Monday, August 07, 2006


On Friday, I went into headquarters to get a haircut. When I made the booking on Thursday, I was told the cost would be 20 Euro, fairly steep for this tight-arse traveller. But the place was strongly recommended by Petra, who herself had returned from the salon earlier in the week with a rather smart do. I figured what the hell, I really needed a cut as my last experience with the white-nosed Mongolia had not gone so well. I showed up for the cut and sit down in front of the mirror. Anna, My hair artist, greets me with a smile and ornate eye make up, and we chat about what it is I want. We agree on a plan of attack for my hair and while she washes it, we chat about my travels and her life in Austria. The haircut went really well, with better than expected results. One of the trainers told me about his plans to return to Malaysia and open up a European style salon there, offering me an invite to come visit while I’m in that part of the world. Cool. Payment was not the 20 Euro I expected, but a suggested 5 Euro tip that I paid straight to Anna. On the way out, I am asked to return on Monday (today), to help another girl learn how to shave a guy’s face.

After my hair adventure, a small group of us ventured to Steinakirchen, the village where the girls I’m staying with grew up. Here I met Petra’s family and got treated to some home made apple and pear most. Be careful with this stuff, as it has the alcohol content of wine but the taste of Apple juice. After a light dinner, we ventured to the local pub, where we met some more of the locals and had a few more drinks. From there we went to a small club about 15 minutes drive from the first place, where we drank some more, danced badly and talked about how this generic club could be anywhere in the world. I chatted to Petra’s brother Berhard, and he told me about his plans to go to an enduro dirtbike meeting on the following day, and we drank a few more beers. At some point on the way back from the bar, a Beach Boys cd found it’s way into the car stereo and all of us started singing, “harmonising” the parts of songs we could. Apparently, Marianna shouted most of her lines, while I stuck to the lower key stuff, with Petra and Verena making up the rest. I can not confrm nor deny if Martin (Petra’s older brother), who drove, was also singing.

On Saturday I woke up with a cracker hangover, was treated to a fatty breakfast and afterwards taken out by Martin on a motorcycle adventure across the family’s property. This was a lot of fun, but the vibrating of my post-booze brain and the thought of tight-fisted travel insurance companies limited my enjoyment. We returned to the house for a big fish lunch with Schnapps. Entertainment came in the form of me wincing with every sip of Schnapps and asking where each ingredient of lunch came from:

Potatoes? – from the garden
Schnapps? – from the cellar
Bread? – from the oven
Pork? – from the farmer up the road
Fish? – from the supermarket

Ah so.

Then it was off to the Enduro meeting for some fancy KTM action. Not that it was a condition of entry, but 18 of the 20 bikes were bright orange, Austrian-built KTMs. The track was made up of a large square section around a disused paddock that led into a small wooded area and then returned to the main track. In the wooded area, a makeshift track marked by red and white tape weaved it way through some fairly tight places. Two races took place. Bernhard raced in the first one, Martin the second, with the brothers swapping safety gear over in between.

Afterwards, Martin delivered me to Karti’s family house where I was greeted by some more friendly Austrians and a nice cup of coffee. Karti gave me the smallest of 3 home grown zucchinis , which was still really big and a bag of apples from the family tree to take back to Vienna. She then dropped Petra and I at the train station and we spent the next hour nursing our hangovers, occasionally laughing at our drunken adventures and Beach Boy sing songs from the night before.

Now this is when it really gets weird. Today the weather has been shithouse, with rainy, cold winds reminding me of what Melbourne can sometimes dish up during winter. I headed over to headquarted to fulfil my shaving duty and go through all the usual salon protocol. “Over here? Ah ok. With milk and sugar thankyou.” But if you want a truly surreal salon experience, find a trainee who is learning how to shave someone else for the first time, make sure English is their second language and that the person teaching them demonstrates and explains everything in a language you don’t know. On top of that, imagine being seated in front of the mirror in a rather uncomfortable position, and asked to “fake paralysis” in an effort to reduce the likelihood of blood. Thankfully I survived, making the occasional but nervous crack about whether or not my travel insurance covered any mishaps in the salon.

It’s easy to forget that I’m in another country, now that us whities all seem to live in such an homogenised western society and want to speak English. I guess I should suggest to Petra that her birthday party should have the theme of Austrian traditional dress. Oh wait, I already have. Here's one of the photos from the invite.

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