Friday, 27 April 2012

today's special

Today's special

I normally bring my own food for lunch. I got some issues with the food of the canteen. Or maybe it's better saying I got issues with Dutch food. No, wait, even better: the Dutch food got issues with me, and maybe it's not just the food.

However, today's special. The menu says so and I can't agree more with that.
Today's my last day of work.
I'm a ball of nerves at the moment: a little pinch of sadness mixed in the general happiness and excitement and fear for the next days, weeks and months.

Yesterday I've agreed to not bring food from home and to eat what was on offer at the canteen. Anto's wife, Cova, decided to come to my "last supper", as Flavia put it.
It was her first time visiting the office and I fear she's been extremely unlucky. The canteen is normally bad but today it went beyond that!

The "today's special" turned out to be a sandwich with brie and lettuce and I-don-t-want-to-know-what-else.
Being Friday, I decided to settle for fish and chips and ended up having chips only: the salad was soggy and the fish was frozen and uncooked on the inside.
Maybe naming it "last supper" had something to do with it, but this meal has turned out to be quite an unforgettable one, so that I quickly had to snap a photo as a keepsake.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

siamo noi questo piatto di grano

Il 25 aprile è una giornata che mi è sempre piaciuta.
Crescendo, viaggiando, pensando a come il mondo è migliorato e peggiorato, il 25 aprile lo apprezzo sempre di più.

La storia siamo noi, siamo noi padri e figli, 
siamo noi, bella ciao, che partiamo.

Monday, 23 April 2012

People as places as people

Last Monday evening, before going to bed, I quickly checked the rss feed and noticed Daniele posted something on his blog. Opened the page to read it...  lo and behold! He resigned!
Actually I should have said "He resigned as well", given that I'm just in his same condition.
He started his countdown and at the time of posting, he had 9 days of work left and counting, as the last day of the month is public holiday (Queen's day), so he'll be finishing on Friday.

Just like me, I noted.
And it was only at that exact point in space and time, sitting on my bed with the iPad on my lap that the notion that I resigned completely sank in. There I was, in the darkness of the room, only the light from the screen making my skin look slightly blueish, staring into the dark, with my brain spinning too fast for me to follow it. It's quite easy to laugh at/with myself once I think of me this way.

I resigned. I have few days left to work in my office.
I got a moving company booked, a new job, a new life, a return home I wished for a very long time.
I got yet a new beginning.

I'm happy, yet scared.
I got huge eye bags and sudden fits of maniac snickering.

I'm on the move again. Nervous, anxious, excited, restless.

To answer a question
It'll probably take more
If you're already there
Well then you probably don't know

Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we're the places that we wanted to go

People have reacted differently to the news of my going back to Italy. Overall everybody's happy, but there's a question lingering on the air: why are you coming back? Everything is so bad here, the crisis is huge and Italy is shit, so why don't you want to stay out of this mess? Why don't you like living abroad?
And I am ready with the answers, with the gut feeling people might never really see things as I did while abroad: that living abroad is no different from living in Italy. It is both good and bad, it has positive and negative sides. And right now the positive sides are sinking under the weight of the negative ones for me.

It's hard to get hold of
And hard to let go
Always something we look for
From the day we were born
Instead we're the people that we wanted to know
And we're the places that we wanted to go
Yeah we're the places that we wanted to go

A lot of people emigrated from Italy and never went back. For one reason or another they settled in, they felt welcomed and happy enough in their new country to decided to stay. I didn't. After some years I got the distinct notion that my life has frozen: my sisters got kids, some friends got married, some split, some moved away... their lives changed while I felt mine got stuck in this loop of feeling guilty because I didn't go often back home and upset because fewer and fewer people came to visit me abroad.
I know that (my) problems didn't get solved just by living abroad and certainly won't disappear once I settle back in Italy. I'm also sadly and painfully aware that there is no Shangri-La on earth. It's about trying to find the best solution for yourself, the place where you can feel a bit more at peace with yourself, other people and the world.

I don't regret my decision to move abroad, or any of the following ones to be honest. These last few years were an eye-opening experience. I met loads of amazing people that enriched my life. Fair enough, I also met some outstanding douchebags and idiots and allowed them too much control on my life and emotion, but even so the outstanding balance is positive.
Moving back is not a matter of defeat. It's not something I feel bad about because things didn't work out for me in Holland. They didn't, that's quite obvious, but I don't regret it: quite the contrary, I will forever have infinite gratitude for everything and everybody that lead me  here to the Netherlands, because through it I found my way back home.
It's not a matter of victory either, I don't like to think of life as a kind of competition, where only two possible results matter.

Always asking a question
And I don't want to know
Like the wind across strings
That had finally let go
And the people you love
But you didn't quite know
They're the places that you wanted to go

I look back and it seems odd to think of me before moving abroad.
Back then I did somehow hold the silly notion that the answers and solutions were abroad, that things would work there because of these country not being plagued by Italian issues. Naive, fair enough. But it's a common trait amongst Italians: everything is screwed up here and nothing works! Everybody is a thief and nobody does anything without getting something back.
Actually it's a common trait amongst humans: there's an Eldorado somewhere, out there, just not here, we just need to go and get it.
The greener grass on the other side of the fence calls you like the sirens tempted Ulysses, you need to leave and if when you arrive Eldorado is nowhere to be found, then you got to leave again.

It's the ambition inside our souls.
It's the fear of facing our fears and problems.
It's the curiosity that makes our life interesting.

It was not the intention
But we let it all go
Well it messed up the function
And sure fucked up the flow
I hardly have people that I needed to know
'Cause you're the people that I wanted to know

(People as places as people, Modest Mouse)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

aRissocats Cribs

As I told some times already, my family, like any other family, is quite unique.
So I was not that surprised that the main news in my conversation over Skype with my mum for some time was one and just one: Sara is getting a doll house for her Hello Kitty puppet.

Fine, interesting, how about the rest of the family?
It might seem odd, but wait. The fact is that my mum didn't buy her first grandchildren a dollhouse. No, no: she built it and, being the creator of the Cometa Dancing, you can expect big things from her.

And big things she delivered. When I got home and took a look at the dollhouse, it felt like stepping into an episode of "Property Ladder" or "A place in the sun".
We are talking about this:  (silly chill-out music starts)

It's a modern house with internal lift connecting its 3 levels.
On the ground floor we have a modern kitchen and living room with a fireplace and big bright glass door letting in ample amounts of lights.

The living room warm wood floor is enhanced by a carpet with the same warm nuances.

If you follow me upstairs, we can take a look at the bedroom with separate wardrobe room and en-suite bathroom:

On the third and last floor there is a library studio area with a piano, a sofa, some bookshelves and yes, a shower. as you can see in the background.

On the bookshelves you can find music sheets to play on the piano, some classic literary masterpieces such as "Scary fair tales" and "Silly witches".
There is an "Harry Potter" collection with books from number 1 to number 8... no point in arguing with the architect/interior designer/civil engineer/builder: she said it's her house, and if she fancied 100 Harry Potter novels she very well put it and let's see who wants to argue about it.

The shower is as functional as only a shower made with electric tape, kitchen foil and a bottle of fresh milk can be:

The owner and commissioner, my niece Sara, decided that each room should have a unique, distinctive floor and she had clear ideas about it, so she told my mum what she wanted and voilà! Here you can see them all:

And that's all for this episode of the ArissoCats Cribs... come back soon to view the further expansions of the house!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Depression and insurance, Dutch style

on the wire

Friends and even random acquaintances know that I do enjoy a good chat. A nice way to say I never shut up and once I start rambling, you might fix yourself a cup of tea and get used to the notion it's going to take a while.
Yet today something happened that made me speechless. Whoa, hold and behold! What was that? Virginia speechless? Yes, it happens sometimes, and this time it happened not only because I didn't want my flatmate I definitely lost it and I'm talking to myself (again). I really didn't know what to say.
But first a small digression.

Some days ago I was listening to Leonard Cohen and remembered I read that he began writing "Bird on the wire" while in Greece and how that song related to (his) depression. It made me think about many things that happened recently in my life, first of all coming to terms with the notion that depression is not something an aspirin can cure: it's a constant everyday battle, you take arms against this invisible enemy that hides inside your soul, like a Don Quixote against the windmills (appropriate, given where I'm living, anyway...). Still sometimes you are just not enough, you need help and this help comes in different forms: a friend that understand you and bugs you about it, a friend that understand you and shuts up, a good GP that instead of prescribing you paracetamol and advising you to rest asks you to come back every fortnight or whenever you feel the need of talking about it.

If I am slightly better today, it's also thanks to people like these.
Depression requires a lot of work and help; sometimes the help comes for free, sometime you got to pay (dearly). It's a never ending struggle. I wake up everyday and I don't know how it's going to be, but I've been lucky enough to receive help and to learn how to try to protect myself.

So, this morning I woke up, fix myself a nice cup of coffee and set to read the news online. I shouldn't have, yet I did. And I read this news: for about 10 good minutes I was absolutely speechless.
Then I started swearing in the guise of a sailor in the worse rundown bar in Marseille old town.
The Healthcare Insurance Board issued a report that advises that Dutch suffering for any mental illness produced by work,  bad marriage or death of a loved one should not ask their insurance to cover for the therapy, but pay it by themselves. The board suggests that only mental disorders such as depression or schizophrenia should be reimbursed.
Fair enough, this is a country where everybody claims some days of "burn out" on purpose, because they got not enough public holiday, but what these people are implying is quite dangerous.
The chairman of the board stated that there is a "difference between being sick and not sick" and that insurance should not be paying for care for people who are not sick. And here is the problem. Who should have the last word on whether I am sick or not? A doctor? Or an insurance board?
If you need the tonsillitis to be removed, who do you ask help? A surgeon or the chairman of the insurance board?
The insurances are suggesting you place the knife in their hand, as they know it best.
What they are suggesting is that they hold the call to say who is sick and who is not, not the doctors.
A loss, a bad working environment might just make you feel bad and sick for few days but could also plunge you into a depression that shuts all the lights out of your life and this board is suggesting that if this happens, it's first of all your fault and then it'll be in the hand of one of their employee in a call-center to decide whether they can financially use the money you paid into their accounts or not.

What will be the next step? I can imagine that quite easily: oh you got mesothelioma? Well, it's your fault because you went and worked in the fibre cement and asbestos industry. It's not our fault and we shouldn't pay.
You got involved in a car accident? This should teach you: stay home or walk next time!

So far, I have had very little to do with my Dutch health insurance and I am relieved to think I will have very little to deal with them in the future.
Not that Italy is any better, but no matter what, I still think that any country that still have a national healthcare system should hold it dearly and never ever allow any government or insurance board to take it away from its people.

Friday, 13 April 2012

shaken, not stirred...

Or maybe it'd be wiser "not shaken, not stirred", Mr Bond.
Because if it's true that Martini Dry is going to be ditched in favor of a (crappy) beer, then I'd put extra attention at opening that can, Mr. Bond.

Now, I'm not even go and moan about "good ol' times" and complain about how product placement is ruining cinema.
If anything, the James Bond bandwagon is the poster image of "product placement 101 through the ages".

What I can't really get over is... you're James Bond, right? You're supposed to be this super cool hero, with an amazing skill to get an optimal work-life balance with your save the world and shag the blonde lifestyle.
You drive an Aston Martin (ok, you also went for a BMW, hopefully my dad will one day find in his heart the willingness to forgive you).

And what do you drink? Heineken?!?! Have you spare any thought about your employer, aka Her Majesty?
What would Liz say if she knew you're ditching the gin for Heineken???  Want some bitterballen to go with it?
I don't object you drinking beer, but among all the different beers this world has to offer, you go for the crappy one???


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dutch news

You read something like this and you imagine police rioting, anarchy in the lowlands, Dirty Harry in clogs, etc. etc.
Then you click on the link and all this images collapse into something just normal.
Take those clogs off, Clint, will ya?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

like aunt, like niece

When it comes to talk about my friend, I got an habit that drives Francesco crazy. I call them by name, no matter  whether Francesco (or any other person I'm speaking to) has ever met my friend or not.
You see, I just did it, didn't I? Who is Francesco?
Well, Francesco is this friend of mine that gets crazy when I talk to him about friends of mine he doesn't know and I refer to them by names, instead of a generic "a friend of mine". Francesco always complains about it:
"Who is Beth? Do I know her?"
"Well no I don't think you do; Beth is a friend of mine, she lives in Aldershot with her husband and her son, she used to work with me back in Nokia, actually I first met her when..."
"Then, if I don't know her, why on earth are you talking about her as if she's been a friend of mine since nursery school?!?!"
"Oh well, I..."

This dialogue happened so many times I lost count and still I haven't changed one bit under this aspect.
It's just that "a friend of mine" or "a person I used to know" don't really sound nice to me and their Italian counterparts are no better.
It gets a bit annoying sometimes, especially with people with a fairly popular name: "Francesco once told me... No, not Francesco my brother-in-law, also cause he goes by the name of Ciccio anyway. Not even Francesco the acrobatic gymnast that used to work with me in Motorola, later moved to Manchester and always complains about me using my friends' names instead of "a friend of mine" when we talk about other people. No, I mean Francesco, the guy from Genova that likes taking pictures and the Amsterdam Open Library..."

So I can understand why Francesco (the acrobatic gymnast that used to work with me in Motorola, etc. etc.) gets annoyed with me, but I can't help myself. This patter is so deeply rooted in my speaking habit that I can't really get rid of it. Even when I tried it in the past, and I did try, it just left me feeling awkward and made me stutter till the end of the sentence. 

Last Friday I took Sara (my eldest niece, she's almost 7 and has lost 6 teeth so far, but the tooth fairy is quite stingy at her place,so she likes the the one at her grandparents best as she leaves better tips) to the museum of Cinema and while we were on the tram she asked me if I knew what she was going to be when she grew up.

"Aunt, do you know what my job will be like when I'm old like you are? I don't know..."
"Well, honey, after carefully not paying attention to you referring to me as old, the question is: what would you like to be?"
"Mmmmh, a painter! And if I'm not a painter, then I'm going to open a restaurant with Jessica!"
"Who's Jessica?"
Sara looked something between shocked and outraged by now: "She's a friend of mine, she comes to school with me and she wants to open a restaurant when she grows up. Don't you know her?"
"No, I don't".

I'm still smiling when I think about it. Like aunt, like niece.

how to knit

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vacanze a Torino

La cosa più strana rimane sentire così tante persone parlare italiano con un accento torinese più o meno forte.
Se in ufficio mi dò della balenga, la gente ride per via del termine che uso (un giorno scriverò un inno alla soave poesia insita nella parola "balenga", ma non oggi). Oppure a farli ridere è come pronuncio la parola menta.

A casa solo Davide ride se dico balenga, poi lo ripete venti volte e smette quando si accorge che non c'è nessuna erre che può pronunciare... Ho il nipote dalla evve leggevmente moscia e ha scoperto che quando pvonuncia qualcosa con una evve in mezzo, in combinazione con gli occhioni blu che si ritrova, la panettiera gli regala sempre un gvissino, quindi credo si eserciti per non perdere questa caratteristica.
A casa tutti hanno il mio accento, e sono io a stupirmi quando lo sento.

Giandojaland, o Torino come la chiamano le carte ufficiali, è un bel posto dove passare qualche giorno di primavera. Sia all'arrivo che alla partenza c'era gente che si lamentava del brutto tempo e del gelo... E lì si vedeva la differenza, perché a me sembrava estate: ci sono 15 grafi, yeah!!! Dov'è l'abbronzante?
Per me era bel tempo e quando c'è bel tempo bisogna uscire!

Palazzo Madama

Le nuvole non mi hanno certo scoraggiata, anche perché sono abituata a ben peggio.
Il centro di Torino me lo sono visto con calma a più riprese. Sono andata a Palazzo Reale per visitare la mostra dedicata a Cartier Bresson.

E poi sono tornata al museo del Cinema.

Cinemascope neon

Era il mio appuntamento al museo con Sara. Questa volta ho scelto io, ma credo che aver accennato alla mostra dedicata ai Loony Tunes mi abbia dato una mano: ci siamo divertite a guardare le ombre cinesi e i primi film, siamo rimaste a ridacchiare davanti a uno spezzone di "Ninotchka" e le ho spiegato perché Marilyn appariva così triste in quelle foto.
Al negozio del museo si è comprata una penna, "proprio come quella di Harry Potter!" e io invece un flip book con una scena di "Viaggio sulla Luna": il libricino è ovviamente rimasto a casa a Torino, perché Sara continuava a giocarci ma si vedeva che non aveva il coraggio di chiedermi di lasciarglielo.
Tutto questo viziare la nipote non significa però che mi sia rammollita. C'era una bruciante sconfitta da vendicare, così sabato pomeriggio ho infilato le scarpe da bowling e l'ho distrutta in una gara senza esclusioni di colpi a bowling!!!


Il tempo di scartare un uovo di Pasqua e giocare con Davide a far esplodere gli uccellini (Angry birds) e mi sono trovata seduta a Caselle in attesa del volo per Amsterdam: ad aspettarmi cielo grigio, vento freddo e pioggia. Vabbè, passerà anche questa.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tiramisù e palestra

Dire che agli olandesi piace la musica truzza da discoteca è dire poco.
Quando mi sono iscritta in palestra, parlando con uno degli istruttori, gli ho detto di essere italiana: si è illuminato, ha sfoderato un sorrisone e... per una volta non è partita la solita solfa sugli italiani spaghetti, pizza e mandolino, bensì una raffica di nomi. Tutti dj, tutti a quanto pare famosi e tutti di sicuro italiani.

Io ovviamente non ne conoscevo uno e sospetto che lui non sia ancora del tutto convinta del mio essere italiana.
Fatto sta che io la musica che trasmettono in palestra non la ascolto: è un unz-unz-unz continuo, non ha ritmo e finisce che mi addormento sul tapis-roulant. Meglio i Franz Ferdinand, loro accelerano e decelarano, cambiano tempo e mi tengono sveglia.

Oggi sono andata in palestra per smaltire il tiramisu che Luca ha portato in ufficio. Una bomba, sotto tutti i punti di vista: buonissimo, dal gusto leggero e bilanciato e un apporto calorico oltremodo pesante e lasciamo perdere il colesterolo.
Dopo aver pedalato e sbuffato, vado a recuperare i pesi e lascio l'iPod sul tappetino. Nel giro di 10 passi, parte una musica diversa. Una musica che non fa unz-unz-unz.

Tutti gli olandesi in palestra con me hanno iniziato a fischiettare felici e a muovere la testa al ritmo della musica.
Ancora non so se sono caduta in un buco spazio-temporale o se Luca ha fatto un tiramisù agli allucinogeni:

In het paleis

Some days ago, while staring at the nothingness that surrounds my office, I briefly wondered about a day trip to The Hague to visit the museum dedicated to M.C. Escher called "Escher in het Paleis".
Just the name of the museum made me want to go and visit, is't funny and funky:  M.C. Escher in the palace... the M.C. is in da house.
And it reminds me of The Clash:
"I'm Escher in the palais
Just lookin' for fun
I'm only looking for fun"

I can't really pronounce the name of the museum correctly: I'm trying so hard to stiffen the impulse to sing it to the tune of the song that at the end I stumble with words and people don't really understand what I'm talking about (quite a  common feeling for me anyway). In my head I can hear myself almost screaming the last part, "in the palaaais!" and feeling I can and have to dance a little while pronouncing it.

Anyway I thought about going to the museum, then decided to procrastinate at the best of my ability. There's always time for visiting it, I can go another weekend, it's cold, it's better to wait... the eternal do-it-later philosophy of mine that got me in so many troubles.

But to say that there's always time is a partial lie: time is limited in this country, in this planet, in this universe and if you want or need to do something, burying your head in the sand, hoping things will be sorted once you pull it out, is not going to work.
I don't believe in signs, but... last week everything was pointing me to Escher: his name would pop out as by magic basically all around me. I was checking the RSS feed and here it was a post dedicated to him. I was reading an article and halfway through it there was some reference to his work.
When I thought I was safe, tweeter filled up of tweets about him and Mick Jagger. Too many coincidences to not get on a train to The Hague.

The palace used to be the winter palace of Queen Emma: it's not a huge royal palace, but still, I bet the heating cost of it must be dreadfully high. It's a really nice museum, probably one I enjoyed the most here in the Netherlands so far.

The only way to get to the last floor of the exhibition is through the backstairs and funny enough they just look out of a Escher drawing:

Going down

Monday, 2 April 2012

April fools

Ieri qualcuno ad Haarlem ha voluto ricordarmi che era il primo di Aprile

Sanissimo means very healthy in Italian. Must be an April fools

Nulla di meglio che un bel gelato industriale con delle caramelline colorate per un'alimentazione sana ed equilibrata.
La rete era un fiorire continuo di bufale più o meno credibili, dalle brugole ritirate dall'Ikea al codice Morse di Gmail.
Fra pesci d'Aprile e la scarsa fiducia che provo nei confronti dei mezzi di informazione, mi è sembrato logico pensare a un pesce d'aprile quando ho letto la notizia dei risultati delle elezioni birmane...