Monday, May 17, 2010

Rome Through my Lens

When I first got my camera, someone said to me, “now you will see the world differently”- as if through the lens- my perspective would change. Or at least the tint of the world. After owning the camera for a full three months- and using it a full three times (not my fault…talk to canon), I beg to differ.

Maybe It’s that I always saw the world with a skewed view- or that I have always looked for the strange and beautiful parts of it- ignoring that which my untrained eye deemed dull or undeserving.

Either way- unlike what I was told, my experience thus far- behind the lens of my camera- hasn't changed at all. Don't get me wrong, I still love the world- I still love what I see and enjoy every moment of seeking out the unexpected and unusual bits- and then attempting to capture them. Although I am still an amateur- I’m working on it. I’m finding myself gravitating towards pictures of old cars and antique Vespas. (not exactly sure why.) And if I were to be completely honest with myself and my camera- I would take pictures of pizza and gelato, pizzerias and gelaterias, people eating pizza and gelato, etc… but I guess that wouldn't be as interesting as everyone else as it is to me.

Here’s Sunday:

p.s. this is my fish (the one that survived), who sits and stares at me all day long:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Alcune Foto di Roma

and an exercise in learning how to use my new camera...

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Day in The (Post-MBA) Life

I wrote a number of articles/posts relating to “A Day in the Life of an MBA Student.” With those, I shared my experiences as an American in Europe, as a right-brainer amongst nearly all left-brainers, as an MBA student during the economic crisis, and so on. Of course, my stories were similar to many other stories that can be found in magazines, books...the virtual universe. Stories of MBA students are abundant- if you know the right places to look. On the other hand, stories of post-MBA graduates are fewer and further between. I think this is due to a number of factors. For one, many MBA students go straight back into the workforce after the MBA and are therefore lacking in free time in order to relate their accounts. Or, they feel that once the MBA is over- their stories are not as significant. Or- the masses of MBAs who graduate without jobs (i.e. ME) may- in some sense- not want to write about the "battle of the job search." Whether they see graduating without a job as a failure, or a hiccup, or even a blessing- the numbers of stories that post-MBA grads have seemingly waned as the new rush of current students begin to tell their tales.

Either way, my story continues. As I have previously mentioned, I began writing this blog before the MBA and I plan to continue it until I feel I have nothing more to say. And looking at my life as objectively as I am capable of, I’m not doing so bad for myself. I’m happy, I’m calm, and I still believe that my existence is interesting enough to write about- with or without the 8 a.m. classes and bag weighted down with accounting books.

With that said- I give you “A day in the life of an unemployed post-MBA graduate living in Rome and searching for jobs when not eating pasta, pizza, roaming around taking photographs, pick-nicking in Villa Borghese and drinking Brunello in fine restaurants.”

For the first few weeks, I woke up around noon. I think I was restoring, mending…I guess I needed it after the past two years at ESADE. As well rested as I oftentimes told myself I was, it did take a good number of weeks with 12 hours a night to recharge my batteries. And then- one day- I started waking up at 7:30…just like that. It's like my body told me; “you're better now. Time to get going.”

So I got going.           

I wake up each morning and stumble down to the café across the street. The baristas know me, they know what I want before I order it, and they greet me in the mornings with big smiles and delicious cappuccinos.

In any city, one can visit as a tourist- but they can also live as a tourist- or an impermanent resident. I’ve been an impermanent resident in many cities. And It’s not a bad thing. It’s nice- the transient lifestyle. A bit too nomadic for this age when everyone seems to be having babies, but better than being a backpacker. Either way, I’m finally beginning to feel like a local. I did live in Rome before- about seven years ago…and although my experience was amazing, I was an ex-pat…I mean, a GLARING ex-pat, surrounded by ex-pats, living like an ex-pat. Now, though, due to certain circumstances…Rome is becoming home to me. And my café is one of the first steps.

Once hopped up on enough caffeine to fuel a small vehicle, I do the shopping. Veggies and fruit from the street market where the vendor hands me something to munch on while I pick out the produce. Meat and poultry at the butcher. Everything else at the supermarket, never neglecting to say "buon giorno" to the crazy man who sits outside yelling at tourists in at least five different languges.

 Additionally, after a painstakingly exhaustive internet search, I found a “Bio” (pronounced bee-o  in Italian. Ha) store about 20 minutes from my apartment. The first time I entered was like Christmas...all over again. I found everything I had been dreaming about since I left England- tofu, quorn, veggie sausages, veggie chicken fingers, soy fillets, veggie burgers, seitan, etc… They even had vegetarian mortadella! (I.e. a smoked Italian sausage made of ground pork and beef and cubes of pork fat and pistachios, flavored with wine and spices). Only in Italy…

As I walk home, people have begun to greet to me on the street- people who know me just by sight. It’s my little community- a place that I love. That I have loved for years. A place that I feel very lucky to be able to call home. And to all these people, I may just be the American girl living with the Italian on Via del Babuino,  but to me- I’m living a life that I have always wanted to live. (minus the job, of course.)

Once home with the daily groceries put away, I get ready for the gym.

I found a gym in Rome. Which was a huge part of my shift to Italy. Through my many lives and the many cities I have called home, I have a basic list of things to find in order to conclude the relocation:

1.     Doctor

2.     Gym

3.     Salon

4.     Supermarket

5.     Café

The gym was the last listed item to be crossed off. Therefore, when I finally, after a tiring and generally disappointing search, found a clean and well-located gym- I was ecstatic. My gym has become one of the focal points of my week- and admittedly, the highlight of many days. Actually, the gym isn’t the highlight- but getting there is. The gym is a gym. However, being that I am in Italy, in the center of Roma, the gym is more like a fashion show…where the men show off their muscles in tiny shorts and skimpy tank tops- and each woman is more skeletal than then next. The walk to the gym, on the other hand, is a daily (or every other day) reminder of how lucky I am to be here:

In order to get to the gym, I walk through Piazza del Popolo and then over the Tiber, with views of renaissance church cupolas above the trees. (photos coming soon).

The only problem with the gym in Italy is the number of pizzerias, gelatarias, and arancinerias on the way. I counted. Final numbers: From home to the gym I pass; 10 pizzerias, 4 gelaterias and one “mondo arancina.” If you don't know, arancini are like this little balls of greasy heaven. Or, in real terms, they are “fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs, originated in Sicily in the 10th century, usually filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella.” I mean, seriously, can you imagine anything yummier??? 

Anyways- back to my point. I walk to the gym- in the Roman sunshine-weaving between hordes of tourists, chic locals, Fiats, Minis and Vespas- staring incredulously at the tops of the buildings that don the covers of guide books around the world. And I think to myself- this is really my life. And I smile, and then take pictures with my blackberry hoping not to get run-over by a Cinquecento.

Once home, early afternoon, I make myself a small lunch or I meet friends out for a quick meal to discuss gossip and local politics. I’m sorry but there are things that happen in Italy that would not/could not happen in any other modern country. I love these people, I love their motivations, their mentality and their joie de vivre- but come one- GET it together people!!!  Sometimes Italy is more like a circus than a first-world country in the middle of Europe. Oftentimes, I truly believe that Italians should stick to what they know best- food, fashion, and the restructuring of old masterpieces.

After lunch, my “workday” begins and I get on my computer to answer e-mails, contact potential job-leads, and continue the inexhaustible career search.

Then the fun stuff begins. 

I actually spend a few hours a day putting my MBA knowledge to use- and if truth be told, finding it useful. My boyfriend/roommate is an architect. Recently, he has opened his own architectural studio. Which, I must say, I am very proud of. Furthermore, I am learning a lot from the process…as I would with any start-up business, from the financing, structuring and marketing perspective. He found a great space right next to the Spanish Steps (big smile) and is currently knocking down walls, pulling up flooring and reconstructing the entire space. Being that he has a degree in Architecture and masters in Interior Design, he is designing the entire thing and we have been, for the past few weeks, picking everything from the chairs and lighting, to the staplers and paper. 

Being that I am not currently gainfully employed, I have taken on the position of pseudo-office-manager. I figured, well- I do have an MBA now and I suppose keeping the finances in order is in my best interest, so I may as well set everything up before he really gets going. As a result, I have been compiling information on expenditures, receipts, calls, requests, payments, etc…and have thus far, created everything from daily call logs to income statements to cash flow statements and inventories and expense reports. 

I must admit that all the work I did during the MBA with Excel seemed somewhat excessive to me- but now, well now I couldn't live without it. And the most shocking thing of all- beyond the fact that I am actually capable of doing this- is that I am liking it. I’m enjoying the numbers and calculations and data. I even went so far as to create multiple color-coded-pie-charts relating to fixed costs, variables, overhead, etc… 

One evening, proud of what I had accomplished and eager to show my boyfriend how lucky he is to have an (unpaid) MBA as his office manager, I sat him down and took him through about 10 spreadsheets and a number of related data. The first thing he said to me? “Ma Morgan, perche non puoi mettere tutto su una sola foglia? Sembra molto piu facile.” Translation: “But Morgan, why can’t you put all this information on just one sheet. It seems like it would be a lot easier.” My reaction: I closed the computer and walked away. The second thing he said to me: “Ma Morgan, perche non facciamo tutto a mano invece dello computer? Cosi avremo tutto l’informatione fisso e concreto.” Translation: “But Morgan, why cant we just do everything hand-written instead of on the computer? Therefore, we will have all the information in a fixed and concrete manner.” My reaction: “Lascia stare questo lavoro. Trovi un’altra. Forse dalla vecchia scuola.” Translation: “I quit."

Slowly though, he came around- I think a friend talked some sense into him. And a good number of days later, he caved and said that “tuo modo va bene” i.e. “your way is fine." I know he will thank me in the end. At least that's what I keep telling myself…

Once the evening commences and the workforce begins to spill out of offices and on to the streets mixing with the roaming tourists, I take leave from my “office” and begin the “passeggiata” process. I wander around, stopping for a coffee, or a peek in a store along Via Condotti- hoping that one day soon I will be able to afford the many potential purchases I covet on a daily basis. I stroll, maybe meet someone for an aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) sitting outside in a café in one of the many charming piazzas surrounded by exquisite architecture. As the sun sets, I am always surprised by the light in Rome. It astounds me over and over again- on a daily basis.

And then I slowly make my way home. If we don't go out to one of the many phenomenal restaurants in Rome, friends come over for dinner- complete with wine from the boyfriend’s family’s production and numerous dishes full of fresh vegetables, herbs, cheeses and sauces.

I am learning more about this country everyday- and about myself. I knew many Italians in my life, and although I lived in Italy for over two years in the past…I think I finally “get it” now- and I “get” why I have always been drawn to Italy. And I love it. I hate it and I love it. I love to hate it and hate to love it.

Once the evening winds down and our guests leave, I normally make my way over to the couch, computer in lap, and continue whatever it was I was working on. I drink chamomile tea with honey from the family farm in Campania. I read, I write, I think. And in thinking about how much I need a job- I realized that I have been counting the days. And then I noted that these should be the days I am not counting...because these are the days i'll look back on and wish I had more of.

Oh, and I have a fish! There were two but one died last week.

So, excluding the small death in the family-in my opinion, “a day in this post-mba graduate’s life” isn't so bad after-all.