Friday, October 31, 2008

Gelmini's Decree

When I started my blog I decided to avoid politics, but I cannot ignore the demonstrations, against il decreto put forth by il ministro della pubblica, that are taking place in city centers throughout Italy.

In the past couple of days, La Repubblica, a reputable Italian newspaper that I characterize as being slanted far left, has reported on confrontations in Rome between communist and fascist students over a decree that will cut public school budgets, and essentially privatize the Italy’s national public school system.

Article 77 of the Italian Constitution permits the government to circumvent the Parliament and issue a decree in extraordinary urgent and necessary cases. Maristella Gelmini issued il decreto that, according to La Reppublica, will impose financial cuts on schools, reduce teachers per class in elementary schools from three to one, and decrease universities’ budgets by €1.5 billion over the next three years.

“First they said that three teachers per classroom was the best way to educate. Now they are saying that having only one teacher for all the subjects is the best way,” said my friend Barbara who is a mother of three and also the director of Europass, an Italian language school and cultural center.

She told me that as I was reading the bylines of pictures that clearly captured physical clashes between generally left wing protestors and the right wing supporters of Gelmini’s law in Rome the day before. Students and Italian citizens are holding demonstrations and marches to revolt against the decree in cities such as Florence, Milan and Catania.

The gatherings in Rome seem to be more passionate probably because the city is the seat of the Italian government. Also, many have tried to personally confront Gelmini about the decision, resulting in Berlusconi calling the State Police to control the crowds.

Attending university in Italy is in my opinion free. Because the government foots most of the bill, students pay a low rate based on how much money their family makes. Italians have told me that college costs approximately €500 - €3,000 year, correlating to ones economic status.

If university budgets are cut, it will force administrators to look elsewhere for financial support of research and instructors. With Italians earning lower wages compared to their European Union counterparts and the United States, this could put a large financial burden on families who have children attending university.

Several Italians have expressed to me their disappointment in the legislation. They are against the reform and believe it is contradicts democratic ideals because it was not discussed in Parliament among the varying political parties. Moreover they feel that the decree has not been created for the better of the country, but instead because of politics.

"Italy has large debts. So when the government is in desperate need of money there are three choices it can make; It can raise taxes, lay off the work force, or change the school system from public to private,” said my cousin Veronica.

She gave me a small lesson on the political system so I could understand how this legislation was enacted:

Parliament’s two sections, la Camera dei deputati and la Camera dei senatori, have the power to propose legislation. There are six steps for an idea to become law:

1. Proposta di Legge - Parliament propose a law.

2. Discussione - the law is discussed among the members in Parliament.

3. Approvazione - members of Parliament review the law and make changes as necessary; a final version is submitted for ratification.

4. Promulgazione – Parliament’s approved law is submitted to the Presidente della Repubblica for his signature. If he feels the law needs revisions, it is sent back to Parliament and begins again at step 1; it can only be sent back once.

5. Pubblicazione – La Gazzetta Ufficiale, an official record of the government’s activities, publishes the new law.

6. Entrata in Vigore – After the law has been published, a 15 day grace period follows before it is fully enacted. One can violate the law with impunity during that period.

Gelmini’s decreto avoided those steps. The decree did eventually go through the process explained above, but from what I gather and have heard from the other Italians, it was only as a formality. I say that with caution because I do not completely understand the Italian political arena and that is the vibe I receive when I speak to others.

Within the allotted 61 days that are given for Parliament to decide if the decree will be canceled, the governing bodies submitted it to the Italian president for his signature, making it official. I told my friends that maybe once Berlusconi is out of office they will change things back to the way they were.

“No. In Italy things are always done because of politics, the Mafia and the Camorra are behind this,” said a Milanese youth.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The View from the Back

Today my friend Antonio picked me up on his moto to go to the Festival Della Creatività. I hopped on and placed my feet on those little peddles on the side and held him tight as we zoomed through Fi. I always feel a bit funny riding on the back of a moto or Vespa because you have to put on a helmet. As a pedestrian I watch the Italian girls maintain the bella figura and admire thier abilty to look sexy even though their hair is being crushed.

Instead of worrying about my appearance, I enjoyed the sceneray behind me instead of ahead as the wind blew my scarf and hair back. It was a bright afternoon and everyone seemed to be out riding their own vehicles, whether it be a BMW convertable or a bike. The tree lined streets blurred past and occasionally a person would wave to me, as Antonio weaved in between cars and lanes.

The festival was held in the Fortezza da Basso. It was filled with several different types of exhibits, from computer generated T-shirt designs to body art. They also had a special section dedicated to design and technology in Brazil.

One display of digital art did disturb me. Several peices protested the United States, George Bush and the countries economic system and corporations, specifically the pharmaceutical companies. There are alot of Tuscans who are constantly questioning me about Bush and the countries belief in capitalism. It gets old after a while, because Italy has just as many problems as the U.S., yet that is never a topic of conversation.

Whether I agree with the artwork or not, I do appreciate a persons voice and the festival for giving them a venue to proclaim it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Procrastination's Revenge

I have put off updating my blog way too long, specifically the months of August and September. In between looking for a job, drinking cappuccino's, spending one full week in bed because of the flu, and another week touring Fi because of a friend's visit, I have become accustomed to procrastinating. And now, my computer has shared in my past time. Just when the writing bug re-birthed itself on my fingertips, my computer decided to take a vacation.

I spent all day talking to some girl in far off India about the "blue screen." Damn that screen. I have heard of it, often thought I would die if I ever saw it, but never dreamed it would appear on my computer.

When my computer would not allow me past the error message, I frantically called everyone I knew in Fi to see if they knew a technician. I found one, and as soon as he found out that my computer was a pc instead of an Apple, he cut off the conversation. He was nice enough to tell me the closest Hp certified technician is in Prato, the next town over.

Now that I think about it, I have never seen an Hp or Apple store in Florence.

I am happy I renewed my warrenty. I am not happy that I did not put all my fabulous pics on a disk. The words, I can always write again, maybe not in the same way, but words are not completely lost. The pictures are irreplaceable. Those moments will never happen again.

Because I lost a day trying to fix my computer, I decided against attending a concert tonight at the Festival della Creativitá. I was supposed to see Tricky perform live with my roommate Francesca. I am dissappointed to miss it because, one I love music and also I assume the festival is a contemporery forum that celebrates vision in the fields of thought, art, music, food and design. As a writer, it is good to keep up to date on what is coming around the corner.

Ironically last night I was trying to explain to Francesca the meaning of the phrase "freaked out." I did not know how to describe the meaning to her. Today gave me the perfect opportunity to clue her in on what it means. I called to tell her I would not be attending the festival tonight because my computer is broke. Then I switched to English and said "Francesca, I am freaking out!" she got it.

I will try to attend the festival tomorrow even though I am upset with my computer for keeping my journalistic material hostage and myself for indulging in the bitter-sweet sin of procrastination.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Bit of Grease

I would kill someone right now if I knew it would result in a greasy, hot, juicy piece of ground beef with crispy oil drenched fries on the side. Yes I said "kill." I am a woman with PMS and I am not afraid to use it.

I just got home and fried myself a tuna sandwich, but it just was not the same. I love Italian food and I love the fact that it is healthier than American, but sometimes you just need a big bowl of nachos smothered in chunks of meat from various unknown and possibly repulsive origins, topped with onions, fake aged moldy milk that in the States is known as cheese, a whopping dab of sour cream, all stuck together by dripping grease.

About a month ago when I had this same undying yearning, I went to a Danny Rock for a hamburger. It was good, it was healthy. But it was too good, too perfect. The beef did not have the fat that makes a burger stick together and ooze juice when you cut into it. Don’t get me wrong, I frequent that place all the time, but you cannot get proper American food in Italy. You just can’t. Maybe I am wrong and it exists, an American burger in Florence. Maybe that will be a future article — THE HUNT FOR RED BEEF!!!

But until then I am left with watching episodes of The Hills, drooling while toothpick blonds, whose every and only emotion results in a sunny California blinding white-tooth smile, nosh at the hottest restaurants in L.A., with their big fat glasses of water decorated by a lemon hanging on the side (I only watch it because MTV is one of the only Web site that allows people outside the U.S. to access episodes).

Of course there is an occasional person who asks me “what do you miss about the States?” It is then that I make the burger confession and it is then that they suggest McDonalds.

I had a date two days ago with a southern Italian and upon hearing that I missed hamburgers, he insisted on bringing me to the yellow-arches. In the States I would dump a man for this and thinking of that made me laugh while we were eating. He asked me why I thought it was funny to be brought to McDonalds on a date. I tried to explain but the answer got lost in translation.

No, Mickey D’s did not satisfy my craving. For one, it tastes different here; they may change the recipes for Italian tastes. Secondly, when I asked the cashier for a cheeseburger, she said that they did not have any made. Are you kidding? This is the difference in countries, Italians do not share the moto “customer first” with the States. I used to work at McDonalds and I would never, never, never tell someone “no.” I would rush the people working the grill to fill an order ASAP.

Lastly, McDonalds is much more expensive.
Customers have to pay for mayonnaise and ketchup. Unbelievable. So here I am writing in my bed, wondering when. When will I be able to afford a ticket to return to the States and gorge myself on fast food?

Lead Photo: My last meal before boarding the plane to Italy.