Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A cultural gap I am afraid I will not able to bridge - Un gap culturale ho paura non potro' colmare

I have been in Boston for more than a week now and I still feel unadjusted. I have been sitting at the computer looking for fun things to do with Tronk in the afternoon in our neighborhood, so far with little success. The truth is that there aren't many things to do with children outside the house that don't involve waking up at dawn and eating outside. Yes because here waking up at 8 am is late.  In more than one occasions, nurses from the hospital and survey guys turned up at my house at around 8:20 am and apologized for not arriving earlier. And the majority of people here (with or without children) eat outside the house. This is precisely the kind of thing I have been trying to avoid from the very first day I have been back in Boston.

Lunch (and dinner) in Boston

Apparently, in the US, it is legal to give children the left overs from dinner. No, they didn't tell me this. I figured this out when the moms at the playground unveiled the morning snack for their children: fried chicken. Perhaps it was  lunch, I am not sure. It didn't look very fresh though. When you think it cannot get any worse, you see the child sitting next to yours eating cold pasta with the hands, chips style. Second course: raw carrots, raw broccoli and raw onions! By the way, these are healthy moms, they shop at Wholefoods and don't give their children coca cola instead of milk for breakfast!

Aha, Boston, the land of freedom! Next time I will pack the tail of the fish from Tronk's dinner and will not miss that 9 am music class I always wanted to attend.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Robe di Kappa vs Trucker Girl - Robe di Kappa vs Donna del Camionista

I will never buy Robe Di Kappa sportswear for my son and I'll tell you why.

You might be up for some serious disappointment if you are planning to wear your collection of preppy Robe di Kappa sportswear in the US - In Italy wearing Kappa is a bit like wearing Lacoste (or maybe A&F) in the US. This is what happened to the father of one of Tronk's friend, a man in his forties who was living in Italy until few months ago. According to what this man told me at the playground, when he started his new job here in Boston, his boss was initially ignoring him and so were other work mates. He was getting a few dirty looks here and there. It was only a couple of months later that a bit of truth came out when two work mates (unsuccessfully) tried to explain to him with diplomacy the connotations that the Kappa symbol has in the US.

What is really sad is that the Italian guy said he came up with a great "politically correct" answer: "the symbol can be interpreted as one may prefer to interpret it. He proudly told me that his explanation left everyone silent. Poor guy! He thought they did not appreciate his style. Now he has hundreds of euros worth of clothing but the Americans here assume he is a sexist douchebag. I can already picture him in his flashy black Robe di Kappa tracksuit while he is discussing the termination of his contract in the office of his boss.

This brand really cannot win in the United States. Even if you were wearing the more subtle sweatshirt with the Kappa logoscript on it, you would still be misunderstood here as they would think you are a guy in a college fraternity!

Italian: I am preppy
American: I am in a College Fraternity

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The feeling of home - Il sentirsi a casa

There is a feeling of "home" in every person. Each time I go to see my parents in Turin, I am filled with an incredible amount of joy each time I see the mountains below from the porthole.

Sono quasi a casa, sigh! - I am almost at home, sigh!

We finally land and I am usually greeted by a pale but unexpectedly warm sun and all of a sudden, I see the things that make me feel at home: the bright light coming from the courtyard in the morning, the light blue sky slightly dirty from the fumes of the city, the crying of the child and the grandmother talking just after that, the old lady that says "buongiorno signora!" on my way out of the condo, the mountains in the background behind the houses I am looking at, the jangling of the market, the smell outside the bakery shop in the morning, the bells ringing at the nearby Church, giving me a rough idea of the time, the friendly "buondi'"(goodmorning in piemontese) of the local tobacco shop owner. It is the same guy but with grey hair. He still remembers me and my grandmother.

As my friend Laura once wrote in her psychology thesis, knowledge, memories and affections are strongly connected with the places where we lived. I read her thesis while I was living in London. Turin had become a stranger to me and I had become a stranger to her. I remember thinking that I had grown into a different person and that my home town had changed from a shelter of  bigots to a multi-cultural city of unconventional people (more traveled, more knowledgeable and more open to new experiences). Yet, as my mother often says, "a volte l'apparenza inganna" (sometimes appearances deceive). When I was visiting my parents in Turin, although I remember trying to act as if Turin was still my home, as a matter of fact, while I was there, I was spending most of my time complaining:

What? There isn't a single store open where I can buy food at night?
Dirty old man! I can't believe I overheard the cheese guy at the farmers' market saying to his wife that I could be as tasty as some of his old cheeses!
Another pathetic communist talking about his rights to be on vacation for a month! Give me a break
Elegantly dressed men with sweat dripping all over their suits! Is it a sin to take off the jacket here?
"Aha, the technologies of these modern days!" High-school kid, do you realize that you are talking like an old man??

Each time I was visiting my parents, I was feeling as if everyone was getting on my nerves and on my third day in Turin I was already looking forward to flying back to London. Turin was no longer my home or perhaps it had never been. Yet, now and then, I was constantly searching for cheap Ryanair fares to go enjoy a weekend of aperitivi and cioccolata con biccerin in Turin. Perhaps my old friend Elena was right. My choice to abandon Turin was the best I ever made. I discovered the luxury of living in one of the coolest cities in the world (London) only two hours away from home. And I could always take a few days off to go home (and complain of course).

Living thousand of miles away from home (Boston) has made it all different. Not only it has made me realize why an old English friend was always calling me “the Torino girl”! when he was drunk and that Turin is indeed my real home, the place that has shaped my heart, thoughts and decisions. It has also made me realize that now it only takes a few encounters like these to produce tears in my eyes:




"Eh cara mia, all'estero cose cosi' te le puoi sognare!" (eh, my dear, abroad, you can only dream of things like these!), my mother used to say. Now, ten years later, I can't agree with her more.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Do you want the finger mom? - Vuoi il dito mamma?

Vuoi il dito? (Do you want the finger?)
This posting will be brief as it is only meant to record yet another, hopefully transitory, strange obsession of my son. In the last few weeks Tronk has discovered the most exciting thing ever: "il dito" (the finger) and our reactions when he moves his index finger up and down towards us. He does that to copy his dad, who likes to tickle him. When Tronk first raised his little finger towards us John and I couldn't help showing him that we were scared; typical reaction of the parent treating the child as a grown up! The problem is that he got a real kick out of it while we were in Italy and continued to raise his little finger to nonno and nonna (the Italian grandparents) and even to strangers in the street, hoping to get the same reactions from them.

Unfortunately, nonno turned out to be the only one who went along with the game, by producing a fake expression of terror and a scream (causing us to be scared) each time Tronk's finger was approaching. Strangely, nonna's reaction instead turned out to be an attempt to eat the finger. Sadly, everyone else Tronk came across in the two weeks he spent in Turin, did not get the message.

We are now back in Boston, still trying to escape from the little finger and get some sleep.