Sunday, 9 March 2014

Courses, Climbing and Carnevale.

So I am "well" into my courses now, even if everything still seems quite introductory. Surprisingly the Italian university system does excite me far more than the French one, I feel quite motivated to read and study as no one is pushing me to do so. That said, my reading list is already pretty long and daunting. I have also been assigned the courses I wanted for 4th year in Edinburgh: The Monster in French literature and Freud in France. Another long reading list...

The last few weeks have been intense in terms of socialising, trying out classes, and going on day trips. I have had many visitors and a lot to organise. Now I have hit the month mark, having arrived on the 8th February. I am generally enjoying myself here, but do feel an intense need to "re-appropriate" this city by experiencing new things. I have also tried to do whatever I can to keep my spirits raised and body healthy during the last few Winter months. What has happened in the past few weeks that is worthy of mentioning?

Yelp organised a climbing event a few weeks ago at Rockspot Sud-est. For 15 euros, yelpers got full equipment hire for an hour and a half, an instructor and full access to all facilities in the climbing hall. We also got unlimited access to the sauna. I was a little skeptical about climbing initially, knowing I sucked at bouldering which requires a lot of strength. Luckily for me, climbing seems to be more about technique and balance, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at Rockspot. The sauna was also very relaxing, and I got a late night lift home from some fellow yelpers. Yelp is a great way to meet people in a city and try out new things.

I mentioned the many visits. Shortly after Vivek went home, my boyfriend came to town. After a whirlwind tour of Milan we were off to Venice for the carnival, something which I have always been interested in seeing. This was my 4th trip to Venice, and it was a very different. We tried to The masked visitors came in an impressive array of colours. We also saw a famous Korean pop star, and left the concert swiftly. Venice is still the beautiful, romantic but touristic labyrinth it once was, but I have changed. The first day wasn't so busy, being Friday, and we were incredibly lucky to have a sunny and warm day in February. In the evening we walked through almost empty streets listening to classical music which was reverberating through the narrow streets. We walked for ages trying to find the source, and eventually hit a city wall and watched the lights of what were probably fireworks illuminating the night sky. It was truly surreal. It felt like a reenactment of some war scene with cannon balls flaring in the distance and the unlikely calming sound of Vivaldi and Grieg. The next day was less pretty due to intense rain and attraction closures, but we did get to see a massive downpour and a hail storm.



Back in Milan we tried Passaggio Obbligato, a bouldering hall which seems pretty popular in Milan. It was small but there was a nice vibe. We both found the difficult routes demotivating, however, and the grips were pretty old and used. I doubt I will do bouldering again, given the pain I subsequently felt in my arms. During the course of his stay we ate a lot of food out, including an aperitivo at my favourite bar Ginger cocktail lab, a Japanese dinner, a mediocre Indian Thali and lots of pizza...

A day after he left I was reunited with three friends from Grenoble. They were only in town for a couple of days, during which we met up with some of my Italian friends and found that we could converse in many different languages. We walked a lot, talked, they got to see my university and Milan in the sun, we ate pizza and lots of vegan food, I felt sad when they left. Too many sad goodbyes this month, for each goodbye I went back to my room feeling lonely with a sense of emptiness. Their presence made me nostalgic about Grenoble, and I had a great yearning to spend some time in the mountains.

Fortunately my craving was satisfied. A few hours after they left a guy on couchsurfing invited me to go climbing by Lago Iseo at Predore. I felt a little unsure, I had kind of planned on spending Saturday in pajamas feeling sorry for myself and trying to catch up on work. I went on a run to get a clearer mind, and decided to say yes. I was then informed that another seat was free, and at the last minute invited an old school friend along, Dorothy, the one who hosted me during my first week. It was too late to hire equipment, but she borrowed my harness and one of the guy's friends. We had a beautiful day, 21 degrees celcius and a cloudless blue sky. I managed 4 climbs, one was 5 or 6b (I think probably the first) which was a little ambitious being a beginner, but with a slow and steady pace, I managed. Our host and his friend were lovely people who kept helping us out and giving us tips as we attempted our first climbs. We spent the entire day out there and finished off the day with a picnic and a drink in a bar by the lake. Being outside really brightened my spirits and made me feel happier here in Milan. I will definitely keep this up and would like to try out some of the other outdoor sports which are available in Lombardy, such as kayaking and canyoning.

In the last week I have made a few investments, a climbing harness and a pair of climbing shoes. Yoga costs 13 euros a class here vs 10 euros for climbing. Which seems the best value? I am now just doing yoga twice a week in my room with my Decathlon yoga mat, run 1-2 times a week and intend to go climbing 1-2 times a week, once in rockspot and again in a natural setting, which provides a great excuse to escape city life.

This week I am getting my haircut (potentially a fringe?), keeping up English lessons and catching up on work I have missed whilst entertaining people. On the horizon I have a trip to Turin planned with a nice Grenoblois, 2 seasons of breaking bad to plough through, a mountain of work, a few tea/coffee socials,  and another outdoor climb in a fortnight. 

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