Friday, June 23, 2017

Real Talk
After feeling real dread about being Joshua's only link to legal counsel because I don't want the responsibility of his life on my conscience, I realized what I had to do. I gave him the lawyer's phone number and address and I explained to him what he had to do for himself. It turns out that he does not have a permesso di soggiorno/stay permit anymore not because it was sent to Genova, but because, I suspect, he has also lost, unbeknownst to him, his third level of appeal in his plea for political asylum. 

Later I bumped into him on the street. We had a very lovely and long conversation that took me by surprise.  I have had a negative impression him because sometimes he seems unreliable and Tina said that he showed up from the camps at their old house begging for shelter without any warning and without really helping them with rent. We have seen him walking around town some days talking to himself. I wasn't sure that he wasn't hearing voices.

 All I can say is that today he was very sweet. I explained about the promises I made to the group and that he is not in the group -- that it was a question of number and that it was nothing personal. He asked me what happened with Emmanuel. I explained that I still care about Emmanuel, but that I don't think that I could help him anymore with practical or emotional things for a series of reasons. He asked me if I would let him have Emmanuel's old job. I told him that my credibility with the chef is ruined, but, since he was very rational and logical about it, I gave him the address. I said that language problems aside, if I were him I would camp outside the lawyer's office and the restaurant. I told him I would try behaving in a dignified way while demonstrating that I would do my part, but that I needed help. I would offer to help the chef clean the floors or do little jobs for him for free each day to earn his trust. If I were him I would wait for the lawyer and ask for her help in person if I could not make myself understood on the phone.  He thought that was a good plan and said that he would try. He told me that he hoped that I understood that my reward for helping the group would come from God not from results. I told him my reward was that everyone was relatively well and better than they were before. I don't want anything else, but I also can't help them with big things anymore.

Jennifer called and told me that they found a new house and that she wants the rest of the money we put aside for her to use for the down payment, which is fine. I also went by the ticket office and found out that Wisdom and Peace can come to hear Mary J Blige; and I hope that it is not too loud for them because Tina and Jennifer do not want to leave them with babysitters or their husbands and so what else can we do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I answered the call from an unknown number. I barely recognized Paul's voice. He said he was bleeding and waiting for an ambulance. I was in pajamas. F ran to the piazza. It turned out that the restaurant let Paul leave six hours earlier with a deep cut. He is a bit on the hypochondriacal side and the sight of blood makes him ill. I would have been equally upset in his situation. His Italian speaking roommate called an ambulance because he was faint and complaining of a headache. On the phone, he was telling me that he believed glass or porcelain or something had gotten under his skin. F rode in the ambulance with him after the misericordia bandaged him up. At the hospital he was given a blue code which is the last priority. F went back with the car and advised him not to wait all night for stitches. F said that the triage guy was scornful and practically spit when he gave him the order. 

He now has gotten two days off from work. He is still not being paid in a timely manner, which is disgraceful. 

Khadim is back in Pisa. The chef called to tell me that his experience with refugees is that most don't look ahead to their future and so they don't want to work harder than necessary to make an investment in career advancement down the line. He said he was sorry it didn't work out for Khadim. But he was not at all surprised. Restaurant work is not the right choice for him, he said. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Khadim Quit
Khadim quit. He said he did not want to work so hard for so many hours, even though he would be paid more than double what he makes selling umbrellas on the street -- when it rains. Even though he would get a work contract that would allow him to get a carta di soggiorno, which allows you to travel and work legally throughout Europe, and he would learn a profession where he could advance and have an actual career -- he would prefer to come home and work less. And with that . . .  we are out. 
Good work!
In case you need some good news today, I am happy to report that these two really nice women named Annie and Bruna who came to the picnic with Jennifer and Wisdom, Tina and Peace, delivered on their promise to go grocery shopping and get both families two weeks' worth of baby food and diapers. Jennifer had a week full of doctor's appointments first for herself and then for Wisdom who ran a high fever, so she was very happy to have the supplies delivered to her. Peace was also all out of food; and, as you can see from the picture, she was very happy to get some teething biscuits.

Speaking of good work, we are very proud of T and all the hard work she has put in at school. Her class' grades were posted on the bulletin board at her high school today. Just part of the Italian nightmare that is liceo/high school. Ever heard of privacy, people? Anyway, her grades showed that she is fourth in her class at one of the most difficult high schools on the planet; and she accomplished all that and learned Greek and Latin in a second language. The pressure never lets up at this school. I can't imagine what it must be like for her to be interrogated in front of the class, knowing that it would be so much easier in English. Nevertheless, she has risen to every challenge.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Khadim called from the train station. 
He messaged from the train. 
He messaged when he was on the way to Bari overnight. 
He called at 6,19 this morning to ask where the heck he had to go to buy a ticket for the last leg of the trip to Putignano because we hadn't researched that part very well. He did figure it out, though. 

I messaged the chef as to his arrival time. 
The chef messaged me that he had some shopping to do in another city and that Khadim should wait another hour for him at the station to be picked up. 
I let Khadim know and suggested that he find some breakfast somewhere. 
Poor guy hardly slept all night with all those train changes. 

The chef messaged me that he had picked up the "ragazzo." To be fair Khadim looks 19 years old, even though he is really 30. He said he would let him rest after lunch before putting him to work. 

I told him I hoped everything would go well. 
He told me that he hoped so, too. 
Khadim hopes so too. 

But, mamma mia, Khadim was very responsible, responsive, and resourceful up to now. 
Promette bene. 

Thumbs up from the chef. Thumbs up from Khadim. 
Two thumbs up. 
I'm exhausted. 

The doctor told Jennifer to get tests from a lab, but the lab told her she could not have the appointment until October. She had to go back to the doctor to get a special request -- all before her big job interview this afternoon. 

The new lawyer never responded to any of my messages. I was concerned until I realized that I was texting a landline. Mannaggia a me

Monday, June 12, 2017

Door to Door
Today we dropped off donations to Peace's and Wisdom's houses. We also got Jennifer a babysitting/nanny job interview for tomorrow afternoon. She is having some health issues, so she asked me to translate something for her when she goes to the doctor tomorrow morning, as well. 

F put up mosquito screens at Peace's house. And we dropped off a microwave for Wisdom's family. 

Tina said their refrigerator is not working and they have to freeze everything, so we put up an ask for that on social media, along with these photos of the kids.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Good luck, Khadim!
With ticket in hand, we wish Khadim the best of luck at the restaurant. For superstitious reasons, we will leave it at that.

P.S. This is me on tip-toe and it did nothing to help with the height difference! 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Who knows if all the tourists who come to Lucca for the Summer Festival concerts would feel differently about coming if they knew that to prepare for their arrival the police/vigili/carbinieri are confiscating the documents of any known refugees that see on the streets and taking them away from their rightful owners. They use this document checking process to provoke refugees by then insisting that they go into squad cars or handcuffs -- all the while hoping that they will resist, thus justifying a criminal charge against them.

Cool's brother Ehis had this situation and refused to get into the car. He called me, so I had him run after the squad car. He eventually got his document back. Joshua was not so lucky. They took his document and sent it to Genoa. They claim it was his last address. In fact, it is very far from here, and it is the last address he used in order to file that he had lost his document one time. The address belonged to a pastor whose name and telephone number he no longer remembers. 

The lawyer who worked with me at Happy Gym is having dental surgery next week, and she told me that she cannot work on these complicated cases, and when pressed further, not even the simple ones. I asked her to forward Joshua's case to the other legal office we used for Ali. 

We called Job and Cool and strongly cautioned them to stop begging in Lucca until the Summer Festival is over, but we know that they will probably not heed our warnings. 

Now that we don't have a group lawyer anymore, I realized that I had to write one more letter to the lawyers at Caritas to ask for copies of the last stay permit applications that they did for group members because we may need to use them as models for future renewals. 

When the scaffolding goes up to create the main stage in piazza grande, the police go into full effect. It is like watching a trainwreck in progress. 

Given everything, it is even harder to accept that Cool and Job did not take the dishwashing opportunity. However, Khadim just called me terrified about going to an unknown place, and possibly losing his living situation here. It is rough. I can't guarantee him anything. The chef said their last dishwasher was happy working for them for three or four years and went on to better things. It is my greatest hope that it all works out for him. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Now what?
I don't know. I thought about not telling you this because it is not pretty, but it is the truth. And the journalist in me feels like I have to tell the whole story.

Anna Morelli, the famous food writer, came through with another amazing job offer -- this time with a very accomplished chef in Puglia, about four hours in the train from here. I understood the chef wanted two men, so I proposed to send Cool and Job. It turned out he only wanted one. I agonized, but realized that it was really Cool's turn. I offered him the opportunity. I explained that the hours would be long and that it would be hard work. I told him that the chef said that he would treat whoever we sent like family, but that he needed someone who would work not just hard, but fast. He said he would help find the man a place to stay and that, if things worked out after the trial period, he would give that man a valuable work contract and help him to find housing for his wife and baby, as well. It would be the chance to stop begging and get a real job. Cool said that he did not want to work the long hours that Emmanuel had to work and that he would work, even twelve hours a day if it was eight to eight, but that he did not want to work restaurant hours that Emmanuel had tried to work which means going to work at 9:30 AM, an afternoon break at 3:00 PM for two hours, and then working until 1 or 2:00 AM to close up. I told him that I did not know the exact hours of this restaurant, but that dishwashers in Italy work long hours. I reminded him that you need a work contract to get a carta di soggiorno which allows immigrants ther ability to travel within Europe and to accept work in other countries. He turned down the offer. 

I felt disappointed with him and for him. On the positive side, this meant I could offer Job the opportunity and would not have to break him the news that the position was only available for one of them, and it wasn't him. I could not reach him all day Sunday because his phone did not have money on it. I finally tracked him down through a relative's phone.  He told me he needed to talk to Tina about it, even though Tina had already confided in me that she was all for it. Jennifer had done the same, to be fair. He did not respect the deadline I set for the decision, and I gave him an extension; but, in the end, he also turned down the chance to get a real job. He gave the justification that it is too far away, even though I know his next move is getting illegal work in Germany or in Malta. He also said that if the police bother him here, he will tell them to arrest him or send him back to Nigeria because he knows that he has a right to beg. I told him his money from me is about to run out and that Peace is out of baby food again. I told him that he has no other prospects and that this is just an audition of sorts and he can come home if he doesn't like it. He said he hated to disappoint me, but his answer is no.

I assume Emmanuel was very dramatic in his recounting of the events that led to him getting fired, and he scared the other two men. Nevertheless, I think it is pure foolishness. I also feel like I can't help them anymore, if this is their attitude. I am beginning a sort of weaning off time, which may help them, too, given that we will not stay in Lucca after T graduates from high school. Emmanuel, by the way, still has to be brought back to the accountant to sign more papers finalizing the end of his contract. I can't face it, so F has agreed to take him.

As far as the SAT Subject test situation goes, I can tell you that we picked a good airbnb and that we planned well and forgot nothing. I still got no sleep, as I am sensitive to street noise. The morning of the test one poor boy got turned away because the test center had decided not to give the general test four months ago, and he did not know about the change. T found the people who took the test with her to be rather off-putting. One girl, who appeared to have a terrible cough, was kissing up on her father in a way that made me uncomfortable, and was later seen to kick him, playfully?, in the shins. It was a lot. T came out of the test center declaring that she was not sure if her penciled in circles were dark enough. So that was stressful, but now it is done. We lived. She promises to be even more stressed out for the general test in August. Her catastrophic thinking had me prepared for the apocalypse, so I was pleasantly surprised that they let her sit at a desk with papers in front of her and that no one had to fight. 

I called up the Senegalese man, Khadim, who I met on the walls of Lucca where he sells umbrellas in the rain. I had told him last year that I would keep my eyes open for a job for him. If the chef gets back to us, I will send him. I would have liked to send our friend Moro from the Red Cross Christmas extravaganza, but he did not answer the call in time and it was first come, first serve. We will send the lucky winner off with some expense money and our good wishes, and maybe he will get to change his life. Our formerly grumpy neighbor made a generous donation to the group, which will cover this and the legal costs. People can be surprising. 

The owner of the Ali's house even sent him a hospitality letter finally. Unfortunately, he can't get it stamped because of his lack of a passport and the expiration of his stay permit. I have written to his new lawyer for advice. Thursday we will go put up mosquito screens for Peace and drop off donations. 

As much as I try not to judge, I'm judging. Clearly, I have to stop watching The Wendy Williams Show. I just can't imagine not taking a job no matter what the hours r the distance, if it meant not having to put my family in danger. While cultural differences and life perspective may impact on our decision making, I have to step back at this point.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Tried to pull back, got sucked back in
This week a break did not happen.

I went to the new lawyers' studio for Ali. He had his criminal trial today because he got scared when four officers tried to handcuff him at the station, after he was taken in without any kind of resistance, for begging and not having the right stay permit. He did not know that his immigration case had reached the third level of appeal because the lawyer at the camp he had stayed at is not under any legal obligation to let him know. He could not read the letter that was handed to him by officers back in February because he can't read either English or Italian. I begged Ali's landlord to give him hospitality because he will be doomed without it. We still don't know what she will do. 

After the lawyers of Caritas refused to answer any of my inquiries about what they planned to do to help Tina out of her passport situation, we decided to hire a lawyer to try to resolve the situation for her. Out of courtesy, I very politely wrote Caritas to inform them. They, in turn, very politely told me they were parting roads with us. I kind of figured that out when you didn't take my calls for two months. Thanks, though.

Meanwhile F met with Emmanuel's chef who explained that Emmanuel was not a good worker because he moved like molasses. He gave us back our incentive money, and so it is really hard not to believe him and also think that he is a pretty sweet guy. My theory is that Emmanuel partly doesn't think that he deserves good things, and that was too many good things at once. Every time he got tense, he would self sabotage and do things like lose his documents. Paul would like to work for Emmanuel's chef because he seems like he would pay on time, but we don't want to piss off the chef where he works. F simply asked if this chef would let Paul come meet him on his day off and show him what he can do. If that doesn't happen quickly, though, he will lose any shot at getting Emmanuel's old apartment. Nothing is simple.

Then, the ever fabulous Anna Morelli wrote us that a chef in Puglia might be interested in hiring Cool and Job, both of whom were thinking to leave Italy in search of work in Germany or Malta. Obviously, Puglia is preferable because they can work legally there. We'll see what happens.

Courtney and I needed a change so she took me to get a lot of my hair chopped off for summer. It took forever, but the people at her salon in Viareggio are really talented; and it costs a fraction of what it should. Tomorrow we head to Florence so that T can take her SAT Subject tests. She is taking Italian and English Literature. I am taking Gelato and Probably Shopping. I hope I pass with honors.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Emmanuel was fired. He apparently had a bad attitude. 

Emmanuel does not answer his phone, and we don't know where he is.

The chef is so angry that he has yet to answer my message, asking if he will give a day's audition to Job or Cool. 

The Caritas lawyers have now not answered four emails, four messages, and four phone calls so I don't know if Tina will have to go back to Nigeria to try to get a Nigerian passport. 

Enjoy these photos while we wait for the other foot to fall ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

lawyered up  
We took Ali and Joshua and Tina and Peace to the lawyer that one of the donation givers told me about very near where we live. The name Micol is a little unusual, but I was still shocked that this Micol is the same one who was a teacher with me at Happy Gym when I first moved to Lucca. She was teaching fitness to earn money while she was studying law, I guess. Anyway, she is not only way nicer than any immigration lawyer we could dream to find for ourselves, but she is good friends with the lady who the court assigned to be Ali's lawyer. In fact, that lady was her teacher. She does not seem to have a ton of experience with the thorny legal questions that we brought her, but at least she is easy to speak with and will do her best to get some answers for us. 

It turns out that Tina does not hate me, but that she has not slept for three weeks because Peace has become a little night owl. I did the full circle move of ordering her the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book by Dr. Marc Weissbluth on amazon that saved my life when T was a baby. I am teaching her about sleep schedules. No wonder she is so tired, she does not put the baby to bed until midnight and then stays up from 2 AM until dawn with her. 

Today Peace looked totally happy, while Tina was falling over with exhaustion. She babbled through the whole lawyer's visit and showed off her new teeth. Peace also tried on Ali's hat. We thought she looked very hip hop.

I asked the chef how Emmanuel is doing at work and he did not respond. I am not going to read to much into it. Well, I am. But then I will try not to think about it. Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of F trying to be the cool prof as he went out for a beer with one of his favorite classes of English students.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

pass it on, passaparola

Today I am in bed all day doing nothing but watching Italian television. I found Amore, pensaci tu! which is 12 episodes long and is a good consolation for me now that Tutti Pazzi per Amore is long gone. T finds my viewing habits low brow. I don't care.

Courtney did her part and went and had her birthday dinner at Il Merlo, the restaurant where Emmanuel works. She profited from this happy circumstance by talking up Emmanuel and the fine food establishment a destra e a manco. God bless her food loving heart. 

Emmanuel, in turn, seems to be keeping his chatty landlord happy and will drink all the coffee and listen to all the Italian she wants to offer him. F will take him back to the questura on Tuesday, his day off, to see if his new permesso has arrived. 

Taxi, anyone?

Also, we got good news from Gabry. Thanks to us and our neighbors across the way, he was able to finally buy that taxi he has long been dreaming of. If you see this, send him a good thought. Because, you know, passaparola. 

nella brace/into the frying pan
Just as Emmanuel promised to try his best at the new job we got him, a friend of his who is also Paul's best friend - Ali - got himself arrested. Ali is in the same legal predicament as Emmanuel was a few weeks ago because he has gotten two of his appeals for political asylum rejected and is onto his third. For this reason he does not have a valid stay permit. He was caught begging without the right documents. The vigili took him to the police station and then they handcuffed him. He had a panic attack because he didn't want the cuffs because in his mind he didn't want them to think he was a criminal; so he resisted the officers and got written up for that, too. If we don't get the landlord to write him a hospitality letter, the lawyer that I got him through a friend for an appointment Wednesday won't be able to help him at all. He must go before the judge on the first of June for the criminal charges. 

Ali kept me waiting hours for him to come on my day off and have me read the papers they gave him and make copies of them. I had to explain that I only do this work on a schedule. Group members know that they have to honor the times we give, but he is not even in our group. It is just that Paul told me he needed me to help his best friend. After I made the copies I gave him a fake doctor's note with 20 euros hidden in it so he could eat without begging for a stretch. 

All of this happened while the donation picnic was looming. The weather reports were different on every single website. I was fully stressed trying to figure out what to do. If I had thought it through better, I would have realized that the even hint of an idea of a rain plan would mean that almost no Italians would come. We had made a rain plan for the bookstore cafe, but then at the meeting time, the sky was fairly clear and the sun was out. I waited by myself out there for about 25 minutes. The group of six that did show up were at the wrong spot. I reached out to Simonetta, and she made a massive effort in between errands for her own kids and brought a bag of shoes to boot. 

Jennifer and Tina took the train and F met them there to take them to where I had set up the food and the blowing bubbles for the kids. About one quarter of the people who said they would come came, but the people who came were really really sweet. Two ladies told me that I could email them a list of things that the families needed. Others, like Stefania and Marco, whose son and daughter are holding Peace in that killer photo, brought lots of groceries and stuff for the babies. All the sudden the sky got dark. I got umbrellas and baby stroller covers at the same Chinese market where I had gotten the bubbles, but we were not prepared for how fast the storm came on and the fact that the strollers did not fold up. 

At the end, Marco and his son were the only ones left with us and we had to get the stuff from his car. The men could not fold the stroller and managed to put it back together backwards. Marco wanted some guidance, but F would not speak Italian to him, so they were both standing there staring at me while F flapped his arms about. They took off to deal with transfering the stuff from one car to another.

Tina and Jennifer did not want to be separated from their strollers to enter the car, which left us all on foot and me in the rain trying to cover all of them while I got soaked. I got them to a bike shop where I begged the men to fix the stroller, which they eventually did after 20 minutes of effort. Then I had to run into my old hair parlor, where embarrassingly enough I don't get my hair done anymore, and beg them for tape to hold those cheap stroller covers together with. I had to bite the duck tape in the rain with my teeth. Then I pushed Wisdom's stroller because he was crying and Jennifer had to carry him on her back in a wrap. Peace started crying so we had to push two empty strollers 20 blocks to the train station. When we got there, it stopped raining.

I can only imagine that the groceries and donations got to their houses ahead of them with F nice and dry and in style. I am quite sure that we could have done better. And any solution would have been better than that one. Tina was so mad she would hardly look at me at the end. And then I walked home like a wet cat in a very fabulous walk of shame. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Behind door number 4
Unfortunately, the answer was behind door number four. Emmanuel felt that he was being taken advantage of because he is asked to work 14 hours a day for about 3 euros an hour. And this is understandable. That is how it works, though. It is normal here. There is a minimum salary for dishwashers; and it is a base rate, not an hourly rate. The hours required are long. He has to bicycle back and forth to work and back and forth for the afternoon break. He lives in a tiny room without a kitchen. I get it.

On the other hand, we invested a lot of money and time to get him this job. Better or other jobs, without exageration, do not exist. Without this job, he will get deported. This job is the only way he can ever live with his son while he is young. It is between this job and begging on the street, which is not lucrative or legal. I did not invent the reality. Emmanuel is angry and surprised and so is the chef. As a situation, it is not great. We gave him a pep talk and suggested that he view it as being in the military. He has to do it or he is out. He has to demonstrate a certain dedication and loyalty to the chef and it must show not only in his performance, but in his attitude. 
Lightening bolts and whatnot

Yesterday was not fun. I have had this cold with a migraine three different times in the last two weeks.

Early in the evening, T looked at her SAT ticket and realized that the college board had changed the location of her test in June for the third time without notifying us first. We had already cancelled airbnb reservations and made new ones. We had reconciled ourselves to the fact that we would have to drive three hours to a test center that we did not choose because the one nearer our house would not accept a student with diabetes who would be wearing an insulin pump and might need to check her blood sugar during the test. The way we kept finding the changes was from changes to her computerized ticket and not via email or phone call. Two phone calls to the accommodations department that included lots of being on hold and trying to maintain a level voice happened. I finally got one agent who was so nice that I told her I loved her. Because I do. I love you, agent 21115. She said that they were working to grant our original request this whole time, but there was not great communication between two of their offices and there was a failure to notify us of what was happening. Also, there are only a certain number of spaces for students who need accommodations at any given center; but students drop out and give up those spaces, if they change their mind about test dates. The test is in two weeks.

In the midst of all that, I got a call from the chef who hired Emmanuel. He said that Emmanuel was not the bolt of lightening that I had advertised him to be. In fact, he was a slow worker who needed too much instruction. The chef said he was annoyed that Emmanuel asked for Sunday off to go to mass, when he knows that Tuesday is the day the restaurant is closed. He said he did not think the job placement was going to work out and that I should tell Emmanuel that he was not doing a good job. I was completely taken aback. I could not reach Emmanuel on the phone. I called Job to talk to his brother in Nigerian about it and explain. Emmanuel called me after midnight, but I had the phone turned off because I suspected he would and I needed to sleep. I don't know what to think. 

It could be a language and communication problem.

It could be that the chef wanted our incentive money, but never intended to keep Emmanuel. But then why would he publicly like the photos I posted? That doesn't make sense. Also I don't think he would give me the courtesy call to say he was disappointed in Emmanuel, if it was part of some big plot or scheme.

It could be that Emmanuel is being thorough, but not fast enough.

It could be that Emmanuel thought with a job contract, he was not at risk of getting fired so when he was tired or hungry, maybe he gave in to that.

It could be a big transition for him from begging on the street to working 14 hours a day and riding 6 km on a bicycle between the four trips back and forth from his new lodgings. 

It could be that Emmanuel feels taken advantage of, considering the number of hours work in comparison to the pay, and so he was trying to exercise some degree of strength in the situation. 

Whatever it is, I hope that it doesn't lead to him getting fired. I keep repeating to myself that some things are just outside my control. I wanted to help this group of people, but I am not responsible for them. I can only do so much. But I can't lie. It is weighing on me and F a lot. It would be a blow, if Emmanuel lost the job in the first month. Today and tomorrow morning he has off. Tomorrow he wants to have a talk face to face with F because phone communication is not very clear. Well, readers, this is a blog and not a fairytale. I can't promise it all works out in the end. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mini Vacation
F and I escaped to Parma and Bologna for a brief, but much needed vacation. We also decided that Parma is where we are going to live after T goes to university. We stayed in a little tower apartment with a cool terrace and jacuzzi tub. The guy was nice enough, but the towels were scratchy and there was no wine or extra pillows for the  rather inflated price. I thought we were good guests so I was surprised to hear the host yelling at me from my cell phone on the car ride home. It turned out he thought I was a courrier who had failed to deliver some vases. In my exhaustion, I thought he was mad that I had forgotten to flush the toilet. I kept saying, but Riccardo, it was just pee. No, not really. I just kept saying, non capisco, non capisco .. until he realized he had the wrong number.

Before we left, F charmed Emmanuel's landlady Franca with a mother's day bouquet and got her to agree to letting him have a mini fridge and a microwave, while I hid around the corner bra-less. I immediately went bra shopping in Parma. It is a long and hormonal story. We ate nachos and looked out at the rain. We drove to Bologna and realized that we are no longer big city people. Parma is the right size for us. We want to work at the University there.
Emmanuel proudly wearing his restaurant jacket.
So Emmanuel is happier than we've ever seen him. His whole body hurts from working so hard and riding 6 km on his bike every day, but he is happy. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The List
The list of things I have to do to go on a 24 hour vacation outside of Lucca:

1. Make an appointment for Tina at Caritas to get baby food.
2. Make an appointment for Jennifer to reschedule Widsom's vaccinations that he missed.
3. Give Job a peace sign necklace made out of a skateboard. (I couldn't resist!)
4. Give Cool a coconut cake F made him for his birthday today.
5. Buy a rug, a mini fridge, a microwave, a bicycle vest, a mosquito net for Emmanuel.
6. Get a bouquet of flowers for Emmanuel's landlady and give her a hundred euro for electricity for said devices.
7. Take an imaginary valium.
8. Leave two pitchers of coffee for T.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We DID it, Emmanuel!   

At times like this, you just think God Bless Everyone. And I do think that. But, if I am being honest, I also have to send just a gigantic vaffanculo to the lawyer who handled his original case who told me that Emmanuel was going to be deported and could not stay in Italy. I am glad we didn't listen to you because now he has a work contract that he signed today. It happened right after I nagged the living cavolo out of the Chef's accountant. F went with him while I was teaching. They signed an 11 page work contract. Then I got a hold of the new landlady and made an appointment with her. While I finished up some of my final tests at Fabio Perini, Job helped Emmanuel pack up his things, and F loaded them into our car. We then moved him into his new little house and set his alarm clock, so he won't oversleep. F did a practice run with him on his bike so that he could know how to ride from the new house to the new job. We have to pick up a few things for him like a microwave and a fridge, but he is basically set. Now he just has to become a really excellent dishwasher and win his second try at getting political asylum. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Emmanuel cried with joy. It was pretty amazing. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Baby steps all around

After we got Emmanuel his precious attestato nominativo, a document which will buy him some time and possibly a new start, we thought we had it made in the shade. I let the chef, the chef's accountant, and Emmanuel's lawyer know the good news and sent them the proof. And then nothing. No one got back to me. The next day I got the stomach flu and felt like I was in giving birth without drugs kind of pain for about 15 hours. I also ruined my chance at a weekend getaway to Bologna with F that I had really been looking forward to. While I was sick, Stanley called and asked me for money. He is not in the group; but I was there for the birth of his baby. He got called to sign a potential work contract in Sweden, but has not paid his rent in three months. I can be fine with his asking, if he can be fine with me saying no. That is our deal. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I can't. But he started telling me about how I had to do it for the baby and pleading in a dramatic way that was unnecessary. We told him it was the last time. The thing is, we are not going to block him in a moment where he might be able to become independent. It is true that they are a young couple, but they come off as the least sincere in their dealing with us out of everyone. 

It was Tina's birthday on the day I was ill. I sang to her in the morning on the phone, but then today we went to drop off gifts for Peace and Wisdom and the clothes for their moms. Jennifer was feuding with her landlord when we got there. We stayed out of it. He has never fixed the plumbing. Tina is also feuding with her landlord over the faulty plumbing, which the water and gas company say is making her utility bill double. The landlady won't fix it because she says that the extra guests they have are using up the water and gas (not true). It is a mess. F made Tina a coconut cake and we designed a poster of all the baby's photos since she was born. Then we got it framed. The best gift of the day was from this nice lady named Lynda Latke who donated a beautiful, dark skinned baby doll to Peace. Peace is giving kisses and scooching/crawling around the house. She has a wonderful fake laugh that is part cough; she uses it to get us all in a good mood. What can I say? It works!

Finally, the lawyer called last night and said that the accountant had been busy, but they have a phone meeting set up for 10 AM on Monday. After that, Emmanuel can get his work contract, move, and start a new phase of his life. We have to hope that the accountant is as precise as she appears to be, because at 10:05, Francesco, the lawyer, has to be in session with a judge. I have never waited so much in my life. The last time I was this impatient, I was pregnant with T and had already imagined every instant of her life up through college.

Happy Birthday, Tina!