October 23-November 4, 2016: Hell Week

 

Back at Homewood, midterms are constant. They don’t necessarily come in the middle of the semester. And you may have more than one midterm for the same class. They aren’t really midterms in that sense. No matter the week, it is hell week for someone. At SAIS, all the exams fall in the same week. Smack dab in the middle of the semester, all the exams are at the same time. They take midterm too literally.

But I’m leaving for Portugal next week. That week is the week when all the exams are being administered. But I knew this from the start of the semester when we got the syllabi. I informed all my professors and everyone was OK with it. The economics professor was a little more difficult to convince but I gave him plenty of time to write me a make-up exam. He was really worried about cheating on this easy exam. I was supposed to take it the Monday after I return, giving me just the weekend to study. But while I was away, he postponed it till Thursday because there was another student that had to take the make-up.

My Soft Power professor was also OK with it. He said it’s a take-home midterm, so it’s not a big deal. We could easily devise another version. Now this is the silliest midterm I’ve ever had. It’s called a midterm but it is not really. It could hardly be classified as an exam. It’s an essay. Or rather, it’s 2,3, or 4 essays. I intentionally chose my classes to avoid essays. And the syllabus said midterm. I was deceived. He gives us 10 possible questions to answer, and we have to choose 2,3, or 4 of them to answer, at least 5 pages each. That’s 10-20 pages of writing. And you just know they’ll grade papers more harshly than they’d grade exams because you have more time and they expect higher quality and more writing. Our class all made an agreement to write 2. Because who in their right mind would do 3 or 4?

So I have to do all my work before I leave for Portugal. This means doing my readings for that week and the following week so I’ll have time that week to catch up when I return. I also wanted to get this take-home exam out of the way. So I talked to the professor and he would give me the questions a week before I leave so I could have the same amount of time as everyone else. I reminded him twice. And he said OK. But Friday came and no word from the professor. This was the night of the Halloween party, mind you. I was trying not to think about it. But the end of business came and I emailed him to remind him again. I very subtly asked for the instructions, full well meaning the questions. He gave us instructions last week, and I needed the questions, but he did not follow. Idiot. So I more explicitly asked for the questions and offered to use the sample questions from last year.  And he responded later in the night, oh, when are you leaving? We discussed this several times and he knew. I was so fed up with him. I had to re-explain myself and then he didn’t even respond.

Saturday came and was withering away and I made the decision to not take it. I wanted a full weekend to work on the paper, so having already lost the Saturday I had to move on. I would do it the following weekend and sacrifice studying for economics and sacrifice three school days of potential work while I’m away. I emailed him and told him to forget it. He told me he was at a conference with spotty internet, which is no excuse. We’ve had months of planning and he told me there would be no problem.

Halloween is one of the big events the SGA plans each year. There was a nice party at SAIS and everyone dressed up and pretty well all considering. I put on a jersey and was a Croatian soccer player. I also made the mistake of not showing up late enough. Should’ve known better that in Italy, everyone would show up even later than late.

We had a local art history tour in Bologna to La Basilica di San petronio, the Archiginnasio and La Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita. I’ve been to San Petronio before, but she took us into the chapel with the painting of Dante’s Inferno. It was quite a sight. It was enormous and very hellish. The Devil is this imposing figure that takes up half the wall. Mohammed is depicted in hell, and so the church is considered to be a prime terrorist target. It is always protected by armed guards. The church is enormous but unfinished. It would have been even bigger but the pope ordered them to stop building because it couldn’t be bigger than Saint Peter’s. You could see on the side of the church it just stops. There is also a cool hole in the ceiling that is a natural sundial. The sun shines through that hole onto the floor of the basilica.

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You can tell they wanted to keep building and then they just cut it off…

The Archiginnasio was a little underwhelming. It is a library of the University of Bologna. The inside walls are covered in crests and coats of arms of the families of important students. Those were members of the student government and top students from Italy and abroad. They cover all the walls and go back centuries. There is also a room there that is used for funerals for professors. The professor showed us the outside and said this is where “we” have our funerals, and it wasn’t immediately clear that by “we” she was including herself as a full professor of the university. The Archiginnasio includes one of the first anatomical theaters. The other is in Padua. University of Bologna had one of the first anatomy classes and the room has a table in the morning for the dissection/surgery and seats in elevated circles around it. I thought it’d be a lot deeper. It wasn’t. There was a decorated throne at the top for the professor. And there is a little window in the wall near the ceiling where the religious authorities could watch and halt the class if they had to. Someone messed up my panorama, but it’s otherwise ok:

Santa Maria della Vita is a church that I’ve walked past a few times without even noticing. The interior of the church is very ornate. The highlight is a set of statues by Dell’Arca arranged in a semicircle around the dead Christ. Professor Cavina has a problem with the arrangement they decided on, but it looked about right to me. They are full of emotion and wrinkles. We wouldn’t even know that this important statue is inside without our professor.

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I’ve been here for a few months now and I still haven’t gotten my permesso. The residency permit fee was 30 euros with the possibility of going up to 110 euros if the new law passed. We paid 30 euros at the beginning of the year, figuring that it’d be easier to pay the difference than to get money back. Well, they final changed the law and we got an email from the school telling us to pay the difference. I was going to the post office anyways to inquire about my package, so I paid extra 80 euros. Other people went to the post office and were told that this fee was not a real thing. They wouldn’t even take Jasmine’s money. Lo and behold, a week later, the fee was overturned. And people that hadn’t paid yet didn’t have to. I’m never getting that 80 euros back. I’m so mad. The Italian government is unbelievable. To be honest, we don’t even need this permesso. It’s so pointless. Especially for the people leaving after this semester. If we really needed it, you’d think they’d get it to us a lot faster.

I had the second fingerprinting appointment at 8:15 on a Saturday morning after the Halloween party. And it took forever. Basically, a group of 30 or so of us goes to the same appointment and we go one at a time. They could stagger us but that would make too much sense. So I was there waiting for almost 3 hours. There was only one guy doing the fingerprints. Keep in mind, our fingerprints are already in the system. This was the second set they’ve taken. This was supposed to be the fast one. But none of them are ever fast. This was also supposed to be the last one (Surprise! It wasn’t). All the bureaucracy around this residency permit is the worst.

About my package, it is essentially lost at this point. No one can help me. The Italian post knows nothing about it because it never entered Italy. The Belgian post can’t or won’t help. And it should never have gone to Belgium in the first place. So that’s another few hundred dollars down the drain. Don’t trust the post. They keep losing my postcards too! I think I’m missing three right now.

My apartment is on the ground floor and my upstairs neighbors are so loud at all hours of the morning when I’m trying to sleep. I thought our neighbors in Baltimore were loud. But they make equally loud and inexplicable sounds. I think it also has to do with non-Asian people wearing shoes in the house. But they’re getting on my nerves.

One of my favorite places in Bologna is Gelateria delle Moline. It is just a short five minute walk from my apartment and their gelato is delicious. They have sweet foccaccia bread that you can get three scoops of gelato in. It’s literally an ice cream sandwich. It’s much cheaper than the other gelateria that I’ve been to for foccaccia. Then they also have cakes and cannoli and other desserts. The guy that works there is really nice and he speaks English. He even let us into the back once to see how they make gelato. I love it.

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I’ve also realized that I haven’t played piano in months. This is the longest I’ve ever gone since starting piano as a kid without playing piano. I hope I haven’t forgotten. Maybe this is also why everything is stressing me out. I don’t have piano to destress.

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