Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Oscar please
Things have reached a certain point of craziness here. Italy is on the verge of getting themselves Trumped in the upcoming election, and I mean that in the crudest and most negative way possible. Six African immigrants were shot in Macerata this month by a failed candidate for city council who went on a killing spree and the anti immigrant rhetoric has reached a very feverish pitch. 

What went down today was that I impersonated a rich American lady in search of real estate possiblities in Montecatini. Two days ago I made an appointment with a certain shady real estate agent who took 2,400 euros off Wisdom’s mother Jennifer. To be fair, Jennifer gave her the money as a show of good faith because she had helped her find her last house and because she was afraid she would blow the money on other things like food and electricity. On the other hand, even asking for the 500 euros that the agent usually requests, is shady when you haven’t even found a house for the client. I had a hard time keeping a straight face, as this agent justified the practice of taking  a pre-deposit deposit so that she doesn’t have to run around finding houses for people for nothing. I couldn’t really be bothered to explain that finding people houses for nothing is her exact job description. 

Anyway, I made F wear a suit and a tie and I put on a faux fur scarf and a bunch of jewelry. As soon as we walked through the door with Jennifer and Wisdom, the agent was flummoxed. My story was that I got her phone number through Jennifer, but that I didn’t want to do business with her until she returned the money to Jennifer, half of which is actually money we gave to Jennifer for a new house. She bought it. I told her that she had a week before she would hear from our lawyers. I then made a big act of pretending to be angry at Jennifer and yelling at her in English for giving my money over to a stranger, just to make the thing more believable. 

In the end, she said that she had shown Jennifer some houses that were either above her budget or too small or whose owners refused to have Black tenants. Ten minutes later we were in the car, and, by some miracle, she had found them an apartment. It is pretty perfect for them, but Jennifer will have to get an Italian friend to sign for her because the owner will not do business with Black people. I don’t know what will happen next because I don’t want anything else to do with the whole transaction. 

Cool is back from Denmark, where he discovered Africans can work off the books for 10 euros an hour for four hours a day, which is better than Malta where you can work twice as many hours for 5 euros an hour. We gave him money to get the autonomous work certificate so he can sell umbrellas or batteries with a permit instead of begging, and which may help him to get a long term residence permit. We will do the same for Job and then I think we will conclude our work. 

Today we dropped off books and shirts for Wisdom from my teacher friend Elisabetta. Funnily enough, one of the sweatshirts had a very apropos saying on it.

It is very likely that Peace would not have been born if we did not meet the group, and so I am glad that we were able to bring some Peace to the world.

*Footnote: I later received a call from Jennifer saying that her Italian friend who would have guanteed for her with the racist apartment owner is currently unemployed and, thus,  ineligible. We are not going to guarantee unemployed people’s rent for years to come because that is just not smart, and I had to explain to Jennifer that it was nothing personal. I do hope she finds someone who can do it for her. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

What had happened
Well, the bastards have decided that not only should the refugees who have no other choice but to beg in the streets be fined 50 euros everytime they get caught with their hands out, but now they are putting interest on the fines. Tina was scared when she got a registered letter from the police and put off reading it. Finally, I insisted and F went to go pay it off. It now has escalated by another 14 euros and would continue to do so each month that it goes unpaid. Her fine is two years old. She hasn’t begged on the street since Peace was born, so I assume this is a new procedure.

I called her to find out if she got a subsidy to help with her rent, only to find out that Job is gone. He had to return to Nigeria to renew his passport and to help some sick family members. In Nigeria, you have to pay for medical treatment up front, even from the emergency room. Emmanuel’s son is with a family that is having health problems, but I could not understand which family member died. It is really a challenge to understand Tina on the phone. 

Emmanuel is also not doing very well. So far he has not managed to get a work permit for autonomous work, and his spirits are very low. I had to call everyone to make sure they are aware that the temperature is going to drop precipitously at the beginning of next week. Wisdom’s mother heats the house with a gas bomboletta. It is very dangerous, but, anyway, she ran out. And it is better she is prepared. Also, he is ill. Again. Emmanuel’s house has no electricity because Freedom’s family sends all of their money back to Nigeria instead of paying the rent or utilities. Allegedly. They throw the blame back and forth at each other in that house, but however you slice it, the rent does not get paid and they have no lights or heat or hot water. 

I suggested he move in with Tina to be the man of the house while Job is gone, and that seemed to be a good suggestion for everyone. Although, there are a bunch of men in the house sharing the second room because otherwise they could never scrape the rent payments together by begging. 

We brought Jennifer a birthday cake and a cash donation that my friend, the judge, gave us. Today we got more donations of clothing and books for the kids, and some support for Paul. 

T has had several more college interviews, but we won’t know where she will go for another month. She has constant tests in all of the subjects and gets no extra credit from the professors for being one of the few kids at her school who never cheats and who really learns the material, instead of just memorizing it. I don’t know how she does it. She is amazing. I just hope the colleges can see how special she is. 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Getting going
This week I translated for Emmanuel and we paid for him to try to get a work permit for autonomous work. The man in charge wasn’t sure if he could do it because Emmanuel doesn’t have a real permesso di soggiorno yet since he has not been called up for a second time in front of the review commission. It was a gamble.

We also gave little push screen tablets to the babies so they could stop dropping everybody in their house’s phones and cracking the screens. They were a big hit!  Wisdom is usually scared of new toys and he cries when he first sees the invaders in his home. I think it is because his house is a shelter for a lot of people who Jennifer cooks for and hosts. She is also currently babysitting for a ten month old while taking care of Wisdom, who is just about to turn terrible two.  We also have made donation requests for her for a double stroller since it is impossible to get them both out of the house at the same time and get further than three steps.

F brought a vacuum to Jennifer so she could clean the dirty one in her bedroom. And Courtney’s mom Dinah came in for a clutch donation to take care of baby food and diapers for the kiddies. 

T has been slaying her college interviews, but they keep on coming. Next week she has her first taste of the final exams that they call the simulazione. She will have a big test every month until the end from here on out. Unfortunately, her wisdom teeth have chosen to make an appearance right when we least wanted to see them. At least one of them is going to have to come out, but we don’t know when we can schedule it. This being Italy, our favorite dentist’s xray machine was broken so she has to go back to Prato just to find out how crooked the tooth is growing in. 

Peace’s parents called us in a panic because they needed a document from the Nigerian embassy translated into Italian and stamped in order to qualify for a grant to help with their rent. If they got it, it would be a life changer. We did our best on that, but we don’t know how it will go.

I am really looking forward - understatment of the millennium - to finding out where T is going to go to school and what our next house is going to be like. She should get some results starting next month. We have ongoing construction noise from our neighbors that is making this beautiful apartment less hospitable.