Friday, April 28, 2006

Close to Tragedy!!

I just read an article posted around the plant and holy cow. I have to go back and reread it to make sure I understand it correctly. It starts with the fact that Monday is a holiday here, Labor Day, this is very ironic as you’ll see. Yesterday the company here distributed letters saying that some people will be temporarily laid off starting on Monday. They have been doing this off and on for 2 years. It’s very hard to fire someone so they temporarily lay him or her off (for 2 weeks up to a month) hoping they will find other work and not come back. The laid off worker gets a percentage of their pay, I think around 70%, and the government pays part of that so they don’t cost the company much when they are not working. The company has to get the government’s approval to do this (because of the part the government pays!!). There have been strikes every time they announce a new cassa integrazione. So…Anyway back to the story. Upon learning of the “cassa integrazione” or layoff one worker here evidently threatened to kill himself. The article said he was at the edge of 40 m (~120 ft) drop, which is the chimney of the test cell. The test cell chimney is right outside my window and it happened just minutes after I left last night. I can’t believe what I was almost witness to and the toll these continued layoffs are taking. Evidently someone he talked him down and he ended up in the hospital taking drugs to calm him down. I don’t think I know the person from what I have heard at the coffee machine this morning but what a tragic story. I think he’s ok now.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Marco, Christian, and Gianluca show what are the three best things about Pasquetta. Relaxing, smoking, and eating, probably in that order.... picture lost...
Nicola showing off his backhand. This is only shot I got with the disc in the air. Posted by Picasa
This has to be the best picture from Pasquetta!!! Ha Ha... It was better throwing the disc when we were at the beach and I was the only one that threw the disc in the sea! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pay Attention!!

Last night I was walking to the gym and I saw a kid almost hit by a car. He looked to be about 4 years old and he was running around the streets with his sister (I assume that’s who it was) chasing him. His father was across the street and right AFTER the father yelled at him “stai attento!” (pay attention!) He ran from between two parked cars into the street. A car coming down the street came to a screeching halt without touching him but it was close. I can’t believe I don’t see that more in the tight crowded streets. Sure I’ve seen cars knock mirrors from time to time or scrape against the corner of a building but not two cars actually meeting bumpers or people getting hit. Not like what you expect. It’s also weird when you can see something like that happening. It’s like it was in slow motion and you knew the kid was going to do that. I think even his father could see it coming and that’s why he yelled.
Another strange thing was related to the day before. The day before I went to buy something at a shop I go to regularly. I only had a 50 and naturally they couldn’t break it so I went next door to the Giornaio and bought a 20 euro card to recharge my phone, because you can always use a recharge for the phone. So with the change I went back to the store next door and bought what I needed. Then yesterday the storekeeper stopped me and said the 20 euro bill I used to pay with the day before was a fake. Now the storekeeper knew I went next door to get change so she went in and bought a 20 euro recharge card for her phone with the fake bill. Lesson learned, I need to pay more attention!!!
I thought about it and it would be easier to pass off a fake bill on foreigner but I’ve been here long enough that I should know. Also that makes sense why in the past I’ve had shopkeepers check my bills closely when I pay. It’s not that they think I’m a crook (well maybe they do?). It’s probably more that they know it’s easier to pass a fake bill to someone less knowledgeable about the money. Then that person would pass it on not knowing any better. I think 20s are the problem. I noticed that Bancomats generally don’t give 20s just 50s and 10s.Last but not least. A follow up on the Godfather, Bernardo Provenzaro, caught in Sicily. It is just too funny, well now that he’s caught. The press is obsessed with everything about him. How he has been living “on the run” for over 40 years? Who he voted for? The best fact has to be that the boss of the bosses was caught in a villa in the countryside just outside of the town of Corleone. Yes, the exact town that inspired the Godfather movies. Also he wrote messages that told what he wanted done on a very old typewriter and had cousins and relatives deliver them. He didn’t use a cell phone because he knew the Police could listen in. Also he kept a big wad of bills in his underwear in case he needed to make a quick getaway from the villa. The Police are saying no one “talked” it was just a matter a tracking and watching friends and family until a pattern was found. Also Berlusconi is still refusing to accept that he lost even after the highest court in the land has said he lost. Pictures next…

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter 2006

There is so much to write about, as this was a long three-day weekend. I told you about Thursday night. The thing about this weekend is that it was like Spring Break here. All the students and people that live up North for school or work come home for the Easter weekend. So there are more people out every night everywhere especially because the weather was good. I imagine this is how it would be if there was more work here and a university in Brindisi. Friday night was the party for Francesca finishing college. I can’t believe I actually got up and danced. I guess that’s the one time for this month. The party was also in a building a short walk from my apartment so it was nice and convenient. For those of you at the party and who read this, it was Erika who put sandwiches in your bag or coat pocket!!! Don’t tell her I said that!!
Saturday was pretty normal. I didn’t go out for a run like I wanted too. It was the first day that I felt hot. I had a short sleeve shirt on but in the sun I still felt hot. I noticed most Italians were hanging out in the shade and still had a jacket on.
Then on Sunday I went over Erika’s house to have lunch with her family and Valerio. It was a perfect lunch, which included lamb and rosemary, which I think are an Easter tradition. Sunday also surprised me because so many things (bars, bakeries, restaurants) were open. There was so many people out that I guess they would be crazy not to be open but I still thought because it was Easter nothing would be open. One thing that did change however were the soccer matches, instead of Saturday night and Sunday there were played on Friday night and Saturday.
Sunday night was a concert at the Big Ben. It was incredibly packed. There were so many people that cars couldn’t get down the street because of the people outside smoking. Maria Ellena’s (I spelled her name right this time) band was playing so we had already planned on meeting there before the chaos. It was funny because I braved the crowd long enough that as people left to go smoke I could keep moving up until I was right there in front of the band. That was great but I felt bad because I realize that there are not many Italians that can see over me so I retreated back for a while. They were really a great band. I can’t remember the name but there are 8 people in the band. Maria Ellena sings along with a guy who also plays the accordion or guitar. Then there’s a stand up bass, drums, two violins, a flute and another guitar. I have yet to meet a band with a stand up bass that I didn’t like. They played a kind of folksy Balkan style and it was lively and wild with the violins playing more like fiddles, well… really… what’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
Then on Monday we headed out to Marco’s house (this another Marco not mentioned before in this blog) near the sea. Now don’t get the wrong impression. It’s not ON the sea. It’s in a vacation community closer to the sea. We just hung out, talked, ate panini, and relaxed on our day off. Near the end of the day we headed to the beach, threw a little Frisbee and played a game called “the big umbrella”. It involves four people huddled together like a scrum in rugby and others jumping on or over this base. It’s hard to explain but it’s a good game for the beach in case you fall off the base or it crumbles.
Last night I needed to rest up for work today but this are a little slow today.
Oh, I almost forgot. Monday at 5:00 AM we had an earthquake here. It was centered down in Calabria but people here said they woke up because their bed was shaking. I think they may have happened to me but I don’t remember it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Let's go on a Church Crawl!!

It’s strange but I now realize that this is the first Easter that I have been in Brindisi. It came to me last night when I was surprised to see EVERYONE out until well after midnight. They were all out doing a “Church Crawl” (I’m patenting this phrase). Some of my Catholic friends said they were going around to the churches last night. Considering they were starting at 9:30 PM I knew they weren’t going to mass so I decided to see what was going on.

I don’t know if Catholics in the US do this but on Giovedi Santo (Saint Thursday) the Catholics in town go around and see as many churches as they can. There were tons of people out going from church to church. Parking was stacked up near any church and traffic was almost standing still in places. You can go into the old part of town and walk from church to church but there are others around in other quartieri (quarters or districts) that require a car. Last night was also kind of cold (not to me) so people were trying to drive and park as close to the church as possible. In the end we saw 7 churches, which is not very many but they were interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve been inside any of them. Also I was amazed at what is hiding behind some plane looking walls that I walk past almost everyday. Of course all the churches were cleaned up and looking their best for this night. It’s a good chance to see what the other parishes have done.

You’ll notice that I saw 7 churches because it’s good luck to see an odd number or churches and bad luck to see an even number. Also you’re supposed to have better fortune the more you see. Since I have never done this before, my fortune should go through the roof, but then I’m not Catholic so maybe it won’t work. Now it’s Good Friday but we don’t get this day off like in States. I think schools are closed here because traffic was very light this morning. There was more traffic at midnight last night then there was at 8:00 AM this morning.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Election Results!!!!

WHAT AN ELECTION!!! It has it all:
1. Record turn out (83.7% of eligible voters)
2. In “the house” (Camera dei Deputati) the left won 49.8% of the vote and the right 49.7%. That's a narrow margin!!
3. In the Senate (Senato) the left won 48.95% of the vote and the right 50.2% but for some odd reason the left has two more seats in the Senate over the right. Sounds strange but we did it too.

So this means the left won by a ridiculously small margin. The left gets to pick the new Prime Minister (Romano Prodi) and then in May they get to pick the next President. The president has a 7-year term and is picked by the majority coalition. All of this complexity and it’s not final because they still need to count the overseas votes. What effect will this have? Not sure, because this is first time Italians living overseas have been allowed to vote.
THEN this could just be history repeating itself. Prodi beat Berlusconi 10 years ago but Prodi’s coalition fell apart before he completed his 5-year term. The same thing could easily happen here. Let me explain….
The right and left are generic terms I’m using and need more explanation. The right (Berlusconi’s “Casa della Liberta`” or House of Freedom) has 6 parties together including dear old Mussolini’s daughter and her Facist party. Most of these parties care only about the North and tend to shun the South. The left (Prodi’s “L’Unione”, the Union) includes 9 parties of which two are Communists and more south oriented. There are 2 communist parties because they are called the communists and the “refounded” communists. Don’t confuse them and they also say neither of them are like the Stalinist communists of Russia. From what I’ve read no one wants to be like him, I hope.

Also in the news today, almost as big as the election, is the capture of some big Mafia boss in Sicily. Danielle says that no one has “seen” this guy for 40 years, but he has been running the mafia.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Granchio Rosso

Artistic shot? Not sure, but this is another gimpse of life down by the sea. I think this bunker is from WWII. Posted by Picasa

Flower or weed?

I have been meaning to take this picture for a while. This weed (or flower) is growing on a 15th Century palace in town. I waiting to get the sun just right but I think there was too much sun so maybe I'll try it again at another time. Posted by Picasa

AAHHH Spring...

Down by the sea I took this shot of some spring flowers. Posted by Picasa

More cards...

Here we have Mariellena playing cards also. We celebrated her 23rd birthday the night before. Boy, when I was 23... I can't remember back that far. Posted by Picasa

Playing Cards

These pictures are from last weekend as the internet was out for a while. This is Hugo playing cards out in the country home of Antonella (Marco's fidizanta). Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 07, 2006

Elections then Easter

Well I’ve been having problems with my home Internet connection. Something has changed on April 1st. I hope it’s all sorted out now but we’ll see. It’s never been terribly reliable but I’ve learned to live with it.
Not much news here. The weather is trying to stay nice but when the wind comes out of the North it can cool off. We’re right on the verge of not needing a jacket. I guess with Easter next weekend there should be more to talk about that but there’s not. It is a little different because in the States the Friday before Easter is a holiday but here the Monday after Easter is a holiday. It’s also traditional to go out to the country or near the sea and eat outside. Not necessarily a bar-b-q like in the States but close.
The election is this weekend and that’s dominating the news. I‘ve been hearing about it every day but as an observer. I’m just waiting and to see what happens. This article on the BBC website is very good and sums up a lot of what I hear from "the communists" around here.
This article even has comment by yours truly. Nothing special but I thought I would throw in my two cents worth.I’ll put up some pictures if I can get my home Internet going.