Tag Archives: SAIS

Digging out the old notebook and pen

15 Feb

While we were at the ball, one of Colin’s friends told me out of nowhere and to my great delight about a women’s studies class she’s taking this semester. It turns out that it fits into my work schedule, so I’m sitting in on it too!

I had so much fun taking the art history class last semester, but there was no denying that it was a fluff class offered to these over-worked students to add to their overall experience of living in Italy. This class, Multiculturalism and the Human Rights of Women, is definitely a real class.

Unfortunately the professor is going to be in New York for the next three weeks, and classes are obviously on hold until she returns, which will be right around the time Noel comes to visit. I think the plan when class resumes is to be discussing the Veil, which I’m really interested in hearing, so maybe Noel will agree to come to class with me that week before we head off on our adventures in the rest of Italy.

I’m really pleased to be able to take a class, especially a discussion class like this, with a bunch of the (mostly female) SAISers that I’ve gotten to know so far this year. I think it’ll really help fight against the feeling I sometimes have of feeling disconnected in this not-yet-real life I’m living here.

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Tempting Spring

13 Feb

We had absolutely beautiful weather last week in Bologna. Every day had blue skies, and as the weekend drew nearer, temperatures kept creeping up until Friday when we were in the mid-fifties.

As early in the week as Monday, I took Ludo to the park to play, and though I was so happy to be out of the house, it was perhaps a bit premature. There was still a bit of snow on the ground and a whole lot of mud. Darling angel that she is, Ludo would wrap her little legs around me when I would pick her up, smearing mud from her sneakers all over my jeans. Beginner’s mistake on my part.

On Saturday a couple of SAISers, bored with the lack of work in the first week back in class and inspired by the sun, got together and hosted a barbeque. They bought something like five kilos of ground beef and spent the morning making burger patties. Even tucked back into their private courtyard, we were on the receiving end of several curious stares from the Italian neighbors. My Italian instructors told us the Monday following Easter is typically spent going out with friends for picnics, so maybe that’s the unofficial start of the eating-outdoors season, but we’re not trying to fit in anyway.

It’s back to gray skies today, and we’ve got rain forecast for later this week, but the taste of spring and the fun that will be had was enough to get me by until the weather warms up for good.

Alles Walzer!

8 Feb

Colin Cam

It’s been two days and I’m still recovering from the ball this weekend. It was fantastic, but if I had a do-over, I would have tried to find some other way of arriving in Vienna. The overnight bus that we took with most of Colin’s classmates wasn’t so great for resting up before the big night—who would have suspected that?

Miraculously, the hotel let us check in at 8 a.m., three hours before we were scheduled to arrive and five hours before normal check-in time. Almost everyone headed off to their rooms to nap, but a few brave souls headed out into the map-stealing blustery day to do some sight-seeing. We napped.

At lunch time the Austrians led us to a brewery, and before long, the smell of deep-fried schnitzel was thick in the air. I probably could have snagged another hour of sleep after lunch like Colin did, but I (for once!) opted to give myself plenty of time to avoid any last-minute rushing around.

Rathaus, Vienna's town hall building, where the reception was held. Colin Cam

Finally, at 5:15, the masses gathered in the hotel lobby, dressed to the nines and bunching for photos. We went first to Vienna’s town hall, and in the basement were treated to a lovely reception by Vienna’s minister of cultural affairs, a SAIS alumnus.

The opening ceremony.

Some hours later we crossed a large park and entered the Hofburg Palace, where the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency Ball was being held. Besides the main room where the waltzing was to be done, there was a Latin music room, a disco room, a regae room, a swing dance room, and a Celtic folk room, all with live bands. SAIS had two apartments with tables and a small bar all to ourselves, which turned out to be a lovely place to retreat to and put up the feet without worrying.

The debutantes and their dates.

At midnight I pulled Colin to the main dance floor for the quadrille, which, because we’d only learned one part of six, was sort of a disaster but a whole lot of fun. The people around us didn’t know it either, so we tried to follow the dance-trained debutantes who had opened the ball. Apparently we were caught on the closed-circuit camera for a second and they noticed in the SAIS room. I’d say it was one of the highlights of the night.

Lined up for the quadrille. Colin Cam

By about 3:30 the main floor was relatively clear, and with about fifteen other SAISers we got our waltz on. Every step came with stabbing pain in my feet, but we stayed until 4:30 when a single violinist played a sad sort of melody to signal everyone to go home.

Watching the main dance floor from the orchestra steps. Colin Cam

I managed to do an hour and a half of sight-seeing the next day in between breakfast and before piling back onto the bus, so I really don’t have much to say about Vienna. One of the Austrians last night said he’s thinking of organizing another (ball-less) trip, so I might need to jump on that opportunity.

Vacation!

28 Jan

After a long, tough semester and an intense few weeks of finals, Colin finally is at the end of his first semester at SAIS. The joy in the air is palpable, as more and more of his classmates wrap up final papers and group projects and head off to Prague, London, Spain, Budapest, Egypt (uh-oh!), and elsewhere.

As for us, we’re heading to northern Italy, the Dolomite Mountains, for some fun in the snow. Another couple, my friend Leah and her fiance, Aaron, who is a SAISer, are sharing a cabin with us. We’re taking games and hot chocolate and a frozen lasagna that I put together this afternoon. I’m super excited.

I found the cabin on AirBnB, which aggregates all the people who want to be amateur BnB hosts. It’s a better deal than an actual BnB, and the experience can be just as enjoyable. So far the host has been really great over email!

We get back late Monday night, and the rest of the week holds a (day)trip to Venice and possibly a (day)trip to Florence. Also a lot of sleeping in and watching movies.

Fledermaus

24 Jan

You know how in old period movies set in the 18th century there’s usually a ball scene that has at least one big number with all of the dancers in rows and doing set moves? Well, I figured that if that ever really happened, it was something that had long ago drifted out of fashion and never would have guessed that it was something that still happens today.

I would have been wrong. It will happen at the Austrian ball, and our Austrians have dutifully prepared us for it. At the stroke of midnight at our ball, any number of SAISers may be participating in the Fledermaus quadrille.

How ridiculously exciting is that? We started learning it of Friday and, I have to say, we looked pretty good. More practice is needed, certainly, and we’ll need to learn more than the first minute, which is all we know now, but I’M SO PUMPED!

1-2-3, 1-2-3

17 Jan

Stacked desk chairs lined the walls of the auditorium to clear enough space for the hundred or so students who’d shown up to learn the waltz last night. With the girls against one wall and the boys against the other, a few of the Austrian students stood in the middle and demonstrated.

We started as simply as you can, with the basic step of the simple waltz, but within half an hour we were in pairs and learning the under-arm turn. By the end of the hour, they’d demonstrated the spinning Viennese waltz, but people were struggling a bit with that.

I was partnered with an Austrian guy for one of the numbers and, when I asked, he said he’d been doing the waltz since he was a young child; going to a ball is something they would do pretty much every year. I wonder if that is perhaps a treat limited to wealthier or more influential Austrians.

Colin and I were rusty, but had an easier time than most with the Viennese having learned the steps before in a ballroom dance class at Santa Barbara. We’ve got a wonderfully long hallway that we can practice in whenever Colin needs a study break, so hopefully we’ll be more polished in time for the ball.

Unrelated, here’s my evening sky tonight:

An actual final look at Cioccoshow

29 Nov

You thought the photos were the end, but I’m here to say they were not. Colin asked me to write up a Cioccoshow review for the SAIS blog, and I will redirect you to that now.