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.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The weekend and the Idiot

How an intense, but all around nice, week-end in which you met 50 or 60 people can be spoiled by a single idiot.

Chapter I - the Marathon

Friday was quite a day. A very urgent contract forced me out of my house at 7.30 at and at my office desk from 8 am until past 6 pm, when I had to run to my german class where I stayed until 9 pm something. From there, running downtown where I met, after weeks, 3 of the 5 people who, together with me, are the roman chapter (one of the only two ever created) of Nova Roma. It were two pleasing hours spent talking mostly of history and archeology, lunching anathemas over the head of our mayor for having devastated the historical centre with the construction of the new Ara Pacis "box" (on the left, by many labelled with ungracious names as "the gas station" or "the huge public toilet building") and general mourning for the sad, very sad situation the roman vestiges are dealing with, between lack of funds and predatory administrators.

At 11, not satisfied, I jumped again on my scooter and did run almost on the other side of the city to meet some of the VCN gang gathered at a mexican restaurant for a "fiesta". I saw some old faces, many news ones (it must be the summer thing) and witnessed what the effects of pure, non watered-down, margaritas can have (and they aren't pretty, I assure you). Honestly, as the gathering dissolved not much later than I had arrived, I would had continued going to a disco, but for the lack of company I gave up the option and retired home at around 1.30 am, having been out and running for more than 18 hours straight.

Chapter II - The reconstruction of a house

Saturday started with good news, as Telecom called us to give us our new number, promise of a line to come. Then, the day was spent in the never-ending unpacking, rearranging, screwing screws, nailing nails, polishing woods and stuff like that. The dish-machine, much to my mom's joy, was installed, even if I admit my first attempt at screwing the water tube ended up in half a flood and a high pressure water jet not unlike the one you see in movies when a submarine gets hit by depth-charges (and that I smartly tried to stop with my hands before realizing, half drown, that all I needed to do was turning the lever over it to stop the water...).

What actually made the day was, towards sunset, the re-arrangement of the living room so that we can finally claim to have indeed a living room again, with couches neatly, even if maybe not definitively, arranged, main tv working and all the rest, so much that eventually we (my father and I) could sit down and watch the episodes of LOST recorded over the last 2 weeks (and the show keeps being of a very very good level).

Chapter III - The picnic and the idiot

Sunday could had been a perfect day. It started with going to vote (again, but this time for the administrative elections, meaning the mayor) and then by heading to the first ever VCN picnic at Villa Doria-Pamphili, the largest ones of the public parks of Rome. I parked my scooter in front of of of the gates of the villa, which turned out to be the wrong one (in more than a way) and waling a bit around (with a 14 kgs thermo-bag on my shoulder, I shall add) I finally managed to locate the rest of teh group in front of the right gate. We waited a bit and then I led a vanguard to reach the place we were supposed to occupy, finding it without any problem (a pretty well hidden meadow on top of a hill, the secrecy needed because we were going to have a barbecue, which is forbidden in roman parks).

People kept coming all through the morning and afternoon and eventually more than 30 people attended, bringing their own national dishes and accents, the barbecue was lit and soon started to produce a fair amount of grilled vegetables and meat, a rice-ball was produced and a frisbee (which would had caused the only major incident of the day landing squarely on Liesbeth's mouth as we were talking laying down on the grass) and it was an all around pleasant and cheerful, even if in a sort of low-profile way, afternoon.

And then...

Basketball was planned from 6 at San Paolo's Basilica, so I offered Liesbeth a ride home, given I was going in the same direction. Unfortunately, as we reached my scooter and tried to open the helmets' box, I noticed something was wrong and a quick check revealed that someone had tried to force it open. Now, the valiant box and lock had resisted the intrusion, but the latter was rendered useless, so much that now *I* couldn't open it and eventually, by trying, the key broke. So there I was, stuck, because some idiot had thought of trying to steal whatever the content of a small box, forcing it in open daylight in front of one of the most busy entrances of the largest public park of Rome. Truth to be told, as I tried to force it open myself, not a single person investigated about what I was doing, but still. Another truth to be told, this scooter was born under a bad light about thieves as over the last two ears he has two helmets, the sign-light and the whole front section stolen.

Anyway, I had Liesbeth going home by herself and waited for my father to deliver me an emergency helmet (you cannot drive without one, as if any policeman saw you, they probably wouldn't stop you, in which case you could explain the situation, but would fine you from afar and point would be taken away from your driving licence). Just by principle and in the firm resolution of not having an accursed moron spoiling totally my day, I eventually made it to the basketball playground and enjoyed, as much as I could, a hour of game and enjoyed again the sensation of mixed people that, in my experience, is typical of only two places: basketball playgrounds and billiard bars. Where else, in fact, can you find that kind of mix, the evident criminal next to the lawyer, the survived to many of a violent brawl next to the pure sportsman, all playing together? Just there, I think.

Anyway, so was the day, and I returned home for dinner, tried again, and failed, together with my father to force open the helmet box and then just gave up. Later that night, but I was sleeping already, my brother had a blast using his new circular saw on my helmet-box, finally cracking it open and recovering my helmets. It was quite a sad sight this morning, tho, and even more sad as I dutch-taped it closed, waiting to buy a new one... same one, if possible.

Oh, btw... as of this morning, I have a telephone line again... who knows if internet came along with it?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some more brief news from the moving frontline

I know, my dear and usually anonymous reader, I know, I'm neglecting my blog. And if you ever wondered if by any chance I had been buried forever by a collapsing pile of boxes, I can tell you that no, I wasn't. Or rather, I had a collapsing pile of boxes on me, but it didn't trap me, it just reminded me of the weight of the culture which is a lot, especially when it lands right on your your shoulder.

Seriously, I'm having such busy days. Yesterday, for instance, I got out of my house at 7.30 am and managed to get back past 10 pm (and even then, couldn't get to bed before midnight, having to pull together some things needed by my father). Today it's probably not going to be any better, with a meeting about the "VCN website project" planned at 8.30 and probably ending no earlier than midnight.

And tomorrow? German until 9 pm and possibly a Mexican fiesta afterwards. Saturday will be a resting day, which means more unpacking work for at least twelve hours and sunday the week will be closed with a VCN picnic and possibly basketball. Quite a program, isn't it?

At least, the house is slowly starting to look like a proper place for human beings to live in and I even recovered the lost books, which had ended by mistake in an anonymous boxes and were quite likely heading for that parallel universe called "cellar". To be more precise, one of them (after all, aren't parallel dimensions accesses thro black holes and by definition infinite?), as my dad bought one just for the books, realizing we would had never had enough space, even with the bigger apartment and everything, for the final 159 (yes, one hundred-fifty-nine) book boxes. I'm still missing a few of my own, but they are probably displaced in the last minute boxes and will turn up at some point, or will be lost forever but will be no big damage.

The very bad thing is that we still have no phone line which means no internet and that's QUITE a problem on all levels, as you might imagine (and that's alsoa side reason of my not having updated my blog over the last days...).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Brief news from the frontline

My dear anonymous and accidental reader, let me tell you one thing: if you ever thought that the worst hazard you could possibly face for your personal safety was either the avian flu or an Iran with Nuclear weapons and a leader as Ahmadinejad, well, you were close, but no goldfish. In fact, while at least the latter is possibly the worst thing the world could have nightmares about, it's true that on a personal level moving can be much worse.

And in fact, after the last 3 days, I can tell you that moving is bad for your health on so many ways you would be surprised:

- on a physical level, for instance, moving boxes of books each weighting an average of 30 kgs is bad for your back and shoulders, the occasional fall of material (one right on my face) is bad for your skin and bones, the clouds of dusts raised are a permanent hazard for your lungs and eyes and a enraged parent or brother at the fall of a given, precious, object is dangerous all around for your life

- on a psychological level, the distress caused by the wails of your mom for one of the boxes containing the "good" table-service having been crushed (despite the countless "fragile" labels carefully placed everywhere) with the consequence of a good half dozen of shattered crystal glasses is equal to the one produced by realizing that at least two of your own books boxes never made it to the house and are therefore displaced together with their precious (ok, relatively precious, but for you it is!) content. Both can cause permanent mental damages.

That said, the moving is going along with its incidents and victims (just bruises and scratches, tho, nothing too bad) but should be completed tomorrow. When the house will look again as a house rather than a baggage depot of a train station right after a massive bombing, that's a whole different story altogether. For now, no phone and, worse, internet and no way to know when, if ever, we'll have it again. I'm not sure who's more annoyed about it, if myself or Susanne.

Anyway, friday I managed, even if exhausted beyond any biological level, to get to the VCN Happy Hour and I must say the place was indeed very nice and, despite a transports strike that probably forced quite a few people at home, there were quite a few people and new faces as well. It is quite possible that next sunday a barbecue will be organized, while I've been invited to play basketball on sundays, which I am inclined to accept, even if it's years I do not play (not to mention my not exalting height, obviously).

Saturday was a full moving day and crumbling to bed early out of exhaustion, while sunday was closed with a japanese dinner with Liesbeth followed by the odd cocktail at Campo dei Fiori.

And a new week starts, and more boxes will be moved and re-opened, dust raised and so on and so forth...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A grey day

As grey was the dust that was raised yesterday when even the most forgotten corners of the house were searched and uncovered. It's amazing how much corners an apartment where all the walls and furniture are strictly following the most straight geometry possibly, the 90 degrees angle, can have.

Anyway, today we start moving and by consequence yesterday was so busy that I didn't even have the time to write my daily entry. It's weird, now that the day has come, I realize that I definitely have never loved the place where I've lived in the past 25 years, but that some people I'm definitely going to miss, and even moe strange, most of them are those people I often don't even know the name of, but with whom I've exchanged a few lines almost daily.

For instance the man of the gas pump, who has roughly my age and who I've seen growing from a kid when at 16 I refilled my first scooter's tank, to, way too suddenly, a man when he's father, from whom he inherited the job, died 10 years ago, till now, when he's married and with three kids.

Or my family doctor, who has been next to us in the worst moments We've ever faced, when my grandma had her brain hemorrhage that ended her life years before her body decided to follow suit, or when my dad had his heart attack and triple bypass. Yes, I'm going to miss him and his reassuring approach a lot.

Or our apartment's neighbor with whom we established extremely good relations, and with whom I suspect we'll keep having visits, even thanks to the fact of having being sort of in-laws when our cats decided they liked each other so much to produce three wonderful kittens.

My barber is another, to whom I do not even need to tell anymore how I want my hair cut and with whom I have a relation based on glances and nods rather than on words, that are usually spent, in the most traditional barber-client link, to comment on the latest football game or on the casual passer-by in front of the shop's window, especially if it's a woman.

Leaving is a bit like to dying, we say in Italy, and never as in the last three days I've came to realize how much truth there is in such a statement. My dad made a note, in the family's name, bidding farewell to the building's residents now that the Costantini's family leaves after 44 years of having been, first with my grandparents and then with us, on of the most long standing presences there. I must admit, I was seriously moved.

On a merrier note, yesterday I managed, despite everything, to attend my German class and it was a blast. On one side, it's somewhat evident that I'm too advanced (if such a term can be used for my ridiculous knowledge of German) in respect to my classmates as the things I did learn 10 years ago slowly are coming back to my mind. On the other side, it's fun and artistic.

Artistic? Well, yes, sorta... we do get to sing a lot for instance and the interesting thing is, if I haven't mentioned it before, that among the pupils there are two (Korean) opera singers and a musician (italian and german are the most important languages for such professions). So, while one of the first classes we ended up murmuring a kind of rap supposed to make us remember forever things like "How's your name" and "where are you coming from", yesterday it was the time of a canon about the alphabet. To be said, it was immediately clear, when the korean singers opened their mouth, what is the difference before "singing" and "butchering some words along the notes", while our wednesday's teacher, Donatella, looked as having quite some fun playing the director...

And yes, if you think that sounds like kindergarten, it indeed is... but after all, a 5 years old kid probably could speak better than all of us together could ever manage at this stage.

And finally, this morning we got a call from the phone company... while the number was activated at the new house, the internet will require "a long time". Good lord, XXI century and Italy, the two most conflicting things ever. I really wonder when I will be able to connect again from my house... I bet Susanne will love the news.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Moving with a flat tyre

Yesterday afternoon was my first day of packing, as the day of moving draws closer and closer, and in a matter of hours I did fill 9 boxes of books and papers, and I'm probably not even half way through.

Now, besides being half choked by the dust, I had a pretty bitter sweet feeling assaulting me as, moving papers that had laid untouched for years, I ended up, like an archaeologist digging deeper to reach the humankind's past, to find my own. And in fact, in almost a perfect order, I laid my eyes on presents, postcards and mails of people who have been part of my life, sometimes an important part of my life, and who have, save a couple of happy exceptions, disappeared totally.

I found out a Kelvin and Hobbes book presented to me by my german ex, Christina, when I started working with the accompanying card with the obvious sweet words and, very contrasting, I found a notebook of my Ukrainan/American ex with some kind of chronology of our first three weeks.

After that a kind of children book, and yet wonderful in its own way, about dragons, a present of the never met son of a never met, but not less important because of that, friend from New York, Joanne, whihc gave me quite a headache to place in a box properly due its very peculiar size and front cover. I'm pretty happy my new bookcase has adjustable shelves, unlike th eold one, so I will finally be able to have it standing properly.

Then I found a very pretty watercolor of my seaside house made by Bea (the only on who is still, and I must say I'm very glad of it, part of my life) on a sunny spring day of almost precisely 4 years ago, which I had stored so well in order to preserve it that, as it often happens, I couldn't find it anymore. Then I found a little mirror in a wooden frame representing a smiling moon, reminding me of a very different me in Belgrade, 6 years ago, and of two girls by the same name, Jelena, but so very different.

And then, a delicate, so delicate that i must have glued together a dozen times already, Sagittarius made of violet glass in Venice, almost 20 years ago, which I thought broken and lost and that rather, I have no idea how, had ended up behind a row of books and managed not to b crushed and reduced to sparkling splinters.

Now, if all those findings ere made while packing the books, I wonder what shall I face today that I start packing the more personal things.

In the meanwhile, this is occupying all my time, so much that I almost forgot how the gym looks like and I even had to call off a meeting about the VCN Rome website, which I would very much lay down, at least a first version, moderators allowing it, by the end of june.

Today the day started happily with a flat tyre, produced by a nail (much alike teh one in the picture, and removed in the very same way) that, by the look, must have been waiting for the chance of getting stuck in my scooter for at least 50 years. Now, what kind of evil spirit must posses a nail for it to wait decades in the dirt, under the rain, the sun, with cold and warm, resisting the natural corrosion and the call of nature that would had requested it to turn to rust, and JUST for producing a hole in my tyre?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Back from the Weekend and a Philosophical Question

It was a very nice week-end with everything needed for a couple: dining out, moments of intimacy, moments of mingling with friends, moments of total relaxation and the occasional passing tension. Problem is, it passed too quickly, as it always does, and now it will be a month before I'll see Susanne again, in Berlin, for the prom ball.

Anyway, I must say I did enjoy immensely laying down (and unavoidably, falling asleep) on Villa Borghese's grass near the lake, but even more being around friends, Liesbeth and some of her WFP friends, Alessandro, Sergio and, even for only minutes, Benjamin, Alessandro's friend and my acquaintance from Copenaghen, who's visiting Rome, as he often does, in these days. I think the fact is that I like the idea of being seen as a couple, making it sort of official, which, on the other hand, is the reason why I'm sometimes troubled by the fact I haven't met even a single one of Susanne's friends in the last 10 months, despite the repeated visits to Berlin. Then I stop and realize that most of her friends are a bunch of teen boys and I'm not troubled anymore.

For the rest, the new house, which Susanne and me got to pre-inaugurate, looks great and I already got used to a 1 and a half place new bed (I think, a queen-size one in english terms) so much that when I moved back home on sunday I had problems falling asleep. It will be fun in the coming days to explore the neighborhood. Oh, yeah, the coming days as, quite expectantly, the final moving has been set for this thursday and friday so, by the week-end, we will have moved (while for settling, I assume it will take quite longer).

In the meanwhile, in a first tour of the area, I happened to spot a set of new condos with a big, bright, new sign saying "Apartments for sale, directly from the builder" and I'm set to investigate as soon as I get a spare moment. I *want* to get my place.

On sunday, the usual gloom of parting was a bit eased by a funny episode happened at the airport. Ciampino has a quite undersized terminal compared to the passenger traffic it got to have since it was chosen by the two major low-cost companies of Europe, Ryanair and Easyjet, plus a bunch of others, as their base in Rome. It is especially lacking places for people who have done the check in and are unwilling to move right away past the personal checks and in the boarding area and that is particularly evident in spring and summer, when staying outside is quite pleasant.

Having arrived quite early (I discovered that with my scooter, from the new house to the airport it takes exactly 15 minutes), Susanne and I decided to sit down on a sidewalk's border and than something that would had been fit for a tv commercial happened: two kids started to play with a little ball. Then a couple of older kids joined, soon followed by a group of adults, male and female, passengers of different flights who were all likewise sitting around waiting. Eventually this multicolored group of people all running behind a ball yelling and being cheered upon in different languages ruled the small area right in front of the terminal... and suddenly vanished again, as the owner of the ball had to join his parents and take his flight.

And in less than a month, the Football World Championships will start in Germany. How fitting.

Coincidentally, sunday evening, knowing Susanne was not going to be online, after quite a while turned on trillian and yahoo messenger with it and I bounced in a friend of mine I had been wishing to talk to since a few weeks now. During the talk we had, it turned out she has this interesting behaviour: When she finds herself loving (not simply liking) someone she decides she can't, for whatever reason, have anything with, she purposefully indulges in the very behaviour she knows will drive the guy away. I found it absolutely inconceivable that someone not only did give up the pursue of the loved one, but actually actively engaged himself in acts led to have the loved one judge you badly and even hate you, she said it was just a very easy way out.

So the philosophical question, if anyone of you, my accidental readers, will feel like wasting a moment hitting the "comments" thing at the end of the post to leave his opinion is: is it really possible to decide to behave in a way that will have your loved one, at best, consider you poorly, and if it is possible, is it... in any way reasonable?

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Fast week

It's so true, when you are busy, time flies. It seems yesterday that I was looking at Susanne passing the security checks at Ciampino, and this evening I'll pick her up again at Termini as sunday evening has already been turned into friday afternoon.

Ah well, at least, there are some good news.. first of all, my new bedroom has arrived on time and is not assembled, shining and all ready to welcome me for a pre-inauguration of the new house tonight. Also the mattress arrived, which will make it undubiously more confortable than having to sleep on the staves.

The new house is actually a bit of a patchwork at the moment. The kitchen is all ready, except the dish-washer which will be moved from the old house. The main bathroom has the bathtub, but not the sink and related furniture which will be retained as well from the old house, while the service bathroom is all ready except the shower cabin, that has no cabin. Which means I can wash my face in the service room, but have to go to the main on for a shower, and to the service one again for brushing my teeth. Interesting, cosnidering that tomorrow morning there could be people around the house to assemble some other wardrobes. The rest of the house is totally empty, with its shining wooden floors.

Speaking of shining, I wonder if all the light we'll get in the new house will not turn us blind. I'm not kidding, I'm so not used to natural lights at all anymore!

Anyway, I'm planning to take Susanne at a japanese restaurant tonight, even if I have no idea what kind of food is available there for a vegetarian, and then an icecream or possibly see Ale and company (my real life friends as opposed to my internet ones, not my imaginary friend, I never had one). Weather, tho, is still uncertain so I am not sure if we'll try the seaside again or not.

About the news. After a real, all around, proud, communist elected as president of the lower house (Bertinotti) and a former christian democrat forced by the tiny centre-left majority at the higher house (Marini), in the last days the same majority decided to elect a 81 years old former-communist mr. Napolitano (on the right in a picture from 1956) as President of the Republic.

To be noted that napolitano spent most of his active political life being one of the higher-ups of that italian communist party which received money from Stalin, Krushev and Bhresnev in order to ignite, sooner or later, a communist revolution in Italy... and that says a lot)

I wonder if I have the requirements to ask political asylum to the States, at this point.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And some more madness

So, where did I leave yesterday? Oh yes, the world had gone crazy.

Not like it got any saner in the last hours, anyway, as one opens the newspapers and what does he find? That in the newly formed UN Human Right Council, which takes the place of the UN Commission on Human Rights which lately had as president no less than the famous Human Rights supporter , and Lybia president, Muammar Qaddafi, sees among its 47 elected members countries which have always been on the front-line of the fight for human rights. Only, on the wrong side.

And in fact, those countries, elected by the Council, are China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and a handful of african and asian countries which have, at best, dubious records on human rights.

So let's see. The administrative reform of the UN, which is becoming one of the greatest example of international corruption, has been practically scrapped. The Security Council reform is going nowhere. A couple of days ago news of sexual favors asked in exchange of food by employees of various UN Agencies (among other organizations) in Africa were, again, around to be heard. We all know, I suppose, of the Oil for Food scandal. The institution is totally unable to intervene even when genocides are evidently going on as in Rwuanda back then and Darfur right now and now China and Cuba spearheading the efforts for Human Rights. Could we please close the UN and possibly demolish the building?

Oh, I got a call today from Romania. Why? Because a Romenian radio station apparently wants to interview me (after suggestion of the president of ELSA Bucharest, Arabela Trifoi) about my involvement in ELSA. Yes, right. Now, that wouldn't even be the first time as I first went on air in Serbia, more precisely in Novi Sad, a few years ago, again about ELSA, but at least I was physically there. I do not know this time how they do intend to proceed, we'll see if anything will come out of it.

A scientifical alien in the family

Did I say I was heading towards a very busy week? Well, turned out I was greatly underestimating it.

First news: my brother graduated in telecommunications engineering today, effectively making him the first member of the family graduating in a university in a scientific subject at least in the last two centuries, but most probably from the foundation of Rome (which is, although some scholars stubbornly refuses to accept that, the real beginning of history). Now, that fell on us as a total surprise, due the very peculiar nature of my brother.

That had several consequences. First of all, that meant that my parents where not allowed to be there at the thesis' discussion (and that's not so uncommon in the family, i refused to have them at mine, either). also, that a huge dinner of celebration was held tonight. I actually just got back from it and I'm full as the proverbial (at least here) pig, as the chosen restaurant is one of those that floods you with food and drinks, even for the already quite insane italian standards.

That also made me reflect on something. As I scrambled form work to find a present for my brother, I realized how much I do not know him in many ways. I know how he behaves and I can predict how he will react to this or that as if he was me as, after all, we have divided a room for the last 25 years, which might be more than I will ever spend with my future wife, if I will ever get to marry (which I'm starting to doubt at this point, but that's another matter).

Yet, I have no idea how to reply to a simple question as "what would he like as a graduation present?". Sad to say, I do not know his tastes in books and art (if he has.. do engineers enjoy such pleasures like the rest of the mortals?), I do not know of any hobby of his except his radio-amateur things (and there, my knowledge is nil, so no way).

So eventually, I went for the most classic of the graduation presents, a pen. Now, ok, engineers don' t use pens, they can hardly write with their hands anymore (as he confirmed, btw) so used they are to computer keyboards, but a pen is a symbol more than anything else. But even with pens, the possible choices are almost infinite. Different brands, stiles and of course, a roller or a fountain pen? So, eventually, I followed my own tastes and chose a silver roller (as at least I know he doesn't use fountain pens) with a modern decoration. Apparently he liked it, who knows, but the point is, how much do I really know my brother? And if I am not sure about someone I have known since he came in the (until that point, MY) house from hospital at the age of 6 days and a few hours and proceeded to steal my mini-bed (that at 2 and something I still enjoyed to use for my afternoon naps), who can I claim to know?

Oh, and just to mak things clear, I love my bro. I really do, even if he can be, and most often is, the most annoying, unsociable, unmannered and rough person I know. And an engineer too.

News number 2: apparently my new bedroom, FINALLY, *should* be delivered this friday morning. Which is good, considering I'm supposed to sleep there, at the new house, friday night with Susanne, so much that today I even bought the new, larger, mattress which *should* *should* be delivered on friday morning as well. I can't remember which of the many strategist I've read so much in my early years said that the chances of disasters are exponential to the use of conditional in the plan, but if he's right, I will probably end up sleeping under one of the many bridges of Rome friday night. Could be worse tho, could be winter.

Which brings me to news number 3: this spring is being, again, quite rainy. Today, for work, I had to move from my office to a secondary office we have 500 meters away. Of course I had to be there at a fixed time. Of course 30 minutes before that fixed time one of the most intense deluges mankind ever witnessed since that wet affair of 40 nights and 40 days narrated in the most successful book of the world came down on me. Of course the peak of the cataclysm was reached when I had no other option, to be in time, than move out. Without umbrella, obviously (who ever needs an umbrella in Rome in may, after all, and how would you take it on a scooter anyway?).

But since you need a smile every day, let's be sued over a smile. Yes. You know the smiley, that universally recognized, often annoyingly abused, iconic representation of a smile thing that we all and always use? I always thought that was one of the greatest examples of free domain, something the world population, at least that part with access to computers, had appropriated to itself. Well, I was wrong some french (of course, couldn't but be french) guy registered that as a trademark in 75 different countries (gee, if he travels) and as Wal-mart tried to register it as well in the States as a trademark, they got sued. To be noted that the very creator of the thing, an american, which means a citizen of that country where people register even random combination of letters because you never know if in the future they couldn't become something meaningful and to make money from, hadn't registered it.

This world hasn't gone crazy, this world has gone crazy a long, long, long time ago. And with this, I head to bed.

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Intense Week-end and a New Busy Week

And so, another week-end is gone, a new week starts and it promises to be a very busy one on all fronts.

The week-end was nice, even if marred by several incidents. On friday evening , running away from my German class, I picked up Susanne at the train station 8where she had arrived with a bus from Ciampino airport) and we went immediately to eat at my favourite restaurant (L'"hostaria del Moro" in vicolo del cinque, their fillet in green pepper sauce, served rare, is one of the most delicious things ever) where we enjoyed the food and the people strolling by in a quiet and warm friday evening.

After that, we moved to join the people having the bi-weekly VCN Happy Hour, something I had missed over the last month and a half and that I immensely enjoyed taking part in again. I recognized a good number of old faces among a majority of new ones and that confirms the fact that as time passes the VCN HH is enjoying an ever increasing popularity. Now, that is good on every side except one: we will soon need to find larger places to held it and, considering the temperatures we are going to have soon, in the open. Not an easy task. Among the rest, the project of a VCN website, "membership card" and research for discounts was discussed and met an overwhelming appreciation by the ones present. Quite the opposite can be said of the VCN moderators, I'm afraid. We'll see.

Anyway, when we decided to call it a night we headed for this little, but quite delightful, studio I happened to find on the VCN list as well, by far the nicest place I stayed with Susanne so far (well, ok, the studio in Paris, maybe... but that was more the atmosphere than the studio, as while it was nice and cozy, the one in Rome was bigger and better).

The morning after was devoted to intensive shopping for her graduation ball, which had proven fruitless in Paris. Superior knowledge of the territory and of the language (it happens that shop-keepers in Rome speak usually some form of italian) were rewarded this time with the final acquisition of a Versace sample of dress, the kind that leaves some of the body exposed but leaves the strategic places properly under cover. Something even an italian boyfriend can live with.

In the afternoon, drive to the seaside house... and there the problems started, as almost as we arrived, I started to feel ill and for the rest of the evening and the whole night I was in extremely pitiful conditions. The morning found me aching, totally de-hydrated and weak, so much that for a while I wondered if I shouldn't had called someone to recover us from Rome. Luckily, things improved over the day and finally, at 5, we left for the airport with plenty of time, 2 and a half hours to cover 80 kms, for us to comfortably make it to the check-in...

... or so I thought, as at 20 kms of Rome we got into a mighty (and, we found out later, totally unexplainable) jam. And so, with me showing my best reassuring "don't worry, it's ok, we shall make it alright" poker face and Susanne growing nervous by the minute, we eventually managed to make it to the airport with only a 15 minutes margin. I dropped her in front of the departure gate and yet my sixth sense suggested me not to leave right away and in fact seconds later I got an sms from Susanne telling me the plane was one hour late anyway. Well, at least, we managed to part in a better way than a hurried sentence.

And so I managed to get home and have dinner and sit on the couch with all the intention to catch up with the news of the week, but in fact I fainted as soon as I touched the couch's pillow and I barely remember walking from the living room to my bed.

And so now a new week has started and work will be intense, gym will be hopefully intense, there will be more german, the vcn website project will take away more time and eventually Susanne will be again here next friday evening. Gee, I'm 30, can I still stand such rhythm?

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Busy busy busy. Yesterday I found out I was one day behind with my mental clock, as apparently, not having worked on monday (Workers' Day), my brain skipped a day. Now this has three practical consequences: the weekend is closer, Susanna's arrival is therefore closer as well, but today I have to manage all the things I had planned to attend to in two days, both at work and for the coming of the above mentioned German freulein (which I discovered it's not a term to be used anymore, it seems).

And speaking of which, german class was interesting, even if possibily too easy. Two different teachers, one from north Germany (Donatella from Hamburg) and one from the south (Klaus from Bayern) in what they call a "tandem", which is supposed to have us facing right away the widely different accents in german. A dozen fellow students, two of which from Korea and, given Rome is an ancient city but relatively small, out of the Institut I bumped in this friend of mine, Nicoletta, who I hadn't seen for at least 6 or 7 years and who turned out to be studying german as well, even if at the 4th year. Flattering, and yet vaguely disappoining, what Donatella said: she thinks I'm already ahead of what I could learn in the class I'm in. On the other hand, there is not an advanced class held in a time frame I could attend, so there I will stay, in the meanwhile refreshing my ear, learning new words and hopefully building some stronger foundations for the next level.

Anyway, I have now to finish a couple of contracts, then I will run to gym, them to the German library to buy the coursebook, then at the theatre (years i didn't go to a theatre!), while at least, after some adventures, I managed to fix a place for us to stay tomorrow night in the city. On saturday, after some intense shopping, seaside... hopefully, as the weather forecasts give mixed news right now.

In the various news, I discovered another japanese restaurant near my office, where I managed to go with some colleagues this time and where we had the nice surprise to discover they take our tickets (if you want to know what I'm talking about, my occasional reader, you shall have to go a bit back in the archives).

Also, something is happening on the VCN Rome groups where, in a typical human fashion, two people, one being me, had the same genial idea about improving the group by trying to negotiate some discounts in shops and restaurants at about the same time. Interesting thing is, the moderators, who I had never heard from or about, immediately showed up in the form of a private mail to the two of us in which, kindly, they seemed to suggest, in between the lines, that we should had let go the project. Interesting.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Never say never

To be labelled among the "Things I should had done years ago", sub-category "I tried, didn't manage, should try again", things, today I'm starting to study german again. First time was when I was still a teenager, right when I started university, and was a painful and pretty pointless effort that did last two years.

Not much is left of that first attempt and I had somehow told to myself that I would had never tried again. Now, eleven years later, as it almost always happens when I say or even just think along that line, here I am again. Many could actually say I should had started studying again at least a couple of years ago, but I can always reply, in my defence, that the only reason I had at that time to get back to german was indeed able to speak italian in a better way than some of the real italians I know.

Ok, poor excuse, I know. Anyway, better late than never, isn't that what people say? I'm pretty curious to see how it will be. In the gentle manner that is well known to be the typical german approach to things, the course, at the Goethe Institut, sees classes of TWO AND A HALF hours, TWICE a week for THREE months. Should my brain survive the onslaught, a nice exam awaits for me in the heats of the torrid roman august. There was actually an option I could have signed for in order to be flogged once a month as well, but I declined, thinking it would had been considered a show-off for someone enrolled in the first class, maybe next time.

And as if that all was not enough, I know I will also be subject to the jokes I'm sure Susanna will make of my catastrophic italian accent when I will ever manage to put together a sentence gifted with an at least passable meaning.

Why do I do that? Well, what can I say... Die Liebe besiegt alles.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New Week, Old Story

Sometimes it seems like time has frozen and nothing will ever change again. Last time I did write something about the world in general the main lines were the chaotic situation of italian politics and Iran nuclear ambitions.

Today, the main news are the chaotic situation of italian politics and Iran nuclear ambitions. At least, I can say that after a 5 weeks stop for a wrongly diagnosed inguinal hernia, I can at last get back to gym today, and I will do with scarce enthusiasm (it's hard to start again after such a long stop) but somehow happy I'm getting to move again.

If only my country could move on as well. The 25th of April, Mrs Letizia Moratti, former minister of Berlusconi's government and daughter of a Dachau nazist lager's prisoner was forced to leave, together with her father, the yearly celebrations of Italy Liberation by the nazists that effectively ended the WWII (and opened the bloody months of retaliations in which tenths of thousand of italians who had been members of the fascist party or cooperated with it were sought after in their homes by the communist partisans and executed, but that's never remembered officially) and Israel flags were burned in the street.

The 1st of may, the same mrs Moratti had to run from the celebrations of the Workers' day after her very physical safety was threatened by scores of protesters from the extreme-left, quite ironically, labelled by the media "no global pacifists", "communist antagonists" or "social centers' people". The same people that a bit later yelled the slogan "(lets have) 10, 100, 1000 Nassyria" in reference to the city of Iraq where 2 years ago 19 italian soldiers died in a kamikaze blast and where just the day before another 3 had died for a roadside bomb.

Italy seems genetically and ideologically unable to move on from the violent confrontation model that sees an enemy rather than opponent on the other side. Which has been notable in the last 50 years, most especially in the laden years, but that has been part of the italian DNA since, probably, the roman times (populares and optimates), all through the middle age (guelphs and ghibellines), Renaissance (France and Spain supporters) and so on, so forth.

And I have to admit I'm not immune by that, as I can't but notice how I became unable to bear anything coming from what is improperly labelled as "left" in Italy, so much that I do not even feel about discussing anymore, with maybe one or two notable exceptions, with someone repeating even one of the numerous slogans which has been appropriated by that political side. And I see just as much as the same behaviour is followed by the other side, where even a profession of mild sympathy for the conservative side is seen as admitting idiocy, leprosy and and nazism all at the same time, and with pride.

Oh, at least, after that some for life senators well in their 90s have been forced to sit in the Senate for 22 hours over a 36 hours period in order to have every single vote possible, we do have new speakers for our chambers.

I'm sure, and sometimes even hopeful, that Iran will soon give us something more serious to keep ourselves busy with rather than our petty squabbles, anyway.