Avevo paura…ho avuto paura…avevo avuto paura.
Prima, avevo paura delle molte cose.
I have been afraid…I was afraid…I had been afraid.
But now — now I am brave.
The first thing that I was afraid of, when I arrived, was the shower.
You know, the shower. As in — a way for me to become clean again after walking miles and miles through the city. Or after sleeping. Or after cooking with garlic.
The shower is very, very narrow (la doccia è molto stretta — quasi troppo…). It is probably only about twenty-two inches square…and the shower entry is fourteen inches wide. It reminds me of something from an old Woody Allen movie. It took me a day or so to actually shower — the small space frightened me…I cannot tell you why. When I finally announced I was taking a shower, R mentioned that he was about to say something to me about that…
But, hey, I am clean. Finalmente. (I know, I know, oversharing…)
Next, I have been afraid of the government offices. We had heard stories — and had our own experiences — with gli uffici governi (government offices). I will not tell my other story here. But I will talk about 9 novembre.
Once we had our visas — which were an adventure of their own — and which we had in hand only a number of days before our arrival here, we had appointments for yesterday at the Preferattura — the police station. We met the wonderful woman, “A”, who was helping us through this process. There was a long line for the opening of the Preferattura. It was about five minutes to nine. When we stood on the sidewalk, one of the workers saw us, recognized “A”, and let us in through the back door. She actually (attualmente!!!) smiled at us. She smiled at me! Someone smiled at me! She directed us to her office. We walked through hallways, sat at the desk.
She shook my hand. She said “piacere” (she was happy to meet me).
I handed her my passport. She smiled. She looked at my page — said we were born the same year. Then she said that she was born in agosto (io, febbraio) and made a joke that I was so much older than her. (And yes, this was all in Italiano)
She looked at my documents, stamped this, stamped that.
Stapled this and that.
Looked out the window. Said to us “Fa brutto”. But to me, it was not an ugly day…someone was helping me and she had smiled and she had made a joke.
Not just one person — but two!
And then, we were done. This time, we marched through the front door to leave. The policeman by the door was really, really unhappy that we had come in the back.
I was thinking — this is the best day — ever!
Then we went, all of us, R and “A” and her colleague, to the PosteItaliane…the post office. It was time to do our applications for our Permesso di Soggiorno — our residency cards. We took numbers. We held them. Luckily there was not a big crowd — and when we were called up to the clerk, we held our breath. The wonderful “A” presented our documents, each of us at a time. Our documents were accepted. There were no ‘creative’ requests from the clerk as had been our previous experience with the government office.
Today — unlike last time — I did not cry.
”A”, who does this thing for a living — was smiling.
I was awarded an appointment for “biometrics” — review of my application and full fingerprinting (whole event takes a couple of hours) in late January — which apparently is a major miracle — AND, apparently, I was given an appointment at a really good police station here in the city. I did not know exactly all the in’s and out’s, exactly, but I was told I was super lucky.
But “A” was still holding her breath. Now it was R’s turn. His documents were accepted. His appointment was actually given the very same day as mine, at the same time, in the same, “good” police station. And in way less than six months from now.
Now “A” was uncontained.
She did a little dance. In PosteItaliane.
Two fears down.
Today — Venerdì, I decided I was conquering another fear. I was going to back into the city center, in centro, to get tickets for the city tram. You have to go to a place called the A.T.M. Point (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi) and purchase your card. No, again, ancora, I have no idea — no idea at all — why this made me afraid. But I did it. I walked and then braved a taxi (mostly the taxi driver who raged against my government in italian), walked to the underground and purchased my tickets. 27 euros for two ten-ride passes. A deal, right? And done!
(I told the taxi driver that I had been, yesterday, to the Preferattura— and the taxi driver told me that everyone is afraid of the government offices here.)
Wow. Now I have showered and I have tickets to public transport.
And “A” has danced at the post office.
I am walking, walking, for hours all over the city. Not only am I walking…but I am speaking Italian to myself —all day long. I am describing my environment to myself, I am having conversations with myself…and I am making many mistakes.
Apparently, I am a tough critic.
And now, it is time for i dolcetti. We have been invited somewhere this weekend…and I am bringing dessert. I ordered dessert for a bunch of people — totally in Italian. I told the woman at the bakery that I wanted to do the right thing. I told her that I was new here and I wanted to bring i dolcetti in abbondanza. So we are bringing a semifreddo. And other surprises. Many small dolcetti. And so pretty.
My next job is to finish my language exam to determine my level.
I hope to one day, finalmente…be able to use “ce” and “ne”…something I have had difficulty grasping. I am actually afraid of them.
But in the meantime…I am leaving you with a semifreddo.