- Clients and Restaurants
- [29th September 2006]
Today was the day that I dreamt about for quite some time, the last part of this terrible working September that I have been engaged into.
This time I had to take these clients around the Prato area near Florence, to see some suppliers and possibly buy some stock.
Needless to say that the suppliers were not all that happy to talk about small amounts but I have tried my best to make them understand that every little penny helps, so in the end it was not all that bad as I thought.
Fortunately we managed to buy something as well, I have had quite a lot of troubles finding the companies around the city, but in the end all went well.
In the evening we went to "Canapone" one of my favourite places in Florence, a great small restaurant that is not even a restaurant, technically.
Basically these kids made a "culinary association", so they are not allowd to put signs outside, you even have to ring a bell to enter.
The cusine is marvellous, hand made pasta, lovely tuscan recipies revisited with some bits and pieces from other cusines.
The atmosphere is very relaxed and there are only 30 seats. We had a great dinner, lots of wine and bits and pieces.
In my dreams I will open a place like that in the future, it's really a thing that I would love to start, possibly cooking, making things in a way that have not been done before...
Anyways we said goodbye around elevenish, then I went back home for some more emailing to do and then off to bed!
- Tour Operator
- [20th - 27th September 2006]
I would have thought everything of my new job, that it was going to be hard, scary, unpredictable...
I set off last week (it seems one month ago!!), to go to Paris, where the usual textile fair takes place.
As I might have said before, I am technically part of a team that has been assigned to a certain client, a very big client for the company that I am working for.
There are two people assigned to this client too, both great people, one of which would be in Paris with me to roam around the fair and take some of the designers around the several stands.
This is what I thought.
The hard reality is that the designers of the client that we serve did not come to Paris to do any work at all.
For all it matters they where coerced into coming to the fair for a grand HALF DAY, leaving all the rest of the trip (that eventually ended up in Milan) to sightseeing and furious shopping.
This trip featured some of the most "Japanese" ways of dealing with life and business trips that I have ever encountered in my life.
Maps with detailed marks of the whereabouts of restaurants, scouting trips to restaurants where we had to take the clients to see what type of people work in there and where is the place, business cards holder with the "recommended" places to go to eat and do shopping with a little description on any one of them (and the unmissable mark on the map).
I could go on for ages.
In Paris me and my Japanese colleague, Mr.E., went to the Louvre on Saturday, which was nice, giving that I have never seen the Gioconda before, and the Virgin Mary of the Rocks (on the top of all the other gazillion paintings and sculptures that are there).
Mr.E is a good guy, he is new of the team as well, so for the moment he plays the game, in a way he is a sort of anarchic for the way he thinks about certain restrictions and way of working of the team, but if you compare him to me, he is anarchic as a party supporter that forgot to applaude to a certain speech.
Still he's a great guy and we had a very nice time together.
After Paris and its oysters (56 in one night between six people), we moved to Milan, stopping in Switzerland for some outlets that are close to the Italian border.
Milan was quite dull, wet and boring, I spent a whole day carrying shopping bags around the city, going in all those shops where I would never dare setting my feet for fear of being charged for the air that I breathe.
All in all the aim of the trip was to have a good time, and I managed to create a VERY GOOD relationships with the clients, which is what I was aiming at.
They are nice people, a bit strange at times, but nice.
Still, this week reminded me of my previous job as a congress organizer, where basically the whole idea was to go around places bringing spoiled doctors and their families to have fun rather than attend to congresses that they were meant to follow.
Oh well, at least my clients are nice people and are a laugh at times!
- Milano, Marta and Kutsunugi san
- [13th - 17th September 2006]
I have been really busy in this period, hence the total absence of blog updates of any sort.
The 13th of September marked the beginning of my new job in Italy. There are quite a lot of fairs for textiles in this period, and the first one that I have had to attend to has been the Milano Unica fair.
Since there wasn't enough time to arrange everything I had to stop at the old house in Vedano Olona, Marta infact has not moved to the new place, and therefore I spent two nights there.
Incidentally the 15th has been the last day of me stepping through the empty halls of the house that had me living up north for more than five years.
Marta has got everything boxed up and ready to move, I know very well the feeling, as I feel I am still on the move at this very moment.
The textile fair was quite nice, I have not managed to fall 100% into the part of the client, but I met a lot of salesman that used to be my colleagues during similar shows in Japan and Paris, making things a little easier, as I didn't have to introduce myself, just the new job that I am doing.
There were mixed reactions, but generally I feel that there is a bit of uncertainty on their side to see me working for some Japanese company. I think that, like every new thing, they are a bit unsettled by the fact that now the client speaks in Italian and knows all the tricks and problems of being a supplier of fabric...
We'll see where this will take me.
During the weekend Kutsunugi san, Keiko and Marta came to Florence with me, to spend the weekend there.
Although I really liked them coming, I cannot hide the fact that I was a bit unsettled by the fair and the early rises due to the fact that my lodging was 1 hour away from Milan.
Dead tired probably is the best word to describe it... Moreover I still feel totally bad by the fact that I haven't got a house, nor a car.
Still, I think that it was good to take my mind away from things a little, we went shopping in these two outlet places around Florence and on Sunday we managed to have a little walk through the center, even though the weather was totally foul.
After lunch they went back to Milano, as they need to leave for Paris (the next fair) and Marta of course needs to work on Monday.
As for me, Fiorentina lost away to Livorno, this didn't help my mood of course, and during the night I spent some time to put order to the things that I have done during the Milano days and some accountancy for the company.
Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, I MIGHT be able to be close to getting a house, and maybe if I am even luckier, to have a definite answer from my uncle about the tax regime that my company will have to follow.
As a matter of fact, I still have to send those simulations to the Japanese employer, and most importantly I need to be PAID, and I'd even like to know what shape my contract will have...
There are too many uncertainties in my life at the moment, but on the other side I also have to put my mind to the new job, on Wednesday I am off to Paris, then Milan again, then some clients will come to Florence... I really want this month to be over with asap, so that I can concentrate on sorting out the mess, and start a new career...
I hope I hold until then...
- Prato and Federico's Birthday
[8th - 9th September 2006]
Jetlagged and tired I dragged myself to Prato on the 8th, right after I stepped out of the plane. There was this sort of historical parade and some fireworks planned in the city.
The parade was crowded like hell, it was good fun though as me, Francesco, Federico, Ivan and Angela kept talking crap and uttering snide comments on all the people that we saw.
The day after me, Ivan and Franz (Francesco) went to buy the present for Federico birthday party which duly happened on that night in a pizzeria of choice.
The evening was rather pleasant and marked the end of a very good day.
- Summing up
- [8th September 2006]
The time spent on the flight back to Florence gave me time, as if I needed it, to think about my present situation.
I have the whole of September scheduled with appointments and textile fairs, one after the other. I will have very little time to sort out the car let be the house.
Of course I will try to start looking for the house, on the car I have pretty much set my mind, I'll probably go for a Peugeot 307, as I need a car where I can fit some clients when they come to Florence, a bit of a representative car in a way.
The house situation is much more complicated. I thought that I would move to Prato, a place near Florence, as all the textile is based there, but then my mother and some of my friends asked me to reconsider this idea, as it would mean moving away from Florence of a good half hour with the car, effectively getting back to the situation that I was living in before.
On the other side there are several factors to consider, among which the cost of the apartments. Anyways I have to start taking a look at them, therefore Monday will see many calls and a visit to the car dealer to talk some serious business...
As for the Japanese situation, I have got those instructions that I needed, so I know what I am going to do from now on, but on the other side, as I wrote before, there are quite a lot of problems on the contract side, and I really cannot see what is coming my way on these points. This is not what I was hoping for to be honest, as they are also changing their mind on some details that might have quite an impact on the earnings. In the end we signed the original contract as a temporary measure, but I am to produce simulations of tax returns in order for them to make up their mind.
My fear is that even if nominally I'll be paid quite a lot, I might end up loosing money compared to the job as an employee that I could have had.
Hardly a good position I dare say.
- Much Ado about Nothing?
- [6nd September 2006]
It could seem that way. A lot of stress, worries that came to nothing in the end, as I have been reassured by the person that wanted me in this company that things are not as bad as I look at them at the moment. I guess that this is the problem with a commission based work, you don't know (usually) how much you can count on, therefore all my simulations have resulted under weighted and look quite bleak compared to the plan that they have.
The good point is that I got a better insight in the way these commissions are going to handled. The problem is that generally speaking it's not 100% fixed the client/supplier base that will generate money, but at least I know that it's not only one company as I thought at the beginning.
There is no point in asking to make a list as I believe that it will be different case by case.
So while I got a bit calmer on that part, the other part (the work) was quite terrible. Jet lag have been biting ALL DAY LONG, and I was forced to do a Department Store visit for more than 3 hours, then we had to attend an exhibition with the main customer that we have and tonight I have a big dinner with all the bosses and so on.
I am dead tired, I'd really want to go home and not have to endure the dinner, but that's the way it is, I must go, the dinner party is for "me" after all. Of course all the big cheeses of my section, colleagues and are going to come making it a very informal "formal" dinner...
Just what I needed to relax a bit!
Oh well, tomorrow is the last day, let's hope that tonight I can sleep otherwise I cannot really imagine how can I wake up in the morning...
- Major Setback
- [4nd September 2006]
Unfortunately this day rightly qualifies as on of the worst day of my working life ever.
As you all know I have turned down a job in Italy to catch the train that this Japanese alternative is offering me. On the other side the jump that I have decided to make is without safety net, meaning that I have nothing to go back to if it doesn't work.
The offer that we discussed in July is quite different from the actual situation that I am facing, basically, to cut things short, at the present conditions IF I am good at selling from the beginning (which is a little impossible by the way things are pressed on here), I might end up with a DECREASE from the Italian company prospective salary, of about 25% to 30%.
Of course we have still to discuss about several things, and I am now to give a FULL fiscal simulation and economic plan of my company under the present contract and under different conditions, but I cannot hide a terrible sense of un-satisfaction from the way things are turning out to be.
Explaining in Japanese to Japanese people how the Italian tax system works (of course I know SHIT about it, so you can imagine how good the explanation would be even if I did it in Italian), and telling them that even if they give me apparently a lot of money they are actually throwing in a bad deal for me (at least compared to what they said 2 months ago), it's hell.
I cannot get angry or take an hard position of course, I cannot risk to remain with a fistful of flies in my hands, on the other side I have to try to get my points approved.
Today I thought I was signing a contract, and now I have nothing but grief.
I met Kutsunugi san in the evening, it was great to see him, it's a good reminder of how much I will miss him in the future.
He gave me good advice, so I'll try to follow it, but I cannot hide from you the fact that I would have liked to cry my eyes out the very moment I stepped on the train that took me back to this tiny room where I am lodged at the moment.
I guess that only the other Japanese people on the train stopped me from doing it.
I am breaking down, I am tired like hell, I feel really lost.
This is not good.
That's it, now it's bedtime.
- Upping the Ante
- [4th September 2006]
And so it was, jetlagged and tense like a violin cord I made my way towards the headquarters of the company where I am going to work. Since life isn't easy on you, I think that she decided to raise the bet a little and put me to trial this time...
Today we couldn't speak about the contract, we had to go to see the main client to make a presentation of several qualities that my colleagues collected.
Of course I had to spend half of the day introducing myself to a lot of people, in front of the full board of director I had to make a short speech (totally unprepared, and quite badly done to be honest) and, surprise surprise, I had to improvise the whole presentation as if it was I that selected all the fabric.
Being an actor at heart it was not hard thing to do, having to do it in Japanese in front of 18 people, among which all my directors and top shot clients, was quite unespected.
Still, it all went well, I guess, I still have so many gray areas to clear about WHAT I have to do and HOW, but hopefully they will be clearer from tomorrw.
I really long to go back to Italy as soon as possible, the small room, the pressure that I have to endure and all these novelties are quite a big stress... Moreover back in Italy I still have to to sort out the company business, find a house and buy a new car.
Hardly a walk in the park, unless this park is on Mars of course...
Let's hope tomorrow it's going to be easier on me, I really need to unplug a little...
- Reality Bites
- [3rd September 2006]
I wrote a post this morning (it was still the 2nd of September), I was in Florence, in an airport that I haven't been into for a good eleven years, if memory serves.
Eleven years ago, more or less around this period, I set off to go to England, crying my eyes out on the plane as it was circling the city that I was leaving, planning not to go back anymore.
It is clear that on the latter part I have changed my mind, only stupid people don't change ideas, but yet the Florentine airport of Peretola had to witness another "startup" this time, me leaving for Japan where hopefully I will sign the contract with this big Japanese enterprise.
As you might have spotted from earlier posts, the last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic, and I have radically changed my life.
This time I had more than 13 hours to think of what I am doing and where I am going into, helped by the fact that compared with the twenty two trips that I have done in the last five years with the previous employer, this time I was flying for me.
First of all, after a struggle that lasted 1 year, this time I did loose the privilege of flying business class.
I was totally unprepared to it, not so much for the food and seat that are obviously less interesting, but for a series of things that normally you don't get, i.e. toothbrush, little hand cream, face mask, socks, electricity plug for the laptop, and so on.
The trip was quite good, I have bought a copy of Orwell's 1984 (quite great so far) and took some notes of things that I am meant to be discussing in the next few days.
Arrived in Japan, no shuttle bus to the hotel, this time I was booked what is called here a "weekly mansion". I think that the underlying idea of these WM (no, they are not Weapons of Massdestruction!!), is that if you live a long way from your workplace you can stop over these places for some nights during the week, saving the trouble of long commuting times and lack of sleep.
The impact with the WM has been quite hard. Used as I was to the feasts and luxury of the Shinjuku Century Hyatt, I am now staying in a room where there is very little space to do anything, I have a crappy electric stove (in the number of one unit), a bath that it's a task already to define as such, and a single bed, small for a Japanese person too I believe.
Well, the shock hit me when I realized that there is NO wardrobe as well, so no space for my stuff to be put anywhere!!!
I'll have to discuss about this accommodation as well, hopefully I can get them to change it for me, the prospect that in December I will have to spend 3 weeks here is DREADFUL.
So that's it. This is more of the real working environment in Japan, this is the real stuff that I have been shielded from in the past five years, this is why I think it's hard for a foreigner to adapt.
I can live with it, though I am not happy, but I also consider myself to be an extremely flexible person...
Anyways from tomorrow big meetings and the likes will start in full swing, let's hope everything goes according to plan...
- The Woods
- [2nd September 2006]
The morning air was much more pungent that the previous weeks, meaning less sleep in the morning. Kevin didn't mind that too much, there were a lot of things to do in an unknown forest apart from walking on the other side of it.
The morning chill, helped by the shad cast by thick bushes and trees, quickly left the bones where it sank through, once Kevin moved under the direct sun.
A yawn, a bit of stretching, after the night spent in a sleeping bag under the sycamore tree that he found the previous night, and then off for a quick breakfast before starting to walk again.
It was now more than a week since he left the main road to enter the forest, things had quickly changed, he had several interesting fights with strange creatures, small and hunched, moving in flocks and speaking a quite complicated language.
Kevin remembered some of his early lessons, eleven years before, when he moved from his town to go abroad and learn the magic.
They were called "bureaucrats", the advices of his uncle were key in fighting them off, and that reminded him once more that he had to focus on finding the correct path in order to get out of the forest quickly.
In his mind, behind the forest, there were prizes and happiness waiting for him to arrive, friends and family with welcoming smiles and open arms.
The thought that life was changing was enough to drive him forward, together with the curiosity of knowing what would be next.
Too long he lived in a comfortable environment, stable and solid as a rock, bored as a person staring a white wall for hours.
He longed for more, the explorer, the adventurer within him had almost withered, and now it was getting back at his normal state...
Before heading towards a big clearance on his right hand side, he spotted yet another bureaucrat, alone and clearly lost in the woods... his mind focused on the beast and quickly raced through the spells available to him, but in the end, after stopping many times on several crippling spells, he decided to let it live, better not have the rest of the herd against him, at least not now...
After taking a detour on the right hand side, circling the monster, he spotted another path leading up-hill, where the vegetation was getting thicker and light was almost a luxury, as very little filtered through the tree leaves.
Kevin took a deep breath and entered the deep heart of the forest, time to rock and roll, time to get serious...
- Lox, Lorenzo... ME!!
- A little introduction about the author and the blog itself. Plus contacts and CVs... You never know!
- A Selection of the best pictures that I have taken all over the world during the years, all nicely indexed by year and geographical area. Jolly good!
- History of this Blog
- A collection of all the articles that I have wrote so far, divided by month/year.
I have had the bad idea of writing my e-mail address on the board before, so this time I'll try to prevent some spam to get to me by putting this little image.. Let's hope it does the trick!
A reminder to Myself
Left and right
Like day and night
That's what makes the world go round
In and out
Thin and stout
That's what makes the world go round
For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro
To and fro
Stop and go
That's what makes the world go round
You must set your sights upon the heights
Don't be a mediocrity
Don't just wait and trust to fate
And say, that's how it's meant to be
It's up to you how far you go
If you don't try you'll never know
And so my lad as I've explained
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
You see my boy it's nature's way
Upon the weak the strong ones prey
The human life it's also true
The strong will try to conquer you
That is what you must expect
Unless you use your intellect
Brains and brawn, weak and strong
That's what makes the world go round