We struggle to understand each other even when he puts all of his efforts into sharing English with me, and especially when I stand there, too embarrassed to test out anything I’ve learned in German class. My landlord is kind and his English is increasingly sufficient, but sometimes a space finds itself between us when he cannot remember a word in English and I am not certain what word he is searching for. Sometimes when we speak to one another we are strained to understand, stretching our ears to wrap around and grasp the words the other is saying. But when puts the saxophone to his lips, there is no strain in communication. I hear him through the walls in the morning, and I understand him with clarity. Music is not words. The two are different. Music is the sound that carries them, and it is the space between. My landlord’s song sweeps through walls.
There is so much music in this city.
Living in Vienna is not difficult. The Ubahn promptly arrives without qualms to take me where I want to go. The Belvedere Palace incessantly stands for me to visit. Parks invite. Café Central keeps serving me the mightiest raspberry and cream dessert, and all I ever say is, “Zwölf, bitte.” Bookstores surround me. Living in Vienna is not difficult, but days come when I am reminded that I am not from “the city.” I come from shorter buildings and sometimes shacks. I also come from a big body of water. Some days, there is a bustle in the air and between buildings that makes it hard for me to breathe. I miss driving to the beach. I miss the fortunate certainty of the sun.
Some days my friends and I will wander streets between those buildings to find dinner. One of these days, Pizza John lured us in with its student-friendly prices. I cannot lie, the name of this place had me anticipate a Caucasian farmer wearing a tattered flannel checkered shirt and flipping dough with the same motion it would take to lasso a calf. Its name made me think of Taco John’s, a restaurant I’d heard about from my Nebraskan friend. We would laugh about its name, because the name “Taco Juan’s” is clearly a viable option for a taco shop, but it seems as though the shop’s entitlement was an act of American defiance.
When we walked in, we weren’t greeted by an American farmer or an Italian mama or an Austrian boy trying his hand at his neighbor country’s culinary craft. We were greeted by the kindest Middle Eastern man who smiled while taking each of our orders (some complicated) and took his time with us. As we waited for our pizzas tobake, we gathered outside and discussed differences we’d found between our home schools and the way we were learning in Vienna. When the owner came out and dealt us our pizza boxes, his little boy followed him. This little boy was the most social human I’d ever seen. He would dare himself to run into our little circle of big students, and then he would run back to his papa, who would nudge him right back to us. The two-year-old was giddy from the attention and bounced up and down, squatting and standing and squatting. I saw him doing this and followed suit. We all began squatting when he did, and then we would bounce back up, right after him. The tiny boy had 20-year-olds squatting down to him, and he grinned and laughed and laughed, delighted with the power he’d found within himself. We followed suit in amusement. His papa took a picture of all of us squatting with his son. When I look at it, I remember the music of that boy’s laughter. There is so much music in this city. It breaks through language, and walls, and right down little side streets between buildings.
(Here's one of the photos the little boy's father took on his phone. It's pretty awful quality, but you can hear the music in our smiles.)
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<p>Hello, hello! I'm Lauren Franklin, and I'm a junior at the University of San Diego. I'm an English major with a minor in psychology, and I'm trying to squeeze in as many theology and art classes as I possibly can. I would love to be the sort of student who's constantly found in the library studying away, but that's not always the case here: What bring me the most joy are grand stories, fresh produce, the green rolling outdoors, and creating and learning with friends who want to venture out together.</p>