Sunday, January 25, 2004

The “What am I going to do next year?” question is occupying significant chunks of my thinking space at the moment.

I’m almost certain that I want to pursue a career in academia, and am in the process of applying for a place at Edinburgh to do an MSc in the Evolution of Language and Cognition. However I think it would be good to get another year’s teaching experience and, besides, I like the work: I want to do this for a little longer.

Spain is, I think, now off the agenda. If I stay in Europe, it will be in Italy; it seems a pity, and rather silly, to get a start with the language and culture and then uproot. Anyway, as I get to know myself better, my criteria become more precise, and the only place in Spain that really staisfies them all is Barcelona. Unsurprisingly, there is intense competition for teaching jobs there, and pay subsequently low, even by the awful standards of this cowboy-plagued industry. And besides, having spent six wonderful weeks there last year, it’s become a bit of a happy place for me. I’m adult enough to know that, in the course of a year, there will be ups and downs; I’d rather keep the Catalonian capital as a place I love returning to again and again. If I leave Italy, it will be to an alien world on faraway shores. Like Japan.

In Japan I can earn good money. That has its own obvious attractions but, more precisely, I could probably save enough to fund the degree. Otherwise I’ll have to use a combination of my present savings and a loan, and debt isn’t fun. Furthermore, the teaching and linguistic challenges I’ll face there would probably be good experience for the degree and my future career.

But would I enjoy living there? Is Tokyo or Osaka vibrant and outward-looking (can we say extrospective as in: the opposite of introspective?) enough? And are there frisbee teams there? Do they play in English?

I’ve developed a new rule of thumb for thinking about places to live: only consider places for which there is a TimeOut guide. That’s not because the guides are so good (although they are) but because they only seem to do what I’d call ‘International cities’: London, San Francisco, Sydney, Barcelona, Prague, etc. And Tokyo. So, maybe it will have enough of all those things I’m missing here in provincial Italy: an lively nightlife, cosmopolitanism and arthouse cinemas showing films in their original language (I mean, really: why would anybody who’s serious about film choose a dubbed movie over a subtitled one?).

Or, of course, I could stay in Italy. If I do, then there’s a shortlist of four options: Naples, Rome, Bologna and Verona. Milan strikes me as too hoity-toity, and anywhere else is too small. The reason Verona is on the list is that I’m already here, and the attractions of developed friendships shouldn’t be underestimated; for all this worldly talk, it is, ultimately, friends that make experiences.

As for the other Italian options, Naples seems the most fun; at the other end of a divided country, I would see Italy from a new angle and, indeed, see a new Italy. However there’s no frisbee, and no skiing or canoeing to replace it. Rome has a TimeOut guide, but is Rome, like Verona, a place that happened – 2,000 years ago – rather than a place that is happening? I suspect so. Bologna, despite not having a TimeOut guide, has a reputation for liveliness and youthfulness, and a good frisbee team. But it’s more expensive even than Verona, and it presently had bad memories: I was messed around by a school there who said they had a job for me actually they didn’t; I consequently arrived in Verona a couple of weeks too late for the best jobs.

This is not the time of year to make such decisions; I should wait for Spring before deciding how I feel about Verona. But if I do decide to leave, where do I head? South, towards another Italy? East, for the big adventure? Or do I follow the career path leading North and to Edinburgh? Heads, or tails?

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