This was an email update I sent out while at my first farm in Austria describing two funny incidents which had occured to me at the time. This farm (officially named Al Ma'awa) is like some sort of weird international hub out in the middle of nowhere in Austria, as helpers from all over the world are constantly coming in and out of the place. This explains the presence of me and the following British, Luxembourgish, and Singaporean helpers.
Sent: Sat, July 9th, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Subject: Small Austrian Update
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Funny incident #1:
A 19 year old British kid showed up here about a week ago to help out, thus incitement many humorous dialogues of the "proper" way to speak English. Whilst eating breakfast out on the terrace the other morning, a tractor drove by fairly quickly.
"Damn," I said, "That guy's hauling ass!"
"He's what?" Yannic, my 15 year-old Austrian "host-brother", inquired to me. I began to delve into the explanation of the idiom to my native-German-speaking friend when I realized the British guy was giving me as strange a look as Yannic.
So I turned to him and asked, "What? You guys don't have that saying in British?" He responded with a negative, so I explained to them both the meaning of the phrase. After I was finished, he chimed in again to say:
"Yea, that phrase sounds like you're transporting a bunch of prostitutes in a large truck."
Insert me nearly falling off the bench laughing.
Funny incident #2:
A few weeks ago the family here went on vacation to Croatia for five days, leaving the helpers to take care of the farm in their stead. At this point in time, the helpers consisted of me, an American, a girl in a wheelchair from Luxembourg, and a girl from Singapore. How a hodgepodge of miscreants like this managed to find themselves tending for a farm in Austria is a metaphysical question I'm not prepared to deal with, but it did lend chance to get a brief look of the social upbringing Austrians have regarding the roles of men and women in the household. Our anecdote assumes as follows:
Mrs. Guilly (Frau Guilly for the natives) comes once a week to clean the house, and let me say, she is pretty damn good at it. Of course, with so many people living and moving around here, the areas she cleans are usually trashed again before she leaves, but that's besides the point. The day after the family left for Croatia, Mrs. Guilly came to clean the house. During this time the motley crew of helpers were sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee and tea and jabbering about whatever it is social groups consisting of 1/3 Americans, 1/3 Luxembourgers, and 1/3 Singaporeans jabber about, when Mrs. Guilley suddenly came into the kitchen.
Mrs. Guilly doesn't really speak English, my German is still pretty lame, and the Singaporean girl's German was non-existent, so Mrs. Guilly had to speak to the Luxembourger who is fluent. The conversation went back and forth between the two before Tania (the Luxembourger) translated for me:
"Mrs. Guilly told me to tell you to remind Ying (the Singaporean) to finish the laundry in an hour, because she just started some now and won't be here when it finishes."
Keeping a straight face all of a sudden became incredibly difficult. For those who didn't quite catch the nuances of that comment, let me break it down:
Please pick me up off the floor--I can't get up because I'm laughing so hard. Ying then gave me a look that would burn holes through granite (which I'm still a bit confused about. I'm not the one who said it!).
Anyway, Austria is still going awesome and I'm learning a bunch about organic farming, baking, dealing with animals, and getting regularly attacked by hordes of stinging nettles. More updates should follow in the future.
Digging through the fog tunnels of my memory, in addition to this second incident with Mrs. Guilley, I remember another one with her that took place in Al Ma'awa. The farm had recently lost a surge of helpers (the number was always going up and down, with me and Tania being the only constants) and one morning I was busying myself cooking breakfast, as there wasn't really anyone else to do it. Mrs. Guilley was there that morning and when she came in to clean the kitchen, she gave me a really confused look. She knew I had some capacity for German (she had no capacity for English), so even though I didn't catch the full sentence, I definitely understood the sentiment. The question she asked would translate in English to something like this:
"Is there no girl here to do that for you?" She used the word Mädchen. Literally small girl.
What I said back is also in swirls of fog, but I'm sure it was some broken German, explaining that all the other helpers were gone and I was the only one left to do it. I said this while doing my best not to bust up laughing, which would have led to her to ask me what was so funny, which would have led me to laugh harder. Rinse, lather, repeat and I could have had an uncomfortable situation on my hands.
In any case, I don't know what this says about the current interpretation of gender roles in the Austrian country side, but god damn was it funny.Back to Vyst's stories.