Monday, April 23, 2012

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Today I sat down at the table, looked yet again out our balcony doors towards Fiesole sitting on top of its hill, took a deep breath and started filling out my application for a permesso di sogiorno, my long term stay permit here in Italy.

I don’t know if I ever described the application for my short-term study permsso, but it was over ten pages long and required copies of everything from school registration to insurance coverage, letters from my landlord to bank statements, and every single page in my passport. I mailed almost a half inch tall stack of papers to the Questura.

Needless to say this past experience makes me suspicious of the single page application I have for a permesso that will last far longer than a student permit. All they want is a typical form with name, address, reason for the permesso and my personal info from my passport. Supporting documents are just as easy: proof that the marriage is registered in Florence (check), translations of the marriage certificate and stamp from the Secretary of State (check and check.) Just in case we also have a translation of the registery of the marriage in Sweden. Slap on a Marco di Bollo worth 14.62 euro, which seems to accompany every transaction in Italy, and we’re good to go. It seems too easy. Too streamlined and efficient. Too….something.

There was one additional line on this form that I didn’t have on the student application. They wanted a reference here in Italy. No problem, I thought. I’ll just call a friend who lives here and then I’ll be done with the application. I was surprised when she got a little flustered and started suggesting other people like my neighbors (yeah, the ones who avoid me in the hall.) She was starting to sound desparate so I quickly told her that I would try someone else and ended the call.

That’s when I realized…I’m not in Minnesota anymore. Because, in Minnesota if I called a friend and said “I need…” most of them wouldn’t let me finish the sentence before interrupting with “Yes, I’ll help you any way I can.” Family, close friends, new friends, or acquaintances have all been and continue to be willing to help.

Leif told me to think of it not as an indicator of our friendship, but as an example of how much people distrust the Italian government. True, I’ve heard horror stories of the long memory of the government and their ability to make lives difficult but I hardly think they will even call her. I tried not to be hurt by her refusal, but it’s hard to not take it personally when I know that if she asked me the same question I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.

So after I calmed down I called an American friend who lives here and as soon as she heard what I needed she said “Of course! Anything you need!” No hesitation, just an immediate and very warm response to a friend. And now I know that here in Florence I can find Minnesota whenever I need it, it’s just a phone call away. Thank you Barbara. For a New Yorker you make a pretty good Minnesotan.

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