Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Give me one dollar

I have to say that Cambodia is the first country where I did not have problems with taxi drivers. They are all gentle, polite, and smiling. There is almost no bargain with them: they ask you a price, you say ‘no’ and propose yours, and they accept. Finish. Ah, Cambodia: what a country!

But I have to say that, as in most poor countries unfortunately, you are often the target of kids that beg for money: “Give me one dollar. I’ll give you a postcard”. “Give me one dollar: I’ll give you this bracelet”. “Give me one dollar. I’ll give you this scarf”.

I usually tend to snick out without giving them too much leeway, but I could not avoid to engage in a highly intellectual discussion with this child:

“Give me one dollar, give me one dollar”. “Give me one dollar, give me one dollar”.

“Why should I give you one dollar, you don’t sell anything”.

“Where do you come from?”.


“If I tell you the capital of Italy, will you give me one dollar?”.

“Why should I give you one dollar, I know the capital of Italy”.

“Give me one dollar, give me one dollar”.

“Ok, let’s do this: if you tell me the capital of the country that I choose, I’ll give you a dollar ”.


“What’s the capital of Madagascar?”.


‘What’s the capital of Burkina Faso”.


“What’s the capital of Iceland”.


I had to give her one dollar…

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Matteo e il Tempio Maledetto (Matteo and the Temple of Doom)

Imagine you are a university professor, an archaeologist. And imagine you are on a work trip, in Indochina, let’s say to attend a conference.

Imagine now that while you are on a tuk-tuk stuck in the traffic, the tuk-tuk driver - a young guy with a New York Yankee hat who speaks with an impossible Southeast-Asian accent - gets all excited once he discovers you are an archaeologist, and insists to bring you to a place where his grandfather used to bring him when he was a kid. You are hesitant, but he insists so much that you finally give up and accept to go.

And after about one hour drive on a tiny and bumpy road that penetrates the jungle, accompanied by the unceasing creaking of the crickets, the deafening croak of the frogs, and by dozens of monkeys that jump from a tree to another above you - suddenly the jungle opens up a bit, everything becomes silent, the monkeys disappear, and you find yourself in front of the ruins of a gigantic temple of an unknown sect of an unknown civilization.

You jump out of the tuk-tuk excited by the discovery and run through the massive stones in search of a piece of evidence that could help you to understand which civilization could have lived there. But when you turn to call the tuk-tuk driver and ask for his help, the only thing you see is the abandoned tuk-tuk and the New York Yankee hat on the ground a few meters from the tuk-tuk.

An icy shudder runs through your back, and you suddenly feel the unpleasant feeling of being observed…

Welcome to Angkor…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Development professionals at work


(Ps: this time I won't complain about the food)

Monday, May 23, 2011

In volo...

... towards East...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

14 May

14 May 1997, Berlin: a dozen of museums decided for the first time to remain open all night and provide free access to everyone. Since then, little by little, the initiative spread throughout all Europe, and today more than 120 cities in all Europe participate to this cultural initiative. 14 May is today the European ‘Museums Night’.

14 May 2011, Rome: we took advantage of the event and decided to visit the World Press Photo Contest exhibition, temporarily displayed at the Trastevere Museum. The Contest brings together pictures from all parts of the globe, providing an overview of how press photographers tackle their work worldwide and reflecting recent trends and developments in photo-journalism. Even if you are not familiar with the World Press Photo Contest, I am sure you have seen somewhere the World Press Photo of the Year: the portrait of Bibi Aisha, the young Afghan woman to whom Talibans cut her nose off.

We enjoyed the exhibition, and recommend it - have a look at whether it will pass by your city in the next months*.

We have selected our favourite pictures. But before disclosing them, we invite you to have a look at these sites** and to tell us which are the pictures that you liked more…

(*) Have a look at where the exhibition will be displayed in the next months here.

(**) http://www.worldpressphoto.org/index.php?option=com_photogallery&task=blogsection&id=21&Itemid=292&bandwidth=high; and http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/02/world-press-photo-contest-2011/100008/

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tango! (The Gotan Project in Rome)

Just a few weeks after Vinicio Capossela in Parma, another great concert yesterday eve: the Gotan Project in Rome!

For those who do not know them, the Gotan Project is a French-Argentinean group who plays ‘electro-tango’ or ‘techno-tango’, a relatively new music genre that mixes the rhythms of tango with electronic music.

I listened to them for the first time in Ethiopia, without anyone knowing their names, and finally re-discovered them a year later, when I listened to one of their song in a pub in Milan. And since then, I discovered I have an ‘electro-tango’ soul…

(Ps: I took a couple of clips of the concert, but unfortunately didn’t manage to download them on Youtube. If you wish to familiarize yourself with this group, have a look at these two videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uvagiSClgY, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbh-jn8V54c)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Les M&M's hostal officially opened

We have always enjoyed having guests at home, the intimacy and the complicity that is created by sharing for a couple of days the same space and the same time. Conversations flow without breaks; routine activities - such as doing the grocery or cooking - suddenly become pleasant and entertaining.

When we moved to Rome, we invited our friends to take advantage of our hospitality and to come and visit us. But although - it’s true - we have received a few visits in the past months, our guests have come so far when either Mathilde or I were travelling.

This week-end we finally managed to be in Rome at the same time to receive our visitors, thus officially opening 'les M&M's hostal'. And the first, lucky, guests were Sara & Tommaso, who you have met already a few times in our Blog.

Sara & Tommaso spent the week-end experimenting with our hosting capacity. And while waiting for their feedback on whether our hostal met the minimum hospitality requirements, our booking list is quickly filling up: Patricia, Ingrid, Mathilde and Raphael, Mathilde’s mum, perhaps Silvia & family will be visiting us in the coming weeks.

So, if you have not yet booked your slot, hurry up - before Baby takes possession of the guest room…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Domenica - A spasso per i Fori...

Matteo, week 26th

Mathilde, week 26th

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will you send your baby here???

Baby is not yet born and, just to make clear to everyone who will be in command from now onwards, he/she is already turning our well-established habits upside-down.

For those who know me well, you know how difficult is to plan in advance for me. I hardly know what I am going to do tonight - let alone planning the week-end or our summer vacation. Booking a plane ticket earlier than one week before the departure was for me unconceivable.

However, baby is not yet born, and, despite all my resistances and mental blocks, I had to finally accept we had to start looking for a nursery. And not for August 2011: for January 2012!!! And we were even told that we were late!!!

Anyway, accepted the unavoidable, we rolled-up our sleeves and we began the search. We surfed internet from A to Z, and we found ‘Baby Garden Aventino’: good reviews, five minutes walking distance from home. Apparently perfect.

But… will you send your baby to a nursery whose logo is this one???

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Our terrace...

Our view (Gianicolo on the left, Aventino on the right)


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Piergiorgio’s Koan (3)

About a month ago we posted the following Koan, whose meaning though was obscure to us, and asked for your help to interpret it.

In the absence of valid interpretations, we asked the author himself to unravel the mystery. And although, as he rightly pointed out, koans should not be explained, he made an exception for us, and here it is ‘exegesis’:

Life ain’t but ropes and balls: the tools of the trade and the potential falls are pretty much the same for everyone. Yet you can be borne - or perhaps choose to be - an equilibrist, a poor guy or a wise fella.

The first one resolves his inner self into action: he masters the art and just does his stuff, without much in the way of reflection. The poor fellow does reflect, but his reflection is tainted by fear and indecision and, inevitably, so are his actions: he is likely to drop the balls. The wise chap can walk and juggle all right, but his eyes are set, beyond balls and ropes, on the moon - all that is beautiful, light, and transcendent of our daily toil. He thus sails on happily. He might even have the impression that “things happen almost by chance”... and end up wondering what all the fuss is about.

Thanks to our personal Zen Master…