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Tag Archives: Rome

Grassroots Neighborhood Clean-up in Rome

12 Jun

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Rome is suffering a real crisis in public services, and has been for quite some time. News on this city’s problems is abundant, and I’ve even written about it myself (The Fall of Roman Civilization – April 28, 2014; 5 Ways to Be Roman Without Moving to Italy – May 13, 2016).

There are also abundant sites that aggregate Romans’ frustration with the problems they face each day, which, although useful in highlighting the difficulties, don’t necessarily serve as catalysts for positive change.

However, a group called Comitato Parchi Colombo, in collaboration with Retake Rome, is gaining momentum as a grassroots force for citizen activism. In my neighborhood (as evidenced by the picture above), one initiative they take on is the big job of clean-up in our local parks, which can then be frequented safely and enjoyed by all.

I take my children to the park pictured above all the time, and can tell you that the sense of community there on the weekends is tangible. There are often dozens and dozens of people gathered for hours while children rollerblade, play on the park equipment, and parents chat on the benches or picnic on the grass. For those of you who have lived in Rome, you already know that neighborhood parks (as opposed to the city’s big green spaces like Villa Borghese) are often impossible places to have picnics, because of their sheer lack of upkeep and accumulation of broken bottles, cigarette butts, and all manner of trash. As a single mom with no local extended family, having a clean, spacious park to enjoy with my kids and other families is a godsend.

This group is completely voluntary and runs entirely on donations, but they lack bigger equipment to get more work done. They’ve launched a campaign to raise the 500 euros needed to buy a lawnmower. In an appeal to the 500 online members of the Facebook group Retake Roma Montagnola they noted that if each member donated just one euro, they could reach their goal.

But I want to extend the reach of the campaign to my readers as well—to those of you who have a piece of your heart here in Rome, but can’t drop by to give your euro to the doorman Andrea at the building on Via Badia di Cava 62 where he’s collecting donations.

Have a look at this two-minute video to see what this dedicated group of park volunteers did together with their families to make our park beautiful again:

If you’d like to help us reach our goal of buying a lawnmower, you can donate online at the “Good Cause” website (in Italian) – Comitato Parco Colombo “Compriamo il tagliaerba” (Let’s Buy a Lawnmower).

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Italian! I’ll guide you through it.

On the first page, click the green button. It says “Contribuisci” which means “Contribute”.

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Next:

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  1. Choose the amount you want to donate. The default is €25 but you can choose any amount you wish. The last option, “offerta libera”, lets you specify the amount you want to donate. Remember, even one euro—roughly $1.13—makes a difference.
  2. Choose the payment method: credit card or Paypal account. In both cases, the transaction is handled through Paypal’s secure system.
  3. Fill in your first and last name and your email address (or access using Facebook by clicking the blue Facebook button) and click the green button to proceed.

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The check-box below the green avatar asks if you want this to be an anonymous donation; if so, check the box, but you still have to enter your name and email to make a donation.

That brings you to a Paypal access screen.

If you have a Paypal account, click the yellow button:

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I donated using my US Paypal account, and at that point the language changed to English and my donation went through in one step.

If you don’t have a Paypal account, you can use a credit card by clicking on the link above the credit cards. I don’t have a tutorial for that because I didn’t use that method, but perhaps if you need, you can use Google Translate or Chrome’s page translator.

I’m so pleased to see grassroots civic action in Rome. So many people complain here without taking any real action to change things. Here is just one example of neighbors who want to take collective responsibility for keeping public spaces enjoyable.

For more information, visit Retake Roma’s main website or Comitato Parchi Colombo.

The next park clean-up is scheduled for Sunday, June 18 at 4:30 pm with a pizza dinner all together after the work is done.

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Rome Mayoral Elections 2016

11 May

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Lest you think only the United States is experiencing electoral fever, allow me to draw your attention to the Eternal City and our local elections set for June.

And yes, spoiler alert: Berlusconi figures here, too. (I agree that he should be wiling away his twilight hours making arts and crafts in a nursing home, but alas, this is Italy, and so…)

You know, folks, I’ve always managed to be blissfully ignorant about politics here in Italy. I come from the land of two political parties, with a few outliers. Italy, on the other hand, at last count had no fewer than 31, in this list from the aptly named “Simple Politics” website. But the venerable financial journal Il Sole 24 Ore named 62 of them here in a list of balance sheets.

So, you know what? Your guess is as good as mine, but, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret I discovered.

Here, come closer. I’ll whisper it in your ear:

only about four of those parties really matter.

I don’t claim to be anywhere near an authority on politics (many Italians will tell you that even they are confounded by their own system), but I will tell you that since the time when I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my political ignorance in my work for Italy’s largest news agency, ANSA, I’ve gotten a slight handle on the situation.

Italy breaks down into left and right, and on those two sides we have two main leaders. Stay with me here.

On the center-left we have Premier Matteo Renzi, who, in addition to being prime minister, is also the head of his own party (I know, the mind boggles).

This will be easy for Americans because that one is called simply the Democratic Party.

I know, right?! A.k.a. PD.

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[Permit me an aside, will you? Frankly, I don’t find Matteo Renzi to be an ugly man, but I dare you to find a photo in which he might be considered photogenic. The man never—and I mean never—looks normal. Don’t believe me? I Googled my theory: click here.]

Our PD candidate in Rome is Roberto Giachetti, whose advertising tagline is “Rome goes back to Rome,” which perhaps means it goes back to being Rome, or maybe means it goes back to the people of Rome. If you want my opinion though, and I know you do, someone needs to first off buy this man a damn razor for the love of God.

Honestly. Can I have a mini-rant here? I mean, decide. Either you have a beard, or you don’t, but what you’re doing here is neither one nor the other. If politics is about appearances, it would appear that Giachetti can’t get his shit together enough to even shave, which is concerning in a city where not even the garbage service works.

Exhibit 1:

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Exhibit 2:

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You get the idea.

Then we have the “anti-establishment” party, which demurs from associating itself as either left or right. They don’t even call themselves a party—they’re a movement. This is all fine and good when you go up against said establishment, but, pause for a moment and ask yourself: What happens when anti-establishment becomes the establishment?

The reason I ask is that the candidate for comedian-slash-movement leader Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement (M5S) is actually leading the pack in the Rome mayoral election, and what’s more, she’s a woman. If elected, Virginia Raggi would be Rome’s first female mayor in history. [Can I get a woot woot in the house?]

I have nothing to say about Raggi. No snide comments, no quippy asides. If I could vote—and I can’t, because it takes years and years to get citizenship paperwork processed and I’m lazy—welp, I’d vote for her. She’s a 38-year-old lawyer and former city councillor who wants to make people pay to ride the bus and who wants to get our garbage picked up. She also opposes hosting the Olympics in Rome (because she feels aforementioned waste management is more important to the city’s residents). What more do you want?

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Oh, and by the way? Have you ever wondered why they are five stars, and what they represent? Of course you haven’t. But I have, and I’m here to share a little acronym provided courtesy of a former M5S municipal councillor, Vincenzo Agnusdei, who says you can easily remember the meaning of the five stars with the acronym TASCA, which means pocket in Italian. T=trasporto (transport); A=acqua (water); S=sviluppo (development); C=connettività (connectivity); A=ambiente (environment).

But he was a councillor back in 2011, and from my online stalking it now appears he lives in Berlin, Germany, so, add a grain or two of salt to that recipe.

Meanwhile, I promised you some Berlusconi. Oh, Berlusconi. Sigh. When are you just going to pack it in and ride off into the sunset?

But, not yet.

Berlusconi is no longer the leader of the center-right. That dubious honor now falls on the shoulders of a 43-year-old Milanese named Matteo Salvini, who not only leads the “we invented our own fantasyland in northern Italy called Padania and we want to secede from the rest of Italy” Northern League, but also serves in the European Parliament. And who The Huffington Post reports has a new website called The Populist with a Sex & Trash category that titled one of its posts “Young Pakistani women: Allah doesn’t let us fu..” 

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And if you read Italian, read that first comment because it’s a gem. Domenico Di Luzio, TVB.

Salvini backs our far-right Rome mayoral candidate, who also happens to be a woman, with an even further-right party than perhaps even Lega Nord, called Brothers of Italy. (Which begs the question: How can a woman lead a party called Brothers of Italy? Amiright?)

If we want to stay on the Sex & Trash track, as Salvini always does, then let’s just translate his candidate’s name into English and call her Giorgia Melons. Ms. Melons got a lot of press when her former challenger Guido Bertolaso (we’ll get to him and Berlusconi in a moment, I promise) said in March that she shouldn’t run for mayor because she’s pregnant and “it’s obvious to everyone that a mom can’t dedicate herself to a terrible job (as mayor of Rome). Being mayor of Rome means being out and about and in the office for 14 hours a day.”

So there’s that.

But then, you see, Bertolaso was Berlusconi’s choice with “unconditional support” until, well, until he wasn’t anymore. Hmm.

Berlusca first launched former civil protection chief Bertolaso, who is on trial for manslaughter in connection with the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila–oopsies!–while wearing MIB-style dark glasses. Don’t ask. You can’t handle the truth.

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Find the dirty old man in this picture.

But then a bunch of stuff happened and some meetings happened and people were like OHMYGODYOUCAN’TSUPPORTSOMEONEONTRIALFORMANSLAUGHTER and he, Mr. MIB himself, switched his “unconditional support” over to Marchini. At which point Bertolaso poof! like magic disappeared from the race.

Who’s Marchini, you ask? Affectionately known as ARfio to the Romans (because in local dialect sometimes Ls morph into Rs, you know), he’s a non-party-affiliated civic-listing Rome-lover. He just puts hearts all over his campaign posters and says how much he loves Rome and how he’s non-party-affiliated so he is “FREE” to do whatever, which is somehow supposed to be very reassuring to the populace of Rome.

His campaign slogan is: “I love Rome, and you?”

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He’s run before. He’s sort of like the Energizer Bunny of Rome mayoral candidates. He just keeps on going, and going, and going.

It’s just good times with Marchini, because he’s our sort of flashy glamour candidate, and he’s been nicknamed “Il Bello” by locals (the good-looking one).

Exhibit 1:

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Wait, WTF?

Exhibit 2:

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He plays polo! With funky yellow eyeguard/sunglass things!

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He water skis! He kicks up waves! Maybe it’s not even him but the flowing mass of hair in the ocean breeze sure makes it look like!

And if by chance you read Italian, then please don’t hesitate to visit his Facebook page: Arfio Marchini.

Ok, ok, that’s a spoof page, and that’s where I found the jet-ski photo, and, it’s brilliant.

Roma Ti Amo.

Refugee Assistance in Rome

3 May
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        Notes written by those who attended the Storyteller’s Evening on migration in September.           Photos courtesy of Linda Martinez

It goes without saying that Europe is experiencing what is being called one of the most severe migrant crises since the Second World War. Much has been written, is being written, and will continue to be written as the situation develops day by day. The issue is immense in scope, depth, breadth—it feels overwhelming. As such, I’d like to focus on a micro level to spotlight some local organizations and individuals that are involved on the front lines of this crisis. Some of them are living the crisis first-hand. Others are providing resources, support, and the intangible but essential element of hope.

In September, I attended a storyteller’s evening at The Beehive. Linda and Steve generally host Storytellers once a month, giving space to narratives on a particular topic, in a sort of modern-day campfire gathering of shared humanity. That evening, however, was co-hosted by Paul’s Place Project (PPP), a non-profit organization that is part of the Christian Codrai Foundation, and was dedicated specifically to understanding the migrant crisis. As such, two young men—Rakin and Maiga—told their stories in front of an intimate and attentive group of about 30-40 people. The impact of hearing these stories in person from those who lived them is difficult, if not impossible, to put down in words.

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Rakin and Adama

Rakin, from Kabul, told the story of his dream of becoming a psychologist in his home country, and of his becoming the victim of a kidnapping for ransom because of his family’s class standing and wealth. He came from a home that was quite possibly more well-off than some or many of the listeners present that evening. He spoke of his harrowing escape and eventual arrival in Rome, where he slept in parks, nearly lost his mental health, and was treated like a degenerate.

You can read more of Rakin’s story in an interview with The Local, which was included in their round-up of five truly inspirational interviews from 2015. Another local English-language publication, Wanted in Rome, also shared Rakin’s story.

If you prefer to listen, check out the podcast episode Immigrant on The Bittersweet Life, hosted by senior radio producer Katy Sewall of Seattle’s KUOW and local expat and writer Tiffany Parks who heads up the editorial department at Where Rome magazine and writes The Pines of Rome.

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Maiga

Maiga, from Mali, witnessed and lived through the killing of his entire family. He, too, eventually made his way to Rome in a story that was both heart-wrenching and a testament to the impossible strength of the human spirit. Not enough tears could ever be shed for such inconceivable loss and grief.

Taking the overwhelming topic of the “migrant crisis” down to its micro level, down to the level where each migrant is a person, each migrant has a story, and each migrant has a name, is important. It helps to combat against feelings of apathy that often result from wanting to help, but feeling that the problem is too big to tackle in any productive way. It also helps humanize people who are all-too-often generalized into terse labels that get repeated ad-nauseam, to the point where they seem to lose all traces of substantive meaning: Syrian refugees, economic migrants, asylum seekers.

For a non-expert, following the issue as an informed reader often requires learning and incorporating all sorts of new phrases, places, and nebulous terminology—Dublin Regulation, EU hotspots, the Balkan route, Idomeni—which, to an average reader, might simply feel like too much work. True, an informed citizen should undertake the duty of informing him or herself. But when reading the news for understanding begins to feel like an exercise in studying for a university degree, once again the issue of “this is just too much to deal with” is hard to avoid.

That’s when making the issue local can brings things into perspective.

In the Eternal City, one organization is the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (“Offering Radical Hospitality to Refugees in Rome”). It’s a day center for refugees located at St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church. Their website is full of resources for anyone who wants to help on a local level. For those who want to help but aren’t local, they accept donations. They have a blog of reflections from various people involved in the daily refugee crisis. They have a page where migrants who are legally authorized to work in Italy offer their skilled services in categories as diverse as language teaching, artisan, domestic staff, industrial, and hospitality.

The refugee center also has a handicrafts workshop called Artisans Together, where migrants can sell things that they produce.

At the storytellers evening, I purchased a bowl that was hand-crafted by Adama, one of the migrants who works with the Artisans Together project. It’s made entirely of folded newsprint paper. It’s incredibly sturdy and has a really unique aesthetic. Adama explained to me that each ridge of the bowl is made up of tightly folded paper which is then hot-glued together. It all starts by wrapping the first pieces around that central ball in the bottom.

In short, this simple object of beauty showcases a skill and creativity born out of sheer necessity; provides a source of income for the migrants, however meager; and also instills a point of connection between the generic term “migrant” and the individual human being behind the label.

Transforming Migrant Lives is a crowdfunding campaign that this year has allowed local migrants to travel and raise awareness in local Italian communities as well as within Europe. You can donate to the project here.

The TML crowdfunding project is run by Jill Drzewiecki Rios, who works with the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and is a student in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma—Global Mental Health Refugee Trauma and Recovery. Jill is a certified Specialized Operator in the Reception of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Italy and also holds degrees in International Studies (BA) and Environmental Education (MS).

Please, read Jill’s reflection piece A Place at the Table.

In short: the refugee problem is overwhelming, and yet, we mustn’t dismiss it as something that’s too big for us to concern ourselves with. Bring this issue down to a local level if you are interested in getting involved. All we are required to do is simply that which we are able to, to do our part.

Once, a very wise man told me a parable to teach me this concept, the fact that we each have something to contribute but no one individual must ever feel responsible for solving an overwhelming problem alone. I looked up the parable on Google and found this narration. Enjoy – and reflect.

Deca: A writer’s cooperative with one of Rome’s own

18 Jun

I am very, very excited to share this with you. Honored to have as one of my readers and friends the exceptionally great journalist Stephan Faris, who, by way of introduction in his own words: “Since April 2001, I have written from Africa, the Middle East, China and Europe for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Time Magazine, and The Atlantic Magazine. I have written about war in Iraq, refugees in Darfur, and Internet censorship in China, and the Eurozone crisis across the continent.” Currently we are lucky to have him based in Rome as a contributor to a variety of world-class publications.

Seriously, folks, Stephan’s reporting and writing is amazing. Literally the only reason I have a subscription to TIME is because I wanted to finish reading one of his pieces there (they only let you get so far without a subscription, just when you’re hooked). And, trust me when I say that I was totally unbiased at the time, because it was even before he and I met through mutual acquaintances and realized that we appreciated each other’s writing. But hell, don’t take my word for it; check out some of my favorites and judge for yourself:

And now, drumroll please…

Stephan and eight of his award-winning journalist colleagues have banded together to form Deca, a global writer’s cooperative, as a vehicle for reporting and writing long-form stories. Long-form, sometimes known as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism, brings forth in-depth stories that are longer than a traditional article but shorter than a full-length book.

Check out their introductory video:

Introducing Deca from Deca on Vimeo.

The exciting news is that in LESS THAN FOUR DAYS, the group reached their initial Kickstarter goal of raising $15,000 to cover the costs of reporting and producing their monthly stories.

The even more exciting news is that they still have over twenty days to continue gathering contributions to fund their project, bringing us examples of what high caliber writers can do when they’re working at the very top of their game from an innovative, collaborative model.

Just $10 gets you a subscription to their first three stories, while a contribution of $350+ is like purchasing a master class in journalism, where you can edit and work side-by-side with the writers. Aspiring journalists and accomplished writers alike should jump at this chance. The campaign is receiving such a warm reception that some of the incentives to work with the writers have “sold out,” which prompted them to add additional spots.

Understandably, Deca is getting a lot of press:

Together with Marc Herman, another Deca co-founder, Stephan spoke at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, last month. You can view their talk here:

The only question I still have is whether or not long-form is hyphenated? (Clearly, my intuitive choice favors the hyphen. But, you see, personally I’d even hyphenate non-fiction if I could get away with it.)

I should just sign up for an editing gig with the Deca team to get the insider’s guide on journalistic style.

Actually, if we want to use most venerable The New York Times as our guide, we can go with Jonathan Mahler’s style in When Long-Form is Bad Form (hyphen!), where he finishes by saying:

What, then, is the function — the purpose — of “long-form”? To allow a writer to delve into the true complexities of a story, and also to bring readers closer to the experience of other people. Whether a long-form story is published in a magazine or on the web, its goal should be to understand and illuminate its subject, and maybe even use that subject to (subtly) explore some larger, more universal truths. Above all, that requires empathy, the real hallmark of great immersive journalism.

So now, please: run—don’t walk—to subscribe. Incredible, mind-blowing, memorable storytelling awaits. And, as Stephan recently noted, “I defy you to find a cuter editorial process than how we do things at Deca.”

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Knitting Shops in Rome: Vanità di Filati

12 Jun

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That’s one of my baby girls there in purple checking out the yarn.

I made a lovely new discovery yesterday in my on-going catalog of yarn stores here in Rome.

This one is in my very own neighborhood so my joy knows no bounds. I made friends with the owner and I am in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with this store.

The store is well-stocked, the owners themselves have the projects they’re working on out on the counter (one of my “go-to” checkpoints when deciding whether a knitting store is legit or not—do the owners knit? Will they be able to help me with a thorny question if I need it?), and there is a range of accessories and supplies in addition to the many balls of yarn (i.e., wide wide selection of buttons, needles, etc.) Ah, one-stop-shopping!

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I went on Yelp to do a review of this place and discovered another American girl living in Rome had given it a terrible one-star review. I had an absolutely different experience. So, who knows. Let me say this: if you tell them that “Un’americana a Roma” sent you, I feel fairly confident that they’ll treat you nicely. I mean, they were nothing but spectacularly kind and helpful with me.

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The owners are Patrizia (pictured) and Maria. Both of them alternatively asked me what project I was buying for, and how they could help me find what I needed. They had an excellent range of colors and let me touch all the different yarns without any weirdness which can sometimes occur here in Rome. (Yarn shopping can sometimes feel akin to fruit shopping at the market: look but don’t touch. Which, as any knitter will tell you, is totally counterintuitive and goes against our very grain!) Patrizia has most of her yarn out in cubbies and when I said how awesome that was, because it allows the customer to get up close and examine the yarns, she just smiled. So it wasn’t like “Oh you’re not supposed to touch it.”

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Anyhoo, folks, this place gets my enthusiastic two thumbs up. I already started my project (thank you Ravelry and Audrey Wilson at The Design Studio) and I can’t wait to have another one to go back.

Getting here is a bit out of the way, especially if you’re on holiday and staying in the center. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, by any means. It’s just not walking distance. You can either take the Metro B Line to Basilica di San Paolo and then walk from there or take bus 769 or 766 to Via Aristide Leonori and walk from there (5 mins). Or, from the center take bus 714 (depot at Termini) to Cristoforo Colombo/Vedana and walk from there (5 mins).

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It’s approved by twin four-year-old Roman American girls. So, you know, that’s an endorsement you can trust.

Vanità di Filati – Il Fiocco di Maria e Patrizia

Via della Badia di Cava 88
00142 Roma

Tel: 06/5409883

The Fall of Roman Civilization

28 Apr

I’ve been wanting to tackle this issue for quite some time, not really sure how to go about it. Last Wednesday, I took my annual birthday trip to see my best friend in Amsterdam, and as I left my neighborhood, this is what was happening, just a block from my son’s elementary school:

If those scenes of an urban war zone aren’t bad enough on their own, then this video shows the violence that later erupted, when riot police started beating activists with batons.

The police vans, first 5, then upwards of 10, came out on April 16 to remove squatters who had broken into and illegally occupied an empty government building nine days prior. My neighborhood is generally unknown to most, as it is well out of the historic center, and yet it took center stage last week as the violence broke out. By the time I had landed in Amsterdam, I had 56 messages on my phone from the mom’s group on Whatsapp that is usually used for asking questions about what homework pages have been assigned. This time it was filled with anxiety-ridden exchanges from moms deciding whether or not to take their kids out of school early, should the situation escalate. Luckily, it didn’t affect the nearby businesses or schools, other than the road blocks and general commotion. Once the squatters were removed, however, they MOVED IN to the MUNICIPAL building across the street and next door to the elementary school.

I was told that this was a move by the municipal president (Municipio VIII, ex-XI) who was hosting them. I haven’t researched that. It’s irrelevant now, because the squatters then moved to an abandoned building in nearby via di Tor Carbone once the municipal offices had to open back up to the public on April 23. According to this article from La Repubblica Roma online, there were about 200 families in all.

Two days prior to the police raid, I took the photo below and posted it on Twitter. In retrospect, it’s embarrassing to me to think that I sent out a plea to Rome’s mayor via social media. In fact, Marino has been battling with the AMA (waste collection company) problems for a while now, especially brutal during the holidays, when a photo of a pig eating garbage in the Boccea neighborhood (inside the ring road, not in the middle of nowhere) showed unequivocally just how bad the situation had become. But you see, the question is, who in the world can citizens turn to when their city is becoming a toxic waste zone and seems to be quickly sliding more and more into total chaos?

As those of you who follow my blog know, I truly love this city, and in my writing I do my best to try to make light of the difficult situations around here. But lately, even I am reaching my limit. I thought maybe I was just imagining things, or having a particularly difficult “culture shock” coming back after a week in Amsterdam, where things are so civilized, but it’s not just me.

This article by Der Spiegel‘s Walter Mayr is absolutely, positively, a must-read for anyone who cares about Rome at all. It’s excellently written and covers this topic from a number of perspectives.

Mayr’s piece also helped me to understand the person behind one of the sites that I have been wondering about for quite some time now: Roma Fa Schifo, translated loosely as “Rome Sucks.” The blog, founded in 2008, is a hub for sharing everything that is filthy, corrupt, and shameful about daily life in Rome. The corresponding Facebook page has a following of nearly 34,000 at the time of writing.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Roma Fa Schifo for some time, because I thought it was simply another way to collectively complain about this city. But after reading Mr. Mayr’s article, I came away with the understanding that the blogger behind the page, 35-year-old Massimiliano Tonelli, is aiming to create awareness as a catalyst for change. Tonelli manages another blog called Cartellopoli, which documents the illegal sign-posting that goes on and creates untold mountains of litter throughout the city.

A bit more research on Tonelli revealed this recent interview with the free daily Leggo, in which he describes a new type of citizen referred to as “Roman 2.0,” a social activist who documents the problems of the city online. In fact, Mayr’s article says that Mayor Ignazio Marino keeps a file of certain posts from Roma Fa Schifo, so in that sense it certainly is working as a vehicle for awareness.

The Roma Fa Schifo blog inspired a bit of an online movement that’s sprung up in recent years, with a network of sites loosely known as the “Coordination of Anti-Deterioration Blogs.” These sites, such as Degrado Esquilino and Riprendiamoci Roma (Let’s Take Back Rome), document the current deterioration of Rome.

The question Mayr poses in his article: “Can a New Mayor Stop the City’s Decline?” is left unanswered. He mentions that Marino bikes to work, and Marino himself explains that his personal wealth and outsider status (he’s not a Rome native) mean that he can make unpopular decisions.

Perhaps it’s true what Marino, a surgeon by trade, says in the article: “Removing the abscess is the easiest part. After that you need to get everything patched up and then get the organism going again. I was left with a city full of potholes, a school system that is falling apart and poverty that is rising dramatically. Add to that €14 billion in existing debt, some of which is still left over from Rome’s preparations for hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 1960.”

Rome is not in a good way right now. As much as I try to show this city in its most positive light, the fact of the matter is that things are definitely going downhill, as far as I see it, especially when I have to walk my 6-year-old son past riot police to take him to his 1st grade classroom. I’m not complaining or trying to play the victim, but I’m starting to seriously question what kind of activism a citizen of this city can take part in, to try to make a system that is so profoundly broken, get up and working again. We are lucky to have a tourism economy that keeps things moving, and tourists who continue to come and enjoy the open-air museum that is the Eternal City. But for those of us who choose to live here for any length of time, the situation continues to become more trying. As Mayr says in his article, “Seasoned Romans are heroic when it comes to getting through daily life,” and as he quotes 91-year-old Roman novelist Raffaelle La Capria, “We’re all disappointed and a little depressed to see Italy’s decline before our very eyes.”

Indeed.

Italian Postal Logic

10 Apr

Poor Poste Italiane. No one likes them.

Every time I write anything about the good ol’ PT, I inevitably get a random Italian commenter who hasn’t ever read my blog before (and thus has no idea how adoring I truly am of my adopted country), but somehow landed on that one post where I get all complainy, and tries to defend the PT in the comments by suggesting in some creative and colorful form that if I don’t like it I can go back to my own damn country.

Ok, maybe not every time. But lots of times, anyways.

Maybe it was calling this post “Italian Postal Service I Hate You With All My Heart” that made some readers think I’m bitter and cynical. A bit over the top? I dunno. Perhaps.

Maybe it was the one called No stamps, this is the post office.

Maybe people just don’t appreciate quality sarcasm anymore. We’ve become so jaded, haven’t we? It’s too bad all our days can’t be filled with delightful post office banter like this.

Well, as you might already know, the Italian postal service (and here I use the term “service” very loosely) is a never-ending font of things to both ridicule and belittle.

And yet, today I don’t have any complaints to add, but rather a quiz (or as they say here in Italy, “queets”) question for you.

I need your help, as a matter of fact, because no matter how I try to wrap my brain around this one, it just keeps getting tied up in knots.

Please observe Exhibit A:

20140410_122951

Besides the fact that this is an exceedingly rare moment in that there seems to be NO ONE in the post office (I promise you there were 10 people just a couple minutes later), have a look at “What’s Wrong in This Picture?”

Well, frankly, I hadn’t noticed it. But as I was waiting in line, the one line that was formed because the number machine was broken, I overheard a woman loudly say to an elderly lady approaching the counter: “You see?! There was a reason why they turned the chairs around!”

At which point, obviously, I look at the row of chairs and discover, in fact, that they are all facing with their backs to the “service” windows, when usually they are facing the windows. The usual chair configuration does actually make sense, really, when you take into consideration that if you have your back to the NUMERICAL DISPLAY you won’t be very likely to see YOUR NUMBER when it’s called. So, you know, number machine broken, maybe chairs must be turned around? Unless, well, ok, perhaps it could stay that way even when the number machine works, maybe if you were to hold up a compact mirror over your shoulder, and/or you are a single mom of three children under age ten like I am, at which point you would certainly have at least two, if not more, eyes in the back of your head like I do.

Anyways, herefore cometh O Wise Explanation to aforementioned conundrum, according to postal patron number one. However, before the big reveal, I’d like you to take a moment and try to guess why, using your own common sense and logic, according to postal patron number one (who I assumed received this pearl of wisdom directly from the postal clerk), the postal people decided it was a good idea to turn all those chairs around.

You got it? You got your guess ready? OK. So here’s what the woman said:

“You see, since there aren’t any numbers because the number machine is broken, and since we all have to form one line starting over there, well, the chairs are turned around so that way, if the line gets long, people can sit down in these chairs, like so.”

The old woman nodded, as if that somehow made perfect sense to her.

Perfect sense.

In my mind, a comment like that deserves only one thing, and that one thing is known in my world as the hashtag #WTF.

But, this is not my world, you see. Oh no, make no mistake about it: this is the Italian postal “service’s” world. I only live in it, occasionally stand in it for long periods of time, and most certainly never sit in it with my back to the service windows, even if they do make the effort to helpfully position the chairs in a way in which I could comfortably do so.

But why stop there, I ask myself. No, dear reader, bonus: I’d also like to let you know, that if you so desire, you can get dental insurance through the post office. Will you just look at how happy that toothpaste smiley-face man is about this proposition?

teeth

Dental Postalprotection: Smiling has never been so simple. (I want to kiss the copywriter who came up with that one, really, I do.)

But wait! There’s more!

There’s an entire CATALOG of randomness that you can buy through your post office. It’s even seasonal. This one is Spring 2014. That means there are four a year, people! YAY! Look how happy the family is, sitting as they are in front of a soccer match! You can even buy a flag! Weee!

catalog

Stamps? Pshaw, you silly! But a “Dual Motor Relax Recliner”? Oh now hellll yes. Now that we have, at the low, low price of just €449,90. (Postal geniuses, you’re not fooling anyone by taking 10 cents off. We’re totally onto you and your reclining chair scheming.)

relax

That is, unless you prefer the collar massager for 10 cents short of €55.

We’ll even make it super easy for you with a loan on one of our pre-paid debit cards: “The loan that recharges your desire for shopping.” Yes. Because we’re the post office. That’s what we do, you see.

loan

You know what though? Shit. I’m usually not one of those “Americans Do It Better” kind of girls, but in this particular instance, I just have to get on out there and say it loud, say it proud: when it comes to useless products, AIN’T NOBODY like us here Americans.

Don’t believe it? Just try me:


(If I had been drinking milk I am fairly certain it would have come out of my nostrils from laughter at 2:15. Nice perm, BTW.)

Ok, fine. I hear you though. You’re saying, “Oh Shelley, PT is such an easy target. Move on already.” Which makes me think of an Italian phrase that I simply adore. It goes like this: “E’ come sparare sulla Croce Rossa.” We Americans say something like, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” (naturally, of course, because all Americans carry at least one gun on their person at ALL TIMES), but the Italians say, “It’s like shooting at the Red Cross.” God I love that phrase. [And, by the way and just so you know, Mythbusters confirmed that shooting fish in a barrel is, in fact, easy to do.]

And before you dismiss my humble blog as pulp fodder for the ignorant masses, I’ll have you know that this dude at Yahoo questions wanted to know “Why do they say it’s like shooting at the Red Cross?” and some benevolent soul took the time to respond that the GENEVA CONVENTION prevents shooting at health workers in war zones, so it’s like attacking someone who’s defenseless and can’t fight back. Another helpful know-it-all says that it was common to bomb Red Cross encampments in war zones in all the wars post-1864 (when the Red Cross was founded). In any case, if you need a real-life, in-context textual/visual demonstration of this expression, I direct you here. I will not, can not, put a picture of Britney Spears’s buttocks on my blog. Not gan do it, not at this juncture, wun’t be prudent…

Today I had to go to the post office to pay a bill (naturally) so I decided it would also be a good occasion to mail a letter I needed to mail. A real, honest-to-God, thank you card, from a box of US stationery I had sent over from Papyrus via my ex-husband’s luggage with a real, honest-to-God stamp on it. I kid you not when I tell you that I went to the tobacconist before the post office, so I could purchase a real stamp. As I hand over the card, I am careful to bring to the clerk’s attention: “It already has a stamp on it.”

The guy behind the counter takes my letter, stares at it, turns it over a few times in his hands, marveling. (He was marveling, I swear to you, it was unmistakable.)

I was like: “What? It’s a letter.”

And he goes: “That’s a beautiful thing.”

Indeed, my friend, it is. Indeed it is.