’60s architecture, bouncing rain and a stray ginger cat staring gloomily out from underneath a nearby tree are the main components making up my current vision. I am also in all seriousness wearing my jacket inside as the office is a wee bit chilly. I could do with a cup of tea but they only have espresso machines here. There are also a lot of vowel sounds floating about, lax working hours and a suspicious amount of male ponytails. If it wasn’t for those select clues probably neither of us would realise I am in fact in Italy.
And so it is that I find myself embarking on a 3 month long internship in the Communications Department of the European Training Foundation, based in Turin, Italy. A decentralised agency of the European Union, the ETF works with 30 partner countries, ranging from Albania to Tajikistan and beyond, helping to harness the potential of human capital in developing or transitional countries, through reforms such as Vocational Education and Training (VET) and ‘skills matching’ research and workshops.
That all sounds quite important, but as a Comms Intern it is my general job to post regular updates on social media, write follow-up news articles for the website and generally attempt to engage with the public in a way which is, er, engaging. Hopefully.
Although I am glad to be here, working a job which is actually relevant to my English and Journalism degrees, I currently gain most of my daily entertainment from the buses I have to catch to get to work. The first – a number 52 – from the nearest main street to me, Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II, is relatively civil. Aside from the old man who occasionally rides it, who has his own vacant smile accompanied by a vague whiff of urine which ensures him a metre wide radius, most of the people are commuting to work (maybe he is too, and just wanted to ensure spacial luxury, we will never know, because I do not speak Italian yet). Either way he seems quite happy so all is well.
I then change buses down at the River Po, where I wait patiently for the number 73 (it doesn’t seem to have a fixed time it arrives, and much like any Italian body, whenever the hell it wants; a difficult concept for my British brain to cope with at first but I have come to accept this state of affairs.) When the 73 eventually approaches, I imagine it to be the autobus version of the skinny freckled kid who was picked on in the playground.
Half the size of a normal bus – potentially, in fact, the smallest ‘functioning’ bus I have seen in some time, if perhaps ever – the 73 whizzes into view round the junction, before coughing and wheezing its asthmatic way towards its gathering of patient passengers-to-be. At our own peril.
We all squeeze on and stand in the aisle. The challenge to stay vertical is rather a tough one aboard the number 73. Most of the poles designed to help you stay upright would I believe carry out the opposite effect. Half unscrewed from the ceiling or ground and wobbling dangerously when touched, the brave number 73 commuters generally attempt to grasp bus seats or walls for leverage while the bus crawls up the hill. Sometimes in the middle of the journey the back doors burst open but of course us seasoned passengers don’t even blink now when confronted with fast moving concrete inches from our dubious footing. Only the other day the bus engine refused to restart after allowing a passenger off at one of the uphill stops, and we began rolling backwards down the hill, to which the driver bellowed for us to PREGARE PER LE VOSTRE ANIME. PRAY FOR YOUR SOULS!
To the majority of you this probably sounds like somewhat of a traumatic morning commute but I think in its own little way it may be one of my favourites yet. More Italiano updates to come soon, after I have done some token afternoon writing for the work blog, rather than my own… Ciao, e parlare presto!