The planning continues feat. An Awesome Lunch

Well, hello there!

Half of April has passed us by and our schedule for Mumbai is starting to take shape. We have as stated earlier confirmed a meeting with Professor Anjali Monteiro from TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), who is going to tell us about her work at the university and hopefully introduce us to some university students. We’ve also confirmed meetings with Majlis,  Swedish journalist Jonas Hellman and the Swedish Consulate (finally!), where Fredrika Ornbrant is going to receive us.
We’re still waiting on response from several other contacts, but we’re also in the process of contacting a few local politicians and journalists. And then there is of course the issue of not knowing exactly how to “get inside Bollywood”, but we’ll figure that out. Eventually.

We still don’t know how difficult it’s going to be for us to get around in Mumbai. We met Anna Lindberg from SASNET today, and she told us it would be almost impossible for us to get to our meetings in time if we relied solely on taxi rides in divided cars, suggesting that we rent a minibus + driver for the week. We were under the impression that since we were going to acclimate to the town’s nature by only booking one meeting each day (two, tops), this wouldn’t be a problem. But we may have to reconsider it, as she sounded very convincing. Ah, Mumbai.

In other news: Everyone has either received their Visas or  sent their Visa applications at this point, and we all went ahead and booked our flights last week! We will arrive on the 5-6th of June and return on the 20th. We’ll stay in Mumbai until the 13th and the plan has up until now been to hang out in Kerala for a week after a very educational stay in Mumbai. But we had completely neglected the fact that the monsoon hits the  southwest coast of India in June, and we have now decided to move north instead. So far, Kashmir and Udaipur have been suggested. Udaipur seems like an amazingly beautiful city with the added possibility of booking additional meetings, but it’s got the incredible heat working against it. Kashmir, or Himachal Pradesh, will be a lot cooler but then we’d basically have to rely on the mountains for activities. We’ll see where we end up!

Wednesday – Making plans for India after a wonderful lunch at Govindas

Happy Easter!

/Anahita

Laborious Visa Process

The work of the Travel Committee is in great progress. The group itself is getting bigger and so is the engagement of eager students willing to learn more about the massive populated country in South Asia.

Since the last update we have confirmed contacts with the University of Mumbai and also the Swedish journalist Jonas Hellman who lives in Mumbai since years back and covers, among other things human rights issues and political and societal development. A few other organisations that have confirmed interest in meeting us are CSA – Centre for Social Action, focused on human rights, poverty and education in slum areas. Another one is Majlis which is an organisation working to promote the empowerment and rights of women. Moreover, we are waiting for answers from many more.

A big process during the last weeks has been the Visa process. The process consists of filling in two forms on the internet. the first one is a form of three pages with personal dates, including everything from visible birthmarks to religion and your dad’s occupation. The second form felt more like a classic multiple choice test, in which to decide upon a few things in relation to the company handling the visa process. These two forms, together with a receipt, foto and passport is what is needed. A long process that is finally coming to and end for the majority of the travel group. Next step: buying flights!

Last tuesday the UPF together with SASNET, arranged an interesting lecture on democracy in India, held by Subrata K. Mitra, professor in political science at Heidelberg University. A rather technical and sometimes complicated lecture but also including relevant and interesting perspective of the Indian democracy that will be useful to bare in mind during the meetings in Mumbai.
subrata

Hasta la próxima

/Fredrik Karlsson

Preparing for Mumbai!

And the planning has started!

We had our third meeting this week. More interested people joined the group and we continued with the planning. This week we will try to send out our Visa applications. So far we have one study visit confirmed at TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), and we are working on booking others. There seems to be a common interest in different humanitarian and women’s rights organizations and meeting other students, so that will be our focus. We’ve made progress in finding a journalist to meet in Mumbai as well.

The dates are set to around the 6th of June and two weeks away. That will give us plenty of time to see the city and then finish our trip in Kerala, so we get to see the nature as well. Some rumours also let us know that there might be a “yoga retreat house” available out there…

We have our meeting every Wednesday 6 pm at the office, feel free to drop by and talk to us!

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/Sandra

NEXT STOP: INDIA

Hey guys!

We’re embarking on a new journey and this time our destination is India! Stay tuned for updates on our weekly committee meetings, our planning and – finally – the trip itself!

Mumbai and Kerala are the places to be this June. We still have some spots left, so if you have any questions about the trip, don’t hesitate to ask them! Write to us at travel@upflund.se or stop by at our meetings, Wednesdays 18.00 at the UPF office!

Here’s a link to the Facebook event, with more information:

https://www.facebook.com/events/232431813625825/?fref=ts

Cheers,

/Anahita & Fredrik, Heads of the Travel Committee

Day 7 – The return of the Wi-Fi, gelato and the last dinner

We began our day with a long sleep-in. On most of our days in Rome the alarm clock sounded very early but not this day. The reason was that our only meeting was at 15.30 instead of 8 or 9 a clock in the morning. At Thursday we arrived back in the civilization after the return of the Wi-Fi in our apartment. So the first thing we did when we woke up was to recover the time we missed in our social lives on Facebook and other social webpages we are addicted to. And after that some of us wrote and published posts retroactively on our blog. But the time was running fast away on our last whole day in Rome, and suddenly we went away to our last meeting.

This meeting was set to take place with four journalists who are involved with a project called IRPI (Investigative Reporting Project Italy). The project consists of a group of Italian journalists and was made in reaction to the absence of media that is not are under political influences. In Italy most of the media is owned of politicians and parties, or at least have very strong connections to either the left or right side of the political scale. And the connections are often much more extreme than those of Sweden.

The journalists began to talk about the situation for journalists who are not a part of the big media institutions in Italy, which they mentioned as the “journalist order”. The order is a mix between a trade union and a club for journalists in Italy. To become a member in this order you have to pay an amount of money every year and you have to either work as a trainee for 18 months or go through a special education that costs a lot of money. So if you have a journalist degree from abroad and written articles in newspapers like the guardian, you´re still not good enough to call yourself a journalist in Italy. And if you´re not a part of the order you have to pay 32 % in taxes instead of 4%. So it´s a very odd situation that many of the free-lance journalists are in.

Wall of journalists at the meeting with IRPI

Wall of journalists at the meeting with IRPI

IRPI has just launched the first platform for whistleblowers in Italy and they have many scoops on the way. They also work hard on creating new ways to reach out to people. I really recommend to follow this project on either twitter or at their website www.irpi.eu, I think this project will play a big role in the future of Italian media.

After this meeting we finished our inspiring and wonderful weekend in Italy with a walk through Rome. Our gelateria-addict Anahita got a taste of her favorite ice cream in the whole world, and then we walked to the very charming area Trastevere. We there found a very good aperitivo place called KmZero that served prosciutto, cheese, jam and wine that was out of this world.

Preparation if the aperitivo

Preparation if the aperitivo

The most impressive handlebar moustache in Trastevere

Kate, Gon and Lily

Kate, Gon and Lily

Then the time was set for our last dinner in a genuine Italian restaurant, in front of which we stood in line for a half hour just to get a table. But the food and the whole authentic Italian experience made it worth it! So the evening gave our journey the great ending it deserved.

Our last dinner in Rome at Augusto in Trastevere

Our last dinner in Rome at Augusto in Trastevere

Arrivederci Roma e arrivederci il blog!

/ Alexander A

Day 6 – Firenze, the city of art

On Thursday morning the alarm sounded before 6 am. Still half-asleep, we walked in a crisp weather to the railway station and took a train towards Firenze (Florence). During the one and half hour ride some of us slept, while others tried to wake up. Before 9 am we were already in Firenze, soon ready to discover the old and inspiring city, but first we had to sit down and drink some cappuccinos.

View of the landscape between Rome and Florence, early in the morning

View of the landscape between Rome and Florence, early in the morning

Our first meeting wasn’t until 11 am, so we had some time to walk around in the beautiful city. We wandered around its narrow streets, stopped in front of every pasticceria and gelateria just to glance at all of the delicious looking pastries and ice creams, and walked thorough Ponte Vecchio, where small jewellery shops were opening their windows.

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A man opening his shop on Ponte Vecchio

A man opening his shop on Ponte Vecchio

Amazing art at Museo di Palazzo Vecchio

Amazing art at Museo di Palazzo Vecchio

The main reason for us to come to Firenze was the meeting with Guardia di Finanza “Fiamme Gialle”, the Italian special police force in areas of economy and finance. From the part of Guardia di Finanza we met a general of the department of Firenze and two capitani from the field. We got some general information of their work and organization, but the main part was devoted to the situation in Prato, a town near Firenze, where Guardia di Finanza had a big operation few years ago, which revealed a huge money smuggling business connected to the Chinese textile factories producing pirate products. In the peak of this money smuggling 1,5 millions of euros were transferred from Prato to China, every day, through a money transfer firm. During the meeting we got to hear some almost unbelievable stories and afterwards we all were kind of amazed of what is and has been happening in Italy, and also in other parts of the Europe.

Meeting with Guardia di Finanza (more photos to come)

Meeting with Guardia di Finanza (more photos to come)

After the meeting everyone started to feel little bit hungry and Laura knew exactly were she wanted to take us for lunch: to a restaurant serving authentic Napoli-style pizza il Pizzaiuolo. The difference between traditional pizza napoletana and pizza romana is the thickness of the base: in Napoli the base is thicker.

With our stomachs full we headed up towards David and its home Galleria Dell’Accademia. But for our misfortune they were closing in 15 minutes. They had changed the opening hours just for this day, so David has to wait for the next time.

Swallowing our disappointment we took a bus outside Firenze, on a hill where you could see the whole city. Sun had already gone, when we sat on the terrace of a fine restaurant with the most beautiful view of the city enjoying some prosecco. That felt like a perfect moment in Italy!

Wine on top of Firenze

Wine on top of Firenze

For dinner we went to osteria il’Giuggiolo, where we might have gotten the best food of the whole trip (and some inspiration for an Italian night back in Lund).

After a long day in Firenze we took the train back to Rome with smiles on our faces, happy of having visited this famous Italian city.

/Maari

 

 

Day 5 – The day Rome defeated Malmö’s Bar Italia in the ice cream competition

Yet another early morning sun woke us up in lovely Rome. Between Fontana di Trevi and the party office of Popolo di Libertà (Berlusconi’s party), we met with the Italian correspondant for Dagens Nyheter Peter Loewe in the fancy Stampa Estera – the journalists press club in Rome. The meeting was mainly focused on the refugee issue and the terrible tragedy of Lampedusa, which he had visited twice since that has taken place. We also touched upon other political issues such as the economic situation and the unstable political and party system. Some interesting data that Peter mentioned about the economical loss for the italian state every year was:

  • €800 billion  is in circulation within the three big Mafias Camorra, Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndrangheta every year
  • €500 billion are lost in corruption every year
  • €300 billion are lost in tax revenue every year

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Next meeting was with the Italian Council of Refugees which is a NGO in the umbrella organisation of ECRE – European Council of Refugees and Exiles and funded by UNHCR. Compared to many other meetings, this one took place in a simple office space together with four italian women and one american. Obviously the tragedy of Lampedusa was a main topic, tied together with discussions of the Dublin Convention and resettlement regarding immigrants having influence on the choice of country where they apply for asylum. The five ladies were very talkative and we were impressed by their commitment to the subject and their work, especially the intern who was especially talkative and knowledgable.

After an intense morning we filled ourselves up with italian fuel consisting of pasta, pizza and the best organic ice cream so far – Ciocco Crocco with a taste of chocolate, nuts and nougat – and we will definitely pay them a visit later during the week, especially since Anahita has been nagging from the second she finished her ice cream.

We got to taste several flavours before we made our amazing choices

We got to taste several flavours before we made our amazing choices

Later during the evening, we met up with a think tank called Cultura Democratica, connected to the university LUISS. The members of the group were former and current students of the university studying law, political science and economics. The university itself is a private university spread out with three campuses in Rome that even had a private taxi system to get between the three departments. Their big commitment for the moment was a project of creating bills about lobbying and money laundering that they were going to propose to some of the senators within the parliament. The discussion was initiated around lobbying connected to Sweden, Italy and USA since their pro-american stand was pretty obvious. Then we left the subject of the US and talked more about the EU, migration, political systems and got to a really interesting discussion that continued for two hours. At the end  we were invited to dinner in the university mensa, which is their dining area.

Alessio, Macro and Federico. You can almost sense the heated discussion that is taking place in the room

Alessio, Marco and Federico. You can almost sense the heated discussion that is taking place in the room

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On the way back to the apartment we, of course, had to pass by a another recommended gelateria and where a new delicious flavour was discovered; Bacio di donna - Lady’s kiss. Molto buono!

Arrivederci!

/ Fredrik

 

Day 4 – “When life gives you citrus, you make juice”

Buongiorno!

I’ll start off with an apology regarding the blog silence. The Wi-Fi we were expecting to have at our apartment didn’t start functioning properly until Thursday night (i.e. two days before our day of departure), which is why we’re posting several entries simultaneously. But since access to internet actually tends to eat away at time, I would say that the more or less complete cut-off from the digital world (with the exception of Thomas, who enjoyed constant access to Wi-Fi through his phone) was a blessing in disguise.

We started off our Tuesday with a meeting with former senator and minister Di Pietro, who is famous for his role as prosecutor in the corruption scandal surrounding Craxi.  He gave quite a charismatic impression, and our own fiorentina Laura will write more about our meeting with him on another occasion.

Meeting with Di Pietro

Meeting with Di Pietro

After the meeting we continued our new tradition of walking around aimlessly and discovering marvelous sights around each and every corner. We met up with Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) and climbed up Aventino Hill – one of the seven hills that Rome is built on - and enjoyed a fantastic view; both from an open terrace and from the Secret Keyhole. (The title of this entry, by the way, is a lovely quote from Alexander, who slightly misremembered the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.)

Picture taken directly after Fredrik's hand bit Anahita's and proclaimed her a liar

Picture taken directly after Fredrik’s hand bit Anahita’s and proclaimed her a liar

View of the Sistine Chapel from the Secret Keyhole

View of the Sistine Chapel through the Secret Keyhole

A coffee break was next on the agenda, and all of us experienced the luxury that is Wi-Fi at Caffè di Marzio at Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere – one of the astonishingly many beautiful squares in this wonderful city. The whole of Tuesday was actually just a very, very long walk with spontanious visits to churches, Pantheon (again), several gelaterie and pasticcerie, and the evening ended with a grand dinner at Grano and a spontanious sit-down in the middle of an empty square (close to Fontana di Trevi, can’t remember the name) with wine-filled coca-cola cups and predictions of where all of us were going to be in ten years time – a conversation that provided a fantastic playground for Lauras imagination.

Fredrik put on his raincoat during the five minutes of dripping weather, and almost managed to out-brighten Maari's jacket

Fredrik put on his raincoat during the five minutes of dripping weather, and almost managed to out-brighten Maari’s jacket

Paparazzi photo of a couple from the inside of a pasticceria

Paparazzi photo of a couple from the inside of a pasticceria

Fredrik being Fredrik at Caffè di Marzio

Fredrik being Fredrik at Caffè di Marzio

"Where do we go from here?"

Incredibly random photo of a group of tourists posing by the prettypretty car

Incredibly random photo of a group of tourists posing by the prettypretty car

A late night cobblestone-gathering

A late night cobblestone-gathering

We got home in the middle of the night, as you do, and enjoyed a poor night’s sleep before our meeting-packed Wednesday began. But more on that later. Ciao!

/Anahita

Day 3: ‘Pantheon is perfect, “perfect” is pantheon. The most unfortunate thing is to die without visiting Pantheon. I met gifted children there.’

Monday was our first full day of meetings, and there was an air of anticipation in the group. We were up bright and early for a meeting with Kristina Kappelin, a Swedish journalist based in Italy. We did our best to get the apartment ready and we organised some breakfast. She arrived on time and we started our meeting. The first thing that struck most of us, I think, was how approachable she was. She gave us an overview of the work she has done in Italy, both recently and in the past. She gave some very interesting insights into the recent Lampedusa tragedy. Another important theme which she focused on was trying to give us an understanding of the political culture in Italy, and in turn how civil society interacts with this system. I think we all felt we could have sat with her talking for hours longer, but due to our busy schedule we had to leave promptly for the Swedish embassy.

Breakfast meeting at our apartment with Kristina Kappelin

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We put our walking speed to the test and made it to the Swedish embassy with two minutes to spare. The Swedish embassy was a nice but efficient looking building, not like some of the other more extravagant embassies, people had different interpretations of this but it was interesting to discuss. We had a meeting with Tobias Axerup, a Swedish diplomat in charge of the political and economic sections of the embassy, and his intern Simon. It was an extremely informative session because he spoke about three areas in some detail; politics, economics and migration. It was useful because it gave us all a contextual base for trying to understand Italy in general and Italian politics. I found his overview of the economic situation in Italy particularly interesting.

Laura, Fredrik and Alexander A

Meeting with Tobias Axerup at the swedish embassy

Meeting with Tobias Axerup at the swedish embassy

 

After the meeting, we all felt a bit drained and hungry so we decided we would make lunch in the apartment. So we bought vegetables and some other ingredients to make frittatas. It was a nice feeling that we could all sit together in our apartment and make lunch, while also being in the centre of Rome. The frittatas worked out well with only some minor flipping issues to begin with.

Fredrik showing off his flipping skills

 

After lunch we decided to go out and explore some more of the city so we walked to the Spanish steps and tried some recommended tiramisu. We wandered around some churches and took in the beauty of the historic city.

Alexander and Thomas on the Spanish Steps

Alexander and Thomas on the Spanish Steps

After a long day of walking we turned a corner, and there was the Pantheon standing in front of us. The phrase breathtaking is often overused but in this instance it is completely accurate. We all found the Pantheon truly amazing and as it became dark in Rome the Pantheon became even more beautiful. I think Gon’s remarks sum it up quite well; ‘Pantheon is perfect, “perfect” is pantheon. The most unfortunate thing is to die without visiting Pantheon. I met gifted children there’.

Perfect Pantheon

Perfect Pantheon

For dinner we had planned to meet some students from a political society, they brought us to a beautiful restaurant called Fiore di Zuzza, in which most people had some really good food. Although it is a cliché, it cannot be denied that Italian culture is very much based on good food, but also it is a social factor in Italy. Enjoying good food with other people is the prime social experience and it has been really nice sitting down everyday with our group enjoying the culinary delights of Italy. After dinner we decided to walk home, this became the norm with us walking everywhere we went. It was raining a little when we left the restaurant but as we walked further the rain got heavier and soon it was torrential. In a moment, our unhappiness at the rain turned into joy, we decided to embrace it. As you looked down the street in the centre of Rome, you could see no people or cars or buses, it felt as though we were the only people in Rome. We decided to run home, I will never forget the image of us sprinting through the centre of Rome in a rain storm. When we got back to the apartment it was a bit of a task to deal with everyone’s soaked clothes and shoes, but there was a general consensus that it was well worth it.

Dripping wet but incredibly happy after running through the pooled streets of Rome

Dripping wet but incredibly happy after running through the pooled streets of Rome

We all went to bed happy and tired, but also we felt a lot more at ease with our understanding of Italian politics.

Tack så mycket!

/Kate

Day 2 – The ambassador, the Pope and Bernini (walk into a bar…)

Buongiorno!

Our Sunday morning began with the regular “Who’s in the shower? It’s my turn!”-chaos, and ended with a happy bunch of fresh-feeling students leaving the apartment for a meeting with Ulla Gudmundson at Casa di Santa Brigida. After five minutes of walking in the palpable humidity, however, the fresh feeling was nothing but a memory. We managed to avoid the actual rain though, which felt like a victory.

The meeting with Ulla Gudmundson included, beside general information about her interesting job, a deeper personal reflection on her part about what her position entails. Being the ambassador for the Vatican, she said, is much more about personal relations than what you would expect for an ambassador for in a large country. She also had many anecdotes to tell us that described her relations with both the previous Pope Benedictus XVI and current Pope Francis.

With Ulla Gudmundson at Casa di Santa Brigida

With Ulla Gudmundson at Casa di Santa Brigida

After the meeting we had a quick lunch and made our way to the Vatican for general assembly with the Pope. It was incredibly crowded, as we had expected, and most of us couldn’t see much of His Holiness. After having Laura translate a few sentences for us, we decided to make our way out of the labyrinth of people and buy some gelato. We found the best outfit of the trip so far, standing by the entrance to the Vatican. View photo below.

First glance at the Sistine Chapel

First glance at the Sistine Chapel

Gelato in a brioche with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Gluttony at its best.

Gelato in a brioche with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Gluttony at its best.

IMG_2385A very fashionable member of the Swiss Guard

In the afternoon, we made our way to the Borghese Gardens in preparation for the visit to Galleria Borghese. It was quite a climb from the Vatican, but the view was incredibly rewarding:

View from Borghese Gardens of Piazza del Popolo

View of Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese Gardens

And after taking a break in the grass we walked towards this amazing prospect:

Galleria Borghese, housing incredible art by (amongst many others) Bernini and Caravaggio

Galleria Borghese, housing incredible art by – among many others artists – Bernini and Caravaggio

We were all in awe after this experience, and with our brains full of impressions and our stomachs short of food we made our way to the other part of town, to Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo, for dinner. The evening included pizza, pasta, wine and a man walking into our the terrace to find customers for his dancing toys. Astonishingly enough, he found a customer among us. We have no pictures to prove it, I’m afraid…

We’ve had trouble with the wifi at our apartment, but it’s up and running now so you can expect frequent blog posts in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Buona notte!

/Fredrik and Anahita