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Local Perspective: Emanuela and the Fascinating Woman that is Napoli

You will either deeply love her or hate her, but one thing is for sure: you will never forget her

There is no secret from anyone that knows me that I have a deep love and endless fascination with Italy and its culture. I even lived in Rome for a time that seemed all too short. In spite of not quite speaking the language (not yet fluently but, I have ambitions), I always felt at home in the beautiful country. This week, I decided on getting the perspective of a local Italian and her city: Naples, or Napoli. I have only visited the southern city twice, and briefly, but that didn’t stop me from writing about it’s beautiful chaos and its pizza. This time I talked to a native Neapolitan: Emanuela Cervo, who described the city as a place of contrasts living together harmoniously. She mentioned a particular intensity of the city, and compared it to an incredibly fascinating woman. I most definitely agreed.

“Just like an incredibly fascinating woman, there is no way the city won’t shock you. You will either deeply love her or hate her, but one thing is for sure: you will never forget her”

I have known Emanuela for a couple of years now, we met in yet another fascinating city, New York, when she was working as an intern for the Italian Mission in the United Nations. I admire Emanuela and see her as a kindred spirit, but this time I got to know her through her love for her hometown. The city that flows in her blood and is a “bittersweet curse you bring in your heart wherever you are.”  I asked her a few questions about Napoli, and through her answers, I quickly realized it would be impossible for me to write a short article and still do her love for the city justice. Although I will try my best while still offering my perspective.

Through the questions I asked Emanuela, I became even more enamored by the city I briefly visited. She described a gorgeous microcosm that “has witnessed the course of European history, as a result of numerous civilizations that have dominated it”. Ughh, I love history. She also mentioned an interesting fact; something that envelops the city and its citizens: Because of its history, Naples has experienced many catastrophes, and as a result, the city has developed a particular cohabitation with death which translates into a fascinating esoteric approach to life. Ahh, yes, fascinating.

By now, as I write these words, I crave going back to Naples. I crave the excitement, the warm summer nights, the pizza. It feels incredibly familiar to me, for the sort of feeling that captures me in Naples is akin to the one I get when I visit my own city of Caracas, and view it with the eyes of a visitor. Perhaps it’s the cultural affinity; Italians and Latin Americans both share a cultural bond that comes from a tumultuous distant past and the shared origin of our language: Latin. Even Emanuela mentions Latin American music is very popular in Napoli for it fits the city’s rhythms! In Naples, you’ll find yourself in a city with an “ancient soul,” you will not only see it through its historical architectures – you’ll feel it.

I miss this place that was never mine. I crave the proximity to the Mediterranean and southern Italy’s beautiful islands, which many Neapolitans, as Emanuela tells me, visit in the summer weekends. Her favorites being Capri, for it’s magic, and the dream that is Positano. I had the fortune of visiting both of these places, and not only do I agree, but remember looking at Positano and feeling some magical nostalgia for the place I would soon leave. I was visiting with a couple of friends whom I told I was there with them by a weird funny irony; because this is a place that I would best enjoy with a future love.

Emanuela tells me she feels it a blessing to be a Neapolitan, and that to know the city genuinely and profoundly, it is essential to get to know some locals. The staple of a true Neapolitan is “humor and intensity” she tells me. I crave it’s delicious food (Emanuela didn’t hesitate to recommend an array of things and places to try while in Naples), I asked what I should do if I only had 24 hours in Naples. She said to stay longer. Sounds about right.

To end, she finished with these words: “Napoli is a true and genuine city, which can seem untouched by globalization from certain points of view. Getting lost in its craziness and chaos will definitely make you feel alive and its contrasts will shake you from within.”

My suspicions were I would not be able to do justice to the Napoli she described me. I was right. Not only did she tell me about Napoli’s history, about its passion for the game of “calcio,” and her recommendations for some wonderful food. She filled me with excitement to go back. On that note, I will publish a full transcript of her recount of Naples in a few days, for anyone who is curious for more.

Cheers!

Photo by Emanuela Cervo

GLOBALIZATION AND CHANGE, NOTHING NEW

“This is what globalization is all about”

I said as I took a bite of my arepa (aka. the Venezuelan daily bread) filled with mozzarella cheese. In the background, the beat of the Norwegian DJ Kygo filled the room. I made the observation with bemusement, and my friend who had spent the last week exploring Los Angeles and some of San Jose shared the feeling; after all, my friend Gesi was from Germany, and we had known each other for two years after meeting in New York City. While taking another bite, Gesi tapped the table, which only drove the point home for me. Swedish furniture. Sweden was also present in our dining experience.

Perhaps there are still corners of the world where this kind of diversity is kept to a minimum. Perhaps it goes by unnoticed. Certainly in the metropolitan cities of the world this is no longer the case, no matter how much people fight it. The exchange of cultures is not a new tendency, it has just become quicker and more widespread in our modern age.

This past week in my current SoCal city, I had dinner with a Roman in a Neapolitan pizzeria (MiDiCi, and I recommend), had breakfast in a Cuban bakery (Porto’s) with my German friend and an Italian from Naples, had dinner with a Puerto Rican and a girl who is from Miami, but is also from Peru and Argentina, sang to the beat of Hotel California with a friend from Russia, and had quesadilla with a friend from Mexico.

I no longer look at these moments with awe, or with any sort of surprise. Maybe I should. They are wonderful moments, and I have created a life for myself where there is a constant flow and exchange of cultural ideas. Listening to a different language being spoken can be music to my ears, and often it activates my hunger for learning. For language is the gateway for culture, and a different language can even represent a slight change in personality. Often I wish my friends who know me in spoken English, knew me in spoken Spanish. It is a different experience. It is like jumping into a parallel universe and into someone else’s world.

People who are multilingual are constantly jumping between worlds with ease, and with little thought.

There is still a fight by those holding on to an idea of Patriotism. Makes sense, we are tribal beings, but tribes are not always defined by where we are born. We have the power to choose them. But with a mix of nostalgia and hope, I look at the future and I know everything I know will be different. Languages that I cherish, will most likely perish or transform with time. Most likely not in my lifetime, but it will happen. I already feel the loss, regardless of the fact that I will not see that happen. We have to learn to embrace the change; for it is nothing new, it is just becoming more and more apparent with the rapid pace of our times.

WHY WE LOVE BIG CITIES – I DREAM OF NY, I DREAM OF EUROPE

For a little over a year, I have been living in Los Angeles. I haven’t yet warmed up to the city to the extent that I feel comfortable to call it my home; yet, when I first arrived to Los Angeles I absolutely loved it. Why? The beaches, the weather, the mountains, the proximity to both ocean and snow, the diversity, the food, you name it! The creativity! There are so many people that come to this city with a vision of making their dreams a reality. So many artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. I felt surrounded by people that understood my desire for a creative life. Yet, I haven’t been able to call it home.

After a long inner search, it finally dawned on me. I miss that constant novelty I got in New York City. Where all I had to do was step outside my door without worrying about a car or parking and I knew I could find a world of possibilities. An adventure awaited. LA is a big city, and unfortunately, not the best example for public transportation. There are great pockets to the city. But having to drive to them takes away from the spontaneity that I personally crave.

I am drawn to travel. I dream of a European home. Weekend trips to different cultures by simply jumping on a train; different architecture, different languages spoken. European cities are built for the human scale, for walking; for experiencing architectural beauty every few steps. I see that in my future, but for now, my craving goes to the concrete jungle in the East Coast. New York still holds my heart, even with all of its imperfections (aka. the subway at rush hour).

Turns out, my craving of novelty is a very basic human need. We are biologically disposed to want to be in locations with variety, with differences, with complexity. We all have different ways of fulfilling this need. Perhaps many don’t even realize why, or how to fill it. There is even research that suggests humans are healthier when we live among variety. That the cities of the future, especially here in the US, that are built for the bottom line, could cause even more depression – among other health issues. Boredom increases cortisol levels more than sadness.

Imagine the cumulative effects of working and living in the same dull environment. Day after day.  Ughh.

Yes, I realize this took a dark turn. It all started with a sunny happy description of Los Angeles. The wonderful city of Los Angeles. I truly do think it’s beautiful. It does need to work on it’s infrastructure for better public transportation. With so many artists in the city, I don’t think it is living up to it’s best potential just yet. For now, I am here to point this out, but I see myself moving back to New York City. After all, I know I have unfinished business with that town, and with that, be closer to my beloved Europe.

Cheers!

What do you think? How do you look for novelty in your life?

WHY OFFICE WORK IS OUT AND TRAVEL WORK IS IN

A few days ago, out of sheer curiosity for my own past – prompted by my love/hate relationship for Facebook memories – I decided to scroll through my own profile. I went deep. Scrolled past photos of friends who I haven’t seen in a while, funny videos I had shared, political articles, and a post about remote living. I stopped short. Around two years ago I has shared an article from Fast Company about co-living spaces for digital nomads. I remember at that point the idea of living a location independent lifestyle by working on my computer and being able to move around freely was the stuff of dreams. I thought travel while working usually required a company sending you out on business trips. I hadn’t realized that in out internet age, traveling freely while working, was not only for a selected few, but millions were already on this path.

Here we are in 2018 and I feel reconnected with that idea. I have become increasingly aware of the digital nomad lifestyle; and with that, I have also become aware of the fact that I am most definitely not alone. Today, 82% of millennials have said that they are more loyal to their boss if they have flexible work options. We are just not all wired for the 9 to 5 work schedule!  For example, at the time I write these words, it is 3:05 am in Los Angeles (where I currently reside). Not to say I normally find myself writing at 3 in the morning; but many creatives types find themselves in the night owl category.

The 9 to 5 work day was created to maximize efficiency at the time of the industrial revolution. The idea was: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of sleep. Makes sense. Thing is, the world in quite different today than it was at the peak of the industrial revolution, and we shouldn’t have to adhere to those norms. My internal clock most definitely does not want to adhere to those norms, and shouldn’t have to.

Fortunately for me, and for many entering the workforce today, the rules are changing, and they are changing fast. Companies are adopting the remote work philosophy, and there are many other companies that operate completely on a remote workforce. In fact, by around 2030, the Millennial majority will likely have done away with the 9-to-5 workday entirely.  Insert happy dance.

Photo by Nubia Navarro

This is exciting for many obvious reasons. To me, since travel and discovery are some of the things which most exhilarate me, I don’t want to just be able to control the hours I work, but to be free to choose my location. After all, many of us humans are still nomadic at heart, we have been nomads for 99% of our existence. Nomad lifestyle, count me in. It is not my desire however, to move locations every few weeks, but to be able to see the world without being limited to an office space; and by having to waste another hour on commute to the office where I would sit on my laptop and use the internet.

My generation wants to get to know the world outside of a two week allotted vacation time. We are making it happen. There are more and more companies each year that are born based off of that desire. Companies like Roam, WiFly, Remote Year, and Hacker Paradise cater to digital nomads. Some are designed to help people jump-start their digital nomad career, others are for more established remote workers.

As of now, the future seems promising, and I am excited for that seed that was planted in my head over two years ago. Even though it has taken me until now to start searching for real solutions and ways to accomplish it, I am certain it will happen for myself, or any of my fellow wannabe citizens of the world.

Cheers!

Would love to hear your thoughts! Anyone else a digital nomad?

Documentary Review: “A World Not Ours”

“The old will die and the young will forget”

These are the words attributed to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was referring to Palestinian refugees and assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians would never try to return to their homes.

In the documentary film “A World Not Ours,” filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel shows us that this statement is certainly untrue. The young Palestinians are now old refugees and they still hold on to the idea that Palestine will once again be their home. The young Palestinians however, are trapped in a sort of limbo. Being stateless is their lifestyle, and they only become nationals of a country when the FIFA World cup comes around every four years.

Fleifel’s film is sentimental and takes a very different approach to documenting the refugee crisis. A very personal approach given that some of his own family is still trapped within one kilometer of Ain el-Hilweh; the refugee camp home to over 70 thousand people in the south of Lebanon.

Ain el-Hilweh, Palestinian refugee camp housing over 70 thousand refugees

“To me, going to Ain el-Hilweh was better than going to Disneyland” remarks Fleifel in a voice-over. He says that it took him years to realize that the people in the camp were not there by choice. Through old home footage of children playing football in the streets, and celebrating the FIFA World Cup, he outlines his skewed childhood views and contrasts them with footage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the disillusionment of those who are trapped at the camp.

He interviews his friends, uncle, and grandfather, which in turn humanizes the faceless statistics about the plight of the refugees. His friend Abu-Eyad puts our everyday conflict into perspective, when he remarks that he would like to “go on a mission’ and blow himself up, because he sees no future for himself – trapped in a place where his everyday life has absolutely no meaning.

Abu-Eyad in his home, in Ain el-Hilweh

“Palestinians really fucked us over, I wish Israel would just massacre us all…” says Abu-Eyad while contemplating his future.

This film was filled with contrasts. The music was upbeat, yet the feeling inside the camp was one of helplessness. Is this how human life should work? They belong to no state so they are not allowed to live a fruitful life? The immediate answer should be no. That is not however, how thousands upon thousands of refugees view their life. Just like Abu-Eyad, they see no future, and they see no meaning.

You can watch the trailer here. Also, don’t hesitate to comment, or contact me to let me know what you think!