Wednesday, October 24, 2007

l'ultima settimana a Genova

And so begins the last week in Genova. This time next week, we will most likely be on a train, heading south to Rome. Well, actually, it's equally likely that we will be standing on a platform, waiting for our train to Rome, which will undoubtedly be running an hour late .. but that's all part of the adventure. To be honest, with no pressing schedule in Rome, I wouldn't mind if the train were late. More time to soak up this place.

With 7 days left, so begins the week of "lasts". Today, for example, is my last "Mercoledi`" (Wednesday) here at work. Ahh Mercoledi`, I'll miss you! I'll miss the evening Italian lessons you gave me, and the volleyball.

Far more significant than last goodbyes to days of the week, however, is last goodbyes to friends I have made here. Last night was the first, where I said goodbye to Ryo, a Japanese researcher who has just embarked on a two week trip to Taiwan. Today I say goodbye to another good friend, Enrico, who is off to the States for a month or so.

I don't pretend to have made a whole lot of life long mates here in Genova. For a quiet guy like me, these sorts of friendships usually take at least 6 months to develop. Having said this, I have met a few people (like the above mentioned people), who I know I will keep up with, and most importantly, I will see again at some point. It makes me feel good to know I am going home with these genuine connections to Genova. It makes me feel like I actually did live here, if only briefly.

I can't say I am one for goodbyes. Quite frankly, I find them a little awkward and tiring. If it were socially acceptable to just leave a note, and jump on a train, I probably would. Not because I don't want to say goodbye, just because that would be easier, and less awkward. I never know what to say, and anything I do say makes me cringe when I think about it later. Of course, we won't just leave a note and leave! Aff and I will do something, probably smallish. Whatever we do, I am sure it will be a nice send off, and a great way to finish our time here in Genova.

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Friday, October 19, 2007


Like most people, I have made some pretty ridiculous decisions in my life. Perhaps none more so than yesterday's decision to play soccer with a bunch of Italians. It was, in fact, my third time playing, although it had been some months since I last played. I am not quite sure what improvement I expected to magically appear in my game after three months, but whatever ability I thought I had, was instantly nullified in the first 2 minutes. There are few sweeping generalisations one can make about Italians (or any culture for that matter), but it would be fair to say that Italian men are generally pretty good at soccer ... and a fair percentage of them are really good. It would also be fair to say that 9 out of the 10 blokes from my workplace here in Genova, who played soccer last night .. were really good. The other bloke, me, filled the role of the awkward Aussie, introducing his own unique brand of football - randomness. After the first 10 minutes, I realised that my best tactic was simply to let the ball bounce off my legs, rather than to try and kick it.

There was noticeable frustration from my four team mates, who prior to my late arrival, were up, 6 : 3. We lost the game 7 : 9. And no, the 7th goal had nothing to do with me (unless you count the fact that I stayed well away from the ball when the goal was kicked).

It truly was a ridiculous idea .. but another "must" on my list of Italian experiences.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

leaving and returning

It is always a bit of a strange feeling in the weeks before leaving a place you have spent a significant amount of time in. That is certainly how it feels at the moment. The "mixed feelings" cliche` seems to fit pretty well. I am as comfortable and familiar with my environment as I have been since arriving, which is not so surprising. On the other hand, my head is already half back in Australia, and ticking over the many tasks, challenges and choices that await Aff and I when we get back. I, of course, am trying to keep my mind in Italy as much as I can. I want to soak up as much of this fascinating place as possible. Since arriving, not a single day has gone by that I haven't looked around and just wondered how the hell my life managed to rock up here. Craziness! This daydreaming is usually interrupted abruptly by the sound of a scooter passing me within a couple of inches, forcing me to suddenly side step into three day old dog shit which, next to discovering 13th century gothic churches down dingy alleyways, is another common "experience" in Genova. Maybe not a particularly nice one, but all part of the experience nonetheless.

Of course, while trying to take these things in, the realities of going home are hard to ignore. Practical issues such as packing and sending things home, not to mention the million dollar/euro question of "where the hell are we gonna live ?", can quickly overwhelm. Inevitably Aff and I talk a lot about these issues in the evening, which always feels a bit strange and foreign after a day spent in such a different place as Genova. On the other hand, these same thoughts are a source of excitment as well. Aff and I are looking forward to coming home. Our existence in Italy has been an exciting one, but also a temporary one, and the desire to "get on with things" (whatever that means?) has grown over the course of our time here. In someways I see this as the most significant change in me over the course of my time here. I don't really know why. It could equally be attributed to being married. I suspect it's a little of both.

It's difficult to express these thoughts because there is always the risk of exagerating the importance, and significance of such experiences. In the end, we've spent 7 months in Italy, seen a lot of different things, met a lot of good people, eaten a lot of pizza, and drank a lot of vino ... not so different to home really! but it sure feels like it is.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

from Verona to Venice

With three weeks left, Aff and I have become tourist machines. In the last month we have taken in Lucca ( a beautiful little Tuscan town, near Pisa), the Vale d'Aosta (Italian alpine country, up in the North West corner), and we have just returned from a 4 day trip that took in Verona and Venice. Trying to keep up with all this on the blog has been quite simply impossible. So, for the moment at least, I pick and choose.

Our trip to Venice was quite deliberately timed to be one of our last hoorahs in the North of Italy before we head south, and home. With Terry flying in from London, this was also the last chance to see my best mate before heading back home. The trip was an absolute highlight of my time here.

Verona was beautifully tranquil, although not without it's fair share of tourists. Verona's two biggest claims to fame are it's famous Roman ampitheatre (the Arena), which plays host to a much anticipated out door Opera season every year, and Shakespear's choice of Verona as the city in which Romeo and Juliet was set. I'm sure it has plenty of other claims to fame as well, but for the travel weary (which I must admit, I am a little), much of these details get missed.

And then Venice. Nothing I can say can do it justice. The photos are coming, I assure you. It is quite simply stunning. You pay for it of course, particularly if you stay on the Island as we did. Even so, to have had three uninterrupted days of playing in this maze of canals and lane ways felt like a luxury worth paying for. Don't believe anyone who suggests you can do Venice in a day. Two days at least!

Venice is like a medievil playground. You just wander around, get lost, eat, drink wine, and take a sh%@ load of photos while you're at it. Sure, you can do the whole Gondala thing, if you have 70 euro to burn, but just watching these boys do their stuff from the side lines is impressive, and satisfying enough (though I must admit, I was a little tempted).

And on top of all this, the company. Venice is best enjoyed with your partner, or good friends. I therefore had the best of both world's, with my wife, and my best mate to play with. It was a great trip, and a fanastic way to start the count down to our final three weeks here in Italy.

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