Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Canadian Pancake Breakfast

Yes you read the post title correctly. As part of getting to know each other ICCROM suggested to everyone before we arrived that we should bring some food type typical of our countries. Then at some point we would all cook for each other. Well 2 things have happened since this email was sent, first almost everyone at Ponte Bionco poles their food and eats in Kamil's room. Kamil is the representative from Israel. Second I was foolish enough to bring 3 bottles of maple syrup and 2 jars of Saskatoon jam. Now please tell me what could be more Canadian or representative of Saskatchewan.

So I being the fool that I can sometimes be decide to hold a pancake breakfast, the problem is location. According to the rules at Ponte Bionco we are not allowed to take food of drinks into the study room and we have already had a few complaints about being to noisey while in Kamil's room. So I try to arrange something with the ICCROM staff to be able to access their facilities on Sunday. This also does not turn out, so it is looking rather bleak regarding pulling this off. One night on my way home I just for fun ask one of the front desk clerks if I could have a party on Sunday March 18th at noon. I explained the plans and the next thing I know the party is on and now I have to do some serious cooking for between 25 -30 people. Oh a little bribing with a plate of food also goes a long way to help make things happen.

Barbara the representative from Vatican City says she will take me to the Metro to do the shopping as it is a large wholesale warehouse store, but you have to have a special card to get in and her husband just happens to have just such a card. Food purchased arranged then there are maps for what floor and room to head to for the different menu items. Yes I did say menu items. Pancakes and syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage, hasbrowns, freshly cut oranges and juice. Again I say what was I thinking! I have a 2 burner stove, no oven and now have to figure out how to cook all of this food.

The week goes on with our classes. We have been studying Management and Planning Context. The guest lecturer was Jane Thompson and Englsih woman who now lives here in Rome and is a PM working at Herculeneum. We are heading there at the end of April for 5 days. Anyway in between lectures and groupd work and arranging to do presentations some of the group is helping me plan the party. Friday finally arrives and everyone is shattered as usually and stumbles back to the residence. A number of us meet at Kamil's for supper and of course wine and then call it an evening around 11 pm.

A street close to ICCROM
 Saturday arrives and I am enjoying a quiet day at home before heading to St. Peters to meet Barbara as she was working today. It is a beautiful day so I take the tram to the stop I normally get off of to head to class. Today I walk through the winding twisting tiny streets to reach the Tiber River and start walking. I could take the bus, but it really is beautiful out and I want to enjoy the sunshine. Walking along the river is so beautiful. All around you there is stunning architecture and history. I can see the Castel Sant' Angelo and for once I did not have a camera in my hands. First time I have left my apartment without one. There will be other days of walking and taking pictures which I will share with you.

The Tiber River
The trees are just starting to bud out and it really is a beautiful day. I arrive at my cross road and turn to my left onto Via Della Conciliazione and am staring at the Piazza San Pietro and of course the Basillica di San Pietro, or St. Peter's. It is about 1:15 so I stop at a pizzaera and order some piazza and a coke which I decide I will enjoy while sitting in front of the obilisc in St. Peter's square. I sit on the guard rail of a fountain off to the side of the square and watch the people as I enjoy my piazza. The tourists are lined up around the collanade to wait to access the church. I then decide that I have a few minutes to just sit and take in the whole site so I move to the obilisc and sit down on the ground facing St. Peter's. My back is resting against a bollard and there I am in one of the holiest sites in the world just hanging out. I must admit that it is a little sereal to say the least. Finally 2 pm comes and Barbara comes looking for me so that we can go shopping. First though we are heading to her apartment where her husband, Paulo is making pasta for us to have for lunch. Of course a meal like this is not complete without a glass of red wine. Their apartment is literally across the street front Vatican City. You can see the Papal rsidences as well as the apartments for some of the nun's, priests and cardinals. Pretty great view, even though the street is rather noisey due to the tourists. Lunch is amazing and Barbara is good enough to provide cooking supplies like a frying pan that is larger than 6 inches in diameter.

The shopping trip takes us first to a specialty shop where I can buy some baking powder. I am still not certain if baking powder is a foreign item or if it just called by another name. One item down and many more to go. Paulo is driving and I end up completely confused as to which way we have traveled or for that matter where exactly I am in Rome. Thank goodness I really don't need to know.

We arrive at the Metro and once again I am tasked with trying to shop in Italian, but this time I have an interpretter to assist me. Barbara and I rund around the store gathering food and other items required to feed 25 people. Paulo does their shopping and after about 2 hours we are finally done and ready to pay and head back to Ponte Bionco where I have to begin cooking parts of the menu for the next day. So how you pay is you stand in line as normal, but you do not put anything on the belt except small items and you do not do this until the person in front of you has completely removed their items and is leaving. Very civilized compared to the craziness that happens at Cosco. We get through the cash load the very tiny car and head to the Ponte Bionco. The street leading up to the residence is barely wide enough for 1vehicle and there are cars parked on both sides of the street and it is a deadend unless you live there to be able to open the swing gate. I am amazed at how easily Paulo manuvers through the traffic and up the street and we get parked in front of the hotel. the three of us start to carry in the food and I call for reinforcements. Kamil comes to help and take all the drinks to his suite. Mageda from Morocco comes and helps carry the rest of the food to my suite. Barbara and Paulo leave and it is now time to start cooking. It is afte 8 pm and I have 10 pounds of potatoes to get cooked on a small 2 burner stove this is not looking good. Time to call in more reinforcements. Kamil takes the first pot of potatoes with Emilia form Bulgeria and Monali from India and Megda from Morocco all taking pots of potatoes to get cooking for the hashbrowns. Please keep in mind that everyone except Mageda live on a different floor. I start getting the sausages prepared and cooked. Things are starting to come together 7 pots of potatoes later I can start to make the hashbrowns. Kamil calls and tells me to come for some supper as I am not to keep cooking until I have something to eat. Up I go to suite 509 the gathering spot and have a quick supper and visit with Kamil, Emilia and Monali. Time to take to last batch of potatoes from Kamil and start on the hashbrowns. This part of the cooking process goes very slow, as I can really only use the large burner because I have a normal sized fryng pan. Finally at 2 a.m. I crash. The sausages are done and delivered to suite 303, Emilia and Monali, the hasbrowns are done and ready to go to 509, Kamil and 209 Nida from Turkey. This is definately an international breakfast more than a Canadian one.
Sunday morning arrives way too soon and once again it is time to start cooking, this time I have to prepare all the pancake batter and start cooking the pancakes. Emilia arrives to offer some help and have a first taste, so far so good. She disappears to go and make me a coffee and arrives back with a surprise for me. Nida, Emilia and Monali have pitched in to get me the perfect Roman cooking apron for this event.

Gerry from China is the official photographer and he is not missing a shot for this party. Niramon from Thailand lives across the hall from me and is good enough to offer to cook the eggs while I continue to work on the pancakes. Food, food, food, everywhere you look there is food. I suppose this is a good thing. The map has been prepared by Emilia and Monali and slipped under everyones door last night. I think that we are ready and can actually pull this off.


The Food is moved to Bun's room as we found out that he had been holding out on everyone and has a massive terrace large enough for everyone to be in one place. The carefully planned party is now in one location and the food begins to disappear and everyone to have fun. At the end of the day there was a partial tray left of hashbrowns that the group as a whole donated to some Nun's who feed the poor near the Vatican. I think that this was a fitting end to a great day. Oh and we also feed 2 front desk clerk's, one of the tenants that wanted to know what was going on and also a maid that had to work on Sunday. The party was a complete success and I finally got my mind back and will not be doing such a crazy thing like this again soon.
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Sorry for not getting the pictures to line up, but the program is just not cooperating either that or it is time for me to post this blog so that you can all have a good chuckle. I have to be up by just after 5 am tomorrow as we are heading to Florence for 2 days to meet with an expert in wood conservation. That will be for another blog post. I hope that you are enjoying, more to come.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


So what does me studying building conservation in Italy have to do with Brazil............well more than you can imagine. Actually I made a stop in Brazil on March 15th. How would this be possible you say, well that is easy. Rosilene the class representative from Brazil was asked to be a guest of the Brazilain Ambassador. How then does this affect me and the rest of the class? Well we were all asked to be guests of the Ambassador to attend a piano concert at the Brazilian Embassy and the pianist was a Brazilian woman. So after class we head out to Piazza Novona where the Brazilian Embassy is located. This is also the location of Bernini's fountain of the four rivers just as a reference point. Anyway, I was digressing from the story. Since the concert was not until 8 pm, we the class decided to have our supper in Trastevere near the church of St. Maria in Trastevere. It was an all you can eat buffet for 2 euro as long as you purchased an alcohlic beverage for 5 euro. You don't have to twist this girls arm twice. So this was the beginning of what was to be a very memorable night.

St Maria in Trastevere on our way to supper

After supper we hiked it across the river to Piazza Navona. The Embassy takes almost one complete side of the square. There was a cocktail party preceding the concert. We enter the courtyard it is a warm night. There are statutess and a stairway leading up into the building.

My classmates

We climb the stairs and then circulate in the anti-chambers waiting to be admited to the reception hall where the cocktails will be served. The painting on the coffered ceiling leaves me speachless. There are statues and crests and beautiful millwork everywhere I look. One crest in particular catches my eye and I realize that this building at one point in time was a Pope's palace. How do I know this, well if you see crossed keys and a pointy hat that is the crest of a Pope. Thank you Barbara the representive from Vatican City and fellow classmate. The symbols in the coat of arms indicates which Pope it was.

The Pope's crest over the door

I know that you are distracted by the ceiling, but if you look over the door you will see the crest I was refering too. At this moment I can't remember which Pope this palace once belonged too. Anyway at some point in history the Vatican sold the property to Italy and Italy sold it to Brazil and now it is the Embassy. Not bad digs if I do say so myself.

 At around 9 pm all of the guests of the Ambassador were asked to move to the concert hall. Everyone slowly moved out of this magnificant space to head to the concert hall where a grand piano was waiting on a slightly raised stage for the Pianist who was going to entertain the audience. Just being in some of these rooms was amazing and yet the night was going to get even better.
The Brazilian Ambassador introducing the Pianist

The Pianist - Linda Bustani

To say the concert was unbelieveable would be such an understatement. I don't really know how to put into words the experience of being in such a magical place with the most gifted and skilled pianist to entertain and mesmerize us would not do this experience justice. Being accepted to this program was more than I could have hoped for, to be in the company of such amazing, gifted and warm people who were and are my classmates, but are now so much more than that and then to be able to attend a concert such as this is so hard to describe and put into words. The concert lasted approximately 1 hour. We heard Brazilain music and then we were entertained with Chopin.

At the end of the concert we headed back out into the night and back onto Italian soil. It was almost 11 and the Piazza was busy. The group spent the rest of the time taking fun pictures around one of the fountains and debating on where to head for a drink before catching the tram and heading home to Ponte Bianco.

Yes I did join my collegues for a beer and a visit. The friendships that are being formed on this night and many that have followed I am sure will last a lifetime.

School tomorrow so home by 12:30. I have been moved beyond words with the unbelieveable night that I have just experienced and shared with my new friends. I know that tomorrow will bring hard work and more learning, but really tonight is one of those times that will forever be etched on my heart.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Class

School began on the morning of March 5th with everyone staying at the Ponte Bionco heading to school together. This time there were no mishaps on the way and we successfully arrived at school ready to rock and roll. Today is the day that we all have to do a presentation, introducing ourselves, what we do and some of the types of projects we are presently working on. There are the usual lectures then coffee break. So far so good the class seems to have a connection. Little did I know how very strong that connection would be!!!!
Participants locations with corresponding photo.
Note the lone individual on the North American continent, that would be me.
This weeks topics of discussion are Defining Heritage and Conservation Concepts.  The presentations are absolutely amazing with most of my classmates working on antiquities dating back over a 1000 years. Some are World Heritage Sites and the depth of issues and problems that they have to work through makes my issues with government burocracy seem like childs play. To say the least I am very impressed and very intimidated by this group of people. I make it through to the end of the day which is after 6 pm and head home with the group stopping at the Simply for more food to stock my still not quite empty shelves. Wow what a day!

Where have I been

March 18th, 2012

I know that many of you at home are wondering where have I been and I must apologize for my long absebce! The reason I have not been able to share anything is that the internet here is rather arcaic. When I first arrived I purchased an internet card through the hotel residence and paid 20 euro for 15 hours of airtime which is bloody expensive. I neively thought that I would be able to quickly and easily purchase a stick and all would be right with the world and the posts would start flowing...........WRONG! If only things like this were that easy. Long story short 2 internet cards and i stick and 100 euros later I finally have unlimited Wi-Fi through TIM for 3 months. I just recieved the stick on Thursday night and now have just had the time to sit and begin sharing some of my adventures.

My new home

Apartments shown on the web site are not what they are in reality.

As I have blogged before I got settled into my new home, but I have not said much about my living accommodations. I had checked the website out and expected to have a place with a small livingroom, kitchen off on its own, bathroom and bedroom. Well this in not what I actually got.  My new home is maybe 15 x 10 with the kitchen table about 2 feet from the end of the bed. My kitchen is directly behind the door. It consists of a small 2 burner stove, basically no counter top and a small round sink. Oh and the first time washed dishes the water ran down the back of the wall and pooled at my feet. It was fixed the next day, but this is not a good way to start a relationship with ones new home. Anyway, my accommodations are comfortable and the front desk staff are really helpful and very nice. Oh and I do have a small balcony that looks out at a green tree and the mechanical systems and steel exit stairs for the hospital next door. Here are some pictures of my new home. I guess in this case size does matter! Enjoy.



Wednesday, 7 March 2012

March 2nd, 2012
OMG it is 7 am and I am up and trying to get ready for the day. I really thought I was ready for this, but now I am having second thoughts. My classmates have such amazing CV’s and are doing incredible work what was I thinking that a little carpenter could come to Rome and contribute at such a prestigious course. Oh well I am here so I have to do the best that I can and see what happens.
We had a message in our packages to meet in the lobby at 8:30 so that everyone can head to ICCROM together and we would all get there before the 9:30 start time. I am down early and there are a couple of ladies from Africa sitting on one of the couches obviously waiting for the same thing I am and looking as nervous as I am feeling. More people start to arrive, we are all chatting and I am trying desperately to keep track of everyone’s name… late I am in trouble as nerves have overtaken me and I just know the face. We all sit and wait for the rest of the participants staying at Ponte Bianco to come down to the lobby. I am sitting quietly waiting and I turn my head to the stairs as this familiar face comes down the stairs. OMG it is the lady from the grocery who helped me find the sugar last night. We laugh and she introduces herself. Her name is Emilia and she is from Bulgaria. We laugh and the mood immediately lightens. Finally at 8:45 the last straggler arrives and it is Anthony we can now head to the Tram and school. Oh how I wish it was that easy. Pretty well everyone did not know the way and had not purchased Tram passes. I am now a pro at this so I take the group under my Canadian wing and off we go. We are back on track and once again it is a bright sunny day. Wrong! All 13 of us get to the Tram, but it is packed and I mean tighter than sardines. What to do? Some of us push our way onto the tram, but the rest are left standing on the platform, me included, why, because I could not leave the 6 woman alone when they did not know how to get where we needed to be. Two Trams later we finally make it to school and of course we are 10 minutes late. We are excused as it appears that there was some type of problem with the Trams and there were not nearly as many running this morning and everyone was running late. I guess Murphy’s Law does apply even in Rome.
The day starts with general introductions of staff, procedures, Q & A’s, etc. The ICCROM staff put on a wonderful coffee break for everyone and we get to mingle and chat. What an interesting group of people this is going to be more than I could have ever dreamed of. The brain power and wealth of experiences is exciting and it will be a wonderful opportunity to share ideas. The day continues on with each of us introducing ourselves, more presentations and then lunch also hosted by ICCROM. The Director- General has spent the morning with us and is very excited to be with us as he has just filled the position and this is his very first class. The meal is made up of bunwiches, small panni’s, fruit drinks, and delicious desserts.
At the end of today’s introductions and lectures about ICCROM there is a cocktail party with Ambassadors from each of the participant’s countries. I was disappointed to note that the Canadian Embassy did not even respond to the invitation. It now almost 7 pm and I am exhausted and ready to head back to my home. Anthony is waiting to go with me. Magyda from Morocco and Rosilene from Brazil are also going to head back with us. It has been an incredible day. I have the weekend off to finish my first presentation and maybe even explore the city. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
March 1st, 2012
So I have now been in Rome 1 full day which was spent grocery shopping and just generally trying to get settled in my new home. I received a map from the ICCROM staff in my package that I picked up at the front desk when I checked in. So now what??? I am in the Eternal City, it is time to step out into the world, hoping not to be hit by a car as I try and figure out the rules for crossing the road and figure out how to get to the ICCROM offices. I load up my back pack with 3 maps; you can never be to prepared, camera, dictionary and a whole lot of courage. I stop at the front desk to get a general idea of which way I should be heading in and off I go. It is a beautiful warm day. I am trying to fit in and have a jacket on. I get to the a few blocks down the road and the jacket really must go. I get to the corner where I am supposed to take the Tram, but haven’t figured that out yet, now what. So since I really have no idea which way to go so I head up the street to the right. I have my map out looking like all of the lost soul that I am. I am reading the street signs on the side of buildings trying to determine where I am. Finally I stop and nice lady on the street, succie how do I get here as I point to the location I am supposed to be heading. Guess what wrong way, so I turn around and head back to way I just came from. Oh well it is about 10 am the sun is shining and it truly is a great day to be alive. I navigate through the streets of Rome past roadside shrines and finally find my way into ICCROM. I go through a security check point in the entrance to the building and ask for Anna Stewart the wonderful lady who has had the task of arranging accommodation for all of the participants and so many other things that I can’t even begin to list them all. We head up stairs to have a cappuccino and get a bit aquainted. While there a young man from Nigeria arrives this is Anthony. He has just arrived in the country and needs a guide to get home to the Ponte Bianco. I am feeling rather courageous so I volunteer to get him back to what will become our home for the next 2 months. I have to stop at a tobaccui for Tram tickets or a bar will do. I buy a 1 month pass and get Anthony a 1 trip pass and off we go. Now please keep in mind this is the first time I am riding the Tram and Anthony has just tried to drag his luggage across cobble stone streets to get to the Tram stop. We are both sweating and I am hoping that this will all work out. Long story short we get off at the correct stop and I get him home to the Ponte Bianco. All is right with the world. I head to my room to take another inventory of my grocery shopping excursion yesterday and determine I still need some general staples, sugar, tea, etc. Again I head out to the grocery, but I am feeling pretty confident now. There are no mishaps in the store an very nice lady helps me find the sugar and back to my room I head to now try cooking in my tiny kitchen. It has been an amazing day and tomorrow I get to meet all of the participants. I am incredibly nervous, but also feeling very exhilarated.