I’d planned for this blog to appear earlier, but it took a while to sort the pictures. If you’re not one of my friends wondering how I survived last vacation and/or not up for a story which involves a lot of snow, I advise you to skip it.
I keep having events in my life where I think: ‘if someone had told me this a year ago…’ Besides the reason I have this website, one of those moments was when a few of my new colleagues asked me to go along with them and a group of 60-something students on a winter sport trip to Austria and I said ‘yes’! I hadn’t thought I’d ever use the words ‘skiing’ and ‘I’ in one sentence, but it feels good to be spontaneous… Besides, worst thing that could happen is that I wouldn’t learn how to stand on those long, flat thingies and I’d just have to enjoy the view. So I got a blue ‘Citaverde College Wintersport 2010’ sweater, to fit in with all the other smurfs looking forward to the holiday.
This was a good decision for me. I’m usually the one in the organising committee; prepared for what’s coming. How cool to just pack some stuff with the idea of ‘let’s see what this adventure will bring’, while dragging one bag (and a guitar) down the hill to school, where the group of students (aged between 14 and 18 years old) and colleagues were gathering at the front entrance. Some were waiting outside, on the – snow covered – pavement, some were inside next to the phone, to hear when the late bus would arrive. Besides being a ‘wintersport-virgin’, I was also a ‘nightbus-virgin’, so this was going to be interesting.
Especially since I was never able to sleep without being horizontal. But we had some fun conversations, card games, videos and passing-on-candy in our cosy double-decker first anyway. I was also encouraged to get my guitar out there and then! Meanwhile it got very dark outside and when we thought we just passed Buckingham Palace (tatatata…), we figured it was time to at least try and get some rest. It wasn’t much more than hanging-in-your-chair-with-your-eyes-closed-till-the-next-break really, which was also because a colleague’s discovery of blinding the nightlights with his shoe wasn’t truly effective enough.
By the time we saw beautiful, big white mountains, the Sun was awake again too. Soon we’d arrive at our home for the week, in Fügen, for which the organising part of the team had made a list of where everybody would sleep (like you always do on school trips). I knew most of my colleagues for about a month now. With our school being a large one these days though, I shared a room with two teachers I didn’t really know before. And we had a great room too. We had the whole hotel to ourselves actually, so in the evenings we could do our own bartending and I ended up doing that with Maarten – the one colleague I did already know from before.
With colleague M’Bark in the lift, on our first day.
Wooah! On top of the black piste. This is high. And slippery…
The Charming Bar Duo. (Me in The blue sweather).
Anyway, we were here on a mission and we needed to get equipment for that first. I was reminded of my bad German skills when trying to explain to the guy I thought my ski shoes were a bit too tight, in a mixture of Dutch, English and German. Then I had to get used to walking in those things, but I was loving it already. In the bus to the pistes I discovered my new coat had an extra pocket, which was handy for the card you had to keep with you. It opens gates to ski lifts, which worked marvellously. Our skiing area was lovely too: a beautiful sunny environment with a few shops, a place to have lunch and a nice bar.
It wasn’t long before my seven fellow newbie skiers and I met our teacher for the first lesson. Our group was a mixture of teachers and students who were all at the same level (zero!). The fun thing about that is that students and teachers are supporting each other. The students got to see their teachers (read: me) feeling the same frustration they do and it’s really cool to conclude after a short week, you’ve all grown a lot. But before we were at that point, our teacher took us to the top of the most difficult piste (a ‘black’ one, I learned later) in the cabin lift! Not to ski down from there of course, but to practice baby steps at a place where it was relatively quiet.
This might be a long story, but I will get from ‘see, I knew this wasn’t for me’ to ‘hey, I actually can ski’! The way to that involved a lot of excitement, perseverance, falling (which really doesn’t hurt), trying to keep balance and changing ski shoes because the other ones really were too tight after all. The feeling you’re learning fast was confirmed by more experienced colleagues who’d seen you trying to be a pizza slice to slow down, and later would ski past you marking you’re already doing turnings! Naturally, there’s only video evidence of the failing days, but we did all dare and manage to ski down eventually! Though to be honest, if it wasn’t for my (bar) colleague taking me up there, reassuring me and doing the thinking part for me, I probably wouldn’t have left feeling this is so addictive. But it really is!
It was warm enough to ski in a t-shirt (!) by the way, and we sat down at the terrace like it was summer too. I was taught to drink my first serious beer (and Jägermeister and something else – yes) and I told everyone the Belgian tradition of how you have to look each other in the eye when you say ‘cheers’. Back in our hotel, where we had wonderful dinners as well, I didn’t need alcohol to be convinced to sit on top of the bar with my guitar to play a few songs. And we were also not drunk when we tried to persuade people who had ordered a drink to take the lid of their bottle as a chicken helmet (an old joke for which I don’t have an explanation). Funny thing is though, after saying something like that, people really have a hard time believing you when you say you discovered something in space…
Timo (in The blue sweater), one of the organisers, explained the too-tight-ski-shoes-situation for me here.
Our easy piste really looks easy from this angle.
In the bar with Sarina and Anne, two students.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun (all our jokes were ‘you had to be there’-moments though). And I didn’t even mention the disco night yet, which to me felt like a reminder of how old I’ve gotten – but in a nice way. Also, when the group went to sleigh and a few of us stayed in the cafe, I realised I’ll never look at skiers (who were at the Olympics on TV) the same. But to arrive back home – where the snow would’ve disappeared again – on the Saturday morning, we had to leave Friday evening. Everybody found their seats again and when the driver did as well, I kept hearing the song ‘Don’t it make you feel small’ in my head, while looking back at those beautiful mountains. It was raining. And I did get some sleep this time.
All the smurfs of the Citaverde college together. Thanks everyone!