Monday, September 24, 2012

Point-based Italian citizenship

Now and then I happen to meet the children of some foreigners who migrated to Italy before they were born. It still gives me a strange feeling. This is not America or Australia, where people have been used to this kind of situations for decades. In here this is still a recent phenomenon. Listening to what looks like an Indian gentleman speaking with a Bolognese accent or a Chinese lady using open and closed vowels the wrong way, like a perfect Milanese, can still surprise and fascinate me a lot. In cases like this I am not able to flaunt imperturbability.
They carry the obvious signs of their origins on their skin, countenance, hair and height. Then they tell you that they feel Italian, in big percentage at least. Many of them can't speak the language of their parents, they are ill at ease when they sit for lunch with their distant relatives and prefer to have a pizza with their Italian friends instead.
Still, they are to be considered foreigners in every respect. They have their parents' nationality and live in Italy on a residence permit. They are fluent in Italian, they attended Italian schools, from the very beginning, they studied Italian history, literature, social studies and civics. Some of them didn't understand much of it, true, but one must admit that so did lots of "real" Italians too. Well, it all doesn't make a bit of difference. They are almost never granted Italian citizenship. Their applications get lost in a sea of intricate procedures, absurd quibbles and layers of dust that settled on the desks of recalcitrant government officials. The Italian government prefers to grant the nationality to a South American or an Australian who can claim a great-great-grandfather from the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia or the one of the Two Sicilies - perhaps even a fake one - who can't speak a word in Italian and doesn't even know whether Italy is a republic or a kingdom. As a matter of fact thousands of Italian passports have been given away like that in the last ten-twenty years.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Work of art - Padua, Italy

We Italians often complain about our local authorities, their incompetence, disorganization or bad faith. And with good reason, of course. Sometimes though, a government manager or employee does something nice. In that case it's the common citizen the one who will settle (i.e. mess up) the matter the Italian way.
Last year, in downtown Padua, my attention was caught by some municipality billboards providing historical information about the city in the middle-age.Very interesting, at least for those who promoted the initiative and myself, and hopefully for some other local citizen and tourist as well. One year later I went back to that same place to refresh my memory on the subject. I could remember an item - in via Zabarella - about the Carrerese slaughterhouse, the fraglia dei beccai (guild of butchers), the licenses and procedures used in that sector back in the thirteen century.
Well, if you take a look at the photo above you can see what I actually found. An unknown local artist decided to embellish the panel with one of his renowned chicken-scratches. Reading the original text is now impossible, but in order to admire such a refined masterpiece we are obviously willing to make bigger sacrifices than that.
Getting inside the delicate role of an art critic for a minute (even though I don't have any relevant competence) I have a couple of questions that I am going to list below:
1) Baby...why didn't you paint the wall of your children's room instead? Even using a dark shade of that special paint obtained from animal pigments that also have excellent fertilizing characteristics?
2) And then, what does it do you read it...I mean, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU WRITE THERE???

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Funny signs/6

I often come across some funny signs, billboards, notices and labels. When it happens I always make sure that I don't leave the spot without a photo. I'll post them here a few at a time.

From outside this looks just like another Pattaya Go Go bar, with pole dancing girls, erotic shows, keen hostesses, etc...but then you spot that sign and you suddenly have some doubts...maybe it's something else...a Western steak house or a Korean barbeque restaurant...(Pattaya, Thailand)

As this is a fixed road sign the accident must be permanent. Meaning that there constantly is an accident ahead. (Pattaya, Thailand)

We sell you sweet corn, you thank us...NOW! (Koh Samui, Thailand)

Hey, have you seen that bar?
Ah, yeah, I've been there a couple of times...
Really? Cool! How's that beer then?! I got no idea...nerd...

(Pattaya, Thailand)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Creative passport renewal - Bangkok, Thailand

Memories from August 2006

I've decided to subject my passport to yet another one of those intensive sessions I've imposed on it so many times in these past Asian years.
This is the plan: fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong where I will meet Lu and Lo coming from Venice. Get a Chinese visa, cross the border overland and from Shenzhen take a flight to the western limits of the country, in Xinjiang - with trips to Urumqi, the desert, Turpam and a couple of amazingly filthy rural markets -, then head back East landing in Chengdu and from there descend on Yunnan to stop in Kunming, where I'm still renting an apartment with some school mates (Chinese Language at the Yunnan Normal University). My guests will then go back to Hong Kong where they will board their return flight to Italy. I will spend one or two more weeks there before heading back to Bangkok, where I also have to catch a return flight to Italy. Every year I go back once for a month, to visit my family, friends, and the places where I grew up. Finally from Bangkok I will fly back to Kunming, where I'm planning to spend a few months.
I always do that: I live through periods of immobility, enjoying a city or a beach where I like to loaf around or have some work to do, then all of a sudden I leave, without saying goodbye (normally just because there is nobody to say goodbye to) and during the following weeks I let some nice guys at the immigration points or at the embassies lash the pages of my travel document with powerful strokes of their seals or stiffen them with stickers that look like giant revenue stamps. My movements become even more frenzied when someone comes to visit me from back home, as in this case. In the last few years I've become a fairly slow traveler (or maybe I should say tourist?): if I don't click with a place I leave at once, otherwise I'm gonna stay there one week at least, if only to stroll around or read a book in a cafe that after a few days already feels like my own living room. That's not the case of my friends and relatives though, who can only enjoy a twenty-day vacation and are eager to see as many places as they possibly can. Traveling in good company is well worth some adaptation efforts, as in this case.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The beggar with a bike - Pattaya, Thailand

In Pattaya there is a beggar with a run-down bicycle and a lot of plastic bags hanging from the handlebar, where he stores all his belonging. He must be used to fight for the meager space that he normally enjoys, little by little, with caution. You can tell by the way he's crossing the road right now, for instance. If he just waited on the curb nobody would stop for him. On the other hand if he acted with haste he would be punished, scolded, maybe even run over. That's why he advances with short leaps, stopping often to make sure that those who are driving the cars have acknowledged his presence and intention, while his lips relentlessly bring out a sad mantra, apologetic and reverent, a prayer that escapes his mouth almost as if he didn't even notice it. Is he apologizing for crossing the road? Or because he exists? Maybe he is thanking everybody for not having knocked him down (yet). Come to think of it, though, it might not mean anything at all: his jaw only fueled by the twitching of one who has already lost all his teeth.

Photo by {e u g e n e} (CC)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remarkable skill - Thailand

Two things can surprise Asians when they first meet me.
One is my age, and I'm pretty used to that: since I was ten I've developed (esthetically speaking) much slower than the other kids my age. At junior high and high school this was causing me problems. I was often treated as a lower grade child, especially by the girls...and I couldn't take comfort in the attention of the younger ones: at that age a two year difference is as important as a geologic era. The only thing I could do was wait and hope: there were no other solutions. And fortunately it worked. From the age of twenty on my babyface has become less and less of a problem. Nowadays it can even be a relief, especially when I meet some old friends from school or university, white-haired, bald, wrinkled and bloated.
The other thing that can make many Orientals goggle is my nationality. Italian? Really?! I would have never said that. I thought you were...and then they start listing an incongruous sequence of countries I might come from: France, Switzerland, England, Belgium, even Holland! Total confusion, any place would do, except Italy.