Monday, January 22, 2018

Good news and Bad news
This is the most Italian day yet. 

I overprepared. I made magic happen between my student, the judge, and baby Peace. She fell in love with the baby, as expected, and then she both had a preeminent immigration lawyer write us a fifteen page legal opinion as to why Tina should get her documents renewed and sent her assistant to translate for us at the police station.

 We got photos taken. I reminded Tina to get photos taken twice. She then went and had a hard time with the machine at the supermarket, and so the photos had the top of her head missing. They were not usable. Despite that, we had all of the other originals and copies of documents they could possibly ask for.

I freaked out yesterday because I read online during my panic attack about the renewal that the law changed and now you have to pay for a baby permesso that is separate from the parent’s. I thought Peace’s document was tied to Tina’s document, but the clueless lady at the post office did not ask us for money for Peace. I made F wake up extra early and doctor up some passport photos for the baby, just in case. We planned that F would go and pay for Peace after he dropped us off at the police station, but then it turned out that Peace’s paperwork is tied to her father’s and that doesn’t expire for another year. 

The problem you prepare for in Italy is never the problem you face.

The lawyer couldn’t find parking. I sweated while we waited fifteen minutes past the appointment time. We couldn’t figure out if we needed a line number because we had an appointment. We did. Finally, the guard, we call him Fred because he reminds us of Fred Flintstone, got us a call number.


We were number 20 of the day, and they were only calling number eight. Fred had us go up ahead of time because he loves me. The blond at the immigration window, unfortunately, hated me on sight. She asked for the passport, and we gave her the titolo di viaggio. I learned at the post office not to dawdle or explain and just to give them the document right away. She conferred with her colleague. This is always a bad sign. I explained to the lawyer that he should prepare himself. He told me that I should try to do the talking. Why was he there? No real reason. She came back and seized Tina’s titolo di viaggio, the Italian passport supplement that Tina needs as identification and if she ever wants to travel outside of Italy. She refused to give it back. She told us that from now on refugees with stay permits for humanitarian reasons like Tina will have their stay permits renewed without travel documents automatically at their local police stations. Then she dismissed us.

We drove Tina and her friend back to Pescia. Her friend was breastfeeding and it looked painful. We made conversation while F took Tina to get new photos made at the supermarket. She told me that she is in a worse situation because she has no stay permit and was, therefore, put under house arrest. She has no house contract or hospitality letter, and her husband begs as a job, so she can not get right with the law no matter what. F took her to her appointment with her baby at the hospital, while Tina and I got her fingerprints taken at the local precinct. The immigration officer there made us go to the entrance for foreigners even though the place was empty. She almost sent us back to the original police station in Pistoia. She said she needed to know the name of who sent us. Luckily, Fred let me go behind the private door to drop off F’s homemade bread for the officers. As usual, the grumpy bald guy who works with people who don’t have appointments stamped his feet and made fists with his hands and pretended to be upset that I was giving him bread. But he accepted it. As always. His brunette colleague yelled at me for being in a private area, but not before she yelled his name. Alessandro. I remembered it, and that is the only reason that Tina got her document renewed today.

That is Italy.

The bad news is that without the titolo di viaggio, Tina does not believe she will be able to renew the subsidy she relies on, 80 euros every eight weeks, to buy diapers and baby food for Peace. I don’t know how to feel.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

B is for bureaucracy
Today I took my friend who is both an English student of mine and whose son is T’s classmate and studies English with F, to come meet the families from our group. And as luck would have it, she is also a law professor and a judge. Ain’t I a stinker? I knew she would fall in love with Peace. She would have fallen in love with Wisdom, but he was fast asleep. She crooned after his 10 month old friend Stevie instead. 

Just the other day Tina had a scare. The mail carrier bring her four registered letters to sign for. She did not understand what they were or who they were from because she doesn’t read Italian. The mail carrier would only tell her that they were from Lucca. She lives in another province, so that in itself is strange. When she called me about it, I almost had a heart attack because I thought that somehow in trying to ger her legal help, I might have accidentally gotten her in trouble. Then I realized that it could not have been anything I did because Peace’s father also was the recepient of two of the letters and they are not married, so nothing I might have done would implicate him. Nevertheless, we are troubled. It could be some fines they received for not having their identity documents on their person one day or for being identified as people who have once begged for money or it could be some kind of threat from their landlord, even though they are not behind, by some miracle, in their rent payments. At any rate, bringing an important friend by was a good move. Plus she seemed to enjoy herself. 

We also filled out renewal kits for Jennifer and for Paul. We brought donated clothing to both of the families, and my friend, Brunella, also bought them a bag of groceries each. She also said she would have her assistant try to accompany us the day that Tina has to renew her permesso at the police station, which would be a really baller move. 

I have had even less sleep than usual because it turns out that one wall of our house that is not from the 1500s and thick as can be is in the livingroom. It is thin as paper and (surprise!) we share it with a till now uninhabited  downstairs apartment that a couple has bought and is having refurbished. Their house is a walk up and only the entrance way is downstairs. Who knew! Anyway, I can hear every breath they and their construction crew take. And they can hear us. It is embarrassing and annoying. Even though we don’t want to stay here more than another six months, it will be a long six months. Their geometra/architect guy is coming to look at the lay out of our house, and he already knows that I want him to convince the couple to put insulation in that wall. They live in Zambia, although the woman is Italian, and are only going to use this place as a vacation home. Nevertheless, she has blasted music every time she has come here and failed to warn us about the construction she was having done. The construction team seems to be in some whistling competition and are training themselves by whistling for hours at a time in a tuneless kind of assault of my nerves.

F bought me some noise cancelling headphones, but the seal of the earbuds on my inner ear caused me to get sick. I absolutely can’t wear them. 

I live in fear of these mysterious letters and the police appointment for Peace’s mother. Meanwhile, T has a bunch of American college interviews she has to do on skype. Her professors still haven’t gotten around to filling in the recommendations she needs for the universities in Holland, and one of the the deadlines a few short weeks away. But today went really well. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Phase One
Today we went to the post office with Peace and Tina to renew Tina’s permesso di soggiorno/stay permit. As expected the person at the window challenged her paperwork, but I did eventually convince her to process the application. We spent a hundred euros on the processing fees. I have no idea how refugees are supposed to manage to fill out all those forms in Italian and come up with the money themselves. They have lowered some of the fees from last time, but still. It took us over an hour to get the paperwork done, and it was not our first rodeo.

It did not hurt that Peace looked like a rock star and charmed the whole line full of retirees who were there waiting for their pension payments. Even the little boy whose face she squeezed was so startled by her that he did not even protest. She was in great form despite having had thrown up the whole night due to a stomach virus. If Mariah Carey could ring in the New Year without tea, there is no end to things we mortals can accomplish. In three weeks, we will have to face the real challenge at the police station. None of us are looking forward to it. 

Peace woke up like this:

We are unstoppable: