From Lisbon with love

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I could start by telling you that Lisbon is beautiful, but that probably wouldn’t come as a big surprise. So I will just tell you how it feels to live here temporarily.

I am staying at The Loft Hostel – initially, I intended to book a hostel just for the first few nights and then try to find a room on AirBNB, but I am enjoying hostel life very much. It makes me realize and remember that I am a traveller. The hostel is small and cosy, everyone knows everybody else, and we ask each other “How was your day?” in the evening, just before kicking off the tapas night that is offered by the hostel…every night.

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In the morning, I pass a square named Praça de Alegria on my way to the language school, CIAL (Centro de Linguas). Three hours of intensive Portuguese class, level A2…learning a new language and feeling how it progresses inside me releases a lot of endorphines in my brain. After school, CIAL offers voluntary afternoon activities…city walks, movies and Degustaçao dos Vinhos do Porto just being some examples.

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It was also great to finally, after a month of separation, to reunite with Barbara and Thomas, my HORIZONT3000-colleagues…and we seized the evening with octopus and white wine at a nice tavern in Barro Alto, missing Jan, the fourth member of “Team Beira”.

Spending your life at hostels and language schools is a guarantee to meet interesting people. A Hula-Hoop-artist from Ohio who makes Youtube-videos explaining Calculus with Hula-Hoops. A young Norwegian laywer who is being sent as a diplomat to Angola soon. Some South-Koreans who live in Mozambique but can’t get proper language classes there. A lady from Windhoek who is being trained to become one of the first teachers for Portuguese language in Namibia. A software engineer who decided to rather develop his projects based in Lisbon than in his hometown in Southern Siberia.

Everyone I meet has a story to tell. And so do I.

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Unrelated picture, and yet very related. The rules I try to live on in Lisbon.

Everyone I meet has a story to tell. And so do I.

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Alles Gute, Sophie. Sincerely, Vienna

A few days ago, just behind Rochusmarkt, where I used to live five years ago after my arrival in Vienna, I found this graffiti.

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I take it as a nice goodbye message from a city that has done me a lot of good. My apartment is empty, keys are left behind, and I am having an early morning coffee at the airport McDonald’s. The next three weeks, I will be in Lisbon for a language course, a lot of language practice…and hopefully, a lot of sunray. So for now, I’m still in Europe, and I will definitely return to Vienna for some time at the end of June. And yet, it’s a good time now to return the good wishes.

Mach’s gut, Wien.

Bei Oberösterreichs LH Pühringer

More “borrowed content” from HORIZONT3000!
Together with Thomas Vogel I met the Governour of Upper Austria. Dr. Josef Pühringer is personally very interested in International Development. Upper Austria is the only federal state that delivers substantial financial support to delevopment projects, and of all Austrian development workers that were sent out in the last 60 years, more than a quarter were originally from Upper Austria. Even more, I realised that a lot of them originate from “my” district Kirchdorf an der Krems.
And even though I haven’t lived in Upper Austria since 1999 and usually identify more as Viennese, I feel very, very happy and proud to be Upper Austrian right now.

Die Oberösterreicherin Sophie Lenz, die kurz vor ihrer Ausreise nach Mosambik steht, wurde von Landeshauptmann Josef Pühringer feierlich verabschiedet. Sophie Lenz wird die Katholische Universität Mosambik (UCM) für zwei Jahre als Beraterin im e-Learning unterstützen.

Landeshauptmann Josef Pühringer: “Entwicklungszusammenarbeit hat in Oberösterreich eine große Tradition. Ihre Pioniere sind von Anfang an für die Idee der Personellen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit gestanden. Seither sind Menschen in Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländer gegangen und haben dort einen großartigen Dienst an ihren Mitmenschen geleistet, die Hilfe am dringendsten gebraucht haben. Wann immer sie erzählen, wird spürbar, mit wieviel Begeisterung, Mut und Einsatzfreude sie an ihre Arbeit heran gegangen sind. Dieses Engagement werden wir auch künftig brauchen. Neben den für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit eingesetzten finanziellen Mitteln, zu denen ich mich bekenne, ist mir gleichzeitig bewusst, dass sie wenig Wirkung entfalten würden, würden nicht Persönlichkeiten dafür sorgen, dass vor Ort das Beste aus ihnen gemacht wird. Herzlichen Dank dafür.“

Als bisher einziges…

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600! Bald im Einsatz: Sophie Lenz

I haven’t published anything here for quite a while – not because there is nothing to tell, but because I don’t find the time and space and peace of mind to transform all the drafts I sketch whenever something pops up in my mind into proper articles.

But here I am on the great HORIZONT3000 blog “Mensch im Mittelpunkt”. Enjoy 😀

Sofie_LenzTätarätää! Jubiläum! Sophie Lenz ist die 600. ProjektmitarbeiterIn, die für HORIZONT3000 zu einem Auslandseinsatz bei einem unserer Projektpartner aufbricht. Noch ist sie im Vorbereitungskurs, danach geht es nach Mosambik.

„Das Berufsfeld der entsandten ProjektmitarbeiterInnen hat sich in den letzten 15 Jahren stark geändert“, erklärt HORIZONT3000-Geschäftsführer Erwin Eder. „Ging es vor 15 Jahren oft um die Ausbildung lokaler Fachkräfte, so steht heute meist die Organisationsberatung im Mittelpunkt. Immer öfter werden Beratungen auch im Verbund mehrerer Organisationen durchgeführt. Personaleinsätze können so eine enorme Breiten- und Langzeitwirkung entfalten.“

Das Personalprogramm wird in enger Zusammenarbeit mit der Austrian Development Agency (ADA), der Agentur der Österreichischen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (OEZA), durchgeführt. 70 % des Programms werden von der ADA finanziert, 30 % von kirchlichen Organisationen. ADA-Geschäftsführer Martin Ledolter ist stolz auf das Personalentsendeprogramm: „Die personelle Entwicklungszusammenarbeit ist ein wichtiges Instrument beim Aufbau von Fachkräften und leistungsfähigen zivilgesellschaftlichen Organisationen in den Partnerländern der OEZA. Wir sind…

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A Taste of Austria

Knowing that I will move abroad soon again has another side effect that I have experienced before, but that has become a bit blurry during the five years that I have lived in Vienna: Dealing with the question what Austria is, and even more what it means to me. Dealing with a question does not mean that I expect to develop a universal answer.

But the underlying process is important – also for practical reasons. Realizing what I appreciate here will be a starting point for my packing list. Reflecting on how I live here will be an orientation point to set priorities for settling in Mozambique. What is essential for me to feel good? What do I believe I need, but when I think again I realize I can easily do without? What would be best to get rid of?

Five Euros well spent before I moved to France

Five Euros well spent before I moved to France

And I will have to think what I want to take with me to share about my home country with my future co-workers, friends, neighbors. I remember that the first – and only time – I bought a picture book about Austria (that covered all the clichés “Almen, Habsburger, Kaffeehäuser”) was before I moved to France in 2004, and I used it excessively with my students, but also friends and colleagues.

In that sense, the timing of wonderful video by Peter Jablonowski and Thomas Pöcksteiner that is about to go viral couldn’t have been better for me. Applying amazing timelapse techniques and with symbolic sound effects that are just subtle enough not to come across as cheeply stereotyping, they offer a three minute journey through the entire country and everything that makes it beautiful and special. It is the perfect souvenir for me and the perfect introduction for locals interested in where I come from, and it doesn’t weigh.

As paradox as it sounds – going abroad means that I will become “an Austrian” again.

Overcoming convictions or The day I learned to draw

We all have our convictions about the world, about other people, but also about ourselves. I, for example, am convinced that I am able to learn and get good at the most challenging and even absurde things – to an extent that often borders complete over-estimation of my own capacities, and yet usually works, as long as I am truly dedicated. In 2002, due to some funny circumstances, I received a scholarship for one month of summer university “Hungarian Language – Advanced Level” in Budapest before I knew a single word of Hungarian. Two months of hardcore, self-study training later, I was able to follow and complete the class. Just to give an example.

Then, I have some even stronger convictions about what I will never be able to learn. Very high up on the list: drawing, or manual visual expression in general. It’s not so much that I completely lack imagination or a visul sense. If I can use appropriate electronic tools, or simply “describe” what something should look like (as you do in CSS), I am able to produce – well, definitely no works of art, but some down-to-earth products that are functionally acceptable to the eye. But with paper and pencils, brushes and paint, I am absolutely useless. There is no way I can give shape to anything I have in mind. It’s a total lack of techniques, and it never occured to me that it could be something one can learn to a certain extent. And frankly, it didn’t bother me at all. I simply never volunteer to design the flipcharts during group assignments, and when I give presentations, I make sure that I have some fancy slides with elaborate wording and some catchy images (preferably memes).

And then, today, as part of the preparation course for Mozambique, we had a workshop about “Creativity and visualization”. On a Monday morning. I was, let’s say, sceptical about the usefulness, and I was not the only one. And then, this happened.

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This was my first doodle of the day, representative of my drawing style since primary school…

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…and this is what I made one hour later 😀

It is an almost childish pride. It has nothing to do with art and it’s far from being perfect, but it doesn’t have to. When I build a tool to administrate my eBooks, I am not striving to invent a revolutionary, award-winning data structure. I mainly make use of (yes, copy & paste) existing functions, queries and statements and adjust them as well as I can, with the only goal to make it do what I want it to do. And, believe it or not, this applies to drawings. 100%. I doodled some elements that I might be able to adjust and use in the future. And…I really like to look at the stuff I drew, came home like a first grader, desperately looking for my flatmate to tell her “Look what I made today”, and I produced it without thinking or conceptualizing within a few minutes of random doodling. And…I had so much fun doing it that I went to a stationary shop for the first time in a decade and got wax crayons.

A big thank you to the fantastic coach Martin Hauszer and HORIZONT3000 for an awesome workshop!

Preparing for departure: the next few weeks

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Since Monday, I am officially employed by HORIZONT3000, the Austrian Organisation for Development Co-operation. The upcoming seven weeks are dedicated to the first part of the preparation training for Technical Advisors which takes place in Vienna (while the second part is the so-called “in-country-preparation” in the respective countries abroad). We are a group of seven future Advisors – three of us going to Mozambique, three to Uganda and one to Tanzania – so we are a “purely African” group this year. HORIZONT3000 also carries out technical assistance programs in Nicaragua, Brasil and Papua New Guinea, but there are no participants for these regions in our group, and neither for the other African countries with HORIZONT3000-projects, Burkina Faso and South Sudan.

So what will my schedule look like for the next few weeks? The subjects and modules covered are very diverse: Intercultural Awareness, History and Challenges of Development Co-operation, Change Management, First Aid, and a drive safe training in a quarry in Upper Austria – and that’s just some examples. Besides, I will have about 20 hours of Portuguese language course, and on a voluntary basis, am entitled to take some classes in Krav Maga, an Israelian self-defense sytem based on several martial arts techniques. And then, there are some pleasant medical appointments waiting for me to certify that I am physically fit for the tropics plus my individual vaccination plan.

The training schedule is definitely very dense, but luckily, there is also quite some room for individual preparation, like doctor’s appointments, paperwork, personal administration and so on. In my case, that will probably mean even more Portuguese, and hopefully some time to pimp my PHP- and MySQL-skills. And just in case I still find a way to get bored, there is still my pending reading list of African literature that I kicked off well last summer, but that frankly suffered during the last months at my previous job.

BTW, HORIZONT3000 runs a very active blog, full of interesting stories about ongoing and upcoming projects, people “in the field” and other development co-operation topics (in German). Just saying 😉

Es geht immer ums Vollenden

Vorgestern – der letzte Arbeitstag im “alten Job”. Überwältigt von all den Worten, Gesten, Geschenken von meinen Kollegen zum Abschied bin ich immer noch.

Übermorgen beginnt der Vorbereitungskurs, und damit bricht dann offiziell die “Mozambique-Time” an. Und deshalb bin ich für dieses Wochenende ins Burgenland geflüchtet, um von einem zum anderen wechseln zu können, ohne mich dabei irgendwo auf der Strecke zu lassen. Bin gelandet an dem besten Ort genau dafür, der Pension Endlich Daham von Karl in Mönchhof.

Pension "Endlich Daham" in Mönchhof  Vor einem Bauernladen zwischen St. Andrä und Frauenkirchen  Pension "Endlich Daham" in Mönchhof

Mitgebracht habe ich Zwetschgen-Chutney aus Podersdorf, einen leichten Muskelkater nach den gestrigen 70 km am Omafiets durch zwei Nationalparks, eine CD, die mir Karl zum Abschied mitgegeben hat und viel Ruhe.
Am ersten Abend im Burgenland habe ich hauptsächlich alte Job-Mails und -Erinnerungen durchforstet. Am zweiten Tag, durch den Nationalpark Lange Lacken radelnd, fast nur noch an das gedacht, was am Montag beginnt.

Frei nach dem Nino geht es immer ums Vollenden. Und damit hat er Recht.


“It’s time to spend some time in Mozambique” (Bob Dylan, 1976)

Popular culture leaves traces in the associations we have with certain places. It’s hard to concentrate on a news report about New Orleans without hearing Arlo Guthrie’s voice in the back of one’s head. Other places are probably more individually connotated – in my case, Paris evokes a song by Klimmstein feat. Joe Summer that unfortunately never got as popular as it deserved, and as much as I like Luxemburg as a place, hearing its name always contains a risk of leaving me stuck with a horrible catchy tune for the next few hours.

There is also a song about Mozambique. Bob Dylan released it in 1976 on his album Desire. I struggled for quite a while if I should write about that song here, and even admit that it did inspire the name of my blog. In the historical context –  two years after the end of the Colonial War, one year after independance from Portugal, with the Civil War (1977 – 1992) already around the corner – it seems almost cynical that Dylan’s lyrics mainly perceive the country as a romantic paradise full of dances and kisses with pretty girls on white beaches.

And yet, I like the tune, and find it somewhat flattering that Mozambique has its own Dylan-song. I suppose for my purpose I should simply stick to the first line of the lyrics and the melody, and enjoy.