Jan 082006
 

I am going to be home in less than 10 days. Holy crap! How did 6 months pass so quickly? Looking back on my entries, I’ve realized that I’ve made my LJ into a vent-fest against Italy. Though there have been many downs, there have also been many ups (on a side note, during orientation back in March, we were given a piece of paper with a sine curve on it. I’m sure there were some words on this flier too, but not very many. We were told, “The experience is like a roller coaster. Sometimes you’ll have the time of your life and other times you’ll feel really depressed.” Really? No way! You mean that studying abroad is like, life or something? Trees died just so you could fill a whole paper with 1 sine curve! But I digress…)

Milan is an amazing city. Though not as esthetically pleasing as Rome, it is much faster and more modern. I have come to realize that I only function well in a big city. I have found some kindred spirits and will miss them dearly. The general public is more aware of current events. “There are only 2 things people talk about in Italy: football and politics.” Many have passionate debates about their government. The newspapers always have something about politics on the front page. Many Americans voted for Bush because he represented ‘family values’. I know I will also be constantly cursing Bart and dreaming about efficient $20 a month public transportation. Food and drink here is generally superb (as long as one stays away from the tourist traps). Because the dishes are so simple, emphasis is put on the quality of the ingredients. Though Bocconi is a little inefficient and a little broken, I am comparing it to Berkeley. This seems a bit unfair, and Bocconi ‘sucks’ only because Berkeley is ‘average’.

I’m certain that I have changed somehow, but I can’t exactly explain in what way. I feel…more sad, somehow disappointed in the world in general. I always assumed that people were generally nice to each other. Little subtleties like offering assistance with luggage/bags, giving up seats to those who need them more, opening doors (regardless of gender), saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’. We live in such a bubble in America, California, Berkeley. Of course we are aware that there is suffering, hunger, war, pain, but I did not think that the values of 2 first world countries would be so different. I have never been so aware of my sex, my ethnicity, my social standing. In England you are judged by your accent. One who drops vowels and endings to words (it sounds a bit Scottish) is clearly uneducated and of the lower class. The classic Victorian accent represents the opposite.

Though I am looking forward to returning, I am afraid to leave. I have grown accustomed to the relaxed lifestyle. What will happen when I am thrown back into what I consider ‘real life’? Will I fulfill all my responsibilities and make all my deadlines? I feel so old. I know I say this every year but I really really do. This is the point where I need to find a real job, start discovering what I want to do, etc etc. Suck. Why can’t I remain in this fantasy world? I’d kill myself out of boredom. In any case, there is no way to stop the approach of The Day. The only thing I can do is start packing up my life. Again.

Dec 212005
 

I wrote this a long time ago, and never finished. Thought I might as well post what I had. It is rather dull dribble about my life:

I live in the northern-central part of the city. It’s a slightly rough/edgy neighborhood. The graffiti here is really elaborate and sometimes beautiful. My apartment building is less than 10 minutes away from two different large train stations. The trannie club one block away is right next to the metro station. Picture this: You’re walking home at night and it is freezing. On your way you pass by a tall slender woman. She has long straight brown hair, and is wearing a big leopard print coat over a slinky red dress. Her car is playing loud club music. As she glances at you, she leans against her car and takes a slow drag of her cigarette. What strong facial features! She turns her eyes back to the passing cars after seeing that you aren’t a potential customer. Then you realize it’s a beautiful trannie prostitute. Even better, you later realize that she lives in your building and is always considerate to open the door for you. Half a block down my street there is a commune. The people I’ve met there are really interesting. In front of my building there is a pretty park. Once a month the organization for bio agriculture sets up booths to sell their organic goods. (honey, pastries, wine, produce, etc) I occasionally go to the cafe around the corner; one wall is lined with books and they sell organic coffee/tea and vegan pastries. Every Tuesday and Saturday the streets are over taken by the open market. I have a feeling that most food in Italy is either naturally organic or super OGM; Kiwis look especially strange here.

I am a 15-minute walk away from China Street (actually called Via Paolo Sarpi) where I go to find soy cheese products and other asian goodies. It turns out that I found the neighborhood that most reminds me of Berkeley/SF. My commute to school takes about 30 minutes.

Bocconi students look very normal-jeans and t-shirts, sometimes slacks and button down shirts. The only things that makes me aware that I’m not in San Jose are the ugly giant euro glasses, the smoking, and the occasional ugly bag. Really, I have never seen such a high concentration of ugly accessories as there is in Milan. I can appreciate funky style with some gaudy shoes, but here it is ‘la moda’. Most people cannot pull off the over-the-top style. In Milan, to many people think it works for them. Naturally, everyone stares at my fishnet stockings and weird skirts.

Since it is a private school, the buildings are well-lit and well-maintained. The bathrooms are clean and always have toilet paper and soap. In the main building, post-modern artwork decorates the halls. We have 5 or so computer labs. The only one I frequent has 80 shiny new computers with optical mice. Of course, there is wireless if you register your computer. Of course, I haven’t done that yet because (1) I don’t spend enough time at school and (2) the office to which one goes to register one’s computer is open only on Tuesdays and Thursdays at some random hours depending on the cycle of the moon. This is a sharp contrast to Ava’s art school, Brera. They have free open wireless internet, but if you take up too much bandwidth, they will seek you out and reprimand you. Ava brings her own tissues to school in case she needs to go to the bathroom.

The school is in the South of Milan, and there isn’t much of note there, save Porta Tichinese. This is known to be the hip and artys neighborhood. There are many small funky clothing stores. As with all other piazzas in Italy, Tichinese fills up with people at night. People hang out and drink, buy/sell/smoke hash, share cigarettes, and generally socialize. However, it is not uncommon to hear a drum circle.

It feels as if I have been in Italy forever, and yet time has passed so quickly. My days are generally very full-lots of activities, discoveries, experiences- so it feels as if 2 or 3 days have passed for ever one.

Last Sunday, I went over to Emily’s house (where I borrow net) to help Bovy (this darling Thai girl) with her resume. (We had a career fair on Monday, which I hear was a total waste of time). I managed to pressure Jamie into helping her also, since he was the one who originally had said he would help her with her resume and cover letter. Since Jamie has a penis, she was far more appreciative of his assistance than she was of mine. Emily, 4 or the six of ‘the Irish’ (new friends of ours) and I went out to BhangraBar for dinner. Side note, B-Bar is absolutely amazing. They mix really yummy girly drinks with passion fruit, coconut, rose water, and other goodies. The apertivo bar is filled with indian influenced food, including fried eggplant with cumin, chicken tandori-ish, puffy fish crackers, and sesame bread. It is appropriately located right next to the Arch of Peace.

Anyway, we meet up for dinner. The place is completely packed. One of the Irish girls mentions in her own way that Antony (one of the two Irish boys) has a crush on me. This is the 3rd time in a month that someone has more or less told me this. He’s darling, but he’s just a boy with yellow fever. I make googly eyes at the waiter, who is a big beautiful piece of work. We drink, we laugh, we eat, we talk, and then I head home with the intention of calling Dennis. However, the phone center closes around 2330, so instead, I go over to Emily’s house again to use her internet. As I am sitting in the kitchen with Jamie, Paolo (really sweet sicialian housemate) asks me if I ever see myself in the future married to Jamie. Pardon? He repeats himself, says Jamie again, and realizes he meant to say Dennis. Wow, that was definitely an awkward moment for me.

It’s getting late, so I head home. Unfortunately, I missed the last bus, so I start walking. I have never walked home from her house before, and I didn’t have a map, so I put a lot of faith in my non-existent internal sense of direction. (Some bus stops have maps also, in which I had a lot more faith). I make it a little more than half-way home, get completely disoriented, and take a cab.

Monday was just a little weird and depressing. I was feeling really homesick, and Ava had had ‘an episode’ the night before while I was away. Her girlfriend (who was our teacher in Rome) had recently left for New York after spending 4 days with Ava. We were both feeling low and antisocial, so after eating authentic Indian takeout (soooo good), we hide at home the rest of the day.

Aaron (Public Polic student from Berkeley who we met in Rome, who is studying in Bologna) comes to visit on Tuesday. There is something strange about the other programs that allow them to not have classes for long stretches of time. Since I hand canceled plans with Charlotte (perky girl from London) the night before, I invite her to dinner.

This is where I stopped. Wow, that week was a million years ago.

Monogamy: the condition or practice of having a single mate during a period of time (Merriam-Webster)

I have been thinking a lot more about monogamy lately after spending some time with this boy from Santa Barbara. I went to a club with him last Friday and for a good part of the night I teased him. This involved dancing really close to him and brushing my lips against his skin ever so slightly. Yes, I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes and saying ‘THIS is why girls are evil’. But I never behave this way with someone I respect ;). He would push me away, and as I walked away, he would follow me.

I think about my peers who have much more control over their physical state than this boy. What did it mean when he cheated on his girlfriend? What would he say if he were caught? I feel like the conversation would be one of two forms: (1) I’m really sorry I betrayed your trust. (2) We really didn’t do anything anyway, and I was really drunk, and she tempted me. apologetic or defensive. Why is monogamy so precious? It seems to me that many people practice it out of tradition rather than desire. If there were only one person in the world for you and you’ve found it, nothing else should be tempting. I wonder if this is an overly intellectual approach which leaves no room for the uncontrollable desires of the flesh. Does one feel a sense of accomplishment when resisting natural instinct? Should one be praised for doing so? “Hey honey, today I met the sweetest little thing that I wanted to hop on, but I decided against it. Not because I lacked the desire, but because I love you and know you wouldn’t like that.” This seems a little silly, since the average person would be very angry and hurt by such a comment. How about the reverse then: “Honey, I really appreciate that you haven’t cheated on me. It really shows that you are considerate of my feelings”. Equally silly. Monogamy doesn’t seem to be appreciated. Perhaps it’s one of those things that becomes so routine, so automatic, that it need not be acknowledge, like taking out the trash or doing the dishes. The action would then be only noticed when clearly missing. ” ‘Why did you stop doing the laundry?’ ‘Well, you never said that I was responsible for it.’ ‘But you’ve always done it.’ ‘And you’ve never said ”Thank you”.’ ” But on the other side, one can argue that this is the same as being thankful for not being beaten. As I try to better understand monogamy, I just become more confused.

Nov 252005
 

Last night our director, Laura, had organized a thanksgiving dinner. It was at an Italian restaurant since our program was afraid of getting sued for food poisoning or something of the like. While we waited for the turkey to cook (which wasn’t a turkey. It was something gamier and really tasty) we had Italian appetizers. They kept bringing out plates of animal-prosciutto, meat balls, raw chunks of beef, etc. until Laura asked them to please bring some rabbit food. So then we got arugula, tomatoes, huge amounts of mozzarella and some roasted radicchio. They then brought out mashed half potatoes/half parmesan and gravy that was wanting of flour. The bird and stuffing were very good, and Laura brought cranberry jelly (a gift from her sister who recently visited). Ava and I made pumpkin pie, which wasn’t really. It was some kind of squash that had much more water than pumpkin when baked, and less flavor. It turns out that I bought the wrong flour for the crust, so after laborious efforts, the pie crust came out like one big biscuit. We just dug out the middle and added the pie filling anyway. It was very strange pie. We drank huge quantities of wine and Ava and I got very drunk. Overall the food experience was quite fun/funny.

The dynamics of the table were a little odd, but much better than I expected. Andrew, who is socially inept and condescending, was mostly quiet and very sweet. Jamie, well, Jamie and I got along. Michelle, a shell without any personality remained such (a side note on her: One of my Italian friends is completely enamored with this girl. He says things like, ‘When I’m with her the minutes seem like seconds, the hours seem like minutes, and I never want to leave’, or ‘I’ve never felt this way about a girl before’. *cringe* I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I think she is so bland. She once said that she didn’t want to go to UCSC because all the students there are _weird_. She is very typical, Santa Barbara-white girl-alcoholic.) Unfortunately, the people I wanted there were off in other places.

Today it snowed while I was walking to class. It’s so pretty! The temperature has been about 5 degrees consistently throughout the day. I am wearing tights, wool socks, boots, pants, a tank top, a shirt, cashmere sweater, wool sweater, a thick long coat, gloves, and a scarf. I only feel warm while I’m walking. I really need a hat, but beenies look stupid on me. I thought about buying one of those cheesy poofy fur hats, but they make my head look like a mushroom. My house is always 13.5 degrees, unless we turn on the heat. Unfortunately, the insulation is really bad, so the place is warm for only as long as we keep the heat on. Last night I was wearing pj pants, fleece pants, lined jogging pants, normal socks, wool socks, a long sleeve shirt, fleece top, a sweater and gloves and I was still pretty cold. My solution is to spend most of my day at Bocconi where it is heated and temperate. Getting dressed and undressed is such an ordeal, but I’m enjoying the new experience. In a week, I will probably be tired of it. Looking cute in cold weather is hard.

Oct 262005
 

This is the 4th, time that I’ve gone to class and it wasn’t there. I am just too accustomed to the ‘way things work’ at Berkeley:

First week of school, International and European Law, 845am
Why is it not there? English classes start the 2nd week of school

Random day in October, I & E law, 845am
Why is it not there? Because I didn’t check the schedule; that day there is no class

Here is the schedule:
Tuesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 20/09/2005 to 20/09/2005 Room ZAPPA
Wednesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 21/09/2005 to 21/12/2005 Room ZAPPA
Thursday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 22/09/2005 to 06/10/2005 Room ZAPPA
Tuesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 11/10/2005 to 11/10/2005 Room ZAPPA
Tuesday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 18/10/2005 to 18/10/2005 Room D
Thursday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 20/10/2005 to 22/12/2005 Room ZAPPA

See? No thurs class between Oct 6 and Oct 20

Following day in October, Urban Economics, 130pm
Why is it not there? After going to office hours, I find out that the online schedule is wrong. Class started at 130 before, and 230 from that day on.

Today, History of Economics, 415pm
Why is it not there? No class for the next 2 weeks. Why? Because there are midterms.

How do I find out where my midterm is located? The morning of the test, they post the lists on a bulletin board inside the main building.

I am in a constant state of confusion.

I will also point out that this is known to be the most organized university in the country.
More ranting:

Permisso di Soggigorno- residence permit
We had already applied for one in Rome a few weeks after we arrived and got receipts that are valid for 3 or so months. In Milan, applying for a permit involved getting up at 5am, and getting in line. The line was pretty long by the time we got there. The office opens at 8am and they give out numbers. When the numbers are gone, well, you come back the next day. By 8 o’clock, we were too far back in line to get numbers (Italians are bad at waiting in line), but our director told us to wait anyway. She was inside trying to get info/appointments for us. We meet her at 11 at a cafe and she tells us that our letters of acceptance are dated from Sept to Feb. In order to get our permit, we have to give them the permit from Rome. To get the Rome permit, we have to go back in a few months to pick it up at the office. So… It was all a total waste of time. Buh.

Bus Pass
I waited for 2 hours at the station office until I could submit my form. Turns out there are separate forms for students. So it took me another 1/2 hour. After all that, I get another reciept (and a pass valid for a month). Come back next month. Your electronic pass will be ready. Somehow I lost my reciept, so when I went back they told me to go to the main station. At the main student station, I was sent across the way to the general main station. He tried to send me back to the student station. Finally, he just told me it was lost and I had to fill out new forms. Back to the central station. Ok, breathe, try again. This time the agent looked my name up in their local system and told me my pass was ready. I just needed to go to the table across the station to pick it up. When I got there, the man asks me for my passport. Fortunately, the day before I was supposed to give my director a copy of my passport. I forgot to do that, so I was fortunate enough to finally get my bus pass.

Though in general I enjoy being here. Every time I have to deal with bureaucracy I more or less want to jump on a plane right back to America, but Milan is a lot of fun most of the time. To some extent, I wish I had more time here so that I can find my nitch. I have more or less bored myself because I have been spending a lot of time with peers my age (By that, I mean they primarily prefer to drink and party). The clubs are fun and exciting, and I always have a good time, but it is ultimately unsatisfying. I found myself craving the intellectual stimulation in which I was accustomed to being surrounded. So I slowed down the partying/drinking and bought some books. It is very easy here to fall into the trap of constant, instant, meaningless gratification. Though, I am learning a lot, and I have come to truely appreciate California for all it has to offer. I miss the variety– food, ethnicities, restaurants, interests, art, culture, ideas. Italy is depressingly homogenous. All in all, it is a wonderful place to visit and live for a little while, but I can never see myself living here.

Oct 262005
 

This is the 4th, time that I’ve gone to class and it wasn’t there. I am just too accustomed to the ‘way things work’ at Berkeley:

First week of school, International and European Law, 845am
Why is it not there? English classes start the 2nd week of school

Random day in October, I & E law, 845am
Why is it not there? Because I didn’t check the schedule; that day there is no class

Here is the schedule:
Tuesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 20/09/2005 to 20/09/2005 Room ZAPPA
Wednesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 21/09/2005 to 21/12/2005 Room ZAPPA
Thursday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 22/09/2005 to 06/10/2005 Room ZAPPA
Tuesday from 16.15 to 17.45 from 11/10/2005 to 11/10/2005 Room ZAPPA
Tuesday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 18/10/2005 to 18/10/2005 Room D
Thursday from 08.45 to 10.15 from 20/10/2005 to 22/12/2005 Room ZAPPA

See? No thurs class between Oct 6 and Oct 20

Following day in October, Urban Economics, 130pm
Why is it not there? After going to office hours, I find out that the online schedule is wrong. Class started at 130 before, and 230 from that day on.

Today, History of Economics, 415pm
Why is it not there? No class for the next 2 weeks. Why? Because there are midterms.

How do I find out where my midterm is located? The morning of the test, they post the lists on a bulletin board inside the main building.

I am in a constant state of confusion.

I will also point out that this is known to be the most organized university in the country.
More ranting:

Permisso di Soggigorno- residence permit
We had already applied for one in Rome a few weeks after we arrived and got receipts that are valid for 3 or so months. In Milan, applying for a permit involved getting up at 5am, and getting in line. The line was pretty long by the time we got there. The office opens at 8am and they give out numbers. When the numbers are gone, well, you come back the next day. By 8 o’clock, we were too far back in line to get numbers (Italians are bad at waiting in line), but our director told us to wait anyway. She was inside trying to get info/appointments for us. We meet her at 11 at a cafe and she tells us that our letters of acceptance are dated from Sept to Feb. In order to get our permit, we have to give them the permit from Rome. To get the Rome permit, we have to go back in a few months to pick it up at the office. So… It was all a total waste of time. Buh.

Bus Pass
I waited for 2 hours at the station office until I could submit my form. Turns out there are separate forms for students. So it took me another 1/2 hour. After all that, I get another reciept (and a pass valid for a month). Come back next month. Your electronic pass will be ready. Somehow I lost my reciept, so when I went back they told me to go to the main station. At the main student station, I was sent across the way to the general main station. He tried to send me back to the student station. Finally, he just told me it was lost and I had to fill out new forms. Back to the central station. Ok, breathe, try again. This time the agent looked my name up in their local system and told me my pass was ready. I just needed to go to the table across the station to pick it up. When I got there, the man asks me for my passport. Fortunately, the day before I was supposed to give my director a copy of my passport. I forgot to do that, so I was fortunate enough to finally get my bus pass.

Though in general I enjoy being here. Every time I have to deal with bureaucracy I more or less want to jump on a plane right back to America, but Milan is a lot of fun most of the time. To some extent, I wish I had more time here so that I can find my nitch. I have more or less bored myself because I have been spending a lot of time with peers my age (By that, I mean they primarily prefer to drink and party). The clubs are fun and exciting, and I always have a good time, but it is ultimately unsatisfying. I found myself craving the intellectual stimulation in which I was accustomed to being surrounded. So I slowed down the partying/drinking and bought some books. It is very easy here to fall into the trap of constant, instant, meaningless gratification. Though, I am learning a lot, and I have come to truely appreciate California for all it has to offer. I miss the variety– food, ethnicities, restaurants, interests, art, culture, ideas. Italy is depressingly homogenous. All in all, it is a wonderful place to visit and live for a little while, but I can never see myself living here.

Aug 142005
 

I’m sitting in an internet cafe in Milan and this is the first time I’ve heard decent music in Italy. Franz Ferdinand just ended, and now they’re playing Garbage. OMG it’s not American 90’s pop.

This past Friday was the most stressful day thus far. On Thursday we just finished our oral presentation and oral exam, and Friday we had our final. The final wasn’t too bad, but as always, I should have studied more. By the time we had returned home I needed to (1) pack (2) buy cow bottles (3) bank (4) get train tickets (6) clean the apartment so we don’t get charged (7) shower and dress for the goodbye dinner since there’s no way in hell I was going to miss that.

Somehow all of those things got done, though I left 6 hours after I intended to leave on Saturday. The dinner was very fun. Unlike the welcome dinner, we didn’t take a 2 hour bus ride to some place in the mountains, ride on a train-like tractor around a mediocre view,take a wine cellar tour where we were given some orange juice, and eat soggy pizza. The goodbye dinner was in Trestevere, close to where we live, at a charming outdoor restaurant. There was music and torches and the food was much better and I couldn’t ask for better company. After some wine, food, a ton of photos, and a toast to our most wonderful teacher Chiara, we went to the S. Maria piazza nearby and had a good old time. No details, but we really enjoyed the company of our teacher who was drunk off her ass and used fuck in italian or english ever other sentence. We met some adorable Austrailian boys who eventually ran away because Emily and I were a bit much for them. It would have been much more responsible to go home and pack, but this was much more fun.

I unfortunately never got a chance to say goodbye to Adam (my personal tour guide that one night) since he had already left when I stopped by friday afternoon. This past six weeks have been quite a rollercoaster. It was really strange to realize that the dinner was the last time all (or almost all) of us would be together. It was like graduating high school, but with the older perspective. I know who I will and will not keep in touch with, and was very careful not to make any false promises to visit or be visited by those I had no intention to see. That dinner was the chance for closure, and it felt so good. The most interesing aspect of the trip thus far was the behavior of people who are thrown into in unfamiliar enviornment with people they don’t know. I really enjoyed watching the interactions of people who know there is a 6 week deadline on most of the relationships they develop. Because of the program, though, I felt very incubated from Italy. We were 50 American students who lived togther, went to school together, spoke english together, and for the most part went out together. It will be much better when I start school in Milan.

There were so many things I didn’t get a chance to do during my stay. I did a lot of sight seeing, but there were still so many museums and churches I wanted to see. I’m glad I went into Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore because it was truely breath taking. I also the museum/monument/building dedicated to the Risorgimento, the big political movemnt for Italy in 1870. The tomb of the unknown soldier was guarded by 4 soldiers, two of them with large rifle. I think I want to visit Rome again before I leave. The weather will be better, there will be fewer tourists, and the residents won’t be on vacation. I was initially afraid that I would fall in love, but I have come to realize that Rome is not for me. (I’m currently working on a paper about my thoughts on Italian culture vs American, and I will post it when I’m done) Though the city is beautiful there are core aspects of it with which I cannot reconsile. I miss San Francisco.

I wrote a haiku for my Italian class last week:
Cosa fai oggi?
Faccio un pisolino
Tutti e chuiso
Trans: What are you doing today?/ I’m taking a nap/ Everything is closed
I know I’ll never be a poet, it everything is really closed in August. Well, all stores save the ones owned by asians. Rome was still pretty busy with tourists, but in Milan it is truly dead. Andrew (a fellow Milan student, though he’s going to the art school) and I were 2 of 6 people inside a metro stop yesterday evening. Everyone leaves for 1 week-1 month to relax at the beaches. Sardenia is the place to be, but right now it’s obscenely expensive. I will be flying out to Barcelona tomorrow to relax for 5 days. I am really excited, but it is too bad that Ava can no longer go with me. She may fly home to NY if her grandmother dies. Although, I will have some much needed alone time.