Thursday, December 21, 2006


It's funny how campus just empties out whenever there is a holiday near. My classes have been reduced to a fraction of their size with the official end coming tomorrow. A class of 35 students became 6 yesterday and I had my last few classes of literature as one-on-one sessions. The silence kicks in and boredom as a distraction from work is irresistible. I am trying to get my studies up to speed so that when I return home I won't have to worry as much. But that impending departure tomorrow makes the longing heighten. And then it hits me. I am going home. For Christmas. Tomorrow. Time's funny. I'm laughing.

It's strange that Christmas is 4 days away. I haven't heard a Christmas song. I don't smell pine. I don't see snow. Hezzy and I were reminiscing about the holidays and traditions over dinner last night, chatting with his Italian roommates.

But I want to digress for a moment. Hezzy is my hero. He invited me over for dinner last night where I was put to work making spinach taglietelle. Yes, we made pasta, by hand (well we had a machine) but from scratch. And dinner was lovely, a culinary delight. It's been sort of funny because between me, Hezzy and Sarah brought up in comparison to our Italian roommates, we the "Americans" are more adventurous and inventive in the kitchen. Don't believe the stereotypes, people.

So anyhoo, Christmas is coming and I am hoping on a plane tomorrow for the interminable day through time changes and various airports. I hope that the bags arrive, because I really will need the gifts and books that I cannot bring on the flight with me. So one last day of classes, packing, and home sweet home, here I come...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ringing in Ventuno

Turning 21 in Italy kind of rocked. To start things all off, an adventurous but certifiably delicious culinary experience chez Hezzy last night was rounded off by an evening at Il Torrione, a Jazz club hosting live music in a renovated guard tower at the city walls that went until 1 am. And thus began my birthday, with sweet jazz oozing from piano, drums, bass and an Italian voice singing English tunes and charming us all with her contagious cackle and funny anecdotes.

The morning really began with gloomy skies, a nice walk, food shopping and yoga. Nothing like celebrating 21 with a little time to breathe deep and stretch. Mostly just another peaceful and busy Sunday catching up on work, chilling out, cooking.

The big event for the day had to be Lo Schiaccianoci, the ballet at the Teatro Communale to which I had bought tickets last month and was anxiously desiring to see. It seemed like a cute show, but I didn’t really know too much about it. The Ballet Biarritz was putting on this show for two days in Ferrara and it seemed like some sort of playful bit of dance. Thought I would treat myself.

The Teatro Communale di Ferrara looks like Milano’s La Scala, except less luscious and rich red and more just a subtle and opulent white (and I could take pictures this time). My seat was right on the ground level with a wonderful view of the stage, it felt so nice to treat myself to a bit of art set in a very elegant theatre.

Looking at the programme and reading the details, I realized that the show to which I had bought tickets wasn’t just some artsy French number but in fact a modern rendition of The Nutcracker, a show that was an integral part of my childhood, many times going to see the show at Place-Des-Arts with my mother for my birthday. I remember having been enchanted by the imaginative show, the wild adventures, the beautiful dancing and costumes.

In Ferrara, I saw a version that was much more modern with a changing solid coloured background and a creative twist to the Christmas classic. The nutcracker was instead a boxer in this version but the delicacy of the emotions, the magic of the season and the sentiment of the nutcracker were still the same. The set design was modern instead of Victorian but enchanted this aficionado of contemporary art delightfully. At the end my hands were left numb from clapping and I felt like I wanted to cry in the joy of surprise and rapture.

Pop went the champagne and the party was at my house with panetone. Bellinis, and torrone. It was nice to ring in the birthday with friends, roommates and good food. Hezzy even whipped together a tiramisu for the occasion. So all was good and done, having received the parental phone call of good wishes and having been sung Tanti Auguri.

And then Chris arrived, fresh from the end of exams and a trip to Venice, unexpected and unannounced. Dinner and chitchat and the evening just passed by so quickly, full of memories of years past, that’s it, another year has passed. One year in one day, I feel tired. But happy. Peace.

Friday, December 15, 2006

City of Lights

Illustrated version of Paris

Seizing End

Just as my classes began, the two hour lesson-blocks are starting to disappear. Randomly and unexpectedly. My literature class ended yesterday instead of today because there are train and bus strikes today and the teacher can’t make it in and the one-on-one lessons were getting a little bit tiresome (although nice, when you teach a class you would like to teach students, plural). My History of Theatre class will end today thanks to the negotiations between professor and students. And of course I still have class next week, right up until I leave Friday.

We had our last meeting with the program director today to receive our permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay; Merry Christmas and Happy end of stay type gift). The director proceeded to talk to us about the experience as a whole. She hit the exact points of thought I’ve been having over the last few days: it isn’t the academic experience that matters in the end but the personal growth. I definitely have had some points where I just marvel at how little motivation I have to study and at the marvels of the Italian education system.

I’ve been a bit apprehensive about returning to Harvard because, I know, that I will go through yet another period of adjustment and transition comparing my self pre-Ferrara, Ferrara to the new post-Ferrara Stefan. I wonder who that will be, and he won’t be defined until February, since exams still have to happen in January and the return to Harvard happens at the very end of the month.

The toughest part of the whole personal growth here in Ferrara has been the being independent. There is no Middlebury representative here, no physical presence, no safe space. You are really out in the middle of nowhere left to languish a little bit, a little baby left to cry when he falls down only to realize that you really aren’t hurt. The director said herself that it is that absence of a presence that makes the students in Ferrara flourish so much. I definitely feel more grown up, feel like I’ve accomplished something. But I also know that the exams are still ahead and want to stretch to impress, because so many students here just don’t care at all. But even at the end of those exams, I know there will be a whole new process of re-integration on the horizon, waiting for me when I arrive back in the land of Ivory Towers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

La Mamma a Venezia

Two weeks ago the mother was in Venice and in two weeks I will be back home. Life works in wonderful ways.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Back in Ferrara and tackling the work this week so I will need a little time to edit photos before getting them up... other than that I may be a little silent for a while. Peace, Stefan.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Le weekend

After chilling out in the colourful Georges Pompidou library for more wandering than working, I headed back to the hostpad to grab so,e dinner and rest the weary legs before heading out for a night on the town. It is nice that clubs close really late and not at 2 (even though my body would hear nothing about staying up past 2) and that there are night buses all night long. Promotes festivity, un peu de joie de vivre.
So now for the weekend, dedicated to more catching up and hanging out than tourism, perhaps lazy walks through fun neighbourhoods. Soak up the rhythm of a different tongue, the melodics of a different city, the heartbeat of a different city. The sun is out and let's hope I won't hqve to battle with the elements any longer and, instead of charging at the wind and rain with my umbrella, just walk pensively down la rue.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Windblown in France

Another day and I find myself yet again taking a shower out on the streets of Paris. Even though it poured this morning, by afternoon the sun was shining through the most beautifully blue stained glass windows of Sainte Chappelle. I thought Chartres was beautiful, here I felt up close and personal with the windows in the intimate and hidden chapel. I did the tourist thing stopping by public gardens and major sights (eiffel, elysees...). I cant write much more because my time on this commputer in the colourful and wild Pompidou library is running out and I am having troubles typing As and Ms on this computer. Until another day...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

How Paris Broke my Umbrella

After an interminably long train ride that made a pitstop for coffee with Marina in Milano, I have arrived in a very chilly but always elegant and fashionable Paris. This morning started well with a light and deliciously flaky pastry and a visit to the Rodin museum. I love sculptures, so I loved this museum, full of very passionately sculpted works that stimulate the emotions and the eyes. Then the rain hit, and the wind. I spent a windy walk trying to get to the Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries and with the wind hitting off the Seine my flimsy little umbrella snapped one of its ;etal spine-like supports and slipped off the holders at the ends. It was a wet and cold wait for the Orangerie but once inside, the soft lighting and oval display rooms for Monets water lilies made me forget everything. A true artistic experience.
So of course the rain stops after my visit and I go to check out Rue des Rosiers in the Marais where I hear the best falafel ever resides, and I had a hankering for some falafel. Not only did I find falafel, but along the way I overheard a beautiful string orchestra playing in the metro, the type of music that makes your heart stop and your eyes water. The best falafel of my life was followed by a walk back through the Place des Vosges to the metro and, more metro music and mistakenly identified as a parisian, here I am, navigating through the french keyboard.
I feel the blood in my cheeks and the smile on my face, loving this city of long ago elegance and prim chic style. So now to rest my weary wind-beaten body for a little bit chez Brandon, my close friend and very kind host for my few days here. All this before going in the search of an affordable dinner and an evening visit to the once rail station Musee d'Orsay. Magic.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


A little trip to Paris utilizing my handy Eurailpass is just a day away and it is hard to believe that all the time that has elapsed between the beginning and now has already flown by. I can't quite believe it. I am looking forward to revisiting the city and getting out my French, a little exercise before heading home to Montreal. My mind is bouncing around too much to write a nice reflective passage. I am excited, there are many hours on the train to go but I'll be ready. For now, I need to pay my rent, send some postcards, read for school and pack. You shall know my velocity. Au revoir.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The voice becomes a body, three days pass, the body becomes a voice again

I met my mother in Venice this weekend and thus was realized another dream of mother-son trips. It was strange and lovely to have such an important life figure walk into the Italian escapade and make my old life (pre-Ferrara back in North America) stitch itself into my current life (Ferrara and beyond). It was only this last weekend that I realized just how much I have grown up because of study abroad. Of course I was nervous before seeing my mother, thinking maybe she wouldn’t like the extremely long hair, suspecting perhaps that I lost weight or something of the like (I can rely on Bubby as the true barometer of this), or something else who knows. But the mother walked into my life as more of a friend than ever, with hints of the caring worried woman of my life long long ago (before college, before prep-school, think LCC).

My mother and I spent cold days in Venice snapping photos, catching up, glancing over Venice from San Giorgio’s tower, drinking scotch (I think I’m allergic like Dad) with a Count in his frescoes and chandeliered sitting room, getting lost, seeing glowing baby Jesus nativity representations in several churches, going to mass at San Marco’s and being floored by contemporary art.

So many lovely moments together, I can’t write them all down, it is just a feeling. A great proud I-am-related-to-you-and-care-about-you feeling. It was so nice to bring mom to Ferrara, show her where I’ve been suffering and then living, and what I see everyday, because photos, in the end, don’t really do the experience justice.

As quickly as my mother came back into my life, once just a voice on my cellphone, she was off again on the train back to Venice.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Here I am, already

It's December. Tonight I am going to meet my mother in Venice. It’s strange, we talked about this eventual meeting so very long ago and, well, here it is. Time is a pretty weird thing, it expands, shrinks, runs, limps. It has been three months since I last saw my mother. My hair is longer, I’ve been exposed in an all Italian environment for long amounts of time, maybe I’ve grown, maybe I’ve lost weight, maybe I’ve changed. Even though I have been speaking with her on an almost daily basis, it is still possible that aside from those little cell phone conversations, I’ve become a different Stefan, a Stefano if you will. But who knows…

With this meeting of the mother in Venice, there are only three more weeks before I will be on a plane headed for Montreal to celebrate the holidays with all those people I have missed so much. And it is almost over, already. What? Where did it all go? What happened in all that time? That’s the thing about time, it never stops, it just keeps going no matter what. Trekking valiantly forward, with time you should try to face life with the same attitude, always moving, always thinking. In my life of constant reflection, I like to think I am doing something right. Well, enough of sitting back, time to go with time, go with the flow and get up and go.