Thursday, October 27, 2005

How to properly celebrate an education...

Writing from Padua, Italy where we elected to visit for a few days before my parents arrival. Padua is a vibrant area and home of one of the oldest universities in the world (The University of Padua which was founded in 1222).

We spent our time walking around the city and soaking in the sites. Our first stop was the Basilica of St. Anthony. A beautifully decorated Basilica and also the home of St. Anthony's tongue (found intact when they exhumed his corpse and truthfully looked a bit like a piece of pepper steak...I shall now wait to be struck down by lightning) and his voice box. Not the kind of relics you see everyday. Plus a piece of the "true cross". Who knows whether it was or not but I have to admit that for as many pieces of the "true cross" we've seen on this trip, either they chopped it up like they do with sports memorabilia for sale or someone's not being completely honest.

Spent the rest of our time visiting the University of Padua. We took an educational tour where we were able to see the stylish Great Hall and the first permanent anatomy theater (built in 1594). We also saw the tribute to the first woman to graduate (ever, anywhere in the world) from a university who matriculated from Padua in 1678. Pretty cool. Seeing the educational home of Galileo, Copernicus and number of other famous European intellectuals almost made us smarter by association. Unfortunately we weren't able to take the complete tour as we happened to be in town for graduation of the 3+2 students who have earned their Dottore (Doctor's degree, which is the equivalent of a Masters in the US). This was yet another one of those random cultural highlights we've had on the trip.

The tradition has been going since the university was founded in 1222. What is the tradition? Upon completion of the Q&A of your thesis (which is evidently a little more of a formality here vs. the thesis defense in the US), you walk out of one of the two rooms they are holding them in to meet your friends and family, who place a wreath with laurel leaves and bells around your neck immediately start in with this sing-song chant:

Dottore, Dottore
Dottore del busco de cul
Vaffancul, Vaffancul

(this is funnier when you realize that the Vaffuncul part sounds like Ooom-pa-pa, Oom-pa-pa)

You then go with your friends and family to the main pedestrian street where they strip you down from your fancy graduation clothes, put you in embarrassing costumes (drag, etc.) and cover you with all sorts of things (eggs, flour, chocolate, whipped cream are a few examples) while you read aloud your poster. While you do so you are repeatedly being told to chug from the bottle of red wine/champagne/other that you are holding.

What are these posters, you ask? They appear to be the history of the graduate, from childhood to embarrassing college stories (all now shared with parents and other family members). The most striking part of them are the prominently featured, mostly r to x-rated, pornographic caricatures of the now Doctor. There's something a little strange about seeing Doctor of Law (or Electrical Engineering or Psychology, etc) over the a picture of a naked busty woman dominating phalluses on a leash. It certainly takes some getting used to. These posters are evidently made by friends of the graduate, who often pay artists for the very impressive caricatures. After the graduate completes the ceremony, the posters are put up on the university walls for the rest of the day where they make quite a display by the end of the day.

All in all, quite a spectacle, complete with the local police making sure that they stay on their plastic sheet (to not permanently ruin the historic streets with all the goop that is tossed). And yes, pictures will most definitely be coming eventually (may not be suitable for all ages, however)...

Needless to say we've heard a lot of "Dottore, Dottore" over the last two plus days and we're glad we did. Added an unique element to an interesting town.

Off to Milan to pick up the parents!



1 comment:

spuddybuddy said...

Reminds me of my thesis defense. Oh wait, except for the singing, the posters, and the whipped cream. Well, there was champagne at least (at 10:30 am).