Hands On

Breakfast time.

“Kids, today is a great day!!”
“Why??”

It took me a while to organise this day, but when something is worth, you don’t stop until you get it.
“Hands on” could summarise my philosophy (or at least part of it 😊). In other words, if you want to know something deeply, you need to touch it, to experience it. To feel it.
I have been selling Windows and related products for many years and the best way to do it was to install and test them, continuously, from beta…let’s say alpha… version to the final one; I needed to fiddle with them, with all their settings.
Now I am in the Wind Turbine business.
Maybe I cannot install and test them directly.
But for sure I have to touch and experience them. I have to feel them.
In the last 20 months I’ve visited many factories around the world and I have seen the high level of engineering that is required to produce them. I could see how a blade is created; I could learn how a generator is built up; how a big, huge steel tower is made.
The time had arrived to see the final product: a wind turbine in a Wind Park.

Not just see it. Climb it.

“Daddy, what happens if it falls down”
(ops….) “Well, dear, I would probably die….but it is very unlikely it will happen: we are the leader in the market and our turbines are excellent”

While I was telling these words I couldn’t stop my mind visualizing the image of Windows Blue Screen….but I didn’t mention it to the kids….

So, 10:00 sharp the team of 5 colleagues was ready. And excited. And somehow a little bit scared:

“Which model of turbine are we going to visit?”
“The tall one”
“Oh…”

First stop safety equipment: helmet, glasses, vest and of course shoes.
Then, we drove to the Wind Park.
We actually ended up in a farm. The turbines were there, you cannot miss them! But we probably expected a gate or something similar. Around us there were only tractors and excavators.

After a phone call we understood the entrance was on the other side. The view was not that different, indeed:

This is simply the power of green energy: wind turbine and cows can live together one close to the other one. Regarding “feeling it”, the cow’s smell was not exactly what I meant….
For sure, this bucolic environment contributed to make the visit even better.
Standing right under the turbine is amazing: you can see and feel its power. Almost 100m high. It’s huge.

We dressed up with the safety equipment plus the harness. Being watching Falling Skies and wearing a “harness” is a kind of strange… 😊
A little demo on the use of the harness and all the hooks it included and then we were ready to go up.
You can climb.
Or you can take the lift.
94m ladder?
Lift.
If you are thinking about the lift you took during your last stay at the Grand Hotel, it is not that one.
It is more like a small cage where two people can barely stay. If they fit, they cannot move anyway.
The slow rise to the top took some minutes. You cannot miss the fact that you are arrived: it is a sudden and noisy stop, with a lot of shake.
A couple of ladders and finally I was inside the nacelle.

I visited one in the past, but it was on the ground.
Up there it was different: better not to think that I was walking almost at 100m over the ground; the slow movement from one side to the other, due to the wind, was there just to remind it. And the wind was not that bad.
The Service Technician, our guide, told me all the important info about the components that were in front of us and the way he usually works there.
Then he opened the two windows located on the ceiling.
“Give a look!”
I slowly raised my head outside the squared hole in the ceiling and the view was breathless:

He calmly and comfortably went to the other window and sat outside, locking one of his hook to the safety ring on the roof.
In the meanwhile, the whole team was up.
The next step was to walk on the top of the nacelle.
Right.
Let’s do it.
Maybe I just wait a little bit.
I need to concentrate more….
Of course, I knew since the very beginning that standing up on the top of the turbine would have been the challenge of the day.

Ready. Go.
Just to recap.
First step: head out.
Second step: seat outside with the legs inside the window.
Now the third step was waiting for me: leave the safe hole and stay completely outside, on my knees.
Done.
Outside there, you need ALWAYS to be locked to one ring at least, so if you want to move you need to lock the second hook to another ring in the direction you are moving to, then unlock the first one and so forth.
The forth step had then two options: do this unlock and lock by crawling….or be brave, stand up, walk towards the next ring, bend, lock the second hook, stand up, walk back to the first one, bend, unlock it and continue. Walking.
I think crawling is good just for pub crawling, so I decided to stand up.
Wow!!
The point of view was different from there.

Amazing. Speechless. Inspiring.
Then our guide suggested me to walk to the border and look down.


Amazing. Speechless. Inspiring.
….but…. “Is that small rectangular stuff our car??!!??!?! OMG!!!!!!!

And what about those ants?!?!?!!? Oh…they are our friends, the cows!!!!

But overall, I was not scared. On the contrary, I didn’t want to come down: it was so peaceful that I could have being seating there for hours.

But time flies….. so it was to time to go back to the ground.

At that moment, I was sure all the interesting part was ended. It is actually in those circumstances that something unexpected happens and your fun level skyrockets! And so does adrenaline!

“Would you like to take the lift or climb down through the stairs?”

How could you say no to such an invitation?

I locked my special hook to the ladder, opened the trap-door, looked down and….I could see the ladder all the way down to the basement: 94m!!!!!

I double checked the hook….

The descent was as worth as the stand up on the top of the turbine, no doubt. It looked like the end down there was not getting closer. But after many minutes it did: I actually was so much focused on the ladder and the way I was climbing down that I lost completely the time/space dimension. After a while I looked up and I saw a very far away trap-door; I looked down and I saw a very far away ground: it was like being in a parallel universe.

This day just once more confirmed the “Hands on” principle.

Regardless it is about job, personal life or free time….

do it

experience it

get your hands dirty

 

 

 

CISV

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DepartureDay – 1

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Susy started to talk about the CISV experience for our kids since before they were born: Emma was actually still in that comfortable and floating status inside mom’s belly when I learnt about it….

CISV is a great concept:

CISV International is a global organization dedicated to educating and inspiring for peace through building inter-cultural friendship, cooperation and understanding.

and

Our innovative, fun, non-formal peace education ‘learning by doing’ programmes begin with our original and unique Village programme for 11-year-olds.

Emma turned 11 this year… so this is THE year. THE year for the village: 1 months spent together with other 50+ kids of the same age, coming from all over the world, supervised by grown up guys; and most important thing…. far away from parents.

We had the first meeting in November last year.

There were a few options for the location and we decided to apply for Mexico.

Application was accepted.

Village means also job for the parents. Kids are part of the national delegation, which is composed of 2 boys and 2 girls, plus a leader. As they will spend 1 month away, they need to create the bond, to get closer, to become friends.

This can only be achieved through time spent together; we organised many sleepovers and meetings during winter and spring time. CISV was founded in 1950…..how could parents do it without a Facebook group?!?!!?!?

I remember the first sleepover, where each of the four kids had the balloon over the head, saying “do I really need to spend the weekend with these 4 perfect strangers??? Are you kidding me????”

At the end of that weekend the situation was slightly changed, but still very far away from the idea of a team. And friends.

But kids are amazing and after all the four sleepovers and a few more meetings, they have become friends and a real team.

We, the parents, were very proud of them… but it has been a second job that required a strong commitment.

We worked together to make it happen.

We needed to organise a huge amount of things: from the sleepovers, to the gifts (for staff, other kids, hosting families) to the Danish flag and all the ingredients for a Danish cake; we tried to find ideas which could bring the Danish spirit and tradition to the Village. It turned out that our creativity came up and we actually did some very good things, like the LEGO pixelation of H.C. Andersen (great job Morten!):

Living in Billund helped a lot with the very traditional LEGO bricks and merchandising 🙂 Being the organiser of TheBigMatch helped too:

We went through many things. We spent a lot of time and energy. We also spent one day to pre-fold, cut and then finally fold almost 500 booklets.

We spent a good day in front of a BBQ baking pizza:

In November it seemed very far away.

Now it’s tomorrow.

Are we ready?

Mostly.

I mean, luggage is ready and closed. Hand luggage too.

But what about us?

Well, Emma is sleeping, indeed.

I am not. I am here in front of this screen, thinking how excited I am for Emma and, at the same time, how difficult staying one month without her will be. For the first time, summer holidays without Emma.

You could always talk to her by phone, you may think…. Wrong assumption. We could not. We won’t.

There will be very few communication options (written, no calls), only through the leader. Full stop. This should minimise the homesickness…

I am sure it will be that kind of experiences that will make her do a big step into the life’s adventure.

 

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DepartureDay

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Appointment is at 16:00 at Billund Airport.

I work from home today: I don’t want to risk to get trapped into the traffic jam and miss this important moment.

Emma and Giulio have been playing wonderfully for the last few days; today it is the same.

We close and re-open luggage many times: put in that missing thing, move that other thing from the checked in luggage to the hand one…. are you sure you put the very, really, super important stuff in that bag????? OMG…..

Time flies.

15:00. We close luggage for the last time.

Load it into the car.

Everybody is ready.

Everybody is excited.

Everybody wants to hug Emma, before getting to the airport.

…a few tears show up, wiped only by the strong belief that it will be great.

It’s a kind of feeling similar to the one I experienced in the moments right before stepping into the red dot at TEDx or free falling from 30 m. at the Tivoli Park: I chose to be there, I wanted to be there, but in those precise moments excitement and “fear” merged together in an explosive mix.

Time to go.

At the airport our friends have already arrived: we all have the same expression in our faces…..

As we agreed in the last meeting, it is better to make it short, very short to avoid a drama show in the hall.

So, the last check to the luggage, a couple of pictures and the last hugs.

The CISV Danish delegation heads to the counter for the check in

and the CISV Danish delegation’s parents head to the new bar in Billund to support each other 🙂

Bye bye kids, have fun and see you in one month!

 

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DepartureDay +

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We decided to leave for holidays the day after Emma’s departure: roadtrip to Italy, so Giulio would be in a different environment and hopefully would not miss the sister too much.

We wake up early, load the car and head South.

We get a few messages from the leader, showing that everybody arrived to Mexico 🙂 The first 2 nights are spent with a host family: Emma is smart and she remembers her mom’s phone number, so we start getting whatsapp messages from the family.

We are very happy: most of them are pictures showing smiling and happy girls.

We go on for two days communicating in Spanish with them; at the end we get also an invite for Mexico…. why not?!?! Let’s see….

Since when they arrived to the Village, whatsapp messages stopped and all of us are continuously checking Instagram private group to see if anything new popped up.

Only a few pictures indeed.

We write an email every Saturday: we tell Emma what we are doing, but without exceeding in describing too much fun and without showing that we miss her too much. Of course, we don’t receive any answer the following Sunday-Friday.

But that was the agreement, so it’s fine.

We also thought that having only a few info about the village will make Emma’s stories even more exciting and interesting. I really can’t wait to listen to them.

…even if I can foresee it:

“Hey Emma, how was it?????? What did you do????”

“Good, nothing.”

Dreams

[All in the same week]

S1:E1

During my commute I use to listen to the Italian radio: I have been listening to Il Volo del Mattino for many years and it is still part of my way to the office.

It is a mix of good music, unstructured structure, fun, messages from the listeners and calls to the most intriguing message writers.

Recently Fabio, the speaker, focused on dreams and announced his new mission: helping people’s dreams to come true.

Of course he received tons of messages.

The first one he selected was from a guy living in the same city as the radio station is.

The guy who sent the message had a dream: to become a radio speaker.

After the initial handshake and jokes, Fabio told the guy: “Come here and take my place for the last 5 minutes of the program today”.

This is a national radio station, one of the most famous in Italy.

What did the guy reply?

“I cannot, because I have to work”

Ok. I could agree with the guy: job is important. Not only important: it is fundamental; it is crucial.

But here on one side there is 1 hour, maybe 2 hours of a working day. Is it that much?? I don’t think the world is full of envy and bad managers who like to put tough obstacles in their reports’ life. No, I do believe the wide majority of managers is just the opposite. I think his manager would have understood it.

On the other side there is the dream of the life.

I can tell you that I hoped until the end of the program to hear the voice of the guy.

No way.

He didn’t go.

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S1:E2

I received a message from one of my best friends.

It was a bad news regarding an old school buddy who has passed away. As often happens in this situations, you end up realising once more that life is short.

Too short.

That it must be fully lived.

No excuses.

In other words, you have to pursue your dreams. Nobody will fight for them; maybe your friends or beloved ones will support you, but only if you are the first one who believes in your dreams.

My friend ended up stating that saying something is different from doing it. So, no dreams coming true.

*********

S1:E3

“Daddy, can you help me sleeping?”

“Sure”

In my family we are 2 “boys” and 2 “girls”: well, one of the 2 girls starts to talk as soon as I open one eye in the morning (I guess I am in a good company here 🙂 ), and the other one cannot stop talking before sleeping.

I was trying to bring into Morpheus arms the second one….

So, between one topic and another one we ended up talking about our dreams and how important it is to fight for them.

After I described one of mine to my daughter, she simply said:

“Do it”

Kids’ logic is quite often simple and right.

In that specific moment, her 2 simple words just threw me on the other side of the call at the radio.

Am I doing everything I can to pursue my dream?

I cannot answer that, probably because I would realise that I could do more….

So…..

….right now….

….I will not open Netflix and watch a new episode of

….no….

…I will work on the next step towards my dream.

Grand Finale

“Would you volunteer at the school dance party?”

“Sure!!!! I would be happy to!!!”

…but it didn’t go just like this…

My wife decided to volunteer: it was great, of course.

But then, she had to shift to new schedules and plans and I inherited the great opportunity.

In other words, I was the official replacement.

It is an important change, because the party could have had a different course if I had spent that evening at home with my son.

So, I volunteered to be one of the 2 DJs: in the dance party, F. and I were the most important helping-parents (maybe it is just how we felt 🙂 )

We spent some time to take 1 by 1 the titles of the songs that boys and girls wanted to add to THE playlist. Two different genres, definitely! Finally, it was in F’s spotify playlist.

Obviously, the night before the big event, at 21.30 my daughter came up with other 10 song titles that could not have missed the floor of the dance party: it took me a while to search for each of them, get a screenshot and send all the screenshots to F., so that he could include them in the playlist.

Being a ParentDJ is a tough job.

It was even clearer when I arrived at school. One of my daughter’s friend, whose name is top secret, approached me and said: “I have to dance 16 minutes with L., 15 with A., 11 with B. and…and…and…. : therefore, I need many slow songs!!!! Are you playing them, aren’t you????”

In my head the only thought was: “this 10 years old little girl, standing in front of me together with my daughter, is just kidding me”. Actually, she was too serious to be kidding me.

“Sure no problem!”

“Oh, thank you so much!!!!! By the way….don’t tell my parents about it!!!!”

I couldn’t stop a smile to show up in my face.

The sound system in the room was great: we just needed to connect the phone and music started to fill in the air. We kept the volume down as the party had not started yet. I had to post a picture of the mixer on facebook: too cool!

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I’m pretty sure I never had a similar sound system in my private parties when I was a kid/teen.

We managed to get lights and a globe too….

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In the meanwhile a bunch of parents were preparing tables for the dinner: the organisation of the volunteering system worked perfectly, thanks G. for that!

The party kicked off officially and volume pumped up.

The first 2-3 songs in the playlist went great: most of the kids were dancing and having fun.

Then, requests for songs started up: “Now we need this song, just this!! Please please!”

It was impossible to resist and the playlist, built with so much sacrifice, was simply abandoned. Forgot. Put in a remote corner.

And of course my young friend with a top secret name went to the DJ station and said: “I need the slow song. Now”

Yes, impossible to resist.

VVVVRRRRRR (phone vibrating). Someone commented on my Facebook post.

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Really?!?!?!?!?!  A   F O G  –  M A C H I N E ?!?!?!?!

The 2 DJs decided that it was a fantastic idea; an idea that would have brought the party to the next level!

We replied that we needed it.

And he came, fast. Super-fast. “I am here”, Messenger blinked. B. was waiting at the school gate.

Outside it was snowing and many entrances and internal doors in the school were closed, for safety reasons. It took me some time to reach the right door. After a few minutes the fog machine was ready: it just needed to warm up.

B. and I started talking and suddenly, looking at the ceiling, B. stopped talking and pointed at the smoke alarm sensor. We looked each other and nodded. We agreed that most likely smoke made of palm oil and water wouldn’t have triggered the alarm.

Fog machine is a nice gadget as it has a remote control: you press a button, it sprays a little cloud of smoke.

1 pressure, 1 little cloud: test successful.

Cake break.

Dancing floor empty. DJs in a good party mood.

Cake break finished.

Kids in the dancing floor again.

More songs requests.

More fun.

Press. Smoke.

Nice.

Press again. Smoke again.

Very nice.

Press press. Smoke smoke.

Really funny.

Press press press. Smoke smoke smo….

“This is a critical situation”

***weeeeee*** ***weeeeee****

“This is a critical situation, everybody….”

Ops.

We did it.

Fire alarm was triggered.

Everybody knew that there was no actual fire, but only a fog machine: even though, a small level of panic started raising.

All lights were on and music was down.

Firemen truck siren broke the silence in the quiet Billund.

Headmaster arrived.

Firemen arrived.

WORRIED PARENTS ARRIVED.

Suddenly the school was full of people…and still some smoke…

Cleaning lady, who probably did a very good training, brought outside all the kids she found.

A big serious fireman entered the building: a selfie shot would have been probably nice right below here….but he was so serious that I couldn’t ask for it…

He said that everybody had to be in the same place.

“Sure, but the alarm was triggered just by a fog mach…”

“It’s the process. Everybody must be in the same place”

“Got it”

Someone reported that half kids were inside and half outside.

Someone else said: “Ok, then everybody outside”.

As it was heavily snowing and, most importantly, there was no fire, I suggested to do the other way around: bring inside those kids who were outside.

Proposal approved.

Finally, alarm was switched off, firemen truck left the school parking lot and kids enjoyed some last cake.

According to rumours, a few kids were disappointed about it….

…but trusted sources declared that for most of them it was really a Grand Finale!!!!

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Disclaimer: Don’t Try This At Your Kids’ Party 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 – a journey

When I look back to my last year, this is a good representation of it:

In 12 months, 10 countries over 3 continents.

It has been tough, from the organizational point of view: a kind of puzzle between family tasks and appointments and job schedules and meetings.

But we did it. Big kudos to the family!

I started in February, with the business trip to US.

First stop: Denver, CO.

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When we arrived at the airport, while in line for the passport control, we heard many people yelling: weird, even weirder in a US airport. In a few milliseconds our feeling started to move from the surprised status to the worried one…..yes…this is a tough time to travel….

…but it didn’t move completely as we found out that Denver Broncos, the American football local team, had just won the Super-Bowl.

Everybody in Denver was crazy about it: even the guys at car rental were wearing Broncos merchandise!

In the following days we drove for hours among the factories there;

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The weather uses to change so quickly in Colorado (by the way, 300 sunny days per year!!!), that you go into a factory with a blue sunny sky

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and you go out after 2 hours under a grey snowy sky

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We got also our parking spot

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(just kidding 🙂 )

The last day we went to the Rocky Mountains. I was the driver that day and I could experience the peace of climbing up the mountains in the road full of turns. All around incredible landscapes

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With a night flight we got to Portland.

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I was again on the West Coast, a little bit more South than the city that hosted me for 9 summers.

Summers equals to NO-NBA.

Winter equals to YES-NBA: what a fantastic opportunity then!!!!!

And of course I took it: well in advance organized, we got tickets for the match and the last night we went to the ModaCenter for CHA@POR.

An NBA match is a show that merges with sport at the highest level

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In February it was time to go to Italy.

First stop: Taranto. Getting there took me almost as much time as going to Denver…..

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It was actually strange to go “abroad” in a business trip to my country.

But I managed it 🙂

For the first time since I was in Vestas, I had a meeting in Italian: this was strange as well!

Being in the Southern part of Italy had some advantages…

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Back to Rome

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my room was in a very peculiar hotel:

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Rome was beautiful as always.

Then, a little vacation time in Berlin, Germany: it is also a very nice city

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Full of history and culture…

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…great shows…

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…some technical issues…

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…epic characters…

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…and galactic fights…

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Next business trip was to Spain: I have been here 3 times in 2016.

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I visited our sites in Madrid, Daimiel and Léon.

Sometimes with fantastic colleagues, sometimes alone.

Getting to Madrid is quite easy: only airplane, even if with one intermediate stop.

Getting to Daimiel or Léon is more difficult: you need to drive 2-3 hours

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which has the advantage of discovering beautiful places lost in the middle of Spain

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It’s always nice to be in there 🙂

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France in March:

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It was my first time in Montpellier: it is a nice city in the Southern part of France.

I have been there twice in 2016. During my second visit I found a very nice small restaurant, which was really inspiring for the preparation of Safer Internet session at my kids’ school

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First time to China in May!

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Beijing is a fascinating and huge city.

 

Forbidden City is marvelous

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I also had the opportunity to shake the hand to the last living Emperor

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and taste some special tea, in the Chinese way

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Some colleagues told me that not everybody speaks English there: I can confirm it now…

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It was quite difficult in restaurants: we appreciated the waitresses’ effort in trying to communicate with us, but Google voice translator didn’t work so well and we ended up ordering food for at least 6 people (we were only 2)

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Not being able to communicate verbally was a challenge when our data traffic finished and we were in the middle of the city with no paper map and just the name of the place we wanted to go to: back to the past, a past we are not used to anymore!

But apparently it’s plenty of communication channels in Beijing…

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What we easily found was the food street

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In the end of May situation in Turkey seemed better, so I decided to plan my visit there.

The day before my flight, there was an attack in the middle of the city: I thought that statistically 2 attacks in a row are unlikely and I went there.

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Istanbul is really a fascinating city and crossing the bridge that links the European and Asian parts is even more fascinating

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From  Istanbul I flew directly to Athens, Greece: here I had a very short visit: airport, office and not much more

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Then….vacation time!!!!!!!

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Rome&Sabaudia, Italy: a mix of culture and just relax.

The night visit to Fori Imperiali was amazing

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Relax sessions were amazing as well….

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Like lunches on the sea side

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which I needed to “compensate” with some exercise…

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We also had beautiful sunsets

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and relatives visiting us (it took a while to shoot this picture with all four kids together and almost still!)

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In August it was time to go to the other side of the world, but in the Southern hemisphere

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After “only” 22 hours trip I got to Fortaleza, Brazil: it’s a beautiful place on the east coast of Brazil. Of course our factory is just in the middle of nowhere….

View from the hotel was great, day…

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…and night

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I had some time to experience the beauty of the city

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and eat some tropical fruit

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I could not miss the sunsets too!!!

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I had also some tough experience (Sliding Doors).

From Fortaleza to Sao Paulo, where I spent a very short time, just for my visit to the office (and some picanha)

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In October we decided to go back to Italy for a short vacation.

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Kids said they were missing our scooter runs: how could I neglect it (“real” Italian ice-cream included)???

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Kids, and grown up, played together

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We spent some great time with friends too

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Vacation was split into two parts: after Rome, La Spezia!

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There, we had a family reunion

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and I met my friends

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One last “cheers” before coming back home

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December was the month of my last trip: a long flight again.

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Mexico City is a crazy capital city: I lived in Rome for many years and I experienced its traffic jam, which was second only to the one in Cairo. After my visit to Mexico City, I know which is the winner!

I could not go downtown because it was 20 Km from my hotel and it could have taken 1.5 hours!

But it is also a very nice city

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I had some time to visit one of the most amazing and beautiful place in the world: Teotihuacan

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Are you wondering if it is a big site?

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How could I resist to

SALT

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LEMON

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& TEQUILA

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???

That was obviously great 🙂

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Now 2017 has started and everything is ready:

  • First vacation abroad – booked
  • First business trip – ready to be planned
  • Netflix offline feature – implemented (and preferred TV series downloaded)
  • Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones – charged
  • Kindle – charged
  • Plug converters – in the bag
  • Passport – in the bag

So…let’s take off!!!!!!!!

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The Magic Update

Yesterday I woke up at 6 AM as usual, I dismissed the alarm clock ringing on my phone….and then something strange happened.

I enabled Wi-Fi network and immediately the phone connected to it: no need to struggle with the on/off switch on the Wi-Fi settings…

…the email app worked smoothly…

…I could see all my pictures stored in the cloud quickly: no grey squares nor spinning wheel telling me that the app was refreshing the view….

…I could update the lineup of my fantasy football team easily from the app…

…I had my Ryan-air boarding passes on the Ryan-air app and not in a pdf inside an email inside the mail app…

…my watch synchronized with the phone to show me the sleep status of the night before….

…and it started getting notifications from the phone without my finger closing and opening and closing and opening and closing and opening Garmin app, ending up in closing it again and giving up…

…l’app facebook worked simply as it should, no less no more…

…facebook Messenger didn’t crash just after the launch…

..WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?!?!?!?! A MAGIC WINDOWS UPDATE RUN DURING THE NIGHT??????

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…not exactly….

Ehm….after

10 years

     3 months

           13 days

                  and 20 hours

I woke up in that Think Different world that I had always seen as the Dark Side!

The time had come: quite sadly indeed I said goodbye to the companion of many adventures, to that guy I went on advocating and “evangelizing” for so many years.

But that’s the way it is: the last year has been a painful (technology speaking) path towards the annihilation.

So, see you my friend and welcome to you, my new iCompanion!

A dinner

Starter, main course, dessert.
It seems a typical dinner.
But it was one of the most amazing dinner I ever had.

Let’s move the timeline back to June: we got an email, which was actually a
TOP SECRET INVITATION.
It was about a dinner, planned for the 24th of September: quite an early invitation…but a lot of organization was needed….
By accepting it, we would have accepted to attend the so called “Running Dinner”, where we would have met many new people and had a lot of fun.
We accepted, of course, with no hesitation.
We also got a task: preparing dessert for eight people.

The preparation was a long one, at least mentally; practically, we did almost everything last minute….
We looked for recipes, for a good way to prepare the table and the house, for our super babysitter: then, some tests on Friday (I am pretty good in tasting cakes) and the big preparation on Saturday.
Everything was ready: kids with babysitter, allowed to walk around only in half house; cat outside, not allowed at all to walk around (I could see all the glasses in pieces and cat hair all around!!)…

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…just waiting for the SMS.
Yes, the SMS!
We didn’t know where the starter would have taken place.
16.30 sharp, 30 mins before the beginning of the dinner, we got it.
Weather was lovely last Saturday, so we decided to bike.
We reached our destination, rang the bell and two perfect strangers welcomed us in their house.
In a short while, other three couples joined: one house, eight people, a mix of Danish and Internationals, some of whom just met for the first time, hungry and happy to have the starter together. Even happier to come know each other.
Typical Danish starter, good talks, some in English some in Danish (!!!), good wine….just not enough yet for a fluent talk in Danish…
Then the host took the envelopes she received from the organizers and distributed them to the guests, one per couple.
Each couple opened the envelope and got the next destination address: the one for the main course.

Before leaving, we couldn’t miss the opportunity of a group picture:

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The eight of us cheered each other, excited for the next step but also a little bit sad for leaving the good company.
It was funny to see other bikers running in different directions, all looking for their next destination.
It was a puzzle, where every step was built up of eight people, in a newer combination.
On our way we met other two bikes, going in the same direction: a quick glance and we understood we were heading to the same destination.
Again, we rang the bell and two perfect strangers welcomed us in the their house.
A few minutes later the forth couple arrived and everything was ready for the main course.
Great main course, great people. Different interaction, but lovely in the same way as the previous one.
The Italian red wine was really good and also had a nice story behind: we were honored to be the one sipping it.
When you have such a good time, it tends to run very fast and suddenly the new envelopes were distributed: we already knew our next destination.
From one side we were feeling a little bit the pressure of being the hosts for dessert, from the other one we were happy to fully experience this new kind of event.

But before leaving, we shot our picture, of course…

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…we cheered then the new friends and, with the same feeling as before, we cycled back home.
We got home, wondering if our cat had decided just that night to use the cat door that she had never used. Luckily, she didn’t.
Kids were sleeping, babysitter had everything under control, we lighted up the candles and waited for our guests.
For four of them we were the perfect strangers who welcomed them in their house.
Tiramisù, panna cotta and special rice balls were delicious.
One dinner, third steps in three different houses, third combination of people, third different dynamics around the table. One common thing: same fun and same wish to know each other.
Before opening the last envelope, we had time for the special Luca’s cocktail: that’s where we started singing Danish songs! 🙂

The vibe was high, we have had a fantastic time and we were looking forward to our next destination: Refborg hotel, where the party with all the participants was waiting for us.

But before jumping on our bikes…

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At Refborg, we met all our friends, old and new: lights dimmed down, music volume pumped up and the party began!
At some time in the night, we came back: now the bikes seemed to be not as stable and straight as before… but we succeeded with a great performance!
Running dinner is definitely a memorable experience: it is a unique way to merge different people and different cultures in a funny and interesting manner.
I actually don’t know in how many places you can organize such an event and having a so good outcome… I think Billund is the perfect place for that.
Now… I simply can’t wait for the next one…

Sliding Doors

If you look at the ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world, you don’t need to scroll down that much to find Fortaleza, Brazil.

Some colleagues advised me to stay in the area along the sea and to get back to the hotel by 11 PM. “Good advice” I thought when I landed and took a cab to reach my hotel (on the beach, you never know…): the residential buildings I passed by were protected by high fences and electrified wires, a clear hint about the ranking….

But once arrived at the hotel, the view from the room was beautiful.

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It was easy to forget the dangers and enter into the “equatorial mood”: it was Sunday, so it was also beach time, before the upcoming week full of important meetings.

The beach and the warm water were amazing, as amazing were the tropical fruit salad and the cold passion fruit juice got just with the feet in the white sand.

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Due to its latitude, in Fortaleza you can experience a quite fast sunset at 5.30 PM:

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So, around 6.30 PM I was already walking along the sea, in the middle of a big crowd.

Sipping coco juice from a fresh coconut, I was enjoying my first time in Brazil: the beach was illuminated by big stadium-like lights and many people were running, having yoga sessions, playing volleyball… in other words enjoying all kinds of sports.

My target was anyway the restaurant that, according to internet and to the receptionists, was one of the best nearby.

The sidewalk was really crowded.

When I was almost at half way, I had two options: continue straight head or steer left.

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I was curious to see the area at my left side.

SLIDING DOORS

I steered left.

A few seconds later, I heard fast steps behind me and suddenly some guys were running in my direction.

They were not interested in me.

Fear was the expression I could read in their faces when they overtook me.

Then the big noise started, like some explosions similar to fireworks. But the sky was still very dark and the explosions were very near, so they couldn’t be fireworks. This thought went through my mind at the speed of light; at the same speed I realized that I was just in the middle of a shooting.

Many explosions meant many bullets. The path was still crowded, but people were now running away in all the directions, bringing and protecting their kids under their arms.

Was I in the trajectory of any bullet?

We will never know…

SLIDING DOORS

Curiosity was not enough to bring me to the left, so I went straight away.

A few seconds later, I just perceived that someone was running in the back left side, where I had decided not to go.

Then the noise started, like some explosions similar to fireworks. But the sky was still very dark and the explosions were quite near, so they couldn’t be fireworks. This thought went through my mind at the speed of light; at the same speed I realized that I had just missed a shooting and that it was still too close to me.

I started running, together with many other people, most of whom were carrying and protecting their kids under their arms.

Once on the other side of the street, enough away from the crime scene and with no more explosions in the air, I stopped: we all were looking in the same direction, thanking our God or Angel or any other Entity present above that multi-ethnic side walk.

It’s difficult to forget the expression in the face of some kids. My daughter sometimes says: “Do you remember when we saw that car up-side-down in Via Boccea?” She didn’t see the whole accident, she only saw the car after the accident, when everything was finished. Well, she was 2 years old at that time and after 8 years she still remembers it (probably through that special magnifier that all kids have): I cannot imagine how her mind could have reacted to this experience.

My reaction was easy: squid rings, fish in coconut milk with fried banana and beer, a lot of beer.

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Cheers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a great day looks like

After many days of rain, wind and temperatures that pushed Spring back to some far far away galaxy, finally a lovely sunny day pops up.

It’s Sunday. We have invited friends for lunch. It’s the perfect first time for a lunch outside, in the garden.

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We can really feel the “spirit” of this new life.

Lunch starts at a time which is probably closer to the Italian one rather than to the local one: so friends in the neighborhoods have already finished…that’s probably why 2 G’s friends show up just after the first skål with the IPA beer.

Almost surprised by finding many people around the table still busy with their pasta and glasses gleaming in the sun, they say “Hello G.” and, moving their eyes to all of us, “…hELloo”…

This represents the end of formalities, so the two young friends feel ready to enter the house: “we have to take some weapons and play with them!” is the only thing we can hear while they run to G’s room… Of course G. and his friend at the table cannot wait one more second and run after them. The easy going life is simply unbelievable and fantastic here.

But it’s just the beginning: after (parents’) lunch, kids decide they have to go and join other friends in the neighborhoods, so they run away from the garden and disappear. The four of us at the table, with previous lives spent in big cities on the two opposite corners of the world, look at each others: our eyes trying to convince the others’ wide open eyes that it’s normal, that we are not in Rome or in the Bay anymore, that here everything is safe, that the kids after all are already 7 years old, they are almost teen, quite close to the adult age…..

In some way we succeed 🙂

That’s when a friend of us shows up and brings the 2 ladies out for a walk.

“Where is your dear husband, my friend?”

“He is working hard in the garden!”

Immediately, our sense of husbands’ community lights on: we grab a few beers, double check that E. (almost 10!!!) wants to stay home alone, beautiful in the sun, creating her bracelets, quickly check that our grown-up-but-still-7-years-old-kids are still somewhere around here, jump on our bikes and cycle to rescue …ops ….meet our friend, whose hard work in the garden must have made thirsty for sure.

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Yes, he is quite thirsty…

Skål!!!!!

The Viking beer is great, the fruity one is interesting and very good in the sun, the German one perfect for the occasion…

The sun is still high and warm and we could go on forever, but unfortunately it is time to go back home. Cycling, chatting about little and big things, we get back home.

We have dinner at the Italian time, in a Danish strong sun light:

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The only difficult part of the day is now to convince kids that it’s time to go bed: having sunshine doesn’t mean that it is not sleeping time, but of course it’s a very good excuse to keep running and watching cartoons…

After some time, parents-kids 1-0 and everybody is in the bed.

We fall asleep smiling as this was simply how a great day looks like.

-14

A ringing sound from far away….

It gets closer….

It takes a while before I realize it is my phone alerting me it is time to wake up…

I touch the “shut up” button.

After ten minutes my other morning friend alerts me about the time: the watch starts ringing and now it is time to wake up.

Outside it is still dark, even if everything seems glowing: it is all white there.

Today is my wfh day: I am going to Work From Home.

I greet S. then: she is already in the brygger, ready to get out.

The weather app says it is -14: it is usually reliable, but I can’t believe it. S. starts the car to warm it up and comes back. “it’s -14!!!” She says! The app is right. Again.

As usual, waking up kids is hard: I set up the table for the breakfast and I push the 2 sleeping creatures to get  in contact with the real world. After a few attempts I succeed.

My parents in law are here: they help me preparing the kids for the school day.

When we are almost there, I get out to warm up my car: it is the small one. The remote control opens it, I get in, insert the key, turn it on, and…..a strange tired noise of a frozen engine comes from the front of the car. It is normal, I think. It is -14. But it can do it. I try again. And again. And again. Inside the car is also -14. It’s a f…freezing cold. Dressed like a skiing man, I spend 10 minutes there: I turn and turn and turn the key, but with no success.

Time is running. Kids need to go to school. I try to text to one friend asking her to pick us up: no answer.

There are only 2 options: walk or cycle.

It is too late to walk.

Let’s cycle then.

Maybe the ice outside has frozen some neurons, but I am even happy to do that. Kids too. Well…almost…

So, let’s take out the bikes. Get dressed with gloves, helmets and hat over the helmets.

Ready?

Go.

Everything is white and the sky is turning blue: a dark blue as only here can be. The shortest night of the year already passed by and we are now in that time of the year when every days is getting longer.

E. is comfortable in biking in the snow, as she always is in all situation: her adaptability and flexibility are unbelievable. G. is younger and he fights a little bit to get it right, but he does it, notwithstanding 2 fallings down. I feel like a coach trying to get the best from his fellows: in the second slope I can hear him repeating what I just told him “I can do that, I can do that”. Great guy. He succeeds.

We get to school frozen: mainly our hands are like blocks of ice.

I leave them at school, a little bit late, but happy about the challenge we have been able to win.

Now I have only to come back home.

My hands are still frozen.

I spend some time in the hall of the school waiting for the blood to start flowing again in my fingers (with some pain, actually…).

A few teachers enter the school while I am here and greet me: I can read the question mark in their face “why is he not cycling back??” Bike in Denmark is a transportation mean, that is used regardless weather conditions: in other words, weather conditions don’t affect daily life, so you can experience more outdoor life here than in other places where weather is more friendly. Waiting too long to get blood flowing again probably is not a usual thing here…

The way back seems to be easier: probably it is only -12!

I get home and I am ready to start working.

Happy for the beautiful experience in the snow.

One step further into the Danish world.