Friday, 25 January 2013

The BBC Said There's Been an Earthquake!


 'Pronto? Hello?' 

 'Sarita? Are you ok?' 

 'Yeah, I'm at work. Why? What's happened?' 

 'I'm calling to see if everything is fine there.' 

 'yes, everything's fine here... why?'

 'The BBC said there was an earthquake near Bologna. Are you ok?' 

 'Um... what earthquake?' 



As strange at it sounds, this isn't the first time that I've been informed of an earthquake via someone 1,000 miles away! It was only several months back that I was sent a link about a strong aftershock in Emilia-Romagna which I had diligently slept through and missed. 

That wasn't the case however in May 2012. I was woken up by the noise of the windows rattling and the bed shuddering beneath me. In my drowsy state, my initial thought was that the neighbours above were jumping up and down doing aerobics but when I remembered that we didn't in fact have any neighbours above us, I finally came to the more logical conclusion that it was an earthquake. 

Not knowing what to do, I got up and stood on the cold tiled floor and felt it sway, seemingly in all directions at the same time. It only lasted for about 30 seconds but it was enough to disorient my sense of balance and so I grabbed onto the rail of the disused staircase to steady myself (I'll come back to this random feature in a future post). Afterwards, once I'd checked the BBC for reports and sent the mandatory 'there's been an earthquake' tweet, I got into bed and fell asleep.

If any of the younger inhabitants of Bologna were disappointed that they hadn't felt the quake during the night then they were duly provided with another tremor at around 9am the next day. At that time, I happened to be crouching down to reach something when the floor jolted and I found myself wobbling like a Weeble. And, much like the egg shaped Weeble, I wobbled my way to equilibrium rather than falling over. In the same way, Bologna felt the tremors but it didn't suffer any real damage, unlike the surrounding countryside to the north which was badly hit. 

The 2012 earthquakes affected the food industries in a region famous for its cuisine

And so after a spate of earthquakes, Northern Italians are starting to get used to rumblings underfoot. After the earthquakes in May, I remember spending the subsequent months debating whether each shudder was the earth shaking or simply someone jolting the table with a restless leg. In either scenario, the small children I was teaching would always leap at the opportunity to dive under the table or stretch themselves across doorways to avoid any more grammar... 

It should also be noted that it becomes harder to detect an earthquake if you're in the city centre of Bologna. If you're on the first or second storey of a palazzo it's not uncommon to feel the floor vibrating whenever a bus or heavy vehicle passes by. So I wouldn't be surprised if today's quake escaped my notice alongside the rumbling of busy lunch time traffic and the hooting of horns in the street below. 

So, in the future, if you do hear about an earthquake in the area, please do let me know. There's always the possibility that it may have disguised itself as a rather large bus!   

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Have you ever experienced an earthquake? 
How did you react in that situation? 


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A Giant Monkey Wearing a Fez!


It was no surprise to find a 25ft Monkey wearing in a Fez in Piazza Maggiore yesterday. Such things are the norm in Bologna afterall. I was however, surprised to discover that after living here for nearly three years now that I had managed to remain unaware of Bologna's unusual New Year tradition. 



It goes without saying that I instantly fell in love with this smartly dressed wind-up monkey in formal attire. You imagine my pain then when I discovered the monkey's fate! At part of New Year (Capodanno) festivities, it's traditional to burn a "Vecchione", a huge puppet/statue that symbolises the year gone by. 

And so it is with a little sadness that I show the mechanical monkey fulfilling its tragic 'destiny'...  

(source)

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How did you celebrate your New Year? 
Are there any unusual New Year traditions in your city? 

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