Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My computer is broken. I feel completely lost without it. I have grown to depend on my (once) trusty MAC PowerBookG4.  It is so easy to use, it became second nature to me, I have the thing decked out with photoshop and illustrator for all of my photo editing and graphic design needs and now all of a sudden I have none of that. I am sharing a computer with my husband.  A rather nice PC, but certainly not my MAC.  I have a camera full of photos from Sunday's protest, but I have no idea what to do with them. I had an entire word document full of blog topics to post that are sitting on my dead little computer down at the computer shop.  It's been there for 10 days now.  Yes and they haven't even looked at it yet.  I was so hopeful when I took it in thinking that the Canadian kid that was working there really understood customer service the way I do. He was patient and kind and really wanted to help.  He said it would take about a week to a week and a half for them to look and it and tell me what's wrong and then they would call me and let me know how much it would cost to repair and if ok'd the process they would send it to the Apple store in Milan and the whole process would take about a month.

So thinking that I had a new friend in the Apple world I decided that I would stop in to see if there was any progress and my new friend insisted that he told me a week and a half to two weeks.  I'm sure he didn't but I didn't push the issue as he seemed a little stressed out. He assured me that they would call me the second they opened it up and saw what the problem is. So for right now, I have absolutely no idea when and if I will get my computer back. Of course this is Italian customer service for ya. (I really don't think my Canadian friend has any control over it, he just works there. Either that or you really can take to Canadian out of the boy)   Well, maybe, but we're not really sure, um, why don't you check back in a couple of weeks.  This is where patience truly becomes a virtue.  This is just one example of the little cultural difference that we as expats deal with regularly.  It can become rather frustrating at times especially since we are perfectly aware that it does not need to take this long to resolve a problem. We know that closing your store for 2-3hrs in the afternoon is not necessarily the most logical or effective business practice and that most others countries in the world would fire their employees for making their customers feel as if they were burdening them for asking for help. That is when you begin to practice your Yoga breathing and try to avoid confrontation. I really don't want to argue with you about the fact that I was told something different the first time I was here. I just want my computer back, or to know weather it can be fixed or not.  Am I asking too much?

So word to the wise, if you are planning a visit to Italy, be prepared, customer service is not what you are used to. Obviously no one really cares if you ever come back or not. And just because the told you something was going to get done, doesn't mean that they are in any hurry to do it.

So, I sincerely apologize for my boring posts and lack of accompanying photos. I just seem to lack creativity without my own computer and I don't really know how to use this one so well.

Maybe I'll have an answer on my computer by next week.  Maybe.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

IL CORPO DELLE DONNE - VERSIONE INTEGRALE - www.ilcorpodelledonne.com

I thought it would be interesting to post this after my last post.  Its in Italian, but very interesting for those of you that understand. it Very sad, actually.

Here is the version with English subtitles. http://www.youtube.com/embed/-JtyvOeMSHY

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just do it!

After many years of on again-off again, ups and downs, love and hate, fights and struggles, I have once again rekindled an old romance. And I am determined to make it work this time, once and for all......

......Yes, that's right, I have rekindled my relationship with the treadmill. (and the elliptical trainer) and I am also getting to know free weights and kettlebells a bit better, so far so good, but we still need a little more time to develop our relationship. But I have to say it feels pretty good. I guess its one of those things that I didn't really know I missed until I rediscovered it. I have been saying for months that I was going to join the gym right around the corner from my apartment but never actually got around to it. But when I was home in California during the holidays I was given the little push that I needed.

I was inspired really. By two amazing women; my mother and my sister, who have collectively lost over 100 pounds (about 45 kilos) in the past year. I noticed a difference in them not only physically, but more importantly mentally and emotionally. My mother at almost 65 years old has 10x's more energy then she did a year ago and my sister at 41 is in the best shape of her life.  And while I am thankful for the new wardrobe my sister handed down to me, it is a constant reminder every time I put something of hers on, another little push in the right direction.

I began going to the gym while I was there and realized how silly it would be to loose what I had started, so the day after we returned I purchased a membership. It's no L.A Fitness, and some of the machines are about 20 years old, but it has everything I need. So now 4-5 days per week I set my alarm and my workout is the first thing I do.

I'm almost afraid to talk about it for fear that I will somehow loose my affection and go back to square one. It's been a lifetime pattern for me.  I will be completely and totally determined to get myself back in shape, I find a workout plan and stick to it for several months and reach a goal, and then, I stop. Why? I don't know. Boredom possibly, unawareness of what it is I am really working towards. But this time I believe that it will be different. I am looking at it from a different perspective this time around. I am not necessarily working towards a said goal to be accomplished by a specific date, but rather to change the way I observe myself. To be more conscience of how I feel and how my body is effected by my actions, or lack there of.

Living in Florence, being healthy is really not that difficult. I realized many years ago that I am certainly healthier here with minimal effort than I was living in the U.S.  For one I walk just about everywhere I go, or I ride my bike. I don't eat processed foods and I live 2 minutes away from Mercato Sant'Ambrogio with a pleathra of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meats etc.  Of course it is easy to over do it on the mozzarella di bufala,  fresh baked pastries, pizza and gelato, but I have no intention of cutting those out entirely, just not indulging as freely as I may have in the past.  Reckless abandon some may have even called it. I have realized that I need to set limits for myself without deprivation.  I do also LOVE my wine, but again, have made a conscience decision to take notice of how much I consume and how it makes me feel.

My reasons for doing this are not to look like a supermodel, (since I already do) Its really about feeling better and being healthy.

Now I know this doesn't have that much to do life in Florence other than to say that the food here is REALLY good. And that you will certainly not be served the enormous portions of pasta that you are at your typical Italian restaurant in the U.S. Here you can expect a single portion, not a enough for 6 people. Everything is fresh and natural. That certainly makes achieving a fitness goal easier.

So I will say this, if you are planing a visit to Florence and want to start or maintain your exercise routine, there are several ways you can do it and you don't necessarily have to have a gym membership either.  One of the best places for a run or walk is up to Piazzale Michelangelo. As you can see from the photos (FYI, that's not me in the photo, do you think we should tell her that her booty is hanging out?) it overlooks the city so there are a few hills involved.  From the city center you can walk or run up into the Tuscan hills and get yourself a good workout. (Be careful about going too early or too late though, especially if your a girl) or you can run along the Arno river with all of the Florentines or head down to Le Cascine park.  If you prefer the gym like I do, there are several in the city. As long as you don't expect L.A Fitness or Gold's Gym you can find a gym with all of your basics.  Here's a list.  The prices are also bit more than they are in the U.S, but its your health and there is no price too high for that.

So one of the most important things that I have realized is this; time is going to go by weather you are doing it or not so you might as well just do it.  There are no excuses. AND its time for ME.  Just me. I turn up my ipod and block out the rest of the world for an hour and a half. Ahhhh che bello!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I'm Just a Girl

The topic of my blog post today was going to about chocolate. The upcoming festival in Piazza Santa Croce running this weekend.  A sweet, lighthearted topic...

...That was until I logged onto facebook this morning and saw that a friend had posted a New York Times Article about Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi! He's at it again. Grande Silvio! Sei veramente un esempio di alto livello!  Of course this is not the first I am hearing of this, in fact there have been numerous facebook groups formed speaking out against him and his recent sexcapades and politics. It has been the topic of every late night Italian talk show and this past Saturday afternoon Florence held one of the largest protest in the country by Italian women. As you can see from the photo in the article the statement was that "Italy is not a brothel" Women are getting angry and rightfully so.

As it turns out this is actually a topic that I have had in mind for a while now, not necessarily about Berlusconi but about women in Italy in general.  You can read all the slimy details about Berlusconi in the article.  What I really am interested in is how it has gotten to this point? So out of control and why the Italians continue to vote him into power.  But more than that why men believe that it is ok to objectify women. Of course it  is an age old issue and many women have fought for their beliefs and yes there have been changes but certainly not enough.  I can speak from my own experiences in that I myself have been personally effected by this and have had to defend myself more than once.

Now yes we've all hear about the "Ciao bella!" (In fact it has sold a hell of a lot of t-shirts around here) and some may even feel flattered if they hear it, or even quite possibly disappointed if they don't.
 This famous photo by Ruth Orkin was taken in 1951 in front of Gilli Cafe here in Florence in Piazza della Republica, 60 years later, not much has changed, actually its probably gotten worse. 

But that is quite mild compared to some of the things I have dealt with around here; including being physically groped in public. Yes I was literally walking down the street with friend and just as this man passed us I felt a hand on my ass! And we're not taking about a "oh oops, he accidentally brushed up against me" we're talking about a full-on grab with a squeeze. No accident. I was completely and utterly shocked! Speechless, I could not believe that that had actually happened.  I said nothing, but was completely mortified. Imagine if I, a woman had done something like that! Just walked up and grabbed some random guy's penis in the middle of the street.  It is a violation of my body and my personal space.   

I have also experienced, dog calls.  No not cat calls, dog calls, as in how someone would call their dog, I think there may have even been barking! I actually asked him, if '"I look like a dog?!" I have also heard, "Mamma mia che tette!" (wow, nice tits!) Really? And this is all in the middle of the day, broad sunlight, walking around the city minding my own business probably on my way to or from work.  One evening as I was walking home a man on a bike slows down to my walking speed and literally asked me if I wanted to F**K.  I should have kicked him off his bike but I didn't say a word, I just kept walking. Now I wish I would have. Do I look like a f**king prostitute?? Mind you it was in the middle of winter and I was wearing a huge down jacket and boots up to my knees, there was no amount of skin showing anywhere but my face. However, what I was wearing is irrelevant.

 I used to go for a run early in the morning before work but was forced to stop after seeing the same man masturbating in public many times.  I have a friend who told me that she has also been asked quite blatantly to have sex with a man (even though he knew she is married) and that another actually pulled down his pants and showed her his penis.  Another friend told me that her polka-dot dress caused a response of "ti do io due altre palle" or "I'll give you two more balls"

I mean the list could go on.  This is complete and total disrespect.  I would like to ask these men how they would feel if it was their wives, sisters, mothers, daughters or nieces who were being disrespected like this? Who do you think you are that you have the right to touch someone else's body without permission?  And who made you believe that it was ok to harass a woman that way? Your mother? I doubt it.

We all know that the media is a very powerful enterprise. Billions of dollars/euro/yen, etc go into the media every year.  And just like glossy magazines can cause teenage girls to become anorexic, it can make men believe that women are objects to be gawked and hollered at. But I ain't no holla back girl! 

And take a guess as to who owns the [majority] of the media around here? That's right! Mr. Berlusconi himself. Three network television channels, as well as several cable channels, newspapers, gossip magazines, bookstores, and even a Spanish television channel, not to mention that he is the owner of Milan, the Italian soccer team.  You can find a full article here

Italian television has been repeatedly criticized for its use of young attractive women being the highlight of the show. Young Italian women are struggling with a media who often praises a standard ideal of physical beauty which rarely accompanies the expectation of intelligence. Along with a Prime Minister who has been caught several times in the company of under-aged women and shamelessly publicizes his objectified view of women, the situation only seems to worsen. Many of these recent scandals have perhaps shed some light on the gravity of the situation. Let’s hope so anyway. Here is another article on the subject and as you will see by the date, this is nothing new, he has been at it for a long time now. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/07/silvio-berlusconi-sex-antics
 Italian show girls

Silvio Berlusconi's wife divorced him in 2009 and wrote a letter to the public stating why, reasons which included adultery, most of it committed with minors .  So here is the example for young Italian men. Now of course I am not foolish enough to place all the blame on him, but there is certainly nothing being done to stop him. First of all why do Italians continue to vote him into office? He has been prime minister for something like 17 years!!! Many may respond that they don't care about his personal life, but let's not forget about the tax evasion, accounting fraud, embezzlement, and accusations of mafia ties. Just in case the under age girls wasn't enough.  And yes there are sexual harassment laws in this country, just like there are laws for everything else around here, the problem is not the laws themselves, it the law enforcement that is the issue.

It seems that for a woman to be successful in this country, first she must be beautiful, and then, well maybe she should be smart, but not necessarily. 
 This is what is on television at 8:30 in the evening, just as most Italians are sitting down to dinner with their kids

“Women in Italy must work twice as hard to be seen as half as good as their male colleagues” as Emma Bonino said in a speech made on a popular Italian television show……

I am not a puritan by any means, I am actually incredibly liberal, and believe that everyone should get to choose what they want to do with their life and their body, the issue is that in Italy, the choices are mainly two. What you see above, or to be a housewife. Maybe if women had more options to make money, this is NOT what they would choose. And, ok fine, you want do this for a living, fine, but is it really necessary on every show? At 8pm?

Now of course I also know that Italy is not the only country that has these issues (we all remember Monica) but it seems that they are the only country in the developed world that hasn't taken steps to resolve them, or at least try. It always seems to be brushed under the rug and ignored, each time their leader makes a sexist comment or has yet another affair with an under-aged girl.

And I will certainly NOT stereotype all Italian men by saying that they all use these antics. I am married to one and I certainly would not be if his approach to meeting me was any of the above. I have the pleasure of knowing many intelligent, respectful, and educated Italian men.  But it is time for Italian women to get mad and demand more respect.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Speaking in Tounges

So after 10+ years of living in Florence, I do by now consider myself to be a local.   I have grasped for the most part the Florentine lifestyle and feel that I have integrated myself quite well. (yes there are some things I will never get used to, but that a topic for another post) The vendors at my local market all know me by name and usually already know what I am going to buy. The waiters know what I will order for lunch and who I 'belong' with. I am even caught at times speaking in the local Florentine dialect which most Florentines find quite amusing.
What that means is that I sometimes drop my c’s as is consistent with the Florentine dialect, for example saying things like vado alla hasa,  instead of casa.  Or 'io sono Amerihana' I’ve also been told that I speak Italian with a Calabrese accent and may even unintentionally slip in a word here and there form the Calabrese dialect which causes some interesting looks of perplexity from the Florentines.  “Ma chi e questa ragazza Americana chi parla il dialetto Fiorintina/Calabrese?” One person even said to me jokingly that I was a very confused girl who    had an Italian first name, a German last name, 
and an American-Florentine-Calabrese accent. "Ma chi sei ho?"

The Florentines even have their own dictionary! Notice the spelling of Vocabolario (dictionary) is with an 'h' instead of a 'c' as well as vernacolo (vernacular) 

Since most of my Italian was learnt from my southern Italian husband it seems quite natural that I would begin to pick up on his accent. Many times without thinking I will say things like 'niasci cha’ instead of vai via or get out of here (usually to my cat). Yes, a totally different language I know. Even though I have picked up on some the words from the southern Calabrese dialect, I still have difficulty following a conversation. When I am amongst my in-laws and they are speaking that dialect a mile a minute, bona ugo! As the Florentines would say! I am completely lost.         

People will often ask me how long it took for me to learn to speak Italian and my response is always that I am still learning. Now yes there is an official textbook written, spoken and read Italian language and almost everyone will speak it, that is until you get out into some of the remote villages in the countryside or mountain villages. But most formally educated Italians will speak it. But the dialects are a language in and of themselves. And if one were to attempt to understand all of these dialects it would take a lifetime.

And I don’t mean different accents as we may think of it, English vs. American vs. Australian, or even the various American accents such as New Yourk (no not a spelling error) vs. L.A , like OMG! vs. Nashville, ya’ll know what I mean. No, not like that, although a Southern Italian will be able to pick out a Northerner from their accent in heartbeat and vice verse. What I really mean here is that when a Southerner speaks a true dialect a Northerner will not be able to understand what they are saying. For example, I remember watching the evening news and a Neapolitan man was being interviewed and it was subtitled in Italian. This is what I mean by another language entirely. I find myself struggling with the true Florentine dialect at times as well. And not even the pronunciation of the words but 'mode da dire' or Florentine slang so to speak, (excuse the pun). While Florence is known to have the purest dialect of the Italian language (yes, I know that is debatable as well) after all it was the Tuscans who essentially invented the language as it is spoken today.

It is known to date back to the 14th century and the writings of Dante Alighieri who is the author of the Divine Comedy, he was the first to write in what was considered to be the Tuscan language at the time, now referred to as Italian. Prior to that the known languages in the region were Latin and sometimes Greek. Anyhow, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a dialect here because there most definitely is.  I sometimes have difficulty understanding the elderly Florentines who still speak only in a traditional pure Florentine dialect.

Every region in Italy has one. And sometimes even the smaller towns or cities within a region will have a dialect within a dialect. For example, my husband has a friend who comes from town less than 10 kilometers away and they have a slightly different dialect. Understandable amongst each other sure, but different non the less. 

So why would there be so many different dialects in one tiny little country like Italy? Well just like everything else around here, this dates back centuries. The country of Italy as we know it today is actually younger than the United States. Up until 1861 the region was made up of separate city states, each with their own governing offices and laws, Italy became unified under one government in 1861. So each one of these city-states had immigrants from the various countries around them. Italy is surrounded by, France, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Albania, Spain and Malta as well as many North African countries. Put it together and what have you got? Some serious mixing of language and culture. How's that for a melting pot?!

And if that weren't enough to confuse you, people will often ask what language do my husband I speak at home.........

........I would call it Itanglish, but that wouldn't even be accurate. It really is whatever comes out. My husband is infamous for making up words in English if he doesn't know how to say something, but somehow we have learned to understand each other. A dialect all to ourselves. We often catch each other saying things like 'Can you mettre quello in the oven, per favore?'

It certainly keeps things interesting.

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