Saturday, 3 May 2014

Am I still in Italy...?

For the last two weeks I think my sense of geography has been rather bewildered. 

Last weekend I was at the Festival dell’Oriente, a massive annual trade fair in the East in Milan pertaining to various eastern cultures. The exhibition centre was in Novegro, a suburb with a rural feel 5 bus stops after Linate airport. The exhibition showcased cultural elements of China, India, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan and strangely also Italy… 

There were various stalls selling exotic food, incense, kimonos, pashminas, tea, oriental crafts and more.  I took great advantage of the free tea stands and drank way too much (which inevitably led to insomnia) the Japanese matcha and Indian masala chai were particularly good. I attended a Chinese tea ceremony which was very authentic and had a 5 minute Japanese painting tutorial. There was also a great new age presence, offerings including slug face cream (???), vegan food (not complaining about this), and health products.
In most rooms there was at least one show going on, these included martial arts performances and regional dances. 

my first attempt...

It was an interesting event, but considering so many things cost (e.g. the origami class, the dominance of shops in general) I don’t think the 10 euro entrance fee was fully justified. Looking at the programme I had expected some kind of dance/yoga workshops, but this information seemed intentionally vague. 

During the week I worked on the itinerary for the Japanese leg of my summer travel plans, with an interval for climbing, a few teaching slots and my last few lectures at university here.  It will be great to see Maki again and explore the country which inspired a lot of my childhood and adolescence (studio Ghibli, Pokemon, fruits basket, Full metal Alchemist, Death Note… Pourquoi pas?) and see a few more of its facets. 

The expectations for this weekend looked bleak; there has been no internet since Thursday due to some problem which will not be fixed until Monday, I have an exam on Tuesday (for which I am terribly under prepared and need internet), and there’s some sneeze-causing pollen flying around Milan which looks like snow but gets in your nose and mouth whenever you breathe. After exhausting the collection of French films on my hard drive (and films dubbed into French…), my room was starting to look boring. Internet free-time soon proved to be a good occasion to socialise; my Chinese flatmate then invited me to join her for a traditional Chinese ceremony, which soon became a Mandarin lesson and a general talk about Chinese culture. 

I even got to learn a bit of modern slang...

 The next day we decided to visit China town, where we browsed the oriental supermarkets and my friend bought some products. She then took me to a shop specialising in Fresh tofu, or “formaggio di soia” (soya cheese), where I purchased some freshly fried spicy tofu. When I got home I concocted a Sichuan hot pot-inspired soup dish and threw the tofu in at the last minute. 

In response to my title, yes, I am still in Italy. Though not for much longer…  Heading to Germany in a couple of weeks, and then leaving this part of the world indefinitely on June 15th. More to come on this subject in the last few blog posts from my Erasmus year, but ciao for now. Off to the Terme tomorrow!

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