Too much too much...

It’s 10:30 am and after making a gigantic cup (yellow! Cup that is…) of coffee, I am back under the covers, coffee on the bedside table. This is me trying to tell myself that I got coffee in bed. And this is me telling myself that if it’s chilly and you can hear thunder roll and the sky is grey and there is that distinct sound of a light drizzle it is ok to have a lazy Sunday. It’s ok to wake up at 8 am but stay in bed till 10 and its ok to be writing first thing in the morning. In fact I quite like this. Writing first thing in the morning. Its seems my head had been making sentences and slotting them in an order while I slept and now all I am doing is tapping along on my keyboard, sipping coffee and soon I will be saying, viola.  
I can see my garden (for some reason it is scary for me only in the dark!) and I am glad I won’t have to water it. It might not look huge but when you get down to watering it, takes an hour at least. Trust me. For some reason I am looking forward to ironing my clothes. I have realized that like applying nail polish, ironing clothes has a strange effect on me. I need to concentrate almost a 100 per cent and that somehow makes me less stressed. Not that I am stressed right now. Just saying.
And now that I have spent one month in this city, I have started doing what residents do. Discovering great places for the regular stuff you need to get by. Not just the best pizza or the nicest gelato or the best pasta etc etc. You get the drift right? So on Friday, my one month anniversary (using one of the most incorrect phrases we all use all the time!) in Firenze, I happened to go for dinner with two of my colleagues to this Chinese restaurant and I am so so so happy I did. I was craving something that was not a pasta, or salad, or meat with veggies or risotto and there it was. Chicken friend rice, noodles, prawns, pork with green peppers, steamed rice, vermicelli, and tofu. I also chanced upon a place that sells incense (really expensive agarbattis if you ask me) and some really funky travel stuff and toys. And it is right next to the only shop that stocks English books here (and yes, predictably, you find Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Arvind Adiga and Amitav Ghosh in abundance here. But not Ghosh’s latest book yet.). And both the shops are down the shop that from now on I will call the best gelato shop in Florence. I do like three other family owned ones a lot, but this one tops them. Owned by two young Italians who have taken their business global (shops in NYC, Paris etc) their gelato is more expensive than other places but one lick and you know why. I read about them when I was trying to google just how many calories and how much fat am I subjecting myself to through my gelato indulgence. So my new frequent haunts are all on the same street. Nice.
I think the key to living in different cities is to go beyond discovering food and things that are typical to the place. You cannot be a tourist if you live someplace for a long time right. So I think this is a good thing. I now have my own favourite gelato shop (ok! That’s a typical thing) my own favourite Chinese place, my book shop (I am sure every English speaking person in Florence calls it the same way!) and my tiny nook to buy incense. So yesterday madam bought an agarbatti stand, a total of 30 agarbattis and the total cost was as much as I spend on agarbattis every six months. And I always by the more expensive ones, even back home. Made me laugh. But I like incense and it makes me feel at home. Those of you who have been to my place will remember that I always create an incense corner. And those of you who plan on visiting remember to call before you take that flight because I will at every point in time have a small list of things I might need. And yes, I might just include some really mundane chemist shop items, or even books. They are frightfully expensive overseas. I spent 20 euros on two books that would have cost me less than 10 euros back home. Well I know its books and they last forever and no one can contest my love for books but sometimes I would not mind seeing a few new ones on my shelves with Indian price tags.
Oh! And I went shopping too. Yes I did. So I bought myself skinny black work trousers and a pair of off-white skinny jeans. I was thinking I will wait till next month but everyone at work advised me not to. Apparently things here get ‘sold out’ real fast. And from whatever little I gave seen so far, they really do! I liked a long string of white porcelain beads and golden coloured wooden squares, and I thought I will sleep over it before I spend 12 euros on junk jewellery and I did and I still wanted it so I went back to the shop the next evening and it was gone. Every single piece of it. And the new stock had come in just the day I saw that chain. I know that because the friendly girl at the shop told me that. Wow! So I decided I will get my pants before they vanish off the shelves. And while I have been at it, I also bought a cute pair of mocha coloured ballerinas. I have bought more things than I planned to in the last two weeks. Shoes for Capoeira, two dresses (of which only one is work worthy!), two pants, three shrugs, incense, books, ballerinas, and before I forget, those, now awesomely comfortable (no blisters from them anymore), Birkenstock sandals. Hummm…. Mummy does not approve. But I have my eyes still set on that Swatch I had seen at Phoenix mills in Bombay and I think I will get that for my birthday. I also think I need a camera and a pair of red ballerinas too.
Lets see. I do have the flat expense looming over my head. If I convert to rupees the amount all those euros I need to shell out this week come to I will faint. One month rent advance, 2 months rent deposit and one month rent to the agent. Wow!  No! Don’t ask me what the rent is. Makes me convert and then makes me feel guilty. Humpf!
But the shoes will come. At least another pair. Right now they are on the ‘need’ list and not ‘want’ list, given I had to discard my black work ballerinas before taking the flight to Tuscany my brand new silver ballerinas with the cute bow broke. Yes they did. And gave me massive blisters too. I still have the annoying scars.
Anyway, it has stopped raining and I feel like one more cup of coffee. And I want to read more of this week’s issue of the NewStatesman and be more angry and annoyed about it. Their cover story is on India and they have been quite predictable. Patrick French’s piece is alright. But profiling Arundhati Roy! Interviewing Arvind Adiga! A timeline of India’s history that simply reads “1947: Independence from Britain; 1947-48: First Kashmir War; 1951-52: first General Election; 1971: Indo-Pakistan War; 1974: Nuclear Power; 1984: Indira Gandhi Murdered; 2004: Manmohan Singh Elected; 2008: Mumbai terror attacks.” Yes! As it is straight from the magazine. Made me go like ‘what the fuck!’ Where is the Indo-China war? The other Indo-Pak war? Kargil? Parliament attacks? Op Parakram? Gujarat riots? Sikh riots? Opening up of the Economy? Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination? And for that matter using “assassination” and not “murder” for Indira Gandhi? The NDA coalition government? The Janta Party coming to power? Anna Hazare (and not Baba Ramdev as they feature!!) and the reservation protests both in the 1990s and then in 2006? The various serial blasts? Something about medals in Olympics etc (and not just cricket and Sachin Tendulkar)? What about the rise in social entrepreneurship that is changing lives? What about youth initiatives that have picked up in the past decade? What about a serious piece on what can be done about the education system rather than yet another commentary on the contract between India’s ‘silicon Valley’ and how it has done nothing to improve the lives of those outside of it. Yes I agree the crowd in Bombay, the sheer intensity of human proximity and human numbers can be an assault on the senses, but what about steering away from talking about just that city. What about talking about the cities that are changing the entire game of urbanization. The tier II and tier III cities that are giving people opportunities they haven’t had before? And for crying out loud, what about a proper piece on the how many “poor” kids in so called developed countries suffer quite like the poor kids in any other country. Educationally deprived. Opportunity deprived. And I can go on an on but I think I want that second cup of coffee. Also, I am rather miffed at this entire notion of “helplessness” that women keep reinforcing around their own gender. Gender stereotyping that is negative without seeming to. It stems from something I read about how flexi time helps women and how corporates should support it and governments should too. Blah blah blah. All I read there is that you are a woman, you will have babies, so you need to figure out how you will manage and we will try to put in place some systems that might make your life slightly simpler. My question is, what about policies to establish a strong caregiver role for the person whose sperm spawned the little, crying, pooping and always hungry bundle of joy? What about paternity leave? What about giving men the policy and corporate support so they can be hands on daddy and allow the woman the opportunity to ease back into her career with one parent still around the kid because of flexi time? You know… and the list continues. This is just one of my issues. And every time I hear women applaud maternity leave I feel like telling them, “Get over it. Everyone gets it now. Time to stop reiterating something that is only reinforcing a stereotype now. Move on. Your mothers fought for this and now you need to take that a step further. Ask for the next thing now. Time to pull up your socks and get out of this armchair feminist comfort zone.”
Gosh! I have written way more than I wanted to initially. Anyway, if you don’t agree with anything I have said (especially in the last three paragraphs) please feel free to correct / comment.
And now I am off. Time really to go get the second cup of coffee. And it has stopped raining too. Time to go bum about town and maybe shop some more. * mental evil laughter *
Ciao J


Wasted Sunday... literally... ho-hum...

Like I always say, when it is me, the chances of doing things that would otherwise seem almost absolutely impossible, are not very probable. Like taking 4 hours to iron 3 weeks of laundry; and when it got done the pile was so small that I sat down to wonder how on earth did 15 things take almost 4 hours to iron. How? But that is not all, I also managed to waste an absolutely glorious Sunday. Not too hot. Nice breeze. And what am I doing. Clutching my stomach and groaning. Wishing my head would stop spinning. Yes! The entire day. And that is what a grand hungover Sunday it was. Shizer! I hate the fact that I went through it and I hate myself for not being a curious cat with cocktails the night before and I hate myself for not having any medication at home and no credit on my phone. So I spent the day at home. Ate some crappy pasta for lunch and cereal for dinner. Drifted in and out of sleep till I finally woke up minus a spinning head at 8 pm. Thanks mum for calling. A human voice that speaks a language you understand, needless to say a voice you also love dearly, is so good when all you heard through the day is a neighbour’s TV and a couple arguing in Italian. Phew! Thank god it is over. Never again. Never. I should stick to my beer and wine (And not together in the same evening). Vodka hates me and by now I should have known better! Phew! Thank god it is over.
So thanks to this hangover I did not get my arse to Fiesole. Hopefully I will manage to find time to take Monica and Megha there for dinner on Tuesday. Can’t wait to see them. And hopefully this week will not be as busy as the last. Any of you traveling to Italy, please take language lessons for a few weeks before you decide to bring yourself to this land of lost translations. It is possible to go around in circles till you want to kick the next person who tries to send you back the wrong way all over again (remember by this time you have already gone around in circles so you now know that the way you are being asked to go again is actually the wrong way!) and it is also possible to find people who will tell you that the place you want to has no bus service or train service or tram service and all you can do is take a cab. Seriously! Haha! Take that you bum. I knew there are trams and buses there. You can not fool me. I will figure it out.
The last week has been crazy busy both at and off work. Did I mention I also shopped and managed to catch the new Harry Potter movie? Well I did. Two new dresses. A new pair of shoes for my Capoeira classes (shiny silver with satin ribbons for laces. Don’t make a face. They are cute!) A sold out movie show in sleepy Florence at 11 pm on a Wednesday. The crowd was cheering as if it was a football game. The queue to enter stretched all the way to the next street and the few people who were passing by took pictures. So much activity at that time is not very routine you see.
So it has been a busy busy week with an anticlimax for an end. But I really am glad this week is over and also this dastardly Sunday. I can’t wait to see how I will hold up over the next few weeks as everyone goes for their vacations and I will pretty much be at work and after work almost by myself. Now now! Don’t be upset. I always have a magic rabbit up my sleeve and I just might be headed to the mountains north of Italy first weekend of August for a three-day trip right after moving into my pretty apartment downtown.  I can bet you didn’t think of that as something I would do right. Not for my first trip out of Florence. Did you? Either way, you will get to see some nice pictures and I will get to see the mountains I have been dying to see. The only glitch is I don’t have a camera. I really don’t. Why do you think I have not been putting up any pictures? What are the chances that you would move to one of the most beautiful places on earth and come without a camera? Well, as you probably know really well by now, when it is me, it is possible.
More soon… ciao ciao… baci baci


And, it continues... :)

Coffee flavoured yogurt. More gelato shops per capita than St Andrews’ per capita pubs (assumption based solely on the visual assessment of yours truly!). Blistered, swollen feet. A new pair of Birkenstocks adding to the woes (who would think! But I honestly think it’s all the walking and not the poor slippers…). Dry skin when it is very very warm. No Body Shop. A missing English-to-Italian dictionary. A missing pair of scissors. A Saturday morning spent sweeping, washing, mopping, more washing and watering a garden with more weeds than plants. Damn! A chipped toenail! An afternoon spent lugging four heavy grocery bags. Blasted aching arms and palms! And then a grand weekend shower later bread with salt and olive oil and some iced wine. Ok! Stop wrinkling your nose. It’s quite like chips with salt and vinegar. You have no idea how good it can be till you actually try some. The iced wine is entirely the brilliant touch of yours truly. Ok! You can make a face for this one.

As I write this and finish the last of my wine I am preparing myself to go and have a go at the Vodafone people. I finally get bbm and internet activated on my phone and now the entire instrument is freaking locked! So I cannot even look up a number on my phone and neither can I receive a text or call because there is no network. So much for technology.

I had my day planned and now I am just half done and it is already past 4 pm! Hummm…. I think I will continue this later. After all the girl needs to step out and get her phone sorted, buy a pair of shoes for the Capoeira classes that will start next week and also meet up with the ladies from work. And in between all this I do want to get some reading (And this time it is work related!) done too. Phew! Since when did Saturdays get this busy? Oh well! When were they ever free in the first place. But with me the chances are that I will never be able to get through my weekend personal to-do lists completely. I love those of you who think I put too much into those. But I always think I did not include enough. But then, as I say this, I am staring at the pile of clothes that need ironing and the back of my mind is already made up that those cotton things will have to wait till tomorrow. I think I should make up my entire mind to make those wait till tormorrow. Right? Right. Done. They will wait till tomorrow. I am off and I will be back soon  ciao…

PS – imagine the most weirdly funny sight you have ever seen and then tell me if what I have to tell you now, tops that or not.

Now imagine an old man skinny legs standing near the open boot of a car, fiddling with some boxes piled as high as the car’s roof, middle of the night, on an empty street that you happen to be crossing, in a long orange vest. Yeah! Just that. And then try picturing him bend over only to discover that thankfully he is wearing something that can pass off as underwear. Oh dear lord! Why do men think they have the licence to wear just about anything and venture out, no matter how old or young they might be! One of the funniest split seconds of my life!


And it begins....

How hard can taking a shower be! Seriously! Just how hard can it be! In Florence, trust me, if you are not among the lucky few, its an exercise in deftness and managing soaping, shampooing, conditioning, scrubbing etc with your elbows almost stuck to your sides. Bending down to reach your toes (yes! It is humanly possibly to do an almost 180 degree bend for some people, including yours truly) means a definitive bump against one of the walls or the shower door or curtain, depending which side you are facing. Picking up a shampoo / conditioner / body wash bottle off the floor is quite the same thing. If you decide to leave them outside and keep grabbing them as and when needed simply means wet splashes that then need to be mopped once you are done showering. But then, what is the point of showering if right after you end up cleaning and then have to wash your hands all over again! Damn! Am I spoilt? I think not. I think I am used to living ‘properly’ with space for things where it should be.

Well well! I know that the use of the word ‘proper’ is open to debate and many might argue that this is just my view of what proper should be. But then I am not contesting that this IS MY view of what I think should be proper. Also I simply don’t understand how people manage to stay clean, fuzz free and scrubbed head to toe in such small places. Last I checked the average size of human beings here is bigger than the average size of human being back home. Anyway! I am sure I will figure a way to manage this space.

What I am having a wee bit more of an issue with is the fact that drinking a cappuccino or café latte post 10 am (i.e. breakfast time) is a strictly ‘not done’ thing here. Wow! At first that’s what I thought. Followed immediately by ‘shit! You’ve got to be kidding me?’ My sweet colleagues and now friends Maria and Sussana shook their heads with that look on their faces that said “I’m afraid that’s what it is.’ They then went on to narrate a long list of other food “no-no’s” and “must not do’s” and at the end of it I was rather bewildered. But before I could question them any further I was even more bewildered by what the lady at the restaurant we were having lunch at had served me.


Yes! Fresh raw tuna. I told my self not to react. Not to make a face. And not to call that lady who refused to speak to me in English (chances are she probably only knew a few sentences of it anyway!) I took a deep breath and bravely rolled a piece of that offensive looking food along with the spaghetti on my plate and shoveled it into my mouth. I DID NOT LIKE THAT RAW TUNA!!! I bravely tried it again. Still my taste buds yelled right back at me saying “NO!!!”

Not wanting to make a scene and in the interest of time, given we were out for lunch during the official lunch break, and unlike what most people think people at the UN do have work and they do not take endlessly long lunch breaks, even on Fridays, I decided to do the next best thing. I pushed all that raw meat aside and just ate the spaghetti telling my self over and over again to never say “Si! Fresco” if anyone ever asked me again if I’d like the tuna fresh. I mean, who on earth would have said no to the word ‘fresh’. I wanted to tell the lady to say “raw’ the next time she asked any customer that. Anyway, I then did what I thought would adequately cheese her off. I asked for a latte at the end of my lunch. So there! I still paid 11 euros for a lunch I hated but what the hell. Now I know what words to watch out for. God forbid if I had ended up saying “Si! Fresco” after having ordered pasta with sun dried tomatoes and ham or chicken in it! Yuck!

I am still very upset about the no can do rules on coffee though. I know I have to live in the country for a long time and I must try and adapt but I am now wonder to what all must I adapt to. Tiny showers. Check. Only Italian displaying ATM machines that don’t make any sense to you. Check. Phone services that don’t have a word of English in their dictionary. Check. All food at the supermarkets labeled in Italian. Check. Not knowing which bottle of milk is full cream and which one is skim. Check. Not knowing what exactly are you picking up from the wine shelf (apart from the colour) till you taste it. Check. Picking up frizzed wine and sparkling water by mistake. Check. Trial by error for everything. Check. At least let me have my coffee in peace.

But then, when its me, it has to be a wee bit awry right. What are the chances that a coffee lover like me, who spent more money every month on coffee than on drinks or eating out every month in Bombay, will end up in the land of coffee and end up being daunted by rules about drinking coffee. Wow! That’s when you say wow! And sometimes say “fuck!” out loud and sometimes just laugh out loud and most other times just shrug your shoulders and smile and ask for a freaking café latte anyway. I think I can get used to the raised eyebrows. Getting used to raised eyebrows when asking for a café latte in the afternoon starting now… Check!

Ciao my lovelies…

More updates from these coordinates of the globe soon. 