November 21st, 2011
November 21st, 2011
Sorry guys for my lack of post on the blog.
I am currently working on schoolwork so I haven’t had as much free time to write down what’s going on. I will continue to post about Slovenia but at the moment I wanted to tell you some cool things that have happen the past few days.
The past two days I actually cooked dinner for myself, by myself!!! I made turkey last night and tonight pasta with fried potatoes. And I didn’t even burn the apartment down. However, last night I accidentally spilled water into the frying pan of hot olive oil. It was a learning experience.
I will post pictures so that you can see it actually looks real.
On Saturday, to switch things up, Nick and I went to a Chinese Restaurant. It looked like the inside of any nice restaurant in the States; however, the Chinese people were speaking Italian, not English.
But let me tell you, it was some of the best Chinese Food ever. It looked and tasted like chicken (something some Chinese places back home can not claim) and it didn’t taste like pure sodium.
We are planning to go back before the end of the semester.
I promise I will start working hard to update my blog!!!
But back to the paper
November 13th, 2011
November 13th, 2011
So this is my first day in the hostel and I have already lost my locker key. I have a feeling that it fell out of my pants or jacket pocket earlier in the day. That’s another 20 Euro that I have to pay from my checking account that is already running low. Right now, I am waiting to get on the computer to see the damage from the last 24 hours. I have concluded that I will not be able to afford Rome which is fine since I have already decided to skip it this time around. Don’t worry, it is still on my bucket list but I have decided not to go alone and during the Spring or Early Fall when everything is still green.
I still have plans to go to Milan and Turin before I leave. Also, the school is taking us to Florence so I will still be visiting places through the end of the semester. I was thinking about going to Aosta in the Alps the last weekend but that is still up in the air and dependent on how much money I have left. I have to also pay for school books and 2 extra credits next semester!!!
But enough about traveling, I had a great day in Ljubljana. This is a really nice city; I am falling in love with it. For one, it has an university so there are people my age here. I have met several people so far and at some point Alenka is going to introduce me to more of her friends. We are suppose to go to a pub for a Sam Adam’s at some point so that I can drink some American beer. (their idea) Don’t worry, I will just skip a meal to make up the cost difference!
Ljubljana is a fairly small city with almost 300,000 inhabitants. Alenka and I spent most of the day walking around and seeing the sights. We also spent several hours talking about everything from art to politics. I especially enjoyed our conversations about European views toward America.
Tomorrow we are planning to go and visit a lake north of the city. I just wish these people would stop hogging the computers; others would appreciate the time. Sorry this post wasn’t more upbeat. I am still kicking myself about that key. What’s worst is I can’t get to my things until morning. And some Japanese man sitting next to me is planning to get drunk tonight. He has already killed 3/4 of a wine bottle sin the past 30 minutes.
La mia vita
November 13th, 2011
November 13th, 2011
So like I promised, here is my new entry. Before I talk about Venice, let me reflect on some things from earlier. First, for being the richest city in Italy, Milan’s central station is really ugly. Milan, known as the fashion and business capital of Italy, should have the money to make their main station look beautiful; but alas, it looks like the last time it was remodel was in the 1800’s.
The train to Venice became really crowded after we left Milan. I went from having four seats all to myself to having to share them with three other people. However, I didn’t notice too much since I decided to do work and read for the rest of the way. I never realized how productive I could be when I didn’t have my computer or internet distracting me.
I finally arrived in Venice around 3:40. I went straight to the ticket counter to purchase my ticket to Ljubljana. Since the train wasn’t schedule to leave until 9:20, I decided to explore the city. I took a water bus to St. Mark’s Square via the Grand Canal. Even though the city is small, one can tell by the buildings that the city was once the capital of one of the greatest maritime empires in history.
Venice is a fine city but if you ask me it is nothing more than a den of thieves. For those of you who don’t know, Venice was one of the European powers who sacked Constantinople in 1204 while loading up on supplies for the 4th Crusade. I am still bitter about that. However, Venetians know how to build some nice buildings, even if they destroyed one of the most culturally rich civilizations the world has ever known. I didn’t get to see a great deal of the city due to the early sunset but I did buy several presents for members of my family.
I spent a lot my time waiting outside the train station. *Warning, I am about to digress and vent for a minute!!! The two train stations I was at today, Turin and Venice, charged .80 Euro to use the bathroom. What!?!? I can’t believe I had to pay money to use the bathroom in a “public” place. To make things worse, the bathroom wasn’t even clean. If you are going to make me pay, at least clean the stalls.
Now I am on the train to Slovenia. I just met two nice young people from Canada named Derek and Abigail who are 23 and 21 respectively. They “live” on Vancouver Island; however, they are traveling around the world backpacking. They are going to spend 3 months in Europe, sometime in Morocco, 3 months in South East Asia, and finally up to a year in Australia on a work visa. Now that is freedom! I don’t know if I would want to be away from home that long but a life like that has some appeal. I believe we all have that romantic desire to leave everything behind and see the world and experience a wide variety of people and places.
Derek and Abigail are also in a relationship. At the moment, they are just dating but if they stay together through this whole experience, imagine how rich their relationship will be. Exploring the world would be amazing if you got to do it while holding the hand of someone you love.
I have decided that if I do any more travelling like this again, I will do it with someone I love, either friend or significant other. While these experiences have been great, it upsets me I have to live them alone. You have no idea how much I would have liked to “bitch” about the sacking of Constantinople to someone with in Saint Mark’s Square, or get lost in the maze of streets, or talked to on the steps leading to the Grand Canal outside the train station. I hate the feeling of “Io sono solo,” which translates to “I am alone.” And the problem with the other students I am with is that our personalities don’t match which leads to conflict and my desire to run off on my own. And yet, traveling alone has no appeal to me and when I come back, I will never do it again.
One last thing before I call it a night. This train is SO sketchy. I could tell the moment I walked up to it that I was going to Eastern Europe. The outside of the train looked like it was a Soviet era train from the James Bond movies. I was especially panicked when the conductor couldn’t open the door. That’s really safe…… But the people on this train are really nice and they have some cool stories to tell. And the inside looks like any other run down train in Italy.
Well I am calling it a night,
Good night everyone.
Btw. This train has no waste water system. All the waste goes out a hole at the bottom of the floor. That’s really environmentally friendly Trenitalia!!!
November 9th, 2011
Well the journey has begun. At the moment, I am writing in the train station in Torino, Porta Nouova. The journey has thus far been really stressful. The times I got off the Trenitalia website were a little off and it wasn’t until I arrived in Turino that I realized I didn’t miss my train. The train in Alba left almost ten minutes behind schedule and I thought I would not make my connection. This train I am currently sitting on is the only morning train that requires no train changes to Venice. Missing it would have caused me to city hop across Northern Italy. Given that I barely speak the language and I have somehow used more Spanish today than Italian, city hoping did not sound like a smart idea
Something funny that I have notice so far: Alba is a really rich town. The train from Alba to Cavallamaggiore was the nicest one I have been on so far. Looking brand new, I realized that this train must be guarded against vandalism from the wild teenagers in this country. To reflect for a moment, these teenagers are out of control. Last night, I guess to celebrate Halloween, the teenagers of Alba were lighting fire crackers across town. The town, due to its construction, echos a lot. Last night could thus be described as the sounds of a war zone.
Well the train has started moving. By 3:40 my time, I should be arriving in Venice via Santa Lucia. I am going to stop writing now to make sure I do not get motion sickness. However, I would like to make the confession that I will miss these trains when I return home. I prefer trains over cars any day, even if that means additional stress of finding your platform, catching the train, and dealing with screwed up schedules.
I’m planning to write another entry when I am on my next train.
Wish me luck!!!
November 8th, 2011
So I have heard that people are disappointed that I have not been writing that much in my blog. I actually wrote in my notebook while I was in Slovenia and I will be updating the blog soon. Tonight we made dinner in the apartment with pasta that we made this morning in our Alba Seminar class and talked about the problems of the world, i.e. Italy’s unstable political situation, what may spark another global recession, and the evils of capitalism. We actually spent more time talking than I thought so I didn’t have a chance to write in the blog tonight. I will try again tomorrow night!!!
October 30th, 2011
The house is becoming increasingly quiet as everyone is has been going in their own directions for our Fall Break. The destinations for the others include Amsterdam, Rome, and Naples and we are all going for different times. Like I said in my last post, I will be going to Venice and Slovenia starting on Tuesday. I am really excited to see what all the fuss is over Venice even though I will be there a combined total of 12 hours, 6 on my way to Slovenia and 6 on my way back. However, I am really excited about going to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It will be my first time in a foreign capital and the third foreign soil I will stand on. The other students in the Alba program may be going to big European cities but I think, for me, going to a smaller city off the beaten path will be good. Slovenia has both a diverse history and geography; it was part of many Empires, Kingdoms, and prior to Independence it was part of Yugoslavia. Yes, I will be traveling on the east side of the old “iron curtain.” It is also somewhere that I will probably never see again. Even if I travel to Europe again, I don’t think I will have the time and resources to stop there again. Don’t worry, I will try my best to take lots of pictures.
In other news, I have taken my Musicology midterm and earned the highest grade in the class at a 90%. Hopefully I can keep performing well because I am hoping to pull at least an A- out of my three graded classes. I have an A right now in Econ pending my final paper and I haven’t taken a test in Religions but I find that class to be really enjoyable. Still need to work on Italian to make sure I receive credit for the class.
One thing that I have discovered during my time in Italian is that Americans don’t know grammar. Unlike the Italians, who are taught the mechanics of grammar from a really young age, Americans are just taught how to write and speak (sort of) and we do not spend time learning all the rules. Though this natural approach may be cheaper and more time efficient, it has a negative affect on students ability to learn a foreign language, mainly Romance Languages like French, Italian, and Spanish. Think about it; if you have no idea what the linguistic and grammatical structures of your language are or how they work, how are you suppose to not only learn but comprehend another language? A baby can only express so many concepts until they begin to understand the grammatical structures that allows them to expand these concepts into more complex ideas. American students reflect babies in the sense that they can usually say basic ideas in a different language but they can not move into more advance communication.
I am figuring more and more to complain about when I write my CORE 350 reflection piece upon my journey home.
I have to go work on some homework that I want to get down before I leave Alba this Tuesday. If I don’t post another entry before I leave, I will post one after I get back.
October 24th, 2011
So I realized I have not posted on here for a while. I have been fairly busy doing work for class and trying to make plans for my trip over fall break to Slovenia. More about that in a later post.
Right now I am about to work on some of my Italian “homework” that I need to complete. I say “homework” because my professor does not collect the worksheets; these assignments are more for our self-improvement. He believes that students should do most of their learning outside of class and that class should be there to guide students in the right direction. This is not a bad system in theory but in practice, at least in this class, the professor does create enough structure and stability. Just like his Musicology class, we, the students, are being treated like we are taking a 400 level seminar or grad school level work. I’m not saying this structure is bad but for a 101 language class and a 200 level music class, I am not prepare for this. Perhaps in something like political science but in these other classes, I would appreciate more structure.
Well I really need to go do this assignment. I will log on tomorrow to give you some more updates about my life.
October 12th, 2011
So what happened today?!?! Well, I had an exam in my Italian class which I don’t think I did too hot on. I really need to start practicing my verbs more. There were a couple on the test that I had no idea what they were. This just means I need to become more serious about studying. Not that I have stop but the poor grade on my last test (75%) slowed down my progress over the past week. But I did carry on another conversation today when I was getting my coffee at the bar. Progress is being made but at such a slow rate that I sometimes doubt myself.
But what does the title have to do with anything? Well, the International Education office at St. Mary’s sent us candy for Halloween. This was the first time I had chocolate from America since I left home. However, I realized that Tootsie Rolls, while chocolate in America, are nothing more than chocolate flavor sugar in Italy. After you have eaten Real chocolate, you know what is real and what’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I ate all of them. They brought back a nostalgic feeling of home. However, they are no good compared to the chocolate I can find down the street from my apartment.
Why do Americans eat such bad food? Why do we want to eat everything with sugar all of the time? Why don’t we take more pride in what we eat? Maybe I can reflect on this while I am here.
Econ class is now over with which will free give me more free time. My religion class will begin again next week and it will only be two days a week in the morning. I wont know what to do with myself. Don’t worry, I will find stuff to keep me busy. Plus I still have two papers due for Econ, one due on Monday and another at the end of the month.
Oh that note, I am going to call it a night. I still have a few other little assignments I assigned to myself then bed. For some reason, I am really tired.
October 11th, 2011
October 11th, 2011
So today I went wine tasting in the hills around the little town of Barolo. For those of you that do not know, Barolo is the home of the “King of Wines,” the red Barolo wine. Barolo wine can be found in the United States, however, real Barolo wines are grown in the Barolo section of Le Langhe region. It was a little bit strong for my taste. I do not find wine with its acidic taste that appealing so I would not be buying Barolo for myself. However, everyone else in the group liked it so if you are a wine enthusiast, I would recommend trying it. After consuming the two glasses of wine, a couple “pounds” of bread, and my weight in cheese, (I skipped breakfast) I was ready for a nap and felt a little woozy. But the experience was worth it and if you ever make it to Italy, you should do at least one wine tasting day trip.
After drinking wine at 10 am in the morning, we went to the Wine Museum which is the weirdest museum I have been to in Italy. It is located in downtown Barolo inside Barolo Castle. You start your journey on the third floor and work your way down. However, the third floor can be describe as the result of an acid trip. The exhibits talked about the power of the sun, moon, and time with light shows that I sure can’t be appreciated unless you too are on acid.
The second two floors were a little more down to earth as they described the history of wine and especially that of Barolo wine. On the whole, I found the museum to be a pleasant experience. But one thing that really confused me was the groups of school children who were walking around. And these were not high/middle schoolers; these were little kids who were being taught how to count by using the steps in front of the museum. The thing about Italy and Europe as a whole is that they teach children the values of wine and alcohol. Unlike America, Italy does not make alcohol into a great mystery thereby lessening its power of temptations. And in Italy, wine consumption is falling in part because children are “rebelling” against their parents’ drinking habits.
What am I doing with my evening? I am going to post pictures on Facebook and this blog, study for tomorrow’s Italian test, and then bed. Tomorrow is my last day of Econ of the Wine Trade so I am excited about that. I will talk to you all later.
October 10th, 2011
This past Saturday, the SMCM cohort went to the mountains. You heard me, the ALPS!!! For the first time in my life, I got to hike around REAL mountains that towered thousands of feet above me head. When we arrived in one of the small towns that borders the National Park of Gran Paradiso, it was so cold that it actually started snowing. Snow while in the mountains….it was just too much for me.
Before we started hiking, we went to a small cafe where we had coffee and hot chocolate. If I could, I would open my own small cafe in that little town. Life just seemed so slow and peaceful; I really didn’t want to leave. We started out hiking around the lake but my Econ professor and I went on ahead and starting hiking up one of the mountains. Due to the cold, the rest of the group wanted to leave at two so our side hike was short. (Since we arrived at 11, we only spent three hours in the mountains. That is the last time I go on a physically demanding trip with the other students.) However, Don and I talked a lot about St. Mary’s College politics, academia, and my future career paths. I really like Don and basically I am a younger version of him by about 45 years. If I do turn out like him I will not complain; he is a great professor and person.
I got some great shots of the landscape and scenery. I sometimes can’t believe that I am actually here in Europe. Today, I was actually looking up flights to Rome for my December trip.
This trip has also been a great time to reflect about my future, both at St. Mary’s and beyond. Today, I sent a email to my boss in Residence Life informing her that I was not coming back to staff in the Spring. After looking at my schedule for next semester, I decided that being an RA would be extra work that wouldn’t bring me any additional happiness. I spent a lot of time thinking about this but in the end, I decided that I must be mature and say enough is enough. If not, I will just end junior year as burnt out as I was at the end of sophomore year.
I also decided on a general topic for my SMP; I will be focusing on the Public Policy of Education and how it affects our schools. I still need to find a focus so any of you teachers or educators reading this, please send me comments or ideas to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow we are visiting a wine museum and the surrounding vineyards. I will upload pictures tomorrow of both the Alps and the museum. I am going to call it a night so I hope you all have a great rest of the day.
October 6th, 2011
The past couple of days have been really uneventful. Not much is going on in Alba these days — minus a lot of pollen in the air what is making me kind of sick.
Over the past couple of days, I have been going to class, doing homework, and generally reflecting about life. Being abroad is like a vacation from real life, at least in Alba. Work load is less than at St. Mary’s, i have had more free time to explore, and there is a general since of easy living. However, don’t think that i am sitting around doing nothing with my life.
I have been continuing my studies with the language. I hope to have some degree of understanding of it before I leave. I have been planning out my schedule of classes for the next year and a half. I have been thinking about SMP (St. Mary’s Project) ideas and what I want to do after college. Running has helped to straighten out my thoughts and I am starting to answer some of these questions.
Today, we went to a wine school in Alba. It is one of the best wine schools in the country; however, sadly we did not do any wine tasting. We did walk around the vineyards, labs, and classrooms which was great because we could see what the public schools were like. Lets just say all my schools were nicer but they also were not 130 years old so there was give and take.
I will be posting pictures of the school on Facebook tomorrow. Now it is time for bed. I hope you all have a great evening and I will try to get back on schedule, even to tell you nothing happened.