Thursday, July 21, 2016

The learning curve  
If you're like us, when you get home from a trip you like to take a hot shower. Well, scordatevelo/forgeddaboudit because of course we could not get the red panic button the machine to restart the hot water heater. The next morning, I realized that there was a puddle underneath the machine and that the successful calls I made to get my nervous nelly plumber and the technicians to come were for nothing.  I always call our first plumber from Corte Campana, but now that I really look at it objectively, I have to admit that the only reason I call him is that he has a really cute rear end. He has never really done anything magnificent that involved plumbing or tools. He just looks good as he is leaving with a pocket full of my euro. Anyway, we had to have that dreaded conversation with our landlords, who told us on the first day that they hate fat people, to ask them for assistance. This was made even worse by the fact that anyone who openly tells you that they hate fat people is an ass hat and also because it turned out they were on some luxury vacation cruise at the time. For T's sake, since she loves our apartment and we need to stay in Lucca until she graduates high school, I really was super courteous about the whole thing and apologized to them instead of the other way around. They sent their trusted plumber who is in retirement and is sort of reluctant to do any actual work. He didn't come several times when he said he was going to. Even on the morning he said he was on his way over, we called to find out two hours later that he was on line at the supermarket and couldn't be bothered. It turned out they had to bring his granddaughter to the doctor because she woke up screaming from a nightmare and they didn't know why. We had to beg him to come, promising to find someone else to help F bring the new boiler up all our stairs. When the new boiler arrived it was a new model and it needed all new pipes so in the end it took nine long days, two trips to the hair parlour, and the joke is that no one will agree to take the old, heavy, rusted boiler away.

The thing that was a bummer about spending a bunch of vacation days babysitting a boiler to make sure it didn't explode and cause damage to the whole building was that I have been dying to go to Parma to see if our research was on point and that Parma would really be a good place for us to live in two years time. Today was the day. Just steps from entering our car, we got a call from Paul. He lost his wallet. Or maybe he was pickpocketed. But most likely it fell out of his pocket when he was on his bike last night. It had the permesso/stay permit we worked so hard to get him in it and the codice fiscale that we took him to get in Guamo and the new bank card that F just went with him to get two days ago! At first we just told him to go to the police station to report it himself, but when he asked us to go with him in that voice of his I ended up telling F to turn the car around. It was a good idea that I did, too, because there was a lot of cajoling in Italian involved. Both of the agents we dealt with were really nice to us and it helped a lot that we had kept a copy of Paul's documents so it was easier to report and find him in their computer system. I am not looking forward letting the lawyers know we need their help yet again. 

It was particularly sad that Paul's wallet went missing because we had just been able to give a generous donation to everyone in our group that my mother had managed to get through her ties to a generous soul in Norway who wanted to help their cause. Luckily the bulk of Paul's share was deposited into his bank account before he lost his wallet.  It was nice to be able to give something to Tina and Job, even though the apartment situation is a no go. At least F was able to bring her a really expensive stroller set and crib from this nice Dutch lady who was spending the week in Lucca and wanted to do something nice. 

Finally, we got to Parma and it was all that we hoped it would be. It would have been an even better choice for us in every way except for the fact that T's high school is so good here. I didn't realize when we picked Lucca that it had changed a lot from our first vacation here in 2004 until our move in date in 2010. There was a huge financial crisis, of course, but the upshot is that Lucca has become a major tourist destination and the inner city has become unliveable so all the locals are moving outside the walls. There are so many events that attract tens of thousands of visitors and that means noise and chaos in a place that doesn't mind tourist money, but has a decidedly negative attitute towards immigrants no matter where you are from. Parma is much less touristy and there are two largely residential areas that are so tranquil and lovely, yet only a ten minutes walk from great wide avenues that are lively and filled with great shopping and restaurants and theaters. It doesn't hurt that it is foodie heavan and that the University is there. The summers will be a bit hotter and the winters a bit colder so we will go back a bunch of times throughout the year to make sure we really know what we are getting into. I did feel I was falling in love when I spontaneously started crying upon entering the duomo. No offense, but their duomo makes our duomo look like Grand Central. 

so spacious, and quiet, and anonymous. yaaassss!

Did I tell you that when we had drinks with our friends Barbara and Alessandro who are Lucchese they told us that a bunch of Italians think that the refugee situation is temporary and so they don't have to come up with any long term solutions? They know better, but they say it will take years for people to realize the advantages of helping immigrants to integrate here and that it will also take years for Lucca to realize that renting out their whole city by the week to tourists is going to be a big headache and not worth it in the end. She also told me to be careful because if I accompany Tina to the hospital when it is time for her to give birth, I may end up paying tens of thousands of euros for her care since she does not have a health card. She advised me to say that I don't know her personally and that I found her on the street in need of help. Good to know, good to know. 

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