Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rocky Road
I don’t know why Emmanuel’s lawyer kept telling me that no news was good news. And I don’t know why he didn’t tell me that lawyers are not actually the people who get informed when a refugee gets summoned in front of the Commission. I, foolishly, trusted him. And Emmanuel was right not to. No one told us that his temporary stay permit replacement had to be replaced by a real stay permit and renewed every three to six months. Therefore, it is null and void. And to make matters worse, it is probably that he missed his Commission hearing and was given a negative result due to his absence. We learned all of this from a very nice English speaking lawyer that Emmanuel heard about from his friends. Unfortunately, she refused to deal with the police station in the neighboring town where Emmanuel lives because the system is entirely different than the police station here in Lucca. She did say that she would accompany him to his Commission hearing, but only if it is to be held in the north of Italy and not in the south, which she also doesn’t know because that gets decided on a case by case basis. She did refer me to another lawyer who did not speak English with me, but whose Facebook page claims he speaks both English and Pidgin. I always thought we were all speaking pigeon, but I was wrong. Anyway, he only does this kind of work for a payment. And he has yet to give Emmanuel an appointment date. But it would be worth it to get Emmanuel on some kind of right track or road or path or line in the sand. 

Tina and Peace had no lights or gas this week. We paid their bill, but it was so late by the time she got it to us that she has to go through a process. I called the company and the customer service person told me they only turn the lights back on through a faxed request. The office accepting faxes was closed on the weekends and we were calling late in the day on Friday. I also had to field angry messages from her landlady because she did not get her rent in on time. To be fair, Job warned the landlady that she might be late this month while he was away in Nigeria. Tina also offered to pay in two payments, but the lady made a giant deal out of it. 

Paul called in a panic because when we helped him to open a bank account, he didn’t realize that the one hundred euros he put in there would be completely eaten up by fees; and he got an angry letter saying that if he didn’t close it by September the police would be involved. F is going to go sort that out tomorrow. 

Jennifer called to say that she renewed her stay permits, but she still has not convinced the landlords of the apartment she wants to rent their apartment to her family because they do not want to rent to Africans. She is desperate for a twin stroller, and the donation never came through, so I am getting her one for Wisdom’s birthday. Everyone in the group is basically one last request granted and then we are going to go live our life privately starting in June. I hope. 

Today F and I picked out new furniture for our new place, but we didn’t purchase anything because we haven’t got a signed contract yet. Since the furniture store is run by our students’ family, they were super sweet to us, and may possibly do the entire move for us so we don’t have to hire a moving company. Karma, baby. 

Meanwhile, the roof is still leaking our landlord has not been able to get a repair person to come by. Hopefully, he will manage it before it starts raining again. 

I have no pictures for you. So, I am going to just hope Ben and Jerry won’t sue me:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Well, this is Italian
So, the real estate agent had her wisdom tooth removed. She was in so much pain that she told me that the house we were about to sign for was noisier and less ideal than the first house I talked about in the last post —our second choice. After I grilled her for details, she said that everything but the living room is basically quiet as could be in the other apartment, but that the one we were about to sign for had been restructured in such a way that the floors and ceilings would let in a lot of noise from our neighbors. She went on to say that while the landlords were very meticulous and responsible in this apartment, they had to be because it was a lot to manage. I did not understand what she was trying to say until five seconds later when a crazy woman marched up to her and almost attacked her. This woman had the most surgically enhanced lips that I have ever seen in real life and it was impossible to look at anything but the protruding center of her face. She started shrieking at the agent and demanding to talk to her immediately. The agent refused. The lady, the same one who was blasting her music when we arrived last time and who we were told would be moving out next month, became irate. The agent admitted that this lovely neighbor-of-ours-to-be had not paid her rent in a year and that she didn’t really know when she would be moving out. Americans are prized tenants in Italy because we have this reputation of always paying on time. That tooth surgery was like truth serum, I tell you. 

Cue to us returning to the other apartment, located on the top floor, where we negotiated down the price, met our lovely seeming new neighbors who are both doctors, and found out that this apartment comes with a storage space in the cantina and a garage space, and that the notary office downstairs is both quiet and closed on the weekends. In the end, we made a proposal and cut a check, but we still have to sign the contracts with the owners who will most likely travel down from Milano for the meeting, if they accept our proposal. 

Oh, and I would also like to mention that while designing a kitchen sounds like a good idea, dealing with the Ikea design team in Italian is not unlike having a wisdom tooth removed if you have absolutely zero dental insurance. Luckily, the apartment we chose comes with a fully new and modern kitchen and we basically only have to buy beds and mattresses at Ikea. 

This past weekend we were reminded how rough the renovation process can be, when we pitched in to give our friends Fabio and Francesca a hand in painting their new home. Please remind me that I should not break the rule about not doing this kind of stuff after I turned forty, as it is one of the main positive things of being older and wiser, and yet, I didn’t take full advantage of it. After four hours my back was about to go out, so I was able to get Gabry a job substituting for me with F. He just needs to afford yellow paint to make his taxi dreams a reality and swears that he will never come back to Lucca again to beg. We had to pay for his work, but only because we pretended to our friends that he owed us a favor because we didn’t want to make them have to pay, and it is for a good cause. 


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Looking to move on
While Jennifer needed help from us with her passport fees, and Cool’s brother needed help with a bogus police report claiming that he attacked his girlfriend - who he says says she was never attacked - and Tina needed help with more old fines for begging and her electric bills that she can’t pay while Job is in Nigeria, we looked to move on.

It is another crazy adventure in real estate and Italian real estate brokers. The same tricks apply the world over, in that they never show you the best apartment first and they always say someone else is on the verge of signing for it, if you don’t act fast, and they always say anything at all whatsoever to clinch a deal. I let go of one the night before we even left Lucca because he called late in the evening to grill me about my employment status, and I felt he was quite rude.

All of the apartments we looked at cost half as much as a Manhattan studio apartment.

The apartment I was sure I wanted ended up being too big for us, and the living room was directly over a very busy shopping street with a bus stop. There was a skylight filled with bird poop and a guy who comes and cleans it once a month. It had a great kitchen and beautiful floors. The agent, Cristiana, and I chatted easily. She is a very loving auntie to her niece and lives in the neighborhood. Her voice is so deep, probably from smoking constantly, that I called her Cristiano on the phone, but she forgave me. I think.

The second apartment was in a stunning palazzo from the 1500s, but the apartment has ugly marble floors — if there is such a thing, and has not been in use for twenty years. It needs some repairs and felt very cold. The price was not bad. 

The next one was a grandma apartment with crazy old lady furniture and pea green walls. It had tremendous potential and an old lady smell. Most of the furniture would have to stay and also the wall color. The son of the lady refuses to live there, and so did F. 

Then we went to a house with a stunning frescoed ceiling, but the first agent told us that she didn’t like the area because of drug activity. We are from New York, so we took that with a grain of salt. I interviewed some high school students and it turns out to be a square where only kids go to smoke pot, and not really a high danger area. However, the kitchen was tiny. I liked the agents and the house owner and the current occupant a lot. I suck at rejecting real estate agents. I am what you call a sucker. But I do believe I will have coffee with the current occupant because she seems like a really cool person and she swore she meant it when she gave me her number. The color of the walls was a little oppressive to me. 

Then we went to a house under construction. I almost fell through the stairs. The construction chief said that the walls were insulated, but I made F tap on them from the neighboring apartment, and it turned out that they were not so much. The agent was very nice and seemed crestfallen when I told her no.

We were late to the last appointment, and the agent was already grumpy. He did the restructuring of the apartment and his daughter would be the upstairs neighbor if we took it. It was a giant, swank, apartment with all the amenities. This agent thought he was being nice to us. He called a friend about finding us work, bought us hot chocolates, and pretended to like us. Oddly, he flashed in with little bits of passive agressive rage when we mentioned that the first agent had told us that the place is located from the noisiest strip of the city where the bars are lined up and that the bar downstairs always has drunk people on the street in front of it on the weekends. It was the most expensive of the possiblities and perfectly amazing with a Sex and the City worthy walk in closet, a washer and dryer, a full armoire, lovely kitchen and bath, and even a garage space. But he got so mad telling me that he can’t control if the bar starts to play loud music or not, that we took him up on the hot chocolate at the bar near his office. And when he left, we got extra whipped cream and put it on his bill. He also tried to scare us about rich Bulgarians who he was shocked hadn’t signed the contact yet. Good luck with that.

I won’t show you the place we picked yet because it is very simple and well constructed, but can wait to be decorated for a big reveal. We still have to take a second look before we sign the contract next week to be sure. Stay tuned.