Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Badges of Honor

There is nothing like moving for having a full immersion in your past. I already knew it, obviously, as it is now three weeks that I'm living among boxes (even if, admittedly, they are starting to disappear), but I had yet one more confirmation.

A couple of days ago, I started to hang stuff at my room's walls. The first thing I put on the wall was a poster (on the left, click to enlarge it) donated to me in Novi Sad, Serbia, when I made sort of a tour of the country years ago, right after Slobodan Milosevic had been overthrown. I had stored it away for 6 years and just last year, while in Malta, I had got to know that the one who donated it to me, a guy named Slobodan, had recently died in a car accident, which only strengthened my intention of finally finding it a place in my room.

Then, I had to rearrange my own creation: a frame containing my ELSA Badges (the name tags you are usually given when you go to an ELSA event) and postcards coming from all around the world neatly placed in a circular pattern (on the bottom right, click to enlarge it). Only, I had made it when I thought my ELSA life was finally over, at the beginning of 2002, while suddenly in 2004 I started going around Europe again and more and more badges had accumulated, somehow arranged in a quite awful fashion around and over the original frame.

Now, while I was re-arranging them, my mind started to wander to the distant, both in terms of kilometers and, often, in time, places where I had been given those badges, to the people who I had met, and almost always lost, over the years, in that process of losing myself in the past to dig out faces, anecdotes and feelings that is so typical of me and that still surprises some of my friends.

And so it was that with a smile I placed the very first one, received in Heidelberg, Germany, when for the first time I had to confront with the fact that beyond the border of my country there was a huge world inhabited by a number of people with their own languages, traditions and distinctive behaviour in the serious things and at parties. Obviously I always knew, but the practical knowledge has quite a different taste than a purely academic one. Speaking of taste, was also the first time I encountered, and was knocked down (but not out) by, the icelandic brennivin (which means "fire water").

And then the one I made myself when organizing the ICM in Rome (which actually started a fashion.. even now, most of the ELSA badges are based on the ones I made for that event, with flags, names, positions and everything...) and so on and so forth, remembering the first time I saw the Baltic in 2000, going from Copenaghen to Lund, and the open Atlantic Ocean in 2001 in Coimbra.

I got back to the first time I saw the Danube in Vienna, when it's called Donau, and then again the bridges crossing it in Budapest and when it has changed it's name in Duna and became a much wider river as it meets the Sava in Beograd, when I looked upon it by the Kalemegdan, and then the massive thing that it becomes in Romania, flying over it on my way to Bucharest.

And then, and then... the days when I found myself on the Baltic again, in Copenaghen once more and in Malmoe, and when I moved further East, in Vilnius, and even more eastwards, in Saint Petersburg.

The day I saw the Skulls Tower in Nis and Vlad's Castle in Bran, the little Mermaid in Copenaghen and the Giant Finn if Lund, the imperial buildings of Vienna, Saint Petersburg and London, the orthodox cathedrals of the eastern cities and the arab-looking churches of Portugal and so many, many more things recalled by the memory in an instant and would take hours to write down.

And all the time, while thinking about those places, a number of faces, some never forgotten and clear as a picture in front of my eyes, other faded and almost gone, visited me... Hrund, the one who offered me the accursed brennivin in Heidelberg, Diana K., Guido, Jelena B. (oh, Jelena...) in Beograd, Mario, Mina, Massimo, Marina, Michele, Anna in Warsaw and Bea in Vienna, Valerio, Karina, Marko, Katcka, Anda... and so many more whose names I remember or lay in some closed room in my head locked by a lost key, which I hope I shall find again one day. People I did share, at times, incredible experiences and always a deep feeling of being part of something, and sometimes even more, with some walking a good and important part of my life and who I know have contributed, in a way or the other, to make me the one I am.

Should you, my reader, ever be a student of law in Europe, join ELSA and live it actively. You might lose a bit of time in your studies, but you shall never regret it, as you will make experiences and you will meet people worth one hundred times more.

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