08 July 2014

Working on the Italian Riviera

HULL, United Kingdom—Last week, I made my third visit to Italy and my second to Genova this year. It is a pleasure to visit that historic and beautifully situated city. The weather was superb and, despite a classic running injury—plantar fasciitis—I managed two 10K runs along the two-mile esplanade called the Corso Italia. I had to make several loops but, because the sea was clear and blue and the sun was shining, this was no hardship.

You do not have to go far to experience a different culture, and this became evident in three incidents in which I was a customer—in two restaurants and a shop.

In the first incident, I took a table, asked the waiter for a beer, and, just as I began to say, “and could I see the menu?” was berated for my ignorance. This was not a bar, he informed me, but a restaurant. If I wanted a beer, I should go next door to the bar. I stood up, shrugged my shoulders, and walked out.

I then tried to buy some gelato and liked the look of the yogurt-flavoured variety. My idea of the perfect ice cream is one with no “bits” in it, or any other kind of adulteration. The vendor—who sensed I was not local—simply looked at me and told the person next to me in the queue that I ought to be trying something more typical of Italy or Sicily, from where he originated. So I pointed to some brightly coloured bitty concoction at the back of the display, which he seemed happy to serve me. I left muttering loudly, “So why do you have the yogurt-flavoured gelato?” And the one I bought was truly terrible. I made a mental note that, within a short time of my arrival, at least one restaurant and one shop were out of bounds in the future.

The final incident involved me buying coffee—which I did not want—after dinner, albeit I was able to have decaf. The coffee was “special,” explained the proprietor. It was made with limoncello, a highly alcoholic lemon drink. The coffee was terrible, too! But the restaurant was very good and an interesting place—a former, and I emphasise “former,” house of ill repute. (I can see the tweet now: Travelling professor visits a brothel.) I’ll say no more than that because, although the establishment’s mission had drifted, the decor remained what I imagine—I emphasise imagine—what one of those places may have looked like.

The University of Genova
I was not in Genova to report on local hostelries but to work for a few days at the University of Genova. I met PhD students to teach and discuss various aspects of research, including writing for publication. This time, I gave three sessions—open access publishing, impact factor, and the process of proceeding from data to published paper. While there, I also spent time with colleagues, advising on their research and publication strategies and looking for areas of common interest with our research at Hull.

One specific area of interest in health promotion is related to avoidance of melanoma, and the vast layers of seminaked bodies on the beaches of Genova suggest they may have a significant melanoma problem in Italy. In Australia, to cite one example, sunbathing, though not eliminated, has become almost a thing of the past. People there are very “sun-safe,” using clothing and protective creams to good effect. Italians have not yet gotten the message. Why we have such an interest in melanoma at Hull, where the sun rarely shines, is a mystery. But we do, and I hope my colleagues can begin to visit Genova and establish some collaboration.

There is one final incident to report, and that was running into a street demonstration while en route from Genova to the airport. The protestors—trade unionists—were blocking the road, and we had to stop. They had also blocked side roads leading to the main road. My anxiety level rose slightly, but we took an impromptu tour of the back streets of Genova, which was fascinating, and we arrived at the airport via a route I had never taken and from a direction I considered impossible. I have no complaints about Genovese taxi drivers, possibly the fastest and most intrepid in the world.

In case anyone wonders if I actually ever work at Hull, I was here the week before I went to Italy, and I am here this week. I am in the process of preparing a new online module in quantitative research methods for our Master’s of Research (MRes) students. MRes is something possibly unique to the UK. It is a genuine master’s degree, which can be taken as an exit point or, after graduation, for the first year of a PhD. Other master’s degrees, if the student graduates, oblige the student to start in the first year of a PhD. This module will be entirely online and asynchronous, a model that works very well, I think, for master’s students.

The rest of the month is taken up with a week in Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, at a Research Excellence Framework subpanel meeting. Then I head to Hong Kong for the 25th International Nursing Research Congress, sponsored by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Of course, you’ll be hearing about my time there. Maybe you’ll even be in my next blog.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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