A little politics never hurt anybody…

Whenever I spend a period of time somewhere, something significant in the political world usually happens; the last time, I was in Bangkok for the the 2011 elections- battling my way through series of protests and demonstrations, watching Thai people desperate for Yingluck Shinawatra to get into power…look how that has turned out …

I thought I would focus my attention on the latest turn of events here in Italy, a monumental weekend which will go down in history; the appointment of Matteo Renzi as the youngest ever Prime Minister.

Sworn- in in a lavish ceremony in the Eternal City, life has changed forever for family man Renzi. I can’t help but feel that this is a highly progressive step forward for a nation who still allows the papacy and catholic church to occupy much of their front pages. Ashamedly, I have no idea of any of Renzi’s policies, a scary fact which I think is true of many Italians.

Mass hysteria and morbid curiosity has followed this man for weeks and despite the skepticism around his lack of parliamentary experience, his youth seems to be his salvation. The hopes of many Italians desperate for change rest on the shoulders of someone with a unique perspective; it is entirely new.

As a Brit, I must say, I think this is a very bold move for Italy.  Living in Bari has given me first hand experience of just how divided Italy is. One one hand, I have seen how conservatism and traditionalism rules in parts of the south- people are fiercely against immigration, homosexuality seems to still be a biblical abomination if graffiti in parts of the city are to be believed and multiculturalism is nothing more than a ‘foreign word’. Having said this, I know that this is not the mindset of everyone . A typical day for me is teaching groups of teenagers and progressively thinking adults who are proud of their country and want nothing more than opportunities. Most of my students are exactly like my friends back home and like me; they are trying to carve a career, climb the property ladder,  provide for themselves and their families whilst also trying to save their pennies for the future, not forgetting, trying to have and enjoy their life in addition to battling through a global financial crisis which has no end in sight.

I left university in 2010, amid the recession. I vividly remember reading about how in the UK, we would all have to ‘cut our cloth accordingly’ and make it through 3 years of cuts in order to cut the deficit and have a fully functioning and profitable economy again by 2013. Well, its now 2014 and we are no further forward.

In London, they are told the situation is improving and the economy is now starting to grown. In the UK there is the NHS, a fantastic benefit system, a good system for university where loans can be paid once the graduate has a job with a sufficient income. If you are disabled, you can speak with a social worker and arrange for the relevant care you need, potentially government subsidized. Here things are different. Imagine our discontent in the UK, double it. Add the frustration of laughable, Bond- villain style politicians like Silvio Berlusconi and you have an idea of what my students express to me daily. They tell me how lucky I am because I am English and I have the ability to go and work anywhere in the world because of my native Lingua-franca. They worry about the jobs market, they worry about their education. They worry about nothing changing. The first step towards change is to actually take the first step.

Matteo Renzi is a gamble, but what is life without a gamble?

It is a progressive move that needs to seep into global politics and democratic systems everywhere.

I would like to keep the faith that one day, in the UK we will not have to tolerate a coalition government (who technically, we didn’t elect) we will  take a political gamble and elect a new cabinet all from different socio-economic backgrounds, non of whom went to Eton or speaks with a plummy RP accent. I would like to see young people, pensioners, homosexuals, teachers, nurses and doctors, farmers, former inmates, maybe even teenagers; a cabinet made up of the real people who contribute in real terms to society.

Maybe Renzi will fail, maybe he will be the game changer for the EU, who knows?

All I know is that this bold move by Italy has shown EU politics that these changes can happen, they should, they must happen. What’s the worst that can happen, we are already at rock bottom.

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Super Saturday! The joys of feeling like a hero

Seek and you shall find.

My mantra of choice to describe my super discovery Saturday with Dave…

For those who want something badly enough, they get it. On Saturday, in typical Brit-abroad style, Dave and I wanted nothing more than a night on the peeve. Which for those of you who might have been to Bari before, seems a bit of a challenge. We were aware most of the watering holes here double up as restaurants so the desire to get completely messed up as one would back in the UK is slightly smaller. But, we wanted a taste of home so badly we didn’t mind taking one for the team and becoming ‘those’ people that everyone stares at in disgust. It is Christmas after all!

We took the bus into Bari Centro and made our way towards Bari vecchia. The first place serving alcohol we found, we went in and ordered some beers. We knew how the night would escalate when we decided not to eat and replace dinner with more beer.

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We wandered into a few different bar/restaurants and embraced feeling like true Englishmen, sipping our beers with victory. Those who want to get drunk…shall get drunk. And boy did we…

 

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At some point in the night we ended up in Bohemien, a jazz club here which often has live music playing. We were lucky as there was a band playing the mighty PRINCE. Ideal.There were also a lot more choice tunes banging out as I vividly remember my feet burning in my heels from dancing the night away alongside drunk bopping Italians. I think there was a bit of 80’s magic blaring and rock pop circulating the room.

 

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I know we had sambucca. I know there was beer, lots and lots of beer.

I vaguely remember feeling like I was in the Bourbon Club from Rock of Ages as an older, less attractive, Italian version of Stacee Jaxx did this thing on stage.

We laughed, we danced and had ourselves a well deserved congratulatory night after surviving 3 months in Italy, in our new school, in our new life.

Once the band had finished playing, they came up to the bar to get themselves a few drinks. In drunken style I decided it was only fair they knew we enjoyed it and then in turn, they ended up listening  to me babbling on about why were here in Bari, who were are, what we do and plugging Dave’s musical talents.

They were so unbelievably friendly and although, the alcohol had seeped through my brain by this point, making me unable to remember the conversations and just how embarrassing I probably was. Although my array of selfies will forever give me fond memories of our first proper drunken night in Bari!

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We left the club once the lights had been turned on. Success!

We got completely disorientated in the streets of Bari and after walking miles, admitted we hadnt the foggiest idea where we were. Failure!

My stinging feet could walk no longer and after what seemed like miles of endless streets and apartment blocks, I decided to let the fear kick in and visions of a night on the Bari streets was all too overwhelming. As if sent by my guardian angel, an inconspicuous little car came tootling by- so, with Dave’s approval I stopped the car and in drunken slurs somehow communicated that we needed to get home and gave our address. Poor Francesco the hero, wherever you are kind sir, thank you wholeheartedly for not being a serial killer, rapist, terrorist, drug deal or a mixture of all the above. You generously took us home for free and tolerated our drunken “Italian”.

 

I woke up the next day with a killer hangover. EPIC!

 

The Barese Experience

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I am a little late in starting to document my travels as I have now been in Bari for 2 months. This is my 8th week. I’m well over the half way period and in just over 3 weeks I’ll be home for Christmas! I cannot believe how fast it has all gone. You almost adopt a new pair of eyes when you travel somewhere and things that were seemingly normal before become enhanced. Buildings and parks that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at become landmarks or captured on camera as a staple point of your new home. I live in Poggiofranco which is just outside of Bari in a nice little area where everyone has designer coats and well-kept dogs. I live with Dave, the other teacher and fellow newbie and Francesco, a former student of the school who has been letting out rooms in his flat for about 10 years to us expat teachers. I have been spoilt with kindness from every possible angle since arriving here. The thing that has amazed me more than the place itself is the sheer friendliness and warmth from the people here. Granted their hospitality doesn’t stretch to the roads where you’re in danger of being ran over at a zebra crossing or blocked in by their double, triple crazy parking.
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I feel at home for now, which after 8 weeks I’m taking as a massive victory. My job is fantastic. I couldn’t speak more highly of it. I have classes I love and classes that absolutely break my balls from start to finish but I am happy. The fact that time has flown since my arrival in October is living proof of this.

Maybe the reason I am so happy is that I have my two greatest needs fulfilled, I sleep well and eat like Henry 8th on a fat day. The food here in Puglia is an absolute DREAM. Forgive me if the blog takes on a foodie focus but let me just say one word

…PANZEROTTI…
Pizza, made with either minced meat and mozzarella, or ham and tomatoes. FOLDED then DEEP FRIED.
Panzerotti Frite. if the Scottish thought they won the war of fried foods with the deep-fried mars bar they were severely mistaken. Anyone who has not fried a pizza has never lived. Dave and I went out with some students for Panzerotti and Peroni last week and it was immense. After chipping in our cents, we received what looked like a tonne of friend goods from the takeaway, we used a random car bonnet as our table and dished out the stash.
To eat a Panzerotto is a challenge in itself. When you take your first bite you realise the steam will burn your face off. This is inevitable. Deal with it.
….The stance…Now depending on your choice of footwear, it is very important how you stand during a Panzerotti session, the Mozzarella and juices WILL seep through the dough and they WILL spill out the bottom. To avoid scalding your feet you should stand with your feet apart. To avoid stains of your clothes push your bum out, lean forward, shoulders rounded forward. This is maximum damage control and part of the enjoyment.
Another reason food is good here: PANZEROTTI ARE THOUGHT OF AS A SNACK. A standard size pizza, deep fried…a snack!

Other foods which are fantastic here: Mozzarella, especially di Bufala, marron glace, Sweet Canneloni, HOT CHOCOLATE, Coffee, Foccacia and anything made with sugar.

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I have been on a few trips now, which tell me I will wet myself during the warmer months at the beaches that are near here. I went to POLIGNANO A MARE a few weeks ago and I’m counting the days until the weather changes and we can head to beach, jump in the sea and swim in the grottoes. Polignano looks like Amalfi except the houses and buildings are just one colour rather than a mix of pinks, yellows and pastels. It is insanely beautiful and the old town, a maze of winding streets and courtyards, small coffee shops and restaurants look like they’ve never changed since the beginning of time. Just a slice of what’s on offer here. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Life is Good!