Thursday, July 27, 2006

Our Homes and Native Lands?

My brother-in-law forwarded a copy of Peter Worthington's column Convenient Canadians. It's an interesting question in this time of the global village, wondering about the ethics of Dual (or multiple) Citizenship(s).

It raises questions not only of what duties these citizens have to each of their countries, and how they ought to reconcile conflicting demands when they arise, but also what are the obligations of their countries to them. In some ways the matter is easily taken care of if each person in the world can have only one declared citizenship at any time.

But this is not workable. Poorer countries rely on expatriates to support them. They will not cut off their significant source of income by renouncing their native sons and daughters right to return home.

As long as these people are paying for the privilege of Canadian Citizenship (e.g. income tax) and are not actively supporting an enemy of Canada (hmmm), istm that they should be treated the same as the rest of us Canadians.

On the other hand, when Canadians insist on visiting dangerous areas of the world against the advice of their government they shouldn't whine when they find themselves in trouble. As to Mr. Worthington's idea of assigning second-class citizenship (of a sort) to those who take up permanent residence in other countries whose citizenship they also hold, I think a good, open, democratic debate might serve the public well.

Metro, Van, Bus, Ferry, Rowboat and Taxi

We spent most of our last Saturday in Italy travelling. The wife's sister had highly recommended visiting Capri. That involved a day-trip by bus. So we jumped on the Metro early in the morning to catch the pickup van which took us from Termini to the tour operator's office next to Santa Maria Maggiore.

It was a few hours drive south to Napoli. On the way we saw the Monte Cassino in the distance in the Appenines.

That was on our left as we travelled south. On the right we saw the Alban Hills that contain Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's Summer residence. I had the privilege of visiting there in 1972 and attending a Papal Audience. This was only early June, however, so he was still in he Vatican.

We stopped briefly at a viewpoint on the waterfront.

Then we went to the docks where all the ferries were disgorging tourists and taking hordes more for the trip to the island of Capri. Another forty-five minutes or so and we land on the island.

After a brief wait, we board a bus that takes us up the narrow winding road up to Anacapri, which towers about a thousand feet above the harbour.

We wandered along the path, lined with storefronts and restaurants. We took in the breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius towering ominously over Naples in the distance, Sorrento to our right with the Amalfi Coast on the other side of the peninsula. (The girls had very much wanted us to go to Positano, well thought of from it's position in the movie Only You.)

After a gorgeous lunch in Anacapri, we board another bus and head back down the mountain to the Blue Grotto. This was and is the main point of any visit to Capri. First, there is the long line up going down the winding stairs to the water (if you come by the land-side; you wait in boats outside the Grotto if you come directly from the harbour), then we board the rowboats, four tourists at a time. then we duck under the cave entrance

and admire the glowing azure waters inside the otherwise dark cavern. Our guide sings "O Sole Mio" to cap off our experience. Total time in Grotto: five minutes or less.

I can't help thinking that I would never repeat this particular trip. If I were to go to Capri again, I'd stay in Sorrento, a short ferry ride away. A day trip to Capri would be far less taxing. And there would be an opportunity to take the bus ride down to Positano and the ferry ride back to Sorrento. Ah well, maybe one of you can do this and let me know how it works.

We board a boat to take us back to the harbour (I nearly didn't make it into the boat). We board the ferry (a jet-powered catamaran if memory serves me correctly). Jump on the bus and head back to Roma. The bus drops us off at Termini and we assume our "adventure" is at an end.

Ah, but this it Italy: new adventures wait around every corner. It turns out the Metro was down (a strike again?). How do we get back home? We hadn't yet used a taxi, so this seemed a good move. We knew enough to avoid the people who accost you on the street. These are unregistered and can involve you in misadventures of all sorts. So we lined up the proper taxi stand and took the one that rolled up when our turn came.

It was a nice young fellow, with what we assume was his girlfriend in the passenger seat, looking at some kind of documentation while he drove. Small problem: we speak three words of Italian proficiently and his English matches our Italian. "Pyramide?" No comprehension. then we remember the neighbourhoods name: "Garbatella?" Still nothing. He asks something in L'Italiano in return and all that I can manage is "Io non so". ("I don't know"). We all laugh at the absurdity of the situation and plough bravely on. We manage to get him headed south on the Via Ostiense. And we know left (sinistra) and right (destra) so we guide him to our favourite Italian restaurant and the happy end of our adventure.

Work, Work, Work

Well, that's my excuse, anyway. There have been a large number of twelve-hour shifts, with two or three day breaks in-between. But there are other things at play as well.

I've been seriously stewing over the idea of (semi-)retiring soon. (That is, cutting down to one, preferably part-time, job.) I've talked it over with the wife, filled out the forms (though they aren't mailed as yet) and notified the Employer from whom I'm retiring. The magic date is October 1.

It isn't without some anxiety and some dissatisfaction. At this point I'm waiting for Employer number two to offer me a job I've applied for. It would be an improvement in that it would be within walking distance of home (a half hour one way), and be only eight-hour shifts.

The downside is that it is full-time. Working five and occasionally six days in a row doesn't sound like semi-retirement to me. But I'll give it a try. I have three months in which to return to my part-time job at the hospital.

In the meantime, I've applied for admission to the local college and taken the English Placement Test. I'm qualified for the entry-level English course, the best possible outcome. I'll be eligible to register for a course in the late Fall for a January start. The college is just a half-hours walk away from home as well. Let's seen how this pans out.

So I'll try to finish off the travelogue and do a little commentary on things of interest in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What He Said

There's only a couple of days left in the travelogue. While I sort out the details of life that lure me away from this, here's a post from AMDG that speaks to my state of life and mind.