Europe

Good-bye Bologna

Bologna from above

My last week in Italy was a surreal blur of exams, papers, parties, late night dancing, watching the sun come up from my balcony. Until all of a sudden I was waiting for takeoff in Milan’s Malpensa airport and getting emotional about terminal pizza and paninis. Nine months in Bologna was a lot of what I’d hoped it would be. It was a lot of quality food, Jesus art, leather products, portico strolls, afternoons stretched away in piazzas, good wine, new people. Nine months later, I am heartbroken to leave in a way I’ve never been heartbroken to leave a place before.

Bologna from above

What I liked best about Bologna is pretty well encapsulated in the last full weekend I spent there. On Saturday, a friend invited me out for aperitivo. Although I had plenty of finals to study for, I joined her. Springtime Bologna is hard to ignore. When I met up with her, I discovered that the entire center of town was closed to traffic. Without cars or buses, the streets filled up with restaurant tables, musicians, and painters. We strolled around until we found someplace that looked good to eat. The restaurant misplaced all of our orders, and it took all involved parties close to an hour to realize the mistake. They sent us free after-dinner drinks. Nobody was upset, nobody really cared, and when it got there the food was good. When I finally wandered back to my apartment, my flat-mates were out on our balcony. We listened to music and the city experiencing Saturday night below us. On Sunday, I had to go to the library, but this didn’t seem so bad when I could build in frequent gelato breaks in a city that wasn’t stressing about anything. This was one of the tamer, more ordinary weekends I had over the course of the weekend, but I think I’ll remember that type of weekend the fondest. Nothing special, just a nice night, just a good conversation, just Sunday morning.

I am your typical over-achiever. I rush, I stress, I push myself. I’ve travelled in places that have taught me the value in slowing down before, but Italy taught me that this is only half the equation. The whole point of slowing down is so you can enjoy where you are and what you are doing. I have never been in a place where people have enjoyed so thoroughly.  Meals last hours because food is savored. One glass of wine turns into several because the company is good. One more song turns into 4 a.m. because every song is exactly what you want to hear. Class runs over because we are interested in the lecture. We ask for an extension on our paper because we want it to be worthwhile. The world is beautiful, and the biggest fault lies in not seeing this to its fullest. My life in Bologna was somewhere between Zen and hedonism, and it was a good place to be.

I am writing from Jakarta, Indonesia. There are shopping malls instead of piazzas, motorcycles instead of scooters, satay instead of pizza. It’s a disorienting, chaotic new type of adventure. You carry a bit of every place you’ve ever been with you, but I am here now, and this will be a good place too.  Last night, my flat mate and I picked a general direction and explored night markets. We found vendors selling cobra meat, a Dunkin’ Donuts, the biggest mosque, an open square full of tattoo artists. We took a motorized rickshaw back home, and it felt about right. Heartbreak is hard to sustain. There’s now, and we are young, and what else matters?

sgardiner
Sarah Gardiner is an MA candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy. She graduated from Georgetown University last May where she studied Culture and Politics. Previous international adventures include a semester in Yaounde, Cameroon and a summer interning in Cote d'Ivoire. Things she gets nerdy about includes cross-cultural communication, media for social justice, international hip hop, feminism, and coffee.

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