Thursday, November 30, 2017

Just to say ..
I have talked to one refugee help organization and legal expert after another, and no one can give me an answer as to how to help the woman who had to falsify her Nigerian passport to avoid danger to her person and to get to the boat/raft that she came over to Italy on in 2012. The law says that she needs a valid passport from her home country from which she was escaping, otherwise she cannot renew her stay permit. This means after five years of residency here, she would lose all legitimacy and will be in danger of being arrested and possibly deported or being deprived of the ability to integrate, rent an apartment, or hold a job in Italy. Things are very bad in Libya right now, according to my friend Gabriella’s contacts at the U.N. They told her that this is not the time to try to get help from the Italian government because they are working to keep Africans from leaving Libya for Italy at all costs, and the conditions in Libya are horrific.

Am I alone in thinking that this is madness? If a person risks their life to escape a country, how can it be legal to make them have to return to face even more danger just to get a passport number for a bureaucratic form that needs to be filed at the police station?

My last call to OIM, Organizzazione Internazionale per le Migrazioni, led to the same conclusion; but the person I spoke to said she would try to refer me to an international lawyer.

Maybe the message that the woman received at the police station which was that you can only renew the Italian titolo di viaggio three times is false. Sometimes refugees are spoken to in a very dismissive way at the police station, and sometimes they are given discouraging messages to keep them from renewing their documents. If the titolo di viaggio is equal to a passport and if she applies for a new one in time, thus sliding under the radar a little bit, maybe she can be lucky and safe.

Plot twist: The Caritas lawyers who used to help us and had promised to send us copies of the kits that they filled out for permesso renewals in the past threw out the papers somehow. So as to not leave us in the lurch, they have kindly offered to help us again this year. I took advantage of this email chain to ask them what they know about the titolo di viaggio situation, but I am not holding my breath. I guess I have a guardian angel. Gabriella asked if she should prepare the Italian arance/oranges with a key in them to break me out of prison, which is where she is sure I am going to end up. I also asked for help from my student who is a law professor and a judge. She is trying to get me a contact who specializes in international law. I feel like if this situation got settled, I could sleep well for the first time in two years.

Emmanuel just called to see how I was. Sweet! As I tried to explain to Gabriella, no one is taking advantage of me because I love my group not because they are my group, but because of who they are as people.


Then Emmanuel called me three more times, after he called his lawyer ten times, in a total panic, wanting to present himself to the police to inquire about his case - which is a really bad idea. No news is good news for him right now. So I called Tina and Job and asked them to invite him to dinner and get his head straight. Last time he was in this mood, he left all his documents on the train. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

una Rompipalle di primo ordine
I am a first class ball breaker, and I know it.

But I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread in my chest. We never did resolve what to do about the fact that one of our refugee friends had to use a false name on her Nigerian passport to cross the desert during the war in Libya, making it look like she was married to a man she hardly knew so that she would not get raped like so many other single women who crossed before her. 

The law in Italy requires refugees to have a non expired passport from their home country to renew their stay permits here. The Nigerian Consulate in Rome won’t let her renew because the name is not correct and it shows up in their computer system. There is a way to start all over again with the passport, but only if you pay a lot of money in person to the Consulate in Nigeria. The only way to get back there would be to take a bus across the border from a neighboring country. When one of our group members returned to Nigeria for a few weeks to care for a dying relative, he came back with parasites and all kinds of intestinal distress and had to go into the hospital here to cure himself with antibiotics. Since the person in question is the mother of an infant, we can’t risk that the baby would also not have clean water to drink or suffer in other ways.

Hopefully, if we figure out how to fill out her renewal application for a permesso di soggiorno before the current one expires, she can still use the Italian travel document, which is set to expire at the same time as her permesso. But I don’t want her to get into trouble further down the line. It is also a problem for her baby, now that Italy requires new babies to have their own permesso di soggiorno and to keep it up to date. The baby won’t be considered an Italian citizen until she is 18 years old. And that is the case only if she maintains her residency and paperwork perfectly up until that time.

All of our lawyers stopped helping us effectively, so I reached out to ARCI — a non-profit association to help migrants in Italy.  The contact I have, Alberto, is wildly busy, and I don’t always understand him on the phone; so I wrote to him on messenger. Then, when he didn’t reply this morning, I wrote an even longer request. He replied that we could talk on Monday. So I cheekily wrote him, excusing myself as a first class ball breaker. I should have said of the first order, but it came out di prima classe, like I was talking about airplane seats. He said not to be silly; he was just busy.

While I was taking to social media, F was driving out to Moro, our helper from last Christmas at the Red Cross, to bring some winter bedding and fresh towels to him at his group home. F said it looked like a pretty decent house for eight people. He has been waiting for his permesso di soggiorno for well over a year. It is a long time to wait for a permesso because he cannot work or do anything independently until he has it. Meanwhile, he has been doing a good job studying Italian, at least.


We got this doll for Peace. It was for Christmas, but nobody can resist opening these amazon packages from us if they arrive early.  It cries when you remove the pacifier. She is obsessed with comforting it and takes it everywhere. Apparently, the other doll she had from the donations did not interest her as much because it was a boy, according to Tina. But maybe it was because it’s head fell off and Tina threw it out. Whatever the case, this new one is a real hit! 

Sometimes I love Amazon.it, but it is a real love-hate relationship. They are the part of Amazon which is not really welcome at the family holidays because it gets drunk and talks politics, and puts its thumbs in all the pies. Also they do things like offer cosmetics that you can get at CVS for five dollars and offer them up for about 300 euros. No grazie.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Adulting it
T is 18. It is official! My scorpione bunny, the hero of my life, is now an adult. Not only can she vote in America, but she can get the buono for books that saves Italian kids a ton of money when they become maggiorenne.

Her friends threw her a surprise birthday party on Saturday night. We all deserve Oscars for the performances we gave. She was hella suspicious, but eventually we all worked on her long enough that, when the time came, she was actually surprised. They even had a secret meeting with me the week before. It was adorable. They wrote her personal notes and made her a dinner with a cake and everything! 

Then, on her real day, we went for dinner at her friend Saoirse’s house. Saoirse’s brother Turlough has the same birthday. Saoirse is leaving for Israel soon as part of her gap year experience, so it was really nice to spend time all together before she leaves. 

Some classmates took her out for tea after class. T’s favorite present from the family was a first edition copy of Virgia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. 


This cheesecake that Saoirse made was so good, that I almost begged her to scrap the gap year idea and run away with me.


I am such a proud mamma.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

figuring it all out
If you are at a point in your life where you are figuring stuff out, I am happy for you. Sincerely. Personally, I have no idea which way is up. 


Just when I thought we had all come out of the flu shot situation this year unscathed, I realized I had dropped the ball. I have had a bad cold for weeks like everybody else, and my mind has been foggy. Actually, the whole time we were in Florence to escape comics I was in bed with swollen ears. Sadly, the apartment we rented had terrible windows and the traffic noise from the motos and construction was worse there than the noise from the extra 240,000 people in Lucca for the festival. We ended up coming home early and letting T and her friend Saoirse have the place so they could go to Palazzo Strozzi for an art exhibition and eat out at some nice restaurants.

Anyway, I checked to make sure the babies had their appointments after the pediatricians did not want to give them the vaccines I had bought from my trusted pharmacy because they were not sure how long the mothers had been waiting on line, and thus had not had the syringes refrigerated. The babies’ doctors made them wait for an extra month until they got in a new supply at the clinic in November, which they said was about timing flu season. I don’t understand that part because the vaccine should be good for a full year’s worth of protection so there is no reason to wait until it is closer to Christmas time. But maybe they didn’t get their delivery of the vaccine before November, and so they were just saying that. Meanwhile, I kept hoping that they would not catch anything from the big church sermons on Sunday or from any visitors to their houses.

I already knew from Jennifer that Wisdom had no problems, but I did not make sure that Peace’s mom had baby tylenol, tachipirina, in the house and that she knew how to dose it properly. Neither did her doctor, apparently, who also failed to fill out her medical computer chart to show which vaccine she had. He did tell her to expect a fever as a possibility. Well, Peace got a high fever. I spoke to Tina that day, but she didn’t tell me about it. Then Job told me that when he was changing her, Peace was trembling. By the time Tina got back from shopping, Peace was having convulsions. Later I saw that the box of medicine was old and the handwritten instructions from the doctor were also based on a weight she had like six months ago. I almost lost it when I got the call from Job saying “the medicine you gave us was bad and Peace is in the ambulance.” I mean she didn’t even take the medicine I bought, but it was my recommendation that they all get the vaccine. Poor little girl, she had to stay in the hospital all weekend to get her fever down. Now she is fine, and Tina has new fever medicine and clear instructions for the future. She wants me also to speak to the pediatrician before the next appointment. They did get good, free care in the hospital. Yay, Italy! It was horrible, though. I can’t really handle this level of responsibility for so many people sometimes.

Paula, a woman who is moving back to America to help with the resistance (seriously, she is), asked if we wanted any of her stuff for the group, including a bunch of furniture. The laws are such a pain about driving permits for moving vans and everything here, that I told her I would just take blankets and winter clothes. Then Jennifer and Emmanuel and Moro asked me for kitchen stuff, so I had to revise everything I had said. Moro actually told me he would take any single item that I could ever get because if he couldn’t use it personally, he knew someone who could. That was sobering to hear. We also got the  kind of fit pants that Emmanuel and Job prefer and some lovely scarves for Tina and Jennifer from this South African lady who is always helping out named Geraldine.

T is so sad about what is going on in America that she has decided to apply to universities in Holland, as well. I can’t blame her.

Just look at these cute photos of everybody!

Here is F strolling around the supermarket with Peace.

T is a little disappointed that Peace has lost her dumpling cheeks and round little belly, but there is no denying that she is growing into a little stunner.

Don’t Emmanuel and Job make those suits look Boss, though? I think the Property Brothers out there in L.A. better take a seat and let these brothers take over.

Jennifer looks great in the scarf and was thrilled with the boxes of plates and glasses and kitchen utensils she got (though in their house and in Emmanuel's they have no heat.) Now she just needs the real estate agent to come through with the new house. Her current one is still covered in mosquitoes, even in November.




Peace is working part-time as a DJ because she has to spend the rest of her time preparing for pre-school.