Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Throw Some Points on the Board

After a few games under my belt, I've made it onto the Italian lacrosse leaderboard.

My stats in Italy are much more impressive than my stats in college, mostly because in college I was a defensive middie and here I get to do everything. A sum-up of our last game, stating the obvious: Americans know how to play lax!

I haven't played all season like a lot of guys in the league, but as I play more games, I hope to continue to contribute to Torino Lacrosse and maybe get us to win a game or two. Am I going to be a tiny bit selfish in my next game to try to pad my stats? Probably.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Last week I decided to put on my travelling hat and fly to Barcelona. Accompanying me were my friends Merideth, Elan and Alyssa.

Upon arrival, I realized that my Spanish would be helpful, but I absolutely do not speak the language of the region, Catalan. It looks like a weird mixture of French, Spanish and a secret code language that includes a lot of Xs. We met up with two other SAISers, Natalya and Alix our first night for some delicious paella at Marina Moncho's.

We spent the rest of the night wandering the warm, well-lit streets of the city. Finally returning to our hostel, conveniently located on Rambla, one of the city's main drags, Alyssa and I decided to keep the night going by going to a nearby club and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. When in Barcelona, dance as the Spaniards do...

The next morning, I woke up early and got some reading done on the hostel's beautiful, sunny roof with a view of Plaza Real.

We all walked up to Park Güell, a crazy wonderland of architecture by the famous Antoni Gaudí and also made a stop at Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, a weird church with fruit for steeples that has been under construction since 1889.

Afterwards, we commenced on a hours-long bar-hopping tapas adventure that filled me with the most delicious small plates of food, glasses of cava and sangria.

Followed by the obligatory post-gorge clubbing, we retired to our beds for a night of Spanish slumber... only to start eating again the next day.

On day three (Monday), Merideth, Alyssa and I ate at La Rita, which I can't really describe but highly recommend. We met up with Elan and Natalya as the sun was setting at La Champagneria, which has delicious cava (Spanish champagne) by the glass and little bocadillos, which are tasty litte fried snacks. From La Champagneria, we conitnued the eating with dinner reservations at a place we had seen earlier, and then continued on, enjoying tapas in 3 or 4 more bars in the neighborhood.

Obligatory dancing until the wee hours, etc., etc...

Barcelona was a good time.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Beautiful sunset today in Bologna...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Un Señor Muy Viejo con Unas Alas Enormes

One of the things I enjoy most about SAIS is the high quality of the foreign language program. Every language class I attend is interesting, fun, and sometimes riveting. Today in Spanish class, our professor read out loud to us a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez titled, "Un Señor Muy Viejo con Unas Alas Enormes."

If you've never read anything by Marquez before, I really recommend this one - it gives credence to the argument that Spanish is the language of poetry and beauty. I was taken aback by how stunning the images evoked by the story could be:
"Le quedaban apenas unas hilachas descoloridas en el cráneo pelado y muy pocos dientes en la boca, y su lastimosa condición de bisabuelo ensopado lo había desprovisto de toda grandeza."
The story (which you can read in English and in Spanish - I recommend the Spanish version) uses Marquez's style of magical realism to tell the story of a family that finds what might be a fallen angel. The story recounts how the family, the local priest, the community and eventually greater forces react to the intrusion of such a strange creature. Afterwards our class had a discussion (in Spanish of course) about our different interpretations of the story.

I wrote (in my simple Spanish which I hope to make more complex this summer):
"La moraleja de la historia del Un Señor Muy Viejo con Unas Alas Enormes es triste. Me parece que Marquez implique que vivimos vidas aburridas y tristes. Cuando se ocurren eventos extraños, intentamos a ponerlos en nuestras miradas pequeñas. Como seres humanos, nosotros no podemos ser inspirados, solo somos avarices, miedosos y violentos. Cuando se ocurren eventos extraños, no los nos cambian y despues regresamos a nuestra vida aburrida."
A rough English translation:
"The moral of the story Un Señor Muy Viejo con Unas Alas Enormes is a sad one. To me, Marquez implies that we live a boring, sad life. When extraordinary events occur, we attempt to fit them into our narrow worldview. As human beings, we don't become inspired, but rather are greedy, fearful and violent. When strange events occur, they don't change us, and after they are over, we return to our boring, sad lives."
Sad interpretation, isn't it? What do you think the story means?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Great Debaters

One of my favorite classes this semester is a debate class entitled "Major Issues in US Foreign Policy." The format of the class is to have four people debate a controversial topic in foreign policy each week in teams of two. Each debate is preceded by two weeks of intensive research and preparation - the most interesting part is that each team has to prepare both sides of the argument because they don't find out which side they'll take in the debate until 24 hours before.

My first debate was on WikiLeaks and US policy. The statement to be debated was "The benefits of WikiLeaks outweigh the costs."

My partner Alyssa did research on the pro-side while I went about constructing an argument for the con side. We spent a lot of quality time probing each others' arguments and refining our statements. On Wednesday evening, 24 hours before the debate, our names were draw
n out of a hat and we found out we were going to argue the pro side.

The debate was a lively one. Forty or so classmates and faculty came into the auditorium to watch us debate from the podium. The actual content of the debate went like this:

9 minutes: pro speech by my partner Alyssa
3 minutes: cross examination of Alyssa by the opposition
9 minutes: con speech by our opponent Paola
3 minutes: cross examination by us!
9 minutes: pro speech by Yours Truly
3 minutes: cross examination by the opposition
9 minutes: con speech by our opponent Matt
3 minutes: more cross examination by us

- break! -

8 minutes: direct audience questions for both sides
3 minutes: con rebuttal by Matt
3 minutes: pro rebuttal by Alyssa
3 minutes: con rebuttal by Paola
3 minutes: final pro rebuttal by Bryan

Sound pretty intense, huh? Here's a video of my first 9 minute speech:

The debate was extremely lively, with some serious headbutting in the cross examination parts, which ended up looking a bit like aggressive court-room cross examinations.

At the end, the audience voted on who had been most convincing and who had won the debate. Our team just barely won by two points! It was a lot of fun, and afterwards, the class' professor John Harper took us out for drinks. The first debate was a lot of fun

Great thanks to my partner Alyssa and our intelligent, extremely well-spoken opponents (and friends) Paola and Matt.

Bryan the TA

Ok. This is really cool, so read up:

At the end of last semester, you might remember that I studied for a core exam to test out of one of the SAIS required courses, Evolution of the International System.

I did pretty well, and I ended up applying for and getting a TA position to help the professor teach the class this semester. I get to help teach my favorite subject: history, during my favorite time period: the Long 19th Century. Exciting right? I know!!

I took the equivalent of this course at Stanford with a visiting professor named Jonathan Haslam, who apparently taught at SAIS at some point. The professor I get to work with this time around is Thomas Row, who has a very rich understanding of European History, is an inspiring lecturer, and also likes to hang out after class and talk shop over wine.

He's a fun guy - he even made an appearance at the Viennese Ball!

My duties as a TA are to run two TA sessions every week where I go over historical themes and details to supplement the lecture. Lots of people come to listen to me talk, and I'm not going to lie - it makes me feel kinda special. I also have office hours that no one comes to.

The TA sessions require a lot of prep time, but I really love to do it. We're talking about the guy who bought his high school AP European History book off eBay so he could read it for fun years later.

My Genitori Take the Italy Tour - Part 2

This post is extremely backdated because I was so proud of the Rome post that I procrastinated on the Florence post. Sue me.

After Rome, we headed north to Florence. This was my second time here, so I knew exactly what I wanted to see (ie. eat). My parents started out doing a bunch of sightseeing seeing Michaelangelo's David and some other museums while I left town and played a lacrosse game.

Our first full day in Florence, the rain stopped and the sun came out just for us! We went to the Duomo, a beautiful church in the center of the city, and my dad and I went to the top!

I was able to get a much better appreciation for Florence's beauty from 100 meters up, with a 360 degree view that stretched over the river and into the distance. After a pretty challenging stair climb up and down the dome of the Duomo, my dad and I met up with mom and preceded to accompany her in some shopping.

I convinced them to go to Pino's for lunch, the sandwich place I went to with Carrie in January. The food was still delicious.

After some more wandering, sight seeing and a quick nap, we headed out to Ponte Vecchio, an old bridge covered in houses and shops that spans the Arno river.

Later that evening, we took the advice of my friend Elan and went and ate at All'Antico Ristoro di' Cambi, a Florentine place with amazing steak.

The next morning, we boarded a train for Venice, but I had to get off at Bologna to go back to school. I bid farewell to my parents - two awesome people who I probably won't see for a good amount of months to come - and they went on to Venice, the City of Canals, for the last leg of their Italy tour.

Buon Viaggio!

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Genitori Take the Italy Tour - Part 1

Last weekend, my parents came to visit me! It was kind of a last-minute decision, but it worked out nicely because they came at at time that I could leve Bologna for a few days and tour around the country with them.

I met up with them in Rome, where we saw the Ancient Roman Forum and Colosseum.

After a tasty lunch, we went to Vatican City, the land of all things Catholic. The Vatican Museum was fascinating and we got ot cut in line to get in because we had planned ahead and bought tickets online! In the Sistine Chapel they had a guy who just stood there glaring at tourists and periodically yelling, "No photos! No photos!"

Afterwards we stopped by St. Peter's Bascilica and walked along the Tiber River, stopping to sit and take it all in with a relaxing beer.

A day of touring tired us out, so we took a quick nap before heading out for an evening walk and dinner. We took the Roman subway to the north of the city and walked from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain.

After the Trevi Fountain, we went to a delicious restaurant in some neighborhood that I don't remember the name.

After a quick gelato stop, we turned in for the night, a train to Florence waiting for us the next morning.