Italian Street Art

Bologna is a stunning ancient city (see post) that is also home to the oldest university in the world. Students are attracted from all over the globe to study behind its prestigious walls. The student neighbourhood has adopted a different flair than the rest of the old town, yet equally as beautiful.

Poetry – The “Emancipation of Poetry” society has posted these excerpts on the walls of the city.

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Translation:
I hate you.
I hate you because you came into my life way too early.
I’m nothing yet. I’m mud between the fingers of destiny.
An insane compass driving me.
I’m afraid.
I’m afraid that what I will be will destroy what we were, removing your eyes that watch me every morning, hanging on the ceiling of my bedroom.

Fly away.

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Looking for pizza?

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Long live the rebels!

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Red.

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What’s that smell?!

You know those 1950s commercials where the man comes home with a briefcase and melodically states “honey, I’m home!” He is greeted by his made-up wife in a polka dot dress and a warm apple pie in her hands.
Well, I am the exact antithesis to this young gal. I’m a disaster in the kitchen. I’ve been given advice from a range of people including an Italian chef and my Polish grandmother. I don’t know how people grow and nourish this type of talent.
In Italy, they’ve got a show called “Junior Masterchef”. Basically it’s about 9 and 10 year olds from different regions in Italy who compete for their winning dish. Their hometown masterpiece. I hate these kids because they make me feel even more embarrassed at my level of incompetence at 24. I’m the age of two of these kids put together, yet I sometimes burn my toast a little too much.
Last night, I tried to cook something, and as usual, it went horribly wrong. The Spanish omelette or “tortilla de patatas” is a combination of potatoes, eggs, and onions, that are fried together in harmony. I used to eat it on a regular basis while living in Spain. The YouTube video made it look easy anyway.
The instructions said to add a “substantial amount of oil, but to be careful not to make it too oily.”
I went a little bold with the olive oil, then started freaking out that the potatoes were drowning in it, so I poured a lot of it out. Then I realized that I was unable to flip everything over to fry the other side because there was too little oil and it started burning.
The result was a smell that surprisingly avoided an emergency call to the fire department. Unapproved for human consumption, I may have unintentionally discovered a new brand of dog food because the dog was all over it like a new box of kibbles.
I present you, my piece-of-shit tortilla that smells like burned fossil fuels. Here is a comparison between my “creation” and a real one from Google images. RIP.

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5 Strange Spanish Expressions

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Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages in existence. If you speak Spanish, you can agree that not only is it the language of love, it is the language of creative cursing and expression. If you want to sound more like a local on your next trip to Spain, try incorporating the following expressions into your conversation (the English equivalent is listed below).

These idiomatic expressions are in Castilian Spanish, meaning from Spain. They may or may not make sense in Latin American countries.

1) Tomar el pelo.

Literally: “Take someone’s hair.”
English equivalent: To make fun of, poke fun at, or pull someone’s leg.
Example: “Mis hermanos siempre me toman el pelo.”
Translation: “My brothers always take my hair.”

2) Poner los cuernos.

Literally: “Put the horns on.”
English equivalent: To cheat on, to be unfaithful.
Example: “El ex novio de mi hermana le puso los cuernos.”
Translation: “My sister’s ex put the horns on her.”

3) Tener mucha cara.

Literally: “Have a lot of face.”
English equivalent: To have nerve.
Example: “Hace falta tener mucha cara para hacer lo que hizo el ayer noche durante la fiesta!”
Translation: “You need a lot of face to be able to do what he did last night at the party!”

4) Ponerse las pilas.

Literally: “To put your batteries in.”
English equivalent: To get yourself together, get a move on, get your sh*t together. This expression was believed to be originally used in Colombia. The idea of having a “low battery,” and therefore being unable to complete a task, is used in various languages.
Example: Ponte las pilas! Vas a suspender el examen!
Translation: “Put your batteries in! You’re going to fail the exam!”

5) Tener mala leche.

Literally: “To have bad milk.”
English equivalent: To be mean, unkind, bitchy. The origin of this expression dates back to medieval times, where noble women often gave their newborns to women of lower classes so that they could be breastfed. Women of the upper classes didn’t want to be bothered with this task. The “host mothers” were usually of Jewish or Moorish origin and therefore thought to “have bad milk” that would be passed on to the child. The expression was generally used as an insult.
Example: La profesora de ingles tiene muy mala leche.
Translation: “The English teacher has really bad milk.”

Pizza, cappuccinos, and calcio!

I haven’t blogged in a few days because I had a 9 hour flight to Rome, plus a four hour train ride. Add some jet-lag to that and you’ve got a lost-in-translation mindset for a few days. Once I’m cured of my temporary insomnia I’ll be able to write real paragraphs again.

First impressions of Bologna, Italy: Although I always go through a “sad” phase in my first few days in a new city, trying to adjust to my surroundings…Bologna is beautiful. It’s a photographer’s dream. However, for the artistically challenged like me, it’ll be hard to give it justice using my iPhone.

As for the blog, I can’t believe someone other than my mother reads it. I’ve even received a lot of questions about my travels, so I figured I’d answer them here.

Why did you leave Canada? – Canada is a fantastic country where you are guaranteed financial stability if you’ve graduated or have any form of educational training. You will get a job, and even if it’s waitressing at a local Italian eatery, you’ll be making double the wages offered in a real Italian restaurant in Italy. I originally moved to Spain, I loved it and I’m hoping to return. I was tired of being comfortable. I was born in Canada, raised in Canada, and if I hadn’t lived abroad- I wouldn’t have any stories to tell. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re stuck in sticky situations.

How can you afford this? – I live in a shared flat with another person (several people in the past). I work as an ESL teacher, and I make enough money to pay my rent, eat, travel using low cost airlines (yay Ryanair and Easyjet), and go out once in a while. An ESL teacher in Spain or Italy will make 1,100-1,300 euros for 25-30 hours a week. Private lessons (at home tutoring) pay about 25 euros an hour. This is a good option for some extra cash on the side.

Any advice for people who want to move abroad?- If you’re ok with making enough to live on, do it. You will learn a new language, meet new people, and grow in ways you never believed possible. These are experiences you cannot have living at home. Do it while you’re in your 20s and haven’t got a family or children to worry about. Just don’t fall in love here, it’s a bad idea 😉image

The one where you feel grateful.

Prompt: Life just isn’t the same without your trusty sidekick. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your partner in crime.

The first words I ever said to my partner in crime were “get the f*ck out of here! you’re annoying.”
About a month later I fell in love with him though, how’s that for a paradox?

We were studying abroad in the same Spanish city. We were both football(soccer) fans. Unfortunately, our teams were playing one another, so we were both cursing each other’s team.
We met again later at a football match where the local city team was playing at home. I was “oh hell, you guys know that assh*ole from the bar?”
We sat next to one another and I was really mean and he asked me out

See: The one where you fall in love.

We compliment each other in the right way, just like any crime fighting team should (I’m definitely Batman by the way, he’s Robin – let’s make that clear).

We were born and raised on two different continents. When I get angry I cry, and he makes a series of hand gestures that probably have some sort of meaning.
He’s rational, I’m emotional. I exaggerate everything and he tells me to relax. He can cook better than I can, but that’s not saying much – besides if you’re from Italy it kind of runs in your gene pool, doesn’t it?

The reason he’s my sidekick is because he’s always there. When you reach your mid-twenties, finish school, and get a job, your social circle shrinks quite a bit. You begin to value people you can have a great conversation with, and those who listen to your hopes and worries rather than a good night out on the town.

Living abroad really sent the message home. When you’re living a million miles away and constantly saying hello and goodbye, fewer people stay in your life. Your heart becomes a home for those who count, and my Italian version of Robin has the master bedroom.
Maybe I should have gone with the Mario and Luigi combo?
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Countdown to A New Adventure

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My visit to Canada has come to an end, and on Thursday I’ll be heading back to Italy, and moving to a new city: Bologna. I moved from Spain to Italy this past February. The problem is, I chose Milan, and I haaated Milan. Seven months of arrogant wealthy people and snobby fashionistas in a concrete jungle left me feeling like I’d been living in a world where I would never belong.
So Bologna it is! It’s considered a student city (having one of the first universities in modern history) and more of a low-key alternative atmosphere.
A new city means a new job as well, although I don’t start until mid-September. I wanted a few weeks to adjust and get to know my surroundings without getting lost on the way to work. Moreover, it’s a condensed city so a car is unnecessary, I might get a bike at most.
There’s was famous Italian singer, called Lucio Dalla, who dedicated a song to Bologna. I figured, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
First stop, however, is Rome!
P.S – one of my posts is on Thought Catalog, check it out here.
Ciao.

I “get myself off” in Spain.

Mastering a language is always a difficult thing, especially when you suddenly find yourself in a foreign country and nobody speaks English.

My first few days in Valladolid, Spain, were filled with hand gestures and online translators in the fall of 2011. I was about to begin university, and I didn’t know anyone yet, so obviously I had to embarrass myself in someway or we wouldn’t be talking about me.

Once you get into the higher level classes (year 3-4) at the university, the classroom sizes are greatly reduced. So obviously, the first thing they do to welcome international students is to have them present themselves.

On the verge of peeing my pants, I kept going over the few sentences I memorized. “I’m from Canada, I love football (soccer), and running. Running is my favourite thing to do, and I do it every day.”

Now, reflexive verbs are a tricky thing for English speakers. In Spanish you would say “me ducho” o “¿te afeitas?” literally meaning “I shower myself” and “do you shave yourself?” In English, we don’t have this distinction between the regular and reflexive verbs. We say, “I shave” and not “I shave myself”.

So the professor says, “next” and I’m up. “Hola me llamo Aleks, soy canadiense, me encanta el fútbol y me corro todos los días. Me corro porque es mi cosa preferida y lo hago todos los días.”

The problem lies in the “me corro”. If I wanted to say “I run everyday” it would be “Yo corro todos los días” or “corro todos los días”. If you say “me corro” it means “I get myself off everyday” meaning…I masturbate.

I told the class I get myself off everyday and it’s my favourite thing to do. I’d say it could be worse, but no, it really couldn’t be.

The real problem was that NO ONE corrected me, so I repeated this in ALL of my classes. THANK YOU FELLOW PEERS. Finally, a guy who spoke English fluently leaned over and stated, “you told everyone you like to orgasm.”
Surprisingly, except for a few smirks, no one really reacted to my bold statement. The Spanish are pretty liberal so, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing, right?

**if you want to share your athletic abilities with the Spanish, it’s always YO corro, never ME corro, unless of course, you do want to share that part of your day with your new foreign friends.

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Five Things You Should Know Before Moving To Italy

In my previous posts, I talked about moving to Spain. But maybe you’ve chosen the land of well dressed and attractive men as your next destination. Since you’ve chosen Italy as your next nesting place, you should be aware of the following before you make your big move! (Don’t worry I’ll talk about pizza too).

1. Visas/permits
Once again, if you want to overstay the three month time limit and you do not belong to a Schengen country, particularly if you are Canadian or American – you must apply for a visa or permit in your country of origin. If you are studying abroad, you should probably be accepted within 4-8 weeks if the paperwork is done correctly. However, there’s a huge work crisis in Italy, so if you’re not going over to teach English, or transferring from a multinational, stay away (unless you’re aiming for a waitressing job).

When you arrive, you must go to the police station and show them your visa, and they will give you a little card called permesso di soggiorno, which you should keep on you, especially when travelling.

2) Avoid big cities
The rent in Milan or Rome will be twice as high as a smaller city, and you’ll probably be earning the same amount – give or take a hundred euros. Before opting for the overpriced obvious choices, why not try smaller, but beautiful cities like Bologna, Verona, or Lecce. The south of Italy operates like a third world country in terms of organization, but the towns are smaller, the food and weather are better, and the people are nicer.

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3) Lots of things are done illegally
Make sure that your boss and your company are offering you a real position with guaranteed pay. Many places offer work in cash without a contract, and I don’t think I need to specify why this is a bad idea. Also, ask for your contract in English, so you can take a better look at what you’re getting yourself into. Research the place beforehand to see if anyone has anything negative to say on the internet. If you’re teaching, look for big name franchises, not small, private schools.

4) Beauty, and damn good food
I don’t have to tell you that Italy is a beautiful country, because that’s what it’s famous for. If you have the opportunity to travel around Italy for an extensive period of time, or you’ve decided to move here, there are a ton of beautiful and unique towns to check out, and they may not be the obvious big city gems. My personal favourites are Porto Venere (picture above) Sirmione – Lago di Garda, Lecce, and Otranto (see below)

imageSpeaking about the food would be redundant because it’s food you’ve already dreamt about. Fun fact: fettuccine Alfredo doesn’t exist. It’s an American invention. If you mention Alfredo, people will think you are referring to their uncle/brother/friend with the same name.

5. Level of patience required = Buddhism
You will have to accept things that would be considered unacceptable in North America or other parts of the world. Yes, your train was scheduled for 5pm, and no, it won’t arrive before 5:45, or later. TrenItalia is the real mafia of Italy (yes, sue me). They offer horrible customer service (see my post: Is This Train on Fire?!). Moreover, if they are over 50min late, sometimes they just cancel the train so they won’t have to exercise their refund policy.

If you need paperwork done for any reason, make room for a 6 hour block in your day, as you will be greeted with long lines, and unhappy people waiting to serve you. Better yet, take two days off – just in case.

Honestly I would suggest getting into some type of hypnotic meditation when you arrive in order to avoid pulling out your own hair. Or you could drown your frustrations with some great wine and pizza. Fun fact: pepperoni means pepper. If you ask for a pepperoni pizza, you will get a pizza with peppers on it. Another American invention. Our version of pepperoni is simply called salami.

5 foods you must try in Spain

Ok so before we start, it’s important to clarify that in terms of cuisine and fine cooking, I am about as inexperienced as they come. My cooking skills are to limited toast, and maybe cereal. However, I love to eat! Whenever I find myself in a new country, it’s the first thing I want to do! So here are some of my favorites in Spain, bearing in mind that I haven’t travelled to Galicia yet, which is in the north of Spain, and famous for its fantastic seafood. Here are my winners so far:

1) Jamón Ibérico de Bellota – In English, this is called “acorn Iberian ham” and it’s the higher quality of cured ham that you can order. It’s usually served with small breadsticks, on a platter with different cheeses, or with some bread. A tapa (appetizer sized) will cost an average of €5-10 euros. If you wanted to buy a larger portion you would pay around 20-30€, the entire pork leg would be a pricey souvenir ranging from 150-300€ depending on quality. You can find it in restaurants around the country, and it’s not specific to a certain region.  The pigs are raised eating only fine grains and acorns, and it’s how it gets it’s name.

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2) Patatas Alioli – Potatoes with Alioli – These may look like regular fried potatoes with some dressing on them, but you have to realize that alioli is the Holy Grail. It is used on seafood, like calamari and sepia (see below) or with potatoes. When you try alioli for the first time, it will change your life. If it were socially acceptable, I would eat alioli on top of more alioli. So what is this fantastic gift to humanity? It’s a sauce made if garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and egg yolks. It has many variations with other ingredients. They sell a version of it in supermarkets, but if you can get it freshly made at a restaurant you will definitely enjoy it.  Oh and you will have nasty garlic breath afterward that goes away only after you brush your teeth six times in a row, but it’s totally worth it.

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3) Carrillada – Pig’s Cheeks- The carrillada ibérica is usually served with potatoes in its own tender juicy sauce. The meat is very soft as it is slow cooked on very low heat for several hours. A traditional dish from Sevilla, and the best usually comes from acorn fed pigs. Try it at Bodeguita Romero, a restaurant found in the heart of Sevilla, in the south of Spain.image

4) Sepia – I didn’t even know the name for this in English until I googled it, and it’s cuttlefish. It’s usually fried, served in small marinated pieces with alioli on the side (yay!). In the south of Spain, it can also be served breaded before it’s fried. My favorite restaurant was Las Tres Bellotas, in Valladolid, Spain. I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but I thought this was great.

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5) Lechazo – This is the meat of an unweaned lamb and is a famous dish from the region of Castilla y León. Unlike the other “tapas” above, which are served in smaller portions, this is a full course meal, served with potatoes, salads, and wine. The price range is about 30-50€, but once again, definitely worth it. It’s roasted in a wooden stove, and the meat is soft and juicy (I know the baby lamb thing is sad, just don’t think about it). This is a dish served on special occasions, especially Christmas.

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Five things you should know before moving to Spain

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Alright, so you’ve decided you’re ready for a big change, un cambio bastante grande, and you are heading off to Spain, or, are planning to do so anyway. Spain is a hotspot for people for people like myself, meaning English teachers. Considering the fact that Spaniards speak English muy mal, English speakers have a pretty good employment rate. Seriously, if you speak English and it’s your first language, you are already halfway there. In terms of other employment info, I would suggest you stay away unless you are entering the tourism sector, as Spain’s current unemployment rate is something crazy high like 26-27%.

1. Visa Problems

I am Canadian and European. Meaning I’m an E.U national, so I’ve got half the headache. If you are North American or belonging to any of the countries outside of the Schengen Area (Google), you need a work or study visa. This visa must be attained in the country of origin. Before I applied for my new Polish passport, making me a Canadian citizen only, I had to apply for a student visa in Canada. This process took about 2 months after I provided the information to the consulate. I’m not sure how it works for Americans, but my friend had a similar experience in terms of waiting time. When you arrive in Spain, you MUST go to the local police station and get your fingerprints taken so they can give you a special card. This card must be with you at all times (especially when traveling), otherwise, you’re going to have some explaining to do, especially in customs offices in England or Ireland.

2. It’s not sunny like you see on postcards

The further north you go, the colder it gets. I lived in Valladolid, which is about 2 hours north of Madrid, and let me tell you, I froze my ass off some nights. It does go below zero degrees (Celsius obviously), and the winds are STRONG.  I travelled to the south in December (Granada), and the snowy mountains left me with a nice Canadian frostbite. If you are anti-winter, perhaps choose a city like Barcelona.

3. Your nights out will change

Spanish people eat supper at 10pm. They eat these amazing appetizer sized dishes called tapas, and you usually go from bar to bar at night, trying different specialties, and you eat STANDING UP. It’s really hard to balance your beer in one hand, and your fried octopus in the other, but hey, it gets easier. For those who are into the nightlife scene, get ready to leave at midnight and come home at 6am. If you try to leave earlier, your Spanish friends will make fun of you.

4. Spanish people aren’t rude. Most of the time it’s a language barrier.

If you can’t speak Spanish, and the waiter/bartender/bus driver/ can’t speak English, how jolly is the conversation going to be? If you’re intimidated by someone speaking in a language you don’t understand, it’s really hard to come across in the right way. In major cities, most people will speak English, or at least, they will be able to take your order. However, in smaller cities, they don’t. So make an effort to say something in Spanish, or be patient.

5. They have a great healthcare system.

If you work in Spain, you are automatically entered into the healthcare database. Hospital visits, regular visits, many prescriptions, and even invasive procedures will be FREE. Even if you aren’t working in Spain, many times you can still go to emergency for free. I was in the hospital for 4 days and was treated very well by the staff.

 

This was a boring list in terms of all the amazingly fun things to do in this great country, but they are all things I wish someone had told me before I left. If you are still debating about your move, my advice is: YES, GO. NOW.STOP.HESITATING.

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