Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No in any romance language is still NO
So we finally got a solid answer today--it was, "No."

The Vice-Consul called K at home.  It was at that moment that for K all words of Italian ceased to exist and so embarrassingly the Vice-Consul immediately switched to English to deliver the news. No way were we getting a residential visa, but maybe we could start from scratch and try for a self employment visa. It would be much easier, she implied. Yeah, but wasn't that the visa with the full length declaration of independence looking poster at the consulate with a thousand pre-requisites including a whole host of dealings with the Italian Chamber of Commerce.  Much easier, she said, we will help you in any way we can. And then she hung up on K.

So F went out from work and paced up and down 74th St. calling back the Vice-Consul. His choice was to play it as an opportunity and say, "Thank you so much for offering to help us get the self-employment visa! Who should we work with at the Consulate? And can I have their direct line and email please?" The lucky winner at the Consulate is the slightly scary Supervisor from visit number two.

Once F hangs up, his next call is to Faith (seriously), a fashion designer who he had met in his last job doing a charity fashion show to benefit supportive housing. Faith and her sister had lived for years in Firenze and at one point had mentioned their travails with immigration issues. They had ended up setting up a company and employing themselves which seems like a fairly circular process, but if it works, than that is the route we will take.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Help from Unlikely Places
For ten years, F ran New York's largest mobile soup kitchen for the Coalition for the Homeless. Serving as many as a thousand meals every night of the year, the program is staffed by volunteers from every walk of life in NYC. Three of his volunteers were Italians working at the UN, so he wrote to each of them and asked if they might know anyone in government who could help us out.

Francesca P is currently posted to the Democratic Republic of the Congo--officially the deadliest place on earth. Despite this heavy weight (or perhaps as a welcome break from it), she writes right back and says that she knows a former Consul who is now an Ambassador who will make some calls for us.

Piero, our friend who runs Fattoria Colleverde, also has a friend who is the Italian ambassador to a Scandinavian country and she puts in a call for us to the Consulate, as well.

We also reach out to a fellow Park Slope parent who works for the City Council, a member of which gave Tatia a trip to City Hall based on her prize winning essay on environmental friendliness, she puts us in touch with a lovely woman in the new New York Senator's office. From her we get a letter of support that is also put to the attention of the Consulate.

Oh and we're not done. We also find out that the head of the Italian school where F & T are taking classes has a daughter who goes to school with the daughter of the Vice Consul and she puts in a word for us.

Our close friend Maria Grazia knows another editor at America Oggi and also asks around for us.

We giggle naughtily to think how freaked out they must be at the Consulate by now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Even though K is the one who speaks Italian, F is perhaps more inquisitive in poking around in the Italian plumbing. He found a very interesting column in Il Messaggero called I Nuovi Italiani/The New Italians, written by Corrado Giustiniani and then tracked down his email address and wrote to him in appalling Italian.

Corrado was extraordinarily kind and wrote right back and said he would ask around to see if he could be of any help to us. He got back to us within a day, saying that he had talked to somebody in an arts group which is brought to Italy all the time by the Consulate and that it definitely was possible to get that kind of visa.  So, in a way, Corrado is the reason why we didn't give up.  It takes some guts to write about immigrants in a country as conflicted about the issue as Italy.  He even had his daughter write some e-mails back and forth with T replete with emoticons of smiley faces, which is somehow very reassuring.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Power of the Press
Having attended NYU Social Work School and having worked for the Coalition for the Homeless, where K resorted to putting on different accents to call and re-call the same welfare department employees to get checks for her clients, K picked up a very specific and twisted skill set. Who knew that this skill set would include remembering that two years before at T's Tae Kwon Do studio, she had met an American woman who had married an Italian man, both of whose children were friends of an English transfer classmate of T's? The Italian man had politely offered his assistance if we ever ran into problems getting our visa and he just happened to be the editor of  the America Oggi newspaper. America Oggi happens to be the American branch of La Repubblica which happens to be the journal of choice for the hardened workers of the Italian Consulate of New York as they sip their morning espresso, puff their cigarettes, and go for a 87 mile run to burn off any calories that would prohibit them from fitting into their Dolce & Gabbana size 0 turtlenecks.
F had a very nice conversation with this fellow dad who was very compassionate about our situation. He published a letter that K wrote in English and in grammatically horrendous Italian about how we just wanted to move to a place where family is a fundamental value and bring all our savings to invest into the country of our dreams and about how horrible it was when F was not allowed in with us for our appointment and held back by the guards etc. etc. He published this letter to the editor with a photo of the three of us in Lucca when we first came here to renew our wedding vows when T was four years old. It was a dicey thing to do; would it shame the officials into taking pity on us or would it make them hate us even more?  The photo was taken at our now dear friends Piero and Francesca's agriturismo called Fattoria Colleverde in Matraia. Of course we came back every vacation for the next six years and K would cry every time we left as if she were leaving home instead of leaving to go back home.

The next thing we knew, we were getting a call from the Italian Consulate of NY. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Aloha Hawaii
This may not be what your reaction would have been to hearing a top official at the Italian Consulate tell you that you had no chance of getting a visa to move to the place of your dreams.  But after years of self teaching of the Italian language,  throwing out all of your clothes that were perfectly comfortable-- just missing buttons or showing threads or generally not refined enough for Lucca, and pulling your daughter our of the cut-throat race for middle schools in the New York City school system; this was the only other thing we could come up with.


Yes there were dark days of trying to imagine how to get the cats through the requisite, quarantine period, re-conceptualizing the urban wardrobes for moo-moos and printed beach wear, and frantic, costly phone calls to laid back officials of the Hawaiian school system trying to figure out how to get T into middle school and a surf board at the very last minute.

In retrospect, through it did not seem so at the time, it was probably a humorous conversation when F tried to talk K down from the ledge so to speak and convince her to not give up the dream of Italy for an island with limited fresh produce, famed insect life (HA!), and the worst fashion sense of the entire US of A. It is even funnier when you know K, who barely can swim, is afraid of waves, can't drive, and has a phobic reaction to insects, condos, and wretches audibly in the presence of Hawaiian shirts. Still, T did not feel safe in NY, was out of the school system by now, and was encouraged by the thought of doing homework on the beach.

Thank Goodness for F who is a dream believer and has made every single one of K's dreams come true up until now. So that is when we did what we do best as a couple. We started working the phones and plugging into the Power of the Press.  

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Crushing of the Spirit
After the Easter Monday debacle, we get up again at the crack of dawn (T admiring her new earrings) and schlep back up to the Upper East Side to plead our case at the next step up the ladder of bureaucracy. We now have signed and notarized letters of support from our mothers--in so many ways this is like the degrading process of trying to rent an apartment in Manhattan

During our tearful exit last week, the security guard has said that we might have a better chance with the nice supervisor. Freshly tanned in that pre-cancerous Italian way from her vacation, the "nice" supervisor is perhaps not so nice, explaining firmly that we are far too young to get the visto per residenza elettiva. In her interpretation of the rules, this is only meant for retirees. We beg and plead and weep, appealing to her that we only want to make a better life for T.

Our grovelling only gets the slightest of possible bending. She will speak to the Vice-Consul about it and have her call us, but she is certain the answer will be no. We leave like three of the rejected dwarfs--rumpled, dispirited, and weepy.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Monday
After an agitated week of restless waiting, We get up at the crack of dawn and put on our best clothes. We wake T out of a deep, scholastic vacation type, sleep. K puts on every lick of jewelery she owns. We pace it out at the N/R subway station waiting for one of our several trains to arrive to take us to Park Avenue in Manhattan. We sweat through our good clothes on the walk from the station to the Italian Consulate. There is a handwritten note on the door.  What does that say? NO! No, no no! It can't be.

Well, how were we supposed to know that Easter Monday is a holiday in Italy? T looked at us in absolute horror. Okay kid, I said, guess what? While Daddy goes to work, you are going to get your ears pierced! T had been begging us for pierced ears for months, but F said she had to wait until she was 18. Then it was 16. But based on the fact that he has pierced ears himself, and sports a wedding earring I got him with the inscription "chosen" around the thick gold hoop, T was not convinced.

F decided to run to work with our whole giant binder the size of an Encyclopedia filled with every document on earth from FBI clearance, to passports, to Birth Certificates with an international Apostille on them and our marriage certificate, and our bank statements and our mothers' bank statements and our tax forms and a letter from our friend Piero saying how much money we spend on vacations and, well, you get the picture.  We instead went to the only semi reputable, semi clean, but very sterile, ear piercing establishment we could find; and for T, at least, the day was not a total loss.