Tuesday, 18 February 2014

First impressions of a city I already know

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself altered.
-Nelson Mandela

Here I am again, this city which I often passed through, during the past five years, where I spent money, ate sushi, or simply bypassed. This is where it all starts and ends, or at least if you look at it from a certain point in history or from a certain perspective. This is where I started off my travels back in June. I was just dropping in then, using the airport to go elsewhere. I came back again in July on my way to Switzerland, fitting in a quick Japanese lunch. I returned yet again on the way back, though only for a few hours. Yet again I found myself here the night before heading to Grenoble for the first leg of my year abroad. Here I am again, now, in the same room, with the same person.

la mia nuova città

This similar feeling of familiarity and self awareness arose when I returned to Geneva in December after having visited in July, and much earlier when I was 11. We keep moving, and yet the basic skeleton of the city and in turn of its organs, its people, are just the same.

What makes this time different? The freedom. I have a room without curfew (though admittedly with a dark-ages "no guests past midnight" policy) and a monthly transport pass. This makes all the difference. I have no sensation of "fretta", no need to rush. I can go anywhere without worrying about accumulating costs and running out of time. I can take opportunities as they come. A whole city is now open to me, of which before I could only scrape the surface. Again, excuse the cheesiness of this introduction. I admit to having watched too many French movies.

I have now, surprisingly, been here for 2 weeks.The first week was like staying in a luxurious bed and breakfast. My friend Dorothy has been looking after me incredibly well, especially considering I didn't expect anything, just potentially a place to sleep. We have eaten a lot of delicious vegan food, overindulged in crepes at le colonne, walked aimlessly around the centre and zona navigli, been to the cinema, brought each other up to date on everything that has happened in the last 6 months. Whilst she was working I managed to sort of the few administrative tasks that l'Università di Milano asked of me, choose my courses, find a place to start climbing and a yoga centre, check out the local pools, get a transport card, go clothes shopping, running, write my blog, catch up on the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, meet Milanese friends and so on... It was a week to remind myself that I too need some TLC.

oh my, I just put this online...?
Giving myself a vitamin blast to fight off the February blues

cancelling out everything with this massive veggie burger with vegan cheese

Familiar sites in a new context. I do feel different, looking at these streets and monuments I know so well. Happy, in a weird way. I wasn't yesterday. I felt anxious about moving around and an inexplicable fatigue. 

I moved into my university accommodation one week ago. This meant carrying lots of heavy stuff up and down stairs, through a couple of metro lines and finally on a tram. It was raining, but fortunately there was hardly any administration, unlike Résidence Ouest in France. The secretary was kind enough to tell me that basically, I could go rest and come back to deal with admin later. All I had to do was sign a few things, and I got told where I could do the washing, how to get into the building etc. The room is quite spacious for a student accommodation in Milan with very modern furnishings. I share the kitchen with 3-4 other girls (haven't met them all yet so not sure) and the bathroom with just one of them. There is plenty of storage space, good blinds and a kitchen with a freezer and oven. Three minutes away is a tram stop, from which it takes about 20 minutes to get to the duomo/university area. The only downside to this halls of residence is that I cannot host anyone here overnight, as visitors get kicked out between midnight and 8am. If I want guests, I guess we will all just have to readjust our sleeping schedules and become nocturnal. After having a week in which I felt like my cooking utensils were a little on the scarce side (I have a spork and a swiss army knife), a Milanese friend took me to Ikea on Friday, which was super useful. I now feel slightly better equipped. 

I started most of my classes last Monday, though Filologia romanza does not start until tomorrow.Indologia was extremely interesting, Linguistica generale? Not so much... Surprise surprise, my Erasmus coordinator decided she wouldn't accept credits for the interesting course. Letteratura Italiana seems interesting, more for the teaching style than the actual course content. The teacher swears, blasphemes and gets distracted by his own discourse. I could write a short humerous coffee table book called "le citazioni di Marazzi". I still have to try out filologia romanza which starts next week. Had a conversation with the teachers from both the French and German department, I can apparently do third year French for advanced students and 1st year German for beginners if I can catch up on what was studied in the first semester. I am currently trying to catch up on everything I missed, from irregular past conjugations to case endings...  Challenge maybe not accepted, considering that there is a less intensive beginner's course which provides the same amount of credits for the third of the time. I know it is still quite early to make a statement like this, but so far I much prefer the Italian university system to the French one. Here I feel more independent, less mollycoddled and thus more motivated to actually work.

I had a friend in town this week, Vivek. Though I was a little tied up due to administration, class, and a general sense of fatigue after my move-in, we managed to get a few things done. Namely walking around the main sites of Milan and eating some incredible ice cream.

Salted pistachio soyagelato, Maracuja, Raspberry

On the day he was leaving we were sat in Parco Sempione chatting, when we spotted two pigeons "kissing" and nuzzling each other in a very affectionate way. What a cute, romantic little scene. My thoughts moved towards the little bacio note I found the other day:

Then they started procreating.

In more news, after a successful job interview I am now employed! I will be teaching at various locations around the city, teaching private classes and larger groups, but had my first private lesson on Friday. It went spectacularly. Much needed considering the amount of spending I am doing and will be doing in the near future; I keep eating out, shopping, going to Venice next week for the carnival, not to mention my recent long haul flight trip-I am going to Japan and Vietnam this summer!
It's really difficult to believe that I have been here for 2 weeks. I have a feeling this semester will fly by.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

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