A few years ago, I became friends with somebody from Austria. We initially met at our work place, but soon we started to go on an adventure together outside of work. At the time, I was new to Ottawa, and she took me to quite a few interesting places in the city in her secondhand Volkswagen. Along the way, she shared with me many stories about her home country.
Some of these stories stemmed from disappointments she had in her life in Ottawa. I must say that there were only a very few of them since she was quite in love with Ottawa as well as with Canada.
One of her major disappointments was the quality of potatoes. “Potatoes here taste like paper!” She exclaimed one day. I was surprised to hear this comment because I had never had any issue with potatoes here. To me, their tastes were just fine. But of course, my friend was from Austria, where potatoes were an absolute staple. “So, do they taste better in your country?” I asked eagerly. “Oh, of course!” Her answer was immediate and passionate. “They have a proper taste and flavour!” That alone made me want to try some potatoes from Austria.
In the early winter when we had many overcast days in a row, my friend looked depressed and said that she didn’t like the clouds in this region. I was intrigued. I asked her to tell me more about it. She told me that where she grew up, which was a small mountain village in Austria, each cloud was different. “I could see the shape of clouds change all the time,” she explained to me enthusiastically. “You never get bored watching them. But here, the clouds are so homogeneous, I can’t stand it!” As I watched her frustration, I imagined the ever changing clouds in the mountains of Austria. I wanted to see them myself.
Yet another time, I told her that I had recently started to take ballroom dance lessons, and she became so excited. She told me that back in Vienna, where she went to her college, she used to go to a ballroom dance party every now and then. When I asked her if she could dance that kind of dance, she looked at me as if she couldn’t believe that I even asked her that. “Of course! Everybody can dance ballroom dancing in Austria!” This must have been a slight exaggeration, but still I was impressed. Then she told me how there was a real orchestra in the room, how she loved to dance waltz, and how the dance party would continue after midnight. Just before dawn, the party would finally come to the end when the light was dimmed from the chandelier, and everybody would go home.
I told her that I wanted to go to this ballroom dance party in Vienna when I visit her there one day. She said she would take me there with all the proper preparation. We were both very excited.
About a year since we first met, my friend finished her job contract in Ottawa and went back to Vienna to start a new life. I haven’t heard from her for a very long time. But I always think of her as I pick up a bag of potatoes in a grocery shop or when I feel depressed under the overcast sky. And I think of a plan of visiting her someday in Austria and having a blast at a ballroom dancing party under a chandelier.