Wednesday, November 24, 2010

slowly but surely



I realize that Rome is an ancient city but it does need to start getting with the times. Today, while running some errands in Prati, I finally had the chance to test out a new eatery that popped up in June. It's called VERO- FOOD TO MOVE and it kicks ass. It reminds me of Pret a Manger or Eat: a nice variety of quick, healthy food. Of course we'd all like to have the time and luxury to sit around and eat a leisurely one-hour lunch but that's not always an option, so being able to grab soup (I love me some soup) and a sandwich or salad TO GO, is a real necessity nowadays in Rome. Their desserts are pretty tasty as well.

I'm liking this place and hoping they open up a few more shops around town!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ignorance

I just witnessed a hideous display of ignorance and racism while riding on a bus in central Rome, one of the most disturbing I've seen in a while.
I head toward the exit doors as the bus nears my stop and notice a large, young Roman guy (a mix between a coatto & hooligan) who is close-talking with an older Filipino man. At first, I didn't pay attention to the words being exchanged because I assumed they were together based on how close the coatto was to the man's face, but when I actually tuned in I heard this: "You think you have the right to pass ahead of me. This is my country, you should keep your head bowed and shut up. How arrogant of you to think you can ask me to step aside, this isn't your country. You expect me to step aside for you, you immigrant. This is my country, go home..." and on and on. My first reaction, once I processed what he was saying, was to butt in and tell the racist asshole to knock it off BUT I quickly bit my tongue because I couldn't help but think: "What if this crazy mofo punches me in the face?". I have a tendency to mouth off in this city but there are times when it's crystal clear that the person on the receiving end is highly unstable and could possibly hurt me. So I stood there, staring at him with disgust in my eyes hoping he would notice but he was too focused on insulting, humiliating, and belittling a totally innocent man who just happened to be foreign. It was so immensely frustrating and upsetting to just stand there, impotent, not being able to say a word- I can only image how much worse it felt for the man who was being verbally attacked but he too, did not say a word and just tried to avert his eyes. I'm sure he also realized that this asshole was a loose cannon and things could get ugly really fast. My blood was boiling, my body was actually shaking from having to witness this hideous scene and not be able to intervene. The only thing I could do, once we got off the bus, was to say to the Filipino man: "Forget about him, he was just an ignorant jerk", in hopes of making him feel less alone.
It's really frightening and disturbing to see how young people think it's okay to treat someone like this IN public, this asshole clearly thought he was speaking for everyone else and that everyone agreed with him. If a group of people had confronted him and had told him to stop, he would've been forced to shut up. People need to gather together and stand up to ignorant racists and bullies, this kind of behavior should not be tolerated in public.
If only I'd had a Taser on me...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy thoughts


If you're feeling overwhelmed, disgusted, and frustrated by Italian politics and the never-ending mud slinging which, if you ask me, is out of control (see above*), here's a happy thought for you, or for you Romans at least: Cinema Reale (Piazza Sidney Sonnino #7, Trastevere) is now showing films in V.O. So far they've shown "Animal Kingdom" and now "Everybody's fine" is playing. Yay!

*note: I am not defending Berlusconi in any way, shape, or form. I just think it's ridiculous and inappropriate for a political party to actually spend money on a poster of this sort. Gimme a fucking break, don't stoop to their level.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Mamma's Boy

This is the trailer for my Italo-Australian friend's film. I'm fascinated by how the experiences of first generation kids are very similar no matter what nationality the parents are. We're not 100% American or Australian (etc.) but we're certainly not 100% Italian. We're in between and always will be.
video

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Deep thoughts...

I've been wondering about this for many years now and have yet to find an answer. Why are Italian pre-sliced loaves of bread treated with ethyl alcohol? The first time I bought a bag, I opened it and was blown away by the smell of rubbing alcohol. I thought the bread had gone bad and threw it out. I bought another bag, opened it and it reeked of alcohol again. Upon reading the label I discovered this...

...it actually contains ethyl alcohol (trattato con alcool etilico).

Oddly enough, American pre-sliced bread loaves do not:


Now before you start getting all bread-snobbish on me, let me defend why, on occasion, I buy this kind of bread: bread goes stale quickly and sometimes I like to have an egg & cheese sandwich for breakfast but don't want to have to go out and buy fresh bread before I've even had breakfast SO it's handy to have a bag of this stuff sitting around. Okay?

Back to the point- I don't understand why ethyl alcohol is used in Italy but not in USA, where they tend to do all sorts of strange shit to food. Any clues?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Darkness

For the past few weeks, the entryway of my building has been in the dark. It took me a while to notice it (yeah, sometimes I don't pay attention to things) but once I did, I sent an email to our building's superintendent. A week later, we were still in the dark, so I called her office and left a message. Today, I noticed that people have been propping the front door open in order to make the pitch-black entryway less dangerous. I understand the reasoning behind this but I don't want my front door open 24-7 so I called the super on her cell. She said she heard my message and would send someone to take care of it soon. Great... but wait... so nobody else in the building contacted her? You mean all my neighbors who were bitching & moaning about it did not even bother to report the situation? Granted, lots of my neighbors were still away on vacation but those who remained indeed did notice that the light bulb was dead and indeed wasted no time to use this occasion to bitch & moan about the new superintendent.
I assumed they were bitching & moaning because they had contacted the superintendent or had informed her of the situation (which seems like the logical thing to do) to no avail, but apparently not. Who does that? Is it really that hard to pick up the phone and call? Why waste time and energy complaining about it instead of actually taking concrete steps to make the situation better? Boh... at times I really do feel like an alien in this country.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mission: iPhone 4

I've been on a mission for the past few months, desperately seeking an iPhone 4 in the Eternal City (side note: I have to buy it in Italy because I can deduct the cost as a business expense). So far it's been an epic fail. The first few iPhones that actually were released on the official date at the end of July were snatched up in record time. Not even my Mac boyz managed to get me one!

Next step: I started calling every store possible to no avail because 1) lots of places had closed or were closing for the month-long August holiday and 2) lots of places just don't answer their damn phones. I find it odd that in a country where people are glued to their cell phones 24-7, they don't demand that retailers actually answer phones and provide you with information like prices, wait times, etc. Apparently people here have an abundance of time to go around to each and every store in search of a particular item. I don't.
It's mid-September now and I am still sans iPhone 4. Today I made one last desperate attempt to call ANY and ALL electronic stores in malls, since they're actually open all day long and usually answer their phones... usually. The results? Mediaworld bites the big one because they don't answer their phones, nor did half of the Euronics stores I called. Trony's operators win the prize for answering their phones and for providing me with the requested info.
As for the iPhone 4, nada. They *should* be in stock in a month or so (yeah, right). Wish me luck and if anybody sees a 16G iPhone 4 for sale, let me know!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fiumicino does it again


One of the perks of living in Europe is being able to fly to another country in 2-3 hours. I took a little weekend trip to London to see friends, cool off, eat a variety of food, drink vitamin water (power-c is my personal fav), get a hair cut, and stock up on random shit like bagels and cheddar. This time around, I decided to not use a low-cost airline and instead opted for British Airways. I managed to get a good fare and the flight was pure BLISS… mind you, it was at 11:00 AM on Friday so it wasn't overly booked and for the most part the passengers were British, hence very quiet and polite.

The flight back, on the other hand, was anything but blissful. I booked an evening flight back to Rome, never imaging I would encounter the annoyance I encountered. I merrily and smoothly made my way to Heathrow (how much do we love the Heathrow Express train? It's so clean and efficient!) rather early so I had time to wander around and drink more vitamin water. As I made my way to the gate, I heard this incredible din and wondered what the hell was going on. Upon reaching the gate I saw something that makes me shudder every time- teenagers wearing matching backpacks and hats which equals GROUP FIELD TRIPS (side note, during the school year Italian students get to go on field trips all over Europe. Lucky, ungrateful bastards! The best field trip we got in my day was to Old Sturbridge Village) which equals annoying Italian teenagers on a plane!! I had a seat at the very front of the plane so I hoped I'd be spared a run-in with these unruly loud-ass kids. I hoped… Instead they were everywhere, actually there were TWO separate groups of youngsters. I've flown many times in my life, but never have I dealt with such chaos on a flight. They would not sit down and shut up until a male flight attendant literally shouted at them. Do these kids not know the difference between indoor and outdoor voice/behavior? They were acting like a pack of wild animals who'd never set foot outside of their homes before. They were kicking the seats in front of them, oblivious to the fact that there were people sitting in them (me), talking or rather yelling across the plane to each other, turning on cell phones during take off, getting up when the plane was taking off, talking so loudly it was impossible to hear any announcements made, littering everywhere, trashing the bathrooms, making all sorts of scenes and chaos. Luckily, I have the gift of sleep BUT the annoyance was brewing inside of me even while I caught some Z's. We finally landed in Fiumicino and of course, they clapped (hate that!) and tried to storm the exits before the seat belt sign was turned off.

As annoying as it was for me, I felt worse for the flight attendants who were probably ready to jump out of the plane or execute them all. I swiftly made my way to baggage claim hoping to beat the large disorderly groups of students. Hoping… Unfortunately, our bags took FOREVER and a day to appear and all the while I was being squished by sweaty oblivious annoying Italian teenagers who kept elbowing, stepping on toes, pushing and leaning over me to stare at the empty baggage carousel. At one point, this kid actually jumped onto the carousel to grab his bag, as if it would've disappeared into a black hole if he didn't grab it the first time around.

I know I sound like a cranky old lady but it was mind boggling to see how clueless and rude these kids were, they in no way paid attention to their surroundings or even cared about how uncomfortable they were making everyone. I even got pushed out of the way at one point and that's when I lost it. I basically told them to stop acting like wild animals… not sure what good it did because they kept at it and every time one of the students managed to find their bag they would all cheer for 2 minutes. EVERY time. Now, you may be wondering where the chaperons were, right? I can imagine that being a chaperon on a trip like that is worse than having your toenails yanked out with pliers BUT still, these people are adults and should act like adults. Instead they were just as hysterical and rowdy as the kids, they were shouting and screaming and acting like nutcases over nothing. No wonder why the kids were so unruly...

Wonder what the other non-Italians on the flight thought of this whole spectacle? I saw one British woman leave shaking her head, I saw a British family looking at these out of control kids with disdain (this family had 2 teenage kids who were incredibly well behaved), I saw a Chinese couple looking frightened as the kids bum rushed the baggage carousel right where they were standing.


It was seriously the most disturbing "welcome back to Rome" I've had in a while.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

"No try"

Today I noticed another odd phenomenon that occurs seasonally in Italy. When stores hold their twice a year sales, you suddenly see signs popping up that read: "No try".

What they mean is you're not allowed to try on the clothes that are on sale. Is it just me, or is that the most ineffective way to get rid of merchandise? I really don't understand, all year long you're allowed to try things on and then suddenly when those same items cost 30% less, trying them on is no longer an option. Why? No really, why?

I personally don't buy ANYTHING unless I can try it on (or return it once I take it home and realize it doesn't fit… but returning clothing in Italy is an entirely different horror story that I'll touch on one day), so it's safe to say that stores with "No try" signs don't get a cent from me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

summertime...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love summers in Rome. Summertime is high season for my line of work so I have to stick around till the bitter end. Yes, it may be unbearably hot & humid BUT the perk is that the Romans abandon the city in hordes. They run off to the sea, the mountains, to Sharm El-Sheikh and leave Rome ALL TO ME! I've already begun to see the first signs of this exodus and I'm giddy with excitement to take over the city.
In the meantime, there are some fantastic outdoor events. One in particular is FREE and in one of Rome's loveliest parks, Villa Borghese. I saw Amreeka (really great film) last night at Casa del Cinema and highly suggest you all go to at least one of their events this summer. If anything, just to enjoy the breeze, the fresh air, and a cold drink.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sweet!




Lately I've been noticing some very stylish cookie packages around Rome and today I just happened to walk past the HQ of "Il Mondo di Laura". I went berserk and bought 3 different kinds of cookies, the lovely Laura (I'm assuming it was her) gave me some free samples as well. I just devoured a giant chocolate chip cookie and it was delish (and fairly healthy for a cookie). Can't wait to try all the other goodies.
It's nice to see new businesses like this in Rome. Go Laura!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

mysteries of Italian TV

I don't watch much Italian TV, but when I do happen to tune in I can't help but wonder about these oddities:

1) Why do shows start at random times like 3:05 or 9:40?

2) Why do commercials have to be announced/introduced by screen images like the one I posted above? I've never had a hard time differentiating a TV show or movie from a commercial so the need for this escapes me.

3) Why do they have TV guide readers? Some channels (like RAI) have these ladies who come on the air and tell you what the evening's TV schedule will be. I find it amusing yet senseless.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the joys of travel

(warning: this post does not contain my usual rants about Rome and/or being an expat)


Another year older, another year wiser? Perhaps "wiseass-er", if that were a word. I've been reflecting on my life thus far and do admit I consider myself lucky. I've had so many great experiences, met so many great people, traveled to so many great places. I firmly believe travel should be obligatory for all: you learn so much about yourself, the world, and humankind in general.
Lately I've been thinking about one specific travel incident that happened to me years ago, when I was younger, freer, and didn't work freelance. Yeah, as odd as it may seem, working freelance has halted my travel because I never really know when work will come my way so plans are hard to make.
It was June-July of 1999 and I grabbed a backpack, stuffed a few things in it and flew to Tunisia. That's how I used to roll: me & a guide book… no tours, no guides, no companions. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see during my 9 days there but played it by ear most of the time.
One day I decided to get on a train to Gabes because I wanted to go to Matmata. For those of you who don't know, Star Wars was filmed in this town and I wanted to see it because… I like Star Wars. Don't judge me, I grew up on those films. Anyway, while on the train I hear an announcement that I can't understand (I speak no French or Arabic) but I suspect they're announcing a delay since the train is running late. A conductor walks by and I stop him to ask more info. I tried in Italian first (although this was pre 9/11, I always traveled to Arab countries on my Italian passport instead of the American one and passed myself off as an Italian... dunno why, but I felt "safer" that way) and then in English, to no avail. Suddenly, an Arab man who was more or less my age, pops up and explains to me in Italian what the situation is. Said Arab man and I strike up a conversation and he confesses his love for Italy and the Italian language. Now mind you, I may have been in my 20s but I always had street smarts and an incredible ability to sniff out a freak from miles away. This guy seemed totally harmless and was not at all trying to mack on me. We chatted for hours and then we reached Gabes later than planned, so it was dark out. I hadn't booked a hotel but knew the general area I was going to stay in. The man, Hichem, tells me he would gladly host me at his home. At this point, I wondered if my freak-radar was out of whack and I just laughed and said "Non credo proprio" (I don't think so). He was smart enough to understand why I'd be hesitant and assured me that his home was his parents', meaning he lived with his mom, dad, and two sisters. I politely declined and said goodbye and started walking away. He kept at it and assured me it was safe. He even went so far as to say, you can walk with me there (which was in the general direction I would've been heading) and if you feel uncomfortable you don't have to come in. I figured there was no harm in that, so I walked with him to the center of town. We reach his home and he goes in to inform his family of the new pet he'd brought home from the train, his sisters rush outside with him to greet me and were incredibly thrilled to see a strange foreign girl traveling alone. They were extremely nice and polite. I agreed to go in. Sounds like insanity, right? My mom would've flipped out had she known (hi mom, even if you don't know I have a blog), but I trusted my gut and felt like this would be a great experience. And indeed it was.
Hichem's family was amazing, they were not wealthy but not dirt-poor either. They were very caring, attentive and even protective of me, they couldn't believe I was traveling alone. I stayed with them for two nights, they made me breakfast, let me shower in their home, offered me the best bed in the house (they all slept on mattresses on the floor). I also spent lots of time with Hichem (settle down, it was TOTALLY platonic). One night we walked to a fancy hotel in town and had beers at the bar, chatting till late at night about life, about our different cultures, about how strange it was that I, a Westerner, could sit at a bar and drink with him, whereas his sisters could not. His father was very strict with the sisters so they were rarely allowed to do anything. Hichem also offered to accompany me to Matmata and Chenini, his presence made it soooo much easier for me- not only because of the language barrier, but also because I had a male guardian to ward off any weirdos.
On day three, I packed up to leave, much to his family's disappointment. They wanted me to stay longer and see more sights in their area but I needed to move on and head back up north. I thanked them profusely, wrote down their address so I could send postcards, gifts, etc., told his sisters (who also loved Italy) that they were welcome to come stay with me in Rome, and headed to the train station with Hichem. We said goodbye and parted ways. Five minutes later he rushes into the train and hands me a paper bag, kisses me on the forehead in a brotherly way (settle down!) and rushes out. I open the bag to find snacks, beverages, and fruit for my long train ride.We kept in touch for many years, I sent packages to his family, his sisters were never allowed to come visit unfortunately and then we lost touch…
Still to this day I have such fond memories of my time with Hichem & his family. It was truly the most amazing experience. I'm eternally grateful to him for his immense generosity and his immense trust in humankind.

This, my friends, is what traveling is all about…

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gym quest 2.0

Well now that my knee is out of service till further notice and I can't run, I figured it would be good to do some sort of low-impact exercise, so I decided to test out L'albero e la Mano. They offer "yogilates" (sounds like a smoothie, yummy!) and pilates mat work.
They don't offer a free trial class, it's 15€ for a single lesson or 70€ a month PLUS a 50€ initiation fee. Really pricey considering how tiny this place is and how limited the schedule is: there are no Saturday or Sunday classes, even Friday has slim pickings and they close in the summer. In any case, I decide to fork over the 15€ and give it a try.
Maybe it's just me, but if I'm doing an activity that is new to me, I need to see the instructor perform the movements and/or be given vocal cues so I can understand and follow along. In my experience, the instructor usually demonstrates and explains the movements and then if somebody is doing them wrong, they use the "hands-on" approach. Mr. Creepy Instructor seemed to prefer the "hands-on" method, moving me around as if he were my puppet master instead of explaining a single thing. Apart from making me slightly uncomfortable, it was also completely unhelpful and counterproductive. At one point, he was moving around my stiff limbs without uttering a word as to what he was trying to do so I just said to him "Maybe you could verbally explain what you're trying to make me do instead?". He seemed rather perturbed by this but I'd honestly had enough at that point and had no intention to continue being manhandled. Learn how to teach, buddy. If you can't show or explain the movements, then you need to find another job.
Apart from the creepy instructor, the class was lame. There were 4-5 of us, everyone showed up late and it all seemed so half-ass to me. No thanks, I'll pass. I may as well just buy a DVD and do these things at home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"We Delivery" 2

Well, well... somebody has listened to my suggestion and has starting offering delivery! The service costs 2€ or is free if you spend more than 30€.
Not bad, good work T-Bone Station "The American Steakhouse".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

C-----

Oh well, so much for the A+++++ I gave Rome the other day. Today I give Rome a C-----!

Today I had an appointment with an orthopedist at a public hospital to figure out what is wrong with my knee that's been aching for months (time to put me out to pasture, huh?). But wait, before I start rambling about today's appointment, let me tell you about the steps I had to take to reach this point: First I go to my primary care physician (free visit) and explain the problem to him, then he wrote an official request for an MRI. I had to call the CUP toll-free number to book an appointment for the MRI (51 euro) in one of Rome's public clinics. I totally lucked out and got an appointment in a week's time ONLY because someone had cancelled their appointment, otherwise I would've had to wait till SEPTEMBER or pay more and use a private clinic. Miraculously I got an appointment quickly but the only downside was: the clinic was hella far. I managed to get a ride out there and assumed I would be given the test results immediately. HAHAHA, little did I know that it took 4-5 business days which meant I had to go back to the clinic in bumblefuck Rome in order to pick them up the next week. I actually asked the technician if they could email me the results or send them with a courier, he laughed at me and said "Come back in 4-5 days".
ANYWAY, once I picked up those test results I had to bring them back to my primary care physician (free visit) who then wrote out a request for a specialized visit with an orthopedist. I called the CUP toll-free number again to book this appointment and lucked out again, I was scheduled to see a knee specialist at a public hospital in San Giovanni in a week's time. Yay!

Now back to today. I go to San Giovanni, and manage to pay for the visit (25 euro) after waiting only 15 minutes! I go upstairs to the sports medicine section and within 10 minutes they called my number. NICE! I go in and the doctor asks what my problem is. I start explaining the various types of pain I've been feeling in my knee all these months and he chuckles saying "Oh, sounds like the end of the world!" I smile politely, not entirely sure what he meant by that, and continued explaining the situation. I hand over my MRI results -which although written in medical mumbo-jumbo, specifically state that the meniscus and the ACL are intact- and he says "Let me check your meniscus and ACL". Uh, okay. He starts bending my knee and says he hears it clicking, I inform him that my knee has ALWAYS clicked. He bends the other knee (the one that is perfectly healthy) and points out the clicking sound. Uh, okay... Diagnosis: he says my kneecaps are congenitally defective because they tilt outwards. Okay, but why do I have immense pain in one knee and just recently? He mumbles and bumbles all sort of stuff and ends by saying I need to strengthen my quad muscles, undergo a treatment of anti-inflammatory drugs, and if it still doesn't get better I need to have an operation.
I am sitting there in a daze, so blown away by his brusque manners, his eagerness to get rid of me, his approximate diagnosis, his lack of in-depth explanations, his unwillingness to discuss or answer the few questions I had, his wise-ass attitude when I asked him to write down the specific name of the muscle group he said I needed to strengthen, in fact I'm so blown away by this ridiculous and surreal situation that my mind goes blank and I freeze up. I stop asking questions, I just stop speaking. He hands me back my test results, paperwork, and this scrap of paper which simply reads "potenziamento vasto mediale" (strengthen the Vastus Medialis), and says "You can leave now". I felt just like Ralphie in this scene.
I walk out of the room in a daze, walk all the way to the bus stop in a daze, get on the bus in a daze and after 5 minutes my head goes into overdrive with all the questions I wanted to ask. Does "muscle strengthening" mean I have to go to physical therapy? If so, for how long? Why didn't he say physical therapy then? What the fuck does anti-inflammatory treatment mean? Do I just take some ibuprofen? Do I need injections in my swollen knee? Do I need to take steroidal meds or cortisone? And for how long? Why has my knee suddenly started hurting? Are there any activities I should avoid? The list of questions whirling in my mind is endless but unfortunately, I can't go back and even if I did, I have a feeling the doctor would brush me off and just try to rush me out of the door again.

Incredible, I don't know what happened to me, I am usually always on guard and prepared to dig until I get what I need but this time I was so taken aback by his flippant behavior that I just shut down. Unbelievable.

Well, at this point, I'm going to do what most Italians do: use connections. A friend of mine knows a good knee specialist who could sneak me in during his public hospital visits, so instead of going back to my primary care physician and getting another request for an orthopedist visit, and then calling the CUP to schedule an appointment, I'm just going slide right under that red tape limbo bar and do as the Romans do.

Damn, maybe my experience the other day was a dream as Italian Postcards wrote. In fact, my tonsils don't hurt any more. Hummm.....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A+++++

I'm sure you've noticed that I often bitch & moan about Rome, but not today! Brace yourselves for a positive post:
This morning I woke up with burning tonsils the size of tennis balls (wait for it... the positive part is coming) and hurried over to the nearest pronto soccorso- which is now actually called "guardia medica". I walked in and was shocked to see nobody in the waiting room! Score. I filled out the form and was quickly sent in to see the doctor, who was nice, efficient, and thorough. She handed over a prescription for antibiotics for my tonsillitis (who gets tonsillitis in the summer?!?).

With prescription in hand, I walked to a pharmacy around the corner which I thought was open on Sundays only to discover it was closed (wait for it... the positive part is coming) BUT they had a very clear and concise list of the pharmacies that were open on Sunday. The best part is, not only did it list the pharmacies (which they've been doing for several years) but also reference points!! So if the pharmacy happens to be located on say Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, which is a fairly long street, you could look at the reference point and know where exactly it was. Since I don't have an iPhone (yet) this saved me from having to wander up and down Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to find the open pharmacy. Well done, Rome. Today I give you an A+++++

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trenitalia

For the past 4 days I have been trying to fill out the complaint form on Trenitalia's website and for the past 4 days, after almost reaching the end of the long process I've received the "your session has been timed-out" message.
Now I may not be the world's fastest typer (I'll admit it) but I'm certainly not the slowest so I can only assume the website is screwy OR RATHER that particular page just happens to be screwy. I can only imagine all the complaints Trenitalia gets so it wouldn't surprise me if they disabled the page every now & then.
Have any of you recently used the trains at Fiumicino Airport? When I landed in Rome last week, I strolled into the Fiumicino Airport train station to find two incredibly long lines of people waiting at the ticket machines. NOTE: the station is only equipped with four normal machines (in addition to two very strange old skool machines that nobody ever knows how to use... and they were both out of service anyway) and two of the four were broken. I was blown away by the total chaos and even more blown away by the fact that half of the "ticket stamping machines" were broken as well. Way to welcome people to Rome, as soon as you land you're already faced with annoyances and inefficiencies! Really Rome, you need to get your act together ASAP. You make a horrific first impression...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Passive mumblers & grumblers

When I hopped on the bus the other day, every seat was taken but one, and even though there were people standing in the aisle (including elderly people who usually bum-rush all and any available seat), nobody attempted to claim it. I waited a few minutes, trying to figure what could possibly be wrong with that seat: Was there some sort of filth on it? Did the person in the neighboring seat smell? Nope and nope, so I went for it. As I was climbing over the lady in the neighboring seat she said to me: "You'll freeze in that seat, the AC vent is directly over it". I smiled back and said: "Not a problem for me, I love AC!" She looked at me as if I were crazy and then let me through. Thanks to the silly Italians and their delicate internal thermostats, I scored me a seat on a long bus ride. And between you & me, it was not freezing at all, it was rather pleasant and refreshing (and I was only wearing a T-shirt!) because it was hot out.
The Italians kept mumbling and grumbling about how cold it was, people with seats under the AC vents kept getting up and standing in the aisle instead. The bus was abuzz with complaints YET nobody did what I would consider the most logical thing to do in a situation like that: Ask the driver to lower or shut off the AC.
I sat back and watched with amusement as people got bent out of shape, complained out loud and to each other with such fervor. Then suddenly, a foreign woman who was wearing a turtleneck and sweater (hence, was obviously enjoying the AC) suggested these whiners go ask the driver to shut off the AC, since 95% of the people were complaining. One brave soul finally got up the nerve and did it. Lo and behold- the driver shut off the AC! Cue: collective sigh of relief from the Italians.

I can't understand why, for the most part, Italians are so passive. If something is bothering you (and a majority of people) WHY NOT take action to improve the situation, especially when it could be so easily improved? Why just sit there and complain?

In all my years here, I've noticed that Italians are Olympic gold medalists at complaining (loudly, rowdily, individually, or in groups) but rarely do they actually voice their beef with someone in charge or even take the simple steps necessary to resolve the situation. WHY IS THAT? Is there some cultural hang-up about being proactive or confrontational? Is it considered inappropriate to speak up? I've noticed this in old & young alike, even some of my friends have this tendency. It seems ridiculous to me, why bother using so much energy to complain instead of simply using that same energy to fix what's wrong? I'm not saying people have to be aggressive and demanding, I'm just saying that 90% of the time, situations like the one I just mentioned could be easily resolved by speaking up. It blows my mind to be surrounded by a nation of people who will stew in their indignation, will get worked up about it, but are too passive to speak up or stand up to make a real change.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Italian (lack of) tact

I'm sure I've touched on this topic before, but I was smacked upside the head by it the other day and feel the need to share it with you all.

I had been working from home on the translation of a very difficult Italian documentary, I miraculously and stylishly (yes, I'm allowed to pat myself on the back now and again) finished it and sent it to the office. The next day the director calls me to thank me- wowsers! She was immensely grateful because she herself understood how complex the topic was and how tricky it was to condense it all into fluid subtitles. She and I had a friendly chat and she said she hoped we could work together again. Great!

A few days ago, I was at the dreaded Tiburtina office (not because I dislike the office itself, I just despise the commute) and lo and behold, said director is there. She had some adjustments to make to the documentary so they call me in. I introduce myself and she looks at me with total shock on her face and says: "You're ___? But you're just a ragazzina, I thought you were much older".
BOOM, how's that for class and tact?! Really, lady? Do you have no control over what comes out of your mouth? You really think that's an appropriate thing to say in a professional setting? Plus, if homegirl had been 80 years old, I might be able to understand her shock, but at most she was in her 50s… and since I'm in my mid 30s, I'm not really sure what the big deal is.
I politely smiled and said: "Well, looks can be deceiving. I am older than I look" (and mind you, that day I just happened to be dressed more "formally"- which means I wasn't wearing a t-shirt and jeans so I looked a bit more adult-like) to which, Miss Tact replied: "But still, I never imagined you would be a ragazzina" and carried on mumbling and bumbling, almost horrified by this discovery.
I just found it so rude, inappropriate, and unnecessary for her to make a huge verbal ordeal about my age and what she thought it should/would be. So in her mind, in order to be professional or capable, one has to be an octogenarian?
Not to mention it's downright wrong to address physical appearances at all in a work setting. If I had rolled up in a wheelchair would she have said: "Oh, from your voice it didn't sound like you were in a wheelchair". If I were fat would she have said: "Oh, I never imagined you'd be so fat"... I think you get my point, making comments of this sort is flat-out stupid. Not to get all gung-ho American on you, but it's something I've encountered many times in Italy. That's not to say coworkers don't comment on my age in the States, they do and they have BUT never upon first meeting me! If they do mention it, it happens after we get to know each other or after we've been working together for a while. I find Italians to be seriously lacking in basic workplace etiquette. In the US, you never know who you're dealing with so you tend to watch your words. You don't know if you're standing face to face with the next creator of Google or Facebook, or some genius graphic designer, or some musical prodigy, or some billionaire so you avoid dumb-ass assumptions and generalizations in the workplace. While Italians tend to be very judgemental and very image-biased in the workplace. It's a country where the way you look seems to be more important than what you're actually capable of. Maybe this explains why the country is stagnating instead of progressing....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"We delivery"

The other day I was feeling immensely lazy and had no desire to cook, nor did I have any desire to eat any of the limited delivery options (pizza, pizza, and more pizza) available in Rome, so I started thinking: Why hasn't delivery become common in Rome? To be honest, even take-out isn't that easy since many restaurants don't have the proper containers for transporting food. I vividly recall a disastrous experience with Chinese take-out: I learned soy sauce stains do not wash out easily.
I can understand if we were in the 1960s, when most people ate home-cooked meals with their families so the idea of take-out or delivery was outrageous, but nowadays Italians (and non-Italians who live here) eat all kinds of things, including pre-prepared foods, frozen meals, etc. So why hasn't delivery caught on? I mean, we even have scooters here so it's not about the actual transportation (those poor NYC delivery guys have to use bicycles). Why is it that they only deliver pizza (and shitty pizza, to boot)? Why haven't restaurants realized the fortune they could make by delivering? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why!

Flaminia Computer

I'm a veteran Apple user: the first computer I ever touched (in high school) was an Apple, the first computer I ever purchased was an iBook, and I am planning on getting an iPhone soon. I'm completely loyal to them and I'm just as loyal to the amazing peeps at Flaminia Computer (run by the Bagnetti family). These guys are top notch: best customer service, amazing help desk/repair center, they're pleasant, efficient, wonderful in every sense, and they speak English to boot.
If you're looking to buy a Mac, I highly suggest going to see them. As we know, Macs cost what they cost, there are no discounts to be had BUT these guys take good care of you, help you when you're in trouble, and I recently discovered they also offer free lessons for new Mac users!! Pure awesomeness.

Flaminia Computer
Via Flaminia 387
00196 Roma
TEL: 06.4543.9818 r.a.
FAX: 06.3211.1264
Lun–Ven: 9:00-13:30 15:00-19:00
Sabato: 9:30-13:30
info@flaminiacomputer.it

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

suicide mission

Armed with a book, a bottle of water, and a pack of Nutter Butter (YES, I brought them back with me from USA because I love them and they are somewhat nutritious since they contain peanut butter), I headed off this morning on a suicide mission: Anagrafe AND Acea in one day! I know, I know, pure craziness but I figured it was best to dive right in and ruin one day instead of two or more.
I hadn't been to the Anagrafe in years, I must say it hasn't changed one bit. Still chaotic, still plagued with bad signage, still slow as fuck. I waited over TWO hours to get my ID renewed. The actually renewal process took all of 60 seconds, the rest of the time was spent waiting in line. Note for all you legal foreigners- we will never be allowed to have the small, plastic ID cards because we weren't born in Italy. As punishment we'll have to haul around a giant scrap of ragged paper, also known as carta d'identità, until the end of time... or until they change the rule.

After that, I scurried to the Acea office hoping I wouldn't have to wait as long. Luckily, I only spent 30 minutes in line. But I left there feeling less than triumphant. See, a few years ago Acea sent me a refund check because they overcharged me by 300+ euro... Yeah, Acea approximates what they think you're consuming in electricity, charges you for it, then comes around once a year to check the meter and ends up sending beefy refund checks. For all you smartypants out there, YES I know I could check the meter every few months and inform Acea of the actual reading, but I'm not always here, it slips my mind, etc etc. Back to the story: I got a nice phat refund check but due to a series of odd/annoying circumstances that I cannot get into now, the check got lost. I filed a police report and was expecting a new check, but 2 years have gone by and nothing has come of it. A few weeks ago, after I returned from USA, I went to the Carabinieri to check up on my case and they flippantly told me to go to Acea because there was nothing they could do. According to them I had filed the report, so now Acea had to reissue the check. Too good to be true of course! Today, I went to Acea and they told me to go back to the Carabinieri. And so I did. I waited for 25 minutes and finally got to speak to the Maresciallo who was actually pleasant (not in a skanky way like most of the men in that office) and helpful. He pulled out my file and told me what I had been waiting to hear for 2 years: the check was cashed by someone who made a fake ID with my name and their picture, then forged the signature and cashed the check. The Carabinieri tried to trace the ID number but of course they couldn't because it was FAKE. Essentially, I've been robbed of 300+ euro and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. I'm still confused as to why the Carabinieri never contacted me when the investigation was over (quite some time ago, as I discovered today) AND why, when I went to the Carabinieri a few weeks ago, they shooed me off telling me to take it up with Acea instead of actually looking at my case, which had long since been closed. Worst thing is, there's no recourse. The Maresciallo himself said the only "option" is going to court, but we both chuckled as soon as those words came out of his mouth. I've already had one experience with the Italian judicial system (don't get me started on that!) and it taught me to steer clear of it. I would end up forking out money and never getting back what is rightfully mine.
Say it with me, "ciao ciao 300+ euro".

Monday, March 22, 2010

the downfall of Rome

Ah, a lovely morning stroll through Trastevere.
Every time I walk past this building I sigh... Many years ago, there was no fence in between the columns of this building's entrance. But homeless people started sleeping inside of the arches, by the front door so the building put up a fence. THEN the homeless people started sleeping inside the brick triangular structures (which, for the record, used to be flower beds with real flowers), so they fenced in the flower beds as well. Now they've even put up a net on the fence because people kept throwing trash and needles inside. I feel for the residents of this building, I would be irate if I'd been forced to fence myself in because people are become less and less civilized as time goes on. This is just one of the many examples of the downfall of Rome...





This is another example which makes my blood boil. The entrance to the church of S. Cosimato. It's not the first time I've complained about the fact that the city/neighborhood allows this precious monument to be treated like a dormitory and urinal (the stench coming from that space is unbearable). Only in Italy can something this important be totally neglected.



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gym quest



For several years I've been searching my area for a good gym, and let me tell you, it has not been easy!

A few years back, I discovered Trastevere Fitness and it seemed like a dream come true. For those of you who don't know: the majority of gyms in the historic center of Rome tend to be small, underground, dumpy/dingy, not to mention crazy expensive considering they're poorly equipped and have limited hours (very few are open on Sunday, and if they are it's only for a few hours). But this place was brand new, well-equipped, pretty spacious, and actually had windows! Perfect, or so I thought till I started taking the classes (Don't judge me! Yes, I like aerobics classes, I even used to teach aerobics back in my day). There was one good instructor, the rest sucked, and that's putting it nicely. It was like a mix between the calisthenics we used to do in elementary school gym class and Jane Fonda's 1970s style aerobics. To top it all off, the place was run by a group of business partners, some of whom were total jackasses and had no idea how to deal with or treat clients.
So I stopped going there and gave up on gyms altogether... till now. I really miss exercising and it's high time I admit I'm just not motivated enough to go running regularly- so back to the gym quest and this is what I've found so far.

1) Trastevere Fitness still exists but I won't step foot in there again, unless the management has changed.

2) New discovery, just opened a month ago: JC Welfare (who the fuck came up with that name?). I spotted this place on my way back from Stazione Trastevere. I immediately hopped off the tram and went to check it out. It's small but fairly well-equipped. Strike one: there is no room for aerobics/toning classes, they take place in the middle of the gym, cordoned off by large white exercise balls (I shit you not). They say they plan on expanding soon in order to have a room just for classes, but I've been in Rome long enough to know that "plans" like this could take forever to become a reality. Strike two: the pricing. There's a full-time and part-time membership. For real? Come on! Why must they unnecessarily complicate memberships? Just give me: 1, 3, 6, 12 month options, that's all a person needs. I don't need a membership that only allows me to use the gym between the hours of 8:00- 2:30 OR 2:30- 9:00 pm. Strike three: The price. 80 freaking euro for a tiny gym with limited classes and hours? Puh-lease!

3) Total Body System. This gym is located in a strange place, perched on top of a hill by Stazione Trastevere, a bit out of reach but not too bad. The place is nice, spacious, clean, they have a separate room for classes. The prices seem reasonable too. As of now, this is my first choice. I'll probably sign up for a month (65 euro) just to see if I like the instructors, I'm hoping they'll waive the 25 euro iscrizione (sign-up fee) though. It seems fair to let a person test out a gym for a month without having to pay a sign-up fee, since I'm not sure I'll like the classes and will want to stay with them.

4) Pamphili Fitness Club/ Passion Fitness. This gym is a little further out of the way, but easily reached with the 8 tram or H bus. I found it thanks to a flyer that advertised a free one week trial membership, which is practically unheard of here! So I did it and I loved the classes and instructors. I didn't sign up though because I was leaving for the USA so it was pointless to commit at that point. I went back there last week, hoping to quickly get a new class schedule and a list of prices. It ended up turning into a 25 minute spiel/ordeal. The people who work there are nice but they just overly-complicate things! I asked the guy for a print-out of the membership prices and what ensued was the longest, most complex song & dance evah and a handwritten "personalized offer*"! I don't want a personalized offer, I don't need you to do the division for me on your 1983 Casio calculator, I can do it myself. Just give me the number of months and the euro amount, that's all. Really. I'm a big girl, I can break it down myself. This "personalized offer" expires after a week, which I find amusing because it just means more work for them. I got slammed with work after I paid them a visit, so that one week has come and gone and I may have to go back for updated info. They just try too hard to appear professional and to sell you memberships, I'm not a fan of pushy people. Apart from these slight annoyances, the place is nice, spacious, well-equipped. The only drawback for me is the fact that it takes 25 minutes to get their by tram/bus.

5) Centro Sportivo Aventino. Unless you want to swim, this place is pointless. Talk about complicated schedules and pricing?!? I couldn't make heads or tails of their info.


Know of any other places I should check out before biting the bullet and signing up for "Total Body System"? I'm all ears!

(*image attached for your viewing pleasure)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Clash

It was bound to happen... after precisely 13 days back in Rome I had my first official clash with the locals, or rather a local.

I walk into a bar (sounds like the intro to a bad joke) and order a coffee. Myself and an older woman are at the counter while a family of four, clearly Americans, sits at a table in the corner. The barista is going off on a tirade about how he's sick of these tourists, how they expect everyone to speak their language, how arrogant and rude they are, blah blah blah. Mind you, all of this is being shouted out loud as he prepares my coffee. It's clear that he's bitching about the American family sitting cluelessly in the corner, not knowing they've set him off on this tirade. They're probably thinking "Oh look how passionate these Italians are, how lively their conversations are". Bless their oblivious souls...
The barista keeps going on and on about how foreigners come here thinking they rule the place and if they want service from people who speak 6 languages, then they should go stay at the Grand Hotel. All the while making eye contact with me as if to gain my support (the older woman practically had her head in her cappuccino... wise woman). THEN he goes so far as to say "We Italians know how to adapt when we travel", at that point I could not help but start snickering. I looked straight at him and said "You have got to be kidding?!".
I know, I know, I shouldn't have done it. I tried to resist as long as I could, but enough's enough. I just wanted a fucking coffee but I got stuck listening to a load of bullshit. Thus, a heated yet very polite discussion began. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't the tourists' fault they don't speak the language, it's common to visit a country whose language you don't know and you have to try to get by on the languages you do know (i.e., your own), I also reminded him that Italy, and Rome especially, thrive on tourists and their money so it's in their own interest to treat visitors well. For the record, I was not defending all American tourists because I know firsthand, from working in the tourism industry, how obnoxious they can be but to go as far as generalizing that ALL Italians are great tourists and know how to adapt is just flat out ridiculous. Our discussion took a turn for the worse when I assured him that Italians are not perfect tourists when abroad (between you and me, I have traveled the globe and have seen some hideous Italian tourists. I'm just sayin' is all...) so he should be a little more understanding. Then I got the classic lame comeback: "How dare you come to MY country and insult MY people"... Again, I just snickered and said "I too am one of your people because I am Italian, I've lived here for over 10 years, and I pay taxes here. I'm not insulting anyone (unlike him, calling Americans ignorant, rude, arrogant, etc.) I'm just making an observation based on my experiences."
Buddy, next time don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash. If you're going to publicly bitch and moan at the top of your voice about something in front of your customers, then don't be surprised or annoyed when they actually chime in. Keep it to yourself if you're not willing to hear or accept other viewpoints. The discussion ended with us agreeing to disagree and me thinking "Now I can't go back to that bar ever again". Damn, what a pity, I really liked their pastries...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

hugs vs. kisses

I don't know about you all, but I still prefer a good ol' American hug to the Italian-style cheek kissing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Like clockwork...


Having two homes, having a life and your heart on two different continents sounds like a dream life to many people but it's not as wonderful as it sounds. I've been living a "double life" for over 10 years now and while it does have its perks, it also has some downsides.

For the past 3-4 years I've been spending winters in my beloved New York City (for work) and then migrating back to Rome for the rest of the year. Every year, like clockwork, when November rolls around I begin to dread the idea of packing up and heading to NYC: I feel so comfortable in Rome, I don't want to miss out on the autumn fun, I don't want to face the cold East coast winters, etc. Once I arrive, it usually takes me a good 4-5 days to feel fully settled and at home. AND every year, like clockwork, when February/March roll around I begin to dread the idea of heading back to Rome: I feel so comfortable in NYC, life is so easy and convenient, I begin questioning my decision to live in Rome, my life there, my future there, etc.


Both places feel like home. Both places have pros and cons. Do I have the best of both worlds? Or am I complicating my life unnecessarily?