Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ispra, Italy.

This would be my first post from Ispra, Italy. There is no broadband Internet. Anywhere! I guess I will have some at work, but soiled by IT guys with God complexes who will filter every port that is remotely significant. When asking about it everybody recommends cellular cards that have "a flat rate" of 12 euros, which would be pretty cheap if it weren't limited to 2 GB transfer and wouldn't have ridiculous speeds. So probably I have a lot to say, but I will write blog posts when available. This one, for example, I am writing as a text file on my lonely laptop, hoping to get a chance to post it soon.

Well, after ranting about the lack of Internet access, which was probably the least of your curiosities, I can continue. I got here using the plane from Bucharest to Malpensa, which is one of the airports close to Milan. I've bought the ticket online, checked in online, they gave me a PDF to download, I printed it at a local printer service and so I had my ticket. Being a tall guy, I requested extra leg room and being a lazy guy, I requested priority boarding. In order to get from Malpensa to Ispra I would have had to take a train to Gallarate, then switch to one that would take me to Sesto Calende, then switch again for Ispra. This would have taken me 2 hours and a half, carrying the mother of all baggage. You see, my wife prepared everything that I would ever need in a single bag (except the Internet!!!). Well, screw that. I also ordered online a taxi cab to wait for me at the airport and take me to Ispra, which did cost as much as a third of the plane ticket. Estimated arrival time: 40 minutes.

So I woke up at , got clothed, took the dog out, read some of the news, got in the car with the wife, she drove me to the airport, I brought my printed ticket to the lady in charge, she took my baggage and that was that. I was ready for boarding at , when the plane was leaving at . You see, in Romania the public services have been so poor for the last decades that people still expect something as simple as a plane boarding to take hours. I spent some time with the wife, connected to the airport Wi-Fi, downloaded two podcasts and then went to the boarding gate. There I found a lot of people standing in a huge line. I went to the girl in charge and asked her what should I do, considering I had a priority boarding ticket. She said "well, take a seat and we'll call you". And so it happened. The entire line moved back to allow me and a few other people, mostly foreigners, to pass through. Then people with children, then the regular folks. I guess this is one of the few advantages of having a child. The disadvantage being that it could cry the entire flight to Malpensa, which one of them did! Luckily I had my new smartphone with me, which allowed me to listen to two podcasts and watch most of a Japanese anime film with my headphones on.

I have to digress a little here, as I have mentioned my new smartphone. The reason I've abandoned my trusted Nokia E60 is that the head of the new project implied we could be writing code that would work for cell phones, as well. Another reason was that I wanted something I could watch films on and also read books. Previously I would have used my other trusted device, my PalmVX, a PDA built in 1998 that still works perfectly. Unfortunately, the way to connect the PDA to a computer is either via Infrared or via a 9-pin serial port, which have long disappeared from computers and laptops. And since I could not bring my trusted Athlon 2500+ desktop PC with me, I had to buy a smartphone that is faster than the desktop PC, has more features than the PalmVX and also functions as a phone. Pretty awesome, in a way, but also pretty shitty if you think devices that are decades old could easily carry the load of most of the usage of this incredible device. They couldn't do fart sounds, though.

Anyway, I passed via customs instantly, had to wait for the luggage to arrive (which is always a lengthy process, probably because it doesn't interfere with the plane schedule and we've already paid). Then I went outside. A lot of people there, some were carrying signs with pen written names. There was a cute little chick there, with a printed A4 paper with my name on it. It was like in the movies when they do that. I felt pretty good. Apparently, the designated driver had some delays with his previous customer and so they've sent this girl with a big van thing, even if I had only paid for a small car. I am not one to complain, though, am I? Don't answer that! The girl was very polite, knew English well and we conversed until I got to my destination.

The residence, which is a sort of long term hotel, was right across the street to my new job. I checked in, conversing with the owner's wife, who is also Romanian, and at I was "home". By all accounts I will be living here for at least two months and probably for many years.

Next I phoned my new employer, who graciously invited me to a beer (he is Belgian, you see) and we got to talking. Well, things look pretty good, but also are really not well defined. I will not talk about details here, but let's just say that there is a deadline in two months and not many ideas on what exactly we are building. This is a Research Center, though, my new boss assured me, that's what we do: research.

My hotel is right across the street from my job, which is awesome, but one kilometer away from the nearest supermarket. Ispra is a small village, 5000 people or so living in it, and as far as I saw, there are a lot of small villages here, but very few services. You need a car to go to anywhere that matters, including daily shopping. Well, in a way that's the way in Bucharest, as well, but there are a lot more shops on the way instead of lizards running for their lives and squirrels running up trees. Supposedly there is a lake close to here that is warm enough to swim in, there are trees and green things (also known as plants) everywhere and it is rather chilly, which I love. One of the reasons I came here was to escape the horrible wet heat of my apartment, where my wife could not suffer air conditioning. Here I don't have air conditioning, but people assure me I don't need it, I will only need heaters for the winter. Well, let's hope so.

So after I've met with my new employer and most of the team (we will be five people in all working on this) I went shopping. I was very confident that 1 Km would be close enough to get to on foot. And I was right up to the point where I had to return with my hands filled with bags of stuff. But it was OK, I got myself some vegetables and eating utensils, even if later on I discovered I already had some. I went to sleep listening to music on my smartphone. The next day I made myself a salad, went for more groceries, and wrote this post.

In conclusion, I still have to get my "codice fiscale" without which I cannot buy things of importance (like cellular dongles to give me Internet), but other than that I am a brand new inhabitant of Ispra, of the Varese province in Italy. Although that is debatable, as well, since my job is certainly in Ispra, but my hotel seems to be in Cadrezzate. Next to do is explore the area, find some way to wash and iron my clothes, buy decent glasses, cups and water boilers, not these silly Italian espresso things, maybe get to lake Monate and swim a little and, of course, get myself some Internet.