So I am taking a break from my day to sit and basically just do nothing. Class was only 2 hours today, instead of the usual 4 hour long class, so I am feeling pretty relaxed. All the wicked steep hills in Siena wear me out and leaving my bed is difficult at the moment so I have decided to do something at least a little bit productive and update my blog.
Alright, so last night I got to have a really interesting discussion with my host family about the economic state of Italy (in Italian!) and how it compares to the US. In my emigration class, we learned that Italy is now experiencing a new emigration period because of the economic crisis of 2008. Most Italians go to other European countries like Germany, but also other countries belonging to BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) that have economies that offer more opportunities in employment than Italy does at the moment. Italy has an unemployment rate of about 11% right now (I googled it), and according to our teacher, the country is experiencing a “brain drain” which means that young, qualified Italians are leaving the country to settle in countries that offer opportunities that Italy does not. Why, are there no opportunities for the young Italian Einsteins you may ask? Well, according to my class, Italy is no longer a meritocracy (I say no longer because I think they used to sort of be, but I am not sure because I don’t speak Italian so well). So, in Italy in order to find a job, you basically need to know someone influential who can get you into the work field. My host parents reiterated this during our discussion and my host momma even said that Lorenzo (the oldest) will most likely have to go elsewhere to find employment; this was just an accepted fact. My teacher also said that Italians were putting of things like marriage and moving out because the didn’t have the money in order to finance these life events.
Later in the day, we also talked about the environment and Italy. So, what I found to be most interesting is that it is actually illegal to turn on the heat right now in Italy. Crazy, right? The Italian government isn’t composed of a lot of super conscious green politicians or anything, it is just simply too expensive to have heat right now. Italy actually has to import their electricity and heat from nearby countries like Switzerland. And gas is around 8 or 10 euros per gallon (like1 something euros per liter?). Absolutely bananas. So, we were all counseled to turn off our light anytime we leave our room. While it may not save a bunch of money, it shows the family that you are conscious of the value of electricity and that you are trying not to burden them. Water is also way more expensive than in the states so short showers are a necessity here. I am hoping that I will get into the habit of turning off my lights asap when I’m here so that I will bring this habit back to the states to be nicer to mother earth, and to mother Sullivan’s electricity bill. Oh, and they don’t have dryers here either because it is an unnecessary electricity cost. They just hang them up to dry on a line on the porch or outside windows if there isn’t a porch.
Now onto the fun stuff. I have a jam packed schedule while here: Tomorrow, I am possibly going to Pisa with the group of kids studying here if we can all get ourselves organized enough to do so. Plus I want to do some light gift shopping, and maybe a museum or two. And I have an Italian test on Martedí. Uffa! Then, the raffles for the Palio are on Sunday so I really want to go see that. The Palio is a horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo, a beautiful plaza that is a hugee tourist attraction here. If I can get it to work, I’ll include one of my pictures in this entry. The city (at all times, not just for the race) is divided by their neighborhoods called, contrada, that each compete to be in the race. There are 17 contrada in the city but not every one has the chance to be in the race. The pre-race to be in the race is this Sunday and I am super excited. Now for a little more on the Palio. The Palio is a very old tradition, about 400 years old I think, and is the biggest event in the city. Hundreds of thousands of people go to the Palio and balconies and even just windows that overlook the piazza del campo can be bought for upwards of a thousand euros. If you can even find an available one. So for weeks leading up to the Palio, the neighborhoods celebrate and raise money for bribes. I’m sorry, did I just say bribes? Why yes, yes I did, because bribing is a known part of the palio and is accepted. There are two races, one on the first of July, and one on the sixteenth of August but the interim period is used for celebrating July’s winner and preparing for the next race so it doesn’t sound like there is a lot of downtime. The Palio is basically a celebration of your neighborhood and wherever you walk in Siena, you will find Contrade flags in whichever Contrada you are currently in. The Contrada that wins a race wins a painting and has a party for the entire city where they open their neighborhood up to outsiders, when normally they would be secluded. During this time, you can see all the paintings the Contrada has won in the past and they really celebrate and show off their neighborhoods. Basically, when you win the Palio, you spend a lot of money entertaining the losers. I personally would absolutely love to see the Palio and be in Siena to the weeks leading up to, and after, the races. Unfortunately, I will be leaving right before the first race but maybe one day I can come back and cheer for my adopted contrada: Valdimontone (valley of the ram).