Sunday, June 27, 2010

Un anno vissuto intensamente (A year living intensely)

Who said that you settle down after marriage? We hadn’t yet finished unpacking our luggage from our honey-moon that our life entered in a blender: Rome or DC? India or not India? The Bank or UNDP? CI or…

And in the middle plenty of planes, trains and sleeping bags: from Colombia to DRC, from Brazil to Kerala, to Kashmir, to Rajasthan, to Maharashtra, to Punjab…

Definitively a year living intensely. And with still a lot of uncertainties on our future: hard to say where we’ll be next year (let alone in five or ten!).

But with a certainty: in two it is better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The only reason why I am not too disappointed that Italy went out of the World Cup…

… is that I can now leave to Ladakh without being obsessed about finding a Buddhist monastery with the satellite TV.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back to the heat of Delhi

Vague recollections of thermal expansion from my physics classes at the high school: the volume of liquids expands on heating. The variation of volume is proportional to the variation of temperature. The degree of expansion depends on the fluid, and is expressed by the so called ‘coefficient of thermal expansion’*.

After the fresh of the Italian Alps in summer, here I am back to the torrid heat of the Delhi summer.

I have already bothered you with the description of the Indian heat in past posts**, and don’t want to become repetitive. But what happened to me at my return in Delhi is worth being told as it gives you a tangible image of what the heat in Delhi concretely means...

As a result of our visit to my father during our short trip in Italy (see post below), we were offered a bottle of olive oil - olive oil that he himself produces (100% organic). Only those that have lived abroad for a while know how precious a bottle of olive oil is for an Italian abroad.

Aware of the treasure that we were given, I took good care in carefully wrapping it up with newspaper papers to avoid it could break in my luggage during the trip back to India, I shamelessly lied to the Indian customs’ officials declaring I didn’t bring any organic food with me, and when I finally arrived at home at 3am after a whole day of travel, I proudly placed the bottle that safely crossed in the hold of my plane the skies of half-Europe and half-Asia on the sideboard of my kitchen where it could easily be seen.

The first day in Delhi after a week of Italy has been tough: few hours of sleep the night before, several things to catch up at work, a few hours of jet leg - that are not unbearable per se, but that echoed in my head at the end of the day. But when I was finally returning home at the end of this day, I was already anticipating the pleasure of a salad, a pasta, or a bruschetta dressed with such oil.

You can then imagine my feeling when I arrived home, entered in the kitchen and saw the bottle of oil that I had carefully placed on my sideboard in the kitchen the night before exploded because of the heat.

I have been pick-pocketed once. I have been stolen my laptop once. I left my mobile in the plane once. But in none of these cases I felt as I felt that evening, when I saw that precious irreparably spread on the floor of my kitchen...

(*) The coefficient of thermal expansion of olive oil is 0.00072/oC (more than three times that of water), that is to say that olive oil roughly increases in volume by 1% of its total volume every 14oC temperature increase. Now, assuming that the oil was bottled at the temperature of the Italian Autumn (let’s say 15oC), you can easily imagine how hot our kitchen is in these days...

(**) and

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some pics of the past days - i primi pizzoccheri di Mathilde*

(*) Mathilde’s first pizzoccheri (les premiers pizzoccheri de Mathilde)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some pics of the past days - nipotino: tutto suo zio*

(*) Little nephew: the portrait of his uncle (petit neveu : c’est tout le portrait de son oncle)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home sweet home (2)

I had promised a less melancholic and nostalgic post to close the discussion on the ‘home sweet home’ post and move forward. Let me thus post this picture that I took a few years ago at the airport of Lagos in Nigeria (for which I was almost arrested*).

There is no place like home, there is no place like Nigeria!

(*) It is of course illegal to take pictures in airports...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pour nôtres amis les Français…

(Rightly) reproached by our French followers for having exceeded with the number of posts in Italian in the past days, for the sake of par condicio we provide the French translation of the past post (apologizes in advance for the unavoidable mistakes…)

Quand Sara m’a demandée si je pouvais être son témoin, je me suis senti d’une coté très honoré, mais, ou même temps, beaucoup en difficulté. Et pas pour l’ascension que j’aurais du affronter pour arriver jusqu’ici - en ce temps-là j’ignorais le chemin de croix qui me (qui nous) attendait…

Je disais : quand Sara m’a demandée si je pouvais être son témoin, je me suis senti très honoré, mais aussi beaucoup en difficulté. Et j’ai lui dite.

Pour moi, en effet, le témoin du marié (ou de la mariée, comme dans ce cas) a quatre devoirs fondamentaux.

Premier : aider la mariée á choisir la robe nuptiale. N’en parlons plus du fait que j’habite a Delhi, á plus de 8,000 km de distance, mais… est-ce-que vous avez jamais vu un homme donner des conseilles á une femme pour choisir une robe ??

(De quelque façon, qui que ce soit qui l’a aidée : excellente choix J)

Deuxième : organiser l’enterrement de vie de jeune fille. Et ici, j’avais une liste de boîtes… Mais dans ce cas je dois dire que, heureusement pour Sara (or pour Tommy) j’habitais à plus de 8,000 km de distance.

Troisième : faire le discours au mariage. Et ici, j’ai du céder…

Qu’est-que peux-je dire de ce mariage, donc ?

Eh bien, je peux dire qu’aujourd’hui Tommy est l’homme le plus heureux du monde.

Et pas parce que sa maison est brulée. Ou, peut-être, exactement parce que sa maison est brulée.

Comme je viens, comme je l’ai dit, de l’Inde, je saisis cette bonne occasion pour partager avec vous un peu de sagesse indienne, et vous raconter une petite histoire qui se raconte là-bas.

Dans un village sur les montagnes de l’Himalaya, un jeune rencontre un cheval. Tout le village dit : « Quelle chance ! ». Et le vieux sage du village : « On verra ».

En effet le jeune en montant tombe, et il se casse le bras. Tout le village dit : « Quel malheur ! ». Et le vieux sage du village : « On verra ».

Et en effet la guerre éclate, et tous les jeunes hommes du village sont appelés aux armes. Mais le jeune qui avait le bras cassé est dispensé. Tout le village dit : « Quelle chance ! ». Et le vieux sage du village…

Tout ca pour dire qu’on ne sait jamais ce qui la vie nous réserve, et si ce qui nous passe sera un heureux ou malheureux événement. Aujourd’hui pour exemple nous pouvons dire que ce qui pouvait initialement sembler un malheur pour Tommy, lui a permit en réalité de connaitre Sara - et tout le monde voit comme ca est terminé.

Tommy, aujourd’hui tu es l’homme le plus heureux du monde parce que tu as trouvé l’amour de Sara. Prends bien soin d’elle.

J’avais dit que le témoin a quatre devoirs fondamentaux.

Le quatrième est le devoir le plus grand et le plus difficile au même temps : veiller sur votre mariage.

Grand parce que il est gratifiant se sentir complices, confidents, conseillers de la couple, et penser qu’un peu du succès de leur union dépend de toi aussi.

Difficile parce que, clairement, le succès de votre union dépend - en fin - surtout de vous.

Ce qui je peux vous promettre - ce qui je te peux promettre, Sara - est que tout les fois que t’auras besoin, tu pourras compter sur moi.

Ou que je sois, chaque fois tu auras besoin d’un conseil, d’un mot, d’une épaule - je serai là.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sara & Tommy si sono sposati: le foto!

Sara and Tommy’s wedding pictures have been posted at:

Vote your favourite one!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Quando Sara mi ha chiesto se potevo farle da testimone...

Quando Sara mi ha chiesto se potevo farle da testimone, mi sono sentito da un lato molto onorato, ma dall’altro parecchio in difficoltà. E non per l’ascesa alpinistica che avrei dovuto affrontare per arrivare fin qui - a quei tempi ero ancora ignaro della ‘via crucis’ che mi (che ci) attendeva…

Dicevo, quando Sara mi ha chiesto se potevo farle da testimone, mi sono sentito molto onorato, ma altrettanto in difficoltà. E gliel’ho detto.

Per me, infatti, il testimone dello sposo (o della sposa, come in questo caso) ha quattro doveri fondamentali.

Primo: aiutare la sposa a scegliere l’abito nuziale. Lasciamo stare che vivo a Delhi, a più di 8,000 Km di distanza, ma… si è mai visto un uomo dare consigli a una donna sulla scelta di un vestito??

(Comunque, chiunque l’abbia aiutata: ottima scelta J)

Secondo: organizzare l’addio al nubilato. E qui, avevo una lista di localini… Ma in questo caso devo dire che per fortuna di Sara (o di Tommy) abitavo a più di 8,000 Km di distanza.

Terzo: fare il discorso al matrimonio. E qui ho dovuto cedere…

Che dire dunque di questo matrimonio?

Bhe, posso dire che oggi Tommy è l’uomo più fortunato al mondo.

E non perché gli è bruciata la casa. O forse sì, proprio perché gli è bruciata la casa.

Visto che vengo dall’India, colgo questa occasione per condividere con voi un po’ di saggezza indiana e raccontarvi una storiella che si racconta da quelle parti.

In un villaggio sulle montagne dell’Himalaya, un giovane un giorno trova un cavallo. Tutto il villaggio dice: “Che fortuna!”. E il saggio del villaggio: “Vediamo”.

Infatti il giovane andando a cavallo cade e si rompe un braccio. Tutto il villaggio dice: “Che sfortuna!”. E il saggio del villaggio: “Vediamo”.

E infatti scoppia la guerra, e tutti i giovani del villaggio sono chiamati alle armi. Ma il giovane che aveva il braccio rotto viene dispensato. Tutto il villaggio dice: “Che fortuna!”. E il saggio del villaggio…

Tutto questo per dire che non sappiamo mai cosa ci riserva la vita, e dire a priori se ciò che ci accade sia un evento fortunato o meno. Oggi per esempio possiamo dire che ciò che inizialmente poteva sembrare una mezza disgrazia per Tommy, gli abbia in realtà permesso di conoscere Sara - e vediamo tutti com’è andata a finire.

Tommy, oggi sei l’uomo più fortunato al mondo. Hai trovato l’amore di Sara. Abbine cura.

Avevo detto che il testimone aveva quattro doveri fondamentali.

Il quarto è il dovere più bello e più difficile allo stesso tempo: vegliare sul vostro matrimonio.

Bello perché è appagante sentirsi complici, confidenti, consiglieri della coppia. Pensare che un po’ del successo della loro unione dipenda anche da te.

Difficile perché, chiaramente, il successo della vostra unione dipende - alla fine - soprattutto da voi.

Quello che posso promettervi - che posso prometterti, Sara - è che ogniqualvolta avrai bisogno potrai contare su di me.

Dovunque io sia, ogni volta che avrai bisogno di un consiglio, di una parola, di una spalla - io ci sarò.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wedding in Val Codera

When, after two hours climbing for an impassable path, we finally sighted Codera, the small village perched in the homonymous valley in the heart of the Lombard Alps, we felt like Bedouins sighting an oasis in the middle of the desert: uncertain whether it was a mirage or not.

The main event around which our blitz in Milan was organized was Sara and Tommy’s wedding. As two true mountaineers, Sara and Tommy decided to get married in val Codera, one of the few valleys in Italy that is (still) not accessible by car. The only way to reach Codera is through an ‘easy trail’, as it was described in the wedding card we received a few months ago. Fabulous - we thought - we love hiking!

Little we knew what was expecting us. The approach march revealed itself closer to a Himalayan ascent (or, better, to a ‘via crucis’) than to a Sunday hike. Steep. Very steep. And made even harder by the summer sun that was beating down and by swarms of ‘tiger mosquitoes*’ that attacked us every time we slowed down our pace (let alone stopping), thus preventing us from resting even a single minute on our way up. The only (partial) comfort was - every time we met other guests on the trail that, like us, were spitting blood and sweat - to curse together the soon-to-be-married, and imagine together the cruelest ways we could have taken revenge on them…

(*) Do try to recollect what you know about mosquitoes. What comes to your memory? That mosquitoes attack at dusk and at the sunset only? That mosquitoes live and reproduce in wetlands? That mosquitoes do not live in mountain or in altitude? Not the ‘tiger mosquitoes’, the last evolution of the species. Tiger mosquitoes are active 24/7, they don’t need wetlands to reproduce, and - I promise - you can find plenty of them in the mountains…

The ceremony, celebrated in the beautiful church of the village, has been simple and nice. With only one moment of panic (at least, as far as I am concerned): when I was called to read one of the readings chosen by the bridegroom for the ceremony. As an experienced presenter on the night of the Global Awards I went to the lectern, I opened the paper that I had farsightedly printed and kept in the pocket of my jacket with studied confidence, and started reading. But when I reached more or less half of the reading, I realized that the line where the paper had been folded was unreadable: completely deleted!!! Panic**!!!…

The celebrations continued at the refuge of the village, where, sit on benches out on a meadow, under the shade of a big tree***, we were served a true lunch from Valtellina. Only those who had at least once a true ‘Valtellinian’ meal in their life know what I am talking about. I can just tell you that we stood up after four hours, more prone to roll than to walk…

After the lunch, the guests started little by little to descend. Only 13 diehards (including the newlyweds and - of course - us) decided to stay and spend the night at the refuge.

(**) How did I get out of trouble? With seeming nonchalance I mumbled something, I quickly looked around to check whether anyone was somewhat puzzled, and once I realized that my stammering passed unnoticed, I continued as nothing happened…

(***) We'll post the pictures of the wedding in the next couple of days.

The following morning, after a true Valtellinian breakfast, 7 of the diehards (see picture above) decided to clear the scum of the previous day by walking to the next refuge: il Rifugio Brasca.

A nice hike, in the wonerful scenary of the Alps. However, if the objective of the walk was to clear our body from the scum of the previous day, we miserably failed. At our arrival at the Rifugio Brasca in fact there were huge plates of ‘polenta taragna’, goatling, sausages, and cheeses waiting for us.

How could have we refused…

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quel cielo di Milano…

… così bello quand'è bello, così splendido, così in pace*.

(*) The sky of Milan, so beautiful when it is beautiful, so brilliant, so calm.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Home sweet home (?)

My corner

Nine months. This has been the longest period I’ve been away from home*.

And while in the past years I had managed somehow (or other) to pass by Milan shortly but regularly, and thus changes - that surely happened - appeared to me almost unperceivable, this time the changes of the past months appeared to me quite drastic - and I had almost to rediscover my own hometown.

Traffic lights and crossroads have been substituted by roundabouts. One-way-only have changed directions. The grocery store of my neighborhood changed name. In the garden of my school a tree (the tree that we used as post when we played football during lunch-breaks) has been cut. A cinema where I used to go (the Mediolanum) closed. New buildings are being built, old buildings have been knocked down…

At home changes have been not less (emotionally) drastic. At first sight, my room is almost as I left it. But looking carefully I could see that where I used to keep my CDs, there are now plenty of toys. Where I used to store my shoes, there are now diapers. And my frames have been removed and the scissors that I kept in my desk-drawer hidden, as the new ‘owner’ of the room can break them or hurt himself if he plays with them.

Returning home for the first time in a long time has provoked mix feelings. On the one hand the usual feeling of peace, comfort. The feeling of being at home. On the other hand the inconvenient sensation that time passes.

When we live abroad we tend to unconsciously (or presumptuously) believe that time passes for us only: we think our experiences make us change and grow, while what we leave behind gets frozen and preserved as it was.

This time my transit through Milan put me in front of this inconvenient truth: time passes everywhere. And changes may appear less drastic and dramatic than the ones I have been experiencing for the past years, since I left Milan (Geneva, Rome, Bogota, Addis, Brussels, London, Paris, Washington, Delhi) - but they do happen and keep on happening inexorably and irreversibly.

And while there is no place where I feel more relaxed, more in peace than my home, I wonder whether I should still call my home ‘home’…

My room

(*) And 12 years: one third of my life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Il Metro che avanza (The Metro that continues advancing)

I still remember as it was today my first conversation with an Indian here in India: it was with the taxi driver that brought me from the airport to the hotel*.

During the ride to the hotel we discussed a bit about all the things you can’t avoid discussing with a taxi driver the first time you arrive in Delhi: the traffic, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, and the metro under construction.

Particularly with regard to the metro under construction, the taxi driver kept on proudly pointing at something in the middle of nothing during the whole trip, repeating “Delhi Metro, Delhi Metro. Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Games” - which I interpreted as ‘That’s where the Delhi Metro is being built; it will be ready by the Commonwealth Games’. However, despite all my efforts, I couldn’t see anything beside a few half-finished cement pillars here and there.

For a person that grew up in Milan in the 80s and 90s under the refrain of ‘la linea 3 che avanza’, to see three cement pillars still under construction and to think that a metro system should be ready and functioning in less than one year seemed the usual example of political propaganda. You (politician) commit to build a physical infrastructure (a metro in this case) and present a plan and a budget. The plan is approved, and thanks to this your city gets the ‘big international event’ (the Commonwealth Games in this case) assigned. Public funds are allocated and you start the works. However, after a while, for a reason or another, the works get delayed, the budget turns out to be insufficient, people start realizing that the metro will never be ready for the due date, and, in short, the works are stopped (or procrastinated forever), blame is given to nobody, and public opinion ends up accepting this failure as another case of bad politics (but in the meantime funds have been allocated - and spent, the city got the Games assigned, and perhaps the politician has also managed to be re-elected).

Anyway. During the weeks that followed my arrival it happened to me a few times to discuss the issue with my Indian colleagues. But every time I expressed my doubts on the fact that the metro would have ever been finished on time, my colleagues answered back, almost offended, that I didn’t know the Indians, that it is always like this, that things seem always late but in the end everything is completed on time.

Whatever. I didn’t mean to open a debate on this. It was just to chat about something. And certainly we, Italians, have nothing to teach to the rest of the world on this subject.

Weeks and then months went by without anything, apparently, happening. To the point that I completely forgot it.

And then, suddenly, almost overnight, the various cement platforms that for months had remained perched on the pillars scattered over Delhi began to connect each other - and the idea of metro to finally take shape, as the image of a jigsaw puzzle that is finally being completed.

It’s June 2nd today, there are still four months to go before the Commonwealth Games start - which can be a lot of time or very little. Anyway, whatever it will happen, either that the metro is completed on time or not, Delhi earned my admiration: here the Metro continues advancing.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

22 May 2010 - Inter-Bayern 2-0*

In Delhi**

In Milan***

(*) Apologizes, this has been posted a bit late, but was absolutely due: who knows when this will happen again (hopefully not in 45 years again)

(**) Thanks to Paolo for the hospitality

(***) Tutto suo zio J