Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweditalia...and the start of something new :)

So, as you can tell if you've read the posts by Sean, Hailey and Gretchen we went to Ikea on this rainy Sunday. Our original plan was to meet a friend and go to a museum today, but unfortunately he's fighting a cold/flu so we had to cancel. Of course, rainy days are absolutely perfect for museums (of which there appear to be hundreds here in Torino...more on that another time), but today was ostensibly about Ikea. There were lots of little essentials we needed (utensils, glasses, better wine opener, etc) that will make life in the flat a little easier.

More importantly, we were able to prove some competency in managing a new public transit system--albeit a very easy one. Although I've travelled quite literally around the globe, I always have some anxiety when it comes to some of the...well, lets just say "transitional" moments -- new language, new modes of travel, new ways of shopping/buying/eating/playing. One of the biggies is of course public transport. Although the Metro is somewhat limited in its reach, it made a perfect first public transit opportunity. Set up for the 2006 Winter Olympics, the system is clean, efficient, well-planned and most of all, set up for an international audience! The ticket system had an English option, so it was quite simple--1.5 Euro per direction per rider. Having learned that, we also learned that you can purchase public transport tickets most anywhere--the hundreds of tobacconists, various Metro and train stations and--here's the cool one--electronic parking meters! Very cool. And, as it turns out both the busses and the signs appear very clearly marked so getting around should be easy from here on out. Also (as a shout out to my colleague Jay Melican)--the Metro had a funny little "don't get caught in the door" caution--it was a cute bear, and although you can't read it thanks to the lighting, the bear is saying "Ahiiiii!"

The cute bear getting caught in the door shouting "Ahiiiii!"

Also, after we returned home, Sean and I headed out to pick up some dinner essentials. Again, feeling pretty confident as we now know some of the little things that make shopping easier -- bring your own bags folks...both to know how much you can carry, to protect the environment, and to avoid having to purchase a plastic bag. Shopping and navigation were also made easier today thanks to an APP that I'd been playing around with as part of my day job -- dealing with mobility and perceptual computing. In this case, I found the Wordlens app very helpful. Basically I hold a phone in front of a sign or other Italian print, and it gives me a rough translation! Things like "the shuttle is free" and "this is skim milk" are very helpful to know without having to pull out a phrase book or dictionary! Until now, I found the app somewhat gimmicky, but now I've been able to go through Italian-language booklets outlining all of the local museums, read labels at the grocery and navigate better. It's not perfect, but combined with a little linguistic competency it makes traveling much easier.

Finally...tomorrow I start my sabbatical "work" as I formally start a stint consulting to a part of the United Nations System (the International Training Center of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO)). It's a strange feeling--somewhat like a new job, yet without the pressure of my day-job...somewhat exciting in that its all new--the transport to get there, first meetings with new colleagues, first lay-of-the land of the projects I'll be working on with them, working for an organization outside of the US (haven't done this since we lived in Indonesia...unless you count during my PhD where I consulted while working on my PhD...but that felt far more academic. This is indeed far more practical--adapting skills from my own work and education, while learning new things from the team at the ITC-ILO. From our initial conversations, it sounds like we have complementary skills-sets and experience, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. 

I'm finishing up for the evening...I have part of a bottle of slightly more expensive (yet still under 5 Euro) bottle of wine with Gretchen and sit around with the big kids. I hate to admit it, but as I write this, I'm indulging my auto-racing...I hate to call it a fetish...but, well I like F1 and I like NASCAR! Nascar is happening live as I prepare for bed. I'm enjoying the broadcast of MRN (the Motor Racing Network), and the incongruence of hearing southern US accents and comments like the "Barbasol Close Shave of the Race" while sipping local Italian wine and hearing the city life below. Life is indeed good. :)

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