Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pictures from Italy

You can see here, the Uffizi Gallery, which is one the oldest and best museums in Italy, you can also see the tan I managed to pick up - I am standing at Ponte Vecchio an old bridge that over looks the River Arno in Florence, had to jostle an evil Japanese tourist and a loud, loved up Amerucan get space. Also seen is the Doumo about which I had written before.

Away from home?

As a reader of this blog I have a few simple questions to put to you...
Are you living away from home (place of origin, location of family, place where you grew up)? If so, I am assuming you miss them and are currently involved with doing something that needs doing..(job, education, traveling, deputation).
I was just wondering how many of us are in such places and spaces where we are away from those who we love the most and miss the most..
After a point in time we start to not miss people as much, we tend to 'settle down' and then get used to being away. At some stage details of the previous location fade away, like the pot hole on a street near your house, the building that's being built near the office, phone numbers of people you used to know..They fade, till you land home and have Eureka moments..Remembering things that had faded.
After some time celebrating occasions with the new family you accumulate around you becomes a regular feature..And now you have really 'settled in'.
I just wonder..If being away from home..Is really worth it at the end of the day. The people who love you the most are not going to be around for ever? They will love you forever anyways though..Whether you make an annual visit or a bi-annual visit. Its a tricky question coz you can look ahead if you keep turning back. But is this turning back? I wonder...

Monday, May 22, 2006

The world is not shrinking!

Nope..who ever said that and who ever agrees with it needs to think again. I bet its not shrinking. The reasons behind my vehemence is the travelling time it takes from one place to another.

On one hand we are the EU / the EEU and a tiny little village with small countries and smaller distances..well I am listing how much time it took me to come back from Italy to my house in UK. (transfers and waiting and cancellations included)

12 noon. I leave from Florence to Pisa.
Leave hotel, reach Station. Half an hour wait at Santa Maria Nouvella Station. After much running and translating..I did manage to get the ticket from a wandering bus driver... Who thought I should stay longer in Italy coz its SO nice!!

2.45 pm Reach Pisa Airport
This is after 40 mins of standing in a traffic jam on the 2 lane motorway, the Italians came out of the their cars, plenty of head shaking, loud curses and hand gesticulation followed...and then with a shrug of shoulders they setlled down and sat on the road the sun and caught a few zzz's. Thats vent your emotions and then you nap, coz there is no much else you can do!

3.00 check in to London flight.
Well the departures information screen did not show my flight for a LONG time..worried, I went and asked and was told..not to worry, flight is always late, much shrugging...I should come back and ask later. So coffee and one Dolcetta Siciliana later...I went back. No joy. it finally opened at 4pm. Bags done..I walked into duty free.

5.00 Departure to London.
Of course the plane is I read my book and plug into the ipod. Fortunately they had more shops with I drank some more. Boarding at Gate 22 it said. Gate 1- 4 on the ground floor and gates 22- 28 on the first floor. I dont pretend to be smart but this was a bit difficult to figure. Ofcourse the flight left only at 7.00pm

9.00 pm London Stansted
I ran, because I wanted to catch the straight train to my home town. I did not want to get into London city and then get out again..anyhow. I ran out of the aircraft, ran through Immigration, ran to the carousels..and waited, and waited. As often happens, my bags are the last ones that the carousels spits out.. Now I know I have missed the last train and there are no buses either at this hour on a Saturday.

10.10...after much running, dashing, too-ing and fro-ing..I get on to a 10.10 train that shall get me home by taxi and I am home....hmph!
And so i am home!! Finally!!!
The only thing I dont get is the connection my travels have to howling children...for every second of every minute and every hour I have just told you about..their was a wailing kid near me, crying like no tomorrow..I dont know how and why this happens, but where ever I go there HAS to be a kid around..and no i am not talking about the oh-so-cute-while-it-sleeps Angel variety..No this is the demonically possesed, hyper ventilating, wanna-be-rock-singer type, cries loudly, with tears and snot..the works...ofcourse no amount of soothing noises, baby soothers, dummies or mummies help...they just howl, all the time...every time
I guess its just some Karmic link!

Dont want to travel again for a long time now :)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

All done!

3 hard days of working till 11pm and 3 crazy nights at a youth hostel with a cross section of nationalities..met a spanish girl, a texan boy, a new zealand couple and an italian junkie. All of us sat and shared a bottle of wine and our views on Bush, tourism, wal-mart, Ikea and ofcourse Florence!
The 3 day conference on disaster management went well. I spent every free minute sitting in the sun. hoping to get tanned!! Nuh-uh!! Nothing white as before me thinks!
Have learnt some Italian, seen the David and the Uffizi Gallery. Eaten a tonne of sea food..which they spell as SEE Food...Done all the touristy bits and now its time to go. Time to pack and move before the next trip next month to another country!!
I met a pair of American teenagers who have been back packing across the planet for the past 8 months and are heading back home at the end of this month. They have covered all the continents and have a wealth of knowledge and a strong immune system thanks to this. We sat and chatted for a long time..and for the n-th time I found myself do one of these back packing trips..Someday..sometime..before 30 I think!!
Anyways...the next post shall be from UK..and there shall be pictures!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wow factor

Ok so i am in Florence. It feels like I left home a long long long time ago...last minute packing, clearing the garbage, switching off the heating..and ofcourse deciding on what to take with me.
The Uff..dont want to go factors were:
- Heavy usual, like any female worth her salt...I have mighty plans for light travel and half an hour later I am lugging a bag which can compete with my body weight
- left at 1am from home for a 6.30 I was tired and hungry and sleepy..not to mention cold!
- leaving the loved ones back in UK was not good for my heart strings

Now to the WOW factors:
- woke up in the middle of the flight due to the light in the aircraft. Light that was bouncing off the Alps as the sun came out..they turned pinkish, then orange and then bright white in a matter of minutes. It was a moment when you thank the Lord for taking his time to make this planet.
- This place is crawling with Indians, Chinese (i guess that was to be expected) and ofcourse the Americans!!
- Its is unbearably hot and bright..its nice to not have to hold your breath at every stir of air. Its warm but there is a cool breeze.
- Travelling from Pisa to Florence by bus was idyllic..sun kissed Vineyards, red roofed cottages, lots of peacful scenery, typical Italian countryside with wild flowers and sun tanned kids playing in the fields.
- I walked to my place of stay and as i walked I was looking out for the Duomo which is the middle of the city...I did not know how, HOW huge it would be..its gianormous..could vie with the Taj Mahal I think. Its brilliant..I am waiting for the dark now to see what it looks like with its lights on.

As of now I am living with Gucci in front of me and Giorgio Armani behind me. There is Dutti, Prada and Chanel on either side...why oh why am I a student I wonder!!!

So far I have seen the posh ends of town around the Duomo and also the flea market which is behind usual there are loads of Italian men who are born with a flirt gene!! Its amusing and amazing to see any age and type flirt :)

I shall now head back and eat the famous gelati (ice cream) and head home..more later!!

Monday, May 15, 2006

After 5 years

After 5 years I am heading to Italy again. The last time I went I was young, impractical and excited.
Now that I am being honest I think nothing much has changed ..except the young bit I think!

Well I am heading to where the sun does shine and its a glorious 28 degrees, unlike here where the sun DONT shine, its a cold wet 16 degrees C and its been raining for the past 3 days with no signs of stopping...whatever happened to global warming? huh?
kidding..we do need the rain as drought has been predicted this summer in parts of UK..but where I am...there is NO lack of water whatsoever!

Cant say I am looking forward to being lost, but there is something to be said about landing somewhere where you dont get the language, dont know the directions and have a pretty good idea about what you want to do! (which includes what you want to eat!! and Drink!!)
Just need to plan how to get what you want I guess..the story of my life!!!
But I think that is where the excitement kicks in, being lost... Going to yet another part of the planet, meeting yet another set of humans who are like and unlike me!

Last trip to Italy, I covered most of the important places and a few unimportant ones, but Florence was left out. This time I shall be covering the Duomo there and the Florentine craftsmen if I get the chance. Also want to see the Leaning tower of Pisa which apparently does not lean anymore! But what the heck I shall stand at an angle and get a touristy shot!

Adios amigos! Shall be back with pictures!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Being White

Is it my genes or is it my bad luck that I am one person who no one ever guesses is Indian. I don't look it, and that is mainly because I am fair enough to pass as English. Or that most people in this country think Indian comes with nice golden tan and lustrous black hair..not am not even close!
Now the question is not whether its good or bad. I just find myself amused at what people do to change their colour. It is a widely known fact that Fair and Lovely cream (a skin lightening Ointment, like Jolen) has its highest sales in Kerala and before you think that the women of the region are vain..wait a minute...more men use fairness creams in Kerala than women. So in India..being fair is good. The Matrimonial section in the newspaper always look for 'Tall, Fair, Slim, Convent educated girl' bearing in mind that the last bit is perhaps the only thing you can change about you, the rest being on genetic makeup, I dont think it is quite fair! (oops!)
However stepping out in India in the sun, makes a lot of my folks jump and tell me to not step out as I shall turn dark - scary word that is for an unmarried girl!!
Added to this is the common notion that drinking too much tea shall make you dark...I guess who ever coined that one never met English women, who would, if they could, attach tea via IV to themselves!
Here in UK, the sun's appearance is closely followed by a mad dash for a patch of light, sun cream, sun glasses, stripping to bare minimum clothes. When its sunny..all my friends rush towards to sun and come back red, however yours truly turns into Lobster and then back to white. The usual pain in the neck younger brother (the kind who can Never Ever compliment know the kind?Right?)..well I get called 'dead body' at home by him.

So after much thought, and much disregard to advice...I have been trying to change my colour too. Just want to see if people will think I am Indian if I am passably brown!
so for a tan..I go..
Problem: anything but the sun shall change you into an Orangutan or a give you a streaky look.
Problem: the sun does not come out often enough in this part of the world
Problem: Have to go home on Holiday soon and I think the mother might just throw a fit.

Solution: I get a fake tan..sun bed/ sun cream/ whatever....
Solution: scrub it all off before I head to mum.

Last option. Give up, I am good, hell, I am brilliant the way I am. I like the way I am and I don't care if people think I am Italian, Greek, Spanish, Mexican..and wait for this one Bulgarian!!! I am me and I am happy like this!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mind over matter

The matter right now is the fact that I have to write a thesis..and not just a thesis..I have to write a good thesis. From the looks of it, all the people who started research with me have quit! So I am the lone ranger working away on a thesis that is like never ending!
I did not think it would be this difficult to write! Did not know my 'academic' english is not as good as my spoken english! I think we researchers think in one language and write in another! Jargon it is!
So thats the matter, I have to write and I am writing.
The mind however is not in the work. I am busy thinking about people, places, things I want to do, things I have to do, things I should do and things I could do. As I write I think of alternate futures, paralell worlds I could have been in, turned right where I turned left, stopped when I kept going..and I wonder where I would have been. Though I like where I am now, I wonder if the past years of my existence would have shaped up differently if I had..done things differently..
Now I am stuck with a PhD I want to do but dont feel like it
I am stuck living this crazy life I like, but I am getting a bit sick of its pace..
And I have started moaning too much!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Feminist thoughts

Read some very interesting blog entries this morning about size, sexiness and fashion. It was interesting to see how other people think about the need to be thin in order to look good. I thought about it, agreed with what I read and then went out for lunch.
In my lunch break I went to the shops. I walk into Marks and Spencer which have a 'count on us' range which is for the healthy eater. I saw shelves full of 5 bean salad, tomato and lettuce, tuna layer salads, gluten free sandwiches, sugar free juices, high fibre biscuits, low fat salad dressing, only 35 calories per slice of cheese sandwiches...the list went on..3 long aisles full of food to go.
Now was it me, or what I read before lunch..or was it actually true that there were only women shopping in those aisles. Now one would think maybe more women shop for food then men (as in domesticated roles, we should have cooked, packed or attached some sort of food to our male counterparts so they dont have to go hunting and gathering for their own food at lunch time).
But no..there were lots of men around..maybe it was attraction to the corporately dressed women, to the sunshine or perhaps to the food..but yes, uh-huh there were loads of men around..and all of them seem to be buying the standard English working day lunch of BLT sandwich, packet of crisps, bottle of Coke (not diet) and a bar of chocolate.
Is it me or is it true that us women have to look out for healthy food, we have to watch what we eat for fear of turning into a cow. Where no amount of brains and good that we do shall overcome our sin of being fat!
We should attempt at supermodel health and that can be easy...I can smoke 40 a day, drink 4 litres of water and follow mossy footsteps to a coke habit..and am not talking cola here. If this is what keeps some people on the cover of a magazine..and the face of perfume houses..I would rather be a cow. I would rather eat what I like, be curvy, be short, and be happy. I dont, ladies and gentlemen, care. I am happy being me. And wont be nobody's cow..adios... while I reach for my bar of chocolate!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Art of doing Nothing

Nothing is difficult to define and difficult to do.
Just think, right now you are reading this blog, perhaps you have several other windows open (if you love Gates) on which you are doing other stuff...the computer is a good way to kill 'doing nothing'. the TV is yet another one coz you have to watch have to answer a phone, you have to check email when on a machine..its a whole lot of things we do on auto pilot..and so when it comes to doing nothing...nothing at all...sit in one place and breathe..a lot of us cant do that.

Think of the last time you sat and did nothing, no thinking, no worrying, just nothing....because we plan our free time too. The growing number of holiday agents who plan your vacation for you..for it to be perfect and good and relaxing is some proof for this. If you have to plan every second of your free time..I think life will be very sad! It is important to do some unplanned...nothing.

When asked what do you do in your spare time..we do sometimes have to stop and think when was the last time I had spare time. And I have also noticed that I use the phrase 'I just have not had the time...' a lot of times. I sometimes wished that there were more hours in a day..and sometimes I wished for superhuman energy levels...alas I don't! I don't.
So I do the normal human thing. Make a load of targets, try and achieve them, tire myself out in the process, never agree or accept I am tired..and then I turn into my irritable baby mode..... I am sleepy and tired..and I grizzle and I snap and I moan and if I dont watch it I can wail too!! I hate this baby mode..coz then I have to be told to sleep or sit down and then do, the worrying..'Nothing'

That is exactly what I did after a long time this weekend. I tend to have a to do list which is just about as tall as me...and I also tend to think that I am some sort of wonder woman and can do just about everything I want in a day and also not get tired.

Here is a piece of my list...wash some clothes, get some food, email some friends, wish my cousins wife on her birthday, call and ask about new baby in the family, talk to friend who has gone to India, talk to friend across the Atlantic, paint the canvas that I have had for 6 months now, pack some clothes away for the winter, get some summer stuff out, buy some essentials for the summer, clean my house, meet my neighbor to see when he moves house, call sister, call mum and see how she is doing, come to work and get some files, take print outs and file papers for an upcoming conference, look for a missing earring.....this is a piece of the list..yup!! I keep going, keep going till I cant anymore..then collapse to sleep / unconscious for 14 hours!

This weekend, which in UK was a long weekend as Monday was off...I thought of giving 'Nothing' a shot. As luck would have it, I had some friends over who are excellent at doing nothing. So we sat and did just that. All three days..while people outside were heading for yet another mass exodus in search of the sun, we sat inside, talked, sat, talked, ate..sat...did nothing. Went nowhere, called no one, played nothing, watched nothing, read nothing..just ultimate relaxation...

I should do this more often. Put away my lists, not take any pressure to plan a weekend off..and do something nice..or interesting..nothing. Just be at home, relax, read, eat and a caterpillar for a few days..just chill...the only effort to be made should be and sleep....
and then...perhaps come out a butterfly...NAAAH!!!!
even being ambitious is tiring coz then you have to plan...nah...couch good enough for me!