Friday, March 31, 2006

Nostalgia (a little) and Excitement

The International Trade Law Course started yesterday. This is the course which I did when I first came to Turin one year ago.

This year, I am the course tutor, and I am a little nostalgic looking at all the happy and excited faces of our students from within the EU, Latin America, Central Europe, and Africa. Nobody from Asia this year though!

I cannot believe one year has passed already. It seems like just yesterday that Fabien and I arrived in Turin, the happy newlyweds - and now we are expecting our first child. Time flies when you are having fun...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some images from Rome

As promised! some of the stuff we saw in Rome

We attended a Papal Mass! Pope Benedict was guarded by all these Swiss Guards. Michelangelo was having a bad day when he designed their uniforms...

Vatican City is pretty big, and St Peter's Basilica is awesome in its size and sumptousness.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Deaf Book-keeper

Not too much time today (or this week!) because we'll be whizzing around preparing for the arrival of our Tabulae Rasae Thibault and working and playing and generally getting that 150% out of our blissfully married lives.

My brother emailed me to say he is coming to Turin in June to see his nephew or niece (yay!). I am quite happy for him because he used to be a bit of a slacker, but he's done pretty well for his GMAT so he's been getting acceptance letters from reasonably good grad schools. I'm really proud of him. As my mum would say - if you've been blessed with brains that you don't use, you're behaving like you don't have any!

I don't have long email conversations with my father. But he does send me some funny email jokes. I thought this one was quite typical of him, so I thought I'd share it with you. He likes sending me lawyer jokes, though I think he's quite happy that I became one.


The Deaf Bookkeeper

A Mafia Godfather finds out that his bookkeeper has screwed him for ten million bucks.

This bookkeeper is deaf, and it was considered an occupational benefit why he got the job in the first place, since it was assumed that a deaf bookkeeper would not be able to hear anything and never have to testify in court.

When the Godfather goes to shakedown the bookkeeper about his missing $10 million bucks, he brings along his attorney, who knows sign language.
The Godfather asks the bookkeeper: "Where is the $10 million bucks you embezzled from me?"
The attorney, using sign language, asks the bookkeeper where the money is hidden. The bookkeeper signs back: "I don't know what you are talking about."

The attorney tells the Godfather: "He says he doesn't know what you're talking about."

That's when the Godfather pulls out a 9 mm pistol, puts it to the bookkeeper's temple, cocks it, and says: Ask him again!"

The attorney signs to the underling: "He'll kill you for sure if you don't tell him!"

The bookkeeper signs back:

"OK! You win! The money is in a brown briefcase, buried behind the shed in my cousin Enzo's backyard in Queens!"

The Godfather asks the attorney: "Well, what'd he say?"

The attorney replies: "He says you don't have the balls to pull the trigger."


Monday, March 27, 2006

Having it all

Last night, Fabien and I returned to Turin on the late Eurostar from Rome, having spent our weekend there. I think once I actually start driving we will take the train less. Which is kinda sad because I like taking the train with him. We talk about lots of stuff, and we give and get each other's full attention, which is necessarily impossible when you talk and drive at the same time.

We talked about the French economy and why it has Europe's highest unemployment rate for young people between 18 and 25, and how the new CPE or Contrat Première Embauche will change anything. You can read about that here. We did a review of our life and career plans, and the directions we want to jointly pursue. We talked about our children and what we'd like to be able to provide them.

Without going into the entire argument about our kids, career or the CPE (I'll leave it to my qualified economists friends to do that!) I guess our discussion revolved around the idea of "having it all". Can you have both job security and high employment rates? Can you pursue a lucrative and challenging career and still have a fulfilling family life? I don't know all the answers, and neither does he. But it seems that our present plans strike some kind of balance in all this.

Essentially I think we started from the begining as being extremely lucky people, and I thank God for that.

Thanking God is something you can quite easily do in Rome. We saw lots of churches over this weekend, each one more lovely than the last. We actually attended a Papal Mass at St. Peter's Square - it was the ordination of new cardinals. And caught bits of the Rome Marathon (which was cool). Pictures to follow.

But now it's back to Monday!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Weekend at Courmayer

We were invited by some Italian friends to their ski appartment in Courmayer. They are Fillipo and Valeria, a really lovely couple in a "long distance" relationship.. Savligano to Milan!

Fillipo and Fabien skied on the first day. Valeria and I caught some sun in deck chairs on the slopes, and everyone met up for lunch later. This is Fab on the piste modelling his new ski-pants!

For me, it is not possible to ski when you are this pregnant..

So what else do you do? It would have been nice if someone could pull me along like this!

On the second day, Valeria went to ski, so I explored some footpaths in the mountain forests, and then came home to sit by the fire and finish reading Ian McEwan's "Saturday" which according to Peter Kemp, is a "very brainy book" - about a neurosurgeon! This is Fillipo at his fireplace, we spent the evenings drowsing at the fire. Altogether a lovely experience and I'm hoping we come back with our bambini ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Growth Update

According to the Baby Center, this week, our infant-in-waiting is about 1.8 kilograms and is about 45 centimetres from crown to toe. His or her organs are more or less mature, and fetal brain scans have shown that fetuses have periods of dream sleep around this point.

I am supposed to have gained between 1.3 to 1.8 kilograms this month. Gaining 450 grams a week is quite normal during the last trimester... I am starting to feel like I am carrying around quite a lot of this weight already.

I have stopped moving heavy stuff for the last 3 months, and Fabien has been doing a lot more around the house. He's even stopped me from carrying my files from the bookshelf (heh) which I use for my research work. Trust me - it may be only paper, but lots of it in a file can be quite heavy! Anyway, feeling the kicks and other fetal movements have stopped being "an event", and I think we're both getting a bit blase about this all.

I think actually I am glad that I am not taking maternity leave untill 2 weeks before the expected date. This is because I don't want to go nuts waiting around for D-day to happen, so I may as well just be gainfully occupied at work.

The one thing I kinda miss is being able to travel long distances comfortably. Fabien is going to Madrid next week, and I would have chewed off my left arm to go with him! What's the point of giving up my job and moving to Turin to be an "accompanying spouse" if I get none of the fun travel benefits?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What's in a name?

We were taking a look at our list of possible names for the Tabulae Rasae (TR) Thibault. We're still considering the following names and etymologies:

For a girl:
Sophie (wisdom), Claire (clear), Elise (God's oath), Julie/Julia (gentle), Elodie (riches), Ines (chaste), Emily/Amelia (rival) , Maia/Maya (illusion)

For a boy :
Alexandre (defender of man), Luc (light), Zachary (remembered by God), Christophe (Christ-bearer), Philippe (friend of horses), Thomas (the doubter)

For the Chinese name, we are kind of just leaving it to my mother to deal with ... the joys of delegation!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I wanna Doggiee!!!

Somebody please please please tell my husband that our baby needs a doggie (or at least his wife does at any rate) !!

In the meantime I will have to make do with gushing over someone else's dog. This by the way, is grover. Friend to Barkley...

It sounds crazy, but I find it less embarrassing to make a fuss over someone else's dogs than I do over their babies. Pets are under-rated!


Monday, March 13, 2006

Welcome for the Weekend

Sebastien came to visit for the Weekend! He went to ski in the mountains with Fabien. I am really glad that Fabien can do all the stuff which he would really like to do before the baby arrives! We now mark time into BB (Before Baby) and AB (After Baby)..

Anyway, for me, skiiing seems a bit out of the question. I felt slightly left out, because we originally discussed me coming along just to watch, but then I was coughing too much to really wander so far from the house (*am STILL sick dammit). So I went to the modern art museum instead for a slow walk around the installation art...

Anyways, I want to introduce you to this valuable tool - the Birth Ball! It seems like one of the best investments in baby-related paraphernalia we'd bought so far... Very comfortable to sit on, but the exercise it can do to stretch your back prevents pregnancy related back-ache to (what I think) is a large extent. Don't get pregnant without one!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

And a Woman's place is ...

I read something really depressing today:

According to the Economist, till now, women are consistently earning lower then men. Although the Economist points out that this gender gap starts early in life, "the gap widens to a chasm during women's working lives, for a fundamental biological reason: motherhood."

The Economist goes on to explain that:

"Around two-thirds of British women with children under 11 work part-time.) Often, though, they cannot do this in their current jobs, but must move to a lower-paid, lower-skilled job, or leave the workforce altogether... this move to the “mummy track” is irreversible . According to the IFS, women's hourly pay recovers only slightly by the time their children leave home, when it is 72% of men's pay, and although their employment rate increases steadily as their children grow up, it never returns to the same level as men's."

Read the full article at this link

So what hope is there for us next? Should we wait for the various governments to find affordable childcare solutions, or legislate the problem away? Should mothers who choose to make such a career sacrifice be protected from the consequences of their decisions?

On a personal level, Fabien and I discussed for a long time last night whether I should go back to being a lawyer (it is an option still open, but it involves getting all that child-raising out of the way and then going back to school to push the RESET button). There is no answer to that question yet. It is right up there along with the other difficult ones - "How much money is enough?" , and "Is choosing to stay at home a waste of education and training?"

"And Stendhal said: 'All the geniuses who are born women are lost to the public good.' To tell the truth, one is not born a genius: one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible." --- Simone De Beauvoir, The second sex


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Doctor's offices are evil!

The Italian Health system is a curious blend of public and private health services. We haven't figured out how Fabien's medical insurance quite works yet (everything is not only in legalese, but in Italian legalese!), however if you see a specialist doctor in the private sector (e.g. gynaecologist, pediatrician etc...) that doctor cannot prescribe tests for you.

What they will do is address a letter to your (public health service) general practitioner, who will then COPY it out onto special paper (informally referred to as "richesta" or "foglia rossa") and then you go to the hospital or test center for your blood test/urine test/X-ray/ultrasound scan - whatever! So much for added value at every step of the way...

Apart from being a bloody waste of time, it means you spend 45 minutes to an hour hanging around your GP's office with a whole bunch of people who are actually sick.

What happens next? You guessed it! I have got a flu right now from going to the doctor's office when I was absolutely healthy. I had to go there to get a "richesta" for a blood test to determine that I don't have toxoplasmosis! I could have just as easily told you that I DON'T have toxoplasmosis - But that would just have had been far too easy surely....



Monday, March 06, 2006

Tabulae Rasae (TR) Thibault

The seventeenth-century political philosopher John Locke said that human beings are born as tabulae rasae - blank slates. It's the reason why I find the prospect of raising a child alternately terrifying and exhilarating.

Terrifying are the responsiblities involved in educating this person-in-progress, and the unwillingness to cause irreparable damage to a blank state. Yet at the same time, the idea that the world is being reinvented every day through our newborn's eyes is truly exhilarating. There's a danger that the overwhelming parental pride and ego will exaggerate the uniqueness of the experience, yet the world is indeed reborn each day when a new person discovers it.

Stanley Baldwin is usually credited with saying that "Power without responsibility -- the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages", but what he didn't mention is the flipside that responsiblity without power is the bugbear of the parent throughout the ages.

Paradoxically, there is so much and yet so little we can control over the development of our children. No amount of neo-natal Mozart music will make TR Thibault a classical pianist if he or she is actually tone-deaf. But perhaps lack of exposure to say, painting or literature would delay development or at least appreciation of fine arts?

There's a twist to this too - How do you know what your kid is really going to want anyway?

My parents gave me the chance to learn the piano, but I was much more keen on horse-riding. It doesn't bug me today that I cannot remember anything of those hundreds of hours of music lessons, but it annoys me like heck that Fabien is always going to have better horsemanship than me because he was cantering around when I was still learning to play scales. The knowledge that very little I can do in my adult life can ever change that lack of early childhood learning, is something that I want to remember when we raise our own kid. The million dollar question (as always) is HOW?

I think part of the key must lie in a general willingness to experiment, and therefore being open to failing and making mistakes. I guess my parents were not keen to let me take equestrian sports seriously because you can't break your ankle by falling off a piano stool. But even if I did - I doubt it would have changed anything..

*mood- reflective*

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'm walking on Sunshine!

It's been some time since I last inflicted a meme or pop pyscho quiz on anyone...
so here's something I stole off Jac, for you to while away your time..

You Are Sunshine

Soothing and calm
You are often held up by others as the ideal
But too much of you, and they'll get burned

You are best known for: your warmth

Your dominant state: connecting

Friday, March 03, 2006

Passion Lived here

Passion lives here is the theme of the 21st Winter Games in Torino. It was actually pretty fitting, because over the 3 weeks of games, the city was indeed passionate.

There were pretty flags of different countries fluttering from various buildings. The streets were thronged with people of different nationalities.

All the piazzas and plazas were uncovered, and we had many days of crisp clear sunshine. It was cold, but sunny through most of the games.

Every night at the Medals ceremony, the band would play the national anthem of that event's winners. Then a fireworks display over some suitably pictureseque castle followed by a free concert... It was all very pretty.

The city feels slightly abandoned now that it is all over!


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Acrobatics on skis

This is me with Gliz and Neve - the 2 winter olympic mascots. We went to watch the women's freestyle aerials. For more professional looking photos, click on this link

The idea is to slide down a slope very quickly, and lift off a ramp (like ski-jumping), but instead of just distance, the idea is to excute lots of interesting manuveres and turns mid-flight.

Fab managed to take these photos - I was not there. This is because the day we went with Pins, the event was rescheduled due to heavy snow. This is a photo of the eventual winner. She's looking extremely satisfied with herself!

This is a photo of people attending to a casualty. The olympic atheletes make it look so easy and effortless we sometimes forget just how dangerous what they are doing is. An accident reminds us that the margin for error between a stunning manuvere and serious bodily harm can be just so fine...


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

All for a Gelato

This post is of a reasonably personal nature, but I'd like to record and share it anyway.

A couple of days ago, Fabien and I had this major episode over something as trivial as gelato.

There is my favourite gelato shop - Grom, near the train station. Fabien takes the train back home from work, so when we couldn't get a fix this weekend (bloody winter olympic tourists!) he said he would get some when he came back from work. So when he came home sans gelato , I was so disappointed I started to cry.

Maybe it was because I had just recovered from flu, or maybe it was pregnancy hormones or something. I don't cry very often, so it surprised me that I was shedding tears for this.

Anyway, he was understandably distressed and decided that the best way to make up for it is to produce the gelato immediately. So ran out to get some. I know you are going to think the poor dear is being bullied by me now... But really I didn't expect and didn't need/want him to do that at all.

Essentially, the point is this:-

if someone I care about says they are going to do something (no matter how trivial) I _expect_ them to. If they subsequently don't do it , I become quite angry and disappointed. It had nothing to do with any gelato cravings, in fact it doesn't actually matter WHAT the thing is, but if you create an expectation that something is going to happen and don't deliver, then I get upset proportionate to how seriously I take the things which you normally say to me.

I admit though, that throwing a fit over a gelato seems quite extreme even when you know this background about how seriously I take this pacta sunt servanda idea...

Anyways alls well that ends well. So we've kissed and made up and all that.

But the cautionary tale for everyone out there is simply this guys-

DON'T promise your girlfriend or wife something unless you are sure you are absolutely going to do it - even if it sounds or looks really trivial!