Thursday, August 30, 2007

THE TRIP Part 1 - Getting there is half the fun!

Finally the long awaited post about my trip. I will write an installment every few days, so keep checking back so that you don't miss anything.

The trip started out at O'Hare airport, where my two travel companions, Anni and Karen, and I sat waiting for the aircraft to arrive. It was a bit late, but we finally boarded, Anni and Karen in business class, and me in economy. Then we sat, and sat, and sat, ..... at the gate. Some repairs needed to be made to the cockpit door and a seat. We finally left three hours late. We landed in Frankfurt Germany, and missed our connection to Budapest. I was put on one of those courtesy carts and driven off to get re-ticketed, Anni and Karen were told to follow the crowd and get in line.

I was taken to special services and told I was on the 9 PM flight to Budapest, and due to privacy laws they wouldn't tell me if Anni and Karen were on the same flight. Anni and Karen were standing in line somewhere.... since it was only 12 noon, the rest of the day ahead was certainly going to be interesting. This was one of those times that being a native German speaker comes in really handy. The staff wasn't going to dismiss me quite so easily. I managed to finally get Anni and Karen's flight information and yes, they were to be on the same flight. Then I talked them into paging them. Although the staff was reluctant, they were dealing with Frau Rill, and finally did as I asked. Anni heard the page, went to the information desk and had them call special services. Once we knew were the two of them were, I commandeered a wheel chair and a good looking Lufthansa guy, and off I went to join them.

We had a lovely lunch/dinner/meal at the restaurant overlooking some runways and tarmacs and looked all the different airlines that flew in and out of Frankfurt. (Evi's travel tip: always make sure you have local currency with you when you arrive. That way you don't have to pay the high exchange rates at the airport, and you can actually eat if you are stuck there for awhile). After the meal, we needed some chocolate - Ritter Sport Trauben Nuss - and Coka Cola Light.

I managed to call Stefan who would be picking us up in Budapest, to let him know of our change in plans. When it was nearing time to go to our gate, another wheelchair appeared this time with a nice lady, to guide us to our gate, which was sooooo far away, I think it might have been in another state! There must have been at least two passport check stations and 3 security checkpoints that we had to clear before we got to the gate. Here we met up with the only surly Lufthansa employee in the world. He made everyone in the gate area get up and stand in line so that he could check our boarding passes, so we could sit down in the gate area again. After we finally boarded, the captain announced that there would be delay in take off, as they had loaded the wrong cargo on the plane, and needed to correct that mistake.

The flight to Budapest was not very long, about 90 minutes tops, and soon we were landing at midnight, Hungarian time. A wheel chair with a Hungarian paramedic met me at the plane and off we went to claim our baggage. All the bags were there, and Stefan was there to meet us! The drive to Werischwar took about an hour. Once we arrived, we found out that our rooms on the first floor near the elevator had been given away, so off to search for another room. We were put in a room on the fifth floor, again near the elevator, but the door to the vestibule with the elevator was locked on that floor, so we had to get off at four and then go up another flight, quietly, in the dark, with lots of luggage.

We quickly washed up and fell into bed, only to discover that out of the three of us, no one brought an alarm clock! We managed to get up on time the next morning, get unpacked, showered, dressed and down to breakfast on time! The entire group assembled in front of the building after breakfast for the day's activities.

The group was off to German Mass at the Church, followed by a trip to the Heimat Museum in town. Both of these destinations were in opposite directions from the Friederich Schiller Gymnasium, where we were staying, and walking was the mode of transportation. I was told I could not walk that far, so I stayed behind and read a book about Budapest.

Here is a picture of the entire group that took part in this wonderful conference.

Stay tuned for part 2 - Anni and Karen dance!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Panda gives birth to cub at Austria zoo

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press Writer 43 minutes ago
A giant panda on loan from China gave her Austrian zookeepers a surprise Thursday: the first panda cub born in Europe in 25 years.
Caretakers at the Schoenbrunn Zoo detected the cub on a surveillance camera after hearing little squeals coming from an enclosed compound where the mother, Yang Yang, had retreated. Zookeepers had not been certain Yang Yang was pregnant.
A photograph released by the zoo showed Yang Yang, a first-time mother, holding the tiny creature in her mouth and looking up toward the camera.
Zookeepers estimated the cub weighs 3.5 ounces and measures 3.9 inches.
"'Yang Yang' means sunshine, and that's what she is," zoo director Dagmar Schratter told reporters with a broad smile outside the panda enclosure.
The last time pandas were born in Europe was in Madrid in 1982, the zoo said on its Web site. A panda gave birth to twin cubs through artificial insemination.
Mother and cub will remain in the enclosed area for the next two to three months. The cub, whose name will be picked by the Chinese, will likely start crawling in about four months and will probably make its public debut around that time, Schratter said.
The cub was born 127 days after Yang Yang mated with the male panda Long Hui, the zoo said. The two pandas are in Austria on loan from China.
Schratter said an Aug. 6 ultrasound had not shown any signs of the pregnancy but caretakers became suspicious a few days ago when 7-year-old Yang Yang started taking material into the area where she delivered her cub Thursday. She had done so before, however, without giving birth.
Schratter said the pregnancy occurred naturally. Female pandas often are artificially inseminated after they mate to raise the chances of a pregnancy, said Regina Pfistermueller, a zoologist who co-wrote a book about pandas with Schratter.
"We decided to pass on that step," Pfistermueller said.
Cubs are vulnerable at birth, with about a 60 percent survival rate in the first year, Schratter said. She noted it was a good sign that Yang Yang had accepted her offspring, but the zoo had an incubator and artificial milk ready just in case.
Pfistermueller said animals in zoos occasionally reject their young, leaving it up to staff to raise them. That fate was met by Knut, the polar bear cub being raised by zookeepers in Germany.
"This is a good omen, also for the Olympic Games 2008," said Lu Yonghua, China's ambassador to Austria, who went to the zoo to offer his congratulations. Beijing will host next year's Summer Games.
Approximately 1,600 giant pandas live in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The species' future remains uncertain because its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China is fragmented and small populations live isolated from each other, the WWF's Web site says. Poaching also remains a threat.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blame Viki

She is at fault for this post. She tagged me,

1. Bakery clerk
2. Church organist
3. Bank Teller
4. Office Manager

1. Ried im Innkreis, Austria
2. Chicago, IL (more than one location in Chicago)
3. Des Plaines IL
4. (see #2)

1. MASH (reruns)
2. Andy Griffith (reruns)
3. Gilmore Girls (now off the air)
4. 7th Heaven (now off the air)

1. Marktl, Germany
2. Rome, Italy
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Budapest, Hungary

1. Chocolate (any kind!)
2. thin crust pizza
3. grilled salmon
4. anything Mexican

1. on a sailboat (stitching)
2. on a cruise ship (stitching)
3. Vienna
4. in the mountains (stitching)

1. anyone left who didn't do this yet?

1. Welcome Stitchery
2. Coldwater Creek
3. Kohl's
4. Barnes & Noble

Now, consider yourself tagged. Here's what you're supposed to do. Post this on your own blog or on my comments. Copy all, delete my answers and type in your answers. Can't wait to see your Four Things...

Monday, August 20, 2007

I fixed it!

Yesterday, I had a bunch of people over for a bar-be-que on the new deck. (this is the third time I have planned something out on the deck, and the third time it was raining!)

Due to the rain, everyone was inside. SOMEONE pushed a lot of buttons on the remote for either the cable box or the TV set, and I could only get sound in Spanish on channel 2, and no sound at all on many of the other channels. Tony couldn't fix it, I couldn't fix it, so I called the cable company, and they couldn't figure it out, either.

I came home late this evening, and tried again. This time I was successful! Now it all works just fine.

On a side note, I am still waiting for a few more picture to be e-mailed to me so that I can do a "proper" trip report.