Sunday, September 20, 2015

Expo!

For those of my readers who haven't been planning to move to Italy this year, it may have escaped your notice that Italy (Milan specifically) is currently hosting the 2015 World Expo. It's kind of a big deal. Just like the good old days when we used to have a world's fair, people have come from all over the world to show off their countries, and tourists hordes have come by the tens of thousands per day (most seem to be Italians) to sample it all. The theme of this year's expo? Bees, I mean, food.
Tourist hordes

Naturally I had to visit, and with the long weekend and the Expo winding down in October I decided it was now or never. The trip was surprisingly easy - 3 hours by train - and I saw as much Expo as I could handle before my feet basically fell off and I melted into a puddle of exhaustion.

I managed to see most of the big pavilions, but drew the line at anything with a 2-3 hour wait time. Unfortunately, this meant I missed the Italy pavilion, the very cool looking UAE (United Arab Emirates) one, and randomly, Japan. But hey, life is short! And I have the next two years to explore the real Italy (and the next twenty to see how many others I can call home), so I don't really feel like I missed much. I climbed the net in Brazil, watched some great performances in Kazakhstan, got a Pope magnet at the Holy See, did the swings in Estonia, and narrowly escaped being henna-ed by the Mauritian delegation.
Italy pavilion and the Tree of Life


Inevitably, a lot of pavilions seemed to repeat the same things. Vertical gardens, bees, sustainability, bees, food insecurity, bees, women in agriculture, and of my goodness what was with all the bees? The UK pavilion was even shaped like a beehive! I know bees are important for agriculture, but the disproportionate focus felt a bit like a conspiracy after a while. So I nominate bees as the secret official theme of the expo.

Chandelier made of honey

Inside the British 'beehive'

Same thing, from the front


For me, however, the biggest attraction was the architecture. You see, each country designs it's own pavilion and even though the pavilions are only temporary, they've really pulled out all the stops. If you are anything like me, you were collecting architecture books in elementary school and drawing your own plans before you could tell your left from your right. (What's that you say? That's totally weird and nerdy? Uh...You're right! Who would do that? I'm so glad you and I aren't dorks like those people!) So while I didn't learn that much new information about food, I had a great time checking out all the pavilions and of course, eating as if my life depended on it. The truly exotic pavilions had wait times to match, but I managed to hit some favorites; tacos al pastor - Mexico, bibimbap - South Korea, couscous and friends - Tunisia, apple strudel - Czech Republic, and of course, gelato, courtesy of Italia! 


Sadly I missed my chance to eat horse meat in Kazakhstan, but the dancing was beautiful


If you are planning a trip I'd say aim for 2-3 days and prioritize what you see. You won't be able to fit in everything, but you can get a pretty good sampling. Just remember, Expo finishes in October so you'd better get planning!

Here are some more photos for the totally not architecture-obsessed. ;)

I love all the color

Poland (made of thousands of apple crates)
Truly amazing 'meadow' recreated inside/on top of the polish pavilion

Didn't make it inside this one, but the outside was intriguing

Brazil!

Vietnam 

Germany - lots of countries did a variation on the leaf/shade theme which was much appreciated in the heat
One of the few African countries with a full pavilion - it was very nicely done

China's was super classy
From the inside as well

Belarus maybe? 
Here's the same building from the front

Inside the French pavilion

Both the Netherlands and Belgium did a variation of 'street festival'

For a fellow blogger!


For a friend :)

I actually really like this very simple, modern design for the Czech Republic. Except for the art in the pool.







Saturday, September 12, 2015

Casa mia

Buon giorno faithful readers!

So, long story short, since the last post I received my UAB and HHE and unpacked everything. I did it all in one big day which should tell you a little something about my OCD level and a bit as well about the amount of stuff I actually brought. Anyway, the apartment feels much homier now and all I really need to do is get the pictures hung and maybe buy some little things (lamps, rugs, etc). Yes, the guest bed is set up too.

Here's some pictures for the curious:
Obviously still a bit of cleaning (and repacking the welcome kit) to go, but it's actually a great kitchen and much bigger than I expected.


Living room. The couches belong to the Embassy, mine are arriving soon.


The dining room (really just the other side of the living room). The moving guys were amazing and 
completely assembled the Ikea table for me.


Guest room! The decor is definitely still a work in progress, but it'll do for now.


My favorite room! It's supposed to be a study, but I thought it would make a great breakfast room since it is full of sunlight in the morning.


Same room, different view.


And no picture of my room. Sorry, I guess I missed it when I had the photo shoot,

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hello gorgeous...

...courtyard!

We are going to be best friends I can tell.

Ok, so you probably guessed that the moment I arrived at post blogging dropped a few notches on my priority list, but now that I've had a solid chance to settle in let me share a few of my first impressions while they're still fresh.

First off, everything here is so well run - at least at the embassy. They've got a fantastic management section and they've taken great care of me so far. 

Second, I really like my section and the people in it. I had a big first week and while the new job is challenging I love digging into a new portfolio and my colleagues have been picking up the slack for me as I settle in.  I wish I could tell you more about the work here, but I have more sense than that. If you know me personally I'm sure I'll tell you all about it sometime. 

Italy is as beautiful as I remembered. I live in a cute neighborhood full of palm trees and little balconies and hole-in-the-wall coffee shops. And of course, gelaterias, lots of those. I went to the beach at Nettuno my first weekend here (thanks sponsors!) and it was so picturesque that it was a bit hard to believe. This place is definitely spoiling me. (And in honor of my beach trip, check out this gallery of Italian beaches. I think it says quite a bit about the way Italians do vacation vs. the way Americans do, but maybe it's just me.)

My housing is great. The apartment is much bigger than I imagined (I thought everything was smaller in Europe?) and it is very, very empty right now! Luckily my HHE and UAB are being delivered next week so I can start making this place feel a little more homey. I like the location too - I asked for walking distance to work and I'm so glad I got it. I haven't really even had much cause to learn the bus system yet - though I plan on using buses to explore the farther away parts of the city eventually.

Obviously this is the 'honeymoon' phase of living abroad, but I can't help thinking it's not just that. This is Italy after all. What could I complain about?


No guest bed is set up yet, but I'm hoping that after my stuff gets here I can make it out to Ikea. Yes, intrepid readers/future visitors, you'll be sleeping in style when you visit! See you soon!