Once again, to the ball

743This year was our fourth February here, and we got the chance to go to the IAEA ball for the third time (we missed last year because we had no one to watch the boys).  And, of all of our visits, this one was our best so far.  I think we’re finally figuring out how to make it work.  (I think the secret is a combination of good preparation, being there with great friends, and having reasonable expectations — it’s easy to get carried away when you’re going to a BALL at the PALACE.)

First, our favorite babysitter (and neighbor) came over to watch the boys.  She brought games and face paints, and I don’t think the kids were the slightest bit upset that we were going out.  For simplicity’s sake, I wore the same dress as last time, so there were no surprises there.  And so, amid fierce lions and dragons, we got ready to go and headed out to the ball.

774Once there, we knew better what to expect this time, too.  We met up with friends, chatted and relaxed, and danced a bit.  Then we chatted and danced some more, and then explored the palace with some of our friends.  We listened to a few different bands (at least one of which was great), and danced even more.

With good friends, lots of music, and a beautiful palace as a setting, it was a fantastic evening.  (This time with no dress drama or any other complications!)  All in all, it was another great night at the ball!



A ball at the palace (again)

028Last year, we went to the IAEA Ball, at the Hofburg palace.  It was phenomenally cool, and the setting was gorgeous and fabulous and opulent.  On the other hand, I had a terrible time finding a dress, I wasn’t able to get my hair to behave, and I ripped my already frustrating dress in the first five minutes after we arrived.  And although it might sound ridiculous to let anything get in the way of enjoying a ball at the palace, all of that really dampened my spirits about the evening and the experience (although I did, ultimately, end up having a pretty good time).

What a difference a year makes!  Yesterday, we went to the IAEA Ball again, and this year, we had a blast.  After the frustration of dress shopping from last year, I planned ahead and bought a dress online from the US.  (I figured, correctly, that even buying a dress over the computer and not getting to see it or try it on before I purchased it would be LESS of a hassle than finding a dress here.)  It was a good choice.  I got a great dress for a fraction of what it would have cost here and got it successfully altered.  Just being able to look forward to having an appropriate, flattering dress to wear changed my entire outlook on the evening.  Instead of being discouraged and deflated, I was excited and enthusiastic.  I was able to do my hair (on the first try!) in a new, functional style that I really loved, and did my makeup in just a few minutes so that I ended up feeling pretty and put together.  And then, the kids were happy and relaxed to be staying with Jo and watching a movie while we went out.  We started our evening a little later this year, so we were home to do dinner and bath with the kids before we went out.  When we were all together and ready to leave, everyone was happy.  It was a great way to start the evening!

030We arrived at the palace for the ball, and hit our first (and only) real snag of the evening.  Dan had to switch out his ornately tied tie for a bow tie (which, apparently, is part of the required dress for the palace) which he had to buy on site.  We chalked it up to getting an extra souvenir and got on with enjoying our evening.

058We did a little dancing on a floor that was every bit as crowded and insane as last year, got our picture taken, walked around to survey the palace in all of its splendor (the chandeliers are particularly remarkable) and chatted with some friends and coworkers of Dan’s.  We made it back to the main ballroom just in time for the quadrille — a large, complex, semi-organized group dance that one of Dan’s collegues aptly explained this way: “There are long lines of too many people.  It’s like square dancing.  They give instruction, although not quite enough, and then the music keeps getting faster.”  Which is, in fact, exactly what it’s like.  It was tremendous fun to watch, but it went on for quite a while and, given the lack of appropriate seating in the main ballroom, I eventually just 043gave in and sat down on the marble steps to watch.  There was something fantastically inappropriate, and yet perfectly indulgent about sitting on the floor, in a ball gown, in a palace, listening to an exquisite orchestra frantically playing manic quadrille music for several hundred partially intoxicated revellers who had no hope of keeping up.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself (and I started a trend — I was the first to sit on the steps in my finery, but many others quickly followed)

051After that, the crowds thinned out somewhat, and Dan and I got to do some dancing ourselves.  We danced until it was late, we were tired, and my feet wouldn’t take any more.  We came home to sweet kids who had been asleep for hours and a happy (if tired) babysitter.  We had a great, magical evening.  It was everything that a ball at the palace ought to be.

The liberation of anonymity

For most of my life, I’ve been a pretty self-conscious person.  I’m constantly judging myself, and I imagine (much more than is probably true) that other people are judging me, too.  I have spent years of my life evaluating every little thing that I did, trying to see if it was “right” and adjusting it if it wasn’t.  I spent many years trying incredibly hard to be, do or say what I was “supposed” to or what was “expected” or what (I thought, probably incorrectly) would make people like me — I denied who I really was a lot.

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Dance Party Osterreich

019On a whim this afternoon, my mom and I packed the boys into the double stroller and set out for a walk with no particular destination in mind.  We got a couple of eiskaffees and started walking down the Ringstrasse to look at some of Vienna’s sights:  the Rathaus, Parliament, the Volksgarten, the Hofburg.  We came upon a place I’d seen before but not visited:  the Burggarten behind the Hofburg.  Dan joined us there when he got off of work.

It was lovely, as most of the gardens in Vienna are, if a little less . . . orderly.  I have not yet seen a place where so many people disregard the “keep off the grass” signs.  But, it was beautiful, verdant and very popular.  Benjamin made friends with a little girl his own age by a fountain — they played chase and flirted until she ran off for an older, badder boy.  (He seems to have gotten over it.)  We really enjoyed it, and it was fun to make another discovery of a nice place to walk and enjoy Vienna.

033Then, on our way out, we joined into an impromptu swing dance party.  Right behind the Hofburg, at the base of the stone steps, on the wide marble walkway, people were dancing enthusiastic, American style triple swing and Lindy Hop.  Dan and I joined in, and Benjamin quickly added himself to the mix.  We all took turns — Liam and my mom danced, too.  It was great to dance again — it’s been a while.  We danced ourselves to exhaustion — even Benjamin just wanted to watch by the end.  And then, when we were done, Dan got up the courage to talk to the assembled dancers and ask whether they get together often (they apparently do, and we got their information).

We had a great day.  I am worn out.  Now I remember why I was in such great shape when I was dancing.