Friday, June 16, 2006

the honeymoon is over

Note: I have been getting a lot of comments on the blog, which I appreciate but I'd really love for this to be a space for free writing (that's why the first few posts were so free and funny). I guess it's up to me to distance myself a bit from commentary, so, I guess what I mean to say in all this is use the blog as a source of information, and post your comments, but leave the commentary in cyberland. If there's anything worst, it's having the blob (as some like to call it) and the internet invade your daily life. Anyhoo, I'll be off for the weekend.... stay tuned, more adventures to come on Monday.

I think the initial high of being in Milan and the novelty of the experience have worn off after five days. The reality of this city is starting to seep through: I am starting to notice beggars on the street, the prostitutes who linger late into the night, the male dominance and conservative ideology that reigns, and the subtle xenophobia that is also here. It isn't as if I am starting to hate Milan, it is only that I am starting to see a more comprehensive view of the city (which is quite fitting because today I am going to get a full view of the city from the top of the duomo).

Yesterday, I gladly spent a quiet evening at home chatting about the cheap and easy travel that Europeans enjoy, the politics of Milan, the Middle East, George Bush and Canada with Dorota, all while doing the dishes and cutting watermelon (anguria). Earlier in the evening, when I arrived home, I had held the elevator for an elderly woman in our building coming towards the elevator. When she saw me she made some sign with her hand, as if she were scratching her neck. Of course, I had no idea what that meant and was unphased. When she indicated that she lived on the same floor, I went into the elevator, no problem. I later asked Matilde and co. about the gesture and if there was anything else typically Italian I should know about. They were aghast because scratching your neck usually means 'I don't give a f*$£' which is, well, rude. Dorota suggested that she may have just waved her hand away at me in some sort of shooing motion to indicate she didn't need the elevator. I really don't remember what I saw. But now, I know.

The Milanese have this way of appraising you and what you are wearing in a very quick manner. It's odd because people here are very warm once you know them, but there is no way you will meet random people. Matilde was telling me that if you go to a party, you go with your friends, you stay with your friends, you leave with your friends. E cosi (that's how it is). So there is a coldness that reigns here, Milan is a city of individuals, much like New York. But the contrast is so great between those people you know and those you don't. It is kind of surprising. But I digress. Since Milan is a city of fashion and status, it seems, what you wear occupies spot number one on the list of priorities. Other than men's rotating and focused appraising glance for a beautiful woman, some Milanesi will give you a quick look over, a top-to-bottom scan with the eyes. I guess it's a very subtle compliment, or at least that's how I've been taking it. It might be an insult for all I know, since it is so subtle. For now, I am alright with it, but I'll let you know when it starts getting on my nerves, because it's one of those things that could be flattering on a good day and like daggers on a bad day.

The other thing the Milanesi do a lot is say ciao. Everyone at the office says Ciao! to everyone else, whenever someone enters a room everyone says Ciao! and you say Ciao! when you are leaving too. When in doubt, say Ciao! unless of course you are in a solemn place like a cemetary or a church. Although it might be alright to say Ciao! in the monumental cemetary, that place is simply nuts, since it is so crazily baroque and uncontrolled with huge tombs... like a city of the dead. Anyways, I think it's nice when people say ciao to each other and know each other but saying Ciao! Ciao! Chee-owa! gets on my nerves sometimes because it seems like a call for attention. Ciao I am here, Ciao hear me, Ciao I exist. Which I guess is kinda nice in a way, no one really gets lost in it all.

Well back to work for me and thus ends my blog post on a lower note. No, I am not depressed. Yes, I still like Italy. It is perhaps only due to a bit of tiredness yesterday that everything rubbed me the wrong way. Hey, it happens, even in Italy.

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