Saturday, July 4, 2009

Random Thoughts on Vienna

The picture on the right is of me, my daughter and my hostess. It was taken at the March Felderhof, a restaurant that was a favorite for special occasions. They put the flag of your country on the table and because my SIL is from Colombia, we got two flags. The restaurant is located in the middle of farming country that is known for its asparagus. The annual Asparagus Festival had ended, but last week they were celebrating mushrooms. There's a really good mushroom here called Eierschwammerl that the menu translated as chantrell. My salad had some warm mushroom that had been sauted on it and it was yummy. I've had Eireschwammerl in different ways this week and they are as good as I remembered.

Now that my time in Vienna is drawing to a close, I thought I'd reflect a bit on this lovely place and what it has meant. Yesterday afternoon my hostess and I went to a picnic thrown by her former section at the IAEA. It's been 20 years since I worked there (and in a completely different part of the Agency), so none of the faces were familiar, but the landscape was. I listened to people talk about how compartmentalized everything is and how people defend their turf. Really none of that is any different than when I was there, except perhaps in scale. It's hard for me to tell. I do remember my first year and how shocked I was that you were expected to stay in your own little area and never, ever, try to do something that wasn't immediately your charge. One of the Director General's assistants told me that's just the way things were.

Well after a few years I got a wonderful gift. A woman scientist from Finland came to work in another section (in fact she was the section head). We knew each other from meetings on environmental radioactivity and I was so delighted to have a colleague. During her stay, Chernobyl happened and her section was to collect data from around the world. She called me and asked if I would do it since I was the only person she knew who understood computers. Well if that didn't cause a flap. The men who worked in her section were very upset, because an "outsider" was doing what they thought they should do. When my friend asked if they could do it they said "no", but that wasn't the point. My friend replied "you're just a bunch of babies." I really missed her when she left after just two years. She was getting close to retirement as was her husband, so returning home was necessary. The interesting thing about this story was that Hans Blix, who was the Director General at the time, completely supported our work, so all the carping stopped.

Last Sunday I attended Christ Church, my church home during the time I was here. Of course there is a new chaplain—I was doing my intern year there when he was selected. I heard the news that The Rev.d Canon Jeremy Peake, the chaplain for most of my time in Vienna, had died the week before. Jeremey was so energetic and full of life, that I was quite shocked by the news. I had planned on calling him when I go to the UK next week. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

I did get to say hello to some of the old timers and that was nice. The chaplain asked me to give the blessing at the end of the service. He was going on vacation, so he won't be there tomorrow. The Assistant Chaplain, who will celebrate, was still studying for Holy Orders when I was last here. She's a lovely woman. She came to Vienna from Canada as a dancer, married an Austrian and for years taught dance here. I've been asked to read the gospel and help distribute the elements. That will be a nice way to end my stay.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Amelia, what a lovely remembrance of and tribute to Vienna. And also, sadly, an accurate description of how large bureaucracies function. And you knew Hans Blix! He's one of my heroes.

motheramelia said...

He is one of my heroes as well. He is an honest man with a wry sense of humor. I really appreciated working at the IAEA when he was its head.