Monday, December 9, 2013

10 anni da laureata precaria

Il 2013 si avvia rapidamente al termine e nel 2014 "festeggerò" dieci anni dalla laurea e cinque dal conseguimento del dottorato. Sono stata la seconda del mio anno a laurearmi, in luglio. Il primo fu in giugno, un altro geologo strutturale da 110 e lode. Il resto dalla sessione autunnale in poi. In media un anno di successo: quasi tutti laureati e con voti superiori al 100. Una classe fantastica che oltre i buoni risultati all'università vanta una spassionata amicizia che ci fa riunire almeno una volta all'anno. Ma che fine abbiamo fatto a quasi dieci anni dalla laurea? Ci dividiamo equamente tra chi condivide la precarietà e le emigrazioni forzate del mondo accademico e chi si barcamena nel privato, non sempre in Italia. I più fortunati hanno sputato sangue nelle compagnie petrolifere ma ora possono godere una relativa tranquillità e stabilità.

Quando iniziai il dottorato consideravo i giovani ricercatori il frutto della tipica carriera accademica: nel giro di nove-dieci anni dalla laurea, tra dottorato, borse e mesi "a gratis", erano riusciti ad diventare strutturati tramite concorso, più o meno blindato. Lavoravano molto, facendo anche quello che sarebbe spettato ai professori di prima fascia, forse nella speranza di uno scatto di carriera al pensionamento dell'ordinario di turno. Ammetto non fosse la mia massima aspirazione, preferendo dedicarmi alla ricerca pura o ad un lavoro pratico, ma mai avrei pensato che la mia generazione si trovasse prigioniera di un limbo apparentemente senza uscita. A dieci anni dalla laurea e cinque dal dottorato sono troppo vecchia per molti post-doc in Europa e troppo specializzata in un settore "inutile" per molti lavori nel privato. Ovviamente non considero nemmeno l'Italia, visto che quando me ne andai venni coscienziosamente informata di avere un biglietto di sola andata.

da qui
Questa situazione, in realtà, è per proteggere proprio i giovani ricercatori, almeno nei Paesi trainanti in Europa: dopo il dottorato, o si viene assunti nel privato o si fa un, ribadisco un, post-doc di due-tre anni all'estero (USA, Canada, Australia, Nord Europa, Svizzera). Al termine di questo periodo di arricchimento nei migliori istituti al mondo, il giovane ricercatore torna in patria e viene inserito nel sistema. In Germania nemmeno i professori hanno contratto a tempo indeterminato, ma difficilmente verranno lasciati a casa se mantengono un certo standard, al massimo saranno costretti a spostarsi in un'altra città.

In Italia, invece, tutto questo non succede. È già tanto riuscire a terminare il dottorato in patria. Poi, se si vuole far ricerca, prima o poi si è costretti ad emigrare. C'è chi lo fa per scelta, per arricchimento, come sarebbe auspicabile, ma comunque sa che sarà un viaggio senza possibilità di ritorno. Intanto in Italia si continua ad assumere. Non chi è stato all'estero, ma chi ha tenuto duro, magari umiliandosi quasi a schiavo del prof. di turno che avendo poche pubblicazioni non potrà mai permettersi un ricercatore più attivo di lui. Per carità, non è così ovunque. Esagero. Concedetemi l'iperbole. È però vero che quei pochi che cercano d'internazionalizzare i gruppi di ricerca italiani incontrano mille ostacoli e ad un certo punto abbandonano per sfinimento. Eppure nella mia modesta esperienza la ricerca in Italia è ancora la migliore, nonostante i mezzi limitati, perché la preparazione media italiana è più ampia e ci contraddistinguono flessibilità, creatività, spirito di collaborazione, onestà, etica professionale, etc., tutte doti che all'estero c'invidiano nella corsa alle pubblicazioni. 

Non mi lamento del sistema "scienza" che ha già tanti problemi, basti pensare che le case editrici si fanno pagare profumatamente gli abbonamenti mentre sfruttano scienziati e revisori gratis, sapendo che il numero di pubblicazioni è un criterio piuttosto oggettivo per valutare un candidato. Mi lamento di come nel nostro Paese stiamo perdendo una delle cose migliori. Non mi riferisco alla mia carriera, forse destinata a fallire in ogni caso, non siamo tutti nati per diventare ricercatori. Il 20 luglio 2014 non ci sarà nulla da festeggiare, anzi sì, forse: il rinnovo di un anno dell'attuale contratto, ossia del mio terzo post-doc, il secondo all'estero di un'infinita (?) serie. Non dovrei affatto lamentarmi, finché c'è lavoro c'è vita.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Odyssey to Japan

The 4th symposium on Polar Science, with a special session on Antarctic Meteorites, was the best chance to go back to Japan with the whole belgian team. Due to bad luck, the journey was a kind of nightmare. Nothing really so terrible, but anyway quite annoying. This is a summary of my troubles with an airline and of the great time in between.

Chapter 1: The Finnish never-ending story.
After checking many possibilities, one of my bosses (V.) and I decided to fly Finnair because cheaper than others, reliable (it has been elected the best european airline) and because the flight to Japan was supposed to be shorter with a stop “on the way”, in Helsinki. I thought that in the case we were stuck somewhere, it would have been better to be in a Euro-country. But I couldn’t imagine that my worst prediction would have become true!

Friday 8th at lunchtime we took a flight to Helsinki and after two hrs connection we were supposed to fly to Tokyo… but a delay was announced. Every 30 minutes there was an update: “in 30 minutes more information about the flight”! At 7:30 pm we were all pissed off. The commandant spoke at the microphone explaining the situation: one engine was not working properly, the technicians were trying to fix it but couldn't understand what was the problem. The situation didn’t improve in the following hours. We received a couple of vouchers for dinner at the airport. At 11 pm the flight was officially cancelled and we have been sent to a hotel for the night. It took 2 hrs to take our luggages and to reach the hotel, where a long line was waiting for registration, as there was only one person at the desk. Only at 1:16 am I was in my room. News on our flight had been promised after 6 am of the following day. Obviously we didn’t sleep much. In the morning the chaos was even worse than the evening before, with people with a transfer in Tokyo who were called for a different flight 10 minutes before the departure. We had to go to the airport to figure out our destiny: V. was booked on an evening flight through Beijing (landing in Japan one day later than planned) and I had to fly on Sunday evening with JAL, landing with 2 days delay.

The lutheran cathedral in Helsinki
Although completely covered by Finnair during our forced staying in Helsinki, the lack of information has ruined the opportunity to enjoy Finland. We managed, anyway, to spend a couple of hours in Helsinki. Helsinki is a grayish, small and expensive town on the Baltic Sea, but with an intrinsic beauty. Honestly, I found Helsinki much closer to my ideal place than Brussels, because small, clean and well conserved. Even if it was Saturday, just a few people were around, perhaps because the cold temperature. The second day I was stuck in Helsinki, I stayed at the airport: I wanted to get rid of my luggage (especially because the belgian cheese that we brought as a gift had started to stink) and to choose the seat on the plane, but the JAL desk opened only 2,5 hrs before the departure time. After all, the flight was quite pleasant. Unluckily I missed the bus to Tachikawa for a couple of minutes and I had to take the train, but wasn't a big issue.

Chapter 2: Before the symposium.
We had planned to have time to adsorb the jet lag, meeting with the curator of the museum and, why not?, having a bit of fun going for shopping in Tachikawa. Thanks to Finnair we had to change our plans. The day I arrived, Monday 11, after lunch we had a tour at the NIPR. That wasn’t the November 11 I was used to, with the official beginning of Carnival with krapfen and waltz and the tradition of the Martinigansl (goose of St. Martin) in Vienna or the “castagne e vino” (chestnuts and wine) in my hometown. At least I’m finally in Japan, not so bad. In addition, this time I’m not alone. If it wasn't for the company, I would have quitted my journey in Helsinki. We stayed in a 4-star hotel, quite busy with western-style weddings. Honestly, I've enjoyed more staying in the guest house, because I don’t like the hotel lifestyle, I prefer the freedom of camping than the rigid schedule and dress-code of a hotel, although this wasn’t the case.

The wedding garden in our hotel
Tuesday was more similar to a conference day: meeting other international participants of to the symposium, waiting for other belgian colleagues, discussing technical details of our collaboration with the NIPR. The latter has highlighted the difference in mentality between europeans and japanese: sometimes asking questions might be frustrating because they say “maybe” or “I don’t know” at the place of a clear “no” and they look more for the problems than for the solutions. Their legendary efficiency actually results in lack of flexibility. Somehow the same as for Germans.

On Wednesday we visited the japanese space agency (JAXA). Wow! I cannot say more, unbelievably exciting! A limited group of us has been allowed to enter the clean lab, where the samples from an asteroid, returned by the Hayabusa spacecraft, are conserved and studied. For that, we were dressed like astronauts, to avoid any contamination. In the evening I’ve skipped the conference banquet because quite tired and because I don’t like much this kind of social events, where one ends talking only with his friends and drinking a lot.

Chapter 3: The symposium.
The official workshop on Polar Research started on Monday but only Thursday and Friday were dedicated to meteorites. There were some good talks, scientifically or practically interesting and outstanding. It was a pity that there was no time for a poster session scheduled, although a number of interesting posters were hanging in the hall. From my side, I’m beginning to know this new community of scientists. Unfortunately, every time I change topic I have to start again to find out who are the big names and who are the crazy guys in the field. This should be the aim of the reception party, but the Japanese are shy when they have to speak english. Therefore, both Thursday and Friday the social events have been a lot of fun for us but not particularly relevant for new scientific collaborations. Anyway, I’ve greatly enjoyed the meeting, the company and the cheerful japanese atmosphere.

Chapter 4: Mission (almost) impossible, back to Belgium.
London Heathrow
If you have read other of my posts recently, you should know that every time I came back to Brussels I have experienced a kind of trauma. This time I had again some troubles with the airline, so I had no time to think to my opposite feelings towards this city. Again Finnair. Although I had a reservation for a JAL flight to Helsinki and then Flybe to Brussels, the threat of a strike has probably frightened enough Finnair for changing my flights. With my great surprise, I’ve realized the day before leaving that I was booked on a Virgin Atlantic flight to London and then British Airways to Brussels. Also at the check-in desk of Virgin the surprise was great: they couldn’t find my ticket until they called Finnair, which should have sent me the new e-ticket reference. No comment! The flight was the longest ever, 12 hrs on a full plane in a tight seat, with partially working entertainment. This is definitively the longest single flight I’ve ever done: 9569 km. I’ve read about a 19 hrs non-stop flight from Brussels to Australia. Well, I could die in a similar situation. The rest of the journey was less close to a nightmare, thanks to a mug of coffee with cinnamon and the shiny shops in Heathrow. Also in Zaventem everything went smooth, except the taxi driver (only French speaking and charged €5 more for the receipt), but that’s Brussels and we have to cope with it.

Anyway, thanks to Finnair I’ve missed two medium size earthquakes in Tokyo area, one on Sunday morning and the last one yesterday evening. As structural geologist, who would like to come back to study fossil earthquakes, what should I say? Perhaps I should really abandon this idea and keep working on meteorites, although I cannot find them as exciting as the shaking of the ground. I wish Japan was closer to Europe. Its culture is so intriguing! For sure I’d like to go back soon.






Tuesday, October 8, 2013

24h in Germany

When people count the possibility of traveling to the rest of Europe among the advantages of living in Brussels, I always say that desiring to escape from this place doesn't make having better feelings towards the city. Anyway, the last week-end I decided to take this opportunity and go to Germany. For tourism? Not exactly. My former organ teacher has given a concert in Ratingen, a town close to Düsseldorf, just 200 km from Brussels. What a nice opportunity for hearing again my teacher and visiting a place where I've never been!

On early Sunday I took a train to Düsseldorf. My first experience with Thalys, the high speed train between France-Belgium-Netherland and Germany. Although I had saved on my smartphone the map of the city, I was too proud to consult it, therefore I got lost from the station to the Altstadt. Oh well, I've seen another side of the city. Then, with the map, I found my way without asking information. Düsseldorf center is not as beautiful as Vienna, but is anyway intriguing, with medieval corners and modern bridges on the Rhine. There are a few old breweries but spanish and italian restaurants are everywhere. Obvious sign of area interested by high rate immigration, as I expected in this dense network of industrial cities (Düsseldorf, Essen, Köln, etc.). Nevertheless, even the area around the central station, where many immigrants live, is clean, newly painted and well maintained, even on Sunday morning. Only a few people were around in the morning, but they waited at the pedestrian traffic light although no cars were arriving. Welcome in Germany!

In the afternoon I took a S-Bahn to Ratingen. What a sweet town! Actually it is a city, but with the atmosphere of a medieval village. The city walls are partly preserved or rebuilt, the center is enclosed by a ring street. The hotel where I stayed was also very cute and... german. I've enjoyed every moment in that town! From the coffee in the "Italienischer Eissalon" to the vegetarischer kebab in a turkish place open till midnight and the delicious breakfast in a bakery with eine Tasse Kaffee as large as that I make at home (I'm not much Italian for that). In this corner also renting or buying a flat is affordable. I wish I can live in a similar place in future. I was afraid of hearing a cryptic dialect, but the local German didn't sound weird to me and I could have a very basic conversation with sellers and normal people. The concert of my former organ teacher was the cherry on the cake! It has been a bit funny, meeting him in front of the church, I guess also for him, but we started immediately talking about music and we were again back in Padova 10 yrs ago.

On Monday morning I took a S-Bahn to Köln. While waiting for the ICE to Brussels, I've walked around. I've been already in Cologne maybe 15 years ago, with my parents. The cathedral is impressive. In a few steps, iper-modern buildings are next to medieval towers or roman roads. That's amazing! The Rhine peacefully continues to record the history of the city. I had the time to do some shopping, finding again the brands I was used to (also in Vienna) but limited by the size of my suitcase. The central station is as large as a gigantic shopping center! Waiting in front of the information screen, I have been asked by 5 people about trains. As usual, it seems I'm an information office in every place I am. In less than 2 hrs I was back to Brussels and the impact was tough, the difference too much obvious. Despite my effort, I'll never get used to live here without complaining for the bad maintenance of the buildings and the pavements. Hopefully I'll find soon another excuse to go to Germany again! I already miss you!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

DRT in Leuven: when the past comes to meet me

The DRT (Deformation mechanisms, Rheology and Tectonics) meeting is a conference organized every second year in a different city in Europe. This has been my first conference ever, when I was at the beginning of my PhD school, in 2005, in Zurich. Then I had to skip the following meeting, in Milan, because of the organ diploma. I went to Liverpool, in 2009. There was one in 2011 in Oviedo, but I was already in the meteorite impact research. After having sent tens of applications for a post-doc in geology and at the end being relocated to Brussels working on a complete different topic, I was sure to have definitively said "farewell" to structural geology and micro structural analysis. I was wrong! The DRT this year is in Leuven, 20 minutes by train: even for fun, I couldn't miss it!

A surprise waited for me. Although I asked a poster presentation, I had a talk. I've presented a side-project I was working on in Vienna, but my speech wasn't good. Amen! I was freezing in that room and I bit distracted by the feeling of being again among structural geologists, some known, some new. Many elders were not there, I don't know if because of contemporaneous fieldwork or teaching. I was the only italian, though my current affiliation is belgian. This was a bit sad. A professor that I met in 2006 remembered that I play organ. Well, this means that I didn't change much in these years, I'm still equally divided between my two great passions: geology and music.

The conference was, anyway, quite interesting. Not only for the state of art in the field, but also for the opportunity of talking of possible collaborations on what I'm working on now. Surprisingly, other geologists are interested in shock metamorphism! The conference has given me also the opportunity to visit Leuven, which was recommended as candidate for moving out of Brussels. The town is really beautiful, with gothic buildings, pedestrians areas, historical squares, and an old catholic university. But I cannot live there: as I was afraid of, the city is sized for students. It would be like living in Oxford. It's not for me, I'm too old for that. Anyway, it was nice to jump back in the past, enjoying travels by train and a conference in a nice, quiet and clean place. Hopefully this was also a glimpse of future.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wien bleibt Wien

I've recently discovered an Austrian author, Alfred Polgar, famous for his aphorisms. The title of this post is part of one of them: "Wien bleibt Wien - und das ist wohl das schlimmste, was man über diese Stadt sagen kann" that means: "Vienna remains Vienna and this is really the worst thing one can say about this city." Another one tells "Die Österreicher sind ein Volk, das mit Zuversicht in die Vergangenheit blickt“ that means "Austrians are people that look with confidence to the past". These two sentences summarize my feeling towards Vienna, while I was living there and now, after a short visit. Vienna is perfect, as always, even too much, as I've been complained before leaving, stuck in a happy past, ignoring the recent history, but this makes the city... a dream. That's the novel of my short dream a few weeks ago.

Saturday: departure.
Don't cry! This is what I've been repeating to myself since I booked the flight. I usually begin planning my journeys days in advance, but not this time. Whenever I tried to look at the subway map of Vienna I began crying again. Again! Like on the way back from Japan. This has to stop! This is why I've prepared my baggage one hour before leaving and I was at the airport 3.5 hrs earlier than the departure time! I was hungry, despite the crazy prices (€3,50 for a L 0.5 bottle of water?!) I looked for something to eat but I could take only sweets for I-don't-know-which-law that forbids selling sandwiches after a certain time. Cold air conditioning, noisy gate area,... STOP complaining on Brussels! I'm going to Vienna, I'll enjoy some days vacation in the place where I lived for 3 yrs and 1 month, I'll meet my dear friends, I'll hear again that sweet rural dialect (Wienerish)... Well, why am I so nervous then? Because I feel as Jasmine in the recent Woody Allen's blockbuster "Blue Jasmine" (if you don't understand what I mean, watch the movie!), but just because of me. Going again to Vienna will be like meeting again an ex-boyfriend, although I've never had one. I can't wait but, at the same time, I would escape the meeting.

Anyway, everything went smooth, the flight landed earlier than scheduled, my baggage was delivered sooner than in any other airport, the train was on time and, after a delicious Italian dinner with some dear friends, I've ended up riding a bike through the city and passing in front of my old flat. What a wonderful life I've had here and I didn't realize!

Sunday: soul and stomach
Early rise for the mass in my "old" church. The priest smiled when he recognized me again, at least this seemed to me. He didn't know, anyway, that mine was only a short visit. Lunch with friends with homemade "sugo alla puttanesca" and grilled vegetables. E.B. is a great cook indeed and a perfect host! The weather was... Belgian, probably I've brought it with me. We therefore stayed at home chatting and drinking coffee until dinner time, when we went to Grinzing for a glorious meal in a "Heuriger". Nice place! But it took a while to understand that "gebackene Fledermaus", literally baked bat, had nothing to do with the flying mammals, but rather a part of the beef. Then we went home on foot, enjoying the quiet Viennese night (more than 8 km). What a dreamy place for vacation (life is different, this is why I complained also when I lived here)!

Monday: papers
As I've been repeated so many times in this blog, bureaucracy was invented in Austria. I was really afraid to have to fight against that, but this didn't happen. Despite the mass of paperwork, still handwritten. In fact, in 10-15 minutes I was done in my former bank. For lunch I've met some of my former colleagues that are still in town. The humor and the long list of complains about the situation and Vienna didn't change. The whole afternoon flew on chatting and in the evening I had to run to catch the D tram, as in the old days, to reach other friends (from ItaliansOnLine) in Rathausplatz. Finally my stomach enjoyed again the so long dreamed Käsespätzle and the local beer. Last view of the shining viennese monuments in the clean Austrian night. Stop, or I'll start crying again!

Tuesday: again "adieu"?
Very last visit at the university for giving back the office key and then last brunch-lunch with my girlfriends, under the shadow of the U6 arches. Last shopping in a local store, last "farewell" to Vienna, last journey by S7 to the airport. It's time to wake up and cope the current life.

The Belgian welcome was a bit tough as always. The flight was about 20 minutes late, after walking for 15 minutes across the airport I had to wait further 15 minutes for the delivery of luggages. I've missed a train for a few seconds, luckily there was another one after only a quarter of hour. I took a bus and I walked to my place rather than crossing alone at 10 p.m. the South Station. The night view of Brussels is beautiful (you don't see the ugly buildings, only the nicest ones are illuminated), but why there is this unpleasant smell around? Please, don't tell me again that I should'n complain because Italy is worse! I'll do my best to forget the recent Austrian dream but I hardly believe I'll miss this place when I'll have to leave it. Anyway, who knows? Never say never.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vacation!


No way! I did my best to show the nicest corners of Brussels to my parents, but also the weather (hot and rainy) has ruined my efforts. My mother tried to be positive, my father noticed the same defects I hate of this place. The only outstanding locations are the church Notre Dame du Sablon and the Jubilee Park. The rain has spoiled also the St. Gilles market on Saturday. The little town of Grimbergen offered more opportunities, with a bell concert, a nice museum in an old mill, and the garden around the old castle of the local prince. After showing Antwerp to my parents that have appreciated the pedestrian areas and the beautiful buildings (included the gorgeous railway station), we moved with the camper van towards the southern Belgium. The selected destination, suggested by a Belgian friend, was Durbuy, a medieval town in the Ardenne. Unfortunately the camping site was deserted and we reached Erezee, another cute town in the Ardenne.

Nassereith
The following step was traveling across Belgium and Germany, down to Kempten in Allgäu. We stayed in a camping close to a clean, warm, and very inviting lake. How sweet was hearing again the local musical dialect and receiving congratulations for my German. It has been like being in the heaven for me! The day after we visited our old friends in town. It was sad to see how much they are aged... they are over 80 and he is going to be 90 in a month. We stopped a night in Nassereith (Austria), a town that is noteworthy for the Baroque churches and painted walls of the buildings in the traditional Tyrolean style.

Italy welcame us with traffic jam in the highway and no information. Typical! I've spent the last Saturday climbing the Mount Cornetto, between Lavarone and Folgaria. After a long time, I overcame again over 1000 m altitude gap. I got a sunburn on my forearms but the landscape from the top of the mountain was worth of the effort. Far from any trouble and, above all, far from the ridiculous news about the Italian politics! We stopped one day in my hometown before I took a flight back to Belgium. This has been the hottest day ever. Finally, the flight to Charleroi was sad, not because it marked the end of my vacations, but because it marked the return to the Belgian life. I'm still not accustomed to this situation. The long queue waiting for the bus and the little issues found in the letter box have been the adequate conclusion of my happy  vacation days. The autumn atmosphere, with rain and 17°C temperature, did the rest.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

De Fide

Torno a scrivere in Italiano, solamente per un post, perché la questione merita una maggiore attenzione alla parola. Il grande Eugenio Scalfari ha recentemente pubblicato un intenso intervento su Repubblica a proposito dell'attuale papa, Francesco. Nell'articolo pone 3 domande al papa, ma mi permetterei di dirgli che non occorre essere ricevuto dal papa in persona per rispondere a simili quesiti. Qualsiasi sacerdote o credente dovrebbe poter rispondere. Purtroppo non è sempre così ed uno dei maggiori difetti di una parte del clero è di rifuggire il dialogo e la discussione critica. Proviamo dunque a rispondere ai quesiti di Scalfari, pur nella mia ignoranza, per fare umile autocritica, non certo per presunzione di potersi sostituire al capo della Chiesa di Roma o alla Congregazione della Fede (l'organismo preposto a simili risposte, non il papa). Ovviamente le risposte sono frutto del mio ragionamento e della mia educazione, non hanno alcun valore, potrebbero addirittura essere considerate eresie, ma spero siano lo spunto per un tentativo di pensiero proprio. 

"Prima domanda: se una persona non ha fede né la cerca, ma commette quello che per la Chiesa è un peccato, sarà perdonato dal Dio cristiano?"


A che gli servirebbe il perdono di un Dio cristiano cui non crede? Il perdono è un dono e quella persona che non si pone dubbi sulla propria esistenza probabilmente rifiuterebbe un simile regalo. Oltretutto, per la Chiesa di Roma, il perdono va chiesto. Si deve riconoscere di aver sbagliato e pentirsi del proprio errore. In questo caso credo che una persona venga perdonata anche senza dover fare la coda presso un confessionale.

"Seconda domanda: il credente crede nella verità rivelata, il non credente pensa che non esista alcun assoluto e quindi neppure una verità assoluta, ma una serie di verità relative e soggettive. Questo modo di pensare per la Chiesa è un errore o un peccato?"



Ho sempre fatto mio il motto "dubito ergo credo". Porsi delle domande è la via verso la fede. Personalmente ammiro molto le persone dotate di fede spassionata, che credono senza ombra di dubbio. Qualche volta i dubbi ci sono, lo spirito critico acquisito con la scienza pesa, ma l'impegno per trovare la Risposta c'è tutto. Ritorna il concetto della domanda precedente, se uno non crede che interesse ha nel giudizio della Chiesa sul suo modo di pensare?

"Terza domanda: Papa Francesco ha detto durante il suo viaggio in Brasile che anche la nostra specie perirà come tutte le cose che hanno un inizio e una fine. Anch’io penso allo stesso modo, ma penso anche che con la scomparsa della nostra specie scomparirà anche il pensiero capace di pensare Dio e che quindi, quando la nostra specie scomparirà, allora scomparirà anche Dio perché nessuno sarà più in grado di pensarlo. Il Papa ha certamente una sua risposta a questo tema e a me piacerebbe molto conoscerla."


Questa domanda mi sorprende. Gentile Scalfari, non c'è già abbastanza letteratura sull'argomento? Non si trova già la risposta nei Vangeli? Pure la "scommessa" di Pascal prende in considerazione la cosa. Se per i non credenti con la scomparsa della specie umana scomparirà tutto il nostro mondo (non la Terra, mi riferisco alla filosofia, alla religione, alla letteratura, alla musica, etc.), per i credenti si tratta di un passaggio, di un'evoluzione ad un'altra vita.

In conclusione, davvero mi aspettavo di meglio da un fine pensatore come Scalfari, con tutto il rispetto per la persona in questione. Se un non credente si pone delle domande, s'interessa al giudizio della Chiesa (che non è giudice) e del suo Dio sulle sue azioni, forse è sulla via della conversione. Forse no, vuole solo fare il polemico di turno, cosa che va tanto di moda di questi tempi ma che non mi permetterei mai di sospettare nel celebre giornalista. In ogni caso ben venga una riflessione sull'argomento!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Discovering a corner of Japan 2

... continuation of the previous post


A long weekend

This was a 3-days weekend, because today, Monday, is the Marine Day. It's also my last week-end in Japan, because in a couple of days I'll go back to Europe. But let's begin from Saturday. I've spent the whole morning just for shopping. Usually girls love it, but not me. The only good thing was enjoying the air-conditioned mega stores, looking at Western prices for Western clothes. I found nothing of what I was looking for, but I managed to sort out something for my friends. I've tried to find also the catholic church I wanted to visit for the mass, but it was closed.

After 5 yrs from the Organ Summer Academy in Haarlem (the Netherlands), I met again two dear friends, obviously organists and obviously Japanese, in Tokyo on Sunday. Although they don't live in town, they came just to meet me! This is the sweetest present a friend can give. We visited the Jojijoj Temple, my first time in a buddhist temple. Oh well! The business behind the religion is the same in every confession, here as well as in a catholic sanctuary. We had lunch in a traditional Japanese restaurant. I was surprised to have to remove my shoes at the entrance, but then I've astonished my friends with my "ability" with the chopsticks. I'm learning. In the afternoon we had fun in the shopping center under the Skytree, tasting sweets and refreshing drinks and making my friend's baby smiling in front of the camera. We promised to meet each other again, in Europe or in Japan, possibly much before than in 5 yrs.

On Monday morning I bought the food for the last days, I've unsuccessfully looked for stamps for Europe, and I've reserved the bus to the airport. I would have been to see the ocean, but the weather forecast called rain and I was enough tired after two days of walking. Therefore, in the afternoon I had the last glimpse of Tokyo, thanks to the Italian physicist and his Japanese girlfriend. They have shown me the Imperial Palace and gardens and an important Shinto Temple. It was great! Far from the crowded shopping areas, in the peace of quiet little wood, where one can forget to be in maybe one of the most traffic congested cities in the world. Sayonara Tokyo, perhaps we'll meet again sooner than you can imagine! 

the last days in Japan
I must admit that Tuesday was quite boring, just work, except for the evening, when we went out for my farewell party. We were seven, from the boss to the post-doc, but I guess they asked a female post-doc to join us just to have another woman in the party, besides me, although she almost didn't say a word. I had been warned about this kind of party... In fact it has been very nice: eating good food, drinking beer and (finally) sake, talking about science, history, travels, etc. Nevertheless, the talking was a bit limited, because only the older members have spent some years abroad and speak fluent English. The sum of my and someone else's limitations produces no conversation, alcool doesn't help much, at least for them. At 9 p.m. I was already in the guest house.

Wednesday was a bit more adventurous, also because I'm always quite nervous when I have to leave. At lunch time, I've rented a bycicle at the guest house and had my first and last (for now) ride in Japan, driving on the left side. It wasn't just for fun. I looked for a post office to send some postcards. I don't want to get crazy at the last minute at the airport! In the afternoon I was almost ready for leaving, with samples for my colleagues in my backpack but a bit upset for not finding again one sample I was interested in. During a farewell tea, we ate rare and expensive cherries from the Prefecture of Tohoku, as last present for me. Finally the time to say goodbye to my kind hosts has arrived. I promised to visit again the NIPR and I wished to meet them again anyway at one of the next international conferences. Then I went to my room, to clean it and to try to organize my suitcase. My plan was to sleep at least 6-7 hours before beginning the longest day (traveling to west) of this trip, but I didn't succeed. I slept maybe 3 hrs.

The longest day. Waking up was not a problem... as I didn't sleep much. The reserved taxi was waiting for me and , oh! surprise! T.T. waved from her balcony, in front of the NIPR. She woke up at 5 just to be sure that everything was fine for me. So nice from her! The bus arrived on time and in 2hrs we were at the airport. Passports were checked 3-4 times, once also on the bus, but everything went smooth. The breakfast was a bit sad... with packed sweets and an American coffee not particularly strong. The airplane wasn't completely full, so I had more room in my row, but I got sick just at the beginning. of the flight*. Maybe the coffee, perhaps the lunch or the cold temperature in the airplane. Just the time to check my emails at Vienna Airport, in one hour I was peacefully sleeping on the last flight of the day. A taxi brought me quickly to my place, while a warm sun still shined over Brussels. Goodnight!

* From this moment until landing in Brussels, suddenly I began crying and couldn't stop. Like the last Sunday in Vienna, when I've been for the last time in "my" church and then I crossed the AKH Campus, still covered by the snow. Exactly in that moment I realized that the happy and equilibrated life I had there was at the end. During the flight I didn't cry because I was sick (common thing and also quite short), but because everything on that airplane (Austrian) reminded me my time in Vienna. I expected, somehow, this reaction when I chose the flight but I didn't imagine it so strong! Also writing these lines I cried again. This morning is going much better. There was something unsolved, not accepted, about my new life. The person I was in Vienna doesn't exist anymore, I'm back to the odious single lady I was in Padua before emigrating. I hate the place where I live, although I love my new job and I try every day to make me enjoy Brussels. Back from Japan, I should summarize my impressions on that country, not regretting my (forced) choices. But it's time to move on, saying definitively farewell to Vienna and trying to be happy also here. Even if this would be the only good thing I learned from my Japanese trip, it is a great achievement!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Discovering a corner of Japan


My 15 days in the Tokyo area, working as guest of the National Institute of Polar Research and exploring as simple tourist.

1st day-2 days: the missing night.
Traveling towards east, the time seems shorter. Actually it is. I've left Brussels in a cold and rainy morning and after a short stop in Frankfurt I've landed in a gray and hot morning in Tokyo-Narita. The flight should have replaced the night, but I didn't sleep much. I was too much excited: first time to Japan and first time in the A380, the double-decker aircraft of the sky. Due to a delay in the luggage delivery, I've missed the planned bus to Tachikawa, the following bus left almost 2 hrs later. In the meantime I've realized that my quad-band phone is already "old" for this country: only umts smartphones work here. The shuttle bus didn't seem exceptionally new or technological advanced, but what really astonished me was the behavior of the "assistants". At the bus stop, a few guys, wearing the same uniform, load the suitcases and help people find the right stop (ok, that's normal). These guys bow down every time the bus arrives and leaves! I thought that bowing was an old-fashion honor for Queen Elizabeth II...

The journey with the bus was shorter than thought and I was more tired than expected, but I got the first idea of the landscape at this latitude. After crossing green areas for km and having a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, we ended in a traffic jam in the complex network of highways between skyscrapers. A walk in Tachikawa, my destination, made me enjoy a bit of less "contaminated" Japan, with a lot of cyclists, a few old people wearing traditional clothes, the monorail that seems outdated, the supermarket with fish seller-singers at the corners, the drummers practicing in a school, the low houses with small windows and gorgeous little gardens. Traffic is intense but not chaotic, houses and streets are minimal, clean, ordered but not too much. Bikes have a very simple lock and have a label with the name of the owner... if you do something similar in Vienna maybe you get a fine by the police because you tempt the thieves, if you try in Italy or in Brussels... your bike disappears in 5 seconds but you can hear the thieves laughing for years!

The NIPR is something in between the super-organization I've experienced in some research centers in Germany and the self-doing and randomization of happenings I've lived with in Italy. I'm staying in the guest house for visiting scientists, a one-floor building close to the research area. My room is small but super-equipped, with kitchen(dishes, glasses, forks (forks!!! not only chopsticks!), pans, etc. are also provided), bathroom, desk, tv, bed, and air conditioning. The picture is for those Italians that dream of a "bidet" when are abroad: here is built in the water closet. You can also select the pre-heating of the seat and the temperature and the intensity of the water, different for your "posterior" and front. Not tried yet, it was already a challenge understanding the instructions. The weather is awful, the hot mist can kill you, it seems Padova in the worst foggy days of July but, at least, here there aren't mosquitos. Now I'm definitively tired. Good night! (more pictures on Facebook)

2nd day: science and party time
Having a reverse jet lag is priceless. At 8 p.m. it is already dark, at 5 a.m. it is day, so I went to sleep at 8 and woke up at 5...when it is 10 p.m. in Europe. The working time was spent planning the next week and measuring 104 samples collected the last winter. I met many other scientists, but because my scarce understanding of their names and their poor English most of these new acquaintances will be forget soon by both. That's sad, I know. It's the same at many international conferences. Sometimes you meet again a person you met the first time years ago, you cannot remember his name but for some reasons you had never forgotten his face, then you become friends and never forget each other anymore. This happened to me many times, now I'm sharing the office in Brussels with a colleague I met in 2005!


In the evening there was a party to celebrate the 55th anniversary of something related to Antarctica. About one hundred of Japanese from the institute were there, exactly at 6 p.m. Official speeches of the different directors (hierarchy is amazing here) and then the cook introduced his specialities. The audience replied clapping or with enthusiastic ooooh... I did the same, but unfortunately I didn't get a word. The party was very nice, although for the 1st time in my life I've realized I'm... the black sheep, until I've recognized a "Western" face and heard that "the face" spoke English. Wow, he's European! Wait, he's French. Well, we aren't in Belgium, it is fine. He's a biologist who studies Antarctic species of penguin and is doing a post-doc here. Ok, 2 black sheep over more than 100 white sheep, but that's fun!

First weekend
On Saturday I've tried to go to Tachikawa Station for shopping but I quickly changed my mind, too hot and too expensive and western-style. I've preferred to stay "home" to work, with the air conditioning on, ... like a Japanese.

On Sunday I took a train to Tokyo. Stations are simply crazy. Tickets are sold for price, so you need to know in advance how much you should pay... not the distance. There are trains every 3 minutes, in peak hours even every minute. Stops are announced in Japanese, English and that I guess is Chinese. I've been lucky (or ability) enough to arrive at my destination, the Ueno Station, to meet John, an other Italian scientist doing a post-doc abroad and friend of a friend met in Vienna. We visited the National Museum of Nature and Science and a special exhibition about the deep ocean exploration. The museum was quite interesting but all the explanations were only in Japanese. We had lunch in a nice place with traditional hand-made noodles, then we crossed a local colorful market, just along (better, underneath) the local railway.

We've seen also the famous district of manga and technology shops but I cannot remember the name. It is famous for bars where people can play electronic games and be served by girls dressed as dolls. Sorry for the bad explanation, I know nothing about the manga world. We ended the day seeing the city from the 45th floor of the town hall in Shinjuku, just before getting lost in the subway station. But finally I reached safe the guest house in Tachikawa, just before a beautiful sunset. Thanks John for having showed me things I would have not seen alone. The next weekend I'll try to have a look to the most touristic spots in town, thanks to an Italian guidebook we found in the town hall, although I like more the authentic suburb.

A full week
A full working week is not worth of a post, except for a few episodes, one per day. On Monday morning, surprised to see me at 9 a.m., the host prof. said: - Oh, so you survived the weekend - Uhm... Japanese humor? Although I've told him many times that I feel like in Padova, or even better because there aren't so many mosquitoes here, he and his colleagues are always afraid that I get sick for the heat.

On Tuesday he informed me that an important seismic fault passes just underneath the building. A large earthquake is expected after the March 2011 event. The building is well insulated by ground shaking... but not if the fault moves exactly here. Thank you! I don't care of your precious database and sample collection... I'm terrified to be stuck here if an earthquake occurs. They said that the guest house is safe, that the safest place is the bathroom, etc. Ok, I trust them. But when the March 2011 earthquake occurred, scientists of the NIPR have been stuck in the building for days because trains stopped, the electricity was rationed (no heating, no air conditioning), and roads were closed.
On Wednesday I begun to use the microprobe. That was real fun! Never give a similar toy to a geologist! The only inconvenience was the temperature in the room: 20°C. Brrrr! I needed a wool coat to resist and then I risked to die when I went out of the building.
On Thursday my hosts brought me in a special place for lunch: a traditional Japanese restaurant famous for the thick noodle and tempura. It was delicious!
On Friday I've played with Raman spectroscopy, helped by a very kind Japanese colleague who can say two words in Italian (tanta neve = a lot of snow).
Now I'm ready for the second and last weekend in Japan!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

At train distance

If I cannot change the place where I live, I must change my mind about. It's my fault if a feel bad, get sick, and only "survive" here for the job. I must think different. I must remove all my prejudices, because there are for sure tons of good things in Brussels I cannot see just because I don't want to. One of them is the location. Close to all the most important capitals of Europe and to the most lovely cities of Belgium. Let's explore the neighborhood by train!


Freaky Friday in London
A business trip to London has given me the opportunity to cross the Channel by train for the first time. The expensive Eurostar is pretty fast and comfortable. Well, we had to pass through security and passport check (3 times on one way! as many as the borders we crossed) like at the airport and the train has the moquette, but it was much better than flying to Heathrow. I remember my first opinion about London, not much different from what I think of Brussels: dirty and chaotic. But London has a soul that I'm still looking for in Brussels.


Anyway, the reason of the trip was meeting the curator of the meteorite collection in the Natural History Museum. It was the best visit ever! Not only for the opportunity to discover the "secrets" of the museum and the job, but also for the bright example of efficient conservation and research at the same time. I've learned a lot and probably also loved a bit more the city. The funniest moment was... eating fish&chips with the museum people at the restaurant reserved for the staff. Time flew so fast... I had no time to meet a friend of mine... I must plan other trips to London!


Saturday in fairy city
Although the one day trip to London made me quite tired in the evening, the day after I planned to go to Bruges. I wanted to visit the famous city but also meeting again another organist, who I had seen the first and last time in 2008 in Haarlem. The only Belgian I knew before moving here. After having been already twice in Antwerp, let's see something new.

The weather tried to persuade me to stay in bed in the morning, but then turned into a windy a sunny day. The journey by train (I love the weekend-tickets!) was peaceful and in a good company of hundreds of tourists. The town is lovely! It sounds a bit fake, not because rebuilt in a fake ancient style like Dresden, but because the time seems to have stopped centuries ago. There are almost no architectural signs of modernity. The only baroque church I've seen sounds weird like a black sheep... and it was the most modern church nearby. The friend of mine, born and grown up there, explained and showed me many corners that are usually skipped by tourists. In the meantime we talked about music and common acquaintances. That's the way I like to visit a new place!

Looking forward to traveling again!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One month: 5 things I like and 5 that I dislike in Brussels


After the first month in Brussels, let's make a cold analysis, picking a short list of what I like and don't like of this place.

Things I DO NOT like:
1. The dirtiness. Streets are not washed every day like in Vienna but it is also a matter of culture. Dog poo is everywhere. Garbage bags are exposed in front of the door the day before the collection. Buildings and trains are dusty and filth, outside as inside, and they stink. You can often hear stories about rats in the apartments but nobody relates their presence to the general lack of cleaning.
2. Public transits. Never on time, especially buses that are stuck in the traffic. Dirty, old and never renewed, especially some tram lines and the underground. Not reliable at all. Very often it is quicker on foot than by bus or tram.
3. The racial hate between Flemish and French-speaking people. For a foreigner is already difficult to learn one of the two languages but then you are treated in a different way depending on the language you choose. Many French-speakers, especially from the low class, do not speak English or any other language. German is one of the official languages in the country, but is spoken only by a few people.
4. The traffic. People drive with one hand on the gear and the other on the horn, bus drivers included. Pedestrians risk their lives whenever they cross the street, even with the trafic light; bicyclists should better stay at home.
5. The tap water. It is rich of limestone deposits, you need a filter even for cooking and the pipelines get easily obstructed. Obviously, bottled water in restaurants and bars is almost as expensive as beer, but tap water is not for free here (as it is in Vienna, instead).


after Wikipedia
What I like.

1. The weather. I know, most of you would hate it, but I really love the unpredictability of the local weather. You can experience 4 seasons in one day, you'll never get bored. The sky is not just gray, like in some parts of Germany, but changes every hour. Ok, you have 10 months of Autumn, 1 month of Spring and 1 month of Winter.  That's it.
2. The kindness of natives. After Vienna you learn to appreciate every Bonjour, "madame", "s'il vous plait", and smile.
3. The opening time of supermarket. I live really close to the center, nevertheless supermarkets are complete and open till 8 p.m. every day. You don't have to buy food once a week, you can buy just what you need, day by day. But there are also many street markets, not limited to the morning.
4. Wi-Fi. Internet is available almost everywhere. In bars and restaurants but also on the street. In the latter case it's not free of charge, but it may cost less than a meal in a restaurant. Actually, I don't like that you pay by volume of traffic rather than by time...
5. The beer. It is much more alcoholic than that in Austria or Germany. It is tasty, because of extra herbs. So, if you want to forget all the things you don't like here, just drink a second beer. Even if the serving is much smaller than half liter or a pint. Glasses are amazing.


Finding 5 good things was a difficult task. Limit myself to only 5 bad things was difficult as well. What I don't like in Brussels reminds me Padova, where I encountered the same distress. Other things of the everyday life here remind me the time in Padova, such as the use of my laptop instead having an office computer, sharing the office with other colleagues, the needing of public transportations to get to work, the humidity and the following feeling of cold at home, having a bathtub, playing the organ on Sunday for an Italian church, etc. It seems that I always lived here and the time in Vienna lasted just one night, as a rare, sweet dream. Let's get back to reality, it's not so bad after all. As long as the work is fine and friends are good, I can bear the life in a not-perfect place. Maybe I can even enjoy my time here!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First week and birthday in Brussels

The first impression has been confirmed. I don't like much this city, probably we don't like each other. I've discovered only yesterday evening the touristic side of Brussels, which is exactly what one might expect: kitsch shops selling kitsch object, day and night, tribes of Italian students on school trip, weird lights on historical buildings. The weather tried to show me the best of the place, gifting every day of at least some hours of sun and clear sky. No way, I envied my friends in Vienna, who were complaining for the snow in April.

My flat is in a perfect location and after buying some IKEA furniture it looks also quite cute. As a friend of mine said, it is an ideal "nest". But this does not make me forget the many defects and troubles. The first day the code for the main door, sent by email by the landlady, didn't work and I couldn't get in. Then she gave me her personal code, but I expect she will change it again without any warn! Then, trying to open a window we broke it (glass too much thin! and weak frame) and I'm afraid I'll have to pay for it. The gas heater in the bathroom is noisy and was checked less than a month ago as dangerous for the bad ventilation (CO danger!). The washbowl is cracked. There are many scratches in the old furniture (built-in, impossible to remove) and on the wooden floor. etc. etc. The landlady didn't yet reply to my message. Perhaps I'm too much picky... Well, let's think positive, at least the CO cannot accumulate in poisoning concentrations, because there are too many drafts! However, this was the best solution I've seen. Maybe it was just a matter of luck.

The bureaucracy of every beginning is long and frustrating. Here, sometimes it works quickly and very efficiently, sometimes one is stuck for stupid reasons or someone's rigidity. Probably it is not the rule, but I've observed that the flemish speaking belgians work faster than the french. Then, I hate people that do not speak any other language than their own, here for French as well as in Italy for Italian. Anyway, I managed to get almost all I need (electricity, gas, bank account, health insurance, private insurance, double email account and keys from the university and the museum, monthly ticket payed by the university, etc.), but still fighting to get the registration, internet access at home, and the contract for water. Public transits are dirty and generally not reliable, often it is quicker to walk, exactly like in Italy. Prices are generally a bit higher than in Vienna. Finally, I don't agree with the chosen music in the metro (Toto Cutugno???) and dislike the sweetish buskers.


Stop complaining! As my former boss said, one goes where the work is. So, let's talk about the job. This is the good part. Perhaps it will be challenging to deal with three different institutes and a dense schedule, but people I have to work with are very friendly. Well, I'm not anymore so innocent to believe they'll never try to cheat me, especially those who are kinder with me now, but at least we can discuss about work as a team. I'm happy to find so many geologists in this field. I'm not the only one, so I hope to learn quickly what I need and then to begin to be productive.

organ in the basilica of Grimbergen
And my birthday? I've celebrated it one day in advance, with my parents, without whom my relocation would have been much more complicated and traumatic. We enjoyed a sunny Sunday in Grimbergen, with local beer, market, carillon and the monks singing Plain Chant. Yesterday I've been introduced to the work, meeting people from all the three institutions. The evening was very nice, dining with a good friend, who has been and will be a great help for my settling here. Maybe, after a while, I'll appreciate Brussels like her.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hunting a flat

Day 1. 
Alarm at 4 a.m., metro at 5, bus at 6, flight from a snowy and windy Bratislava at 9, landing prior than scheduled in Charleroi, bus, lost in the railway station, metro, lunch, and then phoning and visiting flats until 8 p.m. It has been a long day. Three out of four are flats I'd never consider to live in. Let's hope in tomorrow! 

But the weather was amazing: sunny and warm the whole day. Even if not, the warm reception from my host was enough to warm my hearth for months! She's so sweet! She deserves a monument! In conclusion, I'd like to tell here a funny episode that occurred during the transfer by bus from Charleroi to Brussels. There was a car accident on the highway and only one lane was available. The bus driver tried to be "smart" (I'd say... "Italian"), overtaking by a parking area on the right but was stopped by an angry policeman. They had a strong argument, while the passengers were angry too for the delay. I commented what happened with the person sitting next to me, who asked information first and if I had understood the French speech of the policeman. It came out that this guy is a "Kiwi", he comes from New Zealand. Cool!

Day 2.
Another long and busy day. My search was even more disappointing than yesterday. I've been waiting for a tram that never came, I had to walk for km just to visit a flat with an external toilet. One hour by car with a speechless estate agent to see three large and old flats. The evening visit wasn't totally useless because the agent proposed other new solutions to be seen tomorrow.I want to make a decision by tomorrow, anyway.

The episode of the day. I was not recognized as Italian by an Italian to whom I spoke English at the beginning. Unless I've an austrian accent, this was a kind of compliment. For sure I have to improve, especially the writing style, but there is hope I can succeed one day. A tasty and fully Italian pizza has magnificently concluded the day. At Fratelli La Bufala's, highly recommended.

Day 3.
Although I was expecting a long day, visiting 4-5 flats, my choice took then just five minutes. The first appointment was in the early morning for a small flat, in down town. I arrived much in advance, so I visited a church nearby. Despite some disadvantages, the cuteness of the place caught me and I decided to take it. Let's thank God! We spent about one hour discussing some details, on Friday we should define the contract. I've spent the rest of the day canceling the other planned visits and planning the relocation. Thanks to a Belgian friend, the law about renting a flat is not anymore a mystery for me. She explained me also my rights about electricity, internet, health, etc. Well... it seems to have been back to Italy.

In the evening, my host and I visited the small weekly market in Chatelain. It's pretty cute. We bought there our dinner, with local vegetable and cheese cakes, chicken sausages, and a delicious crumble with leek and raspberry. That's time to celebrate!

Day 4.
Nothing remarkable.

Day 5.
Contract signed. The landlady is very precise, but a bit strict. It seems that her own interest, or better the safety of her propriety, is more important even than the law. I've never dealt with a private landlord, I guess this is the "average" attitude. Beside that, she is an artist, rich, noble (uh, never forget that Belgium is a kingdom), very active, and emancipated. We could understand each other.


The main room
Anyway, I've been in the flat to measure the windows and the floor for the furniture I want to buy. The kitchen is new and completely equipped. The bathroom is also comfortable but the washbowl has a shallow crack. The main room is luminous, this morning it was even reached by the sun, but the old wooden parts (floor, wardrobes, door) are full of scratches and dents. The walls were not freshly painted, so there are a few marks of the previous tenant.

Oh well, nothing is perfect. With my touch, the flat will be lovely and very... "bohémien"!

P.S. Belgians... The lady in the bank has explained me that "quatre-vingt-dix" is understandable but not used by Belgians, who instead use
"nonante". No comment!

Day 6.
Is it spring? Uh, it should be, but it's snowing here! If my flight tomorrow is cancelled, I have to buy a ticket to Italy, because there are no flight to Bratislava until Tuesday and I need to be in Vienna on Monday. I'm worried and angry also for another reason. As my flight is early in the morning, I reserved a room in a cheap hotel close to the airport. It is less than 500 m from the departure hall... but there are no sidewalks or a direct way. I had to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel and I must take another one tomorrow morning, €10 one way. The taxi driver didn't speak English. Seriously, at an international airport!?! Thanks to God I know numbers and a few words in French. Anything else? The landlady didn't reply my e-mail, as expected. The public transits do not respect the schedule. If this is Belgium, you cannot blame me because I LOVE GERMANY!

At least shopping this morning was entertaining. I've seen a couple of things I'd like to buy for my new flat. But the most important things are the furniture and internet. Hopefully they'll not take too long, after the order. The lunch in a "bio" restaurant wasn't bad. The bulgarian dinner yesterday was good as well. I can't wait that this period is over, but I'm afraid I can forget the relaxed feeling I had in Vienna. It is like having gone back to Italy.

Day 7.
Actually it's the return day. Return to civilization that means Vienna. I woke up much earlier than needed. Outside was completely white, the ground was covered by 20 cm snow. OMG, will our flight be deleted? The morning taxi driver was on time, again he spoke just French. My attempt to have breakfast at the airport failed because I poured my coffee on my jacket. The boarding was on time, walking through a snowstorm. The airplane has just been defrost when new ice was forming on the windows. We began to leave the gate but suddenly stopped. After 20 minutes the captain said that we were stuck in the middle of the taxiway because the airport truck failed to move the aircraft... the ground was too much slippery and the airplane too much heavy. We had to wait another truck and finally took off, 30 minutes late. The rest of the journey was boring and depressing. In the evening I realized how much I'll miss Vienna. I've never felt "at home" in Vienna, but everything was so comfortable and reliable. Goodbye Vienna!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Time to say goodbye, again


When the unexpected happens!

1. Elections in Italy. A catastrophe! The country is almost equally divided in 4 parts: a) non-voters, b) democratic left party (PD), c) middle-right party (PDL, that means Mr. B.) and d) Grillo's political movement (M5S). For who doesn't know Grillo, he is a former comedian who is against everyone and everything. It is almost impossible to form a new government, therefore in the meantime the country is the chaos, under the threat of the expulsion from the European Union.


2. Although Mr. B. didn't win, the number of votes he received and the current chaos in the government have convinced me to carry out what I promised: I will progressively loose my "italianity", beginning from the language of this blog. I'm NOT English native speaker, but I do prefer to practice a foreign language, even with many mistakes, than to use any longer the language of a country I don't feel anymore to belong to. My only 3-4 Italian readers can  use the "Translate" button on the top of the page, anyway.


3. The Pope has resigned. Ok, by now it is well known. I was shocked by this news. I liked so much Joseph Ratzinger as Pope and as fine theologist. I'm afraid that the Catholic Church is going to have a new schism: progressivism versus traditionalism, depending on the new Pope's orientation.

4. A good news in my life: I got the job in Brussels! I'm going to leave Vienna in a couple of weeks, surprisingly with a bit of "Sehnsucht". I must admit I feel nervous because the project requires skills I still have to acquire. The priority now is finding a flat. Then the move is the big deal. Only after that, I could begin to worry about the new job! But I do not have the time to say goodbay to Vienna in the proper way, after three debated years.


5. Before getting crazy with the stress of a relocation, I have spent almost two weeks vacation at home. I mean the real HOME that means... anywhere, but with my parents. Not mentioning the crazy cat Schwarzy. Actually I was in Italy, not strictly in my hometown, but rather enjoying the snow at 1000 m a.s.l. in a happy enclave between Italy and Austria. The last relaxing family days... who knows when I'll have again such an opportunity!


6. I'm sharing my flat with another Italian scientist. She is looking for a flat since months but the estate market in Vienna is fast and tricky. It's hard to get used to a new shared life rythm but it might be good to reduce the stress by relocation. Furthermore, I do not have the time to feel alone during this "interregnum".

In conclusion, I'll miss Vienna, not only the city and its (cultural) life, but also the people I met here. Friendship is different when you live abroad: in a  situation of needing, acquaintance quickly evolves into a close friendship! Probably I'll miss also the landscape: the snowy mountains, the quiet Danube, the woody hills, etc. Not forgetting the weather, with cold and icy winters and windy and sunny springs. I'll miss the respect for pedestrians and cyclists, the overall good behavior, on the road as well as at home. I'll miss the opportunity to attend so many concerts and operas for a little price and with very skilled friends. I'll miss the language, I mean German, for sure not the horrible Wienerisch...

However, I'm full of enthusiasm and hopes for the new life in Brussels. The crisis I encountered in Vienna the first year abroad seems far away and after three years I feel quite confident. I expect the same from the Belgian experience. Per ardua ad astra!

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