Hello again, my friends, family, and random facebook connections. I’m finally in the land of pizza, pasta, and wine and thought I should post an update! Forgive me, this will probably be a long one. In the last week a whole lot has gone on. With limited ability to communicate, this is a great way to let you all know what’s up! (Plus I’m 7 hours ahead of Minnesota so I can’t exactly call anyone in the morning to chat).
I took off last Thursday from Minnesota, had a quick layover in Philly (aka I ran to my next gate), before boarding my 8-hour flight to Munich. My dad pulled off a miracle to get my visa back by messenger before I left, and my mom took me to the airport. I managed to avoid an embarrassing, teary goodbye simply because I was so excited to get on the plane!
My quick flight to Philadelphia went off without a hitch, and I managed to get onto my plane to Munich just fine. Unfortunately for me, one of the first announcements the pilots made was that the A/C on the plane was not working- that meant no cold air until we were above the clouds. While sitting in our seats and sweating, I got to know my neighbors for this overnight flight. I sat in a row of four, second in from the aisle. My neighbors were:
1. A German teenager who didn’t wear enough deoderant for the A/C not to work.
2. An American soldier who drank his entire bottle of duty free whiskey, despite multiple warnings from the flight attendant that it was illegal to do so. He offered me a sip plenty of times, but luckily he got tipsy enough to pass out, shortly after telling me he’d like to take me to dinner some time.
3. And finally, a German-American grandmother who told me I wasn’t drinking my complementary in-flight wine fast enough for her liking. While embarrassing, I also found this hilarious.
Me and the 3 amigos made it safely to Munich, where I made it through customs even though the man who stamped my passport gave me a strange look when I said I was here to play professional hockey. In the airport, I met my team Manager, Manni, and another guy who works for the team named Sandro. We hopped in the car and drove to Bolzano! During the three hour ride I nodded off here and there, but I was glued to the window, staring at the scenery for the whole ride.
When we arrived in Bolzano, I met my roommates. I’m living with Mia, an Italian girl, and Dalene, the other import, who is from South Africa. Thank god Mia was stuck with us, because she basically fed us and helped us not get run over by a bike for the first few days. I was in such a haze, I basically owe it to her that I didn’t run back to the airport and fly home (though I really, really wanted to at some points)
Speaking of which, that’s the one thing they don’t really tell you in all the travel blogs. Sure, it’s beautiful and amazing, and my team is awesome and nice and speak english, but WOW was it hard to move to Italy! Maybe in my excitement I glazed over the fact that I was moving to a country where I wouldn’t speak the language(s) and the culture would be totally different. There were a few times in the first days when I really regretted my decision. I thought about how much easier it would be to be home, and how complicated I had made my life. It was pretty bad, and on top of everything I had no way to talk to anyone back home, and I felt very isolated and lonely. Dalene, while far from home, is at least in the same time zone as her family and friends. I didn’t have quite the same luck. I managed to talk to Kayla and Sarah, my two best friends from UConn, as well as Hawk, my college coach, and they assured me that it was normal to feel like that. Once I got a SIM card for my phone, I was able to talk to my parents and tell them I was okay and safe, and things got much easier. As sad as it is, having a phone made my Italian experience 100% better. So now the tough parts aren’t so bad, and I’m able to enjoy myself while talking to the people I know and love! Plus, the ability to pull up a map if I get lost is very reassuring.
I arrived in Bolzano at about 3pm. I was able to take a quick nap before practice at 8pm that night, where my jetlag finally kicked in. We were practicing in an older rink, with no walls, which I’ve never experienced. I’ve also never felt so out of shape or clumsy in my life! Luckily things have gotten much better, but I’m pretty sure the coaches were concerned after that first practice. I didn’t have much time to worry about it, because the next day I was on a bus at 9am to Vienna, Austria, to play in my first professional hockey game! Unfortunately, we lost 9-1, but I wasn’t much help that game and I know my team is looking forward to a rematch later in the season.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were a blur of trying to get my money exchanged, attempting to grocery shop and get other necessities. I went out with a couple girls from the team on Monday, and went to my first Italian party! It was held in a club that looked like it could have been a part of a castle, and the familiar American club songs made me laugh a little bit. It felt like I was out with my UConn teammates again, except for the definite difference in fashion and language at the club.
I’ve learned how to get to the city center from my apartment, which is in a sort of suburb of Bolzano, and wandered around the city. I stopped for gelato…multiple times (they serve it WITH nutella here. I’m so screwed). The University library in Bolzano has free wifi, so I’ve been masquerading as a student in order to get some work done. At the same time as my giant move, I’ve been attempting to complete secondary applications for dental schools, which has been a crazy balancing act. Soon, I’ll start a biochemistry course online, which will help me fill my days up.
On Thursday, we had a day off, and my roommates and I spent the morning hiking to a castle. The hike was a bit more difficult and longer than we anticipated, and when we got there we realized we could have gotten there by bus.. needless to say we took wheels back home and took a good long nap when we returned. The next days flew, and the next thing I knew, it was gameday! Saturday we played at home, so no long bus trip (whew!). We played Salzburg, which was especially fun because I know several girls on the team. This game went far better than the last, but I was unable to put the puck in the net. I don’t know how many chances I had, but I was extremely frustrated- we ended up losing 4-2 with an empty net goal at the end of the game to seal the loss. Our coach, while not thrilled, told us that it was a better game and told us what we needed to work on. He told us to look ahead to the next few games, and not focus on the loss. While still not happy, I was eager to do just that, and didn’t focus on the loss for too long.
A few members from the team went out on Saturday night, and we spent some time in the city center and in a couple bars. I love the city, and the nightlife here is awesome! I really wish I could speak Italian, because even ordering a drink is difficult, but the city is so beautiful after awhile I just tell my teammates to order for me while I people watch.
Speaking of beauty/people watching- I have fallen in love with the city of Bolzano. Not only is the city itself magnificent, with beautiful architecture, shops and cafes, but the energy here is awesome. People are constantly window shopping, walking their dogs, or sitting in curbside cafes drinking wine and coffee. I love it, and I’m getting to know my way around which is nice.
On the sunday after our second game, Simone (a photographer who works with the team) took a few of us to a ski zone outside of Bolzano. We took the lift to the top, and went hiking through the mountains. We stopped at a few landmarks, including a giant eagle statue and a bar in the hills. As a new member of the Eagles team, I especially loved the statue, and took a ton of photographs while hiking. I apologize for all of my facebook friends, who will likely see a ton of photo dumps in the coming months, but the scenery is just so beautiful I can’t help myself. After the mountains, we stopped at Lake Carezza, which is famous for being the “rainbow lake.” It was a cloudy day, and apparently not a good day to see the lake, but I was amazed by the colors anyways. I hope to see it someday soon in the sunlight and get the full effect.
The hike was a fantastic way to end the weekend. In the last couple days I’ve been working and looking ahead to my classes and dental school applications. Exciting stuff…. but at least the location is nice!
I’ve learned a lot in the last 8-9 days. It hasn’t all been easy, but I’m getting the hang of it! Everything is a little smaller in Italy (think fridges, showers, and other appliances) but my world has gotten a whole lot bigger at the same time. It’s strange, but I think I’m going to like it here.
Up next on my plate are a quick trip to Munich to see Sarah and Kayla (FINALLY!) and a team trip to Budapest for games. I have a lot to get organized, so forgive me the long posts- I’ll try to update more often so they’re not so obnoxiously long. Sending love, hugs, and kisses from Italy (cheek kisses- don’t get any weird ideas people). Hope all is well stateside, or whatever -side you’re currently on!
Talk to you all soon. Ciao!