Saturday, February 27, 2016

Xenophobia, punto and BASTA!
This week was a roller coaster of dramatic love and hatred towards foreigners of all kinds. 

On a positive note, the people who work at Caritas Pescia could not have been any kinder. It was raining so I took Paul and Cool's brother Ehis out for coffee while we waited for F to pick us up in the car.

Paul is teaching me pidgin English which is great and helps me to communicate better with the whole group except it is like a disintegrating agent that destroys my Italian with a single syllable. I am a pretty good mimic, but I have to stay in one lane. Unfortunately even two episodes of Amici could not protect me from the delicious words like wahala and vex me and so my Italian was not that impressive at the meeting. Nevertheless, Antonino and Maria Cristina seemed to understand me and to be very compassionate towards the group at the meeting. Antonino promised he would do all he could to help, but he thought that would look like moving the pregnant ladies into a group home initially and separating them from their husbands to be. 

Jennifer surprised me by proposing a house that she had already located but that costs 400 euros a month which is too extravagant for Caritas to spring for. It was a tense moment because while I wanted her to have her dream, I think it would be best for her and her baby to become officially under the Italian protection system given that her permesso expired a long time ago. Nevertheless, I told her after the meeting that my job was just to offer her options and that it was her decision whether to accept the help the can give or not. She told me that Caritas had a reputation for having a lot of rules and she was worried about not being able to have the visitors or the hours or freedom she wants.

The two comedy relief moments that lightened up the day were when Tina's belly got the best of her and she could not stop staring at the bag of biscotti behind the meeting table. Everyone started laughing and then the director of the Caritas Pescia gave Tina the whole bag and she proceeded to eat eleven cookies one after the other. We just laughed off the pregnancy munchies, but, of course, it was also horribly sad that she was that hungry. Everyone in my group left the meeting with bags of pantry groceries which was a very happy way for everyone to go home. As Antonino pointed out, if Caritas Lucca is a ferrarri and Caritas Pescia is only a Panda, at least they are a Turbo Panda!

The next day I got a call from Emmanuel, saying that he would be happy for me to call his son and he gave me the address to send him some of the donated toys and a smart little suit jacket, sized for a four year old. He said that the camp had called him back to Calabria because his original lawyer for the permesso would be returning the following week to help a group of the refugees with legal issues. He chucked over my greetings in pidgin English and over Tina's cookie incident.

Our electricity went out the next day, and, as usual, this meant our hot water heater got angry at us. It usually gives an error message and then needs to have a red button pushed to restart it. But on this fine day it flashed between two number readings and would not restart. T taught me what to say to enel the electric company, but just then the lights came back on so that all that was left was to call the heater repair guys. The number was on the machine. The receptionist told me that I was in luck because a technician could come right over and that is where my luck ran out. 

A young guy and a middle aged man came huffing up the stairs. The kid immediately told me that the hot water heater had just restarted itself. I told them it was a matter of seconds ago that it wasn't workin and that the electricity going out always caused us problems. The older guy stared me in the eyes and said emphatically, "That is not so." Then both of them told me that there was no problem with the caldaia. The younger one lingered at the machine and seemed to notice something was amiss. They had a discussion that involved inappropriate curse words. The older one took out some pliers and made a ton of noise hitting a pipe. He made an impertinent remark about my having followed my husband's job to Italy. I pointed out that we had not stolen Italian jobs and that we were teaching English which helps Italians get better jobs. He snorted. They charged me twenty euros for two minutes work and I didn't like the way the young one marched around my living room uninvited and how I caught him staring at my wallet. I did not want to have regrets so instead of feeling victimized, I jokingly kidded the older one about how he had called me a liar and that he had better hope we didn't have to see each other again the next day. He replied that it would be better for me if we did, implying that it would make me less of a liar.

The next day as F and I were leaving the house, he noticed that the heater was leaking. I called to have them come back.  I then called the recepionist back to say that I hadn't appreciated the technicians' attitude or insinuations and that they better come correct. The same guys came back and did the exact same routine in front of F. F remained very tall at them, but said no actual sounds that could be understood sa words. I got so angry that my Italian went to Brazil. I ended up having to talk through my tears while they told me in the same breath both that  I did not have to call a plumber and that I did. They were outraged that I thought they might have caused the damage (on purpose or by accident) when they hammered away on the pipes. They refused to leave when I told them to get out and they said it would be worse when I needed them back. I left the room and googled the Italian crap out of the situation until I found another company who services our brand of water heater. It turned out that they needlessly turned off our hot water. We had to wait to get until the next day to get our trusty plumber to come fix the blocked pipe which had surely been like that during their last check and could have led to an explosion and damage to our floor and our neighbors' who make the good pizza's ceiling. And that would have been TRAGIC.
Almost as tragic as the fact that I cried a second time in recounting this story to my English class that evening. And a close second, to when I accidentally called the boss of the job I am ending this week instead of my landlord's wife whose name also starts with the letter M. You can't make this wahala up.

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