Saturday, July 25, 2015

Exploring my Ancestry

Two weeks ago, I decided on a whim that I should take a flight across the country and visit my Aunt Sue in San Jose. I had a couple days off, I could swing it. Aside from a few nightmarish flights, everything worked out well. We saw a local baseball game, devoured In-N-Out, and visited a cousin of mine in Carmel-by-the-Sea. She's a blogger too, and a pretty fantastic person (Hi Meagan)! 

My aunt also gave me a gift, an Ancestry DNA kit to give me information about my genetic identity and provides raw data as well for genetic testing purposes. I've already submitted my sample (spitting in a tube), and it'll be 6-8 weeks before I find out the results. The kit links with an account, so I've begun researching my family tree.

A sample map based on DNA testing kit results. My expectation for myself is European Jewish and Great Britain.

I've never been too curious about my family's history, on the one side it's been pretty thoroughly explored back to Wales and the Midwest and Sue has done a lot of the legwork for the Bradford. I'm super thankful for her work contacting family over the past few years. Wales is tough. If you know anything about the small country, you know two things: their towns are impossible to pronounce (no vowels!) and everyone is named some variation of John, Jones, William, Davies, and Evans. Please don't get me started on that part of the family. I'm distantly related to William Jones Williams and his son William J. Williams, but I don't dare go back much further.

The Laird side of the family has more dead ends. I'm still looking for my grandfather's father (is it more appropriate to say my father's grandfather? same person!) or any records about him. And on my grandmother's side, I only knew her parents' names and assumed they were Russian Jews. As a side note: Very late in my grandmother's life, she expressed that she and her parents spoke Yiddish, adding a layer of mystery to her origins.

Ultimately, the big discovery so far was that in a 1930 Census form, my great grandfather wrote his birth country. Austria. If you know me, you know that I'm infatuated with Austria and have lived there for about a year. Oddly, the 1920 Census form reflects a different story. Birthplace? New York. My feeling is that it wasn't so easy being an Austrian Jew who spoke Yiddish in the early 1940s. I hope I can dig up more information, because I recently discovered that great grandchildren of Austrian citizens can obtain citizenship. That's me! I'll post here when I find out more info... but at the rate I post, I could be a full citizen hopping around Schengen by then.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jesus Christ I haven't posted in a while

So basically I had no idea that it has been so long since my last post (June?!  June!)

I apologize to whatever readers I have out there.  Quite a lot has happened since June.  Here are some updates:

I have still been writing for French Quarter Magazine
In total, I have published five articles since August 2014.  Not bad, if I say so myself.

I moved back to the US
Can't say my address is in France anymore, or even Austria.  I'm back home living with my parents, and I anticipate that happening for a long time (until my student loans are paid off).  Although I was accepted into a grad school program that spans France, Germany, and Turkey, I can't afford it at the moment and may have to postpone that particular dream.

I got a job, then got another job
This is something that has happened oxymoronically:  quickly over the course of a few months.  The short story is that I was offered a job by Company A, they rescinded the offer due to budget constraints, then I worked for Company B for a month in a totally unrelated field.  Additionally, I had to leave job B just Monday since Company A has made itself known again with an even better offer than before.

I'm into quilting
Oh man am I into quilting.  I'm buying new supplies weekly and have made 3 quilts since I came home in September.  I missed my sewing machine, but had never quilted before.  It's fun!  Want some pictures?  Here are some pictures.

So... yeah!  That's what I have going on in my life.  What's new with you all?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dumpster Date

Could you travel across the globe with a stranger?  What about with no baggage or plans?

Professor Jeff "Dumpster" Wilson has been on my radar for a few days now.  He teaches Environmental Science at Huston Tillotston University and is probably best known for, well, living in a dumpster. The recently divorced Dean has moved in a 33-square foot home outside the school to make a point.  We don't really need all that much space, water, or energy, among other things, insinuates the professor.

His article on XOJane was enlightening, and proof of a crazy idea blossoming into a pretty neat experiment.  Personally, I wouldn't do anything like this, at least not without a big sum of money as an incentive, but I'm impressed, and interested in seeing how this pans out.  The plot thickens when he meets his new girlfriend, on OkCupid no less, and she not only accepts him, she agrees to go on a three week long first date with Eastern Europe.

She details her side of the story here, where things get really interesting.  They decide to bring nothing with them, except passports, credit cards, iPhones...and the clothes on their backs.  What in the world would compel someone in this day and age to do such an experiment, let alone with a stranger?  I think if I were to do this, I would start small.  Stay in the US.  Do an overnight trip, a weekend camping in the woods, anything but fly to a country where I don't speak the language or know anyone.  I just don't think I could be that brave.

The comments after the articles were the most surprising, however.  "Tramping" used to be all the rage in Kerouac's era, why are these people being denounced now, over 50 years later, for giving up luxuries that Gen Xers are constantly being berated for having?  Hipster is used as a derogatory term in the forum, but why?  Two people, eager to get to know one another and themselves, are doing something most people would never dare.  Is it jealousy that fuels the rage?  Not sure.  I feel like the majority of the reactions are based on these writers "doing it for attention."  But why should they be keeping it a secret?  This is their 15 minutes of fame, and they could have earned it by doing much, much more deplorable things, in my opinion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big Huge Announcement

Hey everyone,
Today is May 14th, a year ago I was spending my first day in Munich, Germany.  And today is the day I got an email from xoJane saying they want to publish it and pay me for it.  I guess it's time to tell you all what happened in the end.

I'll let you know when the story is up.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Loïc's Visit

So if you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you might have noticed an influx of pictures featuring the one and only Loïc, my amazing French boyfriend.  Obviously we're long distance right now, so every time we visit one another it's a pretty big deal.  He arrived late on a Thursday evening and left Monday afternoon.  It was a very short "long" weekend so to speak.

For my birthday, the Lo got me a new laptop, especially for gaming since we're likely to be in an LDR for a bit longer.  Based on the sticker next to my keyboard, it's an MSi GE60, but I really don't know what that means, I let him take care of it since he's the expert.  Speaking of the keyboard, it's in  French layout.  That means, instead of the usual QWERTY setup, I'm looking at AZERTY and a multitude of other confusing mix-ups.  So, forgive me if there are typos in this post, I'm adapting to an entirely different system here! On the bright side, I finally can write umlauts!  It's such a pain in the ass to write things in German when you don't have shortcuts or umlauts on your keyboard.  I can also write all the French accents!  WOO! éèçà and this funny lookin guy § are all part of my daily use now.

Beyond Loïc's amazing gift, I of course cram-packed our weekend full of activities.

Friday was relaxing if I remember correctly; we picked up the kids and took the to the Technology Museum for a couple hours after enjoying an ice cream.  I think all of us were pretty worn out by the time we got back, but we were invited to dinner at our friend Paul's apartment with his girlfriend and fellow au pair Violet. They're a great couple to hang out with because Violet is also 23 and American and Paul is 24 and from Luxembourg.  They too are facing a potential long distance relationship and have been together for just two months less than Loïc and I.  They homemade turkey burgers and it was phenomenal.  We drank some champagne, radlers, and sampled liquor, so it was a good night overall.

Saturday should have been relaxing in theory, but that's not really something I believe in.  Our morning activity was watching the kidshop around on the trampoline for a while while my host father did some mountain biking, then we headed to the Naschmarkt.  I love the Naschmarkt and it's one of my favorite parts of Vienna.  It was a lot of fun to treat Loïc to his first heap falafel (we had them in Paris for at least 3x the price) and Almdüdler.

We had tickets to the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic) which is one of the best known groups of musicians in the world, and we scored 6th row tickets as a birthday present from my host parents.  This was the first "fancy" concert for both of us, and I don't know if we'll experience anything better in our lifetime.  We were probably the youngest people by 30 years in our tier of seating, and we seemed to also be underdressed.  We also got stares from said fancily-dressed old Austrian people because of our...non-mainstream piercings. We were just there to enjoy the music though, so it didn't matter to us what they thought.

And the music was...unbelievable.  We both remarked afterward that there were moments that almost moved us to tears, and watching the musicians feel the music was a special experience you can't have by buying a CD, or even sitting in the cheaper seats.  We heard Schubert, Schoenberg, and Saint-Saëns performed by three different sized groups.

Fun fact:  I have visited all the composers' gravesites, Schubert and Schoenberg on the Wednesday before Loïc arrived, and Saint-Saëns on a previous visit to Paris.

We ended the afternoon with a coffee at one of my favorite cafés, Phil, on Gumpendorferstrasse in Vienna.

Sunday was set aside for a visit to the Stift Kloster-Neuberg, just outside Vienna to the north.  It is a very old monastery/winery dating back to 1114.  It's a great place to spend an afternoon walking around, and we did two of four tours, the apartments and the wine tours respectively.  We had a tasting at the end of our wine tour, and bought my host parents a bottle of what we liked best.  Really a good day.

We arrived home and saw there would be a big family gathering at our house, but we were still enjoying our couple-time, so we skipped out and headed to one of Vienna's famous Heurigens instead, where we had more wine and a really lovely meal with lots of wild garlic, and we agreed it was one of our best meals together.

Monday was a lazy day of sitting around sleeping in (a whole weekend of staying up late and getting up early  takes a toll).  Then he flew away :(

But I'm flying to see him for eleven days on Saturday!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Heathcare in Austria

Ok everyone, this is a gonna be a pretty short post, just because I need to express the huge difference I see in healthcare between my home, a suburb of DC, and Vienna, Austria.  Your results may vary, take what I'm saying with a grain of salt.

So I've been feeling under the weather pretty often lately, I'm concerned I have chronic sinusitis or something, but that's neither here nor there.  My host mother made an appointment for me at a specialist, and Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor.

Big Difference #1:  The appointment was set for Friday afternoon, and was made on Wednesday.  TWO DAYS.  Not many places in the US (that I'm aware of) can a new patient get an appointment that quickly.

I arrived at the appointment about five minutes early (BD2:  another no-no for a first time patient, usually you arrive early to a ton of forms) gave them my e-Card, which is my Austrian health insurance card that costs 50 Euros a month, and put my coat away.

BD3:  This doctor moves fast. While I was doing this, simply putting my coat away, I'm pretty sure the doctor saw two to three patients.  Then I sat down for probably two minutes, and my name was called.  I barely had any time to sit down before she sat me up on the examining chair to look at, yep, my ears, nose, and throat.  She spoke at a lightning fast pace (in German, natuerlich), and then said what I think was, "Ok. I don't see anything, but here's a prescription.  If things aren't better by Wednesday, come back."

Uh, ok.

So I went back out to reception, approximately 3.5 minutes after entering the exam room, and asked the receptionist if I needed to pay anything.  BD4: NOPE.  No copay, nothing.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  But what was I supposed to do, just walk out?!

Ok, that was easy.  Walk down to the pharmacy with my 100 euro bill in hand because god know's how much this will cost me.  I needed nose drops and pills.  Surely this would break the bank.  BD5:  NOPE.  Five euros sixty for the lot.

Jeez...European healthcare is nice.  It's almost like they want their population to be healthy.  Weird.