Saturday, May 27, 2017

Emmanuel was fired. He apparently had a bad attitude. 

Emmanuel does not answer his phone, and we don't know where he is.

The chef is so angry that he has yet to answer my message, asking if he will give a day's audition to Job or Cool. 

The Caritas lawyers have now not answered four emails, four messages, and four phone calls so I don't know if Tina will have to go back to Nigeria to try to get a Nigerian passport. 

Enjoy these photos while we wait for the other foot to fall ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

lawyered up  
We took Ali and Joshua and Tina and Peace to the lawyer that one of the donation givers told me about very near where we live. The name Micol is a little unusual, but I was still shocked that this Micol is the same one who was a teacher with me at Happy Gym when I first moved to Lucca. She was teaching fitness to earn money while she was studying law, I guess. Anyway, she is not only way nicer than any immigration lawyer we could dream to find for ourselves, but she is good friends with the lady who the court assigned to be Ali's lawyer. In fact, that lady was her teacher. She does not seem to have a ton of experience with the thorny legal questions that we brought her, but at least she is easy to speak with and will do her best to get some answers for us. 

It turns out that Tina does not hate me, but that she has not slept for three weeks because Peace has become a little night owl. I did the full circle move of ordering her the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book by Dr. Marc Weissbluth on amazon that saved my life when T was a baby. I am teaching her about sleep schedules. No wonder she is so tired, she does not put the baby to bed until midnight and then stays up from 2 AM until dawn with her. 

Today Peace looked totally happy, while Tina was falling over with exhaustion. She babbled through the whole lawyer's visit and showed off her new teeth. Peace also tried on Ali's hat. We thought she looked very hip hop.

I asked the chef how Emmanuel is doing at work and he did not respond. I am not going to read to much into it. Well, I am. But then I will try not to think about it. Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of F trying to be the cool prof as he went out for a beer with one of his favorite classes of English students.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

pass it on, passaparola

Today I am in bed all day doing nothing but watching Italian television. I found Amore, pensaci tu! which is 12 episodes long and is a good consolation for me now that Tutti Pazzi per Amore is long gone. T finds my viewing habits low brow. I don't care.

Courtney did her part and went and had her birthday dinner at Il Merlo, the restaurant where Emmanuel works. She profited from this happy circumstance by talking up Emmanuel and the fine food establishment a destra e a manco. God bless her food loving heart. 

Emmanuel, in turn, seems to be keeping his chatty landlord happy and will drink all the coffee and listen to all the Italian she wants to offer him. F will take him back to the questura on Tuesday, his day off, to see if his new permesso has arrived. 

Taxi, anyone?

Also, we got good news from Gabry. Thanks to us and our neighbors across the way, he was able to finally buy that taxi he has long been dreaming of. If you see this, send him a good thought. Because, you know, passaparola. 

nella brace/into the frying pan
Just as Emmanuel promised to try his best at the new job we got him, a friend of his who is also Paul's best friend - Ali - got himself arrested. Ali is in the same legal predicament as Emmanuel was a few weeks ago because he has gotten two of his appeals for political asylum rejected and is onto his third. For this reason he does not have a valid stay permit. He was caught begging without the right documents. The vigili took him to the police station and then they handcuffed him. He had a panic attack because he didn't want the cuffs because in his mind he didn't want them to think he was a criminal; so he resisted the officers and got written up for that, too. If we don't get the landlord to write him a hospitality letter, the lawyer that I got him through a friend for an appointment Wednesday won't be able to help him at all. He must go before the judge on the first of June for the criminal charges. 

Ali kept me waiting hours for him to come on my day off and have me read the papers they gave him and make copies of them. I had to explain that I only do this work on a schedule. Group members know that they have to honor the times we give, but he is not even in our group. It is just that Paul told me he needed me to help his best friend. After I made the copies I gave him a fake doctor's note with 20 euros hidden in it so he could eat without begging for a stretch. 

All of this happened while the donation picnic was looming. The weather reports were different on every single website. I was fully stressed trying to figure out what to do. If I had thought it through better, I would have realized that the even hint of an idea of a rain plan would mean that almost no Italians would come. We had made a rain plan for the bookstore cafe, but then at the meeting time, the sky was fairly clear and the sun was out. I waited by myself out there for about 25 minutes. The group of six that did show up were at the wrong spot. I reached out to Simonetta, and she made a massive effort in between errands for her own kids and brought a bag of shoes to boot. 

Jennifer and Tina took the train and F met them there to take them to where I had set up the food and the blowing bubbles for the kids. About one quarter of the people who said they would come came, but the people who came were really really sweet. Two ladies told me that I could email them a list of things that the families needed. Others, like Stefania and Marco, whose son and daughter are holding Peace in that killer photo, brought lots of groceries and stuff for the babies. All the sudden the sky got dark. I got umbrellas and baby stroller covers at the same Chinese market where I had gotten the bubbles, but we were not prepared for how fast the storm came on and the fact that the strollers did not fold up. 

At the end, Marco and his son were the only ones left with us and we had to get the stuff from his car. The men could not fold the stroller and managed to put it back together backwards. Marco wanted some guidance, but F would not speak Italian to him, so they were both standing there staring at me while F flapped his arms about. They took off to deal with transfering the stuff from one car to another.

Tina and Jennifer did not want to be separated from their strollers to enter the car, which left us all on foot and me in the rain trying to cover all of them while I got soaked. I got them to a bike shop where I begged the men to fix the stroller, which they eventually did after 20 minutes of effort. Then I had to run into my old hair parlor, where embarrassingly enough I don't get my hair done anymore, and beg them for tape to hold those cheap stroller covers together with. I had to bite the duck tape in the rain with my teeth. Then I pushed Wisdom's stroller because he was crying and Jennifer had to carry him on her back in a wrap. Peace started crying so we had to push two empty strollers 20 blocks to the train station. When we got there, it stopped raining.

I can only imagine that the groceries and donations got to their houses ahead of them with F nice and dry and in style. I am quite sure that we could have done better. And any solution would have been better than that one. Tina was so mad she would hardly look at me at the end. And then I walked home like a wet cat in a very fabulous walk of shame. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Behind door number 4
Unfortunately, the answer was behind door number four. Emmanuel felt that he was being taken advantage of because he is asked to work 14 hours a day for about 3 euros an hour. And this is understandable. That is how it works, though. It is normal here. There is a minimum salary for dishwashers; and it is a base rate, not an hourly rate. The hours required are long. He has to bicycle back and forth to work and back and forth for the afternoon break. He lives in a tiny room without a kitchen. I get it.

On the other hand, we invested a lot of money and time to get him this job. Better or other jobs, without exageration, do not exist. Without this job, he will get deported. This job is the only way he can ever live with his son while he is young. It is between this job and begging on the street, which is not lucrative or legal. I did not invent the reality. Emmanuel is angry and surprised and so is the chef. As a situation, it is not great. We gave him a pep talk and suggested that he view it as being in the military. He has to do it or he is out. He has to demonstrate a certain dedication and loyalty to the chef and it must show not only in his performance, but in his attitude. 
Lightening bolts and whatnot

Yesterday was not fun. I have had this cold with a migraine three different times in the last two weeks.

Early in the evening, T looked at her SAT ticket and realized that the college board had changed the location of her test in June for the third time without notifying us first. We had already cancelled airbnb reservations and made new ones. We had reconciled ourselves to the fact that we would have to drive three hours to a test center that we did not choose because the one nearer our house would not accept a student with diabetes who would be wearing an insulin pump and might need to check her blood sugar during the test. The way we kept finding the changes was from changes to her computerized ticket and not via email or phone call. Two phone calls to the accommodations department that included lots of being on hold and trying to maintain a level voice happened. I finally got one agent who was so nice that I told her I loved her. Because I do. I love you, agent 21115. She said that they were working to grant our original request this whole time, but there was not great communication between two of their offices and there was a failure to notify us of what was happening. Also, there are only a certain number of spaces for students who need accommodations at any given center; but students drop out and give up those spaces, if they change their mind about test dates. The test is in two weeks.

In the midst of all that, I got a call from the chef who hired Emmanuel. He said that Emmanuel was not the bolt of lightening that I had advertised him to be. In fact, he was a slow worker who needed too much instruction. The chef said he was annoyed that Emmanuel asked for Sunday off to go to mass, when he knows that Tuesday is the day the restaurant is closed. He said he did not think the job placement was going to work out and that I should tell Emmanuel that he was not doing a good job. I was completely taken aback. I could not reach Emmanuel on the phone. I called Job to talk to his brother in Nigerian about it and explain. Emmanuel called me after midnight, but I had the phone turned off because I suspected he would and I needed to sleep. I don't know what to think. 

It could be a language and communication problem.

It could be that the chef wanted our incentive money, but never intended to keep Emmanuel. But then why would he publicly like the photos I posted? That doesn't make sense. Also I don't think he would give me the courtesy call to say he was disappointed in Emmanuel, if it was part of some big plot or scheme.

It could be that Emmanuel is being thorough, but not fast enough.

It could be that Emmanuel thought with a job contract, he was not at risk of getting fired so when he was tired or hungry, maybe he gave in to that.

It could be a big transition for him from begging on the street to working 14 hours a day and riding 6 km on a bicycle between the four trips back and forth from his new lodgings. 

It could be that Emmanuel feels taken advantage of, considering the number of hours work in comparison to the pay, and so he was trying to exercise some degree of strength in the situation. 

Whatever it is, I hope that it doesn't lead to him getting fired. I keep repeating to myself that some things are just outside my control. I wanted to help this group of people, but I am not responsible for them. I can only do so much. But I can't lie. It is weighing on me and F a lot. It would be a blow, if Emmanuel lost the job in the first month. Today and tomorrow morning he has off. Tomorrow he wants to have a talk face to face with F because phone communication is not very clear. Well, readers, this is a blog and not a fairytale. I can't promise it all works out in the end. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mini Vacation
F and I escaped to Parma and Bologna for a brief, but much needed vacation. We also decided that Parma is where we are going to live after T goes to university. We stayed in a little tower apartment with a cool terrace and jacuzzi tub. The guy was nice enough, but the towels were scratchy and there was no wine or extra pillows for the  rather inflated price. I thought we were good guests so I was surprised to hear the host yelling at me from my cell phone on the car ride home. It turned out he thought I was a courrier who had failed to deliver some vases. In my exhaustion, I thought he was mad that I had forgotten to flush the toilet. I kept saying, but Riccardo, it was just pee. No, not really. I just kept saying, non capisco, non capisco .. until he realized he had the wrong number.

Before we left, F charmed Emmanuel's landlady Franca with a mother's day bouquet and got her to agree to letting him have a mini fridge and a microwave, while I hid around the corner bra-less. I immediately went bra shopping in Parma. It is a long and hormonal story. We ate nachos and looked out at the rain. We drove to Bologna and realized that we are no longer big city people. Parma is the right size for us. We want to work at the University there.
Emmanuel proudly wearing his restaurant jacket.
So Emmanuel is happier than we've ever seen him. His whole body hurts from working so hard and riding 6 km on his bike every day, but he is happy. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The List
The list of things I have to do to go on a 24 hour vacation outside of Lucca:

1. Make an appointment for Tina at Caritas to get baby food.
2. Make an appointment for Jennifer to reschedule Widsom's vaccinations that he missed.
3. Give Job a peace sign necklace made out of a skateboard. (I couldn't resist!)
4. Give Cool a coconut cake F made him for his birthday today.
5. Buy a rug, a mini fridge, a microwave, a bicycle vest, a mosquito net for Emmanuel.
6. Get a bouquet of flowers for Emmanuel's landlady and give her a hundred euro for electricity for said devices.
7. Take an imaginary valium.
8. Leave two pitchers of coffee for T.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We DID it, Emmanuel!   

At times like this, you just think God Bless Everyone. And I do think that. But, if I am being honest, I also have to send just a gigantic vaffanculo to the lawyer who handled his original case who told me that Emmanuel was going to be deported and could not stay in Italy. I am glad we didn't listen to you because now he has a work contract that he signed today. It happened right after I nagged the living cavolo out of the Chef's accountant. F went with him while I was teaching. They signed an 11 page work contract. Then I got a hold of the new landlady and made an appointment with her. While I finished up some of my final tests at Fabio Perini, Job helped Emmanuel pack up his things, and F loaded them into our car. We then moved him into his new little house and set his alarm clock, so he won't oversleep. F did a practice run with him on his bike so that he could know how to ride from the new house to the new job. We have to pick up a few things for him like a microwave and a fridge, but he is basically set. Now he just has to become a really excellent dishwasher and win his second try at getting political asylum. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Emmanuel cried with joy. It was pretty amazing. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Baby steps all around

After we got Emmanuel his precious attestato nominativo, a document which will buy him some time and possibly a new start, we thought we had it made in the shade. I let the chef, the chef's accountant, and Emmanuel's lawyer know the good news and sent them the proof. And then nothing. No one got back to me. The next day I got the stomach flu and felt like I was in giving birth without drugs kind of pain for about 15 hours. I also ruined my chance at a weekend getaway to Bologna with F that I had really been looking forward to. While I was sick, Stanley called and asked me for money. He is not in the group; but I was there for the birth of his baby. He got called to sign a potential work contract in Sweden, but has not paid his rent in three months. I can be fine with his asking, if he can be fine with me saying no. That is our deal. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I can't. But he started telling me about how I had to do it for the baby and pleading in a dramatic way that was unnecessary. We told him it was the last time. The thing is, we are not going to block him in a moment where he might be able to become independent. It is true that they are a young couple, but they come off as the least sincere in their dealing with us out of everyone. 

It was Tina's birthday on the day I was ill. I sang to her in the morning on the phone, but then today we went to drop off gifts for Peace and Wisdom and the clothes for their moms. Jennifer was feuding with her landlord when we got there. We stayed out of it. He has never fixed the plumbing. Tina is also feuding with her landlord over the faulty plumbing, which the water and gas company say is making her utility bill double. The landlady won't fix it because she says that the extra guests they have are using up the water and gas (not true). It is a mess. F made Tina a coconut cake and we designed a poster of all the baby's photos since she was born. Then we got it framed. The best gift of the day was from this nice lady named Lynda Latke who donated a beautiful, dark skinned baby doll to Peace. Peace is giving kisses and scooching/crawling around the house. She has a wonderful fake laugh that is part cough; she uses it to get us all in a good mood. What can I say? It works!

Finally, the lawyer called last night and said that the accountant had been busy, but they have a phone meeting set up for 10 AM on Monday. After that, Emmanuel can get his work contract, move, and start a new phase of his life. We have to hope that the accountant is as precise as she appears to be, because at 10:05, Francesco, the lawyer, has to be in session with a judge. I have never waited so much in my life. The last time I was this impatient, I was pregnant with T and had already imagined every instant of her life up through college.

Happy Birthday, Tina!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Papers in hand
Courtney & Emmanuel in front of the questura
It is all a blur. Emmanuel was first on line at the questura, but somebody cut him in line and proceeded to have a yelling fight with our immigration agent guy. F worried he would be in a bad mood, but the bald old grump was nice (for him). The female agent called Emmanuel's name and would not let F or Courtney accompany him to translate, but luckily the woman doing the paperwork does not speak Nigerian accented English, so she did the least and asked almost no questions, according to Emmanuel. It worked to our advantage. 
Then Courtney met the inspector and convinced him that for the chef's sake he should fill out the C3 forms to open a new political asylum request for Emmanuel. They did it and fingerprinted him and told him to come back in ten working days for the hard copy of his new, temporary stay permit. There was a shaky bit of the negotiation process about Emmanuel's right to work in which the inspector answered Courtney's question with the Italian hand gesture that means so-so. In other words, everything that Emmanuel is going through legally is largely unchartered territory because, if it was not such a difficult and expensive ordeal, they probably would have put him on a plane back to where he started by now. Since no one wants refugees wandering around undocumented and begging, it behooves everybody if he has a job, although some people would rather that he not do too well, either. It hurts my brain to think about that. 
After a day of teaching back to back classes, I went to Viareggio to deliver bread and cash to the old lady who is going to host Emmanuel. She signed the papers we needed her to sign, but then she asked us to deliver groceries to her daughter in Massarosa. We were not in a position to object. She called me hours later to tell me about a book reading she went to and to say that she found the bread a tad salty. I suspect Emmanuel will have his ear talked off, but maybe they will become dear friends. 
Right before brushing my teeth, the lawyer finally responded that he will coach the chef's accountant about how to make up a work contract with these unusual, but totally legal, documents that we have got him in the hail mary of all hail marys that has ever existed. Amen. 
I will not breathe properly until I see that man in an apron, washing dishes. But today went well.