Thursday, April 27, 2017

Out of the frying pan
Today I took a taxi work so that F could meet Emmanuel at the questura before 8 AM. They were first at the door. 
 
The inspector was there. Things were off to a good start. Then the grumpy, bald immigration agent, who was probably disappointed not to see me, sent them home to get a copy of the house contract. Then he told the guys that the inspector couldn't meet with them after all because he was too busy. F put up a good fight, but to no avail. He even had the lawyer plead for an appointment. The lawyer later told me that he was assured that he would fill out the form a week from today. That would only be fine if the chef was willing to wait.
 
In between lessons, I sent out a flurry of messages. We tried Courtney's school mom friend who works at the police station in Viareggio, but she couldn't help. Neither could my old Charlie's Angel, angel Anna Maria. She doesn't work in immigration anymore. I had to ask the chef for another extension so that we can get Emmanuel's paperwork in order. Then I confirmed the apartment for him with the lady in Viareggio, even though we don't know if this whole scheme is going to work.
 
Worst of all, the inspector asked us for a better copy of the hospitality letter, but, if we give him one, he will see that it is expired. That is why tonight I have to call Albania or Switzerland and offer to pay a month's rent for a house that Emmanuel is not going to live in so that she can sign a new hospitality letter. In Italy, that is just another day at the office, people. Don't get me started. 
 
If she agrees to free money, I then have to get her to a scanner. I don't think she owns one. Then I have to take the letter to a different police station to have it stamped. Then we have to bring that paper back to the original immigration office and finally get an official new start for Emmanuel. You can't make this up. One piece of paper stands between Emmanuel being deported and him having a new home that is official, if minuscule, and a real job, and a legal, albeit temporary, stay permit. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What now?
As we were getting ready for dinner, Jennifer called. She was stuck in Rome. Apparently there is an Italian system whereby if you don't change your pre-paid train ticket an hour before departure, it expires on you. She did not have enough money for a new one. Baby Wisdom was with her, but he was the only one. The Nigerian embassy is kilometers from the train station, and you have to take a bus. The embassy told her to wait so that they could process her passport request. At 9:00 PM she was still waiting. Someone in that office gave her 27 euros to upgrade her ticket after we frantically attempted to send her a ticket through Whatsapp to her crappy, cell phone. That option is not available for all tickets, including the 10:30 PM train. It would have only worked for the midnight train. We tried to find a hotel for her and Wisdom for the night. The phone conversation was 80% of her panting and saying mamma mia over and over again, while we shouted at her over the noisy crowd of bus passengers. We probably sounded like the farm animals yelling instructions to Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, but none of us come out as very appealing in that metaphor so forget it. Although, it is not inaccurate. 

She got on that 10:30 train, upgraded her ticket and emojiied me that they got home in one piece at 3 AM.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Stampede
Today we woke up even earlier and got to the questura even before Emmanuel got there. I greeted some of the crowd in pidgin English and played a 2face song that Emmanuel and I like on blast to keep everyone's spirits up. I saw a guy who arrived before me not push to get to the front of the line. He let people keep passing him, but when it was almost time for the office to open, he went past them all to the door. I asked him what number he was in line and if I was immediately after him. His face let me know he was being slick. I told him, whatever your plan, I'm with you because I am not playing the rookie today. A man with a six or seven year old boy cut me in line and later told me that he was going to be late for work. It was then that I started to suspect that we were not going to make an orderly entrance. 


I did see my bald, grumpy, agent, who I love so well, arrive for work. He was happy because tomorrow the office is closed for Italian liberation day. I called out to him with a giant smile on my face, You are going to be so proud of me today! I am so well prepared! He chuckled. So that was a good, positive sign.

This was after one of the officer's cleared everybody out of the waiting room.

When I registered T for Huggs pre-school in Park Slope, I got up at dawn to be the first in line. I told everyone who came after me and my friend Sherry, we are crazy number one, you are crazy number two and so on. But due to the array of languages spoken, I did not try to line everyone up. When the doors opened people started pushing and the officer told the crowd that if they did not enter one by one, she would close up shop. One man in a blue puffy jacket who came late to the party, but seemed to represent an Albanian or Romanian family, was violently pushing all the people around him. I told him to calm down, and not to hurt the woman in front of him and  keep encouraging the crowd as loudly as I could to remain peaceful. Suffice to say, about three dozen people entered in front of me, even though I should have entered at about number 17 if things were honest and at about number two, if I was sneaky. It looked like we were going to have about a three hour wait. I turned to Emmanuel. I got it, he said. Somehow that man surfed the crowd and ended up with ticket number eight! The man who entered with me had number 35, to give you an idea of the difference. 

I am thinking of taking up stomach crochet ..

We waited for about an hour and my stomach turned into knots. I saw the two African guys ahead of us were having trouble communicating so I went up to translate for them. I was successful in making the bald agent's life easier and then it was my turn. He gave us one paper to fill out, but told us that to do what we need to do for Emmanuel, which is called a C3, we need to come back Wednesday. My boss won't let me skip work that day, so, hopefully Courtney will go with Fraser and flirt in my place with whoever the inspector in charge turns out to be. We have to get it done on Wednesday or the job won't be there any more. I feel tortured. But we are making progress. 



We watched this little girl make friends with everyone in the room, including two nuns, with whom she spoke perfect Italian. She asked them why they wore glasses, and then, as a follow up questions and without malice, she asked them why they were old.


Emmanuel and I filled out the form in the car. And now back to something different, new, and exciting: more waiting.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

House Hunting on a dime

I know they say don't count your chickens before they're hatched, but we had to go find Emmanuel a place to sleep, in the event that his legal woes get solved and he can start work at the restaurant this week. 


Martina was my personal training client at the gym where I worked about four years ago. She was always nice, but she definitely seemed to think that paying for the sessions was half the battle to getting the results. Many times we just kind of chatted on the mats or she watched me do the exercises. Anyway, we remained friends on fb. We never called or messaged each other. Out of the blue, she called to ask what she could do to help the refugees in our group. She told me that she knew a man who owns a bar in Viareggio. He, in turn, knew of a lady with a room to rent. 

Flash foward to us waiting outside of the train station to pick up Emmanuel, whose train was running late. Then we got the address wrong, and when I called the house owner, she already seemed to be in a bad mood. Her tone on the phone could best be described as suspiscious. 

The room she has for rent has no kitchen and is right on a busy street in the middle of this bustling seaside town. When I say on the street, I mean you push open the door from the sidewalk and there is a bed. It is a popular area with tourists and so all the locals charge the most to spend even a night in a room, any room. Nevertheless, the room is clean and the water and electricity our included in the price. It is a straight shot of a ride on a bicycle from there to the restaurant. You can make it in 15 to 20 minutes. With a little convincing, she eventually agreed that she would sign a hospitality letter, which would be a great thing for Emmanuel to have, as it helps to legitimize him. 

I would say flash forward, but the lady, who seems to really be quite a sweet person, was unaffected by the fact that Emmanuel doesn't understand much Italian, and she kept us listening to stories for over an hour. Whatever floated her boat. We are supposed to touch base again on Wednesday night. Tomorrow it is back to the police station to try yet again to get Emmanuel a temporary document with which he can start work.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tupac on the train to altopascio


This week has been to stress what The Real Housewives of New York has been to botox, if you follow me.

Last Easter when I just wanted to relax, our neighbor who smokes like a chimney and is maybe 60 years old asked me if I would do an energy treatment on her arm when she saw me in the stairway. I forgot then and there that she usually asks me because her back hurts. She has a swishy Lucchese accent when she speaks, and I don't understand every word. We made an appointment for later in the afternoon. Then T turned to me and said, you know she is afraid she is having a heart attack, right? So I ran down the stairs after her and told her that I would not do an energy treatment for her and that she should go to the hospital. She got mad and stormed off. My brain would not stop replaying the Red Cross CPR videos they make you watch for a certification in first aid where the heart attack patient is always grumpy and in denial before they hit the floor. I could not relax for the next few hours, and so I went to knock on her door. When she opened the door, she smiled at me like she was on drugs and told me she felt all better. That set the tone for the week which was a shit show.

I can not even tell you how many hours I spent on the phone messaging and pleading with Emmanuel's lawyer who, in the hours leading up to our big appointment at the police station, told me he was too busy to do the paperwork, and that, according to him, we had agreed it would be done for the day after. This is nonsense as the entire chain of messages on my Whatsapp account will prove that I had always said we needed him to send the documents in by Thursday. What could I do? Thursday night I woke up at two in the morning in a full on body sweat with heart palpitations. We got up at dawn and F dropped me off at the police station before work. I like to stand at the front door and guard my spot, but Emmanuel insisted that we hang out with the African dudes he knew in the parking lot because they respect the order in which they arrived. I greeted them in Nigerian pidgin English and they looked bemused at me. I played a song for Emmanuel on my cell phone and he had me listen to one half of his headphones because he wanted to play me some of his Tupac. However, at the door was a Caucasian family, maybe Romanian, and when more people who weren't African showed up I told him to come with me to the door to stake out claim on a place. The other African guys stayed out where they were, but Emmanuel saw there was no use fighting me. When I got to the door I started playing peek-a-boo with the Romanian baby. I did not read the sign on the door. I perked up when I saw the bald, grumpy immigration agent arriving for work. He barked at me, the station is closed on Fridays. There is a sign right there on the door. What is wrong with you people?

Great. All that for nothing, and the guy thinks I am illiterate. I had psyched myself up to protest at the front window. My fantasy including leading a chant of the people waiting, chaining myself to the front with a bicycle lock, and crying and fainting, if all else failed. So my adrenalin levels were fairly high and so was the free fall upon hearing the bad news. Here is a photo of Emmanuel and me on the train home, listening to Tupac and someone called Two Face. I gave Emmanuel the bread F made for the police officers and some Easter chocolate from T's English professor to share with his roommate Ali whose ribs stick out. When I got home, I called the chef and explained that this process is killing me. I told him that it physically hurts me to be late with anything because I am the daughter of a psychologist. He laughed and said he would give Emmanuel until next Thursday and that he was onboard and committed to helping him, too. That is a relief. Tomorrow we will see if we can convince a shady lady in Viareggio that my ex-fitness student found to sign a hospitality letter for Emmanuel if he pays 300 euro a month to sleep on her floor and use her bathroom.

All this is going on while I am in full perimenopause and have every symptom that is described on the internet including everything from tits five times their normal size, swelling in all my limbs, migraine headaches, and erratic cycles. Courtney and I have decided to take Tina and Jennifer to the Mary J Blige concert at the Lucca Summer Festival in July. Jennifer had to be convinced to let Cool babysit Wisdom, so even buying her 75 euro concert tickets is a pain in my ass. My fantasy there is that Mary would take a selfie with them and that it would get our group some press and some help. Courtney wants us to hold up a giant sheet, inviting Mary to a gluten free dinner for her crew after the concert. We are officially the Ethel and Lucy of refugee activism.

Emmanuel called to make sure I got off the train at the right stop. Just so you know. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The hard way  
...also known as Italian style.
 
I woke up early on Good Friday, which was a day off work, because a friend of a friend who has been giving the babies some of her left over baby food proposed that she could take me to the civic association where her niece works. Neither of us had high hopes for getting organizational help, but I have learned not to say no to people who have the desire and openness of mind to help the refugees. I waited for her for half an hour at the agreed upon location, but the weather was nice and she has a small child, so it was expected and not a problem. When Patrizia showed up, she was just how I imagined her. We chatted like old friends in the waiting room. When we went in to tell the story of our group members, the man who listened to us looked grim. He said among other things that he didn't believe many key elements such as the money that many of our group members were paid off to waive the right to Italy's protection. If I understood him correctly, he said a few offensive things about not believing anything I learn from people who go to the Nigerian churches. He also offered to print out my group members' histories that he received from our mutual friend who is the director of the catholic charity Caritas in Lucca. I declined. The whole time I was thinking about how I had more and more empathy for Lorena Bobbit. This was not surprising. The surprising part was when Patrizia burst in to tears because she felt so moved by our group members' plight. By the end of the day she had procured the name of a lawyer in walking distance of my house, in case Emmanuel needed more representation. 
 
On the way out in the morning, I bumped into Ehis who begged me for help with his ear pain. He wanted drops from the pharmacy, but I gave him money for my natural ear pain remedy and called his sister-in-law Jennifer to give her the recipe. I also bumped into Ali who, like Emmanuel, was rejected by the refugee commission, but I later learned from Job that the plan for guys like Ali is to survive five more years on the street without getting put on a plane to return to Nigeria because then you can automatically have the opportunity to ask for political asylum for a second time. 
 
We took the baby food from Patrizia and the bags of stuff we picked up from Marina, Geraldine, Karin, Lu, and Valentina and dropped it off for Ezekiel's baby who is due in a few weeks, Freedom, Wisdom, and baby Peace. 
 
Wisdom showed off his walking skills. I told Cool about some possible work interviews and a moving gig he could work two weeks time. Luckily, Jennifer showed F that she had mistakenly hung the bat house we got them to attract bats to eat all their many mosquitoes inside the house instead of outside, as I had instructed. 
 
 
 
 
 
Next we went to Job and Tina's house. Unfortunately, their nasty landlord came to harass them about everything from the placement of their furniture to her suspicion that they have extra people living with them. Well, she's not right about them having twenty. That was a bit of an exaggeration. She asked if we lived there too because she did not figure out that I am the woman she has yelled at on the phone because she passed off the apartment as in perfect condition when there are problems with the windows and the roof from the beginning. From that time, I swore not to get involved with her. Tina muttered under her breath the whole time -- things like, this woman is an idiot and can't she see they are white? Good times. When the landlord left, Tina realized she had paid a bill from Emmanuel's house instead of her own and that they weren't going to make the deadline. It was a stressful afternoon. When I showed her the bags of stuff from the mothers at the schools, she was able to completely change back into a good mood and enter the present moment. It was like a study in transcendental meditation. I thought, I have a lot to learn from this woman. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
At night, Francesco, Emmanuel's lawyer in the south called me and assured me that he would write the statement for Emmanuel's new request for protection. He told me to send him all the paperwork we had, and that I could accompany Emmanuel to the police station to try again next Thursday. He said that Caritas lawyers didn't want to write the letter because they wouldn't get paid by their association to work on strategy, which is paramount to entering uncharted waters. I was very cheered by the fact that he kept his promise of calling me, despite the hour and the fact that it is the start of a holiday weekend. If it doesn't work, Emmanuel will have no right to work and will have to keep begging for another two years, during which time he will have no hope of seeing his son again.
 
How can you refuse this face anything?
 
We ended up paying for the taxi cab that Gabry, the guy from Romania who begs downstairs from our house, needed to go to Germany to buy to start the next chapter of his life. Fingers crossed! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fried and Fritta
 .. here's what I can tell you. The whole deal for Emmanuel is stalled.
 
The lawyers he has from Caritas here and the one he found when he was at the camp in the South don't agree on a strategy for him. The caritas lawyers don't think that a new request for Emmanuel for Italy's protection will be successful. Nor would they send the email called a PEC that he needs for me to accompany him to the police station to give his reasons for needing protection. Without the electronic communication from the part of the lawyer, it is useless for me to go there with my sloppy Italian and try to translate the story of why he really needs political asylum in Italy.
 
While I wasn't there for it myself, I can share F's recounting that Chef Torcigliani is every bit as sweet as we thought he was judging by his crinkly santa claus eyes. He was very kind to Emmanuel and even spoke to him in English. He said that his accountant would try to draw up a work contract. She was put off by the irregular look of Emmanual's stay permit, and was not sure how to proceed. I had no idea how to respond to her and I have to hope that Emmanuel's lawyer named Francesco can figure it out.
 
Stanley and his wife, who are of course not part of the group but part of Cool's family, called to ask for money to pay for the train to Rome to the Nigerian embassy because they need to get their Nigerian passports in order to stay in Italy. Plus, since, this nice woman Marina brought a car full of baby clothes from all the mothers at this elementary school in Lucca, we put the smallest stuff aside for baby Freedom.
 
Jennifer and Cool missed their appointment and wasted the money I gave them for their train tickets because they confused Wisdom's teething pain with something worse and went to the baby doctor instead. I am glad they are such caring parents, but I could have told you it was a teething related cough. 
 
The Caritas lawyers did say they would try to help Peace's mom with her passport issues so that she doesn't have to go back to Nigeria to ask for help from the embassy there, but Tina is terrified that she will be exposed in some way and regret not taking the situation into her own hands. 
 
Just now Francesco wrote me back. I had messaged him, saying, let's not give up, and he responded, I'm not giving up. He said he would try to get back to me tomorrow and I forwarded him the number of the chef's accountant, just in case. 
 
Our letter for the special accomodations we don't need from the SAT College Board was delivered on time; but, it's a week after our customer service request and we still don't know if the airbnb accomodation that I promised five girls from T's class in a crazy, excessive gesture of girly love is a real house or an attempt to defraud us. Several of the girls want to leave a week later than we originally discussed. And, by now, the pickings in the areas we wanted to go are very slim. 
 
I am fried like a bombolone:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Knox factor

Every so often when I get in over my head in Italy, I try not to do anything too crazy out of fear that I will end up like Amanda Knox, the American student who during her academic experience abroad was imprisoned for years and was later found innocent in the death of one of her roommates. She did do a couple of weird things after she was accused, including making out with a friend at the lingerie store Intimissimi and doing a cartwheel at the police station. These are both things that I wouldn't do, but that I am afraid I would do under stress. When I lived in New York the fear was that I would get naked and scream obscenities on a table at Barnes & Nobles. I wouldn't really do that, but I do make other unusual life choices. Like "adopting" six refugees and their babies and taking responsibility for things completely outside my control and, often, as a result, getting myself in trouble. 


So one of the papers we need today might possibly have been technically expired. I knew I couldn't change that document because it would be a serious crime. So I didn't change it. I swear I didn't. But it might possibly have gotten just a little speck of spit on it.  A little. By accident. And now it is a little hard to read one of the numbers. It's not like I did a cartwheel after learning about someone's death. Anyway, T did an amazing job translating and fighting with the bald guy at the police station in Pistoia. The man said that as far as they are concerned, his original request for protection is still in effect due to a time lag in bureaucracy; and so, technically Emmanuel still has the right to work. Emmanuel had left his document on a train, and when he declared it lost officially a month or so ago, he could not remember his address. The bald guy did not like seeing that under the space for address it says non si ricorda/this dope doesn't remember so he sent F and T back to the local police precinct to get it stamped. He did not even notice the spit. But we have to go back on Thursday. 

T as a lawyer in training

Because I was trapped at work, I explained the situation to all of my classes. My second to the last class of the day was given the translation assignment of writing my English letter to the chef, explaining our predicament, into perfect Italian and then emailing it to me. Ain't I a stinker?


We are still not out of the woods, but for now we are all free and relatively legal. Ish. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Blocked and shocked, but not completely stopped
We woke up to find that our city was not just blockaded off to cars, as we expected because of the G7 summit, but that it was blocked to foot traffice, as well. We had to walk a long ways and then we had to show our documents just to exit Lucca's city walls. 


For the duration of the entire car trip to pick up Peace and her parents, T consented to speak to me in her fluent Italian, which is a rarity. Now I know why. She corrected practically every sentence that came out of my mouth. This can only mean that my students and friends have just gotten used to me and are complete fakers who are too polite to tell me the truth. 

T at work

We picked up the baby and met Courtney and Emmanuel at the police station in Pistoia. Emmanuel got there early to get a ticket number for the line. As we arrived so did a parade of fire engines and they proceeded to block off all the entrances and exits to cars for some sort of drill. I hopped into Courtney's car and we drove to the Caritas lawyers' office. They told me that the original lawyer's plan would not work. Then they told me they did not have an hour to do the paperwork for us. I don't know why they didn't tell me before. They said that If Emmanuel had a job, they could correct the situation for his stay permits. But, of course, it goes without saying, that he can't take the job if he doesn't first have the right to Italy's protection for political asylum. The horrible part of this story is that the truth is that his participation in a political party caused his house to be burned and we have the photographic proof. Unfortunately, he was under too much shock from the death of his wife to recount this story in English or in Italian at the time. His English has improved over time, but when I met him it was very broken, pidgin English. 

I didn't take Emmanuel's or my picture today because we looked a bit rough around the eyes. I did dress up and wear pearls, which I believe, along with F's tie, helped us to get past the blockade a little quicker, though. T was wearing jeans and they held her there for fifteen minutes while they checked out her birth date and address. 

In short, Courtney, Emmanuel and I went to the police station armed with a whole lot of nothing. If you discount F's homemade bread. The older gentleman agent who knows my face and F's bread was very embarrassed by the bread because Mondays is the crowded day and there were too many witnesses. He was very angry at me for bringing it, and he told me to give it to the hungry crowds instead. There is a heavyset guard named Filippo who kept smiling at Courtney and me. He asked me if we achieved our objective and I mouthed no. Then I looked skyward and interlocked my fingers in a sign of prayer. He told me that God is not involved in these decisions, so there was no use praying. He smiled. Later he took me behind the side door and forced the agent to accept the bread. In the end, the agent spoke to our friend Valentina, who could not be there in person. I had some of the documents he wanted in my phone, but they were not printed out. He told me that we needed to print them out for tomorrow. We thought about printing them out at a copy shop and insisting for today, but we know that it always takes two tries and sometimes coming back the same day just makes people angry. 

Peace setting the bar for classy, stylish babies fighting bureaucracy all over the globe.

I left Peace, who was not feeling well after her vaccine, with T. T translated for Peace's parents to explain their passport problems. It turns out that Peace's mother had to disguise her identity as a single woman so she could pass as a married woman to avoid being raped on her way out of Africa. The lawyers said that they would try to obtain a rejection of her request for a new passport in writing from the embassy so that she does not have to go back to Africa to get one. Can I just say one more time what an insane practice it is to make refugees who had to flee their countries for safety issues, go back to get a passport just so that they can renew their stay permits in the country that is supposed to be protecting them?

Tomorrow I have to teach English at the company, so T will go take Emmanuel back to the police station with F along with the missing documents to beg for the permission to work in one day's time, even though that permission is not granted without a twenty day wait period as a general rule. 

To Be Continued . . . 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Not Allowed to Stay

We were so excited when we got the call out of the blue from the chef, saying Emmanuel could start work next week. He was over the moon with joy. My biggest problem was finding him a new home. After asking everyone we know and making calls off of every real estate site, we continue to come up short. I miss that stressful problem; the only solution to which was either to re-finish Courtney's very unfinished basement and turn it into a sublet, or, more likely, to have F shuttle him back and forth to his old place at midnight every night. Then I got the email yesterday. It was from our Caritas lawyer, who, in turn, had heard from his original and cold hearted lawyer. My eyes scanned the page until I hit the words mi spiace, I'm sorry. At first, I didn't know if it would even have any impact that he had lost his third level appeal case for Italy's protection. His nice lawyer in the south of Italy told us that day would come and that he had a hail Mary play which would depend on Emmanuel's ability to get a job. We were so close. I texted the first lawyer who had represented him for the appeal. I begged her to let me know where are plans for his new job stood. She told me she was eating lunch. I continued to text her. Is he allowed to work? She wrote back: He is not allowed to stay. 


I couldn't get to the nicer lawyer for another few hours, during which time I cried so hard that my sinuses swelled up and I couldn't see straight. He told me that in southern Italy, you can go into the police station and demand a new start, but he doesn't know how it works up here. Well, it doesn't work like that. I called the Caritas lawyers because we already have an appointment with them for Tina's passport nightmare on Monday. I begged Roberto to let us bring Emmanuel. I wrote the chef, who I had told in advance of Emmanuel's regularly scheduled appointment where he was supposed to pick up his beautiful, new permesson on Tuesday. I told him that we changed the appointment to Monday so that there would be fewer work interruptions. He was annoyed. This is how it stands. We have to pray that the Caritas lawyers can fill out the paperwork so that Emmanuel can get a new start at the police station that same morning. Otherwise, I can't in good conscience give him the job. I will have to find someone else, who still will not have anywhere to live. 

 

At first the nicer lawyer told me not to bring Emmanuel to the police for his scheduled appointment on Tuesday because they could arrest and deport him. Then he told me I should bring him to the police on Monday to ask for a new start. Obviously, we will bring more of the fresh, homemade bread we bring every time to maintain a good relationship with the Questura. Emmanuel will have to go early and get a number to increase our chances of not getting turned away when we finally show up. F has work. We have to go in two cars and Courtney will have to drive one of them. T will have to go to speak Italian to the lawyers for Tina's passport situation while I feed her information from the road, if I have to leave with Emmanuel. 
 

Thank goodness we made a connection with this woman Valentina for baby clothes. She has legal experience and she is going to try to meet us at the police station, but her mother is in the hospital after a cancer operation and she has a small, feverish daughter at home, so I am not counting on it. Nevertheless, this angel managed to arrange a baby supplies drive at the school, and at least ten mothers are donating stuff to the babies. 





It was terrible to have to break the news to Emmanuel in person. He had finally had good news, and I had to be the one to take it away from him. He fell apart less than I did. He told the story of a guy he knows who had his same situation and a good lawyer and made it. Things are harder now, though. His brother Job, Peace's papĂ , told me that if you are not dead as a refugee, you still have hope. Emmanuel is not dead, he told me. When I told Paul, he said no problem. I said, oh Paul. He said, we always say no problem, but I get it. This time it is a problem. But still, he said, no problem. 


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

A Crisis or 11
We got a letter saying that the house I reserved for T and a possible crew of five girls from her school may not exist and that we may be victims of some kind of wrongdoing. There were no reviews of the fabulous and not too expensive house and the listing has since disappeared from the airbnb site. We are waiting for the results of their investigation. 

Group Vacation House meeting where I propose a possibly fictional stunning vacation home to four girls I hardly know. T is the one distancing herself from me and looking sceptical ...  

All of the boxes of bats have been given out. We can get a house for bats from the Italian home depot/Bricco, but then we have to have an "if we build it, they will come" mentality and hope that no one is too upset by the presence of bats if they do come. Except for the millions of mosquitoes that live at Cool and Jennifer's house. We hope those get eaten. 

my helpful student Emanuele sent me this ..

and this! In case, you were wondering what a bat house looks like.

F has to drive to Montecatni and Pescia while I am work tomorrow because there is a G7 conference beginning on Sunday and our whole city is going to be shut down. I have already warned all the refugees not to come in on those days, and I hope they listen. The police/vigili will be everywhere. I am anxious enough about when they check all of our documents, which are perfectly in order by the way. We have to park outside the walls and it is going to be very inconvenient. Jennifer needs money for her passport, Tina needs a laundry line to hang her clothing on, Job nees a bicycle to get around on, Freedom's mom needs laundry soap, Gabry needs money to buy his dream taxi cab. It is A LOT. Did I mention the bat house? Because they need that, too. 

We missed the deadline to register T's insulin pump with the SAT board and so now we must return to New York for her to take the test in August. Also in order for her to take the subject SAT test which she needs to get into college, we have to get the permission forms into them by April 14th and today is April 4th. Total panic because the mail service is not dependable here and they refuse to email us the forms or do anything remotely modern or helpful for us. Hopefully, my mother can save the day by receiving the mail at her house. It could not be more stressful. 

I wrote to the lady suggested by my ex student from Brooks Running Company who looks like princess Grace of Monaco and has pictures on FB of herself participating in some charitable activities in Africa with children because I need to make contact with an Italian Rotary Club member in order to qualify our group for aid from an American Rotary Club, but she has not responded to my messages. Courtney and I have decided that we either want her to take us shopping, give us all her old clothing, adopt us, or just let us stalk her. If that is not too creepy. Please call me! If that is not too desperate. It is only thirty thousand dollars or so on the line here. .

We did not hear back from the chef in Camaiore about whether he will hire Job, Emmanuel, or Cool. 

I wish I were:

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Networking with the crazy woman
ARCI Pistoia
 
I have had not a one normal human interaction this week. First of all, Jack Douglas gave me a pretty daunting challenge to get myself into an association and to present ourselves to an Italian Rotary Club in the hopes that we could get a grant to vastly improve the futures of many African refugees. 

After asking around, it has become clear that Italian Rotary Clubs are very exclusive professional groups with right leaning political tendencies who probably are not at all interested in doing anything that would benefit refugees; moveover, you can not just show up to one of their meetings without an invitation.

Cut to me giving a twenty minute speech about my dilemma not once, but a total of ten times -- before each of my English classes at Fabio Perini, the Italian converting line manufacturer for paper making. I was convinced that one of my students would have a cousin or a hairdresser or a lover who is in a Rotary Club. You will think I am making this up, but the last person to enter the last class during the tenth time I made my pitch said that he thought he could hook me up. He turns out to be the organizer of the Lucca Marathon. I then in flurry of desperate phone messages got a meeting with Alberto at ARCI Pistoia. ARCI is where I would work if I had the possibility of using my Social Work license in Italy, which I don't. They are the hippiest, anti-establishment, of delightful grass roots organizations. F asked me what I thought the team would be like if they were stoned, and I told him I didn't have to engage my imagination very much to picture that. At all. 

Alberto

Last night we drove out to their offices. We had to wait half an hour, which is like thirty seconds in Italy, but unfortunately it was the end of a stressful day where I had to do physical therapy on Paul's arm which was wrenched from washing dishes at Satura restaurant non-stop (he still hasn't gotten paid, and the kitchen chief yells at them constantly!) I taught him the rolling massage technique and gave him the clothing that Geraldine donated for him, including several suits and at least a dozen dress shirts. Anyway, during that time all of the Italian language drained out of my body and I was left with scribble scrabble for the meeting. I thought we were waiting for just Alberto, but we also were meeting with the head of the whole organization who is a kind of intimidatingly frank woman, named Silvia. But I liked her. At the end of the meeting, I friended them all on social media because I think that maybe photos will speak better than my Italian in convincing them about how commited we are to the cause. Silvia told us that the association has complete financial transparency and that we can become members easily with an application form and a 10 euro dues payment. She is happy to present at a Rotary Club, but they have absolutely no contacts with any and thinks I will have to be the one to convince them. 

me, having all the Italian drain out of me.

None of this is normal. 

And once again, when I explained that our group members have to beg to survive as outlaws, despite the fact that they are legal and have Italy's protection, they did not dive into action or have any real reaction. They are immersed in the world of saving young refugee women from a life of prostitution and abuse, and begging for a living doesn't seem like a big deal to them in comparison with the stories they hear on a regular basis. Also they pointed out that the NYT reporter won't be here until around June, if she keeps to coming before the municipal elections, because they have been moved back. 

Today I am anxious because T has invited five of her friends from school over and has asked me to do a presentation whereby I invite all of them on a week long vacation in July to the Amalfi coast. Not kidding. I have to watch five hours of Italian reality tv to prepare, and it is going to be a lot of estrogen any way you slice it. 


Peace's mother called me out of the blue to ask me for the Italian word for ladder. I told her and then called her back ten seconds later. Good thing I did since her dear husband wanted to use it to climb up on their roof to attach a clothes' line. I told her that I was working too hard to get him a job to have him die now. That is why we have to buy them a drying lack and deliver it ASAP. Also their laundry machine that they found on the street and spent a day's worth of earnings to transport to their house does not work. They never tested it. They want us to fix it. Magically, I suppose. Also I still need Courtney to convince her neighborhood committee to give her a second box of bats to bring to Cool's house to resolve their dire mosquito problems. As I said, not normal. At all.