April 28, 2007

Piki and KK tool around Rome

Patrick returned to the U.S. and has started posting pictures of Rome. You can see them by clicking the normal link in the sidebar. But I post here for your viewing pleasure movies of us renting a Segway in the Piazza del Popolo. Enjoy as I screech because it's going too fast and revel in the shitty calliope music inexplicably playing in the background.

Ex-Pat Top 5

In the long tradition of ex-pats posting things they miss about their home country, here's mine:

Top 5 Things I Miss About the U.S.

1. Ethnic food
. Italians are crazy about food. They talk about food while they're eating lunch. (Seriously, every day this happens at work.) Yet they are surprisingly hesitant to eat anything other than Italian food and are quite picky about what constitutes Italian food as well. Try to get an Italian out to an Indian or Chinese or Ethiopian restaurant with you, and she'll complain that the food is too spicy. Invite her to try Mexican food you crafted in the kitchen from black beans imported from America and Uncle Ben's salsa, and she'll look at you like you're a crazy person. (Granted, Uncle Ben's salsa is quite nasty.) But honestly, Rome has about as many ethnic restaurants as Charlottesville did in the 1980s.

2. Driving
. If only I could get in a car and drive to work, I wouldn't have to worry about what time the bus comes... or suffer a nearly 2-hour bus ride home from work, which is only 5km away, because the bus got stuck in traffic and wouldn't let anyone off. It would be nice to drive to get groceries too, rather than worrying about how heavy the items are in my cart. Then again, I'd probably drink 1.5L of aranciata every day if it didn't weigh so damned much.

3. Dryers
. Three loads of laundry are currently swaying in the breeze on my kitchen balcony. In the spring months, line-drying doesn't take very long, owing to the decent winds in Rome. But when it's cold and rainy, it takes days to dry things. You want to wear that pair of jeans tomorrow but you got bone dust all over them at work? Tough. You want a towel that's not stiff after you dry it? No chance.

4. Customer service
. Italians take the opposite perspective that Americans do on customer service. In America, the customer is always right, and customer service is paramount. In Italy, businesses reason that they are the ones providing you with a service, so you have to wait. This goes for grocery clerks, post office employees, and especially hairdressers. You can't cut your own hair, right? Right, you will wait 2 hours for a haircut, you will deal with it, and you will pay 35 euro for the privilege.

5. Considerate pedestrians
. Once you learn to walk out into traffic and trust that cars will stop, you begin to realize that Rome is a very pedestrian-friendly city, much more so than any place in the U.S. short of a college campus. But fellow pedestrians are not as nice, particularly the men. If I'm walking down the sidewalk with two giant grocery bags in tow, no one will yield even my half of the sidewalk to me. They will force me onto the street, around parked cars, or between giant trash bins. Italians walk three-abreast when possible; two Italians will gesticulate wildly to make themselves as wide as three people; and one Italian will walk in the dead center of the sidewalk, swerving side-to-side only to prevent you from passing him whilst simultaneously managing to get you hit by a cafe door being shoved open by someone carrying espresso down the street.

Maybe some other day I'll post some things I like about Italy. I'm sure there's something I like...

April 26, 2007

If you were a luchador...

...what would your name be? This is the question Chris posed to me today. After looking up the word, I wondered if there is a way to name yourself, in the manner of "What is your porn star name?" (Answer: Hercules Gambal). Unfortunately, there is no way to automagically generate your luchador name. So we came up with one:

1. Think of your favorite Mexican dish.
2. Add a Spanish exclamation (or something you think is one).
3. End with a city in Mexico.

And ta-da... if I were a luchador, I would be Enchilada "La Cucaracha" Oaxaca. And Chris decided on Relleno "Gringo" Baja.

What is your luchador name?

April 18, 2007

Time to play, "That looks just like..."

Apparently it's not a good idea to photograph the medial ends of the left and right clavicles from this angle.

April 17, 2007

The Sky Is Falling!

The weather just got significantly warmer in Rome, but around 5pm every day there seems to be rain. Today, as my roommate was taking in the laundry that was hanging out on the balcony to dry, it started hailing. We watched it for a full 5 minutes, and then I got my camera to take a movie. The first hailstorm lasted about 10 minutes, then a 10-minute break as it poured rain and flooded the drain in the balcony, then another hail storm for 10 minutes. So here you go, short videos of Roman weather! Listen carefully to hear the large marble-sized hail tinkle off the metal railing of the balcony.

April 15, 2007

Two Culture Notes

Since it's the weekend, I decided to make some rice and beans. My mom brought me dried Goya black beans when she came to visit since you cannot find them here. (Kidney beans, incidentally, are in the small "ethnic foods section" of the grocery store and cost about 2 euro a can!) So I soaked half a pound overnight and cooked them up today. My roommates were fascinated:

Sveva: What are you making?
Me: Black beans.
Simona: But it smells like tomatoes.
Me: Yes, there are tomatoes in it.
Simona [incredulous]: Beans and tomatoes and rice?
Me: Yes.
Sveva: How do you make the sauce?
Me: Well, I used Uncle Ben's in a jar, but you can make it fresh from tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers.
Simona: Oh, it's Indian food.
Me: No, it's Mexican. There are a lot of Mexicans in the South of the U.S. where I live.
Sveva: And now you are putting butter on top?
Me: No, it's cheese. In general, I use cheddar but I cannot find cheddar in Rome, so I am using romano.
Sveva: Oh, I know cheddar. It is a British cheese and yellow.
Me: Yes, exactly. Would you like a taste?
Both: Oh, no, hot peppers make my stomach upset.

I felt like a cross between Julia Child and some raving cannibal, fascinating and repulsing my roommates at the same time. Italians are very unadventurous when it comes to food, but they are quite good at whipping up tasty dishes without recipes or measuring cups or spoons.

Italians, particularly Romans, love to shorten words. This extends to first names, although it's not so much a nickname as it's a short-hand way of calling someone when you're in a hurry. Nicknames are often, as was the case in ancient Rome, based on some physical or mental attribute. So one of my colleagues at work is Orso (Bear) because of his size and his amount of body hair. But I haven't figured out the name-shortening rules yet. I will grant that Kristina is a lot to say, it being a three-syllable name. Rather than shortening it to Kris, however, the Italians tend to call me Kri. And since they don't have short vowels, this is prounounced like the Cree Indians. Today I heard Sveva call out to Simona and call her Simo, which actually came out sounding more like Smo. I would assume that Stefania's name-shortening is Stef, but it'll probably end up being Stee. Stee, Smo, and Kree... the Italian stooges.

April 8, 2007

Is the Bear Catholic?

Patrick told me not to go see the Popertacular Easter Hootenany today. I protested, "Why? It'll be fucking awesome." "That's why. You can't use expletives to describe the premier holiday of a religion."

But I went, even though it took over an hour to get to the Vatican, because... well, what else did I have to do? I arrived at the tail end of the sermon, and I have to say... it was awe-inspiring and magnificent, and I felt as if warmed by Jesus' embrace. No, wait, that was the tens of thousands of sweaty Catholics pressing up against me to get a better view of the Pope.

In all honesty, though, it is kind of impressive (albeit also quite frightening) just how many people make the pilgrimage to Vatican City every year - from all over the world - to hear the Easter service. I overheard one American woman complaining that she had waited 6 years to come to Rome on Easter and her camera had run out of batteries. Another group of people held up signs that spelled Esperanto (no idea why). And a bunch of French teenagers chanted "Viva il Papa!" until they were hoarse.

I skipped the service, mostly because I didn't want to get up that early but also because I'm not exactly Catholic, but decided to go for the Pope's Urbi et Orbi speech, which he delivers from the Papal apartments. It's kind of a Pope state of the union address, only it's addressed to the entire world, is only 15 minutes long, and isn't interrupted by senators applauding. You can read it in English here, but he mostly denounced all the evil in the world. Unless you're spiffy enough to get a front-row seat to the Eastertastic happenings, the Pope is a little speck on the balcony, wearing gold robes against the hanging crimson tapestries. Helpfully, though, there are three jumbo-trons so that you can see what exactly the Pope is doing with that 5-foot-long candle up in his bedroom. The pixellated, Max Headroom-esque beatific Pope and his booming, disembodied voice that echoes from around the square are kind of disconcerting.

At the end, the Pope wished a happy Easter in about 40 different languages. I was happy to hear "Christos vos cresa" in Russian, but not as happy as the Filipino contingent was to hear their native language. If you watch the videos on my website, you can hear them break into cheer so loud that the Pope has to stop to let them quiet down. Who knew there were Catholic Filipinos?

So Easter at the Vatican was an experience. I only regret that I didn't stick around long enough to find out the answer to the question, "Does a wild Pope..." er, I guess that's the kind of inappropriate comment I promised to forgo for today.

April 7, 2007

Inappropriate Easter Entry

When my old roommate Sara left the apartment, she donated some produce to me that she couldn't carry to her new place. This afternoon, I decided to make a salad and use one of the carrots that she had left. Here's a picture of it, in all its 6"-long glory:

I've never felt so much like a mohel while cleaning produce before.

Coming tomorrow: an entirely appropriate Easter entry involving Metro A, urbi et orbe, lots of Pope-manteaus, and no references to circumcision... even if the Easter rite involves chrism. Snicker.

April 1, 2007

Dialing Shiffletts

When I was in college, there was a high school kid named Trevor Moore who had a public access TV show that was wildly popular (at least for a public access show). One day, he had a contest. If I recall correctly, the first person to email him the word "muffins" got to be on his show. Patrick helpfully emailed him using my address, and I was forced to go on the show and make up words in German. It was kind of lame. God, I hope that tape doesn't still exist anywhere.

Anyway, Trevor had some good material, like the Giant Walking Talking Box, which harassed Charlottesvillians and I believe ran for some kind of local council seat, and Dialing Shiffletts, which probably only makes sense to central Virginians (where the vast majority of Shiffletts still live) but which was brilliant. I knew that at some point Trevor got an internship in NYC, but he's apparently done quite well for himself. Patrick sent me this link to a Hook article (local C'ville paper) about him.

Trevor is now in a comedy sketch troupe called The Whitest Kids U Know, and their stuff is actually quite funny. My favorite so far is:In addition to being a You Tube superstar, the Whitest Kids U Know apparently have a show on Fuse that started a week or so ago. So if you happen to have that station, you should watch it and support hometown humor. OK, so it's my hometown, probably not yours, but still. It's funny. Watch. And send me a tape!

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