Thursday, February 14, 2013

sorridere un po'

It's when you walk down the uneven streets and can't help but smile. Gosh, I'm SO lucky. Sono fortunata, e basta. Non ci sono spiegazioni.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Italian Oral Exam

So after a complete first semester of classes, traveling all over Europe and meeting my American friends and family in any place possible, it came the time to cool down the fun and turn over to exam period.  I spent my last weekend of freedom gallivanting with Brian and Sonia.  We did Florence, Bologna and Rome together, enjoyed a few drinks together, and saw some of the oldest stuff in history together, we also did lots of catching up, and generally had a grand old time.  However, their parting from Italy signified that I needed to start studying for my first oral exam I would endure.

I returned from Rome February 11th, a Tuesday afternoon, from then I would have 7 full days to study for my exam held the following Tuesday the 18th.  It seemed like it was plausible to learn so much in 7 days, but then I realized the differences between Italian University and American University.  At Union, every day I was expected to have prepared something for class, whether it was reading, writing a paper, or taking an exam.  Contrasting this type of learning, the only thing I had done during the semester was attend class.  And did I mention, I was attending Master Degree courses, in a foreign language, and in a subject I had never learned before?? I HAD to be crazy! 

At this point I thought I had understood basic concepts, I had read through the entire book and the additional articles required for the class, yet I was entirely unaware of the kind of knowledge necessary to acquire to receive a high grade in an Oral exam.  Studying with my friend Lina one afternoon proved to me that I knew nothing of the technique of how to study for an oral exam. You must be able to describe every term and concept and in a fluid way. You have to be prepared for follow up question, or prepared for a complete change in discourse.  All I knew was that I would struggle to explain Law of European Policies in English, and doing the same in Italian would be a whole other endeavor. cazzo.

After studying with Lina I realized I had a lot more to study than I had thought.  She outlined the topics that would be covered and explained some themes I found confusing which was very helpful, but still I wasn't near the level of proficiency that I was supposed to be at. I studied all weekend, taking one break to go out with Tori and the other americani  on their last Saturday in Bologna, it was worth the study break, and then I was back to the grind! Tuesday morning before the exam I met with Lina to review.  We went over everything and I was able to explain all of it, more or less... and I was feeling confident for the 3:30 exam.

Via D'Azeglio
However, everything quickly went to shit when I walked into the office and was first questioned by my professors assistant who had taught two of our lessons for her doctorate work. People always had said the assistants were the meanest, I hadn't believed them until that day... This girl/woman literally brought me to tears, she was ruthless, and comletely not understanding of my lack of Italian proficiency.  She asked the most specific questions on themes that were only briefly touched upon in class and she was a real bitch about it! Even Lina agreed her line of questioning was absurd and she sometimes didn't  know what answers she was looking to hear (and Lina is a genius, I swear). Luckily, La Endrici (my professor) was much nicer.  She explained to me her assistant said I was insufficient, but that she would be willing to hear me talk.  She asked me a question, turned to me and said turn around and take a minute to think about it... while I did (not many answers came to my head haha) she was telling her assistant it was okay for her leave while she finished testing me... grazie dio! She knew her assistant was cruel, and didn't want her present for the rest of my exam which I successfully struggled through, and La Endrici gave me an 18, crossed it out after I begged to describe another policy, and graciously gave me a final grade of 20.  18 was a passing grade and man oh man was I so happy and distraught at the same time.  I thanked La Endrici, left the office where my classmates were and starting balling because of the stress.  I hated EVERY SECOND of that exam, it was TORTURE!!

Osteria del Sole
 Luckily, my classmates could all recall their first oral exam at University and they were so nice to make me feel better, I was so happy to have passed and to have been with these great people! Lina and I made it.... she Aced her exam, Alonso passed as well and we were all very content to have on exam out of the way.  So happy that Lina and I headed to the Osteria del Sole to munch on potato chips and get a little drunk off of a bottle of pignoletto frizzante (my favorite!)  The rest of the week was free sailing for me. I got all of my things packed up, finished my Christmas shopping, started to write some of my Ricciardi paper and I took in the sight of Bologna at Christmas time. Sunday I was back in the states for almost a month of relaxation, visiting with friends and family, and then January 25th, I was right back into the fear of conquering another Oral exam.  This time I knew to speak out loud to myself when studying, and study with others when possible, and lucky for me, my second exam went well and I defied BALDINI and passed the class that all of the foreigners and a number of Italians dropped out of in fear of failing.  I couldn't have been more happy!

The final strange thing about the oral exam is that you still have to "verbalize" your grade. Technically the exam I took in december was a pre-exam date so the system for entering grades was not up.  So La Endrici gave me a white piece of paper with my grade and topics we talked about, that I would have to return to her on the date of the verbalization of the grade (Jan 30).  For a paper I wrote for Ricciardi I had to do the same thing, show up at the time of an exam and watch him put the grade into the system.  It's a very strange concept, and very interesting because our English teacher verbalized our grades for us with out us having to return to do it in person (more efficient!). So without this verbalization I could have already been skiing in the Alps with Suzanne! But I had to be present today, so now I'm off to ski and enjoy the French Alps! A dopo!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Christmas Time in Prague

November 27, 2012 - December 3, 2012

3 days after Mom left I was already off to Prague to visit Tim. I was ready to finally meet the people and see the places he always talked about when we Skyped.  His living situation was a mystery to me, although I was prepared for a dirty and unkempt space, and although I had traveled to Prague before, I could never picture in my mind many of the bars, restaurants, squares etc. that he told me about.  I was also ready to be off the Euro for a few days and really see how cheap the lifestyle and the beer was after all Tim had raved about.

library w/ its dimensions!
Tuesday night I left with stress and a frozen Tiramisu in hand.  They boarded the plane, kept us waiting for 30 minutes on a bus outside, then for nearly 40 more minutes on the plane, and my connection time in Frankfurt diminished quickly.  Luckily, I had been running all semester, so the run from gate to gate wasn't terrible, and I made it with a few minutes to spare!  Arriving in Prague it was 11:00pm and Tim was waiting at arrivals for me. We RAN some more to catch a bus that was about to leave, then Tim started pointing out the various places we past, his gym, the  Billa, the fancy car place, etc. The bus dropped us 2 minutes from his dorm which is composed of an actual hotel, various conference rooms, and then the international student dorms. I presented Tim the mysterious gift I had been carrying, and the Tiramisu (that Li Ang had made and was leftover from Thanksgiving) quickly became the talk of his suite. After devouring some Tiramisu, Tim showed me the rest of his suite, which really wasn't very clean, but it was liveable, and compared to the other boys suites that I saw later that week, his was CLEAN! After meeting his Kansas State roommates, tempting them with Tiramisu and chatting for a while we headed to bed.


Wednesday Tim had class until 12:30, so when I woke, I walked toward the Starbucks he had described to me, grabbed a coffee, and tried to do some of my own studying for my upcoming exam. At 12:30 I headed back to the dorm, we ate lunch, then went to get a metro pass and go into the Old City Center. Before arriving at the metro, we walked around the Czech Technical Institute's Campus. Tim showed me the very cool and very nerdy library that had all sorts of measurements and geeky science things as art all over the building.  Then we went to the building where he has class and we rode the very cool elevator, that is just a series of boxes on some kind of pulley system that goes around and around the shaft, so at each floor you have to wait for a box to come by, you step in it, then step off at the floor of your choice. So after being nerdy at school, we got on the metro to the city center and walked around Old Town Square exploring the Christmas markets that were being set up.  We bought some treats from the market, a Trdelnik, which is a hot doughy pastry rolled in cinnamon sugar, and potato chips that you eat in a spiral on a skewer. Nommy.  We waited outside the Clocktower for it to reach the hour so we could see it changed, then we strolled around popping in and out of stores until it became dark and too cold.  We headed back to his dorm with the metro, went to the Billa to buy food to make dinner, and using the 1 pan, 1 pot, 3 forks, 3 plates, 2 burner stove, 2 knives stocked kitchen, we creatively concocted a delicious meal of fried rice for ourselves, and Tim's roommate Alex.

Golden Lane
Thursday we explored Prague Castle in the freezing cold and drizzly weather. We toured the castle, the cathedral (spectacular stained glass!) and Golden Lane.  We were lucky to catch the changing of the guards as we were headed out the back side of the Castle complex. Since we were freezing at the end of our tour, we walked back down the hill and Tim navigated the streets toward a "Choco Cafe" that he had taken his sister and dad to when they visited.  Tim ordered just one cup of hot chocolate with strawberries and bananas promising me it would be impossible to finish one on my own (ya right! but I obliged to the one).  The steaming cup of thick chocolate arrived shortly after we had warmed up, and this was it... Prague's hot chocolate was about to be put up to the test of Grom's hot chocolate, who would win? After devouring the glass of chocolate and fruit, we were stuffed.  Tim was right, it was too rich to attempt finishing a glass by oneself.  As for which hot chocolate was better? It was really difficult to decide, the chocolate it self seemed pretty similar, but Grom's whip cream is to die for, and the Choco Cafe had fresh FRUIT! So I can't come to announce a winner, it's just too hard. After the chocolate coma we headed back toward the metro and back home.  We cooked our own variation of Croque Madames for dinner, then we were off to the Swedish House Mafia concert with the majority of the Union Prague term abroad students. We spent the evening dancing to tecno music, met some Italians, then slept late the following morning.

Lennon Wall
bridge of locks
After we arose and ate breakfast we took the metro in town and headed of the Charles Bridge once again to explore the areas along the river.  We walked left after the end of the bridge and headed to see some big baby art along the river.  I think the statues were part of Prague's modern art museum: Museum Kampa. After playing on the giant babies, we headed toward the bridge where you lock your love.  The bridge was packed with colorful lockets all engraved with initials and dates, the goal was to find the one the Camerons had locked to the bridge during their trip, but we had no luck finding it and assumed it had been cut off by the town (as they do often to keep the bridge not overwhelmed).  From there we rounded the corner and were at the Lennon Wall.  We gazed at the wall intently trying to catch every addition, quote, initials, artwork etc. that have been added over the years. From there we headed to the opposite banks of the bridge outside the Kafka Museum where the infamous peeing statues are. By then it was already getting dark so we headed back towards Old Town Square.  We went to the candy shop to watch the men roll out thousands of pieces of candy... so entertaining... then we headed back to the dorm to cook dinner, then head to a pub with the group.

Monk beers
Dancing Building
Stoked to see Loreta!

Saturday was the day to complete the list my Mom had sent me via email.  Off to the dancing house first, then across the river to take the funicular up to the Petrin Tower (similar model to the Eiffel Tower). We climbed the tower getting a miraculous view of Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and Old Town across the river.  Then taking a slippery slope (literally, made a wrong turn and slid down a frozen mountain) we made it to the monastery on the near by hill. We peaked in the church and the library on the monastery campus, then went to the pub/restaurant where we tried the monk brewed beer to warm us up! From their we descended the hill toward the Church of the Loreta (Mom's list).  The entrance was rather prices, so we admired the outside, I bought a postcard (per mom's orders) and we continued back down the hill, taking the road that passes an entrance to the castle, and stopping for a Crepe and cappuccino break! Nomm. While warming up and enjoying our treats we debated whether to head back to the dorm before the Christmas tree lighting at 5:00, or just hang around the square for an hour.  We opted to stay out in the cold and explore the Christmas markets, which was nearly impossible because the square was packed.  Nearing 5:00 we were supposed to meet some others from the group, but we found that impossible, so we did our own thing.  We thought we were clever when we decided to climb the clock tower and wait for the lighting (which we thought was happening within minutes).

train without beers :(
The view was spectacular from the clock tower, thousands of people below, the huge Christmas tree in the center, lights all over the market and the stage, it couldn't have been more beautiful. However, 30 minutes went by, and then 40, then 45 and the tree still hadn't been lit... I guess 6:00 was the real time of the lighting! Unfortunately at quarter of, a news crew appeared at the top of the tower and they forced all of us out back in to the square.  We shoved our way through the crowd to try and get a good viewing point, finally the tree lighting began, a lovely show of dancing lights in accordance with music lasting a couple of minutes, it was truly spectacular! We hung around after it was over hoping to meet the others for dinner.  When we couldn't find them, we finished taking pictures and headed to find a warm restaurant and meal on our own. We ate at an Italian restaurant (no comparison to Bologna, but not bad!), had our espresso, then went to the Train Pub to finally get train beers!  This pub has intricate train tracks set up all around the restaurant and the trains pull up to individual tables serving beers. Naturally, I was very excited for my beer to arrive on a train, and naturally we were both pretty pissed when after we placed our order, our waiter returned with our beer in his hands. Uncool.  Unhappy, we left without enjoying train beers, but it was still cool to see the trains deliver to other tables, and we headed back to the dorm to sleep and finally be WARM!!

slipper slope!
Sunday was my last full day in Prague.  We didn't have much planned at all, just souvenir and clothes shopping.  We went to the center, strolled around, and shopped here and there. I got myself a souvenir that I had had my eye on all week and then we headed back home to figure out dinner plans.  We got a small group together to go to "The Pub" which is a pub that is essentially a drinking game.  The taps are set up at each table and there is an electronic screen that keeps track of the liters that have been poured at each table and under each person. With the information it records, it compares it with that of all of the other tables in the restaurant so you can see how much you have drank in comparison to your neighbors.  Furthermore, there are 6 or 7 other "The Pub" locations across Prague, and the people's consumption at those locations are also showed up on the big screen, so you can see everyone's progress.  Very entertaining, would never be allowed in America!

Candy making!

My flight was very early the next morning. Tim took me to the airport and I was back to Bologna. The next time I'd see Tim would be in lovely America!! And the next 20 days was sure to go by quickly. I had my first oral exam to study for and Brian and Sonia were due to appear the following weekend for some fun :)