Friday, December 31, 2010

Pizza alla nutella

When I first met Mathilde, she told me that her favourite pizza was the ‘Hawaiian pizza’ - pizza with pineapple (!). It took me almost seven years to explain her that this could not be an Italian pizza: beside the fact that pineapples do not grow in Italy, the true Italian pizza is either the Margherita (tomato and mozzarella) or the Napoli (tomato and anchovies).

What could I then tell her when we found in the menu of a pizzeria in Trastevere, in the heart of Rome, la ‘pizza alla nutella’???

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In partenza!

After having spent Christmas with their respective families, les M&M’s are leaving today for their holidays. First stop: Rome for a few days, and then we’ll see. Possible destinations so far: Sicily, Puglia, Malta, Egypt… we haven’t yet decided; if you have a place to suggest or recommend, please do it. We’ll decide at the last minute.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our pictures from Ladakh

It took us a while to screen and reduce the 450++ pictures we took in Ladakh to a more ‘manageable’ ±260.

But finally here we are: you’ll find our pictures from Ladakh at http://picasaweb.google.com/mmmarchisio, as usual.

Vote your favourite one!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Pansigh’s Family

Let’s conclude our chapter on India by revealing the face of a silent hero in our Blog, a recurrent name in our posts, a character at the margins but often present in our stories and that our followers and readers have learnt to know and appreciate...

Ladies and gentlemen: Pansigh (and his family)!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trovate le differenze

1993

2010

Ci sono voluti 17 anni, ma alla fine ce l’abbiamo fatta, e la 5aA del Liceo Scientifico Niccolò Machiavelli, classe 1992-93, si è ritrovata ieri sera sul divanone da 20 (sic Fabiz dixit) del Cacao Lounge di Sesto.

E dopo qualche sguardo iniziale è stato piacevole riscontrare che (a) a parte qualche capello in meno e qualche figlio in più, alla fin fine non siamo cambiati molto: belli come 17 anni fa, e (b) che tutto sommto siamo rimasti cazzoni come 17 anni fa…

E la prossima volta speriamo di rivedere anche quelli che questa volta non ce l’hanno fatta a venire!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Burj Khalifa

Architectonically Dubai is certainly an interesting place to visit, with some landmark buildings that are at the forefront of civil engineering and architectonical science in the world: the Burj al-Arab, the 321 m high sail-shaped hotel floating on a man-made island, the National Bank of Dubai building, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, etc.

But the flagship construction of Dubai is certainly Burj Khalifa, 828 m, the tallest building in the world, almost twice taller than the previous tallest building in the world.

And I have to confirm it: it is really impressive, from both the outside and the inside (or, better, from both the ‘below’ and the ‘above’).

But more than the building itself - which, I repeat, is pretty impressive - what struck me the most was to watch the documentaries on and listen to the testimonies of the workers that were involved in the construction of this building. Because behind such piece of work, there are real people…

Dubai

A crazy place. Paradoxical. Excessive. Almost unreal…

An artificial oasis between the dunes of the Sharjah Desert and the waves of the Gulf’s waters: futurist skyscrapers in the middle of nothing, high-speed highways that cut longitudinally the city, and crowded luxury malls (the biggest in the world). But also trendy bars, sophisticated cafes, super-fine restaurants, ultra-deluxe hotels. And building yards over building yards: this city is ‘under construction’: it almost did not exist 20 years ago - or, at least, was far from being even closer to what it is today - and it has certainly not yet finished to expand…

It’s difficult to describe or frame Dubai; I have never seen something similar. I would say it may somehow resemble to something between Dallas (or Crystal City) and Disneyland…

Can’t really say that I ‘liked’ it, but I certainly found it interesting and worth visiting, and - all in all - glad to have spent two days here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inter-Mazembe 3-0

Abu Dhabi, 18 dicembre 2010: FIFA Club World Championship's Final - Noi c’eravamo…

Friday, December 17, 2010

La mia prima sciata della stagione

Traditionally, the skiing season for Italians starts on December 7th, day of Saint Ambrogio.

With only a few days of delay, I officially inaugurated today my skiing season 2010-11. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates…

Hello Dubai

A couple of days stopping over in Dubai on my way back to Italy?

Why not…

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bye-bye Delhi

My last picture of Delhi: Chanakya Puri's tree-lined avenues, on my way to the airport

The 10 things that I will miss more of Delhi:

- My lunches with Shairi

- Our dinners + Risk at Massi and Muna’s

- Our Friday lunches at Amici

- Our Sunday afternoon runs with Riccardo and Toshi in Lodi Garden

- Our ‘Bollywood’ evenings lounged about on our couch

- Our Saturday breakfasts on our terrace

- Chanyaka Puri’s tree-lined roads in October and November

- The Ford Foundation’s pool

- The ‘Indian miracle

- Pansigh

The 10 things that I will miss less of Delhi:

- The people pushing and cutting the line while queuing

- The traffic

- The unceasing honking

- The pollution

- The 48 degrees for six months a year

- The 10 degrees inside the house for two months a year

- Fighting with each taxi driver, tuk-tuk driver, or rickshaw driver

- The people throwing the garbage out of their car because ‘anyway, there are those paid to clean’

- The people spitting out of the windows of the bus when I am passing close by with my scooter

- The food

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A couple of days in Delhi

To finish packing and shipping our stuff. A few random thoughts:

- If I think back to when I arrived, I only had three luggages (and I already felt overloaded). It’s incredible how many things accumulate in - all in all - a relatively limited amount of time…

- Second move in six months, after that from DC in July. Our ‘nomadic’ life is certainly enriching and exciting, but sometimes (particularly when you have to deal with moves and shipments) you just wish you could settle down and put your roots somewhere - at least for a while…

- An empty house is always sad.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Find Charlie (Ou est Jacques?)

‘Best Route in Minnesota’, 30 m, 6c, quite technical, it goes up vertically along the edge of a massive pillar that sustains the huge vault of the cave at the end of Pra-Nang Beach - beautiful! One of the best routes I have ever climbed…

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My days in Railay

Breakfast

Climbing

Blog

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The biggest democracy in the world?

Welcome sign at the Indo-Pakistan border, Punjab

When prodded in front of the huge corruption scandals that surrounded the organization of the Commonwealth Games, several Indians responded to me with what seemed to me a pre-packed answer, a nursery rhyme repeated by heart: ‘well, at least we live in a democracy, and these things become public’. As if living in a democracy would make these things less serious. As if living in a democracy would make these things more tolerable. As if, in the end, everything can be justified because... at least we live in a democracy.

Since my arrival in India, I have been bombarded by this slogan: ‘India, the biggest democracy of the world’. Which, telling the truth, I always found a bit annoying.

It is certainly true that if we consider ‘democracy’ merely the ‘electoral system’, with more than 700 million people that voted during the last national elections in 2009, India is the largest democratic country in the world. But this to me is not a merit. This is simply the consequence of the fact that India is the second most populated country in the world, and that the first one, China, with a single-party electoral system, cannot be technically considered a democracy.

But if we look at the concept of democracy more broadly, we notice that Indian democracy has plenty of flaws.

India is a country where the cast system still exists (to the extent that a question on which cast people belong to was about to be introduced in the questionnaire for the next census) - and, no wonder, where the majority of the political class belongs to the highest casts. India is a country where, despite the fact it was probably the first country to have a woman as prime minister, women are highly discriminated - and certainly cannot properly exercise their democratic rights. India is a country where, with more than half of the population living in poverty, most of the people do not have the means (access to information, education, time, etc.) to properly take up their democratic rights. Technically all these people - those belonging to the lowest casts, the women, the poor - have the right to vote. But is this enough to consider India a democracy, or - better - the ‘biggest’ democracy in the world?

But even considering democracy in the narrowest sense, i.e. the electoral system only, I found disturbing the rhetorical and populist use of this word in India, as - as I said earlier - anything comes second to the fact that we (they) are in a democracy. I truly believe that organizing a 1.2 billion people country with profound cultural, ethnical, religious, and linguistic differences democratically is indeed commendable, and I admire India and the Indians for having achieved that. But being a democracy should be a means to achieve the highest good, and not an end in itself, to praise yourself in front of a mirror.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Will India’s growth outpace China’s?

A few weeks ago the Economist published an article stating that India’s growth would have soon (by 2013 if not earlier) overtake China’s. This forecast was based on two main arguments. First, the impact of the two countries’ different demographic trends on their economies. According to a study by Morgan Stanley quoted by the Economist, China’s workforce will in fact soon age and shrink - mainly because of the effects of the Government’s ‘one-child’ policy - while on the other side India will benefit for many years from an opposite trend: a young and growing workforce. Second, the comparative advantage of India’s democracy vis-à-vis China’s single-party, authoritarian Government – which, according to the Economist, favoured and will continue to favour business development in India.

I often shared the Economist’ smart and wit analyses, but, even though I don’t consider myself an expert of India (let alone of China), this time I tend to politely disagree – if not with the conclusions of the article, at least with the arguments used in support of the thesis.

Demography. I don’t have the elements to contradict the demographic projections of India and China quoted by the Economist - so I assume these are correct, and that in fact demographic growth will be a factor in favour of India’s growth. But my immediate question would be: what would this young and growing workforce do? How will it be absorbed by the labour market, considering that half of India’s population live in poverty, and thus have limited access to education and limited economic opportunities? I am not saying that the young and growing workforce does not represent an asset for India, but I think that to exploit this asset a number of structural changes need to happen – and these will not happen in the short-run. Certainly not by 2013.

Democracy. I sincerely believe that the weight that has been attributed to democracy as a critical factor for economic growth in India is overestimated. I can’t see what specific, concrete advantages in terms of economic growth being a democracy bring to India. The economic literature, including the Economist, often quote the abolition of the ‘licence raj’ (the set of licenses that were required by the Government to set up and run a business in India) in the 90s as the measure after which Indian economy began to boom - but I can’t see why this could have not happened in a non-democratic India as well. On the contrary, the example of China (and the Economist acknowledges it) seems to demonstrate that rapid and shared economic growth is possible even in non-democratic and authoritarian systems. In general, I think that the emphasis given to the concept of democracy in India (‘India, the biggest democracy in the world’) in every sector, including - as in this case - economy, is rather demagogic and rhetorical – but this would be perhaps the subject of another post.

At the same time, I think that the article overlooked or underestimated a number of other factors that on the contrary may prevent or constrain economic growth in India.

First, the fact that India has a very poor infrastructure system, e.g. bad roads, slow railways, limited and unreliable access to electricity, etc. Infrastructure development is commonly considered a necessary condition for large-scale development, and Indian infrastructures are objectively in very poor conditions. The Economist maintains that India’s growth will be based on a ‘knowledge-intensive’ industry, which requires fewer infrastructures. But beside the fact that even a knowledge-intensive industry needs reliable access to electricity, a functioning telecommunication system, etc., the counter-argument is that to have a ‘knowledge-economy’ a country needs to have a highly educated population – and India, with still one third of its population illiterate, seems far from fulfilling this condition.

Second, widespread corruption, which drains public and private resources, and adds costs and reduces competitiveness of the private sector.

Third, poverty. With more than half of the population poor, the costs of any social security system will necessarily divert a significant amount of resources that could be otherwise used for more productive purposes.

To conclude, will India’s growth outpace China’s? I sincerely don’t know, and I don’t have the elements to hazard either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. But if this will ever happen, it will hardly happen - in my opinion - in the time-horizon predicted by the Economist.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My first week in Railay Beach

Random thoughts:

- Rock climbing is still the activity that fulfils me the most. When I climb I literally enter in another dimension. It's a kind of magic!

- After one year and half of inactivity, two considerations: (1) My technical skills are still rather good. (2) Unfortunately, at 36 the body does not respond anymore as when I was 22...

- A third consideration: interestingly, at 36 I feel mentally much stronger than when I was 22, and I feel I can control my fears and emotions on the rock much better.

- We are in Thailand in December, and in a week I didn’t see the sun a single time: it has been either cloudy or rainy the whole time. Climate change is real: do something!

- Travelling ‘solo’ makes you more open and receptive to the outside, while at the same time it allows you a lot of time to think and reflect by yourself - and I think it is a healthy experience once in a while. But I think I fundamentally remain a ‘company traveller’.

- I like Thai food, but after only one week I crave ‘un piatto di spaghetti allo scoglio’...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cristina

Do you remember Cristina, the free-lance photographer who travelled from Italy to India by train, and that we hosted for a few days a few weeks ago? (click here if you don’t recall her).

We like her pictures. We believe she has eye, talent… ‘touch’. We feel her pictures emanate warmth, passion. (And we think she should be a bit more ‘bold’ in promoting herself - but that’s another story).

Cristina has a very nice website where some of her works are displayed: journeys by train (her favourite theme), musicians, miners... However, she thinks her website is still ‘not ready’, and doesn’t want it to be shared widely yet.

We respect her will, and while waiting the website to be finally ready, we post here one of the pictures she took during her journey to India - a gift she left to thank us for the hospitality…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I survived India

It’s difficult to describe how I feel leaving India. I have to say in fact that I found India extremely rich, stimulating, and challenging. I rarely felt the sense of amazement, astonishment, and admiration that I felt here in India - and I am saying this having travelled quite a bit. Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, Ephesus and Pergamum, or Petra for instance did not produce the same shivers that I felt in front of the Taj Mahal.

At the same time I can’t say I fell in love with India. Certainly I couldn’t ever be one of those persons that leave everything and retire in an ashram after having visited India. Quite the opposite: I found India (or perhaps Delhi) a bit too overwhelming, aggressive, stressful, and tiring - and although I didn’t look forward to leaving, I can’t deny that in the past couple of months I didn’t mind the idea of leaving.

I enjoyed my stay in India, and would have not had problems in staying longer - on the contrary. But now that I am about to leave, I feel I will not miss it...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tortilla Española

Among the friends from India we’ll miss more, Patricia (and among the dishes from India we'll miss more, Patricia's tortilla!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why (2)

- Because better bald than with moustaches (or not?)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why

- To celebrate
- To see how I look like
- To hide the gray hair
- Because I was told that bald men are sexier
- To be lighter when I climb
- To strengthen the new growth
- Because I couldn't do it shorter than this
- Because I didn’t do the military service
- To be more hydrodynamic
- Because I’m bad, I’m bad - you know it - I am bad...
- To save at the hairdresser
- To get used to how I will look like in a few years
- To prevent lice
- To save shampoo
- To see how I would look like if I were a Buddhist monk (or a Hare-Krishna)
- Because what matters is ‘the inside’
- Because anyway they will re-grow (eventually)*
(*) hopefully...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Off to Railay Beach,Thailand

Wrapped-up my stuff, handed over my work, paid my bills, closed my bank account, sold my scooter, taken leave from my friends and colleagues (and from my thick hair), I decided to fulfil an old dream and to allow myself a couple of weeks rock-climbing in Railay - arguably one of the (if not ‘the’) top climbing spots in the world.

The next two weeks will serve me to enjoy a hobby that I love very much but that I have never had time to practice it as much as I would have liked, to relax and clear my mind before starting a new job* that apparently will be very demanding, to put in order our pictures, perhaps to finally read ‘Delitto e Castigo’ (Crime and Punishment). But also to let my thoughts settle and reflect calmly and thoroughly on my experience in India.

Delhi is miles away, but do expect a few more posts on India in the next weeks...

(*) Sorry, I know I have not yet revealed what our next destination will be, but it’s only a little superstition. My appointment is subject to medical clearance, and I am waiting the results of my exams. So, please be patient for a few days more. As soon as the appointment is official, we will announce our next destination J