In which a Taiwanese-American girl walks into a Japanese restaurant in Austria and speaks Chinese

Sunday was particularly lovely; despite sleeping past my alarm and waking up at 1 PM, I enjoyed the entirety of the day.

As soon as I got into town I set my mind to obtaining lunch. I seriously entertained the idea of getting kebap again, but then decided that for experience’s sake, I should try something new every time I eat—well, while I’m here, anyway. So I headed to Getreidegasse to try Austria’s take on Asian food. I passed by one Chinese buffet and found myself in the quiet courtyard of Restaurant Nagano.

I was a little thrown off that I didn’t get tea automatically; I had to ask for it. When my bill came I found that it cost €2.80…oi. To the restaurant’s credit though, it was delicious: loose-leaf green tea (no tea bag!) with a hint of peach.
I’ve heard that the sushi in Austria is awful, so for the sake of trying I ordered a two-piece plate of salmon nigiri. It was pretty good; kudos for the fish not being cold, and it tasted fresh and milky. The only thing was, as you can see from this picture, that the fish was sliced THIN. Sigh!
I felt a little self-conscious when I took out my Moleskine to take notes on the food. I probably looked like a very insecure Anton Ego. I hope no one mistook me for a food critic…

For the sake of my wallet I ordered a simple bowl of udon soup. The price was still a little painful at €8.90, considering that I make myself udon soup all the time for next to nothing. Oh well. The noodles were nice and chewy, the broth was savory, and the vegetables and seaweed tasted fresh. I suppose you can’t ask for more!

While it was unnecessarily pricey, I do have to say the food was satisfying and delicious. The highlight of my meal, however, was my conversation with the waitress. While I chewed my noodles and read a book, I overheard all of the staff speaking in Mandarin Chinese.
So rather than speaking in my limited German sprinkled with English, I addressed the waitress in Chinese when she came with my bill. She immediately brightened up—considerably—and eagerly asked me about myself. “And you came here all by yourself?” she asked in awe, when I told her I had come from the US. She thanked me over and over again, even though I only tipped 50 cents, and even though I had done nothing more than order food and eat it all.
It was a lovely, warm moment; it makes my day every time I make a connection with the locals, though funnily enough I have far more extended conversations in Chinese here in Austria than in German. There’s something indescribably beautiful about breaking out from the confines of a limited vocabulary in one language and finding another soul who speaks your native tongue; even if you have nothing else in common it creates an instant bond.
It may sound silly, but I feel like we are all grains of sand being flung from place to place and we rejoice when we are thrown against another particle that came from the same stone.
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How I almost lost my host mom’s dog

After having my last piano lesson here, coming back on the bus next to one of the scariest-looking guys I’ve ever seen, and eating an early dinner, I thought about completing the three things on today’s to-do list: blog, homework, thank-you cards; but instead decided that I needed some much-deserved procrastination time.

I ended up spending quite a long time aimlessly reading articles and blogs online, trying to forget that I had homework to do or a final to study for. I was brought back to earth by the sound of the doorbell.
I didn’t know what to do; my host mom wasn’t home. Her dog was, though, and he had run to the door, barking and sniffing, and looking at me like I was crazy for not running to open it right away.
For some reason my first thought when I hear the sound of the doorbell, any doorbell, is that I’ll open the door and be slaughtered by a serial killer. I certainly didn’t want to be murdered today, so I peeked through the peephole and saw nothing. Either the doorbell-ringer had gone, or they were hiding out of view to ambush me when I opened the door. I wasn’t sure what to do…
…so I asked the dog. I actually said, “Do you think I should open the door?” out loud to him. I took his sniffing to be a “yes” and cautiously unlocked and opened the door.
The doorbell-ringer came into view.
It was a middle-aged man in lederhosen.
He immediately went into his spiel, in German. I quickly tried to put on my I-understand-what-you’re-saying-and-listening-attentively face while trying to figure out what was going on. He was holding a stack of glossy pamphlets so I held my hand out for one.
“[GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN] Euro,” he said.
“Oh! Nein, danke,” I said hastily.
The whole time this was happening, my host mom’s dog had slipped through the open door and was now cavorting outside, sans collar and leash. By the time the lederhosen man had left, I was determined not to have a dog’s life on my conscience.
“Hey! Oskar! Come here!” I called in my best talking-to-animals voice. “Come here, Oskar!”
Either Oskar didn’t want to come back, or he didn’t understand English. Or both. I watched him run in and out of view, unresponsive to my calls, so I took necessary action.
I fled to the pantry, grabbed the box of dog treats, and ran back outside.
“Here, Oskar!” I yelled, shaking the box in his direction. For one moment he looked at me as if sizing up the situation, then seemed to make the decision that one cannot obtain treats in the wild. He began trotting back towards me.
So in the end, I got my host mom’s dog back inside, with a delicious treat for all his troubles. I also now have a dog that won’t stop following me around because I think he now knows I will give him treats at the drop of a hat.
Also, I should do my homework now.
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The bus stop

Well, I’ve moved one step up from going around starting conversations with “Sprechen sie Englisch?” and speaking in English all the time. Thanks to my German class I can now ask a few key questions and give a few very specific answers. Now when I brush past someone I say “Entschuldigung” instead of being mute.
The unfortunate downside is that I sometimes accidentally give the impression that I know more German outside of these few key phrases.
The other day I got to the bus stop just as the bus had left, as did an older lady who sat down next to me at the stop. She turned to me and said something, probably about how it was just our luck that we’d barely just missed the bus.
Now, when people speak German to me and what they’re saying falls outside of the tiny realm of my German understanding, my mind, instead of properly processing what they might be saying, automatically fills it in with “[GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN.]”
So this is how the conversation went:
Me: [nods and smiles]
Me: Um…sprechen Sie Englisch?
Lady: Nein. (“No.”)
At this point, I knew I was doomed.
Me: Okay, ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch. (“I speak a tiny bit of German.”)
Me: Umm…uh…ich weiß es nicht. (“I don’t know.”)
Me: Ich weiß es nicht!
Lady: [GERMAN GERMAN]? (At this point she was asking the same question again and again, clearly under the impression that if she repeated it enough, I would understand.)
Me: Ja. (“Yes.” I have no idea what I was saying “Yes” to, I just wanted it to stop.)
Lady: Woher kommen Sie? (“Where do you come from?”)
Me: Aus den USA! (“From the USA!”)
Me: Um…
Eventually, after a whole round of questions that ended in me answering “Ich weiß es nicht” each time, the lady gave up and we waited for the 21 bus in awkward silence.
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