Saturday, September 23, 2006

Lots of updates in a short post

My few readers are probably wondering where I went to this last week. With all of those riots in Hungary, I should have been blogging away furiously with angry political commentary.

Well...I have a good excuse. Last Friday I fell in love for real. I've been so happy all week that I've only been mildly irritated by the stupid neo-con Hungarian shits burning cars and pretending to be a combination of French protestors and English soccer hooligans.

Instead of dishing out my sentiments about it, I'll hand the commentary over to the ever amusing Pestiside. They've said it better than I ever could. The fact that the media is all over this is just a sign of how people like to look for trouble.

My experience in Firenze has changed drastically in the past week. I've gone from feeling like a strange long-term tourist to being part of a community - that of EUI. I've spent every evening at EUI's bar, Bar Fiasco, mostly drinking soda water, doing some research, spending time online, and chatting with people. I'm officially one of the "usual suspects" now.

I honestly don't feel like I'm in Italy. I've been eating mostly East European food (no complaints there), hanging out with an assortment of people from all around Europe, doing everything from learning how to dance Balkan style to singing Karaoke to debating politics. And all of this at the Bar Fiasco.

I don't remember the last time I was this happy. I don't think I realized how unhappy I really was until I suddenly became this happy. Life couldn't be better.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A little exercise in comparative history

On the recommendation of one of my colleagues, I started reading Paul Ginsborg's seminal work on Italian history from 1945 to 1980. It is nothing short of brilliant, and paints a picture of a third world country that underwent an economic miracle (Il Miracolo) to become a successful developed power. In 1945, serfdom was still alive and well in the southern part of Italy, and in the north, conditions, while better, were still largely centered around sharecropping and limited industry.

One of the themes that Ginsborg examines, is that of the marginalization of the Communist party immediately after WWII. The Communists, afraid of repercussions from the Allies, and under the impression that open protest and revolution was a dangerous thing, chose to ally themselves with the recently formed Christian Democratcs, who were anything but progressive. The Communist party's unwillingness to make significant attempts at reforming the agricultural system and industrial sectors set the tone for future decades, where reform in Italy was slow to come. After weakening the Communists, the Christian Democrats allowed Italy's few industries to slash jobs, leading to even greater unemployment in a country already devastated by WWII (we're talking the last 1940s here).

Today I was struck by the following headline on MSNBC: "Ford to slash North American workforce." Yesterday while reading the book, I read about Fiat slashing its northern Italian workforce.

And it suddenly occurred to me - a fun little comparison can be drawn between the post-WWII Italian Communist party and the American Democrats post-9-11. Concession is the imperative word. No one wants to stand up and defy the other side. And in the process, every advantage, ever inch that the Democrats gained over the decades is being eroded by the Republic propaganda machine, which has even successful passed a large part of the "blame" (if there can be such a thing) for 9-11 on the Democrats. Funny how American politics is looking a lot like Italian politics used to. Word of warning for the Americans - Berlusconi would never have had the success he had had the Communist party been more open in pushing for reform. The tone of Italian politics in the next few decades was set in the years immediately following WWII.

Lesson of this exercise: If you want reform, you have to shout for it and agitate for it. You can't just smile, nod and hope that eventually, the other side will be nice enough to do you this favor.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Italian striking

Tomorrow there will be a bus strike in the city of Florence. This does not, however, mean that the buses just stop running. The strike schedule is precise and very civilized.

There will be no buses before 6 am.

However, buses will run from 6 am to 9:15 am so the bambini (children) and workers can get to school/work.

Then the buses will stop running from 9:15-11:45.

At 11:45 they will resume running, so that the bambini and workers can go home for lunch.

Then at 3:30, the buses will stop running for the rest of the day.

How civilized is that? Since buses are a public service, even when they strike, they shouldn't disrupt the schooling of children, or the movement of workers.

I really really love Italy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

At little bit about EUI...

I'm writing this post from the courtyard of the Badia, where once there were cloisters attached to the church, which is part of the EUI complex (for those of you who don't know - I'm visiting at EUI for the semester - EUI being the European University Institute). In this church Lorenzo di Medici (Il Magnifico)'s son Giovanni was made a cardinal at the tender age of 12 or so.

Then there is the Villa Schifanoia, which is where the law department is. This is where Boccaccio supposedly wrote his Decameron. It is also mentioned in the book Room With A View within that context (an English lady inhabits it in that book).

I still can't get over the fact that I'm going to school here, if only for a semester.

It's mid-September and I'm in shorts and a tanktop, my back to a column, a gentle breeze blowing, with wireless internet. That's what really gets me - the wireless internet. It's nice to live in the 21st century but be surrounded by edifices whose origins go back centuries. Let's face it, I don't think I would have much enjoyed living even as recently as the renaissance. As a 25 year old woman, I would be married, with a pile of kids, if lucky enough to afford servants, ordering them about, or else doing all the chores myself. And forget about clothing comfort. Medical care would be nearly nonexistant, my odds of dying in childbirth great. Worst of all - there would be no wireless internet...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Buon giorno di Firenze

A week ago I was in Ann Arbor.

Let me pause to take a deep breath, because I'm laughing so hard I could cry.


Ann Arbor.

Ha ha.

Ha ha ha.

I guess I've only been in Firenze for 6 days - I arrived late Monday afternoon, but it already feels a bit like a lifetime.

A brief summary of what has happened since I arrived:

1) I have an apartment, on via dei Pepi, right near Santa Croce. It is huge, beautiful, and I just moved in on Friday afternoon.

2) I have a codice fiscale, which is the Italian tax number, something akin to a social security number.

3) I attended my first Italian class (having missed the first few), and learned how to conjugate some verbs.

4) My first night here, I discussed the nature of reality and history with a Brazilian historian studying the renaissance while sitting in front of Santa Croce. It was incredibly romantic.

5) On Friday night, I went to a restaurant for dinner, ended up being taught how to make pizza and making a pizza in the kitchen that was served to a customer, did multiple shots of limoncello with various waiters, and got taken for a ride on the back of a motorscooter at breakneck speeds around the city and up to Piazza Michelangelo by one of the waiters. It was la Dolce Vita, in the wrong city, as my dad helpfully suggested.

6) I have yet to see the inside of a single museum or church.

7) I finished rereading Room with a View in one sitting, and more disturbingly, the Agony and the Ecstasy in another sitting.

8) I discovered that my law department is where Boccaccio supposedly wrote his Decameron (the EUI buildings are up in Fiesole, and are ridiculously historical).

9) The first thing that happened to me upon my arrival to my hostel was that 2 Gypsy girls tried to rob me.

Lots of other things have happened, but most of them have been too mundane to mention.

And a week ago I was in Ann Arbor...

I find that to be completely unbelievable.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Goodbye Michigan...

This post comes to you from Detroit Metro Airport. In a couple of short hours I will be on my way to Florence, Italy for three months. I would say that this will be my last post from the US until 2007, but I realize that I'll be back in the States within a few short weeks for callbacks. So it's a very temporary goodbye.

I can't wait. Last time I was in Firenze I was five years old. My main concern was gelato. Since then I've managed to randomly take a class on the social and intellectual history of the Florentine renaissance (and at the time I thought it totally useless!), read several books set in Firenze, and actually matured enough to prefer vino to gelato.

Gentle readers, fear not that this marks the last post for a long while. I will update you with my adventures, appropriately censored for relatives and potential employers who might be perusing my little blog, of course. And I'm sure there will be plenty of adventures as I navigate the various mundane tasks required to live in Italy (I already know that in order to obtain a residence permit, a special stamp must be obtained from the tobacconist...I'm assuming the same thing goes for bus tickets). So for now, arrivederci!