Innsbruck, Austria EACLALS conference
Firstly, thank you to my hosts, the University of Innsbruck, for inviting me here. It is a privilege to visit this beautiful city in the Alps, and meet with the many scholars and writers from many lands!
Flight from Vancouver arrived in Munich, the first shop I encountered outside the airport was a Starbucks. The air, however, was distinct– flavoured with unfamiliar cigarette smoke, the hoarse cry of a crow speaking Austrian. The Japanese crows caw in Japanese. All over the world crows speak in their native tongue.
The awe of Autobahn…. our shuttle *bus* was hitting upwards of 150 km/hr when a motorcycle whipped past us. “Holy shit,” I muttered. I sat in the front, seat belt buckled, feeling mildly frumpy and somewhat alarmed.
The freeway moved quickly to countryside. The Alps soft behind the grey of rain. Fields of green and the rounded humps of trees. Brilliant patches of early canola.
Innsbruck a small mountain city, yesterday morning snow. Staying in the Goldener Adler, a hotel since 1390. Now owned by Best Western there’s a little sign on the front desk exclaiming Mozart would have joined as a member too…. The collapse of the historical into a material commercial. I wonder at the medieval arches in the dining room, imagine it filled with smoke of fire, the rich smell of fat and scorch bittering the air. The stench of seldom-washed winter bodies, the persistent coughs of sickly lungs. A figure-ground interplay of time.
Easter holidays and the complicated signal of bells. A taxidermy culture’s not a surprise in the mountains. But a strange interaction when icons become mixed metaphors.
There’re a lot of tourists about– both local and international. When I went to the outdoor market I wandered from stall to stall. One wagon sold lovely table runners, tablecloths, cross stitched with details of flowers and leaves. How charming, I thought.
“Where were these made?” I asked the tall blond middle-aged attendant.
“In Singapore…,” she said, and moved away from me although there were no other customers to attend to. The awkward little experience of the simulated tourist interaction collapsed between us, made even more ironic by my Asian body in the face of my desire for an authentic Austrian memento.
Three days of conferencing! I’ve ducked in and out of panels and every evening readings from international writers. When I return home I’ll be looking up the writings of Kei Miller, particularly, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, Carpentaria, by Alexis Wright, and That Deadman Dance, by Kim Scott.
Two more days of conference remain. I read tonight, and tomorrow a round table. Thinking a lot about representation….
The seen and unseen. The unseemly. Theory. Praxis.
I am a daughter of mushroom farmers, far from her ancestral home.