It's been a while since I've written, so let me update you on my year. I'll recount the following trips in the days to come: Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia, Spain-Morocco, Vienna, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Armenia, Turkey.
I'll take them trip by trip and I'll try to capture all the details. Sorry It's taken me so long to get back into this.
SAIS is the hardest thing I've ever done, hence me not posting anything for a while.
I went to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia last weekend, and when I have time I'll elaborate on what we did.
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Bihac Bosnia for dinner, soccer game, hookah
Una National Park for: Swimming, watefalls, hiking, dinner, etc
I was still wet from the shower when I heard our doorbell ring. It was Saturday morning and I was starting to molt into a new Patrick after a heavy night of inexpensive drinking. Gathering my thoughts, I realized that Salvatore was probably going to barge through the door with a group of 10 SAISers at any minute. I closed the door and frantically made myself presentable. In the same manner that our apartment touring group entered the endless apartments, this group walked in and made the most of their time inspecting their potential new digs. And, of course, the group marveled at our view, a view that won us a new roommate.
After our spontaneous housewarming party, I made my way to the SAIS picnic that was put together by a few of the more organized SAISers. We gathered at a park on the Southeast part of town,and the showing was strong. What started as a small gathering of around 10 SAISers grew in stages to more than 25, probably 30 people.
Everyone brought something to the picnic, both in terms of stories and food. Some of the group started a pick up game of soccer in the open field away from the shade of the picnic. Others, myself included, stayed behind to drink wine.
We all had a moment of celebrity when a photographer from the local paper stumbled on our group and took a picture for the paper. A friend joked that the headline will read, "The People Who were Too Stupid to Go to the Beach." It would be fitting being that everyone in town is on vacation.
It seemed like a gathering that could last easily into the early evening, but the clouds had other plans. The low rumble of thunder beyond the park should have acted as a clear warning, but it was just background noise to our group. But the background noise turned to a monsoon in a matter of seconds.
For a while everyone attempted to find cover, but the playground equipment and threes hardly shielded us from the barrage of rain. Led fearlessly by the lone brit at the picnic, a few of us left shelter to enjoy the first bit of cool weather that we had felt in Bologna.
The rain left as quickly as it came, leaving us with the weather that we’re all used to: sweltering heat.
Conflict management is a discipline that is taught, and practiced, at SAIS. Late Friday night, I saw it in action.
On Friday afternoon, SAIS hosted an appertitivo at the school’s cafe, an opportunity for all of us to meet. The appertitivo began at 4, which led into groups of us leaving for dinner. Most places in the town were closed, or wouldn’t take our giant group of 25 people, so a number of us ended up eating at a pizza place.
After dinner a group of SAISers met up at the Irish pub on Via Zamboni. The meet up was supposed to be centered on soccer, but few actually watched the game. At the pub I met more SAISers for the first time. Running into intelligent and fascinating people is turning from the exception to the rule, as was the case at the bar.
Quick side note, I will continue to describe other people in my program in general terms. I know I probably wouldn’t want others to write about me, so I’ll extend them the courtesy.
The group’s intelligence was equalled by their generosity. Being at the Irish pub, a SAISer bought rounds of Jameson, three to be exact, and other SAISer bought tequila for the group — far from Irish, but as effective as Jameson.
Deep into my free drinks, I looked up from the bar to see a SAISer speaking with a woman who had come up to buy a drink. She was droning on about how she came from the same region of the world as my friend, and to be clear she initiated the conversation. I didn’t catch the conversation, but I saw enough to know that it was a joking disagreement. As soon as my friend innocuously touched her arm, her boyfriend zipped across the bar, raising his voice and asking why he was touching her arm. My friend explained the joking conversation they had and the two guys quickly embraced in a hug, and the boyfriend bought a round for my friend.
For the next twenty minutes the new friends carried on, sharing bro hugs and buying each other drinks. At one point, the girlfriend was explaining, within earshot of her boyfriend and my friend, that the two had been together for three years. Shortly after that she wanted to leave the bar. My friend turned to her and sarcastically said, “we’ve been together for a good five minutes now, I think he wants to stay with me!”
That is one of the reasons why I love traveling. I’d say that out of all of the altercations that I’ve seen in the U.S. that involves alcohol and someone else’s girlfriend more than 90 percent of them ends in a disagreement of some sort. Nine percent ends amicably, and one percent ends with the male parties involved becoming friends.
I could get used to that kind of camaraderie.
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