Friday, October 29, 2010

Fiji*, Johannesburg, Rome - where would you like to come to visit us next year?

Help us in taking our decision, do participate in our survey and tell us where you would like to come to visit us next year!

(*) By the way, how many of you can find Fiji on an outline map (cartina muta, carte muette)?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Once again, at the crossroads...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(Robert Frost)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thailand (and Thais)

Certainly two week-ends and a week mostly spent between conference rooms, taxis, and hotel rooms are not sufficient to get a definite idea of a country - and the risk is to be superficial or to end up giving a stereotyped picture of this country.

But for the little I saw, and deciding to run the risk of being superficial or stereotyped in my opinions, I have to say I liked Thailand very much.

I may biased by my stay here in Delhi, but I found Thailand clean, neat and tidy, and the Thais extremely polite, welcoming, smiling, and - perhaps unexpectedly - ironic and with a marked sense of humor!

Thailand would have probably been a very nice destination. But it won’t be Thailand, at least not for this round…

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rocks from the ocean (2)

For those who have not seen the ‘monkey’ in the previous post.

And for those who are interested in looking at more rocks and islands, have a look at: And vote your favourite one!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rocks from the ocean

Ang Thong Marine National Park. If it was for me, I would have stopped at any island, at any rock, to touch them, to take a picture of them, to climb and explore them.

This one, for instance, doesn’t it look like floating on the water?

And the one below, doesn’t it look like a monkey?

Greetings from BKK airport, on my way back to Delhi.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paradise on earth?

After a busy week in Bangkok, I indulged myself a - to use the UN jargon - RR week-end (rest & recover). Destination: the Ang Thong Marine National Park, an archipelago of 42 tiny limestone islands that suddenly pop up from the ocean.

While zigzagging through them I was trying to recollect and rank the most beautiful places where I have been in my life. While couldn’t come up with a final ranking, I would certainly include Ang Thong among them.

And you, what is/are the most beautiful place/s where you have been?

La ville de Nathan Never

Bangkok. Une bruine drue. Grise. Chaude. Collante. Qui presque ne mouille pas, mais qui s’imprègne dans les vêtements. Dans les cheveux. Ou c'est peut-être le vapeur des kiosques de chaque coté des trottoirs. Odeur de poisson. Il se brouilla, se mélange. Gens dans la rue, ils mangent, ils marchent. Ils se bousculent. Des hommes en uniforme. Arrêtés de chaque coté. Ils observent. Et la circulation, silencieuse et ordonnée. Rouge. Vert. Rouge. Vert. Rouge.

Un grincement sur moi. Je regarde en haute. Le métro léger. La gens sur le passage clouté. Les gratte-ciels de verre et ciment. Couches qui se coupent et se superposent l’un l’autre. Et au fond le ciel violacé. Une ville verticale. À nivaux. Je baisse de nouveau le regard et j’avance. Sous ces couches. Au premier niveau.

Une jeune fille s’approche de moi. Une prostituée ? Je me sens tirer par un bras. Une vieillarde. Elle me parle. Dans que langue ? Je ne comprends pas. Je tache de m’en aller. Elle insiste. Elle grince des dents. Pourris. « Dangerous ». Je remercie, je fais une petite révérence. Je poursuis.

Moi, je suis déjà été ici dans ce lieu. Je croix. Il me semble. Je ne me rappelle pas. Peut-être dans un rêve ? Je me brouille… Je m’approche pour lire, mais les lettres prennent des formes que je ne reconnais pas. Je me tourne pour chercher une aide. Personne. Seulement de gens qui marche d'une façon désordonnée. Je continue à marcher.

Je laisse la rue principale. Je tourne a gauche et âpres a droit dans une ruelle secondaire. Les bruits de la circulation tout d’un coup s’amortissent. Quelqu’un me regarde. Je sens que quelqu’un me suive. Ca ne peut pas être un droid, je l’aurais entendu. Peut-être un mutant. Comment est possible ? Est-ce-qu’ils m’ont déjà trouvé ? Je commence à devenir nerveux. Ou est mon contact ?

Je hâte le pas et je me replonge dans la rue principale, en essayent de me perdre dans la foule. Dans la ville de Nathan Never…

Friday, October 22, 2010

La città di Nathan Never

Bangkok. Una pioggerellina fitta. Grigia. Calda. Appiccicosa. Che quasi non bagna, ma si impregna nei vestiti. Nei capelli. O forse é il vapore dei chioschi ai lati dei marciapiedi. Odore di pesce. Si confonde, si mescola. Gente per strada, mangiano, camminano. Si urtano. Degli uomini in uniforme. Fermi ai lati. Osservano. E il traffico, silenzioso e ordinato. Rosso. Verde. Rosso. Verde. Rosso.

Uno stridere sopra di me. Guardo in alto. La metropolitana leggera. La gente sui passaggi pedonali. I grattacieli di vetro e cemento. Strati che si intersecano e si sovrappongono l’un l’altro. E in fondo il cielo violaceo. Una città verticale. A livelli. Riabbasso lo sguardo e procedo. Sotto questi strati. Al primo livello.

Mi si avvicina una ragazza. Una prostituta? Mi sento tirare per un braccio. Una vecchia. Mi parla. In che lingua? Non capisco. Cerco di andarmene. Insiste. Digrigna i denti. Marci. “Dangerous”. Ringrazio, faccio un gentile inchino. Continuo.

Io in questo luogo ci sono già stato. Mi sembra. Mi pare. Non ricordo. Forse in un sogno? Adesso mi confondo… Mi avvicino per leggere, ma le lettere assumono forme che non riconosco. Mi volto come in cerca di un aiuto. Nessuno. Solo gente che cammina disordinatamente. Continuo a camminare.

Lascio la strada principale. Giro a sinistra e poi a destra in un vicolo secondario. I rumori del traffico di colpo si attutiscono. Qualcuno mi guarda. Mi sento seguito. Non un droide, l’avrei sentito. Forse un mutante. Com’è possibile? Mi hanno già trovato? Comincio a innervosirmi. Dov’é il mio contatto?

Accelero il passo e mi rituffo nella strada principale, cercando di confondermi tra la gente. Nella città di Nathan Never…

Thursday, October 21, 2010


View from my room

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chiang Mai and the Doi Inthanon

I had just landed in Bangkok after a sleepless night because of a snoring Indian sit just by me, that I was already on another plane, direction north, to join Arndt in Chiang Mai, the city of the 300 temples (though we visited only four of them).

Night at the ‘night market’ and Sunday at the Doi Inthanon National Park, where we reached the Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak (not less than 2,565m!), after a strenuous hike from the parking lot 50m below...

More in the next few days. Good night...

Saturday, October 16, 2010


While Matteo is lost somewhere with Arndt in Northern Thailand (but will be back to BKK tomorrow eve), Mathilde experienced the pleasant thrill of feeling like a (B)hollywood celebrity.

While in a bar in DC, she was approached by one of the clients who, in a mix of surprise and excitement, cried: “I can’t believe it, you are one of the M&M’s! I love your Blog!!!”

What to add, besides thanking our secret fan and inviting her to keep on reading us! J

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gram Sabha

“Mr. Matthew. Have you ever attended a Gram Sabha*?” asked me the District Collector** at the end of our meeting at 6 pm.

“Ehm... no...” I shyly answered.

“Would you like to attend one?”

And before I could even think to an answer I was in the Collector’s car running in the dusk towards an unknown village in the Pali District, Rajasthan...

(It continues...)

Back from two days in Rajasthan, leaving to Bangkok tonight. Will be back next Sunday. Not sure how often I’ll be able to update our Blog in the next days; please be indulgent...

(*) Village assembly

(**) A District Collector is an officer of the Indian Administration placed at the district level in charge of handling law, taxation and revenue collection, planning permission and natural emergencies.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From Carpi to Delhi, through the boundless plains of Central Asia

For the past few days we have been giving hospitality to Cristina, a free-lance photographer who concluded here in Delhi a three-month odyssey from Italy to Delhi through the endless plains of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Cristina started her adventure in June and covered, mostly by train, what used to be the Northern Silk Route: Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan again, and Nepal - before entering in Sikkim and going up the Ganga Valley through Bihar and Uttar Pradesh up to, finally, Delhi (have a look at her blog!).

Cristina will travel back to Italy tomorrow, probably a few kilos thinner than when she left her hometown Carpi, but surely with a few ‘kilos’ more of memories and experiences (and pictures!).

Looking forward to seeing her photo-reportage of this trip!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Enrolled to the Delhi Half Marathon

Perhaps under the influence of Riccardo (‘la bestia’, great marathon runner), or charmed by the Games’ atmosphere, Toshi and I registered today for the Delhi Half Marathon.

The run will take place in about five weeks, on November 21. We accept forecasts (and bets) on our times…

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium - from the inside

For months we saw it being assembled piece after piece, and - little by little - being completed. Always for the outside.

On Sunday we glimpsed the interior. On TV.

And today, finally, we managed to see it from the inside in person. Marco, Olga, Bernal, Roberta, the little Aldara and I went to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to see the finals of athletics. And - nothing to say - the stadium is indeed very nice (click here for a quick view).

To the point that we feel almost sorry in telling that a screw from one of the panels of the ceiling above us fell on our feet while we were watching the competitions. Unfortunately another piece of evidence that the works for the Commonwealth Games have been done in slapdash fashion, and while it will be a success if nothing happens during the Games, it will be a miracle if nothing collapses within three months after the end of these Games...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sport and culture

After many days of search, today I finally managed to get the tickets for one of the CWG sport events: field-hockey. Not as fast and elegant as ice-hockey perhaps, but still harsh and hard fought. I watched two very tight matches: England-New Zealand 5-3, and Australia-Pakistan 1-0 (with Pakistan that missed a penalty at the last minute to draw).

In sum, a nice experience.

In the evening on the contrary we devoted ourselves to culture. We went in fact to one of the numerous cultural events that are being organized in these days in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games: the concert of Rashid Mustafa Thirakwa, a ‘tabla’ virtuoso. The tabla is a popular percussion instrument used in Indian classical music that produces a wide variety of different sounds depending on how fingers and palms skim over it. Impressive.

But more than words, perhaps these three minutes ‘stolen’ from his concert can tell you more about this art and about the virtuoso hands of Rashid Mustafa ... (click here).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where the hell are the CWG tickets???

It’s bizarre. Stands in the sport facilities are empty (to the extent that the Organizing Committee - to revert the depressing image of empty stadiums broadcasted worldwide - decided to let children enter for free to fill the terraces), but Commonwealth Games’ tickets are impossible to find. They are unavailable at the ticket offices at the sport venues. They result ‘sold-out’ on internet. And even on the black market they seem unfindable (or at least, I could not find them). Indeed, a true mystery…

Such a mystery that various newspapers opened today’s edition on this topic (‘Why stadiums are empty?’ titled the Hindustan Times today), providing various explanations to the arcane - none of which really convincing, telling the truth.

One of these, however, is extremely picturesque - a mix of candor, creativity and Indian entrepreneurship - and is worth being told.

Yesterday in fact a kabaadi-walla (junk dealer) was found with about 3,000 tickets in his sack. Was he thinking to sell them to the black market? No, he was simply going to sell them as ‘waste paper’… Brilliant!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Commonwealth Games - ‘loose’ thoughts

Sorry, I have been quite busy in the past weeks, and did not have much time (or much energy) to regularly update our Blog. I’ll use this post to put together ‘higgledy-piggledy’ some of the thoughts that crossed my mind in the past days on the main topic of conversation in these days: the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

- Open Ceremony. The Games officially opened on Sunday eve. Criticisms didn’t miss (‘the tribal dances portrait a stereotyped India that does not exist anymore’). I personally liked it: I found it colourful and original. Youtube has plenty of videos of the Ceremony under ‘Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony 2010’. The part of the Ceremony that I liked the most is this one.

- In a way it has been a loooong (seven years long) delivery. The Government praises itself that despite all the delays, (almost) everything was finally ready on time. Well, true (or partially true) - but this does not hide at least two serious flaws. First, the quality of the works. Already a pedestrian bridge and the ceiling of one of the sport facilities built for the Games collapsed before the Games even started. We have to hope that nothing collapses during the Games, but even if it doesn’t, I can bet that within a few months from the end of the games several of the facilities built for the Games will be obsolete or permanently out of order. Second the cost of the works. If it is true that the works costed thirty-six times more than what initially budgeted (a friend of mine told me sixty times!), it means that someone (actually several) ‘pocketed the difference’, and this is shameful. As dumbfounding is the justification that several Indians seem to have ready when you point this out (‘well, at least we live in a democracy, and these things become public’). Well, perhaps. But I haven’t seen a single politician resigning and returning the loot...

- How are we living the Games? In a way it is exciting to witness all the excitement surrounding this event. From a practical point of view however, the Games brought more inconveniences than other. The already jammed roads became even more jammed as preferential lanes for Games’ vehicles were made, basically reducing by half the roadway surface (thus doubling the congestion!). We were indoctrinated on what to do in case of terroristic attacks, revolts, curfews, and there are more troops on the Delhi roads in these days than in the whole Iraq last year. At the same time, there is a semi-festive atmosphere in the office. Management encouraged the staff to either take annual leaves or to go on mission in these days, and allowed 'flexi' hours (arriving early and leaving early) and 'telecommuting' (working from home). For those that stoically decided to remain in the office (myself included), lunch breaks and coffee breaks become convivial moments, as we all gather in front of the TV in the cafeteria to support the Indian athletes...

More in the next days...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Goa’s pictures on Picasa

Pictures of our week-end in Goa are now online; you can find them at: .

Have a look, and vote your favourite one!