Saturday, January 23, 2016

Non ti abbattere
Things that happened this week in Italy that you have to experience to believe: 
I had to go to a gyn as an emergency patient. The receptionist told me the first free appointment was in about a week, but as I was in appendicitis level pain and there was bleeding involved, I went to no fail strategy A1 which is chi si conosce - it's all about who you know, baby.  I called my friend whose daughter is a nurse and she got me the private cell number of the doctor who was home with a bad shoulder and who promised me she would see me as soon as she returned to the office. It turned out that I had an ovarian cyst, but instead of going to the free hospital laboratory I paid to go to a private lab where I waited for less than two minutes and where the nurse found a vein on the first try. These are secrets you can only learn in year five of immigrant life. I had a small cry with my pharmacist who assured me that I was not going to have cancer and she gave me medicine for free because she likes me. She recommended I go to the family doctor who works with the pharmacy who is a lovely man who worries about me. I avoid him like the plague because I always come home from his waiting room with something worse than I started out with. Anyway, don't worry about me because I am in menopause with hot flashes and mood swings, but this blogger is going to live.

I tried to email the doctor to find out if I had to take the progesterone (which was not a gel, but a pill, blah blah blah vagina vagina vagina) and she would not respond. My gyn is actually a dead ringer for Betty White and she maintained, in all her pink lipsticked glory, that the matter was too delicata to not be discussed in person. She was offended by my bluntness, people. I'm not even kidding. So Patrizia, who referred me to her in the first place, had to take me there between lessons so that the doctor could give me anti hemorraging medicine and sweetly kick me out of her office with just a slap on the wrist. Apparently, we do not talk about blood unless you add a lot of cute little Italian Disney terminology to soften and pinken the imagery. Davvero?

One small problemino is I have an endless period so that I have to worry not to sit on nice furniture or wear light colors, but that didn't stop me from calling an emergency meeting of the group of five (my Nigerian friends) to strategize how to deal with their many horrible life issues. I want to call them clients, and not friends, not because that will stop me from loving them and being overly attached in an unprofessional way, but because their job is not to help me and because occasionally it helps me separate so that I can sleep at night. In any event, I gathered everyone except Ambrose who comes to Lucca from Prato only on Thursdays and who just adores F. He adores F so much that when I am alone I sometimes can't recognize him without the ear to ear smile he reserves for the tall man. So I took everybody to the cafè that Tina says is the friendliest to Africans and surprised everyone by having them gather around for a talk. Apparently, they thought the big event was just going to be breakfast. I explained to them that my goal was to help them to get information that might lead them to integrate better in Lucca since now they do not have legitimate health cards, apartments, or jobs. I prefaced it by saying that I am probably the worst person to help since Italian bureaucracy confuses me and I don't always speak well, but that I make up for that by being outrageous and persistent.

Then we went around the circle and I got to hear some really sad, sad stories. In addition to Paul who I already told you about, there is Tina who is all alone here. She lives with a man and a woman who she met here, but who are from her same city. As I write this, she is alone at home sick and without a health card, too afraid to go to the emergency room with her migraine headache. Paul managed to get himself blackmailed. He paid a Nigerian for a letter from a lanlord to say he was living in an apartment and then the guy took off with the money. I asked why he didn't take the letter before handing over the cash and he and Emmanuel just smiled knowingly at each other and then Emmanuel told me that is the fastest way for a Nigerian to get killed. There is also Cool whose wife Jennifer is about to give birth. Their Nigerian marriage doesn't count and they want an Italian marriage license. He doesn't have a health card. I met his brother by chance this week and when I asked if they were really brothers he said to me with a grin, "Same mother and same father for me and Cool!" So that's that then. Emmanuel told me that he got a call while he was in Lucca that his wife was dead. His four year old son Precious is with his parents for now. He said the wrong thing and does not have a stay permit. He has a court case and a decision that has been delayed three times. Shit.

I made F make cheese bread for my carb enthusiast contact at the health office. She had stopped answering my emails out of frustration. The smell of the bread got her to spend thirty minutes trying to find a colleague for me to speak with at the Montecatini branch where the group of 5 live. Let me add that we are a group of five because I decided to limit mysef to the five because that way each of them can have an emergency fund of 100 euro that Catherine donated. I explained that part and they did not jump on the money, but rather are trusting me to hold it for them until they need it. The Montecatini colleague told us rules are different there than in Lucca and the group members can't have a health card without an official paper from the police station saying where they live. They should have gotten it when they arrived, but since they don't speak Italian, except for Tina, they didn't know to get that just like they didn't know that they would have been better off being followed by the Red Cross or Caritas of Lucca whereby they could have become more official.

Before risking taking them to the police, I took them to my lawyer at the Patronato INAC who told me their cases were too complicated and that he could not help and that he thought I should probably give up, too. He said the police station was the best next step.

Then I naughtily used my English lesson with the local government official for immigration to try to get her advice. She slipped me the name of the right police inspector, but she started breathing heavily in the manner of someone who has just realized that their English teacher is a mental case.

I had to give her an extra free fifteen minutes and invent a computer filing system with English phraseology for her work computer to convince her to come back which will mean hours of extra work this weekend. She warned me that if I do get the paper from the police in Montecatini the group of 5 will be forever prohibited from getting help from the charitable organizations in Lucca because . . Italy. They love zoning rules here. Stay tuned for the part where I bribe a police officer with gluten free birthday cake.

On a lighter note our favorite teen genius, who is going to study at Harvard this summer, showed us her report card and I fell off my chair laughing. See, if you can tell why: 


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