So the football season is over. It hasn't been quite as successful as I had intended it to be. But over the season I learned to be happy with good games and stopped worrying too much about points and goals that we get. Certainly makes life much easier, and fortunately as an amateur player this is acceptable, I guess. I was used to thinking that only goals and points won count, but in reality I mainly play for fun and not necessarily to win. It's like in real life when you measure everything by pure figures like how many kids you have, how expensive your car is or how high your salary. So I've decided that I suppose I am an amateur in life, just as in football: I live for fun and not for money. That is quite a reassuring idea. Especially if you don't have children, a car or a job and no intention of getting either.
Anyways, I played several good matches, and since the season only lasted seven matches, I can be quite content with it apart from the fact that it was basically over before it really started. But that's another story. I don't want to go complaining about how women's football is so frustratingly neglected in Austria, but I really have to - sorry. If you don't want to hear it, just skip this paragraph… So, of course there are higher leagues than the one I played in. I went for the highest one that has a team within a radius of about 100km represented in it - which is also the lowest possible one in the province. It says quite a bit about the region I live in, that within an hour's drive there is no women's football team that plays in any league worth mentioning. And it's not a lack of good players, but just a lock of players in general that's the problem. I know that this conclusion is taken too easily and not always true but since I am not writing a scientific paper here but just an article on my personal views and experiences I still state that more often than not regions with a lot of female football players tend to be less conservative and view women more equally to men than regions where women's football is very weak or non-existent (of course this is not true in the US where soccer is viewed as a girls' and gay sport and "real" men play American football). Based on this view as well as my personal experiences in several parts of the country I can conclude that the region I live in is probably the most conservative of the whole country. I think I mentioned this before, so it's not so surprising but it is maybe more surprising that I survived four months here ;) In any case, I can see the problems very well, as it is very hard to have high level football if you have barely any players, as in these regions, where it is hard for women to do anything that is seen as not very fitting for a female, and automatically the same people will look at the poor performance on the field and conclude that football is just not for girls. Which is really only true because they stop girls from playing football and not because girls can't play. I don't know how girls ever had the strength to still continue and become good enough so they managed to show men that girls can play well too. But it is not surprising that once there are some good players and they compete in the world cup then suddenly it becomes easier for girls in the whole region to start playing too. And people start to accept that even girls need to start at one point and don't just suddenly appear out of thin air to become world champions. Like women's football experienced a big boost in Germany when the national team first won the world cup. And the same happened in the Netherlands when the team qualified for the EURO. And in the Netherlands the team finally made it to the last level as with Oranje qualifying for the world cup this year for the first time in history even the most male-centered football journal can't ignore them anymore. In Austria, sadly we are still at a stage where girls are not openly ridiculed but women's football is still seen not as inferior to men's football but rather like some strange phenomenon on the side that has actually nothing to do with the "real" thing. Meaning that there is "football" and there is "women's football". I mean no one talks about "tennis" and "women's tennis", do they? But read the paper and if they don't find anything else to fill their pages with, you will find reports about that female player that plays for a professional club abroad. Or they write a couple sentences about the matches in the highest league. Women's football in many parts of Austria is about as high in the ranking of sports in the media as chess. And while no one would ever tell you in the face that, actually, as a woman you shouldn't play football, we are still ridiculously far away from accepting the fact that women play football just like men do: at different ages, different levels and mainly just because it's fun and they like it. It may be especially hard for me, because the last club I played for in Utrecht had 7 women's and 10 men's teams and they were all literally treated equally. The whole point of the club was to have both women and men play and be part of the club. And the same is true for many clubs in the Netherlands. Austria is very far behind in this, even though, thanks to the song contest they have become amazingly good in pretending that they are so open and accepting of everything. I wish they were as good in the real thing as in the pretending bit! Mind you, here they have problems even getting enough players for the boys' teams…
Okay, so anyways, since the football season is over, I am free to leave again. I have not finished all my bird counts, but got tired of doing them. I mean, they were fun, and it's one of those jobs that I would gladly do if I got paid for them, where I wouldn't feel like I sell myself but more like I do something I normally like and I might not like it every day but since I get paid for it, I am happy to see the positive sides of it and just do it even on the days I don't enjoy it that much. But since I didn't get paid and being geographically free I could easily find something else to do, that's what I did. Mind you, before I left, I got to know a surprising number of people who would actually be interested in cooperating in bird work in the region and - sad to say - the fact that I found a bird they didn't know lived there, made me a valuable partner for cooperation from one day to the next. I am not quite sure if this is an Austrian thing, as I never had that problem in any other country, but either way it is sad to realize that in science - just like in football - you need to make that one big discovery or publish that one big research - preferably in a big journal - in order to be accepted. The problem is that in contrast to football, science should not really be competitive. I mean, this basically comes down to saying that all the hours I spent counting birds and looking for species I haven't yet recorded for this location but we knew had to be there, were nothing compared to the 10 seconds I saw a bird we did not know was there. So basically they would rather let all the common birds go extinct because they don't want to take the effort to look if they are still there, because you don't get any fame for that, and instead just always hunt for new species. Exaggerating a bit here but you get what I mean. That is a very un-scientific way of doing science and probably the reason why I doubt I should work in science even though I feel like doing science is the only thing I can really see fit me. So, if there is any country in the world, where science is done properly, please let me know and I'll go there.
I also discovered in the last few months, that little villages even in Austria are not all bad. Or rather, they aren't really bad at all, they are just difficult to live in, when you are used to live in the world rather than a tiny little region of it, that people seem to consider the most important bit of the world even without knowing any of the other bits of the world anywhere else. I learned that people here take care of each other, more or less like they do in any other place in the world in little villages. If you are acknowledged to belong to the village you will get a job, they will give you a ride if you need one and they will even stop making you feel like you shouldn't be allowed to live in this world for so stupid things like wearing the wrong type of clothes, no shoes or acting weird. Maybe this is also because this way they got something to talk about in their otherwise amazingly boring lives. Another advantage is the fact that there is literally no crime, you wouldn't even need a key for a house or a car because no one would even dream of entering it without permission. Unfortunately people watch a lot of television (there's not that much else to do really) and so they still think that they are surrounded by crime, because they see it on TV every day. But luckily it doesn't make them criminal.
Luckily, the past few days I was able to take some time off and enjoy the summer weather swimming in the lake. This was nice but it also brought back memories of growing up in this place with barely any public transport and cycling here being barely less dangerous than in Miami. And that only because there are fewer cars here than in Miami. Making cycling routes in this place is done simply by putting little green signs on the side of the road and calling the road a cycling path without making a bike trail or lane or even putting up signs for cars to drive carefully. And care drivers lack just as much respect as they do in Miami, so while you could be there biking around the beautiful countryside you need to constantly watch out so you don't get run over by a car. So if you want to come visit this place, literally you have to bring your car, otherwise it's useless. Obviously if you do, you only contribute to robbing this place of the peace and quiet that make it so beautiful. So actually, it's best if you just stay at home and enjoy my photos instead…
I guess I also need to mention the Narzissenfest here, as I promised. It's a flower festival held every year in this village and basically turns the village upside down for a few days. Like the Fasching it's what people here live for. If it weren't for these festivals, I guess even the locals would start to think life in the village is boring and want to move away but thanks to the celebrations and all the preparations and everything they can keep themselves busy with, they are happy to stay. Obviously it is also an important economic factor in the region and they do their best to make it one. On days like those the village is split in two: the ones running away from the crowds not wanting anything to do with it and the ones that live for the whole festival and get drunk before noon. I guess all of them are glad when it's over.
I lately realized that quite contrary to the normal goings of things I managed to get to know only very few people in four months here. This was of course for a big part due to the fact that my work was alone in the mountains, getting up early and I had to go to bed early to survive. So I am not really sad to leave any friends behind this time, but I have become very attached to the mountains and the birds here. I've never been so good at identifying birds by song, in every place I go I know which birds to expect and I know almost all roads and paths in the mountains in a radius of 20 kilometers. And even though sometimes it was hard and exhausting I enjoyed my work a lot and I took about a thousand pictures of the most amazing views (you're lucky I didn't upload all of them) and I felt so close to nature as rarely before. So I know I will miss the birds and mountains more than anything when I'm gone. I have created a very special friendship with them J
So, anyways I moved to the south where I am currently staying at a horse farm through WWOOF. After that I will go bird ringing in Germany and then in Austria. And after that, the world awaits me. I'll write about that next time. Enjoy the summer (or winter if you are on that side of the world)!