Saturday, October 21, 2017

After all that, T did really well on her SATs. I said something like yay, awesome while we were coming to the end of our daily up-at-dawn walk around the walls of Lucca, and she gave me a whithering look and said, that is not a good reaction. I still don’t know what the cavolo she wanted as a reaction, and I swear I am too tired and whithered to worry about it. If you want to have any verbal back and forth with an almost 18-year-old, you have to get up very early, go to bed early, and have a very low bar of expectations. 

Before I forget, Wisdom’s penis appears to be not massacred after the circumcision situation. I would hate for you all to be worried about that any longer than you had to be. Jennifer didn’t end up picking up his passport from the Nigerian embassy because he was too traumatized after the procedure. Let’s not think about it anymore. 

The other night I went out for pizza with three friends. I know this is not earth shattering news, but when one of friends won’t go out on weekends because she has long work hours and spends weekends exclusively with her husband, and the other two are a cat lady with slight agoraphobia and a single mom who rarely gets any time to herself — this is an O-ccasion. Also throw me into the mix and you have a hormone cocktail with a horrible curfew so that I can schedule in a laugh or a bicker at dawn with my equally hormonal walking companion. Anyway, it was more or less like The Golden Girls if they were slightly younger and yet still believed that staying out until 10:30 PM on a Thursday was revolutionary. They didn’t even order a drink.

The best part of the night was when Patrizia wanted to share something that she said she felt really ashamed of. We all put our heads together over the table and she stage whispered that she had bought a jar of nutella, the famous Italian chocolate hazelnut spread that most kids eat for breakfast or snacktime here and has about a million calories per serving. She said she ate it with a spoon right out of a jar and that it was completely gone within 24 hours. But the best part was that she looked us dead in our eyes and said, “but if you don’t feel guilty about it, then it doesn’t count” and cackled like the wicked witch was having at Dorothy. It was great.

If you want to know where I am at mentally. This is the kind of post I put on Tumblr when I am really bored:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Flu achoo! season
I am a total germaphobe. I admit it. And — with all the guys hustling to make their rent payments and get food and necessities for their families here and back in Africa in all kinds of weather, shaking hands and handing spare change all day — there are always a lot of shivering, snuffly, group members to worry about in the autumn and winter months. For the last two years, we have tried to get everyone the flu shot. Sometimes when they didn’t have doctors, we had to give them the flu vaccines that we bought from the pharmacy ourselves. It is stressful as all get out. This year we had help from a donation to pay for half of them.

But this time we were super discombobulated because we somehow are the only people in town who did not know that our beloved Doctoressa Elvira from the Farmacia Centrale passed away. She always gave us the flu shot in the back of the pharmacy because she knew we were too chicken and incapable of dealing with lines and bureaucracy to get it any other way. We were so shaken, that to pick up the ibuprophen to distribute along with the flu vaccines, we had to stop at four different pharmacies that were not hers. One of them had this vending machine out front:

Please indulge me by zooming in on the bizarre playboy sticker. Of all the places to honor the Hef!

And the condoms. . . I know what the PleasureMax and the XL are for, but I am slightly confused by the ones that say Nature and Retard. Let’s not think about that too hard. Ha!

Marina also made good on her pledge to get the mothers from the Leone XII nursery school to give a bunch of clothing to Peace and Wisdom. Stanley’s wife is so mad that I did not give her money for the down payment of an apartment that she did not accept the clothes I had for Freedom, so I did not even try to buy the vaccine for her; but now, of course, I will worry all winter that she will get the flu. 

Jennifer has decided to take 16-month-old Wisdom to Rome to a doctor that some other Nigerian mothers she knows has gone to for his circumcision. The thought of her having to take him by herself on a bus, convinced me to pay for part of her train ticket. I didn’t break our no cash gift agreement because no cash changed hands, and we just charged it on the computer and sent her the tickets. She has to go to Rome anyway to go to the Nigerian embassy to pick up his passport. 

Our weekend in Rome was also stressful. The lavish American school in Rome is in the middle of nowhere. The train trip was a little more than three hours, if you include waiting for the connection in Florence. The whole experience is made a thousand times worse than it has to be just by the nature of the Italian public transportation system and the fact that the arrival and departure track announcements are made seconds before the train actually leaves the station. Everyone is worried, running, and hectic. We found the only rental apartment in the area of the school where T had to take the SAT test on It was clean but in a cement box in the middle of a gated housing complex with paper thin walls. We didn’t get much sleep. Because dogs. And inexplicable, irridescent heating system light holograms that flashed all night on the bedroom walls. And waking up at dawn. However, I stopped complaining after I met the other parents: one heroic mother who drove from Florence at 2 AM, since some tricky Americans had gotten to the only rental apartment first (yikes!), and one dynamo of a father who took multiple flights from Africa where he works as an engineer. The version of the test was diabolically more difficult than earlier ones this year, and many of the students came out white as paper full of eraser marks from number two pencils. Poveracci! 

We tried to revive our SAT survivor with some very good gelato and a little culture from the new Maxxi museum, the paved surroundings of which are an insane mash of architecture buffs and little mocciosi skate boarders, scooter riders, and remote control car enthusiasts. However, we did have the sweetest taxi driver in the whole city. His name is Dario and in order to prove we were indeed Americans he quizzed us on rock music and told us about his love of the Beetles, who he met backstage at a concert, and the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground. He had a terrilble sense of direction and not the best eye sight, but he was so loveable that it was hard not to feel we were somehow in capable, guitar string callused hands.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Happy Birthday, Emmanuel!
I have gotten a little better at diplomacy and planning with the group. I decided not to go back to the house in Montecatini that is getting taken back by the bank and just have Emmanuel meet me at Peace's house. It is his birthday tomorrow, but we are going to be in Rome for T's second round of the SAT test. I wanted to make sure he got his coconut cake with a giant E for Emmanuel on it. I also asked him to deliver some baby clothes and toys for Freedom. It is not the deposit on the new house, but it is better than nothing, right? 

Emmanuel also asked me if I had heard from his lawyer because he thinks he is supposed to go in front of the Refugee Commission to hear if he can stay or if he is going to be deported. Hopefully, if his true story gets translated properly, he will have a better chance this time around. I have not heard from the lawyer, but I told him that if he tries to make contact first, I will still help translate his lawyer's instructions for him.

Peace is now mimicking everything everybody says from howreyou? and uncle! to somecake! She not only copies what people say in church on Sundays, but you can see from the video below that she has already learned to dance!

Out of all the toys and dresses that my friend Francesca donated to Peace, the favorite by far was the little Hello Kitty wallet pictured below. Tina loved it, too, and can't wait to go shopping at the supermarket so they can both use their pocketbooks at the real cash register.

Uncle Emmanuel and Peace