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.

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