December 30, 2007

Health and happiness

Back in Rome, salvi e sani, after a few ER runs while in Trento. One son has finally finished with 12 days of fever, one antibiotic following another, a couple of xrays (nasal/frontal and chest), various doctor visits (our ASL doctor even came to the apartment to check for signs of meningitis when his fever went over 40 and called us on Christmas eve to check up), a midnight call to the Guardia Medica and a Christmas morning ER visit. Total expense: five euro to rent a aereosol machine for a few days and the cost of a nose spray and fisiological water.

Then I managed to slice off a piece of my thumb along with the bread which led to another ER run, a two hour wait (Dec 26 was a big day for ski accidents), medication and sterilstrips in the place of stitches. Total expense: 0. Today I nipped down to the hospital to change the dressing and check the beast and they sent me to the Red Cross because the ambulatiorio was closed on Sunday. Total expense: 0.

Everyone was helpful, thorough, professional. No medical horror stories for today -- and this all took place between December 17 and 30. I know that national health systems have their problems, and in Italy these problems can be augmented by the posto fisso mentality that goes hand-in-hand with government lifetime jobs, but, when it works, it works, and today I feel like I got service for my taxes.

A Christmas gift?

a domani,

December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays

The Best to all for the Holidays.

I am enjoying my family being united for a few days, Christmas spirit, hot mullled wine, roasted chestnuts, way too many sweets and brindisi while re-charging my blog batteries. Lots of ideas are mulling and roasting too. Stop by after the 26th.

a presto,

December 16, 2007

History's roots

I've been away for a few days traveling by ski trail between the Alto Adige and Trentino regions up North. In Trentino, we felt like we were in Italy, lift workers spoke Italian and there were more types of pasta than just spaghetti al ragù on the menu. When we passed over the border into Alto Adige, we felt like we had gone abroad, lift workers (and the Hotel) spoke German and the menu carried many sorts of wurstel. Although we were always in Italy, we had touched first hand the effects of History. This area has its roots somewhere between "high" Adige or "south" Tirol and although over half a century has passed since it is officially part of Italy, part of its soul lies elsewhere.

a domani from Rome,

December 8, 2007

I'll have....

Jamie Oliver is everywhere: in the news, in the window of the bookstore at the Termini train station and just about every other bookshop in the city -- A Brit selling an Italian cookbook to Italians. Brilliant, chef's hat off to him.

The picture on the front cover shows a dishevelled 30-something blond guy in jeans slouching against an old Fiat 500, with a paint-peeled wall as a backdrop and a plate of spaghetti in hand. It screams "relaxed Italian food". He got it.

In the editors review, one phrase caught my cross-cultural eye, "... As an outsider, Oliver has great reverence for the traditions of Italy, and he offers some surprisingly deep insight about how a lack of choice and a massive working-class population have kept those traditions alive." As he traveled around the country, he understood the importance of food rules (that dictate when you eat, what, in what order and at what time of the year) and realized how important they are in maintaining what we know and love as Italian cuisine. The lack of choice that creates many a cross-cultural moment for travelers and expats, is one of the foundations of Italian lifestyle. The best small trattoria offer no choice at all, just dishes made from the freshest ingredients they found that morning at the market.

He also insists on including a "graphic and gruesome" photo of a slaughtered sheep. If you want good wholesome Italian food, you have to start with the freshest basic ingredients, including the beast. This also disturbs Anglo-saxon sensibilities for whom a freshly picked tomato is one thing and a whole lamb is another.

Happy cookbook hunting.
a domani,

PS just came across a great post on traditional Italian regional cuisine and a plea to support its origins, written by my wandering italy blogging buddy.

December 5, 2007

European stereotypes

I found this piece of an article by Richard Hill on the Dialogin site (link to your right)

Summing up the stereotypes

“A group of people meet at the National Geographic Society in London and decide that, for the next meeting, everybody has to present a treatise on the elephant. They all return the following year and present their volumes.

The German has a 700-page dissertation: Beschreibung des männlichen Elephantes in Ost-Afrika. 1. Teil (description of the male elephant of East Africa, Part I).
The Englishman has a small, sober, black leather-bound book entitled “Elephants I have shot”.
The American has an 8-page booklet in colour, “How to make bigger and better elephants”,
while the Frenchman has a small tastefully presented book on L'amour des éléphants (‘The love life of elephants’).
The Pole presents a book called ‘The elephant and its relation to the Polish Problem’,
while the Swede has a greyish book called Elefanter och hur man titulerar dem (‘Elephants and how to address them’).
The Dane presents a book of recipes: Elefant på 100 måder (‘100 ways to cook an elephant’),
while the Norwegian has a book entitled Norge og vi nordmænd (‘Norway and we Norwegians’).”

This is probably the most comprehensive cultural joke in existence. It was devised, I suspect, by a group of very imaginative Danes…

Richard Hill is a consultant specialising in intercultural communications and cross-cultural affairs.

December 4, 2007

All in a film

I have set up a google alert for "cross-cultural" and once in a while something interesting turns up. This is a story from the Khaleej Times in Dubai about a young woman film director and producer, Nayla Al Khaja, the first in her country. She grew up loving cinema because it let her see inside other cultures.

As a child I watched many films - Arabic, English and Indian films. I watched a lot of black and white Indian films like Anarkali, Boot Polish, Sindbad because my dad had a huge collection.

It helped me have a very open mind because when you are watching a film you see someone celebrate a Diwali or a Christmas. As a kid it made me curious about other cultures and opened my mind to them, that’s why I am very flexible with people.

I love the fact that life is full of life and through films you are exposed to a window to other cultures and that’s what really attracted me to it. I used to paint, do a lot of portraits of people in motion and that was where I fell in love with motion and film making.

When asked if she will go the way of Hollywood or Bollywood, she replies,

Bollywood makes more sense, as I speak Urdu and I am very close to that genre. I think it’s a giant market and if we do a cross-cultural film with locals and Indians, which has never been done before it will be great.

Locals and Indians have always been together in Dubai, I think it would have a great market both in India and the Middle East.

When asked about upcoming projects,I was surprised to learn that she has cultivated an Italian connection,

‘Once’ is my private project, a short film about a woman’s paranoia juxtaposed against her beauty and fashion. Italian company Independent Ideas owned by Lapo Elkann, is interested in this film because it highlights fashion, beauty and paranoia. It’s a purely product placement kind of movie so we approached Dolce Gabbana and they are really interested in working with us.

She received her training at a prestigious film school in Toronto.

People think documentaries are boring, I too had this misconception but in Toronto I realised that documentaries can be fun to watch and there is so much to learn from them. There was one about a guy who was a bus driver in Toronto and a king in his city back in Africa! These films make you think that there are so many ways of thinking.

This is what I love about films DIFF (Dubai International Film Festival) says “it is bridging cultures” and it is truly so. It’s a medium that can bring a lot of peace and understanding and that is what attracts me to it.

Her enthusiasm is contagious! Now that I think of it, although another medium, as a child my favorite record was one with "Christmas stories from around the world" and my favorite story was the one about La Befana.


a domani,

December 3, 2007

"livor mortis"

Mystery writer, Pat Cornwell, visited Rome last year while doing research for her recent novel that is being released in Italian this month as, "Il libro dei morti". While the Romans like seeing their city in print, or on film, they get a bit tired of the glossy, Americanized view that is shown over and over again, depicting only the places wealthy Americans visit: Piazza di Spagna, Trinità dei Monti, the Hotel Hassler and a cappuccino at a bar in Piazza Navona. This book is no different.

It seems that Ms. Cornwell had been very thorough in her interviews and research, asking detailed questions about who would be responsible for the case of a murdered girl found in a tub full of ice. How old would he or she be, what grade or level, what kind of characteristics and character. Despite what seemed at the time an open mind to accepting that there would be differences in mentality, local resources and law systems given that Italy is not the US, she still managed to offend by sticking to the old Italian stereotypes by setting Captain Poma up as a vain and argumentative latin lover who even flashes a red lined cape at one point -- something a carabinieri would never do outside of official occasions.

What really got this Italian book reviewer's goat was that the main character Kay Scarpetta, feels it necessary to explain to her Italian colleague, Captain Poma, that the expression "livor mortis" is Latin and not English!

Offending an Italian at his most intimate cultural roots.

a domani,