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6/30/2008 12:00:00 PM
Half a year report
Finally an update about the last six months in Austria...
Some of you might wonder (or even hope) that I have stopped writing my reports... Nope that's not the case! It only took me again half a year to write and there is quite a bit to catch up on.... I'll take a highlight per month and try to keep it as short as possible. Robert has kept you up-to-date on our news on "Lawur" and "Project Hollywood". For the ones who don't want to read all of this but want to know what has been going on, just check out the webpage with new pictures www.lawur.com. To the following items:
Right after Christmas, which we spent with our families in Vienna, we went to Salzburg for our almost traditional (3rd time) skiing trip with Hemma and Christoph (from USA). Every year they organize this big get together for their Austrian friends and again we were a big crowd of 13 adults and 14 kids! This year also their friends from Ohio, Beth and Greg as well as their 5 boys, came an joined, which was a lot of fun and great for our kids to speak English again. Even though they worried a bit before that they may have forgotten some, they did well and had no problems what so ever. That's a good feeling for me since we don't talk at home as we had started out... But it seems that they don't loose it that quickly. The week together was great and we had a lot of fun. We are a good team - cooking, tiding up, washing dishes, shopping (quite a bit for such a big group) and evened out and if nobody is in the mood for cooking we order out pizza or eat at one of the great restaurants near by. For New Years we did the traditional "Huat-fondue" (not in a pot but a cone shaped hot iron piece where you "hang" your meat to fry, afterwards the show "Dinner for One" on TV, fireworks, lead sculpturing and a waltz dance at midnight to welcome the New Year. Being up on high altitude and skiing all day it never get's late, or is it that we are getting older...?! This year we luckily had enough and great snow conditions with blue skies - awesome! Sebastian took a snow board course and got hooked ;o) On his birthday (Jan 2 he got 11) we took off and went just a bit further West to Fuegen in Tyrol, where Robert spent most of his summer and winter vacations as a child. We hadn't been there all this time and were happy to find time to see Hilda and Franz as well as our neighbor friends from Vienna. Christine and Andreas have an apartment right in the next village, which was perfect! Again the weather was great with sunshine and beautiful slopes, to enjoy another few days of skiing/boarding with friends!
My mom had been given a week Nile cruise for 2 people, and I was the lucky one to join her. Since she had her 75th birthday in November it was a good opportunity for me to celebrate it this way with her, who knows when we will have this opportunity again to travel together like this. The trip was an absolute success - a fascinating country with massive sights, a wonderful cruise ship, lovely tour guides and perfect organization. On top of it we had a great gathering (unknown) with an old friend of my mothers (Inge) and her daughter (Tina), whom she hadn't seen in years. We ended up to be on the same boat and tour bus, although there were 400 participants! The four of us got along so well that it was sad to say good bye in the end. The week was split up in 1 1/2 days in Luxor, then 3 days on the boat with stops in Edfu and Kom Ombo to Assuan - visits to the massive temples of Abu Simbel, the dam and a Nubian village.. Then we took the boat down the Nile again back to Luxor, with a trip to the Valley of the Kings and the monumental Hatschepsut Temple. The only draw back was the rather cool weather and a day of rain (the first one in 9 years in Assuan!), but then again probably the better choice for such a full and intense program (every morning we left for our tours at 6.30/7 o'clock and didn't come back (except for lunch) until late afternoon! Don't want to know how we would have managed in sunshine and heat..?! I thoroughly enjoyed being on water again, even though the boat was powered by a motor and it was slightly bigger than Lawur (yet those Nile boats only hold up to max 300 people - not like those huge ocean cruisers with a few thousand!). It is a great feeling to have the landscape pass by you, feel the calmness of the water and the freedom to move around on it - an ideal way of traveling for me.
Robert helped out our friend Tommi in San Diego for a short while on a project, before he started at the end of the February at his new job at Activision in Santa Monica. In-between he came home for a week to go off skiing with us during spring break. Together with our friends Karin, Heinz and Tobias (Leschka), from Sebastian's soccer team. We stayed at a really nice hotel in Pitztal/Tyrol, directly at the slopes, with a great spa area. Every afternoon we pampered ourselves at the warm pool and sauna. In the evening we were served a wonderful and excellent dinner (cooked with the 5-element theory!) - can't ask for more..! This time around Benjamin did a snowboard lesson for a few days and was hooked as well! Sebastian was thrilled about his new and own board and gained a lot of confidence with Robert as his teacher. The last few days we all went off together and I am worried that in a few years my two "little" boys will totally outspeed me... ;o( Sebastian already took off the steep and wild slopes with Robert and Benjamin is as always our "Speedy Gonzales" having no fear, we all were stunned. On our last day Ingrid (Benjamin's godmother) and Felix came by on the way home from their skiing week, and spent the day with us on the slopes! We took the train from and to Vienna and very much enjoyed some extra hours together, as well as the relaxed mode of not being stuck in vacation traffic! We had a really fun week and hope that the "Leschkas" enjoyed it as much as we did... Not only because of the gorgeous weather we had... 8 days sunshine and no cloud in the sky!!! :o)
PS.: Very important for February was Robert's 40's birthday on the 2nd, which he had planned to be in San Diego, but then got really homesick and decided to come home early, with a little surprise committee at the airport!
We were very happy that our friends Julie and Bonnie from San Diego had collected enough miles to come and visit us over Easter with their two boys Phoenix (11) and Griffin (8). They spent a few days prior in Dublin and once they arrived here they no longer had any jet lag, which made it is easy to start our sightseeing program right away... The inner city with St. Stephan's cathedral, tour around the Ringstrasse, pedestrian zone, Schoenbrunn castle and the maze as well as a wonderful little Easter market... One day we got up early and took the train to Salzburg (3 hrs) and were welcomed by a city covered in white powder sugar and snowflakes as big as quarters! - Last year while taking Fiona and Ella there it rained, it's been a while since I've seen Salzburg in sunshine..! ;o( The boys thoroughly enjoyed making snow balls everywhere they could and throwing them into fountains, trees,... We had not expected it to be that cold and since the snow is already very soft at this time of the year, the boys were soaked by the time we took the train back in the evening.... Nevertheless we all had a great time visiting the fortress of Hohensalzburg (great view over the city!) and strolling through the inner city Bonnie already had to leave on Easter Sunday but Julie and the boys stayed a few days longer, just relaxing and enjoying some time off with the boys. It was fun to explore and bring them some of our Austrian roots closer.
A sad but yet expected (for a long time) moment was the death of Robert's grandmother on Easter Monday. She had been getting less and less, needing to be in bed for almost a whole year. Therefore it was much of a relief for her as well as Robert's mother who had a hard time with her suffering. It was a blessing that Robert and his brother Werner were both in town and not working, so that they were able to spend the day with their mother and comfort her, the biggest present at this sad moment for sure!
A few weeks later I spent 10 days in the US to check out Topanga, schools, living places, etc. Robert's mom was on vacation herself and therefore "moved in" with the boys and the cat. A perfect solution for us and her, and a welcome distraction for her after her mom's death.
Even though I had not made any preparation and schedule for this trip, I left 10 days later with a positive result of this exploration tour. First I checked out the area where Robert has already been living since the end of February. Once I checked out and was happy with the area - Topanga is very similar to Boulder Creek: quaint, open, natural area (no grid living), one main street (with one traffic light!), small, artsy shops, good little, family restaurants - basically the easy Hippy country living. From then on everything fell into place like a domino set up. I visited the local elementary school and signed the boys up for 3rd and 5th grade (school starts September 2nd). I found a soccer club, and even though their sign up was in spring they will accept us in August and I had a really nice e-mail conversation with the youth director. We decided not to look into buying right away but start out with renting first. I've found a perfect place for us - "Sandstone Rand" - 6 houses places on lots of acres, with a very nice housekeeper, Alan, who is in charge of the property and a sweet, older guy who has lived there 30 years! We can use the property pool, the main garden area, a big concrete spot for driving bikes, basket ball, etc. and lots of wild area around to explore for the boys! The house needed a bit up updating, which Robert has been busy with the last couple of months - a new floor, wall painting, new bathroom and kitchen and new carpet in some rooms. He moved in last weekend and the boys and I will follow early August. We also managed to buy a used race boat, one that he had an eye on for a while "A flying tiger". It's a new design, only out for 1 1/2 years and it was the first used one to get on the market... A perfect fit! We even were able to find a slip for her just 5 hours before our return flight to Austria, even though we were told that that isn't so easy in L.A....! Robert has brought her up from San Diego together with our friend Dave Kusmik, and besides getting sea sick (part of the deal) he thoroughly enjoyed being out on the water again and hanging out with Dave. They made a stop at Catalina island, most likely our hang out when we go out with the kids - only 5 hours! Care to come along for a "camping", sailing trip let us know! So with all of that it couldn't have been a more successful trip and we are all looking forward to a new start back in California - come and visit us at "Sandstone Ranch" (don't forget your cowboy hat ;o)
MAY / JUNE 2008
Those two months have been busy as well and everything but boring. Not many highlights to report about or to bore you with. The boys continued to do really well at school bringing home report cards with straight "A's". Sometimes they complained that school was boring... It'll be interesting to see if they change their mind back in the US or if it is a general opinion they have? At the moment they say home schooling was the best type of school... Not because of starting later or the flexible schedule but learning was more fun and interesting... We'll see. Sebastian continued with his piano lessons and even if his practicing lacked a bit at the end his teacher was happy with his progress. Hopefully we'll find such a nice teacher again in CA and he'll want to continue.
As for soccer it continues to dominate our live - 4x practice the week between both boys and a game each or sometimes even a tournament. I am happy that we have met really nice parents, at least in Sebastian's team, and made friends with them. The weeks of the European Champion Chip were busy and planned around the games. We didn't have tickets for any games but took advantage of the fan zones with big screens and lots of entertainment around. Vienna was a big festival and we are happy to have been here and explore it first hand. I never thought in my live that I could get so excited and emotional about soccer...! It'll be interesting though to see what the companies will use for their marketing strategies now - there was hardly anything that didn't have soccer as their PR gag - even bakeries, underwear,... Amazing!
Ok, now you are up-to-date on our live before we start back to California in early August. While the boys are at soccer camp this week I am packing up the apartment and I am amazed how much stuff one can accumulate over just 1 1/2 years! The next weeks will be busy with last gatherings with family and friends. I do tell the boys that it is ok to be sad, which we definitely are, because if we wouldn't it would mean we haven't enjoyed the time here and that would be sad! Yet we are all excited about the move and will let you know immediately how things are going, promise!
In the meanwhile we wish you all a wonderful summer with lots of fun at your vacations and look forward to seeing some of you again when back in the US!
Hugs and Love
Yours the 4 Schmids Niki, Robert, Sebastian und Benjamin and Matey (which will come with us to the US!
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