The “hump” they warn you about at the study abroad orientation meeting is real. The initial excitement of being in another country was dulled by mid-October and the fantasy world, which I had thrown myself into, seemed more like everyday life. Although I was encompassed by an earthy blend of burnt orange, brick-red, pale yellow and maroon brown that make up the picturesque Bologna cityscape, I longed for Bloomington fall leaves and trees, apple cider, pumpkin beer, pumpkin spice lattes, and pumpkin smear from Bloomington Bagel Company. Yes, there are pumpkins here but not like the craze that takes the mid-west when the leaves begin to turn.
What made matters worse was the guilt of not treating everyday like the incredible adventure it is but just like another ordinary day. My goal is to become integrated but what is the sacrifice? That I don’t spend five minutes every morning marveling at the awe-inspiring view from my bathroom?
The solution to my dilemma came to me in my contemporary European history class. Professor Cammarano, a stern yet encouraging (in the sense that you want to prove you’re not completely ignorant) scholar of European history, opened the class with the question, “where have you been in Italy besides the visits organized by the BCSP program?” (Ravenna and Urbino). Most of my classmates had a few cities checked off their lists, some from previous vacations to Italy, some had just return from various trips. When my turn came I solemnly mumbled, “Bologna”, I was one of two students that hadn’t left Bologna since I arrived nearly two months before! I hadn’t left because I liked Bologna, I didn’t want to miss out on plans I had made with new local friends and therefore I hadn’t felt a longing to leave. At that instant, however, I felt that I was missing out on a different part of the study abroad experience. I had become adjusted and was so preoccupied with integrating myself in everyday life in Bologna that I had neglected being a tourist and it just so happened that I had been invited to take a trip with two other BSCP students, Kara and Nikki, that upcoming weekend to Bolzano.
We scrambled to make bookings the night before the trip. Some details were changed from our original plan. I was dissuaded by the fact that we couldn’t do the six-hour hike that I wanted to do to get to the closest place I could find outdoor bouldering, something I’ve been meaning to do in Italy for some time. Despite, the set backs I decided to roll with the punches and see what happens. The trip didn’t get off on the right foot. The night before my departure I fell asleep at about four in the morning on my friend Katelyn’s couch after traversing the entire city from north to south and back to central, a different story for a different time. On top of that, half way through the train ride I was jolted awake from my comatose state by a rather rigid-looking man in a suit. He told us that we were supposed to get off at a previous station and switch trains because we had bought the tickets for the slower train. We consequently had to pay the large difference in ticket price.
These are but distant faded memories, however, and what I most easily recall from the trip to Bolzano is the disbelief and wonder I had stumbled upon in Bologna two months before.
I distinctly remember sitting on a park bench in the center of town just after returning from our hike to the earth pyramids. Nikki and Kara had gone to the information center to ask about a good place for lunch, I told them I needed a moment to gather myself. This is, more or less, what I entered in my journal then and there.
I can’t really put this into words. The beauty of this place is intoxicating and it weakens me. There’s too much beauty and kindness in the world to dwell on what ifs and microscopic problems. Although I must be in tune with what happens within me and around me, I can never forget the bigger picture: the world may seem turbulent at times and although seasons pass the dried stacks of mud that are “i piramidi di terra” still stand in nooks of this world like Bolzano that ring nothing but purity.
I returned to Bologna that Sunday evening like it was my home away from home. I was re-familiarized with the best and the worst of the city I had grown accustom to. I was bumped into immediately in the mist of the bustling crowd; luckily since it was Sunday so the main two roads were closed and I could walk freely in the road, the faint smell of dog pee on certain blocks. I climbed the spiral staircase to my apartment with the feeling of relief to sleep in my own bed and tell my roommates all about my adventure. I was refreshed and saw Bologna through new eyes and was relieved by the notion that at anytime I could discover something new everywhere I looked. Therefore, today’s Italian word of the day is actually a phrase, “vale la pena” or “it’s worth it.”