Thursday, July 31, 2008

SLUGS!!!



It's been raining about every other day here in Maurach. In fact, on Tuesday night we had a big thunder/lightning storm. When it rains so much, the slugs all come out of the grass onto the sidewalk. There's tons of them! And they're huge! Here's a typical example. Gross.
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The Simpsons auf Deutsch!

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The other day I happened to catch an episode of the Simpsons on TV during lunch! It was very fun to watch! Today I happened to see the end of a Baywatch episode, followed immediately by the Smurfs (Die Schlümpfe, auf Deutsch). I found it very funny that the Smurfs followed Baywatch, but, when there's only two channels, the options are naturally limited...!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TAOD #8

It is Tuesday morning here, July 29. I have about an hour until German class so I figured I’d give another update. We’ve had two big performances since I wrote last. Saturday night we had a masterclass with a great soprano named Andrea Huber. She’s a great singer and has a great sense of how to give good coachings and classes. I’ve really enjoyed playing in her coachings this past week and was happy when I found out that I was going to be the pianist for the masterclass she gave Saturday night. It was a fun class – the first half of the class was dedicated to her giving a tutorial to the singers on how to develop a ‘Sexy Walk’. I didn’t participate (I figured I’m already sexy enough!) but had a blast watching some of the more awkward singers try her techniques! After that was the masterclass and I was very happy with how I played.

Last night (Monday night) we had our first big concert. It took place in Achenkirch, another nearby town. I was quite tired last night and honestly didn’t feel like playing a concert, but it went okay. I wasn’t completely pleased with my playing, but the audience (which was sold out) really, really enjoyed our presentation so I don’t feel too bad. I just need to be a little more familiar with some of the music I think. It really wouldn’t hurt me to practice a little, I guess! Heh heh…

The weather has been beautiful again. It’s been raining off and on again, which is very pleasant. We’ve actually had some big storms, and sometimes it rains so dang hard! The weather is very variable and can be hot, cloudless and sunny one moment and 15 minutes later it can be just pouring! I got caught in it once having to walk over to the theater (a separate building about 5 min. walk away) and I got so soaked.

This weekend I also had to address the issue of doing some laundry. There is a washer and dryer in the basement of our apartments, and I went down there to try and check it out and see what I would need. Finally on Saturday I got some change, bought some detergent, and bravely descended to try my luck. There are a few things that make this difficult – the first and the most obvious is the language barrier. Unfortunately my little dictionary lacks much of this functional laundry vocabulary that one must understand. But even more difficult is the fact that most of the writing on the dial and buttons on the machine is rubbed off, making it even harder to figure out what cycle to use and stuff. The machine is unlike any American machine I’ve ever seen anyways, so there isn’t really any common ground to start from other than knowing to put the clothes inside it!

Anyways, after wasting a little more money than needed I got it started. But there has got to be something wrong with this stupid washer. For one thing, the cycle took longer than 1.5 hours even with me impatiently nudging the dial ahead to the next part of the cycle! It’s so stupid. It will agitate the clothes for 10 seconds in one direction, then it stops and sits doing nothing for about a minute. Then it agitates for 10 seconds in the opposite direction. And it did this for at least 30 minutes until I decided that I was sick of waiting and moved it to the next cycle. I don’t think this is how all European washing machines work, but you never know. Anyways, it finally did finish and I was able to dry the load without further incident.

It wasn’t worth it, though. You see, I thought washers and dryers are supposed to save you time and money. This one didn’t do either, so I gave up and just washed my second load of clothes by hand. It was faster, easier, and cheaper, and I’ll probably do some more tonight.

Well that’s pretty much my update. I’m about halfway through the program now. I can’t believe it. It’s been so fun and I’m already getting sad to see it ending. We’ve got a ton planned for this week (two more masterclasses and one more concert) so the updates might be slightly less frequent. But I will still try and keep you posted! Until next time!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Two more of Innsbruck...



In the top picture this is our lunch in Innsbruck. It was tasty! (I had a safe Chicken Noodle soup!) At the far end of the table is Max, who showed us around the city. The bottom picture is on the way from Innsbruck to Wörgl, where the faculty concert was held. This pictures is also from a moving vehicle, so sorry for the blur and reflection.
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More views of Innsbruck





All of these photos were taken from 8 stories up on the cafe overlook (except for the first, which was taken from the park at ground level). The mountains are stunning here! The Alps are the best!
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Bollywood in Innsbruck, Austria!



I mentioned these guys I think in my last TAOD post. They were filming some sort of movie or music video in downtown Innsbruck, and we happened to come across them no fewer than 4 times in our time there in the city! It was hilarious... the music would play and they would dance around and lipsynch. And when they weren't filming, the main guy (the one in the center of both pictures) always had someone there holding an umbrella over his head to shade him. The fat guy was the best - he really got into it. It was so funny... I should have taken a video but I didn't think to... drat! You'll just have to use your imaginations!
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The "Goldenes Dachl" and Dom





Alright so the top two pictures are of the "Goldenes Dachl" (golden roof) in the old part of the city. The bottom two are of the cathedral that is in the old part of the city as well. The old buildings were so beautiful and amazing! While everyone else went around to shop I just wandered around with my German friend Max (who lives in Innsbruck now) looking at the cool buildings.
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Buildings in Innsbruck





Various shots of the town of Innsbruck. First picture: no, marijuana isn't illegal in Austria. The second picture is looking down the Thresastrasse (at least that's what I think the name of the road is). The third is a view of the old part of the city. The fourth is a view of the river from a bridge.
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Jenbach Train station



Our group at the train station in Jenbach, waiting for our train to Innsbruck. The guy on the bench is Brett, my bed buddy. (heh heh) He's got an amazing voice for a 20-year old! Next to him is Megan, the other pianist.
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On the way to Innsbruck





The first picture is of the Achensee on the way to Pertisau, a nearby town where we've had some performances. The second and third are on the way to Innsbruck from the bus or train. All of these pictures were taken through the window of a moving vehicle, so I'm sorry for the slight blur and/or reflection. They're still pretty, though!
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

TAOD #7

Alright. Thursday was a free day for us here, so I went with my roommates and some other friends in the group to Innsbruck, a nearby town. We got up early, took a bus to Jenback, then got a train to Innsbruck. I think it was my first train ride in my life, and it was fun. The trip was beautiful the whole way, and we we made great time. At Innsbruck we met up with two of the 'natvies' (heh heh...) and they gave us a great tour of the city. We saw the old center of the town, including the 'goldenes Dachl', which is probably what Innsbruck is most known for. It's basically just a golden roof of a small balcony overlooking a square. I guess the princes or rulers of the city would address the public from there. The old medieval part of town was great, and we saw a great cathedral and also spent some time in a beautiful public park. We saw the river (Innsbruck means basically Inn on the Bridge) and also went up to a cool cafe that was up 7 or 8 stories and allowed 360 degree views of the city.

One of the craziest things about our visit to Innsbruck was the fact that we kept running into these three Indians who were filming some sort of music video. They were everywhere, and it was quite funny. It kind of makes me want to see the music video also... heh heh.

We left the town in the afternoon to go elsewhere to watch the faculty here in concert. It was fun to just attend a concert for a change, and they were very good. I got to be the curtain opener for half of it, which also was an unusual task.

After it was over, we came back to Maurach to play Poker. There were five of us - 3 Americans and 2 Austrians. Basically the Austrians wasted us, but we tried. (And no, we weren't betting real money... the exchange rate between Euros and dollars is too lousy for that!) There was plenty of beer and some of our company drank a little too much, so that was also entertaining. I personally enjoyed my milk. Mmmmm.... milk.

Friday was another regular rehearsal day and I was super busy. And today, Saturday, has been much the same. It's been a busy, but fun week, and I'm still loving it here.

The language is coming along as well. I feel like I'm understand more and more each day. My goal was to try and get to the same level with German in three weeks that I was with Portuguese after 3 months in the mission field. Well, after one week I think I'm about there. I feel pretty much as mute and stupid know as I did after 1 month in the field, so I'm right on track, I guess. But I am trying. At the little dinner after the faculty concert I even chose to sat at a table with all Austrians. It was fun, but I didn't say much, of course.

Okay I have to run now, and I don't have time to post some pictures of Innsbruck but I will soon, I promise. This is Dallas your European Explorer: over and out!

Friday, July 25, 2008

TAOD #6

Alright so far this week has been very busy. Monday I was in rehearsals until late. Tuesday was also busy. That night we had a few other gigs also. First I and two of the best singers went to a very fancy hotel to sing a few songs and promote our program. After that we joined up with the rest of the group to go to another hotel in nearby Pertisau for a masterclass. This masterclass was open to the public, and consisted of Elizabeth Bachmann critiquing 5 of our group on their performances. It was a fun atmosphere, and an enjoyable evening. I played for a few of the singers and things went very well.

Because I had left the school so early for the various performances yesterday and was out so late, I decided to take my time in getting up to the school this morning. I have never yet had a rehearsal before 11, so I figured that if I was up there by 10-10:30 I’d be okay. Well I just happened to choose the wrong day to take my time, because right as I was getting out of the shower I heard a knock on the door. It was a man, whom I’d never before seen asking to speak with a “Herr Hinton.” He did not speak English, and as I explained in my halting German that no one by that name lived here, he called up someone on his phone and handed it to me. Having no idea who I would be talking to I reached out for the phone and tentatively said “Hallo?” It was Maria, our office assistant at TOP Opera (who thankfully speaks good English). She told me that I was late for a rehearsal with the music director. I apologized and said that I wasn’t aware and that I would hurry up and get there. I returned the phone to the man and felt stupid that I was the one he was looking for all along.

Well I missed the rehearsal, but wasn’t really in trouble because I had left the school yesterday before today’s schedule was up. There really was no way I could have known that I would have been needed earlier. We had a special guest at the school today, Grace Pampus. She is a life coach. Basically, she helps you be a better person by being what she calls ‘authentic.’ We were split up into two groups to attend her workshops. I was lumped with the Austrians and Germans along with two other Americans. Her presentation was supposed to be only in German, and we three Americans were supposed to be good enough to not need English translations. Well, I could only get about 50-60% of what was going on, but luckily one of the other Americans in the group was getting apparently much less than me. She continually asked “Auf Englisch, bitte”, which although got a little annoying, at least I understood more of the content. The presentation was sort of like a group therapy session, where we each individually got up and talked about our problems and what motivates our behavior. While I disagreed with many of her premises, I was able to glean a few things that I deem important from her teachings. The largest differences in what I feel and what she taught seem to stem from the fact that I have religious beliefs, and she allows a pure scientific approach. Fair enough – but I still don’t have to agree with her.

After that was done Florian and I had two more gigs tonight at different hotels. The first one went okay, but the keyboard had some weird setting on which made it sound terrible. It had some unusual vibrato on that made it sound like an old out-of-tune piano. I couldn’t figure out how to get it off, so we just had to deal with it. Somehow it magically disappeared at the second restaurant, though, and that one went much better. Florian, my Austrian roommate, did a great job and the audience really liked him.

I had plenty of time to think about what I was going to write tonight as I was locked out of the apartment for 1 hour. You see, between the 3 of us we only have 2 keys, so occasionally this happens. Brett had to go to a concert in shorts and a t-shirt one day because he didn't have a key and was locked out for a whole day, so I don't feel too bad with being locked out for only 1 hour at night.

Thursday (tomorrow) is our first free day. We have until 5 pm to do what we want, so I am going with a bunch of the Austrians and Brett (my American roommate) to Innsbruck to see what there is there. After we’re done there, we have to come back to hear our teachers put on a concert somewhere. That's already all happened, but as I don't have time to write about it now that will have to wait until the next installment, along with more pictures. So, bis bald!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008















So today was Sophie's birthday! Happy Birthday! This was not her cake, but I wanted a picture. Dallas has our camera, so we all just tried to implant today in our memories. I put up a few streamers and baloons yesterday night, so when we all woke up, Sophie was immediately excited! We ate special (albeit nasty) Barbie cereal. Then I asked Sophie what she wanted to do, which of course was to read. So we read for a little while and then she wanted to watch The Aristocats, a movie we rented from the library. After that we invited Emily and Aubrey over for a little mock-party. We are still trying to plan a real party, but Mindy was nice enough to think of a pan of rice crispy treats with candles and presents to tide Sophie over until then. Sophie loved it! She got a beautiful Belle dress that she wore as much as I would let her today. After Emily and Aubrey left, the kids and I went to the Carousel. Sophie and Penny love it so much, but Gabe is a different story. As soon as we got out of the car and he saw it, he started crying and trying to run far away from it. And when it started he buried his face on my shoulder and clung to me as tight as his little nails could dig into my skin. He was instantly relaxed when we got off. Poor kid is probably having nightmares of carousels! Oh, well, it was worth it for Sophie's birthday. We then went to Walmart to try to spend some gift money from Grandma Stephens. That was impossible! She wanted everything! I tried to explain that she didnt' have enough money to get 3 barbies, a My Little Pony phone, a few My little Ponies, a kite, some glass slippers, a Princess coloring poster, a princess book, some Littlest Petshop sets, and a jumprope. I finally helped her decide to just get the jumprope and maybe later we can figure out for sure what she wants. Wow, I am glad she doesn't have a credit card! Well, that took about 2 hours (and all for one princess jumprope that she can't even jumrope with) and required the sacrifice of Penny's flipflops. See, I guess she took her shoes off in the cart, and I didn't realize they were missing until we got home. Even though we raced back to Walmart to find them, they were nowhere to be found. By the time we got home, the kids were starving and very tired, so we just had corndogs and went to bed. Overall it was a great day. I love Sophie so much! I really can't believe she is four!

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TAOD #5

Unfortunately the 5th installment of this beloved series will be a disappointment to most of you. It's after 10pm here, and I have to get going. I haven't had time to write up anything yet. But as you can see, I did post some pictures. I'm going to go home right now and write up something amazing! Unfortunately, you might have to wait a bit for it, though. Tomorrow is a free day so I probably won't have internet access as I'm going to Innsbruck. So, stay tuned, und seid gedüldig!! (Be patient!)

The Stonehenge of Maurach



Maurach has its own version of Stonehenge surrounding the roundabout. What else can I say...
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Die Wiesen (The Meadows)



In the middle of this valley there are beautiful meadows. These pictures are of the meadows I pass as I walk from my apartment to the school every day.
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Rainy Days in Maurach





It has been continually rainy and cold these last few days here. I thought it was going to snow today, actually! But the rain here is very nice, and it makes the surroundings even more beautiful. The clouds get so low to the ground as well. In the last picture, the mountains go twice as high as you can see.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


















Now, I hope you all know you don't have to read all these. I am doing it more for me because this is pretty much our family's history, and I didn't start my blog until after Penny was born. Sophie was walking about a week before she turned 1. We didnt' have a big bash, but just went to Josh and Mindy's house for a small party. This was Sophie's first taste of cake. I think I was a better mother in some ways when she was little. I never let her eat candy and never ever let her face get boogery. My poor kids now!

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When Sophie was six months old, I found out I was pregnant. I wasn't gaining weight, so I had to wean her. I felt really guilty about that, especially because formula made her puke even more. But, she seemed to be fine, and we still had a great time together, just bonding in other ways. We had to savor our time while it was just me and her. I did actually babysit full time, so I don't feel like she ever really had a chance to be an only child. But, then again, neither have any of my other kids, so I guess that is life.

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