Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breaking news - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I'm staying at a fancy hotel, which I'm not paying for, of course. It's not a luxurious one but it's good enough to make me feel some sort of moocher. Sometimes a bit out of place too, as if I had been the object of a name mix-up. Actually it used to happen especially at the beginning, because one quickly gets used to superior standards and starts soon to take certain privileges for granted. Never mind, there is no danger of permanent damage: within few days the fun will be over, I'll jump down from the comfortable mattress covered with silky linen and soft pillows and I'll return to bite the dust raised by the soles that thump on the hard road surface. Well, so to speak, just to give a couple of brush strokes of vivid melodrama.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tropical cold - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Cold. As impossible as it may seem, I'm feeling cold. And it happens quite often: I'm forced to take shelter from cold in a city where for most of the day, twelve months a year, the thermometer needle exhaustingly staggers over 30ºC.
No, I'm not under a violent attack of tropical fever. The fact is that in Kuala Lumpur, for some reason that escapes me, the unrestrained use of air conditioning must have been enforced by law. I've been wondering why. Could it be the ancestral terror of the equatorial climate? The rather questionable choice of a status symbol? A substantial difference in the perception of heat between the local population and myself?
The LRT ride from the hotel to the training center is brief, only three stations long, and it doesn't take more than ten minutes. And yet, if I don't adopt tactics worthy of a polar expedition manual, chances are that I'll get off the car with the clumsily symmetrical limp of the penguin. Or worse, belly-flopping like an adult male walrus.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Misplaced pride

Proud of one's homeland, of a cultural lineage, proud of a faith, proud of this, proud of that, proud, proud, very, very proud! Why so proud then? For what reason should I be proud to be Italian? Or European, Venetian or white for that matter. What can possibly justify the pride for belonging to a nation, to an ethnic group, a certain region instead of another?
Wait a moment, don't dismiss the matter too hastily...this isn't absolutely meant to be a politically correct, do-gooding, fence-sitting kind of post: all attitudes that I am by no means interested in. That actually even tend to annoy me. I mentioned Europeans and whites but the same questions that I'm asking myself can apply to anyone. Why should an individual be proud to be American, Pekingese, black or Muslim? It's exactly the same issue.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bigoli around the world

When we're traveling it might happen that curiosity gets the upper hand over caution. So we start to try, dare, experiment. Sometimes we even risk, and maybe we get into trouble. Perhaps the adrenaline that trouble can synthesize is precisely the X factor that we are looking for. Some other times, tired of surprises after the first few weeks of travel (never bored though), we start to feel the alien place out in search of more familiar spots, where the complications of our lives as strangers are temporarily solved. Simplified lapses of time. A bit fake maybe, but realistic enough.
When it comes to food I am fairly intrepid but sometimes, especially if I have access to a kitchen and I don't need to fall back on some Italian restaurant abroad, I like to refresh my memory of familiar flavors, so familiar in fact that they might have got stuck to my chromosomes. A gourmet version of The call of the wild, one might say.
With time I've learned that there is also a middle way though. At the end there always is one, isn't there? For example searching a foreign cuisine for similarities with one's own. Dietary affinities that alleviate our palate's longings, nourishing at the same time the ever burning exploring spirit.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Women's day: grateful or offended?

March 8th, Women's day, in the '80s, I'm still at high school. The male students collect some money and buy a few bunches of mimosa for the girls. We decide to do the same thing for the female teachers.
Our science teacher appreciates the gift. During a break we place some flowers for our math teacher on her desk. When she enters the room and spots our gift she makes a funny grimace, her face darkens and then, quite upset, she starts to scold us for our bold gesture.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unexpected implications - Pattaya, Thailand

Hard to believe as it may seem I think that it has actually already happened: the average daily number of Russian tourists in Pattaya might have exceeded that of local hookers, or so it seems, at least in the high season. And apparently the figures are only bound to increase. I mean, in Pattaya...of all places!
The city tourism has been based on the cheap and easy offer of sex for decades, since the Vietnam war times, when the American GIs used to come here for rest, distraction and leisure.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Do you know what love is?

"Come on, come on, lovin' for the money, come on, come on, listen to the money talk"
AC/DC, "Money Talks"
"Perhaps they were right putting love into books, perhaps it could not exist anywhere else"
William Faulkner, "Light in August"

"When you mean love you mean a big lightning bolt to the heart, where you can't eat and you can't work, and you just run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons"
Don Draper, from "Mad Men" - watch it here

In this post I'll address the readers in second person. It's a literary device as old as the history of western culture. It might happen that while you're reading it you feel as if I were accusing you. Remember this one thing: if you are happily married, engaged, matched, still in love like students on their first crush...then I'm not talking to you. Read again carefully what I've just written. I'm going to repeat it, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings: in that case I am not speaking with you! While you're going through these lines however, what I write might remind you of someone you know who strongly resembles my interlocutors.
Done with the disclaimer, we can start now.