Word of the Day – Disoccupata


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

Disoccupata = Unemployed = Me

How’s that for some easy math?

, dear readers, as of November 29th, I became suddenly, somewhat unexpectedly, immediately disoccupata. Unemployed. Without a job. Senza un lavoro.

Why? Well, the usual reasons, I suppose: la crisi (the financial crisis, which is supposed to have less of an impact on Canada than other places…), mancanza di lavoro (not enough work to do), and the fact that many companies are trying to ridurre le spese (reduce their expenses).

Yep, around lunchtime on the 29th I was told to box up my things, hand in my keys and not come back. (Please note that all of this was done in the nicest way possible and I hold absolutely no grudge against my former employer.)

But where does all this leave me?

My first thought was to immediately run off to Italy, where, unfortunately, I’d fit in with the rest of the unemployed masses. And, you know, because I love it there.

My second thought was to look for a new job, which is not nearly as exciting as going back to Italy, or to any place, for that matter.

My last thought was to go back to school, even though I only left school a year and a half ago.

So what have I decided to do?

Well, I’m trying to organize something that involves all three choices. Voi che ne pensate? What do you think?

Many of my friends and family members have weighed in on the situation, and all of them have ended up telling me the same thing:

“Quando si chiude una finestra, si apre un portone.”

When one door closes, another one opens.

I have faith that something exciting is in the works for me. And when I figure out just what it is, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

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Singin’ the Post – Travel Blues


Welcome Back To Canada

The “Welcome Back to Canada” sign, Canadian flag and homemade Peanut Butter cookies were what greeted me as I climbed up the steps to my front door after more than four months of being away. (Thanks, Gramps!) Between the warm front porch welcome, and my parents’ braccia aperte (open arms) at the Arrivals gate of Pearson International, I felt pretty good about coming home.

So with that out in the open, I can report that I’ve been back from Italy and  in my hometown for two months now. During this time I’ve officially graduated from my Masters degree program, landed a good job, enjoyed the Christmas season and caught up with my dearly missed family and friends. Not a bad way to spend two months, right? Right.

Except, woe is me! I was, and still am, suffering from a moderate case of the “Post-Travel Blues”. And let me clarify before going any further: my problem was not coming home to family and friends and Canada. My problem was leaving Italy. Don’t misunderstand. Non fraintendere. For the first little bit that I was back, I couldn’t even look at my travel photos for fear of being overcome with (even more) heartbreak and anguish than I already felt. I had to fight against the urge to run to the nearest airport and ruthlessly elbow my way onto the next flight back to Italia. I even thought of buying a dinghy and rowing across the Atlantic, you know, to beat the rising fuel costs and find a way around the astronomical cost of checking extra luggage.

Everything I ate was bland and tasteless. I told a restaurant manager that the tomatoes on my sandwich weren’t nice enough. Six months ago, I didn’t even like tomatoes on my sandwiches! I skipped listening to the Italian songs on my iPod that were too cariche (loaded) with memories. There were days I didn’t get out of my PJs. I began to measure money in terms of the number of plane tickets to Italy it could buy.  I cried. I moped. I complained. There was a general sense of malinconia (melancholy) to each and every one of my thoughts and actions. I missed everything and (almost) everyone that belonged to my life in Italy.

All in all, it was a pretty low time for me.

Talking with fellow travellers and researching “post-travel depression”, I learned that I was not the only traveller to experience this type of end-of-voyage grieving. I then went on the hunt for a remedy, because no way in heck did I want to feel like this forever. What did other people do to get over it? Potions? Elixirs? Weird yoga routines? My research told me that some really did throw themselves back onto airplanes just to avoid the Post-Travel Blues all together. Some started planning their next adventure, thus probably just putting off their suffering for awhile. Some did nothing and probably never recovered, reduced to an existence of clutching their guidebooks close to their heart and staring blankly at the Travel Channel. And some decided to find new and challenging things to do back at home. Weighing my options and leaning heavily towards the one that included the next plane to Italy, I finally decided to give my “wings” a rest and see about test driving some “roots”. For awhile, anyways.

So I’m on the hunt for new and challenging things at home.   And while I struggle every day with the restlessness and the voglia d’Italia (yearning for Italy) that are a part of me, I’m becoming less “blue” and more of a “winter-in-Canada” shade of pale. I happily look at my pictures, eat Italian food, listen to Italian music and talk to my friends about my experiences. The sadness has lessened, and I’ve really tried to adopt the “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” attitude. I’m still working on it, but I know it’s the way to go.

A Canadian Plea: “Give Us a Gay Guide!”


In the movie version of Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” the American protagonist, Frances, is given a free trip to Tuscany by her lesbian friends who can no longer use the tickets they had purchased. She winds up the only straight person on a “Gay and Away” tour, bumping her way through the rolling hills of Tuscany on a tour designed with gay in mind. She finds in her travelling companions a supportive group of easygoing, wine-drinking friends who help her get through her first days in Tuscany as a newly divorced woman. Everyone lives happily ever after.

“Gay and Away” – Under The Tuscan Sun

Fast forward 8 years. Pause the movie. Open up the copy of “La Repubblica” newspaper that you just happen to have on hand, or take a look at the following link (in Italian):    http://firenze.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/09/09/news/gruppo_canadese_a_siena_vogliamo_una_guida_gay-21449922/

The association for tour guides in the province of Siena is outraged by the request it received from a Canadian tour operator catering exclusively to homosexual clients, hoping to book a guided tour of Siena: the guide should be openly gay, just like their clients. Translated from the Italian article cited above:

“We are outraged by this request,” says Rita Ceccarelli, president of the association of tour guides in the province of Siena. “We will not accept bullying and we proudly defend our professionalism, which goes beyond our sexual preferences. We lead groups of people of every nationality, culture, religion, and there is always mutual respect…” Ceccarelli goes on to explain how, more and more often a request is made for a female, hopefully good-looking guide. “We also refuse to give in to these types of requests,” she adds.

How did I find out about this little piece of news, you ask? I happen to work for a tour operator here in Siena. Affectionately calling me “Maple”,  one of our best guides came in this morning and dropped the article on my desk before he went off to do his tour. Between phone calls and emails, I read the brief article and reacted with mixed feelings.

First of all, I dislike anything that sheds a bad light on Canada. Yes, I’m that patriotic. I also dislike anything that is harmful to Siena, because I love this city. I work in the tourism industry here, and interact on a daily basis with una marea (literally, “a tide” meaning “a bunch”) of great guides. How would it feel for one of our best guides to miss out on a days’ work because he’s not gay? Or, if the request was reversed, not straight? Is it politically correct to make such requests?  If so, where do we draw the line? Is it ok for a group to request that a guide be young, female and cute? Or male and flamboyantly gay? Or male and decidedly straight? Maybe the request could be that the guide should be ethnically Italian? Not an immigrant? Under 6 feet tall? Weighing less than 80 kilos? Under 25? Not Muslim? A redhead? Slim? Catholic?

The list could go on, and let’s just think about how many people would be rightly outraged by those types of specifications…

I mean, I understand wanting to have a guide that relates well to your clients. But what the heck does a person’s sexual orientation have to do with the history and culture of a Medieval Tuscan city? What does being straight or gay have to do with explanations of the Palio, of the contrada system, of the grape harvest, the making of pici pasta or Siena’s award-winning basketball team? Come on! What would have happened if a group had asked explicitly that their guide not be gay? Then what?

Thoughts? Comments?