Sunday, April 24, 2016

You don't know  
I wish I could go back to last week's me and say, oh honey, you don't know what rough is.
After trying and failing to get other people to contact Emmanuel's lawyer for me to confirm that she had the proof I think he needs to not get deported, I finally took matters into my own hands. Although the email address Emmanuel had given me was a fail and she wouldn't take my phone calls, I realized that I still had her cell number and I could just text her. When I did, she confirmed that she did not have the documents and said that it was now too late. I begged her to amend the appeal and she said she would try, but didn't know if the judge would accept it. 
Then I counted to ten and wrote to the catholic charity's lawyer. Twice she ignored the parts of the emails that had to do with Emmanuel and when I underscored this she wrote me back a more formal letter than usual saying that she had already told me that she is in contact with Emmanuel's excellent lawyer and that I should let the professionals do their jobs. 
Well, I wanted to say, the professionals didn't share the documents on time for starters. But I didn't. 
Then I realized that despite having been vaccinated, I had the full-on flu with raging fever, body aches, nausea, dizziness, and just for good measure a huge acne cyst on the side of my nose.
My big worry was that I would not be able to accompany Cool and Paul to the job interview with the Michelin star chef who said he needed dishwashers. I decided not to confirm our appointment because I didn't want to give him room to wiggle out of it. Instead I sent F and also T, who we had to get out of school an hour early, to do the Italian part. I sent her with a cheat sheet of notes. It was in English, but still. The guys were excited and I was anxious. Of course, the chef was not there. His staff reached him by phone and he said he was meeting with his accountant in a different city. He did not ask to reschedule. He did not respond to my text begging him to let us reschedule later in the day. Cool and Paul then waited around to find out and when they got to the train station they discovered that due to the holiday on Monday the Friday afternoon trains were not running (so Italian!) and they had to endure a terrible confusion and eventual bus ride back to Montecatini. 
Then Jennifer called me to let me know she had faxed some documents we needed from her to update her permesso and asked me for money to renew her Nigerian passport. Earlier in the week she asked for the spelling of my name so I can have permission to be in the birthing room with her. This is a weird communication problem because I know Jennifer has never been wild about me. I said to call me if she needed anything and so I cannot be surprised if she does. I told Cool that I would advocate for her if she is not being treated well in the hospital because I would. But I am not looking forward to getting a view of Jennifer's nether regions or hearing her curse out everyone, including me in the labor room. ah well.
So I wrote back the lawyer saying just to let you know what kind of day I'm having . . . and I recounted the day's events with the explanation that due to language difficulties and cultural differences, our lives in Lucca are a continual series of misadventures and that she should know that between preserving my dignity or their opinion of me and helping my group, I was going to choose the group every damn time. In fact, if I had worried less about angering the lawyers in the first place, I might have gotten Emmanuel his documents on time. So that was cringe worthy. Just sitting in my unglorious truth of dirty bathwater.
And I didn't even mention the long and dismal phone conversation I had with the director of a cooperative with the same name as the cooperative that I believe provides job training to immigrants tell me that I had the wrong idea about the work that they did. I had gotten his name from my journalist students who thus far has tripped me up more than once. After I hung up the phone, I found an email from the lady I actually wanted to reach consenting to meet with me on Tuesday! But then a third cooperative, the one that was kind of condescending to everyone about learning Italian, called to ask me to teach the staff English. And they really do provide job training, so I said yes. Yes in a pissy you were supposed to call me a month ago kind of way, but yes all the same. And then I discovered that they pay 50 euros and hour. So that is good. I can give fifty to Jennifer.
As long as I'm listing all of the humiliating episodes of the week I should add the part where I begged one of my students to get the phone number of the person I wanted to call Emmanuel's lawyer for me. She said I should call after eight at night. That is late so I texted first, asking if I could call and she didn't answer. So I called and she hung up on me. And that's when I got the stomach ache that told me that Emmanuel's future was more important than being a people pleaser.
I still don't know what to do about the chef. I am praying that I don't give F or T the flu. I am hoping that I can handle the Tina/dog-walking situation that starts tomorrow and that I don't cough up a lung in the process. 
How long until summer vacation?
Oh and p.s. did I tell you that when T goes to college, I want to move to Puglia?
The only good thing that happened to me this week was that my tumblr idol TVhousehusband liked my post comparing the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City with that of The Mary Tyler Moore show. 
He wrote back: Fabulous :) Thank goodness, because I am in a fragile state where a snarky comment from tvhousehusband could have really annihilated me.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Craig's list, Craig's pissed.
This is a multicultural learning opportunity waiting to happen.
This has been a rough week. I raced to get Tina a job interview for a 5 day dog sitting gig. Nigerians do not generally keep dogs as pets so before we met the Australian Iron Man at the outdoor cafe who owns the adorable, cocker spaniel puppy along with his (from the photo) gorgeous girlfriend, I had to prepare her. First off, I suggested that she do her hair and makeup because when she asks for money outside of the bakery she obviously does not spend a lot of time on her beauty regime. That said, she is pretty stunning naturally. Then I had to teach her how to pet a dog's head. She made it to my house one minute before the interview so we raced her pregnant self over there and I think we scored her the job.  I imagine that lessons in dog poo picking up are to follow. I have managed to live 46 years without ever picking up after a baby of the canine variety, but I guess there is always a first time. I chatted wildly at the modelesque, professional cyclist and when he asked me how long I had been interested in dog walking, I pointed to Tina who had not said any words for the first ten minutes since we got there. When she finally did say words she came up with the most over the top compliment for the dog and with a large smile she repeated several times, He sure is quiet. I refrained from mentioning that I got interested in dog walking when I realized that a Nigerian pregnant woman who begs for money on her feet for six hours a day and has to pee in alleyways because she is black, could have a five day spa vacation, staying in a clean apartment if I taught her about dogs real quick.

This is how I dressed for the the doggie interview.
When I told this story to my friend Ian in New York, he suggested that I make a new website called Craig's Pissed because I seem to be an expert in getting things for people that they don't want.

I look tense, no?
Four minutes after getting Tina this job that I'm going to have to do for her, I went to look for work for Paul. I messaged the chef ahead of time so that I wouldn't be too much of a rompiscatole/ball buster. The chef kept us waiting for a good long time and then when he came out he said that he suddenly did not have any work, but he kindly offered to give me the phone number of a hotelier who hires from a cooperative. Paul and I called the guy who told us to call back the following day. I tried to call back, but first I had to put out the fire of 9 months pregnant Jennifer who went all the way to the police station in Prato under my advice from the lawyer only to be told that her permesso wasn't ready. When the lawyer helped me to get them to hand over the document, she discovered that it expires in four weeks. They wasted five months of the permit time not giving it to her. This is all okay because then the lawyers graciously agreed to help her to get it converted to her husband's better kind of permesso which is the kind of alchemy non-Italian-lawyers or mere mortals cannot attempt on their own. The hotelier gave me the number of a lady who runs a cooperative who supplies him with cheap labor, but she wasn't in the office so I wrote her an email in my kind of Italian, the kind which charms no one. In between appointments, I ran into these folks:

Cute family of English students
This is the princess cleverly disguised as a woodland elf.
This was all before I had a chance to brush my teeth. 
I now have to teach English on the telephone. 
Ian says my safe word can be second conditional. Second conditional.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Oh honey
After a series of English lessons via telephone with folks from Brooks Running company in Italy, I went to the kitchen to get a snack. I heard a really loud buzzing noise at the window. This was strange because all of our windows are screened, and, what's more, they have been closed for months. It was a gigantic yellow and black striped insect that, at first, I thought was a wasp. I remembered that the owner of the apartment kept some spray upstairs in the mansarda so I went to look for it. And then I saw two more. You don't have to tell this chronically unlucky woman twice -- I ran outside without my wallet or my jacket. 

By the time F came home, the apartment had dozens of buzzers inside of it. We called our landlord and some exterminators, but no one could help us this week. Maybe next week we could have an appointment. Say whaaat?? I called Patrizia who is my Italian inside track for all things local and she told me to call the police/vigili urbani using the number 1-1-5. When they asked me if someone is the home was allergic, I said that they might well be because conosco i miei polli and my mammina didn't raise no fool. They were there under ten minutes. F sprayed as many as he could, much in the same way he saved his house from a wildfire in the hills of Los Angeles when he was a teenager by spraying in a circular motion around him. He still bears the scars from that day, but no stings from today. Anyway they found out that there were not dozens of nests all over my house that were birthing its stinging spawn spontaneously like a scene from a horror movie, but that there was just a hole in the ceiling that leads to the roof. I had to believe them because the bees were so large that they couldn't have been born just moments before. Unless there was a time continuum, but that would be a different movie. 

The men, I think they were actually firemen, told me that the queen bee had been followed by its drones (is that a bee thing or is that Star Wars?) or followers and they got trapped in my sealed up house. They didn't even fleece us for money. They were lovely, actually. 

The funniest part of the day by far was that when I ran out of the house I saw Job downstairs and I told him about the swarm of bees. He started laughing and asked me if I were actually afraid. I said, damn right I was. I asked him if he wouldn't be just a little afraid if he were in my shoes and had a house filling up with bees. His answer was delivered seamlessly: "I am from Africa," he said. "Even if my house had 25 lions in it, I would not be afraid." I know, I know, Job, I am a wuss. 

My one woman show

So far this week I have had communication problems with a lawyer in Montecatini (not her fault -- she has the flu and I can't understand her fancy lawyer emails), a lawyer in Calabria (va bene, she's just playing hard to get), T's art professor (oh lord, how many years until I master the congiuntivo??), and several other people.

Most of this happened because Emmanuel only has five days left until he is no longer eligible to file an appeal with the court so that he doesn't get deported back to Nigeria. On his behalf, I had embarrassing failures in communication with officials in all walks of life who think I am certifiably insane. But at the end of the stress-filled giorno, the lawyer in southern Italy did answer my voice mail message, and, although she refused to hear my story, she said she knew who Emmanuel was and would speak to the other lawyer. My standards are so low, that I took that to be a victory. 

It's a long story, but to make up for my failed parent-teacher meeting, I decided to buy In Altre Parole for the art professor, but, after five books stores and an internet search, I can say that the rudeness and disses to Jhumpa Lahiri are never ending in this part of the world, even if some of us love her madly. So my bilingual sucking up will have to wait.

And thus, dear readers, I have decided to do a one woman's show of Charlotte's Web in which I will play all of the characters who will espress themselves in Itanglish and pidgin English. Che cosa on dey mind? On dey mind no count, whatever  counts is ciĆ² che si trova sotto le chiappe. And then Templeton the rat does a reggae rendition of Ru Paul's hit Sissy That Walk. Buy your tickets now.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

What The Firenze is going on??
Just when I thought this story couldn't get any crazier -- it did. As I was watching a bootleg, streaming version of the latest episode of The Good Wife, my gmail flashed before my eyes. The only sentence I caught was from the lawyer working with the catholic charity for my group of Nigerian refugees. It said that she didn't know where Emmnauel's appeal case could go given that his reason for seeking asylum was that he was a homosexual who was being persecuted. Now I know it is possible for someone to be married to a woman and have children and still be gay, but I was also pretty sure that wasn't the case in this instance. I made some calls to find out. 

Emmanuel who is currently holed up in a camp in Calabria in what I imagine is a kind of dormitory situation with a bunch of other men told me to call his brother and he would explain everything. Job told me that Emmanuel found out on the boat on the way to Italy that his beloved wife Rosemary who was six months pregnant with their second child had died. He wanted to turn back, but he couldn't. He knew his surviving child would be without him. He was in shock when he was interviewed about his reasons for seeking asylum and the people who came over with him told him that the persecution of a person for their sexuality was a valid way to obtain asylum. He went with that. 

Job told me that he would let me see the statements and documents he has about his own story. True to his word, he used three of our mututal friends' phones, since his has no more credit on it, to bring me his papers. When he got here he said he didn't think I should look at the papers and that they wouldn't help his brother. I have no idea why. It turns out that due to his known activity and backing of a political party in Nigeria he had received death threats that led to the burning down of his family home where he lived with all of his brothers. In fact, Emmanuel is in the photo with the burned down house. I immediately sent the documents to the lawyer and I hope to God it makes a difference for him. Meanwhile, we are wiring money in case he can be legally transported back to our region in order to be represented by our crackerjack lawyer who is so far batting five out of six. 

Then today I got a phone call from the wife of the guy in the plaid suit from the wedding photos. She is the one who wrote the hospitality letter for Tina so I am grateful for them. They are asking to meet me so F and I will take them out of coffee after work tomorrow. 

Anna Morelli promised me that she had called the chef that is hiring and that she will see him at an event this weekend. I asked if she would come meet the group in person next week to give them some good advice about how to best handle the job interviews and how to write their resumes. I am not so much looking forward to translating those monster documents with all of the Nigerian addresses and long names in them, but it is for a good cause so I'll give it my best.