SCENE: Breakfast. The Aemalia Hotel, Bolgona, Italy. Background soundtrack: rain.
ATMOSPHERE: Un-dampened enthusiasm, despite the weather. (Greatly aided by the amazing spread laid out at the buffet every morning, from every pastry imaginable– including chocolate cake– to the typical English-fry-up fare of eggs, sausages etc, to cereals, yoghurt, fruit, tea, and of course, coffee.
ACTION: Fuelled and caffeinated, the students and staff of the IPSI Symposium set out to meet all three faces of Bologna.
Bologna la Rossa. After brief welcoming remarks at the John’s Hopkins Bologna Center, we’re off to the Town Hall for a welcome from the Regional Commissioner and the international relations officer. Sitting in the immense hall it’s hard to focus on the projector screen as it is effortlessly eclipsed by the immense fresco looming behind it. This contrast, we soon learn, defines the city of Bologna. As the home of the oldest university on continental Europe, “Bologna the Red” is fiercely proud of its legacy. Walking under the earthy-red archways it might seem that not much has changed in the intervening nine hundred years since the University of Bologna first opened its doors if not for the scores of students (who now make up nearly one quarter of the total population) that roam the streets in edgy, urban get up or wearing sweatshirts proudly displaying “Università di Bologna.” If we’re going to change then world, then this place that so successfully grafts youthful vibrancy onto medieval architecture, is the place to inspire it.
Bologna la Dotta – Back to the Johns Hopkins Center and its time to hear from Professor William Zartman. As he takes the stage we’re excited to hear what this no-nonsense, dry-witted, somewhat-intimidating professor has to say. His message is simple: conflict resolution is a relatively young field, significant progress has been made but more needs to be done. We’re not “there” yet. It’s up to each of us here, and our peers who were unable to join us in Bologna, to get the world “there”. Following a brief re-caffeination we’re back in the auditorium and the microphone comes down off the podium and it is our turn to put questions to the professor. It only takes a few moments for us to get over our stage fright and then the questions come in quick succession. Zartman’s deft balance of pithy wit and serious consideration is pitch-perfect. So far, “Bologna the Learned” has lived up to expectations.
Bologna la Grassa – By the afternoon the rain had disappeared and we were treated to a warm summer evening. Several students joined the professors for dinner, and the rest of us headed into the city to discover how “Bologna the Fat” gets its name. Following those in the know, we made our way to the Osteria dell’Orsa in the Jewish Quarter, a local cheap-eats packed to the rafters with hungry students. After we had stuffed ourselves with regional delicacies (the prosciutto and melon was delicious!), we discovered that the artistic interest in origami transcended borders and there was a furious paper-crane-folding competition, resulting in a flock of birds as well as some inspired paper airplanes. Well fed and content we headed back to the hotel. If today was any indication, it’s going to be full speed ahead for the rest of the month.
James Deane, Australia & Tara Misra, USA