Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rain and Reading...and some other news

My days knocking around Rome have more or less all blurred into one long interlude. The hours pass rather slowly but the weeks are pretty speedy- as if a gust of wind blew through the pages of the calendar and left me with only the spine. I graduated from the MBA three months ago and although I have learned more about life in Italy than I care to admit, news on the job-front is slim.

I was speaking to a friend of mine from ESADE and she as good as summed it up in noting that, “In this economy- the MBA is a curse. We’re overqualified and too expensive to hire.” Not to mention the fact that none of us have any savings left- due to the drainage of our accounts during the pricey MBA.

Now, I’m not speaking about everyone. Some of the fortunate (and perhaps previously a bit more ambitious and focused) ex-classmates of mine have found great jobs. Positions including: Product Manager at J&J in Sao Paolo Brazil, Senior Analyst for Yahoo! in Geneva Switzerland, Airbus engineer in France, a one-year rotational program at Whirlpool in Monterrey Mexico, Operations Manager at Amazon in Glasgow Scotland, consulting for Deloitte in Johannesburg South Africa, business development and finance at a television station in the Philippines, Consulting in London, Finance in New York, rotational program for GSK beginning in Philadelphia,  etc…

I must acknowledge that I’m delighted for my friends- I not only love them all dearly, but I have an immense amount of respect for them as individuals, their capabilities and their talents. I know that wherever they are and whatever they are occupying themselves with- they are making the ESADE name, and all their former classmates, very proud.

Then, there are those of us not as lucky: a few ex-students winding away their days on the beaches of Barcelona between job searches and networking events, while some alumnus returned to their homes- or their wives- waiting for news of that scintillating “post-MBA job.” And others, like myself, are taking each day at a time- while nevertheless enjoying the much needed “down time” that the post-MBA unemployment vacuum provides.

The MBA flew by. Just yesterday- I was 27, flying into Barcelona’s El Prat airport and reading a bus map trying to find ESADE. I blinked and then it was over.

On the other hand- these hours, days, and weeks here in Rome- teetering on the edge between “my big break” and “eternal joblessness” has seemed like a lifetime.

There was a period where it rained for almost a month straight. Therefore, the sparkle of my supposed “Roman Holiday” had faded to grey. Have you noticed that when the weather is dreary, everything seems bleak? Job opportunities morphed into empty promises. My beloved walks to the gym became tedious trudges through unceasing drizzle and darkness. Going anywhere- whether to a store, restaurant or café- rendered me a drowned rat- as opposed to chic Italiana.

Then, one day, the rain stopped. The sun came out, Rome twinkled yet again and “La Dolce Vita” recommenced. This time however, a new desire and motivation was born within me- and I got moving in attempts of putting my education to work. ESADE has been, in part, characterized by its “entrepreneurial spirit.” For that reason, I’ve come to the conclusion that instead of sluggishly waiting to be discovered as a brilliant, capable and interesting MBA graduate by some successful company with multiple future opportunities and a huge salary- it is in my best interest to invent something on my own. That is, of course, if I plan to remain in Italy.

So I’ve been networking, devising, creating, brainstorming, establishing, generating, and fashioning an ideal job for myself. And in my downtime…I’ve been discovering more about the Italian mentality, about Italy and about Italians. I am confident in announcing that in my findings, my original assumptions have been confirmed- Italy is one of the most backwards countries in the world- Italians are some of the most indolent and oftentimes insincere individuals I have ever met…but they sure know how to have a good time! And amongst the masses, there are of course- the gems. A good Italian is a rare find- but if you happen to encounter one- it’s worth its weight in Bvlgari Diamonds.

I’ve also been reading. (thank you amazon.co.uk)

I read the Stieg Larsson Series: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.  Entertaining but maybe a bit disappointing considering the hype. I prefer surprises.

I also read a Marion Keyes series- three books centered around three sisters and their early adulthood experiences: Angels, Rachel’s Holiday and Watermelon. The first two were great. Quintessential chick-lit but a good escape. Beach reading. The last book, Watermelon, is a waste of space on my expanding bookshelf.

And then I read a book on Kabbalah and was all in-tune with my spiritual self for a few days. I, at that point, believed that I had found the link between myself and my religion- Mysticism. But then, a few days later when I began reading another work of chick-lit fiction I thought suited me, Shoe Addicts Anonymous, I forgot most of what I read and Kabbalah became a distant memory.  Besides, it was a book entitled God Wears Lipstick, so how much was I supposed to remember anyway?

And finally, I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I have to say that this book is without a doubt, one of the most incredible, engaging and inspiring novels I have read in my entire life. It reminded me what I love about literature. It reminded me of the type of writer I have always aspired to become. And most importantly, it transported me to another place in another time but by the last page- the characters were as close to my heart as my best friends and Bombay could have been “my city.” It was one of those books that for a week straight, I stayed at home reading on the couch instead of going out. It was one of those books that made me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt and at points, made me wail with tears- I couldn't wait to get back to the book during the days and at night, it invaded my dreams. It was one of those books that inexplicably connects me to everyone else in the world who has ever read it.

Shantaram warmed my soul and filled me- as a traveler, explorer and writer- a powerful desire to “do more.”

Moral of the story: read Shantaram.

Until next time….



Monday, June 21, 2010


Three weeks ago my grandma had a stroke. Yes, the news upset me- but I wasn't too worried. Nana had already suffered a few strokes, coupled with at least two heart attacks and more bouts with cancer than I care to remember. Nana, in my mind, was never really going to die. She was the survivor of all survivors. But then- a week later, she did. My nana died. My Nana.

Nana contracted pneumonia in the hospital, was rushed to intensive care and then her heart just stopped. I didn't get to say goodbye- I didn't get to tell her how much she has meant to me and how much she would be missed. My father however, sitting next to her tiny withered body held up his computer to her empty eyes while I, stuck in Italy, waved and tried to smile while I told her how much I loved her.

Five minutes later, she passed away.

I would have given anything to be next to her, holding her hand…but it all just happened so fast. I was told that she had waited to see me.  Of course my Nana waited to see me- she was my biggest fan- she loved me more than anyone else she had ever met. This favoritism was common knowledge in my family and something she never had any qualms about being made known. The general response when one of the other grandchildren inquired was “well Morgan was the first grandkid, there’s a special bond there.” And I do believe it was that- that I was the first- I don't think I was the favorite because of what I do or who I am- but I took that unconditional overflowing love and did what I could with it, knowing that I would never find another soul on this earth willing or able to love me as much as Nana did.

I could relay her life story or describe how beautiful and selfless she was. I have a million memories running through my head- some of which make me cry, some of which make me smile, and some of which make me roll will laughter. But I think that when someone we love dies, what we need to do is take the lessons they have taught us and move forward in our lives- trying to make them proud- every day.

There were really only two things my grandma would have asked of me in her passing. One: to finally start eating meat and Two: to find a “nice Jewish boy” (preferably doctor) and get married.

It would be easier if nana wanted me to become president of the U.S., win the Nobel Peace Prize, or become an astronaut. Unfortunately, her love was too great to ask me to accomplish anything- I was already perfect in her eyes.

In losing Nana, I lost one of the few stable things in my life. Nana was my rock- my anchor. I always knew where to find her, I always knew that she’d be that person on the other end of the phone elated to hear my voice. She was always proud of me- for everything. In losing Nana, I lost my scrabble partner (although she had been known to cheat), I lost a sense of anxiety- always wanting her to improve her own living circumstances, I lost one of my best friends and I lost an enormous part of my past- of myself.

I could look at Nana and know where I got my nose, my height, my stubbornness and my humor. What I didn't get from Nana though, was her selflessness, forgiveness and her unconditional- I mean really unconditional love. I didn't get her devotion to her family- regardless of how angry they made her at times, and I didn't inherit her ability to see the good in people- as bad as they were. So I suppose that is my lesson- that is what I am supposed to take away from my Nana- try to emulate all the good she brought into the world. Even though, at the end of the day, it’s not what she would have wanted- because like I said, I was already perfect in her eyes.

If I were to truly commemorate my Nana, I would sit around watching reruns of I Love Lucy and The Golden Girls. I would go on a cruise and spend ¾ of my time and all of my money in the casino- feeding coins to the slot machines. I would waste away hours in the kitchen cooking potato blintzes (making a few cheese blintzes on the side for Tyler) and tart tatin for my dad. I would order pizza loaded with onion and garlic (or as nana called it in her Brooklyn accent she never managed to lose, Gaalik) and I would spend as much time with my family as humanly possible- taking pictures of them with one of her disposable cameras that always seemed to have “one or two pictures left,” giving them huge suffocating hugs and wet kisses leaving both crimson lipstick stains and bits of food on the cheeks of those that I love.

I miss nana. My life without her in it is emptier. Palpably emptier. And as much as I tell myself that she is in a better place or that she isn’t suffering anymore- I regret that she never got to see me get married, that I didn't grant her the pleasure of meeting her great-grandkids. I have a million and one regrets and nothing seems to make me feel better.

I just keep telling myself that she really is there on the other end of the phone when I call- she just doesn't hear the ringing because she forgot, once again, to put her hearing aids in. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Caput Mundi

I walk daily, around the center of Rome, ducking beneath the curved arches of renaissance palazzi and cobbled alleyways teeming with shaded cafés and slices of history disguised as crowded shops and cozy restaurants. I’ve gotten lost in Rome...not lost in the damaging sense- not lost in where I can’t find my way home. I’ve become rapt by this captivating city in the sense that I don't want to turn around and head home. I am lost in the enchanted sense- like Alice down her rabbit hole. This city- the eternal city, Caput Mundi- and the little life that is slowly forming around me- is my castle in the sky. Maybe I’m too much of a romantic- or a dreamer- and I’m simply refusing to look around and see the world as it really is. Or maybe I just got tired of it. Because in Italy—in my Italy- my fantasy world- there is no economic crisis, there is no hunger, no loss, no death and no suffering. The world isn’t speeding towards it's own destruction, there is no war- and with no war- there’s no hate, no anger and no unfulfilled desire or need. I fell in love with Italy almost ten years ago when I stepped off a plane in Florence- and since then, along many roads and paths- I am always lead back to Italy- in one way or another- whether it is in my mind or in my heart. And now I’m here, in body- and this is my life. 

Some days, it’s as if I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out- or I'm waiting for reality to set in. And so I take my camera and try to capture it all before it ends- as all good things do- and as all stories end and glittering fantasies eventually lose their shimmer and turn into the darker and subtler realities.

It’s been two months now- and although I keep looking over my shoulder for trouble- or fate- or duty to come knocking - I’m still here. I’m living a life of hedonistic pleasures that even Cleopatra would envy. And while I wonder when and how it will all end- I’m doing the best I can to bask under the Roman skies that shroud me in their light every morning and grant me the sweetness of dreams that each star filled night brings. 

Enjoy the pics. ;)