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by the meter. by the meter!!!

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under a Tuscan snowdrift.

no electricity, no heat (because the metano-based radiators run off an electrical generator), no hotwater (because there is no heat, and i am *so* glad i discovered this *before* getting under the shower this morning) and no stove (because the gas-heater uses an electric pilot).

i can reach the outside world, because i have my cellphone, and i have my laptop picking up La Saletta's wonderful wireless network.  but my phone is on its last battery bar, and my laptop's built-in power supply is at 14 per cent.  the pullmans to the train station are on sciopero, and even if they weren't -- i doubt they would be running the way the roads are (i heard a man tell his rosy-cheeked, snow-frolicking six-year-old that it hadn't come down this thick since nineteen-eighty-five).

so i don't know how i would get to Firenze.  it is already too late to make it to the tribunale to have my degree stamped today.  another passo for the permesso pushed back.  it seems like there is more than just the sizeable italian bureacracy working against me...

i think about zen and the art of Italian living, and about having my third cafe macchiato.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[venerdi 30 gennaio 2004 ore 10:36:42] []

disco rimovibile...

...and other Italian words and phrases i love.
sciopero.
con rispetto parlando...
spilatrice.  raggiungibile.
bugiarda.  peperoncino.
se non e zuppa, e pan bagnato.
vigili del fuoco (makes me feel like it means "watchers of fire").
madonna!

and of course.  pronto.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[giovedi 29 gennaio 2004 ore 11:23:50] []

familiarity, discontent.

i come home and realize i've just had a twelve-hour work day.  and that too, with a sore throat that should have kept me in bed.  but there had been deadlines to meet.  and dedication to demonstrate.  tonight i can feel the familiar "quasi-carpal-tunnel-syndrome" pain in my right wrist.  and they are talking about paycuts at work.

i might as well be an IT consultant in new york city again, no?

hm.  no.

i am drinking from a bottle of wine that cost 1 euro 90 centesimi.  and you know, it is not even really that bad.  i have had much, much worse red at pubs in midtown-new-york.

i make spaghetti with pate of pesce spada.  i am getting better at knowing how high i should keep the fire for my pasta, and i am getting better at cooking it al dente, and i am getting better at having it ready when everything else is.  but i still cannot get it to stay warm through more than my first five bites.  maybe it is too cold here in Cortona...

i am roller-coaster see-sawing between telling myself i can do this, and feeling exhausted and frustrated and sad.  i snapped at a co-worker today, and complained far too much about the waitress at lunch.  because her voice grated on me...  i want this visa.  i want to stay, mister Italy.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[martedi 20 gennaio 2004 ore 09:57:30] []

(mostly) culinary adventures in campania.

the Costiera Amalfitana was like a different country.  i am finally beginning to realize, how truly regionalized this nation is.  they talk about it all the time.  how the Italian sense of nationhood is still an incredibly young, undeveloped, fragmented one.  how different the language sounds the further you drive in any direction.  how Florentines at a soccer match in Roma have to converse in English with each other, so that the Romans around them don't recognize their Tuscan accents.

i saw women, young ones, cross themselves as they walked past roadside shrines.  here in the north, an Italian will hardly acknowledge the Duomo as they pass it, let alone a six-inch flowered Madonna sitting by a stop sign.

and it is different, of course, in terms of food.

i will admit.  i didn't understand how pizza could be such a big deal.  granted, i had almost never had Napolitano pizza (because a ten minute dash to the stall outside the Napoli train station and then back onto the EuroStar to Firenze five years ago probably does *not* count).  but really, i remember thinking on the way down in the car, how different can a pizza *be*?

very.

and then, of course, there is limoncello.  it goes so well with what this peninsula seems to be about.  everything that is golden-yellow and round and full and sharp and strong.  mandarins and cherry tomatoes and fresh, fresh, fresh mozzarella di bufala that tastes like purity in your suddenly elated mouth.

even coffee here tastes different.  and it is here that i find a clue that points back at the pizza.  it is the water, so many Napolitani tell me.  it is what makes the coffee different here, and it is what makes the pizza dough so different.  they shrug as they say it, as if they can't be bothered deconstructing so simple a gift of difference.  as if so huge a blessing to their region, well -- of course it's theirs -- where else *could* the water be this good?


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[lunedi 19 gennaio 2004 ore 10:19:22] []

waiting for the pastawater to boil.

waiting for the pastawater to boil, i wonder for the seventeenth time whether i should invest in an electric kettle, to cut this, the most time-consuming part of italian cooking out of my hungry schedule.  the tips of my fingers smell of garlic, and i am sure it is not doing great things for this keyboard.  but still, even my laptop should enjoy the sensual pleasures of italian life, no?

i get up every paragraph or so, to check if i can slip the spaghetti in yet.  then i come back to my writing and my wine.  and it occurs to me as i do this, that i may not want that electric kettle after all.  because the whole point of this process, seems to be -- not to rush.  the whole point of this and any other cooking process, of any process in this country.  wine is a slow drink, that takes long sips to appreciate.  meals are long and manycoursed.  and you are never ever shooed from your restaurant table to make way for the next paying customer.  not even after you've payed the bill.

several months ago, i wrote a letter to an aunt in karachi, explaining -- both to her and to myself -- how i felt about how hard this whole moving-to-italy and finding-a-job adventure was proving to be.  six months into it, i was broker than zero, frustrated, low on professional self-esteem, and just, plain, tired.

here's part of what i wrote that day:

I am doing okay.  Could be better.  Got back to Florence yesterday and am so happy to be back in Italy, but have plunged straight back into my quagmire -- Italian student visa expiring in a matter of days and I am still without a work visa to switch to and it is all so frustrating...  Trying to breathe and map out my options...  Let's see, when this momentary panic attack I am having today passes I shall have a clearer view of what few paltry options (if any) I have left to make this work.

I will be okay.  I will always be okay, I know.  I just want to be okay in Italy.

I am slowly realizing though (and trying to teach myself to accept), that the *process* (even if it is painful) is a *part* of the experience.  Am trying to remember and tell myself that this too, is me living in Italy, and I won't "start" my dream at some imaginary point in the future when I have a job, apartment and a plate of home-made pasta on the kitchen table.  That the dream (and I guess life in general) is a continuous process and I should try and embrace it as such instead of living as if I'm "waiting" for what I don't have.


and so i *am* here.  sitting in a wooden-beam-ceiling apartment in Cortona, Tuscany.  and there is a plate of pasta on its way to my dining table and a glass of red wine to hold me over in the meantime.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[venerdi 16 gennaio 2004 ore 11:50:17] []

reading the Said.

"There has been so massive and calculatedly aggressive an attack on contemporary Arab and Muslim societies for their backwardness, lack of democracy, and abrogation of women’s rights that we simply forget that such notions as modernity, enlightenment, and democracy are by no means simple and agreed-upon concepts that one either does or does not find like Easter eggs in the living-room."

wow.  thank you Edward Said!


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[mercoledi 14 gennaio 2004 ore 09:45:37] []