Settimana della Cultura 2009

22 03 2009

 

Che risparmio!

Che risparmio!

After all the confusion surrounding the Italian week of culture last year, when it appeared in March without any prior warning, it looks like things are a bit clearer for 2009. According to the official site of the Italian cultural ministry, the XI Settimana della cultura will take place from April 18 to 26.

Spring is the best time of the year to travel around the peninsula and, given the high cost of admission to public museums and monuments, it is the only opportunity to sight see extensively in a large group without breaking the bank. Instead of paying €6 to 8 each to see one site, we can cover all of the beni culturali (”cultural assets” in official translator English) in an area in one fell swoop. Consistent with the much lamented exponential increases in the cost of living here, the main topic of discussion in both the national media and anxious personal conversations, many culturally minded families have started to plan their vacations around the initiative.

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Coming soon: My Book!

23 02 2009

For more information on Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy: Intertextuality on the Jacobean stage, see here:

http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcTitle=1&title_id=9654&edition_id=10662





Hardware shop theatre

18 02 2009

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Or, how buying a door latch in Italy becomes a public spectacle when you’re foreign

 

 

 

One of the things I’ve realized after a number of years in Italy is that I have no anonymity. Even when I lived in the big city I was the object of the curiosity of apartment porters, local shopkeepers, and neighbours. They may not have responded to my greetings but they knew (or tried to know) everything about me. Now that we live in a small village, I have acquired a certain amount of local celebrity.

The extent of my visibility became clear when I made my first visit to the nearby negozio di ferramenta (hardware shop). On orders to purchase a new door latch mechanism, I entered stage right on to the set of a comedy:

Foreign man enters holding an antiquated door latch.

Foreigner: I need a replacement for this.

Hardware man turns to crowd of onlookers sitting around the counter, all grateful for a bit of excitement.

Hardware man (in dialect): This is the man from Canada who lives on the next street over. Ha, ha, ha!

Pause.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): Meester – Meester – Meeesteer! THIS – IS – A – VERY – OLD – DOOR – LATCH – YOU – NEED – A – NEW – ONE! [In English] Veeeree Olde!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. It’s old. It’s old. Poor guy has an old door latch.

Foreigner: Yes, I know. That’s why I’m here.

Hardware man (in dialect): He must want a new one. Poor guy!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. He wants a new one. Poor guy.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): They – Don’t – Make – These – Anymore – Meester! You – need – a – different – one!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.

Hardware man rummages about storeroom and comes up with one exactly the same but with a slightly different latch shape.

Hardware man (triumphantly): This – is – a – NEW – ONE! They- Don’t – have – these – in – Hollywood – Meester!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.





“Who’s been drinking my cappuccino?”

14 01 2009
goldilocks and the three coffee drinkers

goldilocks and the three coffee drinkers

Goldilocks and the Three Bears for Italian students of English

English may be a world language but that does not mean that everyone understands it. In Italy, there is a local version of the language which has little to do with the original. You can find psuedo-English words like “footing” (a substitute for jogging) and “transfert” (a taxi or bus ride from the airport). There are also many recycled expressions which have taken on different meanings here, such as “fashion victim” for very stylish people, “ticket” for hospital user fees, “mobbing” for workplace harassment, and – my favourite – “pullman” for intercity buses.

Even the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is not immune. My 3 year old daughter has a locally produced version of the tale in English and there are significant differences with the tale we know and love. Many of the memorable phrases such as “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” are gone, replaced by expressions like “I’m sure there is somebody else here”. However, the most startling change is the total absence of porridge from the volume. Instead, like all Italians, these 3 bears enjoy a hot (but not too hot) cappuccino in the morning. Mamma Bear even has the typical shiny aluminum moka caffeteria.

There are fewer changes in the tale of the Three Little Pigs, since the construction techniques of the first two is similar to that used by local apartment developers.





Water – A precious resource in Southern Italy

4 01 2009

What do people do when water is scarce? They spend, spend, spend…

and meet lots of friendly plumbers.

Blue water tanks - an essential part of your home

Blue water tanks - an essential part of your Italian home

Everyone talks about how precious water is but, unless you’ve had to do without it, you don’t appreciate its significance. There’s nothing worse than having the taps run dry and not knowing when you will be able to flush the toilet, take a shower, wash the dishes, or even make a cup of tea again.

What I did over my Christmas holidays, or my brief visit to Gela

The province of Caltanissetta is not known for its plentiful choice of radio stations. On my infrequent trips to the area, most of my driving time has been spent listening to the broadcast recital of the rosary on the entertainment challenged frequencies of Radio Maria. I was pleased therefore to find more upbeat sounds as we passed through the petrochemical centre of Gela. Alas, taking advantage of the lack of competition, almost the entire output of the local radio station was devoted to annoying commercials for the standbys of Italian Christmas life: high fashion clothes and food. However, there was one business model that stood out from the more predictable concerns: private water suppliers. It seems as though there is a serious water crisis in Gela. A local news site is reporting that the erogation of water supplies has been blocked. In that case, as the advertising pointed out, the only possibility to get water is to pay for a tanker truck to come to your house and fill up the blue tank on your roof.

Dry, dry, dry

I know what they’re going through in Gela. During the first few years I lived in Palermo, there was a serious water shortage. The water would come at irregular intervals, at best providing the essential liquid two or three times a week. In such cases, you need to take care to preserve every drop of water when it does come. This meant that I ended up spending big money in the apartment I was renting for a water tank (placed over my hallway), a water pump at ground level (because the water pressure was so low it didn’t make it up to the 6th floor when it did come), and an autoclave to pump the water from my tank to the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. This was not a cost efficient solution. One pump or another constantly broke down – so that either the apartment was flooded with water or I missed the bi-weekly supply. Nonetheless, things have gotten better in recent years and we listened to the news from Gela with a certain amount of nostalgia.

Then we ran out of water yesterday afternoon.

A dry Saturday

It was our fault. We had become complacent. It was almost like living in Canada. As long we ran the pump a couple of times a week, we had all the water we wanted. However, we forgot to fill up the tank after we got back from our trip to Ragusa.

First the water started to spurt as we did the dishes, then the autoclave started to make knocking sounds, then the taps went dry. I ran to start up the pump to get more water – but, at the moment, our village does not supply water on Saturdays. We had to wait until Sunday morning.

Flushing your toilets with bottled mineral water is not a satisfactory solution.





Busy, busy, busy

18 12 2008

Will be back soon.





Signs of Economic Crisis

23 11 2008
0% Interest

0% Interest

The stores were open here this Sunday for the start of the Christmas shopping season. I went out for a walk and saw a couple of signs of the economic crisis:

1.  The first Euro store I’ve ever seen here. Of course, it was all the same stuff (ie junk) you’d get at the dollar store back home.

2. A toy store with a giant sign on the front display window: 0% interest. It’s a difficult Christmas when you have to buy your Barbie on the installment plan.