Friday, December 28, 2007

Something about Anna.

I was going to leave this blog entry for the 31st, but it seems more than one person I know has had a shitty end-of-the-year, so I hope this will inspire someone...

I got my December paycheck from the bookstore's accountant today. She's a tiny lady, curly hair, what I always thought of as a Peppermint Patty type. Very talkative if you just bothered to listen. I never exchanged more than a few words with her. She had talked to me a bunch at random times when we crossed paths. About her daughter, mostly. She only works part-time so you don't see her much.

Today, she was in the bookstore to deal with all of the end-of-the-year accounting while the bookstore was closed. She had told me I could stop by and get paid. So I showed up at around 11:30 am. An hour later, in between numbers and cash, she had told me half of her life story. And I saw a little bit of the sad me projected into the future.

She was a chain link of bad adventures. Her story began when her mother passed away, 6 years ago. It was a big blow for her. Then her husband left her a year and change after that, after 20-odd years of marriage. No good reason according to her story. He got lucky and the judge ruled against any alimony. He refused to speak to either her or his daughter ever again.

Her daughter, 17 at the time, went into some sort of nervous breakdown. Then the rest of her recent past was a string of unlucky events. The mortgage, on a variable percentage rate, skyrocketed to almost double its value. Her phone line had been jacked and charged her tons of money she hadn't spent but had to fight against for over a year. Her daughter's car co-sign had a check that bounced just 'cause her employee was 3 days late paying her daughter. So now she's in a credit bind that doesn't allow her to refinance or do anything with Italian banks. She keeps getting hit financially.

Then there's her social life. Just about nil. She lost her married couples friends after her separation. Her Xmas and new year's story was sadder than mine. Her daughter has friends, goes out often. While she sits home alone. She's incapable of latching with her coworkers. She told me how she sees the other coworkers hang out after work, and they never call on her... And she is *convinced* it's 'cause of her "bad mood". She's so shy, she has a hard time going food shopping alone. She cries often. You wouldn't see that from just seeing her buzz about the bookstore. She looks determined and strong. But she has no family to call upon. Her one sister doesn't talk to her. Her dad isn't close to her. She hits a brick wall when she's in need.

She reminded of my dad a lot. Growing up a daughter alone, with an anger towards people and the world and an inability to latch onto any significant relationship... I can see how she is trying to do all she can for her daughter, but her being miserable is just making her daughter miserable by default.

...and then I think of the similar complaints I go through. I say many similar things to what she says. But even though I might be alone most of the time, I have people that support every emotional and financial need I have. I am *incredibly* lucky. I can bitch and moan, but I *will* have someone to listen. I will need money for rent, and I *will* have someone to cover it. I really should learn to relax more. I don't have it so hard.

I gave her some "no-nonsense advice". I told her that her miserable life is definitely affecting her daughter. She should try to make friends. She stared blankly at me and said that was impossible. If it was up to her, if she was told she had to die tomorrow, she'd be relieved. Her life was only a survival instinct. I told her she could look into things she likes to do. Join a book-reading group at her local bookstore. She said it was only teenagers that went there. I suggested some other activity. She had another negative reply. And she reminded of myself. And many other people I know. A friend of mine said I did the same thing. I kept having a negative answer to anything she suggested.

It's hard to be hit in the face with your own truth. And see it from another point of view. I'm glad I can see it while I'm still young enough to make a difference, and it's not hitting me when I'm over 50...

So that is my new year's resolution. Stop bitching and start thanking. And start doing. I've always wanted to get voice training. I'm going to look into that. And more art training. And more fun things to do... Money is *not* going to be an obstacle anymore. I spend enough on rent and food. I can spend a little more on things that will make me feel better.

So, thanks to all those of ya that feel they can believe in me and spur me to go on. You make an incredible difference in this person's life. And more people should be so lucky.

Here's to a healthier 2008! I wish you all a wonderful new year, and I hope it will bring us all a more peaceful life. Or, rather than ask for the impossible, a more peaceful outlook towards it :) Big hugs!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

more life ponderings

On a tram, on my way to work, one cloudy, cold morning in Milan. A conversation between two persons sitting next to me made me stop, put my videogame down, and listen.

An elderly gentleman, very nicely dressed, a bit ailing from the looks of him, was chatting to a not-much-younger-but-better-off lady next to him. From a quick glance and after a few sentences, I gathered that they didn't know each other. She had just helped him on the tram or something. He was the kind of person that just exudes confidence, wiseness, wealth, and an overall refined style. What you could think of as a well-bred person.

Their exchange made me take my notebook out and write down their words. I have to point out that I have this terrible memory that stops me from remembering details the moment they pass from the present, so I didn't manage to to them justice, but the gist of it was this:

Elderly man: "When I need help, I just ask someone next to me. And I found out that in this world there are many good people. I've never had any difficulty. Like with you."

Lady: "But the people that make more of an impact are the mean ones."

Elderly man: "Yeah, they are the minority, but they make more noise."

The way it was conveyed was very important, as well. They spoke candidly. With wisdom. Their words had the weight of experience.

I got off that tram with such an uplifted spirit, I thought it'd last forever. I was ready to see the world under this shining light. It could be done. My life had so many strong points and amazing feats, I was a good person, too.

I walked into the bookstore. Bitching and moaning about co-workers, lack of money, bad economical period. A new kid who barged in on what I thought of as my job is actually better at it than me. I resent him and just move out of the way, brooding, upset and feeling unrespected. No one tells him to make me space, since I was there first. He's got one of those hyper personalities, talks and jokes and gets along. And the only way I can think of reacting is to yell at him and tell him to get out of the way, but I know that's wrong so I just shut up and move off and find something else to do, completely miserable and rethinking about my horrible life. I know I could find a clever way of dealing with it. They always do that in books. But it just doesn't come out.

Xmas talk. Everyone talks about the time they'll spend with the family. Rich people come in and spend as much money in one shot as it'd take me to earn in a week. Their holidays will be spent in their mountain home, organizing dinners for the friends and family. After a few hours of this, I say my goodbyes and go to my other job.

Evening working teaching English. While waiting for the next students to show up, I strike up a conversation with a coworker, a lady in her 40s or 50s. The topic, of course, is the holidays. So, where are you going to go? She was the first person to have my same plan: taking xmas as a day off. She's going to be home, doing nothing. I didn't ask, but I'm guessing she has no family or anyone either. She asked me if I had anything special in mind to do with myself. All I could think of was waste time, feeling depressed, alone, the usual crap. Kill the brain with some videogames and other escapisms. Since I wasn't going to actually say any of that, I just came out with a "Oh, nothing much. Just rest. What about you?" Then her face lit up and she started saying that she planned to put some nice music on, do some writing she had in mind... That's when the students showed up and we had to get back "on stage". But the thought started in my head: why didn't I think of seeing it as a chance to do something cool? Why did I have to concentrate on the negative aspects?

Xmas party. Alcohol flowing. A first hesitation turns into a lot of chatting with random staff, colleagues, students. A colleague who's been patiently trying to get on a date with me, being very nice and talking about being there for me, meets me there and thinks we're hanging out after. I end up the night getting drunk, kissing another random colleague I never talked to before, and just making such a mess that not only did I make a fool of myself, but I also carelessy walked all over the first guy, treating him in a very insensitive way. The kind of thing I'd bitch about other people doing to me. Now of course I've lost the respect of two people, plus that of anyone watching. For some strange reason I can't manage to feel too sorry for myself. I deserved that one. I can't quite wish I hadn't done it. But I do wish that I could think of it as "omfg that was crazy!" and laugh about it.

After wondering how the hell all of this can co-exist in the same world, and in such a short span of time, I try to move on and process it all.

It's now 3:30am, I have to get up and be at work at 8:30am, for a full 11 hours of work between the two jobs. My brain knows I should just sleep and be rested. I've been trying to shut my eyes since 12am. But I finished watching a movie about some famous model in the 80s who was such a fuckhead and a druggie, but got her life to be on film, and tons of people to talk about her... and I'm thinking "maybe if I was a bit more fucked up I could be famous, too."

Someone is yelling the italian version of "fuck!" outside. Every person is a world in itself.

My head is filled with too many things. And as a part of me is fully aware that I just have to accept it, as that is just life, another part is childishly wanting to be whisked away and be able to do all that I want without consequences.

In theory, the key to it all is just to be able to seize every moment you go through, make it yours, and enjoy it. In practice, the people that get somewhere in life do that. Usually unconsciously. They're just wired that way. Most of the others just move on from one moment to the next, wondering how to seize it, and never end up doing much. The older I get, and the more past I have to look back upon and ponder what I've done, the more I think I am not one of those people that manages to seize the moments. When I try to and think I'm finally doing it, I quickly rationalize it as me just being stupid, or it's already been done, or I didn't actually do anything much.

So here is to 3 hours of sleep and let's see what tomorrow brings...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

life update

I thought I had a blog entry after the august one... but I can't find it anymore. Odd. But here goes an update of everything i've been up to this fall...

I'm currently working as an English teacher, earning twice as much per hour as the average Italian, and for Nov and Dec I also work at a bookstore, which pays minimum wage. Both places are particular, they cater to the rich of Milan... So technically I'm being paid minimum wage to rub elbows with the millionaires of this city, while being a broke ass myself.

I should change my nick to "condradictionsgirl"...

Unfortunately the current job situation is unstable, the hours are random and never guaranteed. The schedule is prepared every day for 3 days after, depending on who booked lessons, so I have to check hours every day and I can't plan my week. And it's usually 3-4 hours a day tops. But on average it should pay the bills. I borrowed so much money this year for living expenses that I feel I'll never be out of debt, but I should be able to finally pay rent on my own next month, so I take that as a positive point.

I'm also working 7 days week cuz of the holiday season. The bookstore is open every single day through Xmas. I gave full availability cuz I need the money, so I've got a handful. Still 2 weeks to go and I'm exhausted already!

Grandma's will is still up in the air, and it's emotionally stressful. I feel powerless, clueless, and like I'm being used and not getting any real help. But I'm trying not to let go.

On a personal and social level, life sucks big time. I'm at a pretty big low right now. But I'm keeping at it and see if things will change. I curse fairy tales and the general "good things come to good people" thought that fiction is so full of nowadays. In real life, people will bite and scratch in both self-defense and for the pure natural aggressive behavior that is natural for any survival. Shy people get stomped on unless they have family or a mentor to shelter them.. and you have to learn that, and live with it.

I vote for the original Andersen tales to be read to children!! Fuck Disney!

I look around every day and all I feel is that I see people that figured out how to live their lives. Or, at least, they are filling in a role that plays within human society. Me, I feel like I'm an alien that never quite understood the rules of the game and keeps sucking at playing. Once in a blue moon I actually get it right, but it feels like it was a fluke and it's not like I learnt anything. Interfacing with fellow humans is a game of luck and so many different emotional mixes, that fiction never teaches you.

Then a couple of weeks ago I got sick. One of the joys of being a teacher is being in a closed room with all sorts of germs people might be carrying. I already got sick twice with colds. The second one was a severe cold for a week, totally clogged nose, but I still managed to work. Friday night, 5 days into the cold, I taught phonetics and ruined my voice box. I woke up Saturday morning unable to speak. I was in pain, and had no clue what to do. The doctor I go to for regular stuff isn't available on weekends. My roommates were asleep after a night out and I felt like they couldn't care less. So I ended up going to the emergency room on my own on Sunday at 5am, cuz I woke up and couldn't sleep anymore and didn't know what else to do.

I wrote on some pieces of paper what I felt, and directions for a cab to take me to the nearest emergency room. When I got there, they just looked at me funny, took their sweet time, finally asked me what the hell was I doing there taking up space from real emergencies, and had me wait 4 hours for the throat guy on call to come in. 1 minute examination and he sent me home telling me I just had a severe laryngitis and I could just do some warm inhalations for 10 days. I had to pay more money than I had saved and didn't even get any sympathy. I was crying on and off, with frustration and with pain, and no one bothered to ask me anything.

The girls at the pharmacy where I bought the mad expensive medicines were the only ones that, seeing me crying, showed some sympathy and asked what was wrong. Since I couldn't speak, and also cuz of my usual emotional walls, I couldn't explain that I was alone and scared and moneyless and I was spending in one shot money that took me days to earn and I had just been treated like shit and I wished I had someone next to me to tell me everything would be alright... so I just shook my head and they took it as me being sick of being sick... I just nodded and put on my sunglasses and walked back home so I wouldn't have to pay a cab again...

I couldn't work for a week, and since it's not a full-time job I didn't get any sick days or anything...

It's funny how you can cry, sobbing, a few feet away from someone, divided by just a wall, and know that all they think of you is that you're a stuck-up bitch that keeps to herself and isn't easy-going or any fun, and yet she expects some basic help like going grocery shopping together... while all you lack is social skills, courage to be yourself, and self-confidence, and you think no one cares.

Oh, and at the bookstore every time I'm alone with someone I have to hear them talking shit about everyone else at the store... So much anger around, and only cuz of personal frustrations... There are some that talk shit about the older lady that used to run the place and criticize her managing skills while they don't think that she's having a tough time dealing with the fact that after her husband passed away she had to deal with having her ownership being taken away from her and still work there... Or I have to hear one girl talk shit about the other just cuz they don't get along and they just lash out and tell me the worst traits of the other... Today I was told by one how the other has no friends and is a social fluke and she sucks... All I could think of is why can't she see that she could use a friend. And figured she's insecure and a drama queen herself so that's her only way to retaliate... But there is so much anger around. And I'm too sensitive to it all.

All I manage to do is get severe headaches from all the muscle tension I build up on my shoulders and neck. Cuz I don't let anything out and absorb it all. And I just wish for a massage, which ain't coming. No money to pay a professional on a regular basis, and no friends that are touchy-feely with me in the non-interested way.

Learning to expressing yourself in a way that people will get your true self is a skill that no one teaches you, not in school, not in life, not anywhere. So either you get it, or are born charismatic, or you're stuck with yourself.

So, while I still wait for the prince on a white stallion to read my mind and come rescue me, I dream of being a tough character like AEon Flux so I won't depend on anyone but myself and be ok with it, I face reality every day with neither options available. Alcohol and cigarettes and videogames and TV fill the void and numb the brain so I can get to sleep and get to the next day.

What the hell is the point of intelligent life anyways?

2007 is going down as the lowest year in my life so far.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Article about Genova

Genova remains one of my hometowns. One of the places I feel fondness for and I identify with.

I ran across an article that covers a lot of its beauty, better than how I can explain it. Even explores Nervi, which is actually where I spent all my time.

Figured I'd share it, and recommend it for a visit to anyone who can stop by there:

Genoa: Columbus' Italian birthplace still dazzles (USA Today article)

As far as my journeys, they're a bit stuck for now. I start a part-time job tomorrow, at the same bookstore I worked when I first got here, and mid-September I start the English classes. Still doing a bit of translation work... but so far I'm marking the year 2007 as one of my toughest.

Good thing life has ups alongside downs. No light without darkness...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 2007: European Tour de Force!

The most intense trip I've ever been in: 13 cities in 21 days! I joined my "adoptive family", 7 people total, to undertake this amazing itinerary. Punctuated by cool temperatures and unpredictable weather (jacket and scarf in most cities! in July!!), we travelled by air, land, and sea.

I've put together a photo journal, with a page for each city we stopped at.

Just to give a quick overview:

I set off June 30th, with a flight from Milan to London. A little nervous due to the recent news--car bomb attempts, and major floods--but apart from the most chaotic airport I've seen up to date (Heathrow), and a looong Tube ride into the city, it was actually uneventful. They're as resilient as New Yorkers...!

From July 1st through the 21st it was a constant moving. We didn't stay more than 3 days in any place. We passed from London to Paris with the train that goes in the chunnel. I never knew what vertigo was before this! My ears popped so strongly, it affected my balance for two days! A couple of the others with me felt the same.

In Paris the rest of the group stayed in the hotel, while I was lucky to be hosted by the same friends as last year. Gave me a chance to say a quick hello, even though the trek from one side of Paris to the other of an hour each way was a bit much. I got a bad cold that stuck with me for a week. Too much crazy weather! Rainy and cold one hour, sunny the next... silly nature. While Milan and Southern Europe in general has been suffering the heat and lack of water, north of the Alps it's been a wet and cold season, with some extreme weather all over.

From Paris we moved onwards by plane to Vienna, a too-sterile city, if you ask me. Then we moved about by train. A day-trip to Salzburg, then off to Prague. I loved that city. Definitely want to go back. Another flight then took us to Copenhagen, where we embarked on my very first cruise. It was an interesting experience, and we got lucky with calm sea. I bought tons of motion-sickness pills just in case... but ended up not needing any!

The whirlwind of cities that followed after kinda mushed together... but the pics helped remember it all, and I tried to give bits of info for each in the photo journal.

The flight back from Copenhagen to Milan was scary... I guess it was the passage from cool air to hot... but I don't remember the last time I felt that much turbulence. The young couple next to me was very nice, as soon as they heard my whimpering and saw my white face they held my hand 'til landing... while a group of kids from soccer camp where whooping as if they were at Six Flags! Ah well.

Each city and all the stuff that happened in them deserves a separate whole blog entry... but if I write too much then no one would bother reading it all. So I'm leaving you with the pics, and ask anything if you are curious.

And now, back to the Milan doldrums... *sigh*

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Milan summery summary

I have been in Italy, back for a permanent new life, for three and a half months now. It's been quite an adventure, very different from what I had imagined.

I live in an... interesting neighborhood. A nice, quiet street, but frequently used by foreigners with very different cultural habits (pissing next to their own cars before getting on..?!) and shady people that do drugs or get rid of stolen goods.

Work-wise, having tapped into just about all of my savings, I am struggling with random, short-lived gigs at very different jobs, with random income and no direct link to the arts yet.

I was a waitress for a day at a fancy fashion event. A girl I met last time I was in Milan, girlfriend of a friend, knew I needed the money and called me up 'cause she needed an extra hand. I earned more that one day than I have doing anything else. No new contacts, though.

Another contact through a friend, from NY, landed me 10 days of work for a bookstore, managed by her aunt. After a very depressing interview with one of the guys in charge (things are bad, we have no work, Milan sucks), they called me up a couple of days after that to help organize and handle their stand at the "Salone del Mobile" fair, a major design event. Go figure.

I then was finally contacted by one of the many "agenzie interinali" (temp work agencies) and I spent four weeks as a secretary at an association that networks CEOs and Financial Directors of companies around Italy. It was a classic "Miss, will you please type this letter for me? Can you please call so and so? Can you make these copies?" kinda job. Worked with just two older people, and was on my own often. They were very nice, though.

I also successfully tested and interviewed at a language institute to teach English in the fall. It's going to be a casual gig, as they do not have fixed classes, but rather one-on-one meetings with students. Doesn't sound like it'll be enough to make a living out of it, but I hope it'll give me the experience and training to do that as a private gig.

And finally I worked on some translations from Italian to English for a magazine that talks about the heavy industry, robotics and such. My roommate's cousin has a communications agency and does the magazine twice a year. Met her one night when she stayed over, right before going to bed, and my roommate had talked to her about me. After a quick test and the promise of a very low fee to justify taking on a rookie translator over professional agencies, I got the gig.

I learned of processes and words I never heard of before, like epitaxial reactors (the cool machines that coat wafers with, for example, silicon, and create the raw material to be used in circuit boards and other equipment...), rheophores (the pieces of wire that stick out of a transistor and are soldered into a board, carrying electricity, and which no spell-check recognizes!) and I learned that "veline" is one of those cultural things that just does not translate to English (girls like the juggies in the Man's Show, but which are in *every* show in Italy, part of the scenery, next to the hosts, whose only job is to be half-naked, dance, giggle, and look pretty...).

On a personal level, my social life is just about nil, having no money to go anywhere and no friends nearby to invite me there. One of my roommates just opened a pub, but after the first night of free beer, now I gotta shell out the regular fare. Which is no fun. And you have to drive there anyways, so unless my other roommate goes, there's no way. My other roommate has been nice but he knows he can't invite me out to go spend money. Plus inviting a still stranger girl out when he's trying to pick up girls can't be good for him... lol.

I did get to help with and attend the marriage of one of my best friends at the beginning of this month, in Genova. So I traveled there two weekends in a row, and I played photographer and "bomboniere"-maker (another one of those cultural things that just doesn't translate).

And to conclude this long-overdue mega update, tomorrow I'm going off to London, to meet a family, close friends, that is coming together to Europe for the first time, and they invited me to go along a long time ago, before I knew I was going to be broke and jobless in Milan... But everything was organized even before I got here, so I'm just going to enjoy it, play guide where I can, take tons of pictures, and forget about troubles for 3 weeks!

I'll be visiting some amazing places. Only Paris is a repeat for me. But the itinerary includes London, Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen, and a nice cruise around the Baltic Sea, going all the way to St Petersburg and back. If all goes well, I'll be back by the 21st, to update you all with info.

Nevermind that London just had a car bomb threat half a mile from where we'll be staying. Nevermind about the floods and bad weather forecast. And nevermind that I'll be back and worrying how the hell will I pay rent next, alone in a country that feels stranger than it should, boggled by it all, and probably in a hot hell that only a large cement island in a humid valley can create. I'm lucky I'm escaping it for most of July.

Like a friend says, I always seem to find solutions out of nowhere, Lady Luck on my side, finding myself into odd, even dangerous situations in hindsight, but so far I have managed to come out of it all with only "minor" emotional scarring...

So what else can there be to say but... let the adventure continue!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

best forum thread

this got a chuckle out of me in this sticky, hot summer night in milan...

too bad it's only thursday.

more updates coming up soon, i promise. a new trip is in the near future, so wait for the pics!!! ^_^

Friday, May 18, 2007

Procrastination Aids and other news

Let's start with the other news. I finally got a "real" job. Well. "real" in the sense that it's an office job. I get paid average money. I will work a full month in a 9-to-6 kinda deal, starting this Monday. As a run-of-the-mill secretary. I am consoling myself thinking I always wanted to do random jobs like these. The fact that I'm doing this at 30 instead of at 20, when most people do this kinda stuff, is a minor detail...

I've also looked into teaching English. I had an interview in a language school I contacted at random (there's tons in Milan!) and apparently my accent isn't so bad. After about 20 mins of chatting I was told I could come in any time for an aptitude test, and after passing that I can go through their training program and then start teaching! The aptitude test sounded a lot like an SAT kinda deal... if I passed it at 18 with a higher-than-your-average-American grades, I think I should be ok now ;)

The procrastination comes in from a new site I discovered:

Unlike youtube, people upload tons of commercial stuff here. Perhaps being less known and fairly new it is still not as censored. I was able to finish watching Death Note without having to go through the trouble of finding torrents and downloading files. I have also seen a bunch of new anime series, and while I'm typing this I have a great collection of classic cartoons to inspire me and make me think of good old talent...

I have to say, being older gives you a much wider range of things to appreciate! The down-side is that there is such an overload of info, I get so easily lost in it, rather than concentrate in creating new one...

And that is the latest and greatest from this side of the world... ^_^

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Template update

I am going to upgrade to Blogger's new layout scheme, and try to clean up the blog in general, so bear with me if the site gets messy for a bit.

Let me know of any problems, or if you have a request. One thing I did was change the RSS feed to grab the full post instead of only the first paragraph, per request.

I am also going to try and figure out a better way to post the pics... So they're easier to get to. This might take longer but Im working on it!! ^.^

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

my little slice of heaven in Milan

It's about time I made a little piece about where I live.

I've spent years living in Costa Rica, where every house has bars on the windows, high iron fences and gates with barbed wire on top. Petty crime is common in the streets.

Then twice as many years living in New York, famed for its crime, street shootings and hookers on the street--although, truth be told, Giuliani did clean a lot of that up.

In both countries I knew where I could go and where not, and felt relatively safe walking about at any time of the night on my own.

In Milan, I feel a different kind of unsafe. Perhaps it's me still adjusting, and more scared about the situation out of general insecurity in my personal life than I should be. Ignorance generates fear.

The more common bad elements here are the eastern Europeans and the Africans. I was used to the latinos, their sexual harassment, the desperation of an immigrant culture... but now I am dealing with new cultures I know nothing about. And are unable to measure.

It doesn't help that I decided to move to an area where they congregate. I thought living next to a major train station would be all sorts of useful for traveling (not quite used to being settled down yet... lol) and the street looked nice, and the apartment was huge, and the guys living in it had been here for years, and they were all artistic...

I didn't calculate all the details, though.

You can check out a little photoshoot of my street to see what I mean.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

working at the fair

Today I started working at the Salone del Mobile, an international furniture/design fair where the whole world congregates for 5 days of events, shows, and sales... over 2K booths, 1/4 of which are from overseas... I helped set up our booth (an international bookstore in Milan) on Tue and today I worked my first day as a "sales person"...

If you're in the area, stop by the entrance of pavilion 9-11 at the "Milano Libri" booth and say hi!!


Monday, April 09, 2007

Open house in Milan!

Aaight, the Battlegirl's House in Milan is open for guests. Dont' expect much, but drop in whener. One big ass bed, a comfy couch, and an extra mattress are all up for grabs. At least in the next 3 months, which are all paid up for :) I'm extremely easy to get to from the Central Station, the international train station of Milan. So just send me an email and drop on by!!

Things in Milan seem tough to get a handle on. When people complained about having to network and know people in New York... they had never tried to make it in Milan before. This place runs *only* on being friends with someone rich... Most grads go overseas to get a job, and anyone who is looking for a job gets a really tough time... But I'm here for more than just make it as an employee. I'm going to find a way!

'Hope to see some of ya god friends around here soon!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Eggs!

In the USA Easter eggs are virtual surprises, usually hidden in some computer application, snippets of code that reveal themselves only with a special combination of actions.

In Italy they are an object of real-life. It's a tradition for Easter to gift an overly-packaged hollow chocolate egg, with a surprise inside. It seems that the tradition to gift eggs goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Not sure when this chocolate version came about, I know in the USA they do paint real eggs and hide them around the garden for children to find... It's always the element of surprise, nevertheless.

I was warned that "you can't find an egg the day before Easter! You better get one now!" In a rush, I went to the first supermarket I could, a small one near the place I just moved to (actually, it was right as I was moving, we stopped by the first place we saw). So I bought myself an egg a week ago. A regular-sized egg, about 8" tall, made of thin chocolate, goes for about 8EUR. Fancier ones, with thicker, fancier chocolate shells or nicer surprises can be over 25EUR.

I was thorn between a Kinder egg (a major chocolate producer in Europe, famous for its toys) and a Simpsons one. In honor of the American culture, I went with the latter. :)

This is what it looked like. It's more packaging than chocolate. The price probably goes to cover the fancy metallic paper and copyrights more than the egg itself. Careful not to ruin the paper, I unwrapped it. The egg inside is almost a let-down. Well, perhaps a chocolate lover would start drooling at the brown yummyness... Seeing as I don't fancy regular chocolate, in the back of my mind I already started thinking how I could dispose of it... Good thing I live with two guys. :)

I started knocking the shell. It was tougher than I expected. A small punch barely made a dent in it! Challenged, I gave it a couple of solid knuckle punches. Breakthrough! I was finally able to peek into it. Saw a Bart peeking back. I widened the hole and retrieved the prize.

I am now the happy owner of a Bart yo-yo.


Wishing ya all better surprises for your eggs. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Italian Job Nightmares

Well, I managed to make one small dream come true. I was a waitress for one day! :) And got paid 4 times as much as a regular job! It was a special event, a presentation of the new line for next winter by a fashion designer. There was some catering, and a friend I met a couple of months ago knows the organizers and has been working with them for a while, and recommended me as an extra hand.

Excited about the prospect, and wanting to be presentable, I pre-spent a third of what they paid me just to get clothes that would fit the job: black dress pants and a white shirt. I figured I could consider it an investment :)

The day was quite uneventful, far less people than they expected showed up, so it was basically helping 2 sisters set up the food on trays, and then this friend of mine and myself would carry them outside in this big warehouse to the arriving guests. Which weren't more than 2 at a time, spaced evenly throughout the day...

I was on my feet for the first 5 hours straight. Didn't feel any tiredness. Tried to help as much as I could, considering I was clueless and had never done this before... I guess the adrenaline helped. Every time someone would come through, we'd jump out, and offer the drinks (juice and water in the morning, wine for lunch, back to juice after that) and the tiny snacks (sweet first, then salty, then some warm food for lunch, and back to small salty snacks...). After 2pm, though, I started to feel the fatigue. With no real break all day, 9 and a half hours of work, I got home on automatic pilot, grateful I had taken the trains so many times already I knew where to go without thinking about it. But damn happy about it all!

Besides this random one-time deal, though, I am still jobless. I haven't been contacted by anyone yet. I keep trying to make new contacts, friends of friends, but I keep falling short of expectations on one side and being too much for the other. The photographer I had randomly met last year, that keeps promising to help me out, keeps bailing on me, so that is a route I haven't been able to explore yet.

I also just moved to an apt "of my own". As in, I have my own room in a 3-bedroom apt, the other rooms being taken up by two guys. I don't feel like I can quite make an official "open house!" announcement yet, as it's already the 3rd of the month and I haven't even paid rent yet... Apparently it takes a lot longer for money to cross the ocean than to stick to the same continent. 3 whole business days and no money yet... It's starting to feel uncomfortable...

But, as soon as that is cleared up, I will finally be able to start returning some guest-ing favors and welcome any of ya that want to come visit the fashion capital of Europe! :) So start looking for some ticket deals. I recommend those search-all-the-airlines-for-the-cheapest-deal websites like or, within Europe, ! ^.^

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Job searching in Italy part I: Nightmare on Porta Romana Street

I have entered culture shock. Things I had grown accostumed to have been thrown upside down. Apparently discrimination in the work place in Italy is perfectly legal. When companies post jobs they do a big show of noting "this position is open to anyone regardless of gender." ...and then they stop there. It is perfectly legal to discriminate against age, family status, and provenance...

After solving my homelessness temporarily (I am renting a room outside of Milan, at some friend's family's house. They were so nice to take me in just like that!) I hooked myself up to the computer and started updating my resume. It wasn't easy to translate my experience and past into terms used in Italy, especially since I don't know them. After two days I thought I had something decent to show, so I set out to spread the word that I was looking for a job.

Italy is an odd place. They will demand rent contracts of 4 years with a minimum 3 months notice, you have to pay every 3 months, and yet most jobs are offered on a temporary basis, 3 months to a year. You can be 40 years old and still wonder if you'll keep your job next year... In this environment, temp job agencies have sprouted like bad seeds, multipling like rabbits and sucking the money that should go to the worker from the companies...

Monday morning I set off for the Duomo, at the heart of Milan, and went off to find a job agency. Once you find one, there will be at least 5 others in a 300 feet radius. If you don't believe me, just head on over to the italian maps portal, type in Milan, and then type in "interinali" (italian for "temp work (agencies)"). Move the map around at a close zoom level, and you'll see clusters of baloons pop up all over. They can't show more than 10 at a time I think. The rendering alone would require a computer more powerful than the average home machine!

The first job agency I went into called me back right away, to offer me a graphic design job. I was elated, I knew it would have been easy to find a job, I'm a smart cookie after all, no? I had wanted to move away from graphic design and do more of the pure art stuff, but I needed something, anything, I was willing to get started with design again. When I went in for the interview, they gave me the details. It was to actually take the reins of the art department of a small PR company, who did ad campaigns and promotions for some major Italian companies. They had been outsourcing but wanted to bring it all in-house. The first question: "Are you married?" "...ergh... no?" "Family? Children? Boyfriend? Do you live alone? The company really asked for a guy, but I wanted to give you a chance..." The job required long hours, high stress, strict deadlines...

By all rights, it would have been a dream come true to someone who would have wanted to rise up in the graphic design industry, with an ambitious career, an opportunity like no other, become art director within the year... Me, I had been dreaming with finally being able to take on odd jobs, work as a waitress, a bartender, do random things and have some fun, while giving myself time to write and continue my family research. I thanked her but said no. I think she was astonished I had refused.

After this experience I set out to the other agencies around. Presenting my nicely-designed one-pager resume, with a letter of presentation and page of references, no-personal-info other than contact email and phone number... I was promptly scolded by several job agencies. Where was my date of birth? Where did I live? Where was I born? Was I married or not? Did I have children? Where was my picture? I had to register and re-input all the data in their computers. And wait for their call.

I was appalled for a whole of 2 days. I finally realized it wasn't an illegal thing they were doing. It's the way things are done here. If I want a proper job I have to be willing to let them know what shoe size I wear and how often I poop. As a personal contact explained, candidly: if you have children your employer has to pay taxes for them. No wonder natality in Italy has reached an all-time low! Soon there will be no more Italians! My motherland will be overrun by immigrants who have no cares about those laws 'cause they're discriminated against anyways, they might as well have as many children as they can and have a better chance to ask for welfare...

So tonight I have given birth to a monster. A resume (Or Curriculum Vitae, as they call it here) that condensed my extensive and varied work experience into a couple of pre-defined job types, and listing my personal info.

I am still shuddering.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the 100th post!

I know I've been slacking... I have many stories to tell, just no time to sit and write quite yet... After 3 weeks in New York, today I returned to Milan, ready to start a new life. Too bad Milan didn't know that...

I showed up at the door of the people that hosted me last... and utterly surprised them, apparently. They whipped up a mattress in an office but it's obviously not anything I can use for more than a couple of nights...

And I just realized I have no clue how to get a job.

All my things are headed this way from NY. They'll be stored somewhere, that shouldn't be a big deal... but I need to figure out what to do with myself. My savings account is starting to shiver from the cold of expansive emptiness around it.

So, jobless and almost homeless. Tomorrow I'm forcing myself to get over the jet lag and start looking for something...

wish me luck :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

world travel galore

I'm a travel junkie.

This week I've been in 3 countries. Sunday in Milan, Monday in New York, Friday in Montreal. Sometimes, if I get distracted and start to think about my own things, I have to stop, look around, and figure out which country I'm in, which language I'm supposed to speak, and what are the local customs. Or who am I supposed to meet up and live a couple of hours with.

It's an unsettling, wonderful sensation. I've even gotten over the fear of flying.

My next step is going to find a way to do this for a living. Earn money from it. I think it'll do for a couple of years.

Friday, February 09, 2007

settling down in milan

Grandma now rests in ashes in one of the main cemeteries of Milan. A little hole amid many, many others... The stone with the inscription and the picture are still being worked on, so all you see is a cemented square. Another week or two, they told me...! I think someone forgot about it.

The reality of it was quite crude. On a Friday I went with a rep from the funeral home to pick up the ashes, and brought them to the cemetery where they would lie. They couldn't bury them that same day. The family of my father's cousin, nice people that they are, met me there for the occasion, thinking it would be the burial. It warmed my heart but they made the trip for nothing. The actual cementing of the box inside the hole would be done the day after, on Saturday. So we went to their home and had a nice lunch. Unfortunately they couldn't make the time to come out on Sat., so I was alone for that process. Not fun.

The weeks after that event have brought new people into my sphere. I met old family friends, randomly tracked down through names jotted down in my father's agenda and some internet research. They all remember me from when I was a tiny pup, and had lost all hope of ever knowing what had happened to me. They took me into their homes and are treating me like another daughter. I seem to keep being adopted by people...

This weekend I'm meeting yet another figure from a past I have no memory of... the daughter of another of my father's acquaintances. Also found through a random phone call from the white pages. So I'll be in Florence for the weekend. She remembers me from when I was just born... Odd, odd feeling.

This time around I managed to actually do a tiny bit of tourism. The pics I posted last time showed some of it. I tagged along some friends to visit the lakes up north on two occasions. A beautiful funicular to see the sunset over the lake from above. A night ride over the lake by ferry. And later a night spent in a turn-of-the-century home, in a tiny town a bit inland, remodeled but with no heat, and thick walls that kept the inside air colder than the outside...! The fireplace did nothing to help, and the covers where damn cold at zero degrees centigrade... but it was a nice time. It belonged to the family of one of my patient, patient hosts (they kept me in their apt for 3 weeks without complaining!).

Today I did the first official tourist thing in Milan. A guy I had met in the most random way last year, while tracking down grandma, took me to the Duomo, the Castello Sforzesco, and for a walk through Brera, a gorgeous section of Milan with pedestrians-only alleys and one of the most famous Italian art academies.

I have made a couple of new friends, almost all nice people up to now, thank goodness. I think I'll be ok moving here. It has a chance.

That said, I am really looking forward for a last trip back to the USA. All my stuff is still there!! Should be around February 20th, through March 14th. Will confirm once I settle on plane tickets.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My stay in Milan so far

The funeral was held last Thursday. Very few people were still in touch with grandma, it was a small ceremony. My first catholic funeral, I think. And seeing grandma dead made it the first time I saw the lifeless shell of someone I had known in life.

The biggest treasury she left behind was a collection of old correspondence, photo albums, and all her writings, published and non. I even found letters from my own father, 10 yrs old, when he first went away to boarding school...!! It all went to fill in the holes of a past that I knew little of. Amazing experience.

Anything of value, like her ring and watch, disappeared. Also a bunch of copies of her books, which she had kept and I had seen in her wardrobe. The president of the institute shrugged and said "You know how it is..." Almost worth kicking his ass, if it wasn't that it was all stuff I had no relation to. I have at least one copy of all her writings, and the things she wore don't tell me much, so I can leave them behind... Sucks to feel helpless in the matter, though.

As she is being cremated, she wont reach the cemetery until this Friday. Then she will rest, in peace, while us living ones continue to walk this earth and deal with mundane things. Like her material possessions. While I'm the only heir, out popped someone with a will where all the money goes to them and some friars... It's from over 10 years ago, and we can't track down any other will, so it's going to become an issue. *sigh*

Funny how these people are being all proper about the will, and they didn't even show up at the funeral. Nor did they arrange any of the paperwork I had to take care of, like her pension, or mentioned that I had to return any of her personal belongings...

Bah humbug.

While I wait for all this crap, I keep busy shooting pics and meeting random new friends. Here is some beauty for the soul, to cancel out some of the crap above.

Monday, January 08, 2007

life is random. in bad ways, as well.

Grandma passed away.

Suddenly, improbably, unfairly.

I'm looking for the first flight out to Milan. No clue what will happen after. I have to retrace a couple of months worth of decisions and thinking.

Randomness must go all ways, doesn't it?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy new year! and last travel plans

Happy new year to all. 'Hope it brings everyone good stuff.

Me, I can't wish for a better year than 2006, but since I'm on a roll, why not. 2007 sure started well enough. I'm still in Costa Rica, lending a hand in organizing things in my hosts' home, with no worries other than to organize my future, and I've just finalized the purchase of my plane tickets.

I'll be leaving Costa Rica to go to Key West, in Florida, on January 16th. There I'm going to give it a shot at writing this book, since I'm visiting one of my old college roommates who has become a writer herself.

On February 1st I'll be reaching North Carolina, to visit an old coworker and his wife, who just bought their house there. It'll be a quick visit, so I can make it back to New York for superbowl sunday.

I'll be making base in New York through March 14th, planning on how to move my life over to Italian soil. During that time I'll also be visiting friends in Montreal and anywhere else I can reach.

All this while grandma is asking when I get back. Through her care-taker, as she can't hear me when I speak over the phone. But she says this between random obsessive requests, so I'm trying to convince myself that she can't really make the difference...

I originally planned a much earlier trip. Be there before march. Then I figured who knows when I'll be back on this side of the pond... i don't want to regret not doing this trip my way. Have enough time to do everything I am planning on doing. No regrets is better than sacrifices. A selfish view, perhaps. But arriving to a cold city, with no home and a whole life to start over again, and a senile grandma to look over, with whom I can barely communicate... I do have new friends and opportunities waiting for me, but I can't help and be anxious.

And leaving March 14th will make it exactly one year of travel. I left March 14th 2006 from NY. I figured it was worth the extra time to make a clean close on it.

So, there's that.

Happy new year.