What is love?

“Love is like a dinner table with 4 legs.” – Ron C.

[The average human being] looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor of fragrance, and talks without thinking. – Leonardo Da Vinci

And here I am with my friend Ron, a wise gentleman in his 80’s talking about life and marriage.

“Alex, after 63 years of marriage to the same woman, I can say that I consider myself lucky that in my early years of life, I found the secret for a long and happy marriage…”

 After pronouncing “63”, a woman’s voice came straight to my ears from the background saying:

“61 Ron, it’s 61!”

 I look at my friend, who was smiling secretly and making me understand that he probably was wrong…

According to him, there is a big rule that you actually don’t have to consider a rule, but as something which has to be present into your heart and soul every single moment of your life. And that moment starts right after you pronounce the words I Do signing with your honor the most important contract of your life: Marriage.

This “rule” is called the Rule of the 4 C’s. After you get married there is one thing you should never stop practicing: keeping your “dinner table” in balance.

Why?

Because you cannot eat on a table with 3 legs if this table was originally designed with 4 legs. A balanced table will never let your food fall down on the ground. A balanced table brings happiness into a family.

But what if I tell you that every single leg of this table represents a C?

The story of the 4 C’s

In order to have a long marriage you should start thinking that you might want to stop eating on the floor. We all want to eat our dinners from a balanced table. But you will never be able to keep a family upright if there is not a commitment (the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, person). After you add the first leg to your “table”, you will realize that the commitment will need the element number two, communication to put the table for the first time in a certain balance. Day after day, your marriage will work in a certain way, but that will not be enough.

Commitment and communication alone cannot bring a full balance to the marriage. You and your partner would always have to stay in two different corners keeping the table from not falling on the right or left side.

So…

The third element, compromise (an ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both) will then make you sit close to your partner at the same table. You two will then be able to have dinner close to each other. Only the fourth element will separate you from being the happiest couple. The forth element will let you eat your dinner using your both hands. The day you will be able to add the fourth element, companionship (a feeling of fellowship or friendship), your table will be able to stand straight alone, and you will be able to eat your dinner without worries…

“Alex, remember one thing though. Once you finished building your dinner table, you should not forget one simple thing: Keep the table always clean and healthy! Because every single day of your marriage will mean you trying to remember the meaning of these 4 words and practice them into your couple life.”

 Thanks Ron!

An unexpected meeting with Abraham Lincoln

 “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 of those hours sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

Something incredible that I never thought would have been possible, just happened in my life…

Destiny brought me in the heart of a great family in Indianapolis (Indiana), to celebrate the American Thanksgiving Day.

Should I use the famous phrase that I like a lot?

Yeah, why not?

Because everything happens for a reason…

4 hours away from that town, exactly in Hodgenville, Kentucky, lives my good friend Jessica and her amazing parents. The destiny wanted her to take us for a tour of the Western Kentucky University’s campus, which is also the university where Jessica finished her studies.

And what is so incredible with that, and why should you be happy for me?

Well…

Hodgenville, Kentucky is well known for its amazing college football team, Hilltopper. Just kidding (I’m not kidding because it is not a good football team)(I’m kidding because I do not want to talk about college football teams), I will not talk about football.

This town that I just mentioned a phrase ago, is the hometown of one of the greatest men that had a huge influence in my life. In Hodgenville was born a head of the Whig Party, Abraham Lincoln.

Just for making this article look longer, I think you might eventually want to read a proper definition of Whiggism or Whigism.

Would that be something you might want to know?

So, Whiggism or Whigism is when…

Wait, let’s be professionals and write down a proper definition with the help of Wikipedia.

Whiggism, in North America sometimes spelled Whigism, is a historical political philosophy that grew out of theParliamentarian faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639–1651). The Whigs’ key policy positions were the supremacy of Parliament (as opposed to that of the king), tolerance of Protestant dissenters, and opposition to a “Papist” (Roman Catholic) on the throne, especially James II or one of his descendants. After the huge success (from the Whig point of view) of the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689, Whiggism dominated English and British politics until about 1760, although in practice it splintered into different factions.

 I hope you already figured out that they’re talking about the British Imperium…

After 1760 the Whigs lost power, apart from sharing it in some short-lived coalition governments, but Whiggism fashioned itself into a generalized belief system that emphasized innovation and liberty and was strongly held by about half of the leading families in England and Scotland, as well as most merchants, Dissenters, and the middle classes. The other great families, the Church of England, held the opposing Tory position most of the landed gentry, and officers of the army and the navy.

 Here’s how Whig Party started to become something useful to the American Patriots…

 Whiggism originally referred to the Whigs of the British Isles, but the American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies largely adopted the name of “Old Whigs”. Following independence, American Whiggism became known as republicanism. The term “Old Whigs” was also used in Britain for those Whigs who opposed Robert Walpole as part of the Country Party.

One meaning of ‘Whiggism’ given by the Oxford English Dictionary is “moderate or antiquated  “Liberalism”.

Thank you Wikipedia!

After a tour of the University of Kentucky’s campus I found an interesting statue. On a bench, the old Lincoln was sitting and watching me (actually he looks towards the direction that the artist decided when he created the sculpture). He holds 2 books on his legs. I sat down on the bench close to him and I decided it was the right moment for a picture with the man that I’d read a lot about during my life.

Over our heads a huge and dark cloud vortex was spinning fast and this huge sand gave a hard time to my fiancée and to my friend Romeo to take pictures.

I close my eyes as a natural form of defense. After I wiped my eyes from the sand, Sarah and Romeo were gone. A hand poked my shoulder, scaring me.

Hello Alexandru!”

“How are You Sir?”

I turned my head to the right and I saw him, Abraham Lincoln in the flesh. In my head I had an image of myself sitting in front of a mirror saying a typical Irish expression:

“F.ck sake, I’m dead!”

He shook my shoulder and he said:

No, you are not dead”

“But yes, we are talking for real.”

I tried to stand up and run but he pushed my body back on the bench and said:

 “Really man, don’t be scared!”

I convinced myself that there’s no reason to try to escape. After observing the way he was dressed I said:

 “Well, I’m…”

I didn’t even have time to finish my phrase…He stopped me and talked over:

“I need you to listen to me please!”

“I was looking for somebody who can just listen without talking.”

“And trust me, there’s a lot that we should talk about.”

I knew then that I couldn’t open my mouth, and I said yes with my head. I accepted to just listen.

“I don’t know where to start from…”

“It’s though my friend…”

“The future world I imagined doesn’t looks like it goes in the right direction.”

“And honestly it looks so disappointing and full of issues.”

“But you know what?”

I opened my eyes wider because I was curious with what he was about to say.

“Let’s not talk about the world and it’s issues.”

“Today I don’t have too much time…”

“…and before I let you go I want to say something to you though…”

“I’m happy to meet you today.”

“You look like a good man with an honest soul and a bright future.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t forget to be always yourself!”

“Thanks for what you will become and the huge difference you will make!”

“Good to meet you, good man!”

After those words the curiosity was craving to find out more about what he’d just said. But he was back into solid and the sun had broken the clouds.

Sarah and Romeo were still taking pictures…

…and I was still thinking of what just happened.

4 months later I ate at a Chinese Restaurant and I had a fortune cookie, which said:

…you will achieve great things

 

Does everything happen for a reason?

P.S. I know that the part with the dark clouds and the metal sculpture where Abraham Lincoln talks to me sounds a little bit like fiction…

You should always follow your head and be able to decide to think the way you want. If it helps, please consider a second hypothetical version: Me reading a piece of university’s newspaper where Abraham Lincoln talks to the readers.

Anyway thanks for reading my article till the end!

You will never become a writer if I don’t have readers. For that I want to thank you for letting me be your writer!

Airbnb Tales: Casa Misterio en Merida, Mexico

I was born 29 years ago. I lived in a country (Romania) where 15 years ago, every international leisure travel you were planning to organize was only possible thanks to these travel agents, seated on chairs scattered around a travel agency’s office.

Before I started to even think that I might be able to afford a vacation abroad, my parents relocated with my sister and me to Italy for a better life style.

I landed in a better country (better quality of life), different than the previous one, where the Internet was more commonly used. In Italy, half the people were already using their personal computers to organize and book their own trips abroad or within the country online.

The idea of the travel agencies was not disappearing, but they were losing a lot of their business. I don’t believe the main reason was due to the weakening economic times that were hitting Italy at a fast rhythm. I heard from people familiar with the problem that the reason was mostly because of the idea of saving money. I even started to think that everything was changing just because people love taking control over the situation and organize their own trips.

Whoever never thought to become his own tour operator, and create his own vacation package, is a fool.

Come on, we are proud and we trust in our personal capabilities…

By the way, during the years of many tech evolutions and with affordable Internet connection, we revolutionized the network and we moved towards the invention of many creative platforms that allows us to book our vacations faster and cheaper.

And here we are, almost 14 years from the beginning of the booking evolution.

2017…

One of the biggest and most interesting new booking platforms is Airbnb.

Airbnb is the perfect result of a revolutionary invention that you can use to book the coolest place to stay during your trips.

Gift-Card-2
photo: Airbnb.com

The day I started to use Airbnb, everything changed. You still can have what the hotels can offer, with a huge addition:

Meeting great people and hearing great stories.

Airbnb revolutionized the tourism we were accustomed to. It allows you to have access to affordable places to sleep during your visit in a new place, giving the opportunity to more people to experience the beauty of traveling.

Not only…

You can (for those who want a full immersion trip) finally have the chance to meet local people, eat authentic homemade meals and learn even more custom gests. This is the perfect mix for those who are looking for great memories and unique experiences.

Thanks to a new technology like Airbnb, I had the great opportunity to live for 3 amazing days at Casa Misterio en Merida, the vibrant capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán.

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photo: Facebook

The famous GPS navigator on your phone that brings you sad surprises once you’re back home (a $300 phone bill), brought us straight to the destination. An American woman was waiting for us on the steps of her front door. Airbnb offered us a silent neighborhood with background sounds of children playing. The moment I stepped into their house, everything changed (for the better). Every single particular thing was accurately molded to give us the perfect picture of a Mexican house. My soul started to adapt to that charming house. I instantly became part of this Mexican-American family…

Our room was on the second floor.

IMG_6648.JPG
photo: Casa Misterio, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Oh gosh, I don’t even know which words to use in order to give you a perfect image of that place (I didn’t think I would’ve slept better than in a hotel, but I did). The shower was on the huge balcony overlooking the pool below, and we were able to take showers under the sunset. Close to it, we found this amazing Mexican hammock where I instantly fell asleep to the swaying warm breeze.

DSC_5154.JPG
photo: Casa Misterio en Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

After I entered into that house, I realized how easily we sometimes forget how beautiful the life can be. But, only if we are interested enough to search for a way to find out.

We could’ve spent $100 a night to sleep, but we decided instead to spend $100 for 3 nights.

Where is the trick?

The trick is that we were happy the day when we decided to use Airbnb. For less than a hotel room price, we got more. We got smiles, and we earned 2 new friends who made sure to give us the most beautiful 3 days in that inviting place.

Gracias Erin and Manny!

Meditation Class

I know somebody who heard somebody telling that somebody once said to somebody something.

“Meditation gives you so many benefits. It boosts your health, happiness, self-control, social life, improves your creativity, changes your brain in better”…

The list is huge enough and the idea that you have only positive benefits probably came to you as well…

Was it a good guess?

Well, I want to be honest with my readers…

I always confined the idea of me starting, or simply trying at least once in my life, a meditation session. That idea stayed in my head for a long time, but at the same time the curiosity had grown every single time somebody talked to me about the practice.

Who knows, maybe I was just waiting for the right person in my life to try the meditation…

The day I was finally convinced to try the meditation, I realized how accurate every single person I met during my life was on the benefits you might have practicing it.

Surprisingly, I was even allowed to sit on a comfortable chair and even was provided a stone to rub in my hands (I had thought meditation was something where you sit in a weird body position). I couldn’t believe how amazing it felt after I closed my eyes.

I don’t want to say that I didn’t laugh because that might be a huge lie. It was only when the “meditation master” started to hum the “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhuuuummmmm” sound.

After he literally led me to the imaginary gate towards the complete relaxation, I freaked out. I started to feel lighter. Every single part of my body was floating in the air. I was literally able to start focusing on my breath and the sounds of other people around me vanished. In that moment, I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. After a while, my lungs started to expand more than I’m used to…

I freaked out again, folks!

Before I lead you into the next phrase, I want to mention that we all probably experience the meditation in a different way.

I kept rubbing the stone in my hand. Then the amazing experience started to happen.

My mind started to fly at an incredible speed from one memory to another. The craziest thing was that I was able to start with the earliest memory from my life till the present. My mind was a kind of TV remote, allowing me to pause certain memories and live them again as a spectator. I had a full immersion of watching all of my life’s episodes beginning from my very first days of life.

And everything happened in only 20 minutes…

After I opened my eyes, once again, I realized how many times life teaches you amazing things but you’re the one who has to decide if you are up to it or not.

I only regret that I hadn’t tried it before…

Back to that chair… I stood up and left that room full of positive energies. My soul was, for the first time in my life, in peace with my body. I was pleasantly surprised and happy. Meditation became something that I will keep as a future practice to do often.

Do Scarpetta when in Italy!

Do you remember the feeling you get after you have booked your flight and the hotel where you will stay during your next vacation?

Only you can know…

My guess is probably feelings of excitement or fear because of the language barrier. Or maybe you belong to that kind of group of people who go for it without too many problems.

I want to share with you, from my personal experience, the way I feel sometimes after completing the hardest step of my next vacation of booking the hotel and buying the flight ticket: I want to impress the people I will meet along my next travel adventure. Well, impress maybe is not the right word to be used in this case. What I probably meant to say is that I want to give a positive image of the country I call home. I want my home country to belong to one of those famous lists of most intelligent country or the country that speaks multiple languages or simply most funny or sunny country in the world.

The first thing we all probably try to do is to give a fast look on the Internet to find the most interesting attractions to visit once we land for our vacation. The sad thing is that we get lost with amazing options and we fill up our desktop with hundreds of new web pages.

And then?

Then we probably say to ourselves that we will definitely spend some more time before our departure and better organize our itinerary.

And then?

Here comes the technology and our huge trust of it.

But sometimes it is a trap to be aware of…

Hmmm, why?

Why? You don’t want to return back home with a $300 phone bill because you needed to use Internet abroad for only 5 minutes.

There are wise people that go to the bookstore and invest 40 bucks on a travel book. I really appreciate and respect those people!

From my experience as a traveler, before I leave for a new adventure, I always go to the bookstore and…

…I never buy a travel book. I never feel like I want to spend 40 bloody bucks on a book that I will use only for a week (the incredible and funny thing is that you will find that same book 1 week after you return from the trip, in a thrift shop for only $2).

Well, be sure to know, that when you will be wandering around a new place, your idea of finding free Wi-Fi will turn out badly. Never rely on free Wi-Fi…and you would probably agree.

And here comes the genius, or maybe the first, thing I learned from my 2 weeks work experience in a tourist information office back in my university years:

After you land in a new place, in 99% of cases, you will be able to find an Info sign. That means you have a tourist information office close to you, and you are safe (that means you will not find a $300 phone bill upon your return back home). That also means that you will have free access to a detailed city map and a person who actually might even give you tips while talking in your language or one of the most popular languages like English, French, Spanish…

Now let’s go back because I want to share with you what I like to do when I go on a new adventure….

Let’s say I like to impress or be funny to waitresses or new people that I meet during my time there. The number one rule is to learn common words used to ask for directions or to order the food. That is always a good way to make a person smile or be more cooperative. Everybody appreciates somebody else’s efforts to speak in their same language. I definitely appreciated it during my work experience in the food service industry in Italy back in my early 20’s.

Returning to your probably trip on the “boot peninsula”…

Did you get it?

Yes, I’m talking about one of the most gorgeous and complete places in the world, Italy, with a rich and deep culture.

Well, you might have the luck to spend some quality time with an Italian family or just by yourself…

A huge thing to know in order to fully enjoy the Italian experience: remember the Fare la Scarpetta!

From north to the far south (all the islands included) Italians will appreciate you doing that one important gest.

Fine, I want to finally explain what it is all about!

I can feel how excited and impatient you are…

Follow this plan, step-by-step, and you will be the happiest person in the world in that moment!

Ready!?

I am sure (and I can bet on it) that you will only have amazing dishes while you will have meals out (even if you are a strong loyal lover of hash browns & sausage gravy).

First step: during your order, use “per favore = please” and “grazie = thanks”. That will make them (the waiters) not to forget to bring the drink in time with some ice or the bread (the bread is fundamental for the third step below).

Second step: enjoy the food but not like a dog. Take small bites and truly savor the taste. It might be your first and last time in Italy where you can eat an authentic Italian meal. Chew the food. Tasty right?

Ok…

Scarpetta time!

Third step: I hope you didn’t finish the bread (don’t fall in the trap of the bread). Just for your personal knowledge, the Italian bread fills you up quickly.

“Do not fill your stomach with bread leaving no room for the main course.” – Tanzanian proverb

But…

If you used words like “Grazie & Per Favore”, they will probably bring you a second free breadbasket.

Scarpetta is that moment after you finish the food from your plate. Scarpetta is the last thing to do in order to remember that dish and have the necessary information to use when you will narrate the experience for years to come. Scarpetta (which means “small shoe” in Italian) is breaking a small piece of bread (you can use your hand or a fork) and use that bread to shovel the rest of the food/sauce from your plate. Open your mouth and put that saturated piece of bread in your mouth!

scarpetta
photo: Internet
scarp
photo: Internet

 

Boom!

It is in that precise moment that you will grab the attention of your friends in your future storytelling at dinners about your trip. You didn’t just go to Italy as a regular tourist. You came back richer. You know a genuine Italian custom. It is then, when they will consider you a cool person. They will adore you…

Thanks for reading it till the end!

Because I’m nobody without my loyal readers…

 

Women of South Sudan

Life brought my curiosity far far away towards many edges. Those edges always marked the line that I needed to cross in order to learn thousands of new things. The multitude of positive and negative facts about the world comes with many responsibilities. Before we open those boxes filled with answers about the world, we never ask ourselves an important question: Are we really ready to open it?

The answer to that question isn’t always clear due to our craved curiosity. And it’s fine. It’s fine for all those times when you learn about how amazing and pretty our world is…

It’s less fine or more so, it’s sad, when we open a box filled with negative information about the things wrong in the world…

In that moment, you realize that you are probably one of 7.2 billionth persons in the world. This fact makes you wonder if you’re the one that has to do something in order to resolve those issues the world is struggling to fix.

It is in that moment when you might start following your doubts and saying to yourself that you are too small for a huge cause like that…

And here we are.

I opened that box and I assimilated one of the many negative things that are happening in our world.

What was going on in my thoughts in that moment?

Even if I am too small for a huge and dangerous cause, I decided that by simply doing something small it might make a difference.

Today I hope that the small actions in my words could be read by those who can really make a huge difference and be a source of influence for them to change the negative into positive.

The women of South Sudan

A few days ago I had the opportunity to watch a video about a woman. She’s one of those 7.2 billion people who live on our planet. She’s too small for a huge problem like that. And here’s where we forgot something important:

“People working together can do great things.” – Tanzanian proverb

 Ileana is only 28 years old. She didn’t choose to become a famous singer or professional dancer. She didn’t even choose to stay in her home country to do what she studied (helping women give life – Obstetrician). With the idea of somehow making the difference, she picked one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

What could that be?

She decided to join Doctors Without Borders and do small acts of kindness.

How?

It’s simple. Many small acts by many people, working together, will make a lasting difference.

It was when I discovered Ileana in a YouTube video, that I decided to do something in order to help the world repair the negative knowledge-box full of bad facts that happen not too far from here.

Ileana decided to go help normal people at their house during the war. Let’s read how it sounds when we decide that it is better to help people in their own house instead of giving them shelter in our homes here, far from the war.

donne sud sudan
photo: iodonna.it

“Tra un esplosione ed un altra mi chiedevo cosa pensassero le donne incinte…

Spesso mi capita di sentire storie di donne che camminano per ore per raggiungerci. Alcune c’e la fanno ad arrivarci qui in ospedale, pero alcune volte non c’e la fanno. Crollano esauste e partoriscono da sole con nessuno che le dia una mano. Hanno solo un pezzo di lamiera per tagliare il cordone ombelicale e nessuno che le aiuti a ad espellere la placenta.

 Questo fatto mi porta tristemente in mente la situazione delle donne del Sud Sudan che di notte si nascondono nelle palludi per proteggersi sai soldati. Devono tenere i bambini in braccio, quelli piccoli, perche l’acqua arriva fino alle spalle. Con il rischio di essere attaccate dai serpenti e dai coccodrilli. Sono donne esauste, mal nitrite eppure fortissime.

Quello che ho visto in questi anni e quello che nonostante le difficolta che queste mamme sono costrette a vivere in guerra, dopo il parto, la prima espressione che vedi sul loro volto e di tutte le persone che stanno intorno e sempre di gioia. Gioia perche e nato un bambino nuovo, una vita nuova ed una vita nuova da una speranza per tutti.

 Sapete, mi chiedono spesso se non ho paura di andare li e cosa mi spinge a farlo?

Rispondo sempre che qui a casa abbiamo dei bisogni ma anche se non ci rendiamo conto, abiamo molte risorse per soddisfarli. Mentre la ci sono solo bisogni.”

 

I will try to translate it from Italian to English for you.

“Between explosions I always asked to myself how the women were feeling in those moments.

 Many times I heard how these women walk for hours to reach us. Most of them make it here, but sometimes many women fall literally on the ground exhausted and they deliver their babies alone. Nobody is there to help them and all they have is a piece of sheet metal, which they use to cut the umbilical cord. Nobody is there for them in order to help them to excrete the placentas.

SudSudan-Pibor
photo:medicisenzafrontiere.it

This fact sadly reminds me of the women from South Sudan. During the night they hide in the swamp in order to escape from the soldiers. They hold the little children because the water reaches the shoulders. They risk to be attacked by snakes and crocodiles. They are exhausted and underfed women but strong.

South Sudan Stranded Families
photo: ilpost.it

 All I saw during these years is that despite the difficulties and issues all these women are going through because of the war, after the birth of their child, they always have an expression on their faces. The first expression you can see on their faces is happiness. They’re happy because a new baby was born. A new life always brings hope for everybody.

 

Women and children at the MSF hospital in Leer.
photo: internet

Very often people ask me if I am afraid of going over to these places and risk my life. They also ask me why and what makes me go there..

I always reply: here, in our house we have needs. Many times we don’t even realize how many resources we have in order to fix the need. Over there are only needs…”

 

Thank you Ileana for what you’re doing! I hope though, that one day, we all work together and make the dreams of peace for all these South Sudanese and other women come true…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woman of my dreams

 

I definitely lost count of how many times I met this beautiful woman, each times I closed my eyes at night.

How was I feeling every single morning?

Something like in this song of Roy Orbison – In Dreams…

 

Every single time, I questioned myself whether I would ever meet her.

The next morning, my best friend and I had plans to drive from Pontedera, Italy (where I was living at that time) to Manarola, Cinque Terre, for a day trip. I was so excited because it was my very first time in the Cinque Terre. The same for my friend who took an expensive flight from Canada to Italy to visit me and some of his relatives.

Should I mention how I almost missed the chance to meet the woman of my dreams?

Well, ok:

Everything starts with an important rule, when you go visit Italy, and specifically Tuscany, for the first time in your life, you must not miss Montecatini Terme.

Next day, after his arrival we drove to Montecatini Terme…

My friend Daniel and I were reading the menu, when this pretty Romanian Waitress came to ask us if we were ready to place the order.

And then?

After a beer and a *Caffe Corretto alla Grappa, Daniel read the situation. Apparently she was a bit interested in me and I was curious…

I needed to prove to my friend that I had *I marroni to find out her name, obtain her phone number and ask her on a date.

The result?

I gave a reason to my friend to be proud of me: I came back with her name, I had told her that she was cute, and even better, we had a date: The next day at 7 PM.

But?

What would’ve happened if the next day I would have been in Montecatini Terme around 7 PM for that date?

Let’s see…

After parking the car, we ran towards Manarola downtown, because the sky was threatening rain.

After one hundred eighty-five million, three hundred seventy-six thousand, five hundred and twenty-nine pictures taken by Daniel, the rain came over us. And we needed to find a shelter.

Perfect!

Our only option with an empty table was Bar Enrica. Daniel had an amazing water view while enjoying his coffee and an *Antipasto di Terra. I had more than a view…

bar enrica
photo: Coffee Enrica and Daniel’s view

She was there. This beautiful woman was sitting in front of me. I sneakily looked at her maybe (if I remember well) 70 times?

I didn’t care if she became scared or something else…

I don’t remember if the radio was transmitting this song or if it was my head singing it:

 

“A candy-colored clown they call the sandman – Tiptoes to my room every night – Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper? – Go to sleep, everything is all right?? – I close my eyes then – I drift away – Into the magic night, I softly say – A silent prayer like dreamers do  – Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you – In dreams I walk with you – In dreams I talk to you – In dreams you’re mine all the time – We’re together in dreams, in dreams – But just before the dawn – I awake and find you gone – I can’t help it, I can’t help it if I cry – I remember that you said goodbye – Too bad it only seems – It only happens in my dreams – Only in dreams – In beautiful dreams.”

 

Every single second I was looking at her and listening to her voice, I was finally able to give a complete image to the woman of my dreams. In my head, slowly, Deja vu was playing a game with my heart and soul. It was her.

My friend was talking, but I was blissfully ignoring him. I was happy I didn’t have free Wi-Fi anymore.

Subconsciously I started to imagine a life with the woman of my dreams. I was able to see her and I walking around the world. I was day-dreaming of the moments I would be able to spin her in pirouettes while we walked hand in hand.

I didn’t realize that I was watching her without being able to take my eyes away from her aura…

In the background, the most brutal and hateful phrase I ever heard came from Daniel’s mouth:

“Alex it’s time to go – look, the sun is back.”

I hated my friend Daniel in that moment.

We left…

As I was walking out the door, I was torn between the 7 PM date and this woman of my dreams…

Sadly I was building a million reasons not to stop and talk to her…

Rain then sun; Manarola and not another place. Everything happens for a reason. The reason was double that day:

I brought my friend to visit Manarola and destiny awarded my soul and made my dream come true.

Yes, but what happened?

Sarah, the woman of my dreams, came out to talk with us (convinced by her cousin Kristen) and used the most interesting excuse in order to obtain a free ride (the only time in my life I was happy that the Italian rail company was on strike) and spend some time with me/us: The tourists that need a ride. The entire conversation was between Daniel and her, because I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I was deaf in that moment and paralyzed because our two worlds had finally collided.

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Photo: cousin Kristen

Montecatini Terme wasn’t the One…

… and today, I’m the happiest man in the world. The dream came true.

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photo: Michigan hikes

Thanks cousin Kristen and Daniel!

* Caffe Corretto alla Grappa – Italian Espresso with some 5 years Old Italian grape liquor inside.

* I Marroni – Typical Italian expression to be used when you have to prove that you have the b…ls to do something extremely hard which requires lots of courage.

*Antipasto di Terra – Italian starter dish that typically consists in 3 different Italian crostini, at least 3 slices of raw Italian Parma Prosciutto, olives, 3 slices of Italian salami, 1 pickled red onion, 3 different kinds of Italian cheese, and 3 slices of Italian Lardo di Colonatta. Cost ranges 7 – 11 Euro.

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photo: Grand Traverse Photography by Amber Elliott

Rotary Club, 75 years of service to the world

Since the beginning of my teenage years I started to be strongly sensitive to amazing accomplishments the people can achieve if they are armed by kindness and altruism.

The huge benefit, as a citizen of a small town like Traverse City (TC) Michigan, is that the news travels faster and it reaches your ears on time, giving you enough time to plan your schedule.

The month of April in TC is well known where the locals come together to celebrate the anniversary of the local Rotary Club.

Hmmmm, what if I’ve never heard about the Rotary Club before…

Let’s go and sneak on the Internet to find an accurate definition of Rotary…

Rotary Club is a local club of business and professional men that is a member of a world-wide organization of similar clubs (Rotary International) devoted to serving the community and promoting world peace.

 

Many times our personal “starvation” for knowledge pushes us to cross the line of doubt and walk forward step by step towards the things unknown.

What made me renounce an alternative Saturday night out to go to The 75th Anniversary Rotary Show that performed at the State Theatre on Sunday the 29th of April 2017?

The fact that they decided to do what they do best: Raising funds for good causes. Their cause was well explained on their Facebook Page: “…with all proceeds going to local nonprofits for things like building ballparks and providing health care for the underserved.“

 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they are involved in humanitarian causes and promoting the peace. As a new person going to the show, I was happy and well entertained thanks to their amazing singers, performers, and the great endorsement of their pit orchestra.

How did Rotary Club obtain an important place in my personal list of amazing things that I appreciate?

Deeply convinced I like and appreciate those places where all genders are on the same page with the same importance and same weight of words. And Rotary Club of Traverse City is one of those examples that I will happily use as reference in future conversations.

For a very interesting closure I “selfishly” kept the most important fact for last.

Ready?

 

Rotary Club of Traverse City, as part of the Rotary International, strongly supports a huge cause. We are talking about a world–wide cause that saves many lives:

 

 

Thanks for the amazing night, Rotary Club of Traverse City, and thanks for being partners of Rotary International in “fighting” for a healthy and peaceful world!

A day with Francisco afuera de Merida (Mexico)

A rock on the road makes our rental car ( Fiat Panda ) jolt and it wakes me up. A quick look on the phone to see our GPS location and I still couldn’t believe where I was… (for the entire 2 weeks I kept pinching myself because I couldn’t believe was finally in Mexico).

My arm was burning under the Mexican January sun. Far from Europe and any sort of issues, the biggest worry was to not forget the sunscreen lotion. And of course I forgot the lotion.

What was Mexico for me, before visiting it?

I’ll admit that for my whole life, I never considered myself a fan of Mexico. All I can say now is that: Life can teach you many little things, but only if you are willed enough, you will climb the wall of knowledge and see what’s on the other side. If you never experienced Mexico and its people firsthand, then you know nothing about Mexico and the Mexicans.

Mexico had the power to find a special place in my heart…

I don’t even want to start a sentence like:

“I thought Mexico wasn’t safe because of crime”

or

“I need to be careful not to be cheated with the money”

Only adding those words as important facts to be aware of when travelling to Mexico, would be a HUGE and SAD INSULT to all the amazing people I met during my time there.

Please don’t think that I want to exaggerate with the facts and seem a liar. Mexico gave me the opportunity to meet only great people…

Now I can smell your doubts about if you should keep reading my article.

I promise you that you will enjoy the entire amazing story about our best MotoTaxiDriverTouristGuide, Francisco.

Remember the part about me burning my arm under the sun? Well before we start the story, I would like you to know that I’m one of those people who are trying their best to talk in the local language during trips. It was after I realized that my arm was burning, when I coined a new English / Spanish term to define somebody in a certain situation: IDIHOMBRE (from the English word IDIOT and the Spanish word HOMBRE).

Our car almost hit this young man who was trying to stop us and sell a tourism package: A guided tour of 5 different Cenotes on a MotoTaxi.

It didn’t take too much of his charm and warm soul to win our curiosity and make us accept the deal. Half day of his work for only trescientos pesos ( fifteen bucks ).

Crazy right?

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to learn much about Cenotes, this natural phenomenon found in only a few places around the world, here is a Wikipedia explanation:

Cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Mayan people for sacrificial offerings.

 

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Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies. While the best-known cenotes are large open water pools measuring tens of meters in diameter, such as those at Chicken Itza in Mexico the greatest number of cenotes are smaller sheltered sites and do not necessarily have any surface exposed water. There are over 6000 different cenotes in the Yucatan Pensinsula in Mexico alone.

 

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An explanation alone cannot describe how incredibly beautiful these Cenotes are. For all the tropical fans of European destinations (like me), after visiting this superb Peninsula, I bet you will pleasantly think differently.

We parked our car and jumped onto this MotoTaxi: a regular motorcycle without the front wheel. In order to obtain a good MotoTaxi, you need to remove the front wheel and the fork. Then add a two-wheeled cabin with a bench and a roof. Bingo! Then start your low investment business.

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photo: Francisco’s MotoTaxi

The amazing thing about this original transportation is that you have the wind that hits you and cools you on a warm Mexican day.

The first cenote had a scary ladder that we needed to climb down to reach a wooden platform over the water. I didn’t need too much prompting. I took my fiancée’s hand and we pushed each other into that crystalline and fresh water. Our guide Francisco explained to us all he knew about those cenotes…

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Amazing, just amazing.

Back to the MotoTaxi, Francisco was singing a song and I thought his voice was even better than Julio Igleasis’.

He was singing and we were enjoying the ride with goose bumps on our skin. And it was too warm for goose bumps.

Francisco is a father and husband. A simple man with a strong passion for his lands, he became the man of our trip. When I think of Mexico’s people, I think of people like him.

I will not even try to use words to describe the rest of the cenotes. I think the pictures will be more than enough…

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At the end of our trip, Francisco became nothing more than a beautiful memory that I will always remember with a huge smile on my face.

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Gracias Francisco!

Le tour du monde through phone technology

All the times you find yourself somewhere different than your country, whether you’re travelling or just for work, you become fascinated by a local or foreign song. And this is thanks to the Synesthesia. More indicative of an effective presence of synesthesia, it is the case in which you perceive a stimulus (such as sound), which causes a net reaction to another sense (for example, sight).

That song becomes probably the song of your whole time and experience in that place. It happens very often that we associate amazing moments to certain songs.

I don’t even remember how many times I listened to songs that reminded me of amazing moments that I spent somewhere with a friend or my family.

As I’m writing down all these thoughts, I can say that I’m lucky to go through my music playlist and relive certain moments through the lyrics and melody of a song…

A few years ago, I experienced something new and exciting. I was single, sitting in a coffee shop back in Italy. I was reading a newspaper in this place with an amazing view outside: The beautiful Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I know, I know, I have no reason to talk about the beauties of Italy, because the article is about music and technology.

Sorry!

Well, while I was reading this annoying newspaper, (full of bad news about Italy’s economy) my attention was captured by this pretty lady and the weird way she was using her phone. She seemed to be looking for signal. I looked at my phone, but the phone had full signal. Then I thought maybe she was trying to take pictures, but the camera wasn’t on. I was so curious…

Not by the woman, but by what was she doing there with her smartphone…

I decided to walk over and ask about her strange behavior. She showed me how I was not up to speed with technology. She was using this amazing mobile app. She was able to identify a song with a click of a finger. All you need to do, is to bring the phone’s microphone close to the sound source. The app will then listen to the lyrics and the melody. Based on their database, the server can identify the song that is winning your ears in that moment.

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photo: internet

Shazam changed my life from that moment on. I didn’t drink a coffee with that pretty lady and I didn’t even have the courage to invite her out for dinner, but I discovered something new: Shazam.

Since that day, I frequently use that technology and I can say that I had a great surprise the day I found its coolest feature.

What did I discover?

I found out that you can explore the world map and use your finger to reach a certain place on the globe. In that moment, you are able to see and then listen to the song that is the Top most popular music in that country or region.

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photo: internet

Not cool?

You can actually see what is the most popular song in Venezuela, Russia, or even Syria.

Another surprise was when I listened to a song that I identified during my last vacation in Mexico. The feature of Shazam is that it allows you to listen to that song on Youtube…and be transferred with memories and imagination to a place where you listened to that song for the first time.

This is one of the few technological inventions that makes a huge difference in our lives and brings happiness.

Thank you Shazam!