30 September, 2007

more Austrian Army photo's

Negotiating with "bloody fox" in the Austrian Army.
Trying to get the group organized...
Nice ready made military meals, don't let the smile fool you, it tasted like shit. yuk.
After being awakened at 4AM for an evacuation and sitting...waiting for the 'bombing-shooting' to stop so we could leave this cold ugly bunker.

Spending the night in the mountains

Hiking up to our resting place.
We were divided into 3 groups and then had to find our place to camp, make a shelter, fire, cook food, get comfortable and sleep!
Making the shelter.
Gathering wood for the fire.
"my" group! We were the last group to finally make fire (we were not allowed to bring matches or lighters) and by that time we were so hungry and it was dark and we were starting to eat the food raw. Finally it worked and we had so much fun the rest of the evening.

Jumping into the Inn River!

WAHOO! Into the river I go!
Floating down the Inn to our next jump!
bye bye...
Where the 2 rivers meet, we had to swim across the rushing water which was very difficult.
We all made it safely across!

27 September, 2007

2007 peace photo´s

Getting debriefed on our 'mission' in the Austrian Army..

Getting ready to head out!

Major Rott helping me relax when I was going crazy with stress!
An unfortunate downpour with hail.

new ideas.

One night the kids had a BBQ over the open fire and because of the massive supervision needed to cook real meat, we gave them hotdogs and this other partially-pre-cooked processed meat to cook, kind of like spam, gross! After seeing that there was no way the city kids could even cook the fake meat, I took over. I was laughing to myself because I would call out “hey, so and so, your guts and brains are ready”, or “these mashed internal organs are done”. Because of their limited knowledge of English, they would just smile and gather up the processed-not-fit-for-human-consumption-product and say “thank you, Melinda”. HA HA gotta love it.

The one really cool thing they do on an open fire is cook bread and apples. It’s fantastic! You take bread dough and wrap it around the end of a stick so it forms the shape of a hotdog. You then hold it over the heat of the ash (not the flame) until it is done, It takes awhile but the thinner the dough on your stick the quicker it cooks. For the apples, you just puncture them with a stick and again hold it over the hot ash turning from side to side. It cooks quickly and tastes like baked apples but with a smokey flavor and you eat it right off the stick. I can’t wait to do both of these in Kansas….whenever I find myself back home…

new duties....

Thursday, 20 September

I am being trained…trained to take over the cooking for the next 3 months. Since Katushia is going to Africa and there Peter has found no one to take her place permanently, I have now been given the duty of cooking for the groups that come to the camp. This week, we got up at 6:00 to prepare breakfast for the class. Luckily this class consists of young teenagers so breakfast consists of cereal, bread and milk. Unlike adult classes we didn’t have to make tons of coffee and also adult breakfast includes yogurt, fruit and different Austrian breads. A new thing for me is that in Austria they like hot milk with their cereal and their eggs only soft-boiled so timing is everything.

Lunch and dinner took a bit more preparation and attention on my part since I have never cooked for 30 people before. I was writing down the recipes (roughly) as Katushia prepared the food. She had planned on making a huge pot of soup and simple salad but first she said we must make these things (she called tortillas) first as they would take a couple hours to make. I intently wrote down the mixture which we stirred in a large tub. As she greased two pans and poured the mixture inside I suddenly said, hey these aren’t called tortillas in English, they are called pancakes! I cracked up because I should have realized the mixture we had put together. The difference with these pancakes is that they eat them after lunch or dinner with butter or jam. They are made bigger than an American pancake and thinner, like a cross between a crepe and a pancake. Used as a kind of a dessert, the kids love them. When I told her that we make them for breakfast she laughed at the thought. She then said we should make 2 per person and with only 2 pans going I understood why she said it would take 2 hours. As she started the soup and salad, I continued on with the pancakes.80+ pancakes later I was finished! I had stacked them in the oven to keep warm and it was the biggest stack of large pancakes I have ever seen not to mention ever made. I was so sick of making them that I could barely eat one, but starvation lured me to them.

For dinner one evening we made a very Austrian dish called Knudel. I had eaten it previously while in the Peace Program and had thought many times that I would like to know how they are made and I soon got the chance. It’s a mixture of bread crumb squares kind of like croutons and you add to that some milk, eggs, cheese, flour and any thing else you want, like spinach or other finely chopped vegetables and multiple spices. Once you mix it all together you form it into balls and drop them into boiling water for about 15 minutes. They are really good and usually you put a couple in a bowl and add some soup or cream sauce. Well, 75 ‘balls’ later we were finished and I was really getting tired of Knudel!

My first official ‘working’ day!

Monday, 17 September, 2007

Katushia, Peter and I left the house at 8 AM sharp to head to the market. We stopped for coffee and a quick breakfast and then headed to the Hofah (a supermarket but not American size) 1.5 hours and 2.5 shopping carts later we loaded the truck up and headed back to the house. Later that day a school group (28 young teenage kids and 2 teachers) were to arrive.

After cleaning out the disgusting smelly food from the deep freeze which we then found out had stopped working sometime earlier in the week, we put the groceries away (enough to feed the group for 4 days).

At 1:00 Peter and I left the house and went to pick up the safety climbing gear and a guy named Martin. We then met the busload of city kids and proceeded to lead them climbing over the rocks and through the canyon reaching the Schalklhof 2 hours later. They then got settled into their tee pee’s which will be their home for the next 4 days.

At 5:00 we briefed them on their duties (fire starting, wood cutting, cleaning up, recycling, etc) before they had dinner. At 9:00 we all met in one of the tee pee’s for a little story telling, survival necessities, drum beating and more native spirit stuff. I finally fell exhausted into bed around 10 very satisfied about my new place of existence.

21 September, 2007

day spent in Imst

Friday, 14 September 2007

Today Peter and I went into Imst which is the town he is from. We didn’t really have any plans other than to bring Katushia to the Train station so she could visit her boyfriend before she leaves for Africa on the 23rd. After realizing the beautiful warm weather may not last much longer this year, we hiked a bit in Imst and then went into an area that in the winter is a ski resort kind of place.

There is a ride of sorts used year round which propels you down the mountain on little carts. We bought tickets and then rode the ski lift close to the top of the small mountain. Once at the top we were strapped into the little cart things; hands placed on the only control (pole levers on both sides of the cart) and told to push the lever forward to go and pull back to stop.

I thought “oh cool” and proceeded to go slowly down after testing the stopping mechanism. I rounded a bend in the track and to my joy, picked up speed. All was fine until a hair pin turn in the track caused a rather girlish yelpish scream escape my lips! Previous experience of dropping expensive things has given me the knowledge to always wrap the little strap on my camera around my wrist which saved the life of the precious electronic devise as I slammed on the brakes. I took a glance behind me; Peter’s cart was not in sight, whew…

I then checked the belts around my shoulders and lap secured my camera and headed down again at full speed. It was such a head rush to go so fast and tested my control issue; as I was completely at the mercy of the mechanics of the ride. I rounded another curve at full speed letting my lungs release sounds of joyful fright and almost slammed into the sightseeing cart in front of me. The look on the couple’s faces as they turned their heads to see just what in the hell was coming at them made me bust up laughing. I again slammed on the brakes and called my apologies to the young man and woman who (relieved to have escaped death) smiled nicely and made their way down the tracks a little faster this time. I waited for them to get out of sight only to hear Peter coming up behind me. We chatted for a minute and then we were both off again… At the bottom we sat with some people Peter knew and then headed back to the Schalklhof; another fine day in Austria.

vague memory....

Thursday, 13 September 2007

I have a vague memory of being chased by a cow at one point in my life. I was with one or both of my sisters and we were crossing a field and then a cow or maybe a bull came at us and we fled to safety over a fence, after being scared shitless. This memory came back to me as I was walking down to the area where we throw the leftover food. There are 5 cows here roaming around the same area and I had to pass through them. As I walked in their area, one of them stopped eating and just looked at me. I gathered up my mental strength (as I estimated how long it would take me to make a mad dash to safety) and said “hi cow, how’s the grass this morning”. She just looked at me and then continued eating. I jumped over the fence to continue on to the bio-refuse. I then realized that there were a lot of old apples in the bucket I was carrying, so behind the safety of the fence, I tossed an apple to one of the cows. She just stared at me and then after careful inspection, she ate the fruit.

Then her big cow friends wanted one as qwll so I threw the apples to them one by one…as they moved closer to me. Finally the apples were gone and I was ready to walk back to the house but the cows were standing firm begging for more. I thought, shit, now they will attack me…why didn’t I leave a couple for the way back! I walked around one of the teepees and waited for them to forget about me and the apples. Since they are cows after all, they soon forgot why they were standing there and started walking the other way and I made my way back to the house. I hope they don’t remember the apple girl and chase me down the next time I come out. Maybe I will have to start scouring the area for wild apples…

beautiful Fall Day

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007

My dear father you would be so proud of me; today I dug potatoes. Since I spent the better part of the day yesterday inside cleaning I wanted to spend today outside. I went into the garden and began to clean up a bit; as the house the poor garden had been neglected for awhile. I started pulling weeds in the carrots and when boredom took over, I moved along to the tomatoes. I had such wonderful thoughts of my beautiful 91 year old grandmother and her perfect tomato plants as I proceeded to tie them all upright to reveal their luscious fruit which were beginning to rot on the ground. Peter then came out and we began on the potatoes. As I started digging, I became a little girl again, but thing time instead of grudgingly gathering the potatoes, I felt excited to cook them later. I ate carrots that I plucked from the ground (except the one with worm marks, I’m not THAT into nature). Such a simple task, such wonderful pleasures.

I am starting to see life all around me; a garden full of food and herbs; little critters that will do me no harm; amazing energy coming from the mountains surrounding me, everything…

I am living in a valley surrounded by mountains. To the right is Switzerland, to the left Austria and directly ahead Italy. I feel so much history here! I am in my room waiting for it to warm up from the wood stove I just lit. My first fire in my room! I got it lit and then went to discuss the upcoming schedules with Peter. I had a funny feeling that something might be wrong, but after glancing downstairs a couple times, I let it slide and proceeded to plan the adventures to come. When I went down to my room 30 minutes later, I opened the door and my room was totally engulfed in smoke! I quickly shut the door behind me and opened both my big windows and desperately tried to get all the smoke out before Peter came down. I was laughing about the fact that he was just telling me how much assistance I can give with the next group and he was confident in my abilities to help in many ways and then to find me trying not to start the house on fire! I found the knob that opens the flu (or what ever it is called) and the smoke quit pouring out of the lid and then with the windy day, it quickly left my room…just as I heard footsteps outside my door. Whew…safe this time…

9 11

Tuesday, 11 September, 2007

Today I woke up lazily around 10 and then proceeded to clean for the next 5 hours and it was pure joy. I realized that when I clean, it’s not a compulsive thing, it’s actually relaxes me. The house here is about 100 years old and has 4 floors, lots of wood and lots of windows. The summers are extremely busy with one group after another coming through, so the ‘living quarters’ of the house were in dire need of some TLC, which I was happy to provide. Originally I was settled up on the 4th floor in a little attic bedroom which was so cute, but then after 2 nights there I knew I would not be able to stay there in the winter. It was really cold already and the heat does not make it up to that floor. I was given the choice of a room on the 1st floor which is the only room used as a bedroom on this floor. It’s perfect; I am on the same floor as the kitchen, toilet and living room and front door. Hiking up 2 floors to my room would have gotten old real fast! I cleaned my new room which had been shut up for many months. It was really dirty and I spent the greater part of the day in there. Once it was spotless and most of the spiders chased away (I left 3 of them because we agreed that if I don’t bother them they won’t bother me and also they have to keep in my sight so I know they didn’t sneak into my bed).

Because I have been in school non-stop and on Sat. and Sun. also, I really never knew what the date was or even which day it was…so it was well into the afternoon when Katushia told me it was Sept. 11th. I took a moment to think about what I was feeling at that moment. The sad thing was that I only felt anger. My first thought wasn’t compassion for those who lost their life on this day; my first thought was about pres. g.w. sending over 3000 US men and women to their death in a foreign country. I swallowed my negative thoughts and remembered what a beautiful place I am in and how fortunate I am that the ones I know and love are safe.

´home´at last...

I am not able to get online often here, so my posts will be in spurts!

Monday, 10 September

I am settled here at Schalklhof! K and I arrived on Saturday via train from Innsbruck. We took the train to Landeck and then a bus to Schalklhof…well, the bus actually dropped us off along the highway and then we walked along the highway until we saw the dirt road that would take us to our new home. We were cracking up along the highway since we both had big “backpacking” backpacks but then K was pulling a suitcase on wheels and I had a big duffle strung over one shoulder and we both had larger bags with our laptops in them. It must have been a sight for passing cars…two women overloaded with luggage walking along the highway. We finally made it to the turn off and we were both so exhausted and ready to ditch our things. I kept thinking that I could just leave one bag along the road and come back for it, and then my mind would think…just a couple more steps. We passed a house and K said she would ask the people if we could leave our big bags there and we could come back for them...but then we walked by in silence, both thinking about how we wouldn’t want to return later to get the bags left behind...so we trudged on.

Finally the Schalklhof was in sight and we were so excited! When we reached the porch we dropped everything and just ran inside. It was prearranged that whoever got there first (Katuschia and Andreas were in town buying food) would make coffee, so we did that and just sat outside in the garden to wait for their return. There was a group of adult students on a vision quest in the mountains with the owner Peter and they were returning after 4 days in the mountains so K and I were put directly to work. As we were making a large wreath of leaves and ribbon (as a welcome back token) I was amazed that it had only been 1.5 hours since my arrival. It felt like I had been here for years and I had forgotten that my things were still outside on the sidewalk and I hadn’t even unpacked a single thing.

K and I then welcomed back the students and then proceeded to find our rooms. After putting my things away, we went with Andreas to the mountain to gather all the supplies left there. We drove to the site, but then had to hike up a small rocky trail to the campsite. It was quite exhausting going up so high and when we reached the site and saw ALL the things (tarps, canteens, cooking supplies, tools, etc) I knew it was going to be a workout going down. K and I were loaded up with these huge packs on our back that went down past my butt and was higher than my head. If I would not have had a walking stick, I would have fallen over from the weight and size. I also carried a gas tank thing (for cooking) which I kept switching from hand to hand. My knees made it down the trail to the bottom and we unpacked the bags into the van and then headed back up for the second round of things and to clean up the site and make it look like no one had been there. It was such a wonderful feeling to get down the 2nd and final time. I just lay down in the grass on the side of the road and stretched. I knew my muscles would be so sore the next day (and they are!)

It was then back to work at the house helping to bring the food downstairs for the students and cleaning up everything. It was actually a nice welcoming and I felt right at home with no awkward greetings from the others who I really didn’t know. It brought us all together in a way that couldn’t have been done sitting around chit chatting. I am really happy here.