Friday, June 29, 2007


I'm in Mainz, at the University, at 9.20 pm. I'm at a huge open-air party called sommerfest (the summer party) where basically thousands of university students (the ranks of whom I will soon join again) stroll along among stands that sell food and various kind of alcohol while university bands plays mostly heavy metal and punk rock, which I absolutely despise.

It's the 29 of June and, coming from the 30-something degrees of a sunny Rome, I found myself in less than 20 degrees and rain with nothing serious to cover myself. Whenever Susanne meets someone, a strictly german-only talk ensues. Finally, I'm in the office of AIESEC, the students' association that, at least in Rome, was the mortal enemy of my own association, ELSA.

All that said... I'm having a blast.

Friday, June 22, 2007

VCN Ethnic Dinners go to India

(click pictures to enlarge) The 11th Ethnic Dinner took the VCN ED crew back to India, which was last visited for Vietnam, and, for the first time, saw the event co-organized by two persons: Andrea (right) who dealt with the restaurant and myself dealing with the email exchanges and information. Honestly, hadn't it been for Andrea (who, coincidentally, joined the group at the previous asian dinner), the dinner would had never taken place as I was too busy with what's going on in my office and my leave of absence' request.

The restaurant chosen was in the middle of the Monti neighborhood, not too far from my office and in one of the most downtown zones of the city. The name of the place is "Guru" and it has the misfortune to be just two door next one of the most famous (and expensive) indian restaurants of the city, the "Maharajah". The restaurant, in my opinion, comes out well in a comparison anyway. It's small, tidy (as it was noticed even by the most careful ones among the girls of our little company) and the only bad side is that the place feels hot, perhaps even due the spicy food, and the waiters didn't help by forgetting to turn on the air conditioners.

The menu was a mix of meat and vegetable dishes, spicy but, according to the most sensitive ones of the table, "just as much" (and served with a series of sauces, just in case someone wanted to enhance or dim the spiciness). The vegetarians got a couple of separate dishes just for themselves.

Unfortunately, the names of the actual plates are unknown, but we started with a green soup which was really appreciated, followed by two different kinds of vegetarian croquettes which vaguely reminded of arab felafels. The first meat came in the work of Tandoori chicken and some spicy chicken balls. Then it was the time of rice, three different kind of beef meats presented in several different sauces (one in particular of these dishes was in absolute my favourite).

The food, it must be said, was not only of good quality and excellent taste, but so abundant that much was left at the end of the dinner, as it hadn't happened since the last peruvian dinner. Some indian beer was also present on the table, but I cannot say much about that as I didn't try it.

The company was less numerous than usual, maybe due the very late announcement made (on friday) or the summer period not encouraging evenings spent within 4 walls. Fact is, we were a pretty manageable 15 people, made of 6 italians, 2 each for Canada and UK and 1 from Brazil, Egypt, USA, Philippines and the Netherlands.

At the end of the dinner, everything was almost ruined by an idiot driving a Porsche speeding in the narrow streets and bumping with his rear-view mirror against Rachelle's elbow. Nothing serious, luckily, but still...

Anyway, next stop, probably, Argentina!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When the market is imperfect and the master gets in the picture.

One of the criteria that define a perfect market is the full and complete knowledge by the actors of the elements of the markets, most notably prices and information.

Now, what does it have to do with me. Yesterday I faxed my acceptance of the place that was offered to me to the MSC-IB programme. Today I was supposed to go transferring the 1st semester's fee, but a technicality (called work) prevented me, which is not a big deal as I will do that tomorrow morning. Those two acts, together with the subscription of a health insurance, will seal my fate for the period going from mid September 2007 until later January 2009.

And here it comes the imperfect market. Not only I'm jumping into his thing without a real and objective knowledge of what this programme will be able to give me in term of work opportunities, but I'm doing it without even knowing, still, if I'll be able to keep my job as a backdrop plan, as my HR department failed to answer my request for a sabbatical year within the deadline I had. Practically speaking, in a matter of months I will probably find myself with no sure future and no sure past to get back to.

Most of my friends, when they hear I'm going forward regardless, make a strange face when they do not tell me right away that I'm insane leaving a "sure place". Considering the European job market in general and the Italian one in particular they might actually be right. Between the mere chance of a better future and the reality of a steady job with benefits and health coverage paying already one and a half times the average Italian salary (although with little or none prospective of career), most of them would just go for the second, if faced with a "either or" choice.

But, ironically enough, even if at times the idea of a possible, total, utter disaster clouds my thoughts, that's the least of my concerns. Maybe is my Italian side, but I'm more concerned about leaving my family: a triple-bypassed father who thinks he can do just about everything someone in his twenties can do and a mother who is already showing the signs of the typical Italian motherly "he's leaving home" crisis. I'm concerned by the lack of information about their well being while I will be away and if everything will be ok with them.

I'm more concerned, and my mother got it perfectly right by instinct just as well as some friends of mine, that should I leave without a place to get back to, I would be forced to look for a job while abroad and consequently stay there indefinitely. The lack of information about where I will end up troubles me more than the lack of the one about what I will be doing, I do not know why.

Then, I'm concerned by something that most of my friends, well, the not Italian ones at least, take for granted, meaning living on my own and even worse, even if I hope so, with someone else, at least for the months I'll be spending in Germany. I do not know if it happens to all the ones who leave their house for the first time or only to overly pampered guys in their 30s, but the idea of being on my own for the menial tasks of grocery shopping, cooking and, my goodness, ironing is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Having to keep a straight balance and make ends meet without having incomes worries me more than having to sit through lessons taught in a foreign language.

And yet, I'm eager to start and put myself to the test. I just want to see if I can, after years my brain has been working at 10% of its capacity (at most), face university once again and in subjects that are not even vaguely familiar to me (and some even scaring, like finance... me and maths have always been a troubled relationship). To boldly go where no friend of mine has gone before and face hurdles and challenges that, as I said, makes some of them tell me straight on my face that I'm crazy.

To be honest, I'm also praying God I'm not making the greatest mistake of my, at this point not even that short, life...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Alea Iacta Est

Ok, I'm not moving war against the Roman Republic (soon to become empire) as Caesar was while allegedly uttering those words, but, anyway, yesterday I submitted my request for a sabbatical year (and something) in order to take part in the master programme.

Despite several people telling me that, as long as my boss and direct superior agree, the request is but a formality and having, more or less, made up my mind of going in any case, I can't but admit I'm nervous. If nothing else, there is the fact that effective from the 1st of June we do have a new HR manager about whom no one knows anything about. How funny to be a case study for the labor unions representatives at work...

On indirectly related news, to release some o the tension yesterday I finally managed to get back to my pool and found it, finally, uncovered. I must say it was quite something to swim under the (late afternoon) sun rather than under a heavy Kevlar white tent. The downside is that, having schools ended last friday, the pool was semi-crowded with teens who have nothing better to do and doing my 100 legs was at time more a slalom trial than a swimming one.

Yet, I hope to manage going there again today...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

News and great hopes...

Indeed, my blogging entries have plummeted since I changed department at work. No more blogging from work, and that's probably a good thin as it means I'm much more busy then I was before, with more work, more responsibilities and colleagues who keep me busy.

It is, then, quite ironic that, after three years spent doing nothing due what probably could be labelled as mobbing, it is right now that I'm busy that something I have been thinking forever and most especially over the last two years might eventually come true: studying abroad.

In fact, last tuesday I flew to Mainz for the final interview in order to be admitted to the Master of Science in International Business which is organized in cooperation between the London South Bank University and the Fachhochschule of Mainz. The interview was quick, the test that followed pretty easy, or at least so I thought, and I was offered a place right after.

So it was that in the evening I flew back home thinking of the main obstacle that is now between me and what has been for years a dream of mine: how to took part to the programme without losing my job in the process. In fact, the programme is supposed to last for 15 months, three months longer that the longest leave of absence that I could supposedly get from my office based on my contract.

Quite a problem, which I hope to be able to solve with the help of my bosses at work (which were quite supportive when I broke the news to them, even if my direct superior wasn't definitely thrilled) and the labor unions and basing on the discretionality that the whole matter has. And all has to be settled by the 20th of this month, date in which I shall have to confirm my participation, or giving that up.

And should I have to choose between studying and my job, if I would be put in the position of having to burn all bridges behind me? Right now, I'm leaning towards leaving in any case, yet I will have to face the moment to really know. People around me are neatly divided between the ones who think that, in case, I should keep my steady job and the ones, included (quite surprisingly, my father) who think I should go. Honestly? I hope I shall not have to make such decision...