Thursday, May 12, 2016

You are not going to believe this. 

I'll start with the fact that the chef stood us up for our appointment. I took F ahead of time because I didn't want to disappoint Paul with another dead lead for a job. He has been on the streets begging for years and things are only getting worse for the Nigerians in Lucca. The sous chef had the sweetest face you ever did see and he made a few calls and told us that Paul could have a trial to see if he could work with them. 

F took him over to the restaurant that they are building outside the walls by foot so he could learn the way. I told Paul that he had to ask if he could come back the next day in Italian, and I instructed him to ask that last thing before quitting time. I was anxious all day until I heard his happy voice telling me that they said he could come back. I told this whole story to one of the students I teach for free in exchange for help from the charity for my group. She advised me that the testing period is usually one week and that it is without pay. Thus we run the risk that Paul is not getting rent money and that they will use him for free labor and then let him go or only give him occasional work. Of course we will pay half his rent, if that happens, but this whole project is costing us money because the group has constant emergencies. 

Unfortunately, my phone ate the sous chef's number, but then I found him on fb and he told me that he was happy that Paul was given a chance, just as he was many years ago. I hope he will stay in his corner after week is over, but it is a good week for Paul to be off the streets. 

Now it turns out that Lucca has a new ordinance that says that anyone who asks for money in the street has to pay a fine of 50 euros. The vigili/police are not making any distinction between people who get help from charities with two euros a day and free meals and accomodations and the people, like everyone in my group, who don't receive any additional help and who have to beg to stay alive. 

Cool, who is a new father to a baby who does not sleep a wink at night, had to go out to do some shopping in the evening for his family. He was worried about getting robbed of his documents so he put them in a second fanny pack that he wears during the day. He forgot to replace them and the police searched him. Today he did what the police told him to do yesterday and brought in his documents. Then he called me. I was there for hours. They wanted to sign off on a legal document accepting culpability in Italian, which he can't read. I made everyone wait while various people who originally said they could speak English, changed their minds after meeting me. I refused to be the translator because I did not want the responsibility for understanding every word of a document that is notoriously tricky to understand. Then I rejected their google translator version as gibberish. In the end, the  agent had to write out a new document by hand based on an English copy they finally found in their archives. 

It turns out that the police also confiscated all the money in his pockets without probably cause or his resisting arrest. I asked several times if this was standard procedure and no one would answer me. I both infuriated and courted the agent in equal measures. I asked her what she would do to help this situation if she were me. Surprisingly enough, she advised me to ask for a meeting with the head police commissioner and she gave me the phone number. I reached his secretary who informed me that she would bring my request along with all the others to him and he would decide whether or not to grant me the meeting for next week. Today I spoke Italian well, but who knows what will happen next week. 

The same police officer that gave the ticket to Cool's brother was the one who got Cool. He couldn't believe it that I was there again. He asked me if I knew every African person in Lucca and I didn't know what to say because I didn't want him to know that they were brothers. I just smiled at him. 

Cool is lucky that the lawyers from the charity are still accepting him as a client and so they spoke with the police and will handle the case. Unfortunately now Cool will have a mark on his record that doesn't go away and he will have to have the lawyers make it possible for him to move. He would like to work for three months in Switzerland. Three months is the most Switzerland lets immigrants stay there, and a Nigerian friend of his might let him take his job if he returns to Nigeria. Now the whole plan is a little messed up or wahala, as they say.

Cool is also feeling very down because it used to be that begging was legal and he made enough money to send for all four of his brothers who now are starving here. He wishes that he had never called for them. He preferred the time when he could make enough money to just provide for his father and all of his brothers by himself after his mother died. He said that his brother was operated on by Nigerians who were not real doctors but healers and that he suffered very much which is part of the reason his behavior is a little bit erratic. The money I gave that brother to get his passport to leave Italy was for nothing because they sent him away with an appointment that won't take place until mid July. 

I then walked the streets and told everyone I knew to go home for the day and to try to let me convince the commissioner to make some exceptions for the people we know or to give them carte di soggiorno so they can leave the country or let them integrate into the same system that exists for all immigrants that have arrived post 2014.

In other news, we found out that Harvard has 52 cases of mumps and that they are very picky about the shadows on the student ID photos. We also found out that T has tests almost every day until the last day of school and that a number of her classmates get extra tutoring help just to get their homework done while T white knuckles it alone. And those kids are all Italian, which means she is a genius. 

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