Friday, June 23, 2017

Real Talk
After feeling real dread about being Joshua's only link to legal counsel because I don't want the responsibility of his life on my conscience, I realized what I had to do. I gave him the lawyer's phone number and address and I explained to him what he had to do for himself. It turns out that he does not have a permesso di soggiorno/stay permit anymore not because it was sent to Genova, but because, I suspect, he has also lost, unbeknownst to him, his third level of appeal in his plea for political asylum. 

Later I bumped into him on the street. We had a very lovely and long conversation that took me by surprise.  I have had a negative impression him because sometimes he seems unreliable and Tina said that he showed up from the camps at their old house begging for shelter without any warning and without really helping them with rent. We have seen him walking around town some days talking to himself. I wasn't sure that he wasn't hearing voices.

 All I can say is that today he was very sweet. I explained about the promises I made to the group and that he is not in the group -- that it was a question of number and that it was nothing personal. He asked me what happened with Emmanuel. I explained that I still care about Emmanuel, but that I don't think that I could help him anymore with practical or emotional things for a series of reasons. He asked me if I would let him have Emmanuel's old job. I told him that my credibility with the chef is ruined, but, since he was very rational and logical about it, I gave him the address. I said that language problems aside, if I were him I would camp outside the lawyer's office and the restaurant. I told him I would try behaving in a dignified way while demonstrating that I would do my part, but that I needed help. I would offer to help the chef clean the floors or do little jobs for him for free each day to earn his trust. If I were him I would wait for the lawyer and ask for her help in person if I could not make myself understood on the phone.  He thought that was a good plan and said that he would try. He told me that he hoped that I understood that my reward for helping the group would come from God not from results. I told him my reward was that everyone was relatively well and better than they were before. I don't want anything else, but I also can't help them with big things anymore.

Jennifer called and told me that they found a new house and that she wants the rest of the money we put aside for her to use for the down payment, which is fine. I also went by the ticket office and found out that Wisdom and Peace can come to hear Mary J Blige; and I hope that it is not too loud for them because Tina and Jennifer do not want to leave them with babysitters or their husbands and so what else can we do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I answered the call from an unknown number. I barely recognized Paul's voice. He said he was bleeding and waiting for an ambulance. I was in pajamas. F ran to the piazza. It turned out that the restaurant let Paul leave six hours earlier with a deep cut. He is a bit on the hypochondriacal side and the sight of blood makes him ill. I would have been equally upset in his situation. His Italian speaking roommate called an ambulance because he was faint and complaining of a headache. On the phone, he was telling me that he believed glass or porcelain or something had gotten under his skin. F rode in the ambulance with him after the misericordia bandaged him up. At the hospital he was given a blue code which is the last priority. F went back with the car and advised him not to wait all night for stitches. F said that the triage guy was scornful and practically spit when he gave him the order. 

He now has gotten two days off from work. He is still not being paid in a timely manner, which is disgraceful. 

Khadim is back in Pisa. The chef called to tell me that his experience with refugees is that most don't look ahead to their future and so they don't want to work harder than necessary to make an investment in career advancement down the line. He said he was sorry it didn't work out for Khadim. But he was not at all surprised. Restaurant work is not the right choice for him, he said. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Khadim Quit
Khadim quit. He said he did not want to work so hard for so many hours, even though he would be paid more than double what he makes selling umbrellas on the street -- when it rains. Even though he would get a work contract that would allow him to get a carta di soggiorno, which allows you to travel and work legally throughout Europe, and he would learn a profession where he could advance and have an actual career -- he would prefer to come home and work less. And with that . . .  we are out. 
Good work!
In case you need some good news today, I am happy to report that these two really nice women named Annie and Bruna who came to the picnic with Jennifer and Wisdom, Tina and Peace, delivered on their promise to go grocery shopping and get both families two weeks' worth of baby food and diapers. Jennifer had a week full of doctor's appointments first for herself and then for Wisdom who ran a high fever, so she was very happy to have the supplies delivered to her. Peace was also all out of food; and, as you can see from the picture, she was very happy to get some teething biscuits.

Speaking of good work, we are very proud of T and all the hard work she has put in at school. Her class' grades were posted on the bulletin board at her high school today. Just part of the Italian nightmare that is liceo/high school. Ever heard of privacy, people? Anyway, her grades showed that she is fourth in her class at one of the most difficult high schools on the planet; and she accomplished all that and learned Greek and Latin in a second language. The pressure never lets up at this school. I can't imagine what it must be like for her to be interrogated in front of the class, knowing that it would be so much easier in English. Nevertheless, she has risen to every challenge.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Khadim called from the train station. 
He messaged from the train. 
He messaged when he was on the way to Bari overnight. 
He called at 6,19 this morning to ask where the heck he had to go to buy a ticket for the last leg of the trip to Putignano because we hadn't researched that part very well. He did figure it out, though. 

I messaged the chef as to his arrival time. 
The chef messaged me that he had some shopping to do in another city and that Khadim should wait another hour for him at the station to be picked up. 
I let Khadim know and suggested that he find some breakfast somewhere. 
Poor guy hardly slept all night with all those train changes. 

The chef messaged me that he had picked up the "ragazzo." To be fair Khadim looks 19 years old, even though he is really 30. He said he would let him rest after lunch before putting him to work. 

I told him I hoped everything would go well. 
He told me that he hoped so, too. 
Khadim hopes so too. 

But, mamma mia, Khadim was very responsible, responsive, and resourceful up to now. 
Promette bene. 

Thumbs up from the chef. Thumbs up from Khadim. 
Two thumbs up. 
I'm exhausted. 

The doctor told Jennifer to get tests from a lab, but the lab told her she could not have the appointment until October. She had to go back to the doctor to get a special request -- all before her big job interview this afternoon. 

The new lawyer never responded to any of my messages. I was concerned until I realized that I was texting a landline. Mannaggia a me

Monday, June 12, 2017

Door to Door
Today we dropped off donations to Peace's and Wisdom's houses. We also got Jennifer a babysitting/nanny job interview for tomorrow afternoon. She is having some health issues, so she asked me to translate something for her when she goes to the doctor tomorrow morning, as well. 

F put up mosquito screens at Peace's house. And we dropped off a microwave for Wisdom's family. 

Tina said their refrigerator is not working and they have to freeze everything, so we put up an ask for that on social media, along with these photos of the kids.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Good luck, Khadim!
With ticket in hand, we wish Khadim the best of luck at the restaurant. For superstitious reasons, we will leave it at that.

P.S. This is me on tip-toe and it did nothing to help with the height difference! 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Who knows if all the tourists who come to Lucca for the Summer Festival concerts would feel differently about coming if they knew that to prepare for their arrival the police/vigili/carbinieri are confiscating the documents of any known refugees that see on the streets and taking them away from their rightful owners. They use this document checking process to provoke refugees by then insisting that they go into squad cars or handcuffs -- all the while hoping that they will resist, thus justifying a criminal charge against them.

Cool's brother Ehis had this situation and refused to get into the car. He called me, so I had him run after the squad car. He eventually got his document back. Joshua was not so lucky. They took his document and sent it to Genoa. They claim it was his last address. In fact, it is very far from here, and it is the last address he used in order to file that he had lost his document one time. The address belonged to a pastor whose name and telephone number he no longer remembers. 

The lawyer who worked with me at Happy Gym is having dental surgery next week, and she told me that she cannot work on these complicated cases, and when pressed further, not even the simple ones. I asked her to forward Joshua's case to the other legal office we used for Ali. 

We called Job and Cool and strongly cautioned them to stop begging in Lucca until the Summer Festival is over, but we know that they will probably not heed our warnings. 

Now that we don't have a group lawyer anymore, I realized that I had to write one more letter to the lawyers at Caritas to ask for copies of the last stay permit applications that they did for group members because we may need to use them as models for future renewals. 

When the scaffolding goes up to create the main stage in piazza grande, the police go into full effect. It is like watching a trainwreck in progress. 

Given everything, it is even harder to accept that Cool and Job did not take the dishwashing opportunity. However, Khadim just called me terrified about going to an unknown place, and possibly losing his living situation here. It is rough. I can't guarantee him anything. The chef said their last dishwasher was happy working for them for three or four years and went on to better things. It is my greatest hope that it all works out for him. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Now what?
I don't know. I thought about not telling you this because it is not pretty, but it is the truth. And the journalist in me feels like I have to tell the whole story.

Anna Morelli, the famous food writer, came through with another amazing job offer -- this time with a very accomplished chef in Puglia, about four hours in the train from here. I understood the chef wanted two men, so I proposed to send Cool and Job. It turned out he only wanted one. I agonized, but realized that it was really Cool's turn. I offered him the opportunity. I explained that the hours would be long and that it would be hard work. I told him that the chef said that he would treat whoever we sent like family, but that he needed someone who would work not just hard, but fast. He said he would help find the man a place to stay and that, if things worked out after the trial period, he would give that man a valuable work contract and help him to find housing for his wife and baby, as well. It would be the chance to stop begging and get a real job. Cool said that he did not want to work the long hours that Emmanuel had to work and that he would work, even twelve hours a day if it was eight to eight, but that he did not want to work restaurant hours that Emmanuel had tried to work which means going to work at 9:30 AM, an afternoon break at 3:00 PM for two hours, and then working until 1 or 2:00 AM to close up. I told him that I did not know the exact hours of this restaurant, but that dishwashers in Italy work long hours. I reminded him that you need a work contract to get a carta di soggiorno which allows immigrants ther ability to travel within Europe and to accept work in other countries. He turned down the offer. 

I felt disappointed with him and for him. On the positive side, this meant I could offer Job the opportunity and would not have to break him the news that the position was only available for one of them, and it wasn't him. I could not reach him all day Sunday because his phone did not have money on it. I finally tracked him down through a relative's phone.  He told me he needed to talk to Tina about it, even though Tina had already confided in me that she was all for it. Jennifer had done the same, to be fair. He did not respect the deadline I set for the decision, and I gave him an extension; but, in the end, he also turned down the chance to get a real job. He gave the justification that it is too far away, even though I know his next move is getting illegal work in Germany or in Malta. He also said that if the police bother him here, he will tell them to arrest him or send him back to Nigeria because he knows that he has a right to beg. I told him his money from me is about to run out and that Peace is out of baby food again. I told him that he has no other prospects and that this is just an audition of sorts and he can come home if he doesn't like it. He said he hated to disappoint me, but his answer is no.

I assume Emmanuel was very dramatic in his recounting of the events that led to him getting fired, and he scared the other two men. Nevertheless, I think it is pure foolishness. I also feel like I can't help them anymore, if this is their attitude. I am beginning a sort of weaning off time, which may help them, too, given that we will not stay in Lucca after T graduates from high school. Emmanuel, by the way, still has to be brought back to the accountant to sign more papers finalizing the end of his contract. I can't face it, so F has agreed to take him.

As far as the SAT Subject test situation goes, I can tell you that we picked a good airbnb and that we planned well and forgot nothing. I still got no sleep, as I am sensitive to street noise. The morning of the test one poor boy got turned away because the test center had decided not to give the general test four months ago, and he did not know about the change. T found the people who took the test with her to be rather off-putting. One girl, who appeared to have a terrible cough, was kissing up on her father in a way that made me uncomfortable, and was later seen to kick him, playfully?, in the shins. It was a lot. T came out of the test center declaring that she was not sure if her penciled in circles were dark enough. So that was stressful, but now it is done. We lived. She promises to be even more stressed out for the general test in August. Her catastrophic thinking had me prepared for the apocalypse, so I was pleasantly surprised that they let her sit at a desk with papers in front of her and that no one had to fight. 

I called up the Senegalese man, Khadim, who I met on the walls of Lucca where he sells umbrellas in the rain. I had told him last year that I would keep my eyes open for a job for him. If the chef gets back to us, I will send him. I would have liked to send our friend Moro from the Red Cross Christmas extravaganza, but he did not answer the call in time and it was first come, first serve. We will send the lucky winner off with some expense money and our good wishes, and maybe he will get to change his life. Our formerly grumpy neighbor made a generous donation to the group, which will cover this and the legal costs. People can be surprising. 

The owner of the Ali's house even sent him a hospitality letter finally. Unfortunately, he can't get it stamped because of his lack of a passport and the expiration of his stay permit. I have written to his new lawyer for advice. Thursday we will go put up mosquito screens for Peace and drop off donations. 

As much as I try not to judge, I'm judging. Clearly, I have to stop watching The Wendy Williams Show. I just can't imagine not taking a job no matter what the hours r the distance, if it meant not having to put my family in danger. While cultural differences and life perspective may impact on our decision making, I have to step back at this point.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Tried to pull back, got sucked back in
This week a break did not happen.

I went to the new lawyers' studio for Ali. He had his criminal trial today because he got scared when four officers tried to handcuff him at the station, after he was taken in without any kind of resistance, for begging and not having the right stay permit. He did not know that his immigration case had reached the third level of appeal because the lawyer at the camp he had stayed at is not under any legal obligation to let him know. He could not read the letter that was handed to him by officers back in February because he can't read either English or Italian. I begged Ali's landlord to give him hospitality because he will be doomed without it. We still don't know what she will do. 

After the lawyers of Caritas refused to answer any of my inquiries about what they planned to do to help Tina out of her passport situation, we decided to hire a lawyer to try to resolve the situation for her. Out of courtesy, I very politely wrote Caritas to inform them. They, in turn, very politely told me they were parting roads with us. I kind of figured that out when you didn't take my calls for two months. Thanks, though.

Meanwhile F met with Emmanuel's chef who explained that Emmanuel was not a good worker because he moved like molasses. He gave us back our incentive money, and so it is really hard not to believe him and also think that he is a pretty sweet guy. My theory is that Emmanuel partly doesn't think that he deserves good things, and that was too many good things at once. Every time he got tense, he would self sabotage and do things like lose his documents. Paul would like to work for Emmanuel's chef because he seems like he would pay on time, but we don't want to piss off the chef where he works. F simply asked if this chef would let Paul come meet him on his day off and show him what he can do. If that doesn't happen quickly, though, he will lose any shot at getting Emmanuel's old apartment. Nothing is simple.

Then, the ever fabulous Anna Morelli wrote us that a chef in Puglia might be interested in hiring Cool and Job, both of whom were thinking to leave Italy in search of work in Germany or Malta. Obviously, Puglia is preferable because they can work legally there. We'll see what happens.

Courtney and I needed a change so she took me to get a lot of my hair chopped off for summer. It took forever, but the people at her salon in Viareggio are really talented; and it costs a fraction of what it should. Tomorrow we head to Florence so that T can take her SAT Subject tests. She is taking Italian and English Literature. I am taking Gelato and Probably Shopping. I hope I pass with honors.