Sunday, May 01, 2016

Relapse, Sheet happens, and Wisdom Arrives!           
I thought I was better and then boom! I was sicker than before. I was so sick that it was actually worse than childbirth. And that is saying a lot, trust me.
Attention Mom and the Ukranian pornographers that follow this blog: I Am Now Fine.
When I was incapacitated these things happened:
Tina had to go do the dogsitting job. She did a great job, but when I was voiceless and F went to explain to her the fine art of poop picking up, there were some communication issues. First of all, he used the word poop. After the whole explanation, he checked that she had understood (thank goodness!) and she asked, "But what about the shit?" And that is when we understod that poop is not a word used by Nigerians. We overstood that.
Tina & Nash
I called to make sure the dog had its morning walk and found out that Tina had been walking around for an hour and a half. "Oh honey, you can stop now." We got it down to twenty minutes.
The same thing happened when we had to call to let her know that Nic, the dog Daddy, had hurt himself racing and was coming home early. I told her she could strip her sheets from the bed. Tina was horrified. But the dog never sheet on the bed, she said, I took him for a long walk!
Somewhere in the midst of this Cool called. Jennifer Lawrence's water had broken and she was bleeding. I understood that an ambulance was coming, but I think they drove around in a friend's car and got turned away from one or two hospitals before they landed. The baby came quickly, I think. His name is Wisdom! And mamma and baby are happy and healthy. T is convinced that with family names this awesome he will grow up to be a super rich and famous star. His rap name, she decided, will be Wiz. Lil' Wiz, if he stays on the small side.  
F ran out to get a car seat from Caritas Pescia today so we can take everyone home from the hospital tomorrow. 
Get ready world . . it's Wisdom!
Coolest Family Ever!
It turns out that Jennifer can't get her permesso, if we don't find Cool a job. You know things are bad when I am writing snarky emails in Italian to the lawyers, saying sheet like, Even Harry Potter could not get a certificato di idoneità and proof of earning potential in less than a month for this family. For the love of everything good, I am doing my best, people. My main point was to ask how exemptions for immigrants work, but as usual, the lawyers ignored my query and responded to my over-the-top tone (I know, I know, but it's too late to change me now). They said that we are all trying our best to integrate this group of immigrants into Italian society, but we have to respect the law. Well, I don't respect these laws, but then again neither does any one else in this country who isn't getting paid to enforce them, so . . . hypocrisy, anyone???
If I do get a job corps together, we're going to call it IMMIGRANTS, We Get It Done alla Hamilton.
Anna Morelli, the food connoisseur, told us to insist with the chef because he does have work. I called lo chef today and said, "GOOD MORNING" in my best "Good Morning, Vietnam!" kind of kooky, cheery, I'm American and I'm not going to hurt you (yet) voice. He said he could see me on Wednesday, but now he is saying the work is only occasional catering work and not contract work, which is disappointing. I hope that once he sees what hard workers Paul and Cool are, he will change his mind. 
In other news, our friend Gabriella got F some great website design work on some new businesses, including a luxury hotel in centro storico. 
T had classmates over and worked tirelessly to do not just her part, but the parts of the three other girls on her English presentation about Gothic Cathedrals. WE ALL HATE GOTHIC CATHEDRALS NOW. Please don't mention them to us ever again.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

You don't know  
I wish I could go back to last week's me and say, oh honey, you don't know what rough is.
After trying and failing to get other people to contact Emmanuel's lawyer for me to confirm that she had the proof I think he needs to not get deported, I finally took matters into my own hands. Although the email address Emmanuel had given me was a fail and she wouldn't take my phone calls, I realized that I still had her cell number and I could just text her. When I did, she confirmed that she did not have the documents and said that it was now too late. I begged her to amend the appeal and she said she would try, but didn't know if the judge would accept it. 
Then I counted to ten and wrote to the catholic charity's lawyer. Twice she ignored the parts of the emails that had to do with Emmanuel and when I underscored this she wrote me back a more formal letter than usual saying that she had already told me that she is in contact with Emmanuel's excellent lawyer and that I should let the professionals do their jobs. 
Well, I wanted to say, the professionals didn't share the documents on time for starters. But I didn't. 
Then I realized that despite having been vaccinated, I had the full-on flu with raging fever, body aches, nausea, dizziness, and just for good measure a huge acne cyst on the side of my nose.
My big worry was that I would not be able to accompany Cool and Paul to the job interview with the Michelin star chef who said he needed dishwashers. I decided not to confirm our appointment because I didn't want to give him room to wiggle out of it. Instead I sent F and also T, who we had to get out of school an hour early, to do the Italian part. I sent her with a cheat sheet of notes. It was in English, but still. The guys were excited and I was anxious. Of course, the chef was not there. His staff reached him by phone and he said he was meeting with his accountant in a different city. He did not ask to reschedule. He did not respond to my text begging him to let us reschedule later in the day. Cool and Paul then waited around to find out and when they got to the train station they discovered that due to the holiday on Monday the Friday afternoon trains were not running (so Italian!) and they had to endure a terrible confusion and eventual bus ride back to Montecatini. 
Then Jennifer called me to let me know she had faxed some documents we needed from her to update her permesso and asked me for money to renew her Nigerian passport. Earlier in the week she asked for the spelling of my name so I can have permission to be in the birthing room with her. This is a weird communication problem because I know Jennifer has never been wild about me. I said to call me if she needed anything and so I cannot be surprised if she does. I told Cool that I would advocate for her if she is not being treated well in the hospital because I would. But I am not looking forward to getting a view of Jennifer's nether regions or hearing her curse out everyone, including me in the labor room. ah well.
So I wrote back the lawyer saying just to let you know what kind of day I'm having . . . and I recounted the day's events with the explanation that due to language difficulties and cultural differences, our lives in Lucca are a continual series of misadventures and that she should know that between preserving my dignity or their opinion of me and helping my group, I was going to choose the group every damn time. In fact, if I had worried less about angering the lawyers in the first place, I might have gotten Emmanuel his documents on time. So that was cringe worthy. Just sitting in my unglorious truth of dirty bathwater.
And I didn't even mention the long and dismal phone conversation I had with the director of a cooperative with the same name as the cooperative that I believe provides job training to immigrants tell me that I had the wrong idea about the work that they did. I had gotten his name from my journalist students who thus far has tripped me up more than once. After I hung up the phone, I found an email from the lady I actually wanted to reach consenting to meet with me on Tuesday! But then a third cooperative, the one that was kind of condescending to everyone about learning Italian, called to ask me to teach the staff English. And they really do provide job training, so I said yes. Yes in a pissy you were supposed to call me a month ago kind of way, but yes all the same. And then I discovered that they pay 50 euros and hour. So that is good. I can give fifty to Jennifer.
As long as I'm listing all of the humiliating episodes of the week I should add the part where I begged one of my students to get the phone number of the person I wanted to call Emmanuel's lawyer for me. She said I should call after eight at night. That is late so I texted first, asking if I could call and she didn't answer. So I called and she hung up on me. And that's when I got the stomach ache that told me that Emmanuel's future was more important than being a people pleaser.
I still don't know what to do about the chef. I am praying that I don't give F or T the flu. I am hoping that I can handle the Tina/dog-walking situation that starts tomorrow and that I don't cough up a lung in the process. 
How long until summer vacation?
Oh and p.s. did I tell you that when T goes to college, I want to move to Puglia?
The only good thing that happened to me this week was that my tumblr idol TVhousehusband liked my post comparing the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City with that of The Mary Tyler Moore show. 
He wrote back: Fabulous :) Thank goodness, because I am in a fragile state where a snarky comment from tvhousehusband could have really annihilated me.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Craig's list, Craig's pissed.
This is a multicultural learning opportunity waiting to happen.
This has been a rough week. I raced to get Tina a job interview for a 5 day dog sitting gig. Nigerians do not generally keep dogs as pets so before we met the Australian Iron Man at the outdoor cafe who owns the adorable, cocker spaniel puppy along with his (from the photo) gorgeous girlfriend, I had to prepare her. First off, I suggested that she do her hair and makeup because when she asks for money outside of the bakery she obviously does not spend a lot of time on her beauty regime. That said, she is pretty stunning naturally. Then I had to teach her how to pet a dog's head. She made it to my house one minute before the interview so we raced her pregnant self over there and I think we scored her the job.  I imagine that lessons in dog poo picking up are to follow. I have managed to live 46 years without ever picking up after a baby of the canine variety, but I guess there is always a first time. I chatted wildly at the modelesque, professional cyclist and when he asked me how long I had been interested in dog walking, I pointed to Tina who had not said any words for the first ten minutes since we got there. When she finally did say words she came up with the most over the top compliment for the dog and with a large smile she repeated several times, He sure is quiet. I refrained from mentioning that I got interested in dog walking when I realized that a Nigerian pregnant woman who begs for money on her feet for six hours a day and has to pee in alleyways because she is black, could have a five day spa vacation, staying in a clean apartment if I taught her about dogs real quick.

This is how I dressed for the the doggie interview.
When I told this story to my friend Ian in New York, he suggested that I make a new website called Craig's Pissed because I seem to be an expert in getting things for people that they don't want.

I look tense, no?
Four minutes after getting Tina this job that I'm going to have to do for her, I went to look for work for Paul. I messaged the chef ahead of time so that I wouldn't be too much of a rompiscatole/ball buster. The chef kept us waiting for a good long time and then when he came out he said that he suddenly did not have any work, but he kindly offered to give me the phone number of a hotelier who hires from a cooperative. Paul and I called the guy who told us to call back the following day. I tried to call back, but first I had to put out the fire of 9 months pregnant Jennifer who went all the way to the police station in Prato under my advice from the lawyer only to be told that her permesso wasn't ready. When the lawyer helped me to get them to hand over the document, she discovered that it expires in four weeks. They wasted five months of the permit time not giving it to her. This is all okay because then the lawyers graciously agreed to help her to get it converted to her husband's better kind of permesso which is the kind of alchemy non-Italian-lawyers or mere mortals cannot attempt on their own. The hotelier gave me the number of a lady who runs a cooperative who supplies him with cheap labor, but she wasn't in the office so I wrote her an email in my kind of Italian, the kind which charms no one. In between appointments, I ran into these folks:

Cute family of English students
This is the princess cleverly disguised as a woodland elf.
This was all before I had a chance to brush my teeth. 
I now have to teach English on the telephone. 
Ian says my safe word can be second conditional. Second conditional.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Oh honey
After a series of English lessons via telephone with folks from Brooks Running company in Italy, I went to the kitchen to get a snack. I heard a really loud buzzing noise at the window. This was strange because all of our windows are screened, and, what's more, they have been closed for months. It was a gigantic yellow and black striped insect that, at first, I thought was a wasp. I remembered that the owner of the apartment kept some spray upstairs in the mansarda so I went to look for it. And then I saw two more. You don't have to tell this chronically unlucky woman twice -- I ran outside without my wallet or my jacket. 

By the time F came home, the apartment had dozens of buzzers inside of it. We called our landlord and some exterminators, but no one could help us this week. Maybe next week we could have an appointment. Say whaaat?? I called Patrizia who is my Italian inside track for all things local and she told me to call the police/vigili urbani using the number 1-1-5. When they asked me if someone is the home was allergic, I said that they might well be because conosco i miei polli and my mammina didn't raise no fool. They were there under ten minutes. F sprayed as many as he could, much in the same way he saved his house from a wildfire in the hills of Los Angeles when he was a teenager by spraying in a circular motion around him. He still bears the scars from that day, but no stings from today. Anyway they found out that there were not dozens of nests all over my house that were birthing its stinging spawn spontaneously like a scene from a horror movie, but that there was just a hole in the ceiling that leads to the roof. I had to believe them because the bees were so large that they couldn't have been born just moments before. Unless there was a time continuum, but that would be a different movie. 

The men, I think they were actually firemen, told me that the queen bee had been followed by its drones (is that a bee thing or is that Star Wars?) or followers and they got trapped in my sealed up house. They didn't even fleece us for money. They were lovely, actually. 

The funniest part of the day by far was that when I ran out of the house I saw Job downstairs and I told him about the swarm of bees. He started laughing and asked me if I were actually afraid. I said, damn right I was. I asked him if he wouldn't be just a little afraid if he were in my shoes and had a house filling up with bees. His answer was priceless: "I am from Africa," he said. "Even if my house had 25 lions in it, I would not be afraid." I know, I know, white people problems again. 

My one woman show

So far this week I have had communication problems with a lawyer in Montecatini (not her fault -- she has the flu and I can't understand her fancy lawyer emails), a lawyer in Calabria (va bene, she's just playing hard to get), T's art professor (oh lord, how many years until I master the congiuntivo??), and several other people.

Most of this happened because Emmanuel only has five days left until he is no longer eligible to file an appeal with the court so that he doesn't get deported back to Nigeria. On his behalf, I had embarrassing failures in communication with officials in all walks of life who think I am certifiably insane. But at the end of the stress-filled giorno, the lawyer in southern Italy did answer my voice mail message, and, although she refused to hear my story, she said she knew who Emmanuel was and would speak to the other lawyer. My standards are so low, that I took that to be a victory. 

It's a long story, but to make up for my failed parent-teacher meeting, I decided to buy In Altre Parole for the art professor, but, after five books stores and an internet search, I can say that the rudeness and disses to Jhumpa Lahiri are never ending in this part of the world, even if some of us love her madly. So my bilingual sucking up will have to wait.

And thus, dear readers, I have decided to do a one woman's show of Charlotte's Web in which I will play all of the characters who will espress themselves in Itanglish and pidgin English. Che cosa on dey mind? On dey mind no count, whatever  counts is ciò che si trova sotto le chiappe. And then Templeton the rat does a reggae rendition of Ru Paul's hit Sissy That Walk. Buy your tickets now.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

What The Firenze is going on??
Just when I thought this story couldn't get any crazier -- it did. As I was watching a bootleg, streaming version of the latest episode of The Good Wife, my gmail flashed before my eyes. The only sentence I caught was from the lawyer working with the catholic charity for my group of Nigerian refugees. It said that she didn't know where Emmnauel's appeal case could go given that his reason for seeking asylum was that he was a homosexual who was being persecuted. Now I know it is possible for someone to be married to a woman and have children and still be gay, but I was also pretty sure that wasn't the case in this instance. I made some calls to find out. 

Emmanuel who is currently holed up in a camp in Calabria in what I imagine is a kind of dormitory situation with a bunch of other men told me to call his brother and he would explain everything. Job told me that Emmanuel found out on the boat on the way to Italy that his beloved wife Rosemary who was six months pregnant with their second child had died. He wanted to turn back, but he couldn't. He knew his surviving child would be without him. He was in shock when he was interviewed about his reasons for seeking asylum and the people who came over with him told him that the persecution of a person for their sexuality was a valid way to obtain asylum. He went with that. 

Job told me that he would let me see the statements and documents he has about his own story. True to his word, he used three of our mututal friends' phones, since his has no more credit on it, to bring me his papers. When he got here he said he didn't think I should look at the papers and that they wouldn't help his brother. I have no idea why. It turns out that due to his known activity and backing of a political party in Nigeria he had received death threats that led to the burning down of his family home where he lived with all of his brothers. In fact, Emmanuel is in the photo with the burned down house. I immediately sent the documents to the lawyer and I hope to God it makes a difference for him. Meanwhile, we are wiring money in case he can be legally transported back to our region in order to be represented by our crackerjack lawyer who is so far batting five out of six. 

Then today I got a phone call from the wife of the guy in the plaid suit from the wedding photos. She is the one who wrote the hospitality letter for Tina so I am grateful for them. They are asking to meet me so F and I will take them out of coffee after work tomorrow. 

Anna Morelli promised me that she had called the chef that is hiring and that she will see him at an event this weekend. I asked if she would come meet the group in person next week to give them some good advice about how to best handle the job interviews and how to write their resumes. I am not so much looking forward to translating those monster documents with all of the Nigerian addresses and long names in them, but it is for a good cause so I'll give it my best. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Players gonna play

So I have like three ulcers, but the meeting with the lawyer from Caritas went very well. I take back EVERYTHING. Or at least PRACTICALLY everything. It was another sleepless night for me. Then this morning I am pretty sure that I woke up and also scared everyone in the group into being on time. I was sure they would be half an hour late, but they were adorably on time and sleepy looking. It was the lawyer who was late. We thought she wasn't going to show up because the head of Caritas and I realized at the same poignant moment that she had never confirmed. We had confirmed to each other, but not with her. Anyway, me and the group were pretty happy about the situation because we could get credit for coming without getting yelled at or having any legal retribution of any kind. Then ten minutes later, in she walked with her associate.

I quickly took the wheel. Before the meeting, I prepared the group that Tina was going to have suddenly forgotten how to speak any language but Nigerian and when she remembered Italian and English, I kicked her every so gently under the table. I decided the best road to go was to say that I had been very angry at Tina for not wanting to stay in the shelter and the lawyer laughed and said in English that they had seen the dark side of me. Then I said that I had to talk myself into understanding that she probably had valid reasons for her trust issues and that the rest of the group was still hoping that the lawyer was not mad at them and would continue to help them. She just laughed it off and said that it was her Calabrian temper and that we shouldn't worry about it. I wanted to say that I had not slept in about six days because of her little sfogo of letting off steam. But I then realized that I loved her. Then the head of Caritas went way out there on a limb for us and explained that they were really not baby stealers and that even if you had doubts about social services it was not cost effective to have to care for these babies if it were not really necessary due to situations of abuse or neglect. I love her, too.

The lawyer went around the table and helped every single person and Even called the staff of the camp in Calabria where Emmanuel is holed up and made an official gesture to become his lawyer and try to save him from being deported. She got Jennifer her permesso, and, if that was not enough, after the meeting she called around to the police stations to verify the dates that the permessi or stay permits would be ready for Cool, Job, and Jennifer to pick up. We all left feeling sleepy and elated. If you any of you have children, since my fertile days are almost offically over, please name them Manuela after this lawyer. They will cause you problems, but it will be worth it. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Pasqua Nigeria   
Well, our new friends invited us to their church - so we went. Today was a big bonding day for me and Tina. We understand all of each other's words now and we sound like each other. So much so that when I spoke to Emmanuel today from the camp in Calabria, he understood me, too. Camot! 
Here goes my Nigerian dance tutorial.
F made two trips in the car. First he took the men over and I waited on Tina and she waited on the line in her house for the bathroom and one hour later, we were all ready! As Tina moisturized and primped, I watched a famous Nigerian pastor from youtube on her big screen and learned all of the five dance moves that I needed for the day. 
Everytime some walks upstairs, it seems their foot will appear through the ceiling, and that blue lightbulb shudders like an aftershock.
This little boy was a great dancer and he wore a thick gold chain around his little neck.
I know how Tom Cruise felt when Katie wore heels.
The Happy Couples
The man in the plaid suit is helping Tina with housing so I am thankful for him.
Baptism birthday party, Let's just celebrate everything!
There was a lot of cuteness present in church today.    
It was the primary colors box of crayolas up in here.  
I will have memories about today and I will think I dreamed them up. I have seen it all. I saw a wedding celebration. I saw a baptism. I was part of a dance line. We gave the offering envelope the first of the five times we were called on to donate during the service. We saw twerking and testifying. We listened to people talking in tongues and prophecizing. We saw a pastor prostrate himself on the altar. People wore full on glitter and lace, camoflage and sports coats, flowered dresses and corsets, head wraps, and pointy white loafer shoes, high heeled sneakers and everything inbetween. We saw a birthday party and were offered malt drink and sandwiches in tinfoil. We sang praises and we heard bible verses read in a harmonized echo from individuals who could read from their bibles in the pews. Some people ignored us, some people stared at us, some wanted to know who we were, and some did not want to know. That's pretty much how we roll.
We are exhausted.

Jennifer and Cool   First comes love, then comes . . . marriage!
We had time to sort through some clothes from Maria Paola at Brooks Running company for the moms and babies because, as Tina informed us, we had used white people time.  I thought about explaining that I am just anal because I am a daughter of a therapist who used to treat patients on the hour in my childhood home, but I refrained. 
Alas, it turned out that the Italian guy who was officiating the wedding was also punctual, so we ended up only catching the very end of the ceremony. It was like the scene in a rom-com movie where somebody like Drew Barymore or Sascha Baron Cohen stampedes into a wedding scene. At least 90 percent of the people there thought we were lost or were rushing in to object to the holy union. 
Tina didn't come over to the ceremony in the car with us because she had to wait her turn to use her house bathroom and they ran out of water. When she showed up, I hardly recognized her. She looked like she belonged in Beyoncè's Formation video. The three of us actually have a stomach virus. So in my defense, I woke up not like this, but like, well, that. T and I had no idea what to wear, but the general vibe turned out to be that we looked like the behind the scenes crew for a nineties music video that we weren't quite cool enough to be on camera for.
We brought the wedding couple some baby clothings, some women's dresses, an envelope of cash, and a bag full of yams, which if the internet has not mislead us, a traditional wedding gift. We checked out that last fact with Job in the car on the way to the ceremony. When he finally understood what we were saying he started laughing and was like yeah, that's traditional alright, did you also bring a goat?
I got so much side eye at the party that I could pretty much get a sponsorship deal from Visine. T asked me if we were ever going to have the kind of life where the people in the room with us have the same set of life experiences. Then we laughed and looked at each other like Nope. We cracked up a few times when we realized that not only was she the only one in her class at a Nigerian wedding this weekend or ever. A bunch of her classmates were dying eggs and polishing their hardly used church shoes, while we were the odd duck wedding crashers pissing off various parents at a house party by unequally distributing the balloon decorations amongst the child guests, thus setting off a series of tussles and crying jags.        
I was happy to see that Jennifer liked the bouquet we picked out.
We loved it when some female guests basically moved me over so she could get some snaps. Everyone kept saying, let me get a snap. This was the best snap!
Hanging out in front of the Comune of Montecatini.
Jennifer and Tina are true beauties.
On the left is Osas and then comes Job with his collar all turned up and the shades staying on.
Paul and Stanley
K, Tina, T
Lining up at the window for plates of food.