukewarm chicken and rice meal and a Sprite. Needless to say, I was looking forward to a good meal. Ten seconds later, I found out that I was in for a great meal. It turns out that in Austria, people don't mess around with their food. There's no experimenting with new ideas or new flavors, they simply stick to the traditional meat, soup, bread, cake and more meat diet. And I have to tell you, it was WONDERFUL! My host mom wanted to make sure that I had enough, so she just kept putting more and more food in front of me. I didn't want to be a bad guest, so I complied with her wishes and just kept eating. And besides, who am I to turn down a good Austrian meal?
A few days later we headed to their holiday home in a small town called Gmunden. My host brother and I decided to go by train, and boy was that an interesting experience. By the time that we had bought our tickets the train was ready to leave. So, with tickets in hand we ran to the platform. If there is one thing that I have learned about European trains, it's that they wait for no man. As we got on the platform we could see our train slowly pulling away in the distance. My host brother quickly yelled something to the platform manager but he didn't hear him, so we just kept running. Finally we were right up beside the train and we hopped into the door. Since then we've always been early!
Three hours later we got off the train in Gmunden and headed for the house. A few hours later my host parents arrived and we again feasted on a wonderful meal. That night we went to the fireworks festival that Gmunden held every year. The festival was huge! People came from all over Austria just to see the fireworks show. Throughout the night the streets were packed while we made our way from booth to booth trying all the different Austrian chocolates. Two days later I headed to language camp with a bunch of other exchange students. The language camp was only three miles away in the next town. While we were there the teachers took us out on two trips. One, was a boat tour of the Traunse lake, and the second, was to an old salt mining town called Hallstatt. For the two weeks I was at language camp, I had the time of my life! I met over fifty other exchange students and made great friends with everyone there. Classes began every day at 8am and ended at 3pm. From 3pm until 6pm we'd study or play table tennis, futbol, foosball or just sit around and talk. The village was just a five minute walk so we usually went into town everyday after classes and also after dinner. The village was beautiful and there were a lot of great places to go. Alongside the lake there was a boardwalk which runs down all the way to Gmunden. Also you would not believe the lake. Except for the rocky mountains behind it, it looks like a crystal blue ocean; nothing like a Florida lake. The language camp was a great start to my trip and the people I met there, I'll never forget.
Now just a week out of language camp I'm back to Vienna. Though the Austrian country side was great, it's nice to be back in the big city again. Whoever said that, "Green acres is the place to be," has obviously never been to Vienna. In just four short days I begin school and I guess we'll see what Austria has in store for me. Though at times the transition from normal life to that of an exchange student can be tough, I don't think I could have been as happy with any other path. Austria is wonderful, the people are wonderful, and so was my decision to become a Rotary Exchange student.
In the words of David Sedaris, "Living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world."
January 3 Journal
Well, it's been about four and a half months since I’ve come to Austria from the states, and a lot has happened in these past months. I’ve had Rotary trips, trips with my family and a lot of trips with other exchange students living here in Austria. Also, I’ve just been experiencing every day life here in Vienna. Now that I’ve been here for this long I feel more life a citizen than a tourist. I go to school, I meet Austrians, I go out with friends, and I’ve even got a library card! Now if that doesn’t mean that I’m a citizen here, than I don’t know what does.
About a month after my language camp, we had our first Rotary weekend, in Tauplitz. Whenever we have a meeting anywhere, we always take the trains. Now, four months into my exchange, this is no problem for me. But four months ago, it seemed every train ride had something go wrong. On Friday morning, I left my house and set out for the train station in the middle of the city, with a friend. We thought we had left ourselves plenty of time to get there, but apparently it wasn’t enough. By the time we got to the train station, we were just in time to see our train pulling out of the platform. Now in a panic we ran to the help desk and asked what it was that we could do. We were told to go to the south train station in the city and wait for the same train which would be passing through there in about twenty minutes. The man at the desk then told us the street car that we needed to get on that would take us to the other station. The only thing he didn’t tell us was how long the street car would take. When we arrived at the south train station, our train had been gone for ten minutes. Again, we headed back for the other train station. When we arrived for the second time at the train station we got stepped off the street car and bumped into my friend Paul, who also missed the train. The funny part is Paul missed his train because he couldn’t find the train station, which is almost impossible to miss, due to the gigantic building that surrounds the train station. Seeing that we had about two hours until the next train, we all went inside the station for a cup of coffee. About six hours later we arrived in Tauplitz very tired and very late. When we stepped off the train, there was a bus waiting for us to take us up the giant hill to our lodge. As we sat on the bus another train pulled in and a few friends stepped off, also late. It turned that we weren’t the only ones to miss a few trains. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the lodge where we met up with 80 other exchange students. Over the weekend, we went hiking, swimming and spent every night in the small town. The hiking trip was great. We saw some small glaciers and even found a cave that went back into the mountain about 60 feet. The trip was incredible and it was a great way to start off the year.
Apart from trips, regular life as an exchange student is great, especially when you’re in Vienna. The city is the perfect place for an exchange student because of all the history and all the space. Vienna is a city of about 1.8 million people and it has so much to offer. Every day, I leave school at about 12:45 and go home for lunch. At two, I go to my German course, stay there for two hours and then I usually spend the rest of the day in the city. Vienna is full of great places, whether it’s a museum, a park, a palace of the kings or just a really good café. I start in the middle of the city and then just work my way out. This is always the best way to find the best stuff that Vienna has to offer. My favorite part of Vienna, are the parks. In Vienna, there are parks everywhere, especially in the inner city. I love to just go out with some music and take a nap under a tree. Right now In Vienna it’s too cold to go out to parks, but just give it a few months and I’ll be back.
Just a few days ago my host brother and I decided to go snowboarding. It was a great trip, where I learned that the snow board was not meant for Kenny Duffield. In two months my Rotary District has a ski week. I think this time I'll stick to the skiing. We arrived later that day back at my house completely exhausted and ready to lounge on the couch and watch the movie. So we popped in the movie Fight Club and fell asleep. I woke up two hours later to my host brother telling me is was snowing outside. I jumped off the couch and peered out the window to see about four inches on the ground with lots of snow still coming down. So we put on some shoes and a jacket and we walked around the neighborhood for an hour. While my host brother was making snowmen, I was freaking out about the snow. The snow had come so late to Vienna this year, and I was so happy to see it. The snow gave the weather a good reason to be soo cold.
Anyway, things right now are going really smooth. I fit in with my family, in my school and in just ordinary life in the big city. I love this trip and I love Austria, I can’t believe I only have 6 months left. I guess time flies while you’re having fun. Anyway, I have plenty of time left and I'm going to enjoy every second of it.
January 27 Journal
Today is January 20th and the freakish weather continues to blow over Austria. About two weeks ago the weather was quite nice, where the skies were mostly blue and not too cold either. Then last week a huge cold front sweeps in and before you know it I’ve got the heavy jackets on again. Then just this week, we get this wind storm that came down from Germany and it starts blowing the roofs off houses. It's pretty weird stuff. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m just holding out for the warm weather.
Also, this week was the opening of the Rathause skate rink. The Rathaus is a government building in the middle of town and is also one on the most beautiful buildings in Vienna. Right in front of the building, the city made a huge skate rink, with trails, dance floors, and cafes. It is definitely the most elaborate rink I have ever seen. A few days ago they had the opening ceremony, so a couple of friends and I decided to go. The opening was really great. They had stunt guns, light and some sort of interpretive dance that no one understands. After the show, they opened the gates for free admission but unfortunately we didn’t have skates and the rentals were 6 Euros. So, we stuck around a while, met some people, listened to the music and just enjoyed the night. For most of the night we just leaned up against a railing and watched the skaters go by. It's probably one of the best things to do. To be with your best friends, just talking and enjoying the night. It's unbelievable how close you get with the other exchange students. My two best friends in Vienna are Sergio, and Ramses. In just five short months we have grown a bond stronger than any I've had before. The friends you have here are really friends for life, people you just won’t forget.
Speaking of friends you won’t forget, my friend Eric left for Brasil yesterday. Since it was Eric’s last night we all went out to a locale and just had one last time with him before he left. We spent a couple hours there and I had a lot of fun. After Eric left for his house, my friend Martha called me and invited me to a cafe where a band was playing music that was a cross between Turkish and Greek. The music was really great and we also ended up staying there for a while. After about and hour I said goodbye to Martha and left with my friend Sergio so we could go meet Ramses. Everything was going fine until we got on the streetcar. As soon as we got on we took a seat and just relaxed for a bit. Then all of a sudden this guy in the front of the car starts to take his clothes off. Piece by piece this guy completely undresses on the street car. While he was walking down the aisles, his girlfriend was screaming at him and I think an old woman fainted. Sergio and I hugged up against the walls when he came by, yet we couldn’t help but to crack up. It was honestly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. As the street car came to a stop he redressed, waved goodbye to everyone in the car and, casually stepped out. As I stepped out I thought to myself that this is probably one of those things that you really regret in the morning. Or not. This guy seemed to know what he was doing. Anyway, after the crazy streetcar ride, Sergio and I met up with Ramses in the city and had a great time. As Usual.
Anyway, these are just a few stories from my life in Vienna. As you can see its a little crazy, well, the people are atleast, but the city still retains its dignity.