Sunday, February 24, 2008


Friday- the one week anniversary of my arrival in Trento! I woke up after having a really weird dream in which I was speaking Spanish. About an hour after I woke up there was someone at the door, and it was a student who used to live in the apartment, and he was stopping by to get his mail. As he was leaving he said “grazie!” (thanks) and I said “de nada!” hahha which is Spanish for “thank you” instead of the Italian word “prego.” It was so odd because I haven’t spoken Spanish since high school!!

I met Joey and Gina in the centre for lunch at the cafeteria (mensa). With your student card lunch is pretty cheap, only about 2.50 euro for a plate of pasta, vegetables, a roll, and drinks. After lunch we walked around for a little while and then I went to Aquila d’Oro to use their wireless internet. The people who work there are very nice. The owner came to say hello and take my order (a caffe and water again). This time my caffe came with a little piece of something that looked like coffee cake, and my water had a slice of red orange in it. Haha.. maybe I’m becoming a regular.

I received an email that said my bus card (tessera) was ready to be picked up at the bus station, so I walked there to pick it up. The lady at the window did not speak English, and I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, so I made up a word.. “applicatzione.” I told her that I had filled out an application for a bus card, but she was a little confused because the word I was looking for was actually “richiesta.” The bus pass is 20 euro a month, which saves money because I take the bus 2-4 times a day at 0,80 euro each time I get on.

I headed back home for dinner and realized that in the five days I had been living in my apartment I had already gone through 1/3 of a good sized bottle of olive oil, 4 big tomatoes, and a huge brick of fresh mozarrella cheese. I really hope I don’t get sick of this food anytime soon! The apartment came with a few dishes, utensils, and pots and pans, and it also came with a small metal thing that makes espresso on the stovetop and I really want to figure out how it works.


Thursday I was up pretty early, and went to a couple offices to try and get my student number, password and libretto. A libretto is a little book in which you write all of your courses, and when the date of the exam comes you write the date, and your professor signs it and records your grade. Grades here are on a scale from 1-30, where 18 is the lowest passing grade. Exams are also different; instead of being written many of them are oral, in which you have a conversation with the professor about the material you learned to prove that you understand it. Hopefully mine are written, because I can’t imagine having to do that in Italian. Anyways, after a lot of waiting and going to the wrong offices, I found out that my libretto and password wouldn’t be ready until Monday.

On Thursdays there is an open market in the centre. Many little stalls fill the piazza and streets with vendors selling fruit, vegetables, fish, flowers, clothes, and shoes. It was so cute!! I finally found free internet in the centre at this hotel called Aquila d’Oro right off the main piazza. I went in and had to give them my passport so they could make me a free card to have internet access. The main floor of the hotel has a pretty big bar and an area with tables and booths to sit down. It was very nice and modern. When I sat down a waiter came up and asked if I wanted anything, I figured I should probably be polite and get something since I am using their internet so I got a caffè and aqua minerale senza gas.

After a little while Eduardo (one of the Portuguese students who lives at Roncafort) and Joey and some of the others found me. Joey, Gina (from Portugal), Marie (from France), and I went shopping. All of the shops were open again, after being closed from noon till 15,00. After shopping Gina’s boyfriend, Alè who is from Italy, met up with us and insisted on taking us to have the best coffee drink in town. We went to a small bar right in town and ordered Nociolatto, a drink that originated in Naples. It was served in small glasses with a small spoon and small glass of water. It was a little foamy on top and dark on the bottom. To drink it you have to stir it really quickly to blend everything. Alè said you are supposed to drink the water first to cleanse your palate or something, but someone else said that you wash down the drink with water. The drink was excellent. It was pretty sweet and tasted a tiny bit like hazelnut. I asked what was in it and they said caffè and “pure nuts.” I have no idea what pure nuts were, and I asked peanuts? Pine nuts? Hazelnuts? Plain nuts? Hahah, but they kept saying pure nuts so I guess I’ll never know what it really was.

We all went out to dinner for Eduardo’s friend’s 22nd birthday again at Padevena, the restaurant with the glass floor. I had a pizza with artichokes, mushrooms, and ham (prosciutto). I cant remember what it was called but a few of the guys ordered a dish that is very typical of the region. It was some sort of meat served on the bone and it was huge! It looked like it came straight off the animal out back or something. I tried it and it was really good though, a little salty but very flavorful. I could never eat the whole thing, but maybe I’ll get it sometime.. my dad would have loved it!! After dinner we stopped by a wine bar, and I tasted a local drink called spritz. The bar was underground and the walls were rocky like we were in a cave. At the bar you can buy little cards for 5 euros I think, and then you walk around and stop at little machines along the way that dispense tastes of a bunch of different wines. I didn’t get to try that though because we only had about 20 minutes there if I wanted to catch the last bus home. The busses stop running at 23:30 every night, so if I want to save money and avoid taxis I have to call it an early night.


Wednesday I walked around town, and then went grocery shopping. I was headed to the Roncafort apartments later that evening to hang out with Joey and her friends again, and I wanted to bring a bottle of wine for the people that lived there. At the grocery store there were a lot of different types to choose from and I had no idea which were good wines, so I grabbed a bottle of red that had a cool label and was made in this region “Trentino.” That was my first legal alcohol purchase!

I learned a new word from my roommate.. “scorciatoia” (pronounced scorch-a-toya). It means shortcut, ie.. if you miss the bus you can take a scorciatoia and meet it at the next stop. It’s my favorite Italian word thus far.

From 16,00-17,00 I had Italian conversation hour with four other international students at the welcome office. Two of the students were from the Czech Republic, and another was the girl from Singapore who was in my orientation. Later that night I headed out to Roncafort. It was dark out and I wasn’t exactly sure which stop to get off at. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going because I was on the phone with Amy, and when I looked up I realized that everyone was getting off the bus. I panicked a little and got off the bus with everyone, and by some miracle it was the stop I wanted.

We hung out at the apartments for a little while, and I met two Romanian girls and a German one. One of the Romanian girls told Joey and I a funny animated story in broken English about her ex-boyfriend.. “I make it graffiti as revenge.” Something about how if you go to her city you will see graffiti on the theatre that says something like “I and You three meters in the sky.” I don’t think I completely understood the story.

After a little while we went to a bar and then a really fun club called Momá. It didnt close until 4,00 am! We didn’t stay until it closed though. When we left we stopped for kebabs at a little street vendor. They weren’t shish kebabs though, it was a pita stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onions, some sort of meat, and a white sauce. It was VERY good!!! :) Joey let me stay at her apartment so I wouldn’t have to take a cab home alone, which would have been about 12 euro.


Tuesday I was up early to meet with Luiz, the Brazilian student from my orientation the day before. We went to go meet some professors and try and figure out which classes we were taking. After we were done I stuck around to try and find internet access to email my family, but there was no open or free internet anywhere. I won’t get my student ID and password until next Monday, which gives students access to the university and library computers. I was able to pick up one wireless network from my apartment but the signal was weak and required a password.

I went from the engineering faculty (in the picture), which is pretty close to my apartment, down to the center to meet with a professor in the economics faculty. Unfortunately his class had already started, because the engineering courses operate on a slightly different schedule, and I will not be able to take his statistics class. He was a really nice guy though, and dug out a book from his bookshelf for me “Statistics: Made Simple” published in 1968, and told me that the book contained everything I needed to know about probability and statistics. He let me keep it, and I will give it a look, but unfortunately I cannot return to Michigan and explain to the department “I read this statistics book, will it suffice for the four credit course- IOE 265?” I don’t think that will work.

I headed back to my apartment for dinner (spaghetti with tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes, and salad.. see picture). After I ate, I met my roommate. She is a first year student in civil engineering from Africa. She is here for the entire 3-year program. Her high school’s language of instruction was Italian, so she doesn’t have any trouble with the language, and she also speaks English very well! I have met so many people who speak Italian, English, and their native language. She explained to me that there will only be two of us living in the apartment, unless another student shows up. Here its common to come home to a new person living in your apartment without warning. I went with my roommate up to the second floor (which is actually the third floor because the main level is considered the ground floor, the next one above is the first, the following the second, and so on) to meet her friend from back home. They made tea for me and cookies (which everyone calls biscuits) and we talked in English and Italian.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Monday we were up early to pack the rest of my stuff up, as my dad was leaving that afternoon. We made a run to my apartment to drop everything off, and then to the welcome office where I had to fill out some more papers. I said bye to my dad because I wasn’t sure if I would be done with my orientation when he had to leave. At the welcome office I met two other students who were in the engineering program, and also living in my apartment complex. The girl was from Singapore and the guy was from Brazil. The three of us had lunch at a bar in the centre. I still couldn’t find any international stamps, the people kept telling me to come back early in the morning everywhere I went though. I went grocery shopping at the small market by my apartment and got some groceries (the staples: olive oil, tomatoes, tortellini, spaghetti, cheese//formaggio, etc). When I went to check out the lady said something about a shopping bag. I thought she said “Do you have a shopping bag” so I said no, and she looked at me kind of funny but then rang me up. She moved onto the next customer and I was just standing at the end of the conveyer belt looking at all my groceries and without bags. Apparently she asked if I wanted bags (because you have to pay 15 cents for a plastic bag). So that was confusing; I kind of held up the line for a little while.

I got back to my apartment to unpack everything and move in, and I discovered that when we went to the shopping center and I got my hair dryer I must have bought the display box, either that or someone had stolen the hair dryer from the inside, because it was empty aside from the free shampoo that it came with. So now I have to go back and try to explain to them what happened in Italian.

Still had not met my roommates, or found anywhere that had internet access. In order to use the university computers or wireless networks you need a username and password, which I will not have until Monday. For dinner I cooked my first meal in Italy- spinach and cheese tortellini. I hopped on the bus a little before 21,00 and because the routes switched or something I had to wait on the bus by myself for 15 minutes with only me and the driver.. That was a pretty awkward conversation.. the only thing I really understood was that he wants to take me snowboarding. I met up with my friend Jo from the UK, who introduced me to some of her friends and then we all went to dinner. I had already eaten though. The restaurant was nice, we sat at a round table in the middle of the whole thing and it was on a glass floor and underneath the floor you could see all the pipes that brewed the beer. The conversation was interesting, people from Africa, France, Portugal, Italy and other places. Everyone spoke English pretty well, but a lot of them spoke Portuguese and French in addition to Italian. I talked to a student from Africa who will be in Trento for 2 more years to finish his program. He wanted to talk about Britney Spears and Obama. He also said that his favorite artists were Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys. The two students from Portugal talked up Lisbon, so I might have to give that a visit while I am here. We went back to their apartment in a part of Trento called Roncafort to hang out. Haha the French girl was pretty funny “I would drink a little bit juice and a lot a bit vodka.” It was a fun time but most of them are leaving this weekend because they were here last semester and are going home.


We woke up early on Sunday to go skiing at the nearest resort, Monte Bondone, situated nicely in the Italian alps- The Dolomites. We took a shuttle bus from the station and it was only 1 euro each way, which took about a half hour. Renting skis for my dad proved to be a little difficult because neither of us knew which size shoe he wore (in the European units) or how much he weighed in kilos. We had pretty good weather, it was cold in the mountains but not windy, and it was very sunny. The snowboarding was great and the views were breathtaking. We skied for four hours and had lunch on the mountain. Italians have wine with almost every meal it seems, but not on the ski slopes. The beverage of choice there is definitely beer. The restaurant was ski-in ski-out and very crowded. My dad and I each ordered a bruschetta (flat bread with sauce and toppings, similar to pizza) and mine had gorgonzola cheese and speck (a local type of hard cured meat, a little like bacon or beef jerky). We went back to the hotel when we were done and got ready for dinner. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, but we found a restaurant called the Green Tower that was open. The waiter was really nice and my dad wanted to buy some of their wine to bring back to the US. We were a little confused because the waiter told us something along the lines of “you can’t bring the wine outside,” and brought us one bottle wrapped in aluminum foil, and then he had my dad hide it under his coat.


Our objective for Saturday was take the bus to the shopping center and find sheets and towels and things I would need in my new apartment. Good thing I brought along my pocket dictionary because I never would have been able to say hair dryer (asciugacapelli). We tried to find stamps (francobolli) for our postcards in the centre, but none of the tobacco shops (which are everywhere, and sell stamps, newspapers, etc) had any. Stamps for letters going anywhere in Europe are easy to come by, but not international ones. We returned to Villa Madruzzo for dinner. I had grilled vegetables and cheese for my appetizer, and my dad ordered a plate of typical cheeses and meats of the region. They were all excellent and they brought out honey to go with the cheeses. I guess honey is a big deal here and there were 5 different kinds. Some were syrupy like the ones I was used to, but a couple were harder and crystallized and had to be scooped out with a small spoon. Apparently you were supposed to put the honey on the different cheeses, and it was really good. For desert we had caffe as usual but this time we ordered it with grappa (a spirit that accompanies the caffe after dinner). Grappa is made from the leftover grapes after the wine has been made, and my dad and I decided we had to try it “when in Trento.” They brought us out an entire bottle of grappa and two small glasses similar to wine glasses but only maybe 4 ounces. I expected grappa to be mixed in with the caffe, but apparently you are supposed to drink your caffe and follow it with the grappa. It was pretty bad, and was like taking a shot of vodka. Good thing my dad had ordered a dessert so I could get the terrible taste out of my mouth.


On Friday we got up pretty early to make it to the welcome office by 10 am. I filled out paperwork and a student from Brazil walked my dad and I around the city. After that my dad and I walked around and went to a restaurant for lunch. It was a cafeteria-style restaurant, but because it was Friday it was hard finding something without meat in it. We ended up getting pizza and salads. I couldn’t figure out where the salad dressing was, but when we got to our table there was olive oil and vinegar bottles right there.

I had gotten the keys to my apartment earlier that day, so after lunch we took bus #5 about 10 minutes from the centre up the side of a mountain to my new residence. The keys are very strange, big skeleton keys that require five turns to lock or unlock the door. We took a cab and the luggage wasn’t too hard to manage, especially because I am living on the ground floor. The apartment is nice; one single bedroom and one double bedroom. No one was home when I got there, and the double bedroom was locked so I moved everything into the single. We went back into town later that night for dinner around 18,45 and the restaurant was pretty empty because people don’t eat dinner here until around 20,00 or later. Since it was still Friday and we couldn’t completely understand the menu, I had pizza again and it was very good.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


The ICE train was great.. I didn’t bother converting km/hr to mph, but it was really fast. At this point in the day it was still dark out so there wasn’t much of a view, and our cabin was really empty. By the time we got to Köln the sun was starting to come up a little and the train station was starting to get busy. It was hazy outside but right when we got out of the station the Dome Cathedral was right there in front of us. It was breathtaking! I couldn’t see to the top through the mist. It was a little before 7,00 and my dad and I had to catch the 9,15 train back to Frankfurt so we were a little pressed for time. We went into the cathedral, which is a huge tourist attraction, but luckily because we were so early there was no one else there, besides a few people lighting candles or saying prayers. My dad and I said a few prayers and started to walk around. We saw the tomb of St. Christopher, the miraculous portrait of Mary, a ton of stained glass windows, and the statues of the three Magi and their gifts. Then an older woman came up to my dad and I and told us that mass started in the chapel off to the side at 8, but she obviously mistook us for natives because she spoke to us in German. We had no idea what she said but we just nodded politely and said dankhe (thank you). We would have stayed for mass but we had to have an authentic German meal before we caught our train back to the airport. We went to a restaurant called the Früh and were seated by a waiter who spoke very little English. It was a good thing the breakfast menu had pictures. We soon found out that they did not serve bier//beer until 10,00 so we didn’t get to try their famous local beverage- Kölsh. But my breakfast was excellent: two sunny-side-up eggs over potatoes and some sort of sauce and vegetables mixed in. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to tip the waiter so we left him 10%.. we later found out that tips aren’t expected, but it was worth it. And little did I know but I would need a good meal in my body for the long day ahead.

We made it back to the airport in Frankfurt, and found out that our flight to Venice (Venezia) was delayed 3 hours.. so we could have stayed in Köln and had our Kölsh after all! I was completely exhausted by the time our flight finally took off. We flew Lufthansa, which is operated by United Airlines in the US, and it was pretty funny to see seat-belt-oxygen-mask-emergency-exit in German and Italian. Nearly everyone on the flight was speaking Italian, and some German. English was definitely the minority. This was a smaller plane, and on my left was a seven or eight year-old little German girl and on my other side was an 80 or 90 year-old Italian woman and neither of them spoke a word of English. I just wanted to sleep, but I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t, because the scenery of this flight was gorgeous. The Italian woman was very talkative, we conversed for the entire hour and a half flight- in Italian! I found out that she has lived in a city in Italy called Treviso her entire life. She stopped working 40 years ago and has been traveling ever since. She was on her way back from a two-week-long trip to India, and in a month she is going to Dubai. She was telling me about her travels to Africa, South America, a ton of US cities, in addition to every country in Europe. I’ve got to believe it must be hard for her to get around in all those foreign places not knowing the language and being alone (she was never married). She gave me some good advice about visiting cities in Italy. It was almost like having a tour guide on the flight because as we were flying over the Alps she was pointing out the major cities and lakes as we passed. I got a picture with her after we got off the flight and got her address to send her postcards or to stop and say “ciao!” if I ever happen to be in Treviso.

My dad and I got our luggage without too much hassle, we thought my huge snowboard bag was lost, but just as we were in line to file a report- it turned up. It probably would have been better if it actually was lost and later mailed to us though, because our bags were already so heavy. I had two huge rolling duffle bags (filled with winter and summer clothes for 5 months) and my backpack.. which totaled over 100 pounds I think. My dad had my snowboard bag, his carry-on, and his rolling luggage. It was hard getting around Venice, luckily the Marco Polo Airport is on the main land because I cant imagine navigating the canals with all that luggage. We had to take a 20 minute bus from the airport to the train station. The bus we needed didn’t show up on time so we ended up waiting a while, as the line for the bus got longer. When it finally showed up we piled on with everyone else, and by the time we got to the train station it was almost dark. The train station was a lot dirtier than those in Germany, and a lot more shady characters. We bought train tickets to Trento, but unfortunately we were too late to get a direct train so we would have to switch trains in Verona. In order to cross the tracks to pick up our train we had to go down two flights of stairs and back up another two flights. There was no elevator and I was wondering how people in wheelchairs managed. It was really crowded and nearly impossible to drag everything up the stairs. I couldn’t leave one bag and come back for it or else it definitely would have been stolen. I was exhausted and almost didn’t make it.

It was dark for the trip to Verona and there were a couple homeless guys that kept walking back and forth so we couldn’t take our eyes off our luggage. In Verona we had to go down and up the stairs all over again, and we found out that we just missed our train to Trento. My dad decided to stay with the luggage while I went to change our tickets for the train that left in 10 minutes. Of course there was a line at the ticket office, and when I got to the front I found out (in Italian) that it was 34 euro, and I only had 30.. so the man explained if I wanted to get on the train that left an hour later it would only be 8 euros, so I agreed on paying that. I then ran to the platform and the early train to trento was already waiting so my dad and I threw all of our bags on the train literally just as the doors were closing.

Not long after, the conductor came around to validate tickets, and we were in a little trouble because we paid for the late train but got on the early one. But I did my best to play dumb and explain to the conductor in Italian that we were confused, so we avoided being fined. At about 22,30 on Valentines day my dad and I finally made it to TRENTO!! The train station was really nice compared to the one in Venice, and I was so glad we finally made it. We had to wait a little while for a cab from the station to our hotel, but when we got there the people at our hotel, Villa Madruzzo, were very nice and told us that they would keep the kitchen open for us if we wanted a hot meal.

I only had eaten a nutrigrain bar since our German breakfast, so my dad and I decided to put off sleep a little longer and have dinner. It was a really fancy hotel and restaurant so we had to put on some nice clothes, but dinner was worth it. The menu was completely in Italian, and I didn’t understand most of it. I knew salmone was salmon so I had that as an appetizer, and I ordered homemade potato gnocchi for my main course. Its basically expected that you are going to have a red wine with your dinner, or in some cases white, so we followed suit and got the red house wine. Each region is very proud of their wine, so its polite to try it, and it was very good. I’m no wine connoisseur yet, but maybe I will be after a few months :) I thought it would be less expensive to have water with dinner but in Italy they don’t automatically bring out ice water. You have to order it, and its usually mineral water in a .5 liter glass bottle, and you also have to specify non-carbonated (acqua senza gas) or you might get sparkling water. I found it interesting that mineral water is about 2,50 euro, and you can get a glass of wine for about 1,10 euro. Dinner was delicious and I could not finish it all. We ordered caffé after we ate, which is not your typical American after-dinner bev. Its "ristretto" which means that it is espresso and produced using the least amount of water possible. It is very strong, and addicting. And it is very easy to come by, there are caffés on every corner, and vending machines that sell little 3 ounce plastic cups of the caffé for 30 cents. It's great. Anyways after dinner, we were exhausted and found our way to our room in the hotel (through a long winding narrow corridor with very tall ceilings) and fell right asleep.


The day I leave for Italia! I woke up at around 8 am to finish packing and go out to Zach’s Diner for a lunch with most of the fam. I stayed up late the night before hoping that I would be tired enough to sleep on the airplane, but I should have gotten all the sleep I could while I still had the chance. My mom, court, and Charlie dropped my dad and I off at the airport around noon. We got our boarding passes and checked my snowboard with the oversized luggage. We didn’t have too long to wait before we boarded and my feet left American soil for the next five months.

Our flight was on time; we left around 15,30 and were to land in Frankfurt (or Francoforte as they call it in Italia) at 23,30 Michigan time. We were pretty lucky that my dad was able to get a seat right next to mine because it was a pretty big plane. I had a window and he was next to me, on the other side of him was the aisle and then four seats in the middle section then another aisle and another two seats. I figured I would fall asleep once we were over the clouds and there was nothing interesting to see from my window seat, but soon it was time for dinner (rice and chicken, a vegetable salad, cheese and a roll, and a brownie for dessert… not bad). After dinner I decided to watch a movie from the screen that was built into the seat in front of me. There were about ten movies to choose from, mostly American movies (Across the Universe, the Bourne Ultimatum) a few German movies, and one Italian movie- L’Ultimo Legione (The Last Legion… actually an American film but dubbed over in Italian and for some odd reason the subtitles were in Arabic). I decided that I had to watch the Italian one, and it was pretty good but I didn’t understand half of it. Once we were over the Atlantic it was dark and very clear out and I could see the lights from the cities below. We landed in Frankfurt before I knew it, and we lost 6 hours on the flight east so it was 5,30 western Europe standard time.

Our layover in Frankfurt was 7 hours long and we didn’t want to stay at the airport the whole time so my dad and I had been planning a trip to Köln (Cologne) which was an hour by the ICE train (their express train). I only had a backpack with me, and my dad only had his carry-on laptop bag so we were pretty mobile. After wandering the airport for a while and trying to read the German signs we found the place that sold us our train tickets, only to find that we had 4 minutes to get to the train station and board our train, or else we would have to catch the next one an hour later. We didn’t have much time in Köln to begin with so we booked it for the train and made it just in time to jump on.