Thursday, January 2, 2014

31st December – We meet our Airbnb host Francesco, a proud Bolognese and hear about Gary and Lyns’ dinner with Giovanni

This is my first trip to Bologna beyond the airport. We arrive on an early train. Francesco our Airbnb host advises us that we can leave our bags at the apartment at 11:00am after his previous guests leave and while the apartment is being cleaned. We end up not being able to get in till 2:00pm so are dragging our bags around till then…this is Italy… at least I get less annoyed these days. Francesco turns out to be an enthusiastic host with a wealth of local knowledge to share. This is something I like about Airbnb. The hosts are always local people. Unlike traditional hotels they are not just doing a job, they are often sharing a passion for their home town or city. I’m  a regular airbnb-er now…even for some business stays.

We meet back up with Gary & Lyn with their sons Martin & David, with Theresa. The previous night they had been able to meet up with Gary’s former brother in-law Giovanni at Modena at a restaurant reported to be the 3rd best restaurant in the world (and perhaps the 3rd most expensive!).
Martin is a good cook and real 'Foodie'. He sourced this restaurant and was chuffed to have his photo taken with the famous chef. Mum Lyn is also enjoying the experience
Giovanni met Gary’s sister when attending her English classes in his home town of Cremona … as a young student, just like the other young Italians we have met wanting to improve their English (I suspect that during the Roman Empire days the shoe would have been on the other foot!). While Giovanni was married to Gary’s sister and living in Milan for only a relatively short period of time, we are the sort of family it is hard to divorce from. As sad as their separation was, our connection with Giovanni has been sustained for over 30 years. He has been to Australia many times and even lived and worked in Sydney for a couple of years, living just around the corner from cousin Debbie. While Italian’s love their food and its always great to travel with Giovanni in Italy, he is also a great traveller and is open to broad experiences. He loves Yum Cha. While in Sydney once he even went to have Yum Cha by himself. The Chinese tradition is for Yum Cha to be a group thing, so we thought this odd … but then again the Italians tell me that ordering Cappuccino after 10:00am is also very odd!

Giovanni has generously shared his connection over the years. He was the one who introduced me to Rosario over a decade ago now, which has led to a long business association and friendship. Last year he helped find gigs for my sister’s local brass band’s tour of Italy. One of the gigs was at his mother’s retirement village. Apparently she was chuffed at seeing her some as the MC. He is bringing his partner to Australia next year, so we will have a chance to return the hospitality he has afforded our extended family on our travels to Italy. No doubt without Giovanni it is unlikely that we would have experienced as many of Italy’s delights as we have.

New Year

Side Bar – Connections that Matter

In Network Science we often talk about Brokers and/or Bridges. These are people that can connect you to other groups that you would normally not come into contact with. This can be particularly important across language barriers as common languages tend to define our communities. As the world becomes increasingly globalised these brokers are becoming increasingly important. While I have said that I am happy to have been born as a native English speaker, I also admire the muliti-lingual talents of some native foreign speakers. I sometimes regret not being able to speak the language of my Chinese heritage. It does become awkward when travelling and/or lecturing in Asia. Of course there is an expectation that I can speak Chinese. Recently when in Hong Kong with friends Noelene and Geoff (who will be joining us on this trip in Israel) we went to a regional Yum Cha restaurant. The waitresses obviously thought I was hosting these visitors and addressed me in Chinese. I responded that I would speak English only in respect for my visitors. They weren’t fooled, we could hear them tittering to their fellow waitresses about the Chinese guy with the broad Aussie accent!

Many of these important brokers have been introduced to us through family connections. Some have come through friends, but how many of your acquaintances (or what network scientists call ‘weak tie’ connections) have ended up having a major influence on you life experiences? How did you first connect? What was the source of common interest? For my wife Julie our first common connection was that her sister Kerrie and I were both studying Metallurgy and working at the BHP (in different cities though). Interestingly my brother who was also studying Metallurgy was in Kerrie’s classes in Wollongong and working at the BHP. In those days working at the ‘big Australian’, BHP was seen as a real coup. How quickly connections can build through serendipitous associations.

We have often experienced New Years Eve crowds in Sydney. Over the years the city has learnt to deal with these crowds. There is a strong Police presence and the Transport system has been geared up for the night. We are happy to be ‘managed’ for this spectacular event as it makes the event more pleasurable for all, both young and old.

In Bologna, it is like Italians queuing on a mega scale. In other words everyone for themselves! The square was packed to the rafters. No-one seemed to me managing the crowds, Fireworks are freely available so anyone could let them off in the crowd, and regularly did. Transport system stopped at 10pm. The live entertainment turned out to be not so live… just broadcast music and a light show. In other words it was pretty chaotic where we were. The highlight is meant to be the burning of an effigy. We had no idea where that was to be, but were envisaging some large straw man. On the stroke of midnight the large holy watering can that we thought was a piece of sculpture, that we were standing near, was set alight! So this was the effigy! No wonder we were being jostled so much. And now, covered in ash! All in all a thoroughly new experience, but one I probably won’t repeat!

Nice piece of artwork...a holy watering can representing a waste of a natural resource

So much for the Holy Watering Can!
Social Network Update

New and old connections

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