Friday, August 20, 2010

Alcuni Giorni del Cibo Straniero
So after weeks of luxuriously wonderful simple cooking, we made an excursion to the Sri Lankan grocery just outside of town and went a little nuts--curries and rice noodles, coriander, cumin, and star anise, pomegranate juice and strange Thai red rice that tastes just like kasha. We made sushi rolls with lime carrots and avocado. We found Shriracha!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crazy Things
1. For every thing you want to buy in Lucca, there are three levels of stores from the most to least costly and sometimes they are all selling the exact same thing. If you are in a place that is really clean with young salespeople, you are going to get fleeced, my friends. I like the dustier ones with the ancient store people, and preferably ones where you enter through the back and if you have to know a code word, that is even better. It is a crazy process to go around finding the best focaccia place or the best cheese place and the place where the same place mat costs twice as much etc.

2. I had worked myself into a frenzy of all of the newspaper reporters and government officials and stars from Jay Z to Cher who were going to be outraged if the Questura didn't give F the Nulla Osta he needed to get his visa. I was going to call people, people were going to be in an uproar, they would never forget my name or the day they crossed me. And then, all that energy went to waste because they DID give him the Nulla Osta on the 11th like they said they would. So then all we had to do was call the Italian Consulate in NY and book F a flight back to NY. Guess what? The official in charge of our case decided to afford herself a beach vacation after all, even though she told us she would not, and won't be back until the 24th. The next good priced flight isn't until the 25th so now we are waiting to find out about that next step. There are four more until we are all legal and five if you count getting our residency cards and six if you count getting a health book for medical attention and probably another few I haven't thought of yet.

3. It turns out that our friend that runs the agriturismo is also the boss of the immigrant aid organization that is helping us to get our permesso di soggiorno/ italian stay permit. They all work for him in essence. So that's maybe why they were all so nice to us. . . Weird to only find that out two days ago after all of these weeks of dealing with them and using his name as a reference.

4. Hardly anyone came to the housewarming party, but those that did were very sweet. The vegetable and fruit store lady who couldn't come bought T a bracelet. The couple that run the pharmacy and couldn't come bought her a bag of candy and a jump rope. It turned out that you can't invite Italians more than five days in advance. I did the invitation about two or two and a half weeks in advance and absolutely everyone forgot about it. In NY I was always hearing that "if only you had let me know earlier. .. we already made plans, I'm sorry." So unless those were veiled poor excuses, I think it just works differently here. Good thing I learned that lesson way before T's birthday!

5. The middle school lost T's registration folder. We had gone to check a month ago and the lady who registered us did not remember us and said she had no time to see us that day. Another office worker gave us a book list, but never took our names. Finally I woke up one night in a sweat, sensing something was wrong. They didn't return our phone calls. F and I went by and sure enough, T's name was not on any of their lists. The woman found her file in a drawer covered with dust. The next day she was waiting for us. She said that T would of course be registered and that she was sorry but we were too early since we gave her the file last November and registration wasn't until February this year. Then a very stern looking principal came in. She seemed reluctant to talk to us. She went off in rapid italian about the nature of mistakes and how they are just a simple school and that they never claimed to be perfect etc. etc. Once they realized that we were only concerned about T's schooling and had no intention of making a huge fuss everyone started apologizing all over the place and said to come back like everyone else the week before school starts to find out what time her first class will start, what section she will be in, and due to the lateness, which foreign language french or spanish she will take along with which instrument for music. I was so flustered afterward that I confided in the women who work in the security/secretarial office at the school entrance. They were thrilled that we are from NY and promised they would look after T as if she were their own. I ran to the post office with F to pay the voluntary (absolutely required) school fee of 27 euro and then to grab her codice fiscale and photos for their records. I brought T with me to meet the italian women I now call her fairy godmothers Sig.ras Claudia, Marta and Amalia.

6. An italian woman Carolina and her American husband Martin run this bohemian chic furnishings store and her son will be at T's school. She told me that the secret to buying the text books is to go to the video dvd counter at the supermarket and give the list of books along with a strawberry discount card and then you can get 15% discount. I mean I can't make this stuff up. How would I have ever even formulated that question. Is there a way to get discounted text books at the supermarket if I go to the video section? Even sober I can't imagine it.

7. If you thought F used to freak out about having eight boxes of cereal in the house from the CO-OP at all times, you should see him on Saturday morning when he knows that at 1 PM all the stores will close down until Monday afternoon!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Tyranny of the Ring Road
It sounds a bit operatic, but today as I took the long march out to buy a fotobox, I was struck by how much more of a barrier the road which encircles Lucca is, than the literal wall around the city. Having grown up in Los Angeles, it is not as though the number of cars is startling, nor the bleakness of some small sections that express a ghastly homage to Valley stripmalls, but it is the aggression of the cars, the speed and claim to the space that they exert that is unpleasant and irritating.

I thought it was all balanced out by my finding a bike that was being thrown out, but a stop at the bike repair shop where I was told that to fix it would cost as much as buying a new one by two men with cigarettes glued to their lower lips disappointed the promise of good karma.