Friday, January 29, 2016

Hot Water, sharp wings, and drama
And, no, that is not the latest offering from America's troubled fast food chain Chipotle. 

This week so far I have gone to Caritas, the Catholic charity, office to leave a letter again for the director with my resume. She will meet with me in person next week, thank heavens. I called Arci which has a project that takes immigrants who are processed in Rome and sets them up with a work collective. I wanted to report that so many Nigerian are saying that they were paid to leave camp Emmaus and find housing and work on their own. I also spoke with a local office of the comune/local government and found out that there are processing centers for new immigrants that I didn't know about in Capannori which is the next town over. Lastly, I spoke with a friend who has a friend at the Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Florence who ended up being friends with the same person who I could have called from the beginning who works with the Red Cross. 

I had the Tuesday meeting at the coffee shop with my group of five. A new guy wanted to add himself to my group of five Nigerians, but a promise is a promise so I will help him in a different way just because he is number six. He kind of  hunted me down and barrelled into our meeting at the coffee shop. He lost his documents and doesn't know what to do about it. Then the guy whose wife is pregnant reported that his wallet had been stolen so I gave them both the name I discovered of the police inspector in Montecatini who works with immigrants just to give them a little credibility. Hopefully, I won't get in trouble for that.

Speaking of lost wallets, someone in the group of five found a wallet on the train. In addition to a stack of identity and credit cards, it also contained 70 euros. He called me and told me that, as badly as he needed the cash, he wanted to return it and thought I would know what to do. I knew exactly what to do. I totally hyperventilated. And then we made a plan by which he would duck into my lobby and hand me the wallet and I would return it to the train station police. I almost peed myself five times on the way over to the Italian police. I had to say that I found it in the garbage outside the station because they required that I give over all my documents and my phone number along with the wallet. Thank goodness the real hero of the situation didn't do this himself. It turned out that the wallet belonged to the head of the train and she called to thank me and wanted to give me a reward, which I, of course, refused. But I did tell the person who found it that there would be a reward and then I had to practically beg him to take 20 euros from me because I felt it was what ideally should have happened if the world were a better place. 

The woman in the group asked to meet with me privately. She just figured out that she is pregnant and the emergency room doctor told her that if she has an abortion she will never be able to have children again because of a uterine problem she has. She says her housing situation is filthy and disgusting and she asked me to call a lead on a different apartment. I called, but the Italian speaking landlord, understandably, won't accept her without proof of a regular paying job. I suspect that the doctor was lying to her to avoid having to give her an abortion so I wrote to a Canadian ob-gyn that my friend from Boston uses, but she wrote back that she is anti-abortion and wouldn't help with any of that. She did provide all the information for how she can get free health care and about adoption that anyone could ask for. It turns out that you can get an abortion legally in Italy for 90 days but only with a health card (which this woman can't get without a legitmate address) and in a public hospital with a signed consent form. She would like to have the baby but she doesn't want to bring it into these desperate circumstances, so when I go to the Catholic charity I will try to advocate for her to get better situated.       

My reporter contact said she knows what argument to use to get my five people health cards from the hospital in Lucca so now I only need her to go with me to the early open office hours. She also knows the director of Caritas in Lucca.

Meanwhile, an English speaking representative of the Red Cross agreed to meet with one member of the group of five by conference call with a Nigerian translator, but she also told me that they were from the richest area in Nigeria and that their story about being forced from the camps doesn't add up. She believes they are lying to me. The members of the group stand by their story and want the chance to tell it to her. I would hate for any of my actions to cause anyone to live in a worse situation so the whole thing scares me. Considering the many years that F and I spent working with homeless people in New York City, I think it is fair to say that we are far from naive. Meanwhile more and more Nigerian people in town who don't know one another keep recounting the same exact thing. In fact, the woman from the Red Cross was right that they could be getting food and like two euros a day, but the Africans won't eat this food. At least a dozen people have told me they hate it. I don't know if it is hospital food and not what your nonna makes you or if it is just a big shock for them. Ambrose told me proudly that after a year of training his stomach, he can now get it down with no problems. 

Today F asked me what I wanted for Valetine's day and I answered -- not to kill him and to be able to pee without burning. He replied something like, "Aiming high, I see."  Ironically, today I taught for three and a half hours at a company that makes non-woven material for hygiene pads. I playfully yelled at one of the groups because the wings are so sharp on Italian feminine pads that I have five cuts. I didn't tell them that second part, but ouch. I know all you NY babes may be walking around in two feet of slush, but count your blessings.  Even my mild mannered gyn says that the Italian wings are "micidiali." One of the men turned purple and I knew right then he was picturing the whole situation, but the filter between my brain and mouth broke in 1998 and I never have actually gotten around to getting it fixed. 

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