lunedì, febbraio 12, 2007

Important Sighs

W.C. Handy – William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an African American blues composer and musician, often known as "the Father of the Blues."
In 1955 he suffered a stroke and became confined to a wheelchair.*
Italy remembers blues legends! I'm SO impressed!
*Source: Wikipedia.

Important Sighs

This is the first photo of a (hopefully) ever-long photo series ‘Sights in Italy, photographed with a Nokia cell phone’.

Any Rome-visiting tourist can see from the endless postcard displays and tourist guide books, how Colosseum looks like. But only from the outside. Which proves that Italians are smart. They are not so keen to show you the photos of interior and there is a good reason for that, I’ve concluded after visiting this famous ruin. If anybody could see how this famous ruin looks like from inside, then nobody would stand in the ever-long queue and pay 10 euros, just to be assured that inside the walls it looks exactly as one would logically guess while standing outside.

There’s one secret one can’t find out without visiting the Colosseum IRL – there are pigeon and cat colonies living within these ancient walls. Me no greedy. I give you that piece of intelligence for free :)

The real value of hanging in the queue and paying 10 euros? One gets the chance to have some space. To breathe. To get some peace. To be away from the crowded streets, the people, the beggars, the dog pooh. Colosseum is quite a lovely place actually.

mercoledì, gennaio 24, 2007

Italian Characters vol 2

If I would be directing a movie, I would dress him in white suite and place him in the lobby bar of a luxury hotel or a cruise ship.
He would be the character who charms ageing rich ladies with his well-educated manners and attentionate behaviour and whos true secret passionate love – as we discover in due course - is a wild working-class girl.
As the movie advances, we see him escape with the diamonds stolen from the rich ladie(s). Plot B is that the old rich lady curiously dies from a heart disease or alternatively from falling from the stairs right after marrying this character or ours.

That is my all times favourite taxi driver – The Noble Napolitano.

Each Monday morning he takes me from the train station to the client site and and Friday evening from the client site to the train station. It’s a 20-minute journey and inevitably these journeys have become worthwile conversations on various topcs related to Italy.
He manners are polished and language usage rather well-educated. When he speaks it sounds like listening to an audio-book or a documentary. In fact our conversation topics quite resemble documentary movies – Italian cuisine, Italian history, Italian politics and the global warming (from Italian viewpoint). The Noble Napolitano is a walking Italian encyclopedia, really.

In the beginning I checked the facts (cos one should never trust the people from Naples). So arrived home Friday evening and cornered PC with questions like ‘Is it true that the best coffee is in Naples?’ ‘Is it true that you can estimate the quality of coffee based on how long it takes for the sugar to sink?’ PC has so far confirmed all the facts.

The Noble Napolitano is an opinion leader, too.
Once I bought mozzarella di bufala and the shopkeeper told me NOT to preserve it in the fridge. So I went home and informed PC of the instructions, to which he reacted coldly: ‘He was just fooling around cos you’re foreigner!’ and firmly placed the mozzarella into the fridge. Monday morning was the moment of truth! Immediately upon landing in the taxi, I started digging:”Eee… mm… how should the mozzarella di bufala be preserved in your opinon?” What followed was the most educating lecture ever on mozzarella production, conservation, quality issues and buying tips.

By the way, mozzarella di bufala should not be conserved in the fridge but should be kept in that water in which it’s sold and it has to be consumed within 5 days.
Did I victoriously deliver these groundbreaking research results to PC? Yes, f course!

So, if you want to know anything about Italy, post your inquiry and I’ll let you know what the Noble Napolitano has to say about it :)

venerdì, gennaio 19, 2007

Envy me? :)

19 January 2007

Tallinn: In the afternoon showers in many places, falling mainly as sleet and snow. Wind around north 3-8, in gusts 12-15, on islands in the evening until 20 m/s. Air temperature -1...3°C.

Rome: tangerine tree outside the office. Temperature +15C, sunshine.

mercoledì, gennaio 17, 2007

My challenging job

A must-be-element in all Italian TV shows is an interesting fenomena also known as letterina.
Letterina is a half-naked leggy female in her late twenties, sporting killer smile, year-round-tan and hair extensions. She never says anything, all she really does is walk seductively back and forth in front of the camera. Letterina’s other important task is to move hips (dance?) during short intervals that occur between “seeya soon” and commercials break. I don’t see the point of letterina but all Italians consider them to be very important.

What I wanted to say is that in my contract might be written “Analyst” but in fact my job is to be the letterina of the office space.

I’ve nothing to say because my Italian skills are very basic and I understand only half of what’s been said and know nothing about supply chain management. Sometimes I understand conversations and know what to say, but by the time I’m ready with my sentence, everyone has moved on to another topics and it would be weird to comment something that was discussed 3 minutes ago. So most of the time I say nothing.

However, my task is to attend meetings held in Italian language and later prepare the meeting minutes in Italian. The resulting minutes are a complete crap.
However, a rumour has spread that there’s a Nordic Blondie on display and since then meeting attendance rates have increased rapidly. While people gather in the meeting room the lost sons ask me intellectual questions such as Do you come from Sweden? Do you work as a model? Do people in Estonia speak in Russian?
My supervisor said he’s OK with this outcome and corrects happily my lunatic meeting minutes.

Question of the day: shall I get bonus if I walk seductively back and forth during the meetings? :)

martedì, gennaio 16, 2007

The Bad Beginning

“It’s a beauuutiful apartment and price is so vantageous! It’s just 10 minutes distance from your office!”
This is how PC introduced me our future home in Rome over the phone. I believe everything PC says, so I said we take it.

Two days before I had to go to the new-joiners training at the Firm we arrived to Rome. PC has a hectic work schedule, so he carried the bags upstairs and drove off to a meeting. I was left to my devices, to explore the new territory.

The apartment was monstrous.

The front door that looks like it’s been originally made either for prison or bank.
Dusty, greenish blue carpeted floors (I hate carpeted floors!).
Walls covered with brown textile (I hate brown!).
Dusty curtains which once upon a time were of some colour. (I hate dust!)
Brown bathroom. (I hate hate hate brown!)
Brown kitchen. (Please, not another brown room!)
Windows so dusty it’s beyond imagination (I have clean-windows-fetish, by the way).
Prehistoric water boiler. (I'm scared of prehistoric household items!)
The smell of dust everywhere. Even tap water smells of dust.

The highlight of The Bunker was an immensely inviting view from the bathroom. Extra welcoming for those who seek a quiet place to commit a suicide or get rid of the body.

This evening I cried.
PC was very gloomy and asked me to give him 2 weeks.

Is it just me or...?

How would YOU interpret this sign? :)
(spotted in Rome, Fiumicino airport)

domenica, gennaio 14, 2007

The first 100 days in the wonderland

Sorry for making all this buzz about launching my blog in English and then not writing a single word since arriving here. But… I can explain.

The first months have been immensely turbulent. Armed with my primitive Italian skills plus notorious ability to misread maps and constantly get lost I’ve been so busy finding my way in this interesting country, that the poor little blog got very little attention.

So what’s Italy like?
To put it shortly, everything is exactly the opposite of Estonia. Seems simple but it took me some time to figure this out. What I call time-to-figure-things-out is defined as "culture shock" in Geert Hofstede's book "Cultures and Organizations", as I found out yesterday.

Geert writes:"In a way the visitor in a foreign culture returns to the mental state of an infant, in which he or she has to learn the simplest things over again. This usually leads to feelings of distress, of helplessness, and of hostility towards the new environment. Often one's physical functioning is affected. Expatriates and migrants have more need for medical help shortly after their displacement than before of later." I say, this book really talked to my heart.

So in what sense is Italy the opposite of Estonia? Some examples:

Estonia: a civil right, available for free.
Italy: a scarce and costly natural resource.

Estonia: barely drinkable.
Italy: the best in the world.

Being late
Estonia: considered an utmost disrespect.
Italy: nobody arrives on time.

Estonia: smaller is better.
Italy: bigger is better.

Estonia: bigger is better.
Italy: smaller is better.

Italian 35-year-old: lives with parents, vaguely worried for not being married yet, occasionally is involved in job-searching activities, usually hasn’t been traveling outside Italy.

Estonian 35-year-old: left home at 18, since then has been building a business empire consisting of several small companies and off-shore firms. Owns real estate and leases a car. Has 2-4 children of whom half are from the previous marriage. Spends holidays in warm countries, such as Italy.

Trade unions
Estonia: like UFOs – everyone has heard of them, nobody has seen them.
Italy: even the grass doesn’t grow without trade unions’ approval.

Marriage and divorce
Italy: marriage is the departure ticket to get away from the parents’ home. Weddings are big important events, like rock festivals or so. Divorce is a shame.
Estonia: general view - marriage changes nothing. Some people still do get married, in this case often weddings are private affairs, where only parents and very close friends are invited. 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Estonia: consumed only during weekends. Important is to get very drunk. Vodka and beer have bigger market share than wine.
Italy: wine is consumed every day at dinner table. Nobody gets drunk never. Vodka has no market share.

Estonia: rule is a rule.
Italy: every rule has million exceptions. The better your negotiating skills, the favourable exceptions you get.

Estonia: bigger is better. Less than 2.0 l engine is considered unpractical. Fiat is not a car.
Italy: smaller is better. Engine more than 2.0 l is rarely seen. 80% of cars are Fiat.

Estonia: people have heard about it.
Italy: all Italians are catholic.

Estonia: supermarkets are open from 8am to 11pm. The rest of the stores from 9am to 8pm.
Italy: supermarkets are open from 9am to 1pm and then 4pm to 8pm. Other stores are open whenever they want, the only sure thing is that 1pm to 4pm they are closed. On Sundays everything is closed (sic!).

I could go on with these examples for hours, but now I have to go lunching with Italians :)
Next time I will give you an update on what interesting and glamorous things I’ve been doing during the first 100 days.

lunedì, ottobre 30, 2006

Where did all the Russians go?

Dear JB,

As we are all aware, since the unfortunate closure of Club Opium you’ve spent half of our MSN chats interrogating me in order to find out where did all the Russian sirens go (together with their ever-famous fishnet tights, knee-high patent leather boots and mini skirts). Now I’ve got the answer!!

Due to some unexplainable manouvers last Saturday we didn’t go to Bon Bon but instead ended up in Club Terrarium VIP room. This is the place you’ve been looking for, JB!!!

What a parade of glam, glitter and bare flesh! Add Russian hit songs, dancers (they dance under shower!) and testosteronic males and… I mean… really… It. Makes. You. Speechless.
Maybe the testosteronic-males-part doesn’t make YOU speechless but it’s a sight worth witnessing.

PS! My beautician says that the Russian parties take place once a month, on every last Saturday.