Friday, October 31, 2008

Scenes from a chestnut festival

Autumn brings a slew of chestnut festivals to Italy. We stumbled upon one in the Apennine mountains recently, and there was a riding competition as part of the program. Some men were dressed with cowboy hats and there was a bbq and American country music playing. The guy with the gray horse has a Harley patch, along with his buttons and Pink Floyd one (oh wait, that band is English, right?). Anyway, sometimes it is really obvious to see the influence from North America here, even in the most obscure places.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke was my boss for many years when I worked in the Economics Department at Princeton University. His chairman's office was across the hall from mine, and we could talk to each other from our desks. He was a very quiet, kind, family man - one might even say shy. I am glad to see that in his often criticized role as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, he is now getting some credit.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Europeans and the Election

This article gives you an idea what Europeans feel about the election this year - it is no surprise they are hoping Obama is elected (even though the artist is American - from NJ). No doubt Berlusconi will be best friends with whoever holds the seat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Election Time

The Democrats Abroad are holding an election night vigil at a local jazz club on November 4th from 10pm top 3am. There is no organized Republicans Abroad. (I'm not in the photo.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

House in the Country

As I mentioned in my summer notes below, staying at James' and Philippa's stone house in the Marche this summer really got me missing the country life - a place to garden, hang out the laundry, sunbathe, and Andrea can play music really loudly. So, between feeling completely frustrated with our Bologna neighbors (we were accused of being Bush empirialists over a painted gate - long story) we decided to chase a pipe dream and searched for our in-our-dreams country house. We found one while we were on a motorbike ride in the Apennine mountains, an hour and a half from Bologna - a stone cottage that once housed the priest of the church next to it (the photos on the left of are the church; the house and property and views on the right) . It eventually was used as a school house, then left vacant and recently the roof that had collapsed was replaced. It needs a LOT of work, but the views are just gorgeous, there are no neighbors except for the church and an agriturismo down the dirt road ( It would be heaven for us, but we need to win the lottery first. We inquired at the church about houses for sale in the area, and they told us about this one. We climbed though the window off an upside-down bucket -there are two bathrooms, a great room with wood beams, a kitchen in the same space with a fireplace. Three sunny bedrooms and a loft, as well as a large space downstairs we couldn't break in to. We were told to talk to the priest about the price, but we haven't taken that step (what is the point...) but James and Philippa went down to look at it and stay at the agriturismo, and they said they would have bought it if they had seen it before their Marche paradise (I still think they have the Italian dream house). So we spend imaginary weekends there and perhaps one day we can call it our "nido". (Ok, M&G, is this your potential retirement home all the way from NJ?)

Options during travel to Italy

We stayed at a few convents and monastaries when traveling around Italy, and for the most part, they are really inexpensive - but the bargain ones are really bare bones. There is a really decent, inexpensive place in Venice though you can't make reservations and just have to show up the day you want to stay. There is a convent we used to live across from in the center of Bologna that takes women travelers though I have never inquired there (perhaps the next time Kei comes to visit).

These photos, from the place we stayed in Noto, Sicily, had no window screens in the sweltering summer and I was swatting mosquitoes all night - and the road leading out of the town where this convent sits was traveled by night truckers and their motors were incredibly loud. In addition, when we checked in, the mother superior interviewed us before accepting our request (to make sure we were married and because we were to sleep in the same section as the nuns, that we weren't potentially dangerous, which I completely understand. Check her out below- she was a tough cookie.).

But the nuns were so sweet and curious, and brought us fresh fruit and lemonade to our room, though they were not happy when we were 15 minutes late on the 10 pm curfew. We wouldn't chose again places that have a curfew - or lack screens if traveling in the warm months. I think air conditioning, unless you are staying at a high end place, is not assumable to say the least. When we left, they invited us to come back the next summer with the new baby. Ha! Catholics.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October Various

Ray is becoming quite the photographer. Here are some photos of "Ray's World". We now have about 100 in his collection.

I am fighting a cold these days so will just give a quick rundown on what has been going on in the past month. Sorry I haven't responded to any recent emails. I will try to do so soon.

After the first week of returning to a full-time job (after 5 years!), I was desperate to spend the weekend out of Bologna so we finally went to visit Lake Garda. It was misty and cool but a nice break nonetheless, and Ray really loved learning how to shoot darts at imaginary wild boar (free lessons courtesy of the owner of the bed & breakfast we stayed at: and the boat ride we took across the lake.

Ray took his first "real" pony ride at his friend Isabella's birthday party recently. He was so serious.

We also had a weekend visit from cousins Ma-chan and daughter Kahori. Kahori is training at a Japanese bank in London for the year and her mother is staying with her for a bit. They only stayed in Bologna for two days and I had to work, so we didn't see other much but we had a nice dinner with Andrea (who then had to take off to Florence for a conference) and the lunch I cooked the next day was fun as I invited language-school-friend Yoshi to eat with us.

My job at the International School is going well. Here is a photo of Michele with his friends and one of the players of the Bologna basketball team (who is American - there are a number of players who come from the states to play here). Michele is recovering from cancer and I spend the afternoons tutoring him in private during his classes. The mornings in class with the first graders can be fun - but tiring. What a change from PU!

Andrea began teaching his class - here is his syllabus for anyone who cares about which films he is discussing:

The International Women's group invited a speaker last week, Susie of J Brand Jeans in Los Angeles ( check out her blurb under designer's notes). She was a real hoot and is a friend of a member so she came just to give the talk (and was able to throw in a couple of press interviews while she was here) so I hosted an aperitivo with 12 members to welcome her. Here she is on the right, and as a thank-you, she promises to send me a pair of her jeans when she is back in LA (which I could never afford here at 240 euros a pair, or $325 with the exchange rate!). I want to set her up on a blind date with cousin Jun in NYC. What do you think?

Ray is not as crazy about school this year as he was last year. I understand why as he doesn't get nearly the amount of attention as he used to, and though the facilities are adequate enough (in fact, the building is in the middle of Bologna's "central park"), still the drawings he brings home are in only one color, and when I pick him up all the kids are sitting around tables without books or toys, and also he doesn't really seem to have much to share when we chat on our drive home. We are considering sending him to the International School next year (since I have to pay only a small percentage of the 10k tuition) or reapplying at the Montessori school that we didn't get into this year. One thing is for certain: he is going to have a Happy Halloween. Hope you do too.