November 24-December 1, 2016: Hogwarts at SAIS

The train back the following morning was early, at like 5:30am. Despite the length of the ride, I slept basically the whole way. Didn’t pay attention to the scenery at all, not that you could see anything in the dark morning anyways.

At Milano Centrale, we stopped for a quick coffee, but obviously I don’t really drink coffee. I went to get a croissant for breakfast. The Italian man behind the counter was a typical old racist Italian. And I was just not having it that morning. He was saying arigato to me and asking me if I’m Chinese. It is way too common that I get “Cinese? O Giapponese?” Meanwhile, I am speaking to him in perfect Italian. And then he has the audacity to ask us for a tip. In Italy! And I refuse to tip racists.

We have a big racism problem at SAIS. And it is, of course, not just at SAIS, but it has recently become exacerbated. Personally, I experience it regularly on the streets. And I ask myself if perhaps it is not they who need to adjust but me who needs to adjust. After all, I am in a new place adapting to new customs. But should I have to deal with it if their customs are just plain wrong? It is not an affront to their culture to ask them to be less racist. I can laugh it off sometimes, but when you get “ni hao” or “konichiwa” yelled incessantly down the street, it is sometimes hard to ignore. And then I am caught somewhere in between where I’m not actually Chinese and the Asians here too speak to me in Chinese.

The event that really set it off was that Hansam posted a picture to the Facebook group of an Italian woman dressed in yellowface and a rice paddy hat holding up a sign looking for tips. This is blatantly racist and yet some of our fellow classmates (the European ones) failed to see how this was racist. In one of the classes, the old Italian professor explained that social welfare doesn’t work in America because of racism, but he proclaimed that there is no racism in Italy. When someone challenged him on it, he didn’t budge AND one of the Italian students backed him up on it. They must absolutely blind to make such a statement. I understand that we are in a new place, but if these European students are going to come to DC next year, then they will have to adapt too, otherwise they will be in for a rude awakening. Maybe the school has some responsibility to condition them, but the faculty is really no better, even the Americans. They have been here for too long.

One of the other professors allowed his class to take an exam by computer and then asked how many students were Anglo-Saxons. He went on to proclaim that “Anglo-Saxons don’t cheat” as if that’s an actual stereotype. But that is to imply that he doesn’t trust other races. And then he made a rape joke that isn’t worth repeating.  Students made complaints, and the faculty doesn’t seem to want to hear it. The Director even sent out a secret survey to some of the Asian students to try to gauge the validity of the claims. As if we would need to lie about this stuff? And I wasn’t included in the survey. But it plain offensive that he doesn’t believe his students when they bring serious claims to his attention. The racism problem is not going to be fixed and I think a lot of us have sort of given up.

This all comes amidst some controversy at Homewood, where an economics professor was let go for creating a “hostile environment.” I never had him, but everyone sort of agreed that he made off-color jokes (that were kind of funny-ish). The biggest complaints though were that he is a climate change denier and in favor of African colonialism. He may have some conservative views, but it makes Hopkins look bad that they fired someone with different views. It looks like an intolerant place of learning. And the professor was very unhappy. He was even barred from his classroom just towards the end of the semester. In anger, he released a chain of emails between him and the administration, and it really makes the administration look bad. Someone really important must have made the complaint that broke the camel’s back (He was outed in the email too). Hopkins is having some problems. Little do they know what’s going on at SAIS Europe.

Thanksgiving Day was kind of lonely. It was really just a Thursday. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Thanksgiving without family. It’s obviously not celebrated in Italy, so our day went on as usual. I didn’t have a feast, just a regular dinner. But I guess that’s what holidays are like away from home.

On Saturday though, we had a Thanksgiving party at SAIS. I helped to set up the auditorium like Hogwarts with the long tables and fall tablecloths. I helped set up so I didn’t have to pay or cook. And I must say the auditorium looked really good. I joked with Christina that this is what Oxford must’ve looked like, and she said the long tables are common at Oxford. That’s why people go there!


We had so much food. It was a pot luck Thanksgiving. And the SGA bought 12 turkeys at 16 pounds each and we had 3 whole turkeys leftover. It was a really nice meal, well put together by Jane. We had lots of variety and desserts and potatoes and all the good stuff. And as a helper, I got to get my food first. I did, however, fall behind the pace. As a notoriously slow eater, I was not able to get seconds when my group was called. So by the time I went back for seconds, there was still plenty of food, but some things were gone. They played Christmas music in the background and it was really festive. We genuinely felt like a community, a little American enclave in Bologna. I think Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite moments in Bologna.

Perks of going first: Turkey Leg!

I had to go back to immigration for more fingerprints. I believe this was round 3 of fingerprints. They told us we only had to go twice, but alas, this was number 3. We thought we were going to the office to pick up our permessi because that is what we were told, but we did not actually. There was no rush to get there because half of SAIS was there so we had to wait anyways. But they always make us rush to get there and wait for hours. There must be a better way to do this. I did finally get my permesso after 3 months. But what for? No one has ever asked me for it yet. And there are some people here only for a semester who have had no use for it at all.

I went to Spacca Napoli for the first time. It was a farewell of sorts for Roxanna. This is her last couple weeks in Italy before she goes back to the states. The pizzas are so good here and they are gigantic. They are Naples-style pizza (Naples is known to have the best pizza). And luckily, they let you take home your leftovers here. Because it is just way too big to eat in one sitting.

It’s huge!


I also got around to sending my postcards. It was impossible to find stamps though. I went to three different tobacco shops and none of them had international stamps. You would think that the post office would have stamps, because that is kind of their job. But they don’t sell stamps at the post office. How stupid is that? Emma finally clued me in that the tobacco shop in Piazza Maggiore sells international stamps. They are expensive though. They are 2.50 apiece! That’s more than double some of these postcards, maybe even triple. So I’m going to send out these postcards and then not send too many more.

Finally, it is worth noting that I was doing my homework, reading for Soft Power.  And I fell asleep while reading, just like the old days. I haven’t done that in a while, but I used to do that all the time in Baltimore. It’s kind of comforting in a way to know that some things stay the same.


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