Last week at some point my personal email account was compromised, and spam was distributed to just about everyone in my contact list. If there was an upside to this most irritating event, it was that I heard from a few friends whose communication has been a little inconsistent but took advantage of the spam to send a few “hellos” and offer some updates on their lives. From some came the question of, “When are you coming home?” And this week, with the approaching exodus by many to the US for the holidays, or the arrival of family from the US, comes the question, “Do you need anything from home?”  I understand what my friends are asking, but it’s still a funny question to answer.

“Home” is where my family is, and right now, home is Vienna. So, no, not really, do I need anything. A friend’s mom is bringing a couple of items over that I like, but they are nothing that I need. It is the same when Tony travels to Paris without me (sad as that is). There is nothing I need for him to bring home, but always something I want.

All of that aside, how is “home” in Vienna for me?  Well, rather than sitting numbly through an irrelevant staff meeting on Monday morning (and I loved my work!), I participated in a Syrian cuisine cooking offered by the UN Women’s Guild. Six of us, representing Argentina, China, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States learned how to prepare a traditional dish called Maqluba, a layered presentation of rice, beef and lamb, and fried eggplant.  Beautifully paired with a refreshing cucumber, mint, garlic and yogurt salad, the luncheon was as wonderful as the international exchange. One of the participants has called Vienna “home” for 24 years; and another had only arrived two months ago, yet we all chatted as if we’d been “home” our entire lives.
Conchita Wurst, Eurovision 2014 Winner and Austria’s favorite son/daughter, was the opening act for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the UN Vienna this week, and of course I attended. What’s not to like about a message of tolerance and respect (and especially that gorgeous dress?)
Conchita Wurst is the new spokesperson for Bank Austria. I would never see this at “home.”
Thank you, Internet, for the photo

While I will not list “Successful in forming a Book Club” on my professional resume, I am so happy that this little group I began has been thriving since the spring!  We meet, we share small dishes, and we even talk about the selected book!  This was my contribution this week: Squash, Gruyere, and Chive biscuits. Good friends, good conversation, and good food. Sounds like “home” to me!

Sometimes being “home” involves a little cheating, though. In a moment of weakness I purchased the salt lick package of American bacon from the Commissary to prepare a bacon and onion compote for our grilled steak sandwiches. There is no way to say this, except, “Dear America, your bacon is horrible.”  Though the compote was fab with dinner, henceforth we’ll be going with the bacon we find here at “home” in the grocery.

Finally, at “home,” Clayton Theodore and I can meet Tony at the tram for a lovely hand-in-hand walk back to the house. In the U.S. Tony’s commute was a slog that took anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours, after which he was anything but in the mood for a hand-in-hand walk. (My commute was at most 30 minutes, but we don’t talk about that.) We don’t miss the commute at “home.”

For a few brief weeks after we first arrived I missed what I thought were the comforts of “home.” Not any longer, except for, of course, grocery stores that are open on weekends. (There’s always the Czech Republic for that, so I’m good.)  If I could wish for anything from “home,” though, it would be that my American friends see Vienna as home. Too many of them cling to their DPO (Diplomatic Pouch) orders of “America” and “home” from amazon.com; or rely on visiting friends and families to bring them “home,” that they overlook the delights of Vienna as “home.”