Sunday, June 6, 2010

End of an era...

And I'm off once again, writing this post from 35,000 ft in the air somewhere over Greenland. True to my promise in the last entry, it's not mid-June. Mid-June is next week, at which point I'll be chilling on the beach in Mexico and my blog posts will most likely hark back to my time in Brazil ("Today I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean"). My weekend in Milan with Letizia, her sister Isabella, and their friend Adriana was amazing. The highlight was watching Internazionale (a team from Milan) beat Bayern Munich 2-0 for the Champions League title on big screens in the Piazza del Duomo with thirty thousand screaming fans. Words can't describe the level of excitement and energy and noise erupting from that piazza as the referee blew the final whistle- pictures are good, video is better, but you needed to be there in person for the full experience. All of my friends in Bologna (and around the world) were super jealous that I got to be in Milan for the celebration. I took the train back to Bologna around 9am the following morning, and there were literally so many hungover people in the train station trying to buy tickets that they told us to just get on the trains for free. The ride was around three and a half hours to Bologna, and everyone in all nine cars was hollering victory chants the whole way. Celebration had lasted all night and into the morning, and it would continue the next day and much of the following week. I can't even imagine the madness after Italy won the World Cup in 2006.

My exams all went extremely well. I earned "trenta e lode" in Portuguese Literature and in Sociolinguistics (which means perfect score, plus subjective "honors"), and a 30/30 in Contemporary Italian Literature. And I traveled to 15 countries during the semester. Not bad, huh? Not bad at all.

One hour after I finished my last exam I hopped on a bus to the Bologna airport and flew to Paris for six nights. I stayed in a hostel the first night and met up with my friend Marely for dinner and some evening exploration in the picturesque Montmarte neighborhood. The next five nights I stayed with my Harvard hermano Andres in his wild apartment in the Latin Quarter. I spent my second and third days checking out all of Paris with Marely and her roommate Ashley- we saw Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Les Invalides, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and lots of other touristy places. We ran into the mayor of Paris at an outdoor tennis tournament, we ate baguettes and cheese in front of the Wall of Peace, we climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, devoured chocolate at Angelina's and feasted at a fondue restaurant with the rest of her program. Friday night we said our goodbyes because Marely was leaving Paris the next morning- luckily the lovely Cat Stewart had just arrived in the city and I was able to continue my exploration with her. We ate Chinese food in the Opera district and watched a 3D British street dance movie, totally overlooking the bad acting and instead marveling at the dance moves. We're both almost at their level... just a little more work, that's all. Saturday morning Cat and I took the metro to Vincennes Castle, which was pretty cool but not breathtaking. Our trip was infinitely enhanced by the discovery of a floral park behind the castle- in my opinion the best place in Paris to take fun pictures. We did some jumping photos atop a huge "PARIS" sign and portraits amongst vibrant flowers and art installations. Check out my May Facebook album for some visuals.

Cat had to leave for tennis that afternoon, and from then on I tagged along with Andres and his friends. We went to a beautiful mosque and drank mint tea (which totally gave me Moroccan déjà vu), and then walked around Père Lachaise cemetery and paid homage to Jim Morrison, the coolest person buried there. I left a guitar pick at his grave on behalf of my best friend Martín Cruz, who adores The Doors. Saturday night we went out to an authentic French dinner with a group of program friends, and then to a Brazilian-themed club called Favela Chic, which was actually recommended to me by a Brazilian friend from Rio who had spent a semester in Paris. It was a lot of fun- overly crowded, but with a great mix of music and even some samba thrown in for good measure. When samba came on it was fairly easy to spot the Brazilians on the dance floor, haha. Everyone else pretty much didn't know what to do. For the record, I am Brazilian.

Since we arrived home at 5am, Sunday was pretty lazy. We woke up in the afternoon and it was raining, so we relaxed in the apartment and I eventually walked around a bit to the Pantheon and a few churches. That night Andres had a bunch of friends over at the apartment for a low-key goodbye dinner, since everyone was leaving Paris that week. All attendees were speaking French and I found that I could actually understand pretty well. I just couldn't respond. I'll work on that starting in the fall at Harvard. On Monday morning I went with one of Andres' friends to Versailles, which was incredible. The palace itself wasn't even open, but the gardens were by far the most immaculate I've ever seen. They're huge, and every inch is manicured to perfection. Green everywhere, as well as white statues and tranquil lakes and maze-like footpaths. It was well worth the three euro transportation cost from Paris. That night we went out for goodbye drinks because Andres was leaving to Germany in the morning and one of his roommates was leaving to Barcelona. I noticed that French people are peculiar in the way they sit at outdoor venues; that is, they sit facing the street. Everyone. Always. Even couples never sit across from each other- strictly side-by-side, both watching the action in the street and opposite sidewalk. Mighty curious, those French people. I relaxed Tuesday morning and eventually made my way to the airport and back to Bologna. Plane flights have become second nature to me this semester. No big deal. Just grab a backpack, throw some clothes inside and go. That was more or less my philosophy the past five months.

I spent four more nights in Bologna, mostly saying goodbyes and packing. It definitely wasn't as difficult for me to leave that city as it was to leave Rio. Then again, I was leaving the city all semester long, so I guess I grew accustomed. On Thursday night I traveled with my roommate Stephen to the town of Forlì to see our roommate Ludovica's photography exposition, which was awesome. I had no idea that she was such an incredible artist- humility is one of her strongest virtues, unfortunately. I'm sure she hid other talents from me all semester as well, but we'll stay in touch and I'll discover them eventually. I traveled to Rome yesterday morning and checked into a hostel near the train station. My Harvard friend and former Let's Go colleague Julia came by the hostel with a friend at dinner time and we cooked some delicious pasta in the kitchen (the same thing we did two years ago at a different hostel in Rome after we finished our routes). This time she was in the middle of her Rome route for Let's Go, but much less stressed than the first time around. It was fantastic to catch up with her and hear about this past year at Harvard and everything that's been going on in her life. After they left the hostel I used the internet for a bit and then went to bed around midnight. Got up at six this morning, caught the train to the airport, hopped on my first flight to Frankfurt, waited an hour in Germany and boarded this massive plane to San Francisco. And just like that, my junior year abroad comes to an end. It went ridiculously fast. I can't believe I'm a senior at Harvard! In the words of Jimmy Carson, that right there's some weird wild stuff.

I'm extremely anxious for this plane to land, to see my parents and to eat In 'N' Out on the way home. Sure, my body will think it's 3:30am at dinnertime, but whatever. Time zones have very little meaning to me anymore. Nothing a nap or two can't fix. Speaking of which, I'm about to catch some zzz's right now. Thanks for following me through Europe, loyal readers. I'll keep the blogs coming from California and Mexico. Until then, I love you all and if you're in Santa Rosa, SEE YOU SOON! =D

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