The Pickpocket Huntress

I came across a video of this unique and amazing woman, Eliana Guerrero, who volunteers her time and effort to look out for pickpockets who prowl Barcelona’s subways. Why? Simply because she loves her city so much that it bothers her how the rampant crime affects its reputation, and she thinks, “Nobody is doing anything about this. Somebody has to do something about this.” So she went out and fiercely became that somebody.

Well, she shouldn’t be ‘that’ somebody but just ‘a’ somebody. Because there really should be other somebodies joining her to help their city.

She’s really risking her life and limb, the way I see it. Even ‘petty’ criminals like pickpockets can turn violent out of resentment or desperation when confronted, and they tend to work in gangs. I hope she stays safe.

And I imagine it is a largely thankless affair. I can imagine some people are annoyed at feeling alarmed and give her dirty looks when she blows her whistle or when she reminds them to sling their handbags in front of their body where they can see it. I hope she brushes off the negativity she suffers and stay strong, and always be proud of the very noble volunteer work she’s doing for Barcelona.

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I remember how Bert stopped a crime in progress a few years ago in Penang, Malaysia. We were there because I wanted to do a marathon (my first ever full marathon). We had visited the parking lot of a mall where the organizers were distributing the runner’s bag which contained stuff like the bib number. Then we went to the bus stop in front of the mall to get back to the hotel. Naturally there was a big crowd of people at the bus stop, so when our bus arrived it was a slow process getting to the door to board it because there were maybe more than 50 other people crowding around it waiting to board. There was no queue. It was quite chaotic.

Bert saw it before anyone else. A young guy some distance in front of us who had almost reached the door, with his hand already dipping into the bag hanging from the shoulder of the guy in front of him. Bert shouted at him, “Hey, stop! Yes, you! You with your hand inside his bag!” Everyone around us fell silent, shocked and wondering what the white guy was screaming about. The surprised pickpocket glared angrily at Bert for a moment, then shrugged, deciding to pretend not to know what Bert was referring to. Now alerted, the almost-victim snatched his bag in shock and hung it from his other shoulder. “I saw you! I saw what you were doing!” Bert continued to yell at the pickpocket. He stomped off, suddenly not interested in getting on the bus.

The almost-victim never thanked Bert. Idiot. That annoys me now, thinking about it, but I wasn’t thinking about it then. I probably didn’t even notice Bert wasn’t thanked. I was busy being in awe. My man is so cool. My heart was bursting with pride for him.

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Back to Ms. Guerrero in the video. This remarkable woman is not even from Barcelona, but is an immigrant from Colombia, and yet her love for Barcelona is so strong that she and her incredible sense of civic-mindedness do some amazing and potentially dangerous work to protect this city that she had grown to love. Her city. That’s food for thought about immigrants. That they can see and appreciate what we may take for granted, and end up loving our city or country as much as or even more than we do.

Every city in the world deserves a pickpocket huntress or two hundred. The video reminds me of the subways and touristy areas in places like Rome and Milan, cities I have visited several times. The subways there can be quite unpleasant. Even Bert who is a native Italian was targeted a few times, maybe because he was with me so they thought he was a tourist too. Thankfully we were never victims. Hopefully never.

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Related:

  • The Savvy Backpacker – How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe — Tips for Outsmarting the Thieves
  • Life In Italy – A pickpocket’s tricks: How to Avoid Getting Robbed While On Vacation In Italy.
  • All Singapore Stuff – Woman’s handbag was cut and wallet stolen by thief at Ikea
  • Forbes – How to protect yourself from pickpockets and thieves when you travel (this one is a lengthy six-page article but contains an interesting and comprehensive list of tips)
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Nuts for Nutella

I haven’t indulged in the Italian chocolate spread Nutella for a long time. Today is yet more evidence that I’m a sucker for nice packaging because I picked it up at the supermarket just because I love their new jar. Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse. But it is unusual and pretty.

Nutella 2014 front

A 1-kilogram jar. $10.90 at Sheng Siong supermarket. The print comes in several different colours. No purple, though :-(   but this pink kinda passes for purple.

Nutella 2014 back

The back looks the same as before except for the ‘2014’.

Nutella with sponge cake and ice cream

I think I opened the jar within ten minutes of arriving home, for an impromptu triple treat afternoon snack: Nutella on spongecake with ice-cream.

Photo from Nutella Italy's Facebook. Click image to go there.

Ah, it’s actually for their 50th anniversary and these are the four colours available together. (This photo from Nutella Italy’s Facebook. Click image to go there.)

Related:

  • Oh my God, there’s actually a ‘World Nutella Day‘!! Haha!
  • Grist – It takes at least six countries to make a jar of Nutella. Hello, Palm Oil (from Malaysia). Ugh.
  • BuzzFeed – How to make your own Nutella. (Goodbye, Palm Oil! Yay!!)
  • Mental_floss – 8 things you may not know about Nutella

Furious Pete eating an entire 750-gram jar of Nutella in the video below. I got furiously jealous watching it so I only managed the first minute. I don’t have the guts to enjoy life that much because I’m scared of getting diabetes and for my waistline, not that I am trim in the first place.

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Day 85

 

Eros Ramazzotti

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Randomly picked a disc to listen to and I got ‘Ali e Radici’ (Wings and Roots) by Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti. One of those singers I probably have ten CDs from. I haven’t counted, but we’ve been fans for a long time. This is his tenth studio album, out of a total of eleven, which he released in 2009. Most of his albums are released in both Italian and Spanish. I remember years ago when I was not aware of this yet, I had mistakenly bought a Spanish version of one of his albums. Which is okay but some time later I went back to buy the Italian one as well.

I haven’t played his music for a while, and forgot how much I love his unique voice and his gorgeous catchy songs. He has written and sang a lot of beautiful ballads too in his career that has by now spanned more than three decades. He was born in Rome in October 1963, so now he’s fifty.

The following is one of my favourite songs from Ali e Radici. Parla Con Me (Talk To Me) is the third song in the album.

I love so many of this songs, but just to pick two more to put here, well I love his two duets with not one but two ladies of music I absolutely adore, Tina Turner and Cher! Cose Della Vita (Can’t Stop Thinking of You) with Tina was released in 1998. The song is a ‘remake’ of a song he wrote and sang solo on in 1993. The beautiful ballad Più che puoi (All You Can) with Cher is from 2001.

Related:

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Day74

Andrea Bocelli

I’ve had a very pleasant couple of hours this afternoon enjoying yet again the first two Andrea Bocelli albums that I got many years ago. I think I probably have nine or ten of his CDs. Yes, we like him that much in our household. But reading about him on Wikipedia, he has now released a total of twenty-one since his debut in 1994, not including complete opera recordings.

The first I listened to was ‘Bocelli‘, which the Italian tenor released as his second studio album in 1995.

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It contains the song that propelled him to greatness and immense popularity: the classic Con Te Partiro‘ (With You I Will Leave).

I’m not too keen on his version of ‘The Power Of Love‘, that Jennifer Rush power ballad that has been covered by many singers including Celine Dion, but the rest of the album is beautiful. I especially love ‘Sempre Sempre‘ (Always, Always). Here’s a charming video of that song uploaded by YouTube user Nadia Raffaella Borgi.

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The second album I listened to was ‘Romanza‘, his first compilation album released in 1997. According to Wikipedia, this is the best-selling Italian album of all time, with over 20 million copies sold worldwide.

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Con Te Partiro‘ had garnered so much acclaim around the world in the two years since it was first heard in 1995, that when it was included in this album, there were not just one version but two. The second was in the form of a duet with the English soprano superstar Sarah Brightman. She included it in her own album released the same year, Time To Say Goodbye (which I also have and love, by the way) Here’s a video of a performance of that duet, courtesy of fritz5136.

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Day 37

happy meter: enraptured

Pope Francis

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Photograph by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency, via Wikipedia. Click to go there.

Pope Francis was born to Italian parents in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 17th December 1936, and named Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church. He worked briefly as a chemical technician before entering seminary and ordained a priest in 1969. He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict in February 2013, Pope Francis was elected. He chose the papal name Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.

I first read about him honouring American teenage (and openly gay) scientist Jack Andraka on the Facebook page of Pink Dot SG a few days ago. I’m happily stunned by this news. I don’t know where to begin. A sixteen year old scientist? Wow, that’s amazing. Who made a breakthrough in cancer research? Oh my God, that’s incredible. Pope Francis honouring his achievement? That’s wonderful.

Jack was honoured with the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, which is given to young adults whom the Vatican considers to be positive role models. On Advocate.com I read that Jack Andraka had said in an interview:

“It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist. I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing. It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT. It’s really amazing.”

A few months ago, I also came across on the blog Bryan Patterson’s Faithworks on Pope Francis touching on homosexuality when he said, “Who am I to judge them?”.

Huffingtonpost.com quoted the Wall Street Journal that the Pope’s comment about homosexuality was in context of a question about gay priests. He was on the plane back to Rome from Rio where he had visited slums and prisons, and presided over a Mass for three million people at Copacabana Beach. On the plane, he was taking questions from reporters and he spoke about gays and the reported ‘gay lobby’.

“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. “You can’t marginalize these people.”

Pope Francis is much admired by many people around the world, myself included, for his humility and his concern for the poor, for his compassion for others regardless of backgrounds and religious beliefs, and for his choosing to live more modestly when he has access to luxuries at the Vatican. Long before he became Pope, he was already known for his humility and leading a simple lifestyle. For example when he was Cardinal in Buenos Aires, he was taking public transport to get around, and chose to live in a small apartment rather than in an elegant bishop’s residence, and cooked his own meals.

Malaysia’s Zalora ad looks the same as Italy’s Zalando.

I’ve been coming across this advertisement from online retailer Zalora when watching Malaysian TV recently. Above is a video featuring the three languages it’s produced in.

They are almost exactly the same as one from an Italian online retailer called Zalando, an advertisement I kept seeing on Italian TV when I was there for a couple of months earlier this year. It made me laugh, but like the first three times. After that it started to get tiresome LOL. But it was entertaining at least initially, and obviously memorable, because I immediately recalled it when I saw the Malaysian version. Below is the Zalando one.

Since even the company names are similar, I’m wondering if Zalora and Zalando are from the same group? On Wiki, Zalando’s origin is stated as Germany. I noted at the beginning of the first video that the ad agency of the Malaysian version is also from Germany, so maybe they share the same ad agency, or they are connected in some other way. Zalora doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia page for now.

It was interesting and unexpectedly fun to see a TV ad I had enjoyed months ago in Italy, in Italian, now in Malay and English! Hah.

Madonna’s Girl Gone Wild and Kazaky’s Love

These are two music videos I watched today. I like them both a lot, although I have to say I don’t care much for the music.

The newly-released song by Madonna is not bad. I mean it’s something new and catchy to jog to on my iPhone or iPod for a while I think.

But the Kazaky song is just crap LOL. To me it’s nonsense, just some beats crafted for their spectacular moves. So it’s like the song was created for the video, not the other way round.

But wow, what a video. Incredibly beautiful. These Kazaky guys are such talented dancers. They are featured in Madonna’s Girl Gone Wild video, I read. In fact these two videos are similar. Madonna looks gorgeous. Her video here has an iconic timeless appeal to it, like her Vogue, a song released in 1990.

Anyway, I had to sign in to watch her new video on youtube. If it’s taken off my post here, I guess I’ll have to go back to youtube if I want to watch it again.

Lucio Dalla

The much loved singer passed away from a heart attack on 1st March. There was a massive turnout at his funeral in his hometown of Bologna on the 4th, and even till today there are still tributes to him on Italian television.

Lucio Dalla, Italian singer-songwriter and musician. 4th March 1943 - 1st March 2012. Photo by Lucarelli, from Wikipedia. Click photo to go to source.

I came across an article from BBC News which touched on the gay part of him, about how his death ‘sparked a debate about attitudes towards homosexuality in the country’.

Part of the article that caught my eye is the following:

“Lucio Dalla’s death is marked at the cathedral. But Lucio Dalla was a man who, being gay, never said it out [loud],” said widely respected journalist Lucia Annunziata.

She said Dalla’s case was an example of how much homophobia existed in Italy.

“It’s all fine and you even get a burial at a cathedral, with all the blessing of the Church, if you don’t say you’re gay,” she said, adding that Italy was permissive only when it turned a blind eye to certain things.

I’m not a fan but only because I didn’t hear of him before. But I also hope no one or any organization, uses him to push their own agenda. Any agenda. No matter how right or fair it may seem to them, just because the man was gay. Because it’s still disrespectful, because the man is no longer around to explain or clarify why he was discreet about being gay; whether he felt pressured to do so, or simply because he felt it was his own damn business and nobody else’s. The fact that he apparently didn’t discuss it throughout the long span of his career, well I think that says something.

Below is a video of his song Caruso, said to be his most famous, which he wrote for the late Luciano Pavarotti. I have loved it and listened to it countless of times, as sung by Andrea Bocelli, only now realising that it’s a huge song, written and sung by this man called Lucio Dalla, a man so loved.

Rest in peace, Signor. Dalla.

His funeral which was held in the cathedral in his home town of Bologna. Photo from the BBC article. Click photo to go to the site.

A Valley in Italy by Lisa St Aubin de Teran

First published in 1994 by Hamish Hamilton. Published by Penguin Books in 1995

I’m thinking I should read more memoirs from now on. Less novels and more travelogues or whatever they are called, recollections of travelling experiences. Because A Valley in Italy is just glorious. I haven’t come across something that touched me so deeply in a long while, a book that not only entertained me, but tapped me ever so gently on the soul.

I suspect the story of people going into some exotic locale in some rustic country setting and falling in love with a house and buying it on an impulse and having an adventure with its renovation, and being overwhelmed by the task, and in the midst of it all, discovers little gems in the experience with the locals, with little pearls of wisdom and wit and humility thrown in, as well as eccentric and charming little characters. Oh fuck I feel the word ‘quirky’ coming on… oh well there it is. I don’t think such a feel-good story is original. Surely it has been done countless times.

But no matter, because I haven’t read those other countless times. I’ve never even seen that Diane Lane movie with such a plot/theme set in Tuscany. I’ve only experienced A Valley in Italy, and I love Lisa’s storytelling. She’s not only funny and witty, but there’s also a feeling of honesty and straightforwardness in the recount of her experiences. There’s no turning on the charm offensive of her entertaining characters and the town of Sant’Orsola. No romanticising or mushy nostalgia through tinted lenses. Everything there and her experiences there were just described in plain language, but it’s just that the way she speaks happens to be peppered with wit and heart.

For example the part where she and her husband were shown the villa in the beginning of the book, well that was told plainly and seamlessly that I flew past it. And when I finished the book, I found myself going right back to the beginning and flipping through the pages, to find exactly that important part when she found and acquired that villa that was the central figure in the book. And there it was beginning on page nine, quite plainly told. The features of the building that entranced her were just in one and a half paragraphs, and then simply:

Robbie and I had agreed to buy this villa, no matter what, from the moment we turned into its dusty drive. We began juggling lists of friends and family who might be willing to share the project and stretch our own pygmy capital  to whatever might be the asking price of such a beauty. An hour later, I found myself in a small office in a nearby town handing over a cheque for 20 per cent of its price, in return for which I was given a sheet of lined paper with a lot of names and dates of birth on it, along with a glancing reference to the purchase of the Villa Orsola.

No drama, no bells toiling in her head or her gushing on and on about how she has finally found The One.

I wonder at which point exactly I fell in love with her memoir. I love her earthy voice, her no-nonsense tone, her tact and temperament. They make me think collectively of the teachers I had, all female, at the Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore, where I was enrolled in night classes to study the language to a conversational level. That was many years ago and my command of the language has since deteriorated due to a lack of practice. I also love her descriptions of her love for nature, her observations of it and the changing seasons and the work and love she put into the beginnings of her garden… it makes me wish I don’t suck at gardening.

Anyway, this book was the second I found and picked up from a common seating area at the hotel in Rome I’m staying at, and that’s where I’m putting it back. If some day I happen to see it in a bookstore, new or secondhand, I’ll be sure to pick it up for the pleasure of re-reading it anytime I want.

Extended stay in Rome

One of the statues of the ‘Fountain of Four Rivers’ at Piazza Navona in Rome. Photo taken by me.

We are still in Rome as of today, though not at the partner’s hometown, but in the city itself, due to the unexpected development of a recent client back home in Singapore contacting us and asking us to look into ordering some stuff for her home.

So the holiday trip has turned into holiday-slash-work. No complaints, even though the scope of work is so small that there will hardly be anything one can call a profit margin, after expenses and time and effort are considered.  We’re basically doing the client a favour, someone we adore because she has always appreciated our hard work in the past. She knows we take pride in our work and do our best to deliver a good standard of work.

I hate how this sounds like bragging, especially since we don’t have the money bounty to show as a reward for all our work in the past. At the same time I don’t want to sound like we ‘suffer for our art’ or something pretentious like that. The simple truth is that while we think we are artistic and passionate, we really are pretty useless business-wise. We have our heads in the clouds LOL. Anyway, what I want to express here is that this client knows and appreciate good work, and so it is always a pleasure to deliver. We don’t feel like our effort goes wasted.

No complaints also because we love our work, regardless of whether we get down and dirty at the construction site, or sitting comfortably in front of the drawing table setting up designs. These past weeks, we have the enormous pleasure of working with an established textile house in Rome. I feel so lucky and priveleged and small. Their work is so steeped in history and art, and excellence. The company has been in the same family for so long. And we are actually working with the current boss whose generosity with his knowledge and skill, and his passion… it’s just been awesome.

I’m enjoying the extended stay, but I miss Singapore/Johor as well, and frankly I’m itching to go home. I think mostly I feel bad that my siblings still need to look after our cats for us, but also because I’m anxious at what the state of our house must be, and that I want to move on with the things I need to do back home. So I hope we’ll get a flight back to Singapore on the 24th or not too long after that. At the moment we’re on the waiting list.