Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Cross country skiing

I have promised my father I will complete two traditional classic cross country skiing competitions with him: the Diagonela and the Marcialonga. The Diagonela takes place on January 19 with starts and finish in Zuoz, Engadina Valley, Switzerland. It is 65-kilometre long. The Marcialonga takes place on January 27 with start in Moena and finish in Cavalese, Dolomites of Trentino, Italy. It is 70-kilometre long.

I have never done classic cross country skiing before. My previous experience with cross country skiing is limited to skating, with one participation to the regional championship of junior students when I was 17. On that occasion, I inadvertently took a huge shortcut of about one third of the race and yet ended up only 8th out of 16 participants.


November 7: Trento-Lavis, 10 km roller skis
December 5: Martignano-Montevaccino, 10 km, roller skis
December 23: Lavazé, 18 km, skis
December 25: Passo Coe, 10 km, skis
December 28: Viote, 27 km, skis
December 29: Lavazé, 24 km, skis
January 12: La Tourne, 22 km, skating skis
January 13: La Sagne, 15 km, skating skis
January 15: La Vue des Alps, 20 km, skating skis


2019: resolutions

Finish the Diagonela and the Marcialonga. Take some good pictures, mainly portraits. Cook: soupe à l’oignon, parmigiana, babaganoush. Improve French, learn some German. Drink beer with Anna. Regularly update the blog. Write letters to Thomas. Hike on the mountains with Giallu, Nicco, other friends and family. Memorise twelve poems: one per month. Read one, big classic book of the Russian literature. Travel with Jonas. Produce Gingerello with Zuppa and Biraghi. Go sailing. Play tennis. Spend new year’s eve with the Canadians, possibly in the mountains.

Mother with three children

My last night in Nairobi I walked out of the hotel to get a quick meal. I was told not to go out in the dark but my hotel was in the better-off part of town (Westland) and there was no risk. As I left the mall where I had dinner, I saw a group of people sitting in the middle of a cross-road. Upon closer inspection I realised it was a woman with three children. I could not understand why they were standing there but I found it to odd and dangerous. I tried to take some pictures from far out. After a couple of minutes, I decided to approach the group and ask for permission to take a few photos. Walking there, I understood that the street was the only place where the woman would have been safe from rape during the night. The cars were roaring centimeters away from them and the children were exposed to the constant on-and-off of the lights. I spoke to them for a minute or so and I took this photo. It is the only serious picture I felt like having during my week in Nairobi.


Trust to me

Between October 14 and October 20 this year I went to Nairobi for a conference as part of the Better Migration Management Programme sponsored by the European Union and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. Here I will write only about my experience in the city, copying down the scattered notes I took on my journal.


I land at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Monday 15 at 2 in the night. Large, empty roads, kind taxi driver. Arrival at the hotel: massive security devices, big gate, armed guards. It is a consequence of the terrorist attack at the Mall in 2012, I am told. The hotel is in the same neighbourhood where those events took place: Westland. It is the richest neighbourhood of Nairobi. My room is luxurious. The whole building is luxurious. A stark contrast with the city. Still, I love the dress of the staff: lean and colourful.

First impressions of the day: loud, sandy, buzzing. The streets are full of traffic. There are no sidewalks for pedestrians. Only mud and grass to walk in. People come and go, everywhere. This strikes me as a poor place but in a different way from Cuba. In La Havana, for instance, I had the impression that people idle all the time. Here in Nairobi people run around. They seem busy. What do they have to do? Where do they run?

There are high hotels everywhere, half are finished half are being built. Most of them are property of the Chinese, who bring in their money but also their own workers. Locals do not fancy that.

I walk out of the hotel with wallet and my camera but Victor suggests me to do otherwise. It turns out it is forbidden to take pictures in the open spaces. Another consequence of the terrorist attacks of 2012. I am not sure sure it makes any sense; but people tell me they feel safer. Other actions that are forbidden: walking with a plastic bag and smoking outside. Only the Chinese can do whatever they want: they bring in so much money that the police does not dare stopping them. I ask about the odd plastic policy. It is the government’s strategy to reduce pollution. Seems radical; it is certainly easier for the government to proceed this way than organising large recycling structures.

Bizarre: everybody seems to wear a Manchester United t-shirt. I ask why: nobody is able to explain. While it remains a mystery to me I can promise you half of the youth in this country has a Manchester United t-shirt.

I visit the National Museum and the Nairobi Snake Park. Fact: Nairobi was built only in 1899 when the British authorities decided to connect Mombasa, then the biggest city of the country, to Kampala in Uganda by rail. Thousands of Indians died in the construction of the railway. (Today it is the Chinese, back then the main foreign work force was them). Nairobi, an uninhabited swamp, was selected as the site of a store depot, shunting ground and camping ground. A hundred years later it is one of Africa’s biggest cities.

I feel guilty about it, but on the second day I take a safari in the early morning. We go to Nairobi National Park, only 7 kilometres south of the centre of the city. Though I did not take the picture myself, I swear this is how it looks like.

Nairobi National Park.jpg

I take my first walking tour of Nairobi on Thursday, courtesy of Joshua from Machako Country. He is a crack. The first tour he gave, one year ago, ended up in a disaster. He was unable to speak to his three clients, blonde Swiss girls, because they were too beautiful and he was too embarrassed. He then got arrested by armed guards because he did not see one of them taking pictures in front of a government building. He was released after a few hours and was reprimanded by one of the girls, who noticed he had peed on himself during the arrest. Things are better now: I promise him I won’t take any picture without his permission.

We start from the ancient site of the American Embassy, which was bombed in 1998 by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Qaeda. Joshua tells me the terrorists came from Somalia and goes on explaining, like many others will do in the following days, that the main problem of Kenya are the porous frontiers that make it easy for bad guys to come in.

We walk to Wakulima Market, where he defends me from several snatchers. All the food there comes from Tanzania: such a rich country resource-wise. In Uhru Park Joshua tells me several stories about his and his father’s polygamy and the various problems that come with it. He is not good at sex, though, because he is not a Masai. The Masai are known to excel in bed, didn’t I know it? In Jivanshee Park I notice a large assembly. Who are they? Students, they come here every day to talk about politics, in circles. Hundreds of them. This is something we do not do in Europe any more.

Joshua brings me to eat chapati and uguali at the university, where we float amid thousands of students who eat a simple meal in temporary wooden barracks. I want to remember the rustic bowls where the meals are cooked. When we are walking out of the campus I am approached by some ten-year old kids who are begging. One of them cannot stop laughing and asks me to take her with me to America. She is high on glue.

I bid farewell to Joshua in a coffee. He does not want me to go into one of the Java shops that are mushrooming around the city. They are owned by the Somali entrepreneurs. The Somali are smart but they are evil. I will remember Joshua. He is what we call a genuinely good guy. I like how he kept saying “trust to me” when telling his stories.

I take my second walking tour on Saturday, the day of my departure. Though invented only one year ago, this activity has huge popularity and you can read more about it here, watch the special on the Swiss television, or the trailer they produced. My three guides, Donga, Kissmart and Cheddar, have a thick skin. I remember their “buah buah buah” to greet their buddies on the street.

After leaving them, I take a long walk by myself. Near the mosque I see a child running happily into a shop. Someone is calling her from behind the corner. I turn and I see her mum – or so I suppose – crawling on the floor. She has her shoes under the hands and drags her legs behind the body, unable to stand. She is chasing her daughter. A part of me wants to take a picture but I refrain from doing so.

There is a special atmosphere around the mosque. It reminds me of the mosque of Sarajevo. I like it.

I leave on Saturday night. The guard at the airport jokes with me saying I should give him 10$ to pass the gate. I am not sure he is joking after all. In any case, I have no cash left with me. He does not mind and lets me go. I am leaving this place. Nairobi is full of opportunities. There is extreme poverty, sure, but also a rising middle class. Most of the people I met I really liked. I am surprised by the students, who are eager to study, travel. They know what they want. This has been such a different journey when compared to Cuba. The contrast between the two places I had the privilege to visit this year could not be starker.

De retour de l’est

Bonjour à tous,

Après mon retour d’Istanbul, il y a un mois, je reprends une série de posts dans le blog. Je prévois une courte série, peut-être 10 ou 12 articles, pour raconter des histoires sur mon séjour dans l’ancienne Constantinople, et le voyage de retour.

Pour commencer, je partage les images vidéos, deux films de 8 et 12 minutes.



Historycast; The Axe Files with David Axelroad (from Giallu); The Economist: The week ahead; Ad Alta Voce (from Martina); FT: World Weekly; The Philosopher’s Zone; Malcom Gladwell: Revisionist History (from Daniel).

Useless expressions symptomatic of a sloppy mind

‘Food for thought’, ‘unpack’, ‘is key’, ‘is crucial’, ‘we should not underestimate’, ‘fascinating’, ‘interesting’, ‘I like your argument’, ‘I enjoyed reading your paper’, ‘more research is needed’, ‘great contribution’, ‘sexy topic’, ‘refreshing’, ‘not to be missed’.

Un uomo di grande virtù ebbe certamente dei buoni amici

Neuchâtel, Bern, Brigg, Milan, Firenze, Piombino, Piombino Marittima, Riomarina, Cavo: 16 ore.

Nelsina, Einlaufbier, Flieger grüss mir die Sonne, Sanzionami questo, Secret Hitler, Porto Azzurro, le miniere di Capolivieri, Lacona, Salivoli, bella sgnacchera.

Un’analisi ragionata dei flussi elettorali: Trentino 2018

Trentino 2018

Piergiorgio Cattani

Conosco Piergiorgio dal 2007 e ho già parlato di lui su questo blog. E’ stato mio collega a Questo Trentino; mio direttore a Unimondo; mio amico e fonte di grande stimolo negli anni.

Domenica, alle elezioni provinciali in Trentino, voterò per lui. Conoscendolo di persona ho apprezzato la sua capacità di ascolto, la sua tenacia, la sua ironia, la sua severità, la sua completa mancanza di pigrizia, la sua voglia di mettersi in gioco, la sua coerenza, la sua curiosità. Credo insomma che possa essere un eccellente amministratore per il mio territorio. (Piergiorgio ha scritto diversi libri e qui sotto trovate un teaser video per uno di questi, intitolato Niente sta scritto).

Di Piergiorgio apprezzo anche la lista, Futura, nata in un momento turbolento e rappresentata da Paolo Ghezzi, che mi accolse nel suo ufficio quando ancora adolescente tentavo di decidere a quale facoltà iscrivermi. Futura fa parte della coalizione di centro-sinistra, che come spiega il mio amico Max ha ben governato il Trentino:

In questi 10-15 anni, con grande sorpresa e piacere, ho visto questa terra trasformarsi da una piccola e silenziosa realtà di provincia (come solevano dire i miei compagni universitari “foresti”) a una realtà viva, mitteleuropea, ricca di stimoli, opportunità e benessere. Chi è venuto a studiare da fuori ha poi spesso scelto di rimanere qua a lavorare e vivere. Proprio ieri consideravo come nell’ultimo anno in Trentino abbiamo avuto così tanti stimoli culturali e intellettuali da fare invidia alle grandi metropoli come con il FestivalEconomia, FestivalDelloSport, FilmFestivalMontagna, ReligionToday, DolomitiPride, AdunataAlpini, eventi sportivi di primo piano come la SerieA della TrentinoVolley e dell’AquilaBasket, la Coppa del Mondo di Sci e il GiroD’Italia, gare goliardiche come la StrongManRun, eventi musicali come i Suoni delle Dolomiti che tutti ci invidiano. Viviamo in una realtà dove Università e Ricerca hanno raggiunto livelli di eccellenza, dove anche la Microsoft, multinazionali dell’automobile e dell’industria hanno deciso di venire qua per fare ricerca. Siamo in prima linea nella ProtezioneCivile Nazionale e siamo unanimemente riconosciuti come esempio nella gestione dell’emergenza sismica, siamo esempio di struttura di Vigili del Fuoco e volontariato.
C’è chi potrebbe dirmi: “beh facile avete i soldi, siete una Provincia a statuto speciale!”. A questi rispondo che non bastano i soldi per sapere amministrare (esempi sono il suicidio dell’amministrazione del Milan Calcio dell’ultimo anno o la Regione a statuto speciale Sicilia). In questi ultimi 15-20 anni il Trentino ha saputo programmare, investire (anche durante una crisi economica senza precedenti!) ed oggi il marchio TRENTINO è sinonimo di qualità ed efficienza, non più solo a livello turistico. Io sono ingegnere civile e l’ho visto lavorando ad Amatrice quanto noi siamo riconosciuti al di fuori dei nostri confini: la richiesta delle nostre strutture in legno in tutta Italia ne è chiaro esempio! Ma i benefici sono sotto gli occhi di tutti: siamo la regione con la disoccupazione più bassa d’Italia, e ogni investimento ha portato sempre un ritorno economico (diretto o indiretto con le tasse che sono rimaste sul territorio), basti semplicemente pensare all’ultima adunata Alpini.
Senza dubbio si può ancora migliorare: la gestione dell’ordine e della sicurezza deve senza dubbio essere rivista, ma mi domando: siamo disposti a rinunciare a tutto quanto enunciato solo per correre dietro a quattro sbandati di piazza Dante? Una parte della politica di oggi ci parla solo di immigrazione ma non ha assolutamente altri contenuti programmatici. Ma vorrei che ci rendessimo conto che l’immigrato di oggi non è quello che staziona in piazza dante: il 99% degli immigrati sono i lavoratori dei cantieri, i ricercatori pakistani e indiani di matematica e ingegneria, sono i corrieri che ci portano a casa tutti i giorni i beni acquistati su Amazon, sono i lavoratori nei campi e in tutti quei lavori che gli italiani non vogliono più fare. Certo la situazione di piazza Dante e della Portela è da risolvere con fermezza, ma siamo disposti a rinunciare a tutto il resto?
Non ci si improvvisa amministratori. Il Trentino per ottenere quanto elencato l’ha fatto anche grazie ai contatti e alle reti diplomatiche dei nostri amministratori. Io non voglio essere amministrato da manager senza benefit, che vadano in bicicletta o in autobus per risparmiare ma che poi non sappiano concludere relazioni internazionali.
Voglio amministratori che abbiano tutti i mezzi necessari di rappresentanza, anche se apparentemente onerosi, per poter al meglio intavolare trattative che possano concludere affari e relazioni importanti per la collettività.
Certo si può sempre migliorare. Ma credo che non dobbiamo farci abbagliare da chi fomenta solo odio (e la storia ci ha insegnato come poi è andata a finire) ma non ha altro di cui parlare, o ancora peggio da chi si improvvisa amministratore senza competenze (da ingegnere civile in questi giorni sto facendo ripetuti incubi pensando che il mio massimo referente, il ministro delle infrastrutture Toninelli, colui che sommamente dovrebbe conoscere questo settore, ci parla dell’attuale utilizzo del tunnel del Brennero!!!).
Purtroppo, al contrario del detto “il cliente ha sempre ragione”, la storia insegna che chi viene eletto “non ha sempre ragione”, che gli elettori che vincono “non hanno sempre ragione”. Anche Hitler è stato eletto dal popolo (e non in una nazione sperduta del terzo mondo, ma nel cuore dell’Europa in una delle nazioni più avanzate culturalmente e tecnologicamente dell’epoca!). La storia insegna che prima di tutto le masse seguono cosa si vuol loro mostrare. Cosa in quel momento le spaventa. Purtroppo vedono (e seguono) cosa vogliono vedere, spesso senza fermarsi a riflettere ed osservare razionalmente i fatti.
Buon voto a tutti.

Oltre a Piergiorgio, ci sono tanti altri candidati che conosco personalmente e che mi sentirei di raccomandare a occhi chiusi: Bilad Adem (Futura), Simonetta Bungaro (Futura, che voterò assieme a Piergiorgio), Luca Facchini (Liberi e Uguali, gran bella persona che purtroppo sento pochissimo; già su questo blog), Matteo Facchini (Liberi e Uguali), Ivo Cestari (L’Altro Trentino a Sinistra). Non conosco personalmente ma sento dire un gran bene di Sara Ferrari (Partito Democratico) e Alessio Manica (Partito Democratico).

Post scriptum: A Questo Trentino hanno realizzato un accurato test elettorale, sottoponendo 20 quesiti programmatici prima ai candidati alla presidenza e ai partiti, e poi ai cittadini. Questi possono così graficamente vedere il posizionamento delle loro opinioni rispetto a quelle dei candidati. Invito a fare il test: può essere utile e magari riporterà la discussione sulle cose da fare invece che sugli schieramenti.