Thursday, April 24, 2014

Preparing our Wolverine

Yikes! pretty much sums it up. Now that Jack is officially a Wolverine, we, the parents, receive paperwork due date reminders, general information about campus life, and newsletters specifically designed to help us "Prepare our Wolverine" for college life.

This week's newsletter was devoted to campus housing selection. We parents were encouraged to consider the following questions in order to help us guide our student's housing preferences:

Does he get himself up for school on time? Really? How many moms are giving their Teenage Son a "wake-y, wake-y" call in the morning?

Does she know how to work a washing machine? Sexist much? Both of our children have been doing their own laundry more or less since the age of 10. Life skills.

Does he understand how his health insurance plan works? Of course he does. It's not Obamacare, for goodness' sakes.

Does she know how to use public transportation? We leave our children home alone here in Vienna when I am in the mood to travel with Tony. Not only do they cook for themselves, but they manage somehow to get to and from school without issue, and brush their teeth before they go to sleep. By this criteria, they are ready for grad school.

Once upon a time when Tony and I were coeds at Michigan, back in the days of personal responsibility, housing choices were either quad-rooms in the large buildings, or for lucky gals in the dorm lottery, a room in one of the all-girls old and charming houses on central campus. I was one of the lucky gals who "won" a space in Betsy Barbour House.

Betsy Barbour House was like a sorority but without the drama. (Except for my second year, when I and "Maria" had adjacent single rooms at the end of the hall, and I would help her sneak her boyfriend's German Shepherd into her room when he had to work weekends. This is a story for another time.)

The house was always clean and quiet; and we had a lovely living room as well as a true dining room rather than a cafeteria. Civilized campus life, if you will. In warm months some of us would sit atop the sun room roof and "study."
This photo was taken a few years ago when we were in Ann Arbor over the summer and Anna Grace and I snuck into Betsy Barbour House, but recent photos look very similar.
Central Campus was the place to be for the non-Engineering student; all the classrooms are there, and everything is walkable. Engineering students lived up on North Campus near the College of Engineering; the geeks were all a bus ride away from Central Campus.

Now, thanks to a generation of participation-trophy coeds, Central Campus dormitories are generally reserved for the "Michigan Learning Community." The students who reside in most of the Central Campus dorms are now those who haven't learned to set their own alarm clocks and dress themselves "need individual attention to ease their transition to college." Since Jack thankfully does not meet that criteria, he will be stuffed into the dormitories on the North Campus, a bus ride away from the heart of Michigan's campus life. But!  The North Campus Recreation Building is "new and improved!" Nice.

We have no doubt that, "Preparing our Wolverine" will be a tedious process as the next weeks progress. Whereas we were once worried that because Jack is attending late orientation that his preferred class choices might not be available. Now we are concerned that he will have a roommate who needs tucking in and a bedtime story each night. 

Hail! Hail! To Michigan. The Leaders and the Best?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Anecdotes on Austria

When I shared the news with colleagues and staff that I was moving to Austria, there were a couple of people who did not know exactly where Austria was geographically (and yes, one staff member confused Austria with Australia). 

I thought almost everyone could place Austria on a map. Yet, a few weeks ago a friend shared a depressing article summarizing a survey of Americans who were asked to complete a blank map of Europe. I don't know anything about the survey sample or methodology, but it turns out I may have been incorrect in my assumption.

No, I do not live in "Slovakia." This was a common map mistake in the survey, interestingly enough.
This respondent could likely not even place "Wiener Schnitzel" in the correct country.
The country I live in does indeed have a name, a point missed by several respondents.
No, I don't live in Lithuania, the land of Borat, Romania, or Second Poland, either. Second Poland?

Nor has Austria invaded Poland. Lately.
At least this respondent was honest.
Perhaps it would have been better if these respondents hadn't taken the survey?

Besttatung. This is the loose German phrase for "funeral services."  One of our elderly, and so very, very, very, very, very curmudgeonly neighbors passed away this week. The ambulances and police arrived at the house in the morning; then, later in the day the city Besttatung personnel arrived with the coffin for her. A little different protocol than in the U.S. 

The deceased woman had pretty much since we moved in expressed her hatred for us, as Americans; expressed hatred for our children, as Americans; and expressed hatred for our dog, who knows why, on a regular basis. She has made living in our otherwise relatively pleasant complex, well, hell.  I can only wonder how much her inner pitifulness impacted her life on Earth, and can only wish she is now in a place where there is no room for hatred.