Friday, August 31, 2012

Yet another thing I can't un-see, but wish I could

We got rain this morning. Blessed, cool rain. Lots of lightening and thunder and wind and then pounding rain. It was awesome to lay in bed and listen to the storm swirl around us.

After a particularly loud and close lightening strike we decided to get up and have a look. We both threw on a shirt and walked to the terrace doors and looked out.

What did we see? Oh the usual stuff....rain, trees, our downstairs neighbor's terrace. And then something out of the ordinary. Our downstairs neighbor himself walking the peak of the roof adjacent to the terrace like a tightrope walker, carrying a big red and white umbrella and wearing only his tighty whiteys.

Why was he out on the roof in his underwear during a violent thunderstorm at 6:30 in the morning? Some questions are better left unasked. Hopefully he didn't see us seeing him and we can all pretend it never happened. I'll have to, or the next dinner at their house will be even more uncomfortable for me than they already are.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Visiting is hard work

So I've covered the wedding and the birthday party bike ride. I think now we should talk about eating in Sweden. Every time we visit we end up with at least several days of what I think of as "marathon eating." We start in the morning right after breakfast and drive from table to table, returning home only when the last coffee carafe is empty and there's nothing but crumbs left on every plate, usually close to bedtime. Put a couple of days like this together, or too many of them in a two week visit and my body rebels. It's not just the quantity that causes trouble, it's also the content. I live in an olive oil and pasta environment. Sweden is butter and cheese and cream.

One morning we got up, ate our breakfast, did something interesting I'm sure and  then had 11 coffee a little early so we could be good and hungry for lunch at Mimmi and Sune's. They're neighbors that Leif has known forever and are very lovely people. She always makes riced potatoes for me because the first time we ate there she made them and I told her how they reminded me of when I was younger and my grandmas and mom would make them.

Along with those riced potatoes were pork fillets in a creamy chanterelle sauce and bread with butter, of course. I suppose there was another vegetable of some kind, but I can't remember now. That's because after everyone, including me, had seconds we had to have dessert. Ice cream with caramel sauce and raspberries and tiny meringue cookies. I was making pretty good headway on my smallish (emphasis on -ish) bowl of ice cream when suddenly I froze. My spoon was suspended half-way between my bowl and my mouth and I just couldn't seem to move it. Not only that but when I wanted to say "Holy cow I can't move!" I couldn't talk either.

I'm pretty sure at that moment I was in the grip of a sugar coma. I couldn't talk (which was no great loss as the only person at the table with English was Leif) and I couldn't move. I felt like I was being pressed down into the earth and like I was floating, all at the same time. I'm not even sure I was breathing. I just sat there holding my spoon out and trying to telepathically communicate with Leif. Obviously we haven't been married long enough for the telepathy thing to work consistently yet. He just sat there smiling at me like everything was fine.

And as quickly as it started, it went away. Even though I was pretty sure it was the sugar that did it, I'm a Minnesotan through and through. I finished that bowl of ice cream down to the bottom. But slower now. I wasn't sure I could manage another sugar coma. Funny thing is that even though I thought it was obvious something was wrong with me, Leif says he didn't notice anything unusual. I guess those two minutes I thought I sat there holding my spoon and my breath was really more like two seconds.

We went straight from lunch with the neighbors to coffee with one of Leif's car buddies and his wife. His dad came along for the short trip to a nearby town because he likes to talk cars and he likes coffee. They brought the carafe, cookies and coffee cake outside to enjoy the sunshine. We weren't allowed to leave until the whole cake and most of the cookies were gone. I was starting to feel a little like a beached whale by now. Between the food, sugar and coffee I was wishing I could unbutton the top button of my pants. Discreetly of course.

As we got ready to leave Leif's buddy told us that there was a festival at another town that we might enjoy. "Great food," he said. That didn't impress me much at this point. "Oh, and a car show," he added. Words in Swedish were exchanged between Leif and his dad.

"So..." Leif said, "should we head home? Or should we stop by this festival?" He tried to act all casual and his dad wouldn't look me in the eye and it was so obvious that they wanted to go that I didn't even mess with them although I really wanted to. I said yes and before the word was out of my mouth they hustled me into the car and headed off in a new direction.

I totally forgive them both because even though I had to walk through acres (or hectares, if you want to get all metric) of classic cars, the majority of them were classic American cars and I could at least relate somewhat to them. We looked at Mustangs and Chevys, a Ford Model A and Mustangs, Alpha Romeos and Mustangs, VW's and Mustangs. I mistakenly thought I'd see a lot of European cars here, but no. Mostly Mustangs. Crazy. It's entirely possible that there are more Mustangs in Sweden than there are in California. (most of the license plates were from CA)

But before they browsed through the cars they showed me something special. This town, unlike many I've been to, really does have a castle. An honest to goodness castle with a moat. Towers. A wall. Crenelations. Almost a draw bridge. It was awesome and amazing and I couldn't believe that I didn't have my camera.

Strange as it may seem, after all those cars the guys were feeling a little hungry and asked if I wanted to get a bite at a bar in town and thus began our search for a bar with reasonably priced food and more importantly a big screen TV as Sweden had a football match on and they wanted to watch it. We gave up after a 10 minute search and got back in the car and drove off.

"Oh, look," Leif said as a truck stop came into view, "Do you want a hamburger Michele?" This was said in that voice I used to use with the kids when I wanted them to do something but wanted them to think it was their idea. You all know what it sounds like.

I may have sighed out loud. "I assume they have a TV here," I said. "Sure." Although I probably wasn't hungry and certainly not for a hamburger. But I had one anyway, and french fries. So I had yet another meal while they watched the game.

 I think we got home sometime after 10 pm. It was one long day filled with food and distinctly male activities. But I survived it; sugar coma, car show and all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The party before our wedding party

Now that I've satisfied the wedding geeks I can tell you about the rest of the trip to Sweden. I'm also avoiding making the thank you notes I decided to make myself. I spent  most of the afternoon getting the design right. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I think I'll leave the actual making of the notes to tomorrow morning when it's cooler. So I can focus better. Yeah. That's it.

Back to Sweden. First off, it was cool. The day before we left Florence was 40C and when we landed near Stockholm it was a brisk 13C. I hate to say "Brrrrr" when I've done nothing but complain about the heat for awhile, but it was definitely pants and long sleeves weather. Something more than sandals would have been nice, but we flew Ryanair, an airline whose rules about hand luggage border on fanaticism.  I'm lucky I had any clothes at all.

We spent the first two days helping Leif's brother get ready for his and his wife's joint 40th birthday party. When we arrived he handed us a diagram of the tables and told us that even though this wasn't to scale everything should fit when we move the tables around. I was to find out over the next few days that as a computer geek he's well suited to diagrams, printed material and planning.

Me and my father-in-law.
Working together in total silence.
Kind of like with my own dad.
The most frustrating part of the pre-party was setting up the party tent. Here's the deal. I've been camping, and helping with the tent, since I was probably eleven years old. Not some nifty, throw-it-on-the-ground-and-it-sets-itself-up kind of tent, but an eight man canvas tent with a hugemongous canopy off the front and about a fifty poles. I know a thing or two about setting up tents. The two men assisting me pretty much ignored every suggestion I had, until they figured out that I was right. Of course they never actually came out and said that, they just mumbled something about it seemed that this was the only alternative left to them, given their lack of supplies and/or tools. Whatever.

The beautiful tables.
We got the 20' x 30' tent set up. We got the tables covered in crisp white  tablecloths, the chairs covered in white as well. Each place had three sparkling glasses for wine and water, there were flowers and silver candlesticks and each person had a program for the event, thoughtfully filled with sixteen (numbered) Swedish drinking songs, a seating chart, and a short biography of each guest. Cross-referenced to other guests when necessary. For instance, along with other interesting information mine said that I was married to N2, Leif's seat assignment.

The birthday boy and girl dancing.
There were toasts, slide shows and singing for the birthday couple. I do have to say that Swedes are no slouches when it comes to singing drinking songs. None of the half-hearted humming and sideways looks to be sure no one sees you actually singing like at an American party. They sing loudly, beautifully and with great enjoyment. Of course, they know the reward is worth the singing. Later there was a DJ and dancing. It was a long and fun night.

But it wasn't over when we left the party. Oh no, people. There were still more adventures that night because Leif and his dad decided that given Sweden's zero tolerance laws on drinking and driving (and the fact that we all wanted to drink) we would ride bikes to the party and home again. The party was held in an old granary on a farm out in the country.

The trip there was an exciting, off-road thrill ride led by Leif's seventy five year old father. Nothing more embarrassing than riding through the forest wearing a pretty dress while an old man keeps yelling over his shoulder "It's a trail, really!!" over and over again. Because this is exactly the kind of situation where you meet hordes of other cyclists who for unknown reasons have also decided to ride in the middle of nowhere. I was grateful to make it to the barn in one piece and relatively clean and most of my dignity intact.

The ride home was even more exciting. While Leif and his dad had checked the bikes over before we left the house, what they checked were the vitals for riding: brakes, chains and tire pressure. What they overlooked in the bright afternoon sunlight was the lights. We left the party at about 1:30am so lights were essential to a safe ride home.

Leif's bike had lights front and back, but only the front one worked. My bike had no lights on it at all, something I missed in the light of day. His dad's bike also had lights front and back, but his front lamp didn't work. So at least we had a plan based on the available equipment. Leif would lead, I would be in the middle and Tord would take the rear. As we left people waved to us, probably thinking they might never see us again and/or that we were crazy.

We took the long way home because I insisted on using the bike trails that were paved, not the "trails" we took earlier. So we headed off into the sunrise, three black blobs cruising along the side of the road with minimal lighting. For the first kilometer or so Leif kept fiddling with the front light of his bike, and I couldn't figure out why till I noticed that there was very little illumination on the road but when we went under trees they were beautifully lit from below. His light was pointing pretty much straight up into the air and he couldn't get it to stay down. I breathed a little easier once we were off the narrow country road and on the actual bike trail because then the lack of lights was less of an issue in my mind.

Suddenly the bike path veered away from the road and headed off into the middle of a grain field. My confidence in the whole project plummeted at this point. We were headed of into the middle of nowhere with possibly impaired reflexes and judgement and minimal lighting. Once I stopped (sort of) freaking out and looked around it was really kind of beautiful. The moon had finally come out from behind some clouds and the whole scene was bathed in that silvery light only the moon can do. It was also more effective than Leif's front light. We rode through an intersection and as I was wondering how in the hell could there be two intersecting bike trails in the middle of nowhere the path turned back to the road and Leif's dad was yelling "No, no, no!" Well, actually he was yelling "Nej, nej, nej!" because Leif was making a turn he felt we shouldn't. Of course he was right, this is his hometown after all and Leif hasn't ridden some of these paths for years.

Suddenly Tord yelled again and headed off to the left almost without us. And there we were riding for all we were worth to catch up with an elderly man....the bike  with the rear light leading the way, the bike with the front light close behind and the bike with no lights (me) bringing up the rear and praying we didn't meet any cars. If heading into the middle of a wheat field in the pitch dark was unsettling, heading into the forest was downright scary. Somewhere along the way we managed to sort out the riding order so the lights were in the right places again and I was safely tucked between them.

St this point I pretty much gave up worrying about how badly this whole ride could go and started laughing about it. Because it was funny. It still is funny. And yes, we got home just fine. No one fell down or got lost or run into. And now I have a unique story about that night that no one else has. You may be saying to yourself "What about Leif and his dad? Don't they have the same story?" Yes and no. We all participated in the same ride, but our views on what happened are probably very different. His dad acted like it was nothing unusual to ride off  into the black night without lights. Leif was a little less enthusiastic, but still acting like this wasn't the weirdest idea ever. And no, there are no pictures of us heading off, helmet-less, into the night. Use your imagination.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Our second wedding day

The bride.
I totally look like I'm in control.
That's right....I've survived another twelve days in Sweden. Actually, more than survived. I think I've finally figured out how to train in Italy for eating in Sweden and while I don't understand Swedish I do understand a few words and that allows me to put on my "thoughtful and understanding" face as I struggle internally to follow the conversation. Or give up and think about something else....although I tried not to do that  too often. Someone always asks me a question when I think about something else.

There were several significant events during our visit. I guess I'll assume that you'd like me to leave the other events for later and get right to the good stuff. But I'm warning you right now, there was some really good stuff during the other eleven days.

The groom.
The best man on the planet,
hands down.
We had the blessing for our wedding which was beautiful and touching and most of the planning wasn't finished until a few days before the actual ceremony. In Swedish. I will probably repeat that phrase a lot, with good reason. I was usually agreeing to something based on either the speaker's or Leif's translation, and therefore interpretation, of how to say something in English. I have to admit that it added a certain degree of anticipation to the whole day. Would it be what I thought it would be? Or would it take a left turn in mid-stream leaving me to cover my surprise with a smile and a shrug...or if necessary the dropping of something breakable to distract people from the look on my face?

Is it too much of a spoiler for you if I say that I didn't have to break a single dish, glass or vase during the day? Oh, and nothing burned down either which is a miracle considering the number of candles we lit that day.

Tord, Leif's father.
One look at that face should tell you why I
didn't even try to put the flowers on him.
His bark is worse than his bite.
Saturday, August 18 started out gray and cool. I ironed my dress and his shirt. Yes, I left it till the day of the ceremony. Leif and his dad moved us out of the guest room and put on new linens for two of our guests who were coming from very far south. We got a cold lunch ready and then hopped in the car to pick up some flowers for the church and for my hair. Yes, I left it till the day of the ceremony. The church and the hall were only a block away so we walked down to the hall to count chairs and figure out how to set it up. Yes, I left it till the day of the ceremony AND I didn't diagram it either.

Somewhere between 11 and 11:30 his sister and brother with their families showed up at the hall to help us set up and we got started. At this point I should point out that I'm not Swedish and  I'm an artist...symmetry isn't my first design requirement. In fact I avoid it. The rest of the group is Swedish and fond of symmetry. We didn't exactly butt heads over things, but when asymmetry managed to sneak into the design scheme (and it did) I was responsible. Certain things stick out in my mind.

For a short time someone would correct my (obviously incorrect) placement and bring everything back into symmetry and then I would have to fix it. And someone else would correct it so that I would have to fix it the way I wanted it again. At least I assume it was a different  person. Eventually this mystery someone figured out that I wanted things a certain way and stopped correcting it.

Karin, Tomas' wife.
One of the sweetest women in the world.
New super mom. Flower fanatic.
Leif's sisters were a little disappointed that I didn't have a plan for everything and in fact was happy to skip certain things, like flowers on the table. They were very understanding, but drew the line at flowers on the tables. These are important in Sweden, I guess. So, because I didn't have a plan, they brought everything they needed and made the room beautiful for me. This has nothing to do with symmetry but everything to do with learning to live together. And they were right. The flowers needed to be there.

Roger, Ingela's fiancee.
A great guy who picks on my unmercifully.
I like him.
The gift/guest book table had two candles on it and a candelabra behind it on the floor. I had the candelabra to one side and the two (different height) candlesticks on the other side. Roger moved the candelabra to the center and the candlesticks on either side. I caught him and said, "No-no, the other way." He looked at me in complete astonishment, like he couldn't for the life of him understand why anyone would want the table to look like I wanted it. He asked me "Really?" about five times before he just threw up his hands and walked away as if to say "OK, if you want to look completely ridiculous in front of everyone go ahead, but I wash my hands of the entire thing!"

The serving table was just a teeny bit wider than the table cloth. On either side of the cloth about 6" of beautiful birch table showed. I thought it looked fine....the Swedish faction felt it wasn't right. At all. But we only had enough tablecloth to cover the table once, not twice to cover the whole table. After several minutes of heated discussion we agreed to cut the table cloth in half  the long way (it was paper) and fill the center with a runner we found in a cabinet. So I really didn't win that one, but they had to live with an obvious (to them anyway) solution to the problem.

There was slight panic when we thought there wasn't enough refrigerator for the sandwich cakes and the wine, but after some exploring we found more fridges in the basement and managed to get all the wine cold and still keep the cakes ready to serve. Side note: Sandwich cakes are awesome. Bread layered with cream cheeses filling and ham and tuna and then frosted with more cream cheesey stuff and decorated with fruit and veggies and prawns and other good to eat stuff. Also very, very Swedish.

Leif's sister Ingela.
A magician with flowers.
A great new sister for me.
Then we went back to the house to eat lunch. I have found that I really like the potato salad with dill. I wonder why we never had that at home? At almost 2pm I remembered that I had to glaze the cakes I had made the night before so I ran back up to the church quickly to do that and then back to the house. Because we still had to arrange the flowers for the church pews and make the wreath for my hair and the wedding was scheduled to start at 3pm and I wasn't dressed yet.

Leif's sister Ingela made the flowers for my hair while his sister-in-law Karin helped me dress, then Karin took the flowers to the church while we did the final touches on my flowers and got Ingela dressed. At the last minute Leif decided to put some color in his breast pocket and that required finding things his dad never uses but is pretty sure he has and finally, at five minutes to three we started walking down to the church.

Neighbors out for walks wished us a happy wedding day. So did the kids jumping on the trampoline in their front yard. We stopped along the way to take a few photos and finally made it to the church very nearly on time, or at least fashionably late. What were they going to do....start without us?

Vist Kyrka is a beautiful small town church with vaulted wood ceilings and a ginormous pipe organ and a much smaller "back-up" organ as well as a grand piano. The church bells rang for us, and as the last sounds of the bells faded the pipes of the organ filled the space with sound as we walked down the aisle lined with candles and flowers and the smiling faces of family and friends.

It was a lovely ceremony, conducted almost entirely in Swedish, and as perfect as anyone could imagine. Both the priest and his wife, who was also the organist, sang for us. Leif's sister read the words on love from Corinthians. I totally choked and after weeks (OK, months) of practicing my "Ja" I said "Jjjjjjjyes." I'm such a dork.

And then it was over....we were walking down the aisle again. I found out then that in Sweden the guests stay in the pews till the couple leave the church....but we couldn't because it was raining. So we stood in the vestibule looking at them and they stood in the church looking at us. Finally I pointed at the sky and said "It's raining." and those who understood me told those who didn't, there was a collective "aaah" and then everyone rushed us at the door.

Leif's brother, Tomas.
He picks on me less than
Roger, but not by much.
Another great guy.
We walked across the churchyard to the hall and ate sandwich cake and drank wine. Leif's brother Tomas and his sister Ingela made a wedding toast that was really a speech and mostly in Swedish. Leif has promised to translate the funnier parts, but I'm pretty sure that he'll conveniently forget that and I'll have to find someone else to tell me what was so funny. His sister did say part of it in English and it was the best part of the toast for me. She said that the family never really understood why Leif had to move so far away, but that now they understand because he had to move away to meet me. Yup, there were tears all around at that point. We drank some more wine and cut the cake (almond lavender cake) and by the time we were finished there was no sandwich cake and only three pieces of lavender cake left. A pretty good sign that everyone left satisfied, I think.

We had family and friends drive all the way from Stockholm, Gothanberg, and far southern Sweden to spend this day with us and we were so grateful for their presence. It was the kind of day every bride dreams about and sadly only a few get. I'm one of the lucky ones. I got two, that's right, two beautiful and memorable weddings with one man.

At the end of the party we cleaned up and because I was very tired and possibly just a little drunk and someone gave me my camera back, I took pictures. I made everyone wear my flowers for the picture and because it was my special day they did it joyfully. These are the people who made our day something truly special and unforgettable and for that reason I've used their pictures to describe our (second) wedding day.

In supporting, yet very important roles:

Evelina, Ingela and Roger's
oldest daughter.
Wedding photographer.
Smart, funny and growing
up fast.
Simon, Karin and Tomas' son.
Got more ooh's and aaah's than
the bride.
Anyone can see why.

Rebecka, Ingela and Roger's
youngest daughter.
After dinner soccer player
and cute as a button.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Closed for rest

As of today I am officially closed for rest. That's what all the signs around here say. Chiusi di fierie. A great idea I think and a much better word than vacation. We leave for Sweden in the morning and we return in about two weeks. I'll be back then, but in choosing RyanAir we also chose to fly with only hand luggage weighing no more than 10 kilos and I'm not giving up clothes for a computer. Especially when we will be staying with his dad who has no internet. There's really no point and I think the rest will do me good.

But we haven't left yet and there's things to tell you about. I've already told you that I have a part time job as a nanny when I come back. The mom told me that she would have someone in the office call me and tell me what documents they needed from me. And a very nice woman from an office somewhere did call me, but while I was at the park with another little girl and a screaming pack of 10 other children. She only spoke Italian and I couldn't concentrate on her words and she finally said that one of her coworkers who spoke English would call me in 5 minutes.

The next woman who called said they needed documents, but she didn't seem anxious to tell me exactly what they were. She just wanted my e-mail address. I spelled it but she must have written it down wrong because when I checked my e-mail late the following day (I worked again) there was nothing there. I worried about this over the weekend, wondering aloud why no one could just tell me over the phone what documents I needed and guessing at what they might want. It's Italy after all, where paperwork was invented.

Leif called the mystery office for me on Monday, but (of course) the woman I needed to talk to was on vacation and won't be back till the 27th. The woman he did talk to wouldn't tell him which documents we needed, although I'm guessing that she knows exactly which ones we should bring. They both work in the personnel office for goodness sake.

So we are trying to anticipate what we'll need and have it done before we leave for Sweden, leaving our minds free to rest in gay abandon without worrying about what happens when we return. We''re guessing that as they are paying into my social benefits I need that paperwork done and probably I need to open a bank account so they can deposit money directly into my account. When the dad had to pay me the Sunday I worked he looked confused, like, "You want me to give her cash?" Definitely they won't pay me directly.

First I needed  to change the name on my Codice Fiscale, or Italian social security card. This happens at a completely different office than any of the others we've visited lately so it was a nice change of pace. We got the correct  form from the desk where we also got our number. We sat down to fill out the form (which I filled out wrong, but in the end it didn't really matter) and waited for out number to come up. We barely got sat down before our number flashed on the screen and I dragged Leif back to the office to look for desk number 14.

We told him what we wanted and handed him our badly filled out form and my passport. He looked at my four names and called a colleague over for a whispered consultation. "Can she have that many names? How do we do this?" I sat there looking as innocent as I could. He took my forms off to make copies, brought them back to the desk and sat down at the keyboard to get started. And stopped. He said "They changed your name and number at the Questura," and pointed to it on my permesso. He looked so happy that he didn't have to be the one to initiate the paperwork with too many names on it. He told us they just needed to have these copies and that now I would have not only my Codice Fiscale but another card that is a kind of medical card. He placed  his office rubber stamp on the form, initialed it with a flourish and sent us on our way.

Wow. Less than 20 minutes, no extra paperwork and a smile to boot. I felt invincible. I was wracking my brains trying to figure out what other offices we needed to visit because obviously today was my day! But then we got distracted by celebrating our victory with coffee with one friend and then gelato with another and suddenly the day was gone.

The next day we were in and out of the post office to pay some bills in less than 10 minutes, another miracle, so we decided whatever mojo we had going was still working so we went to open a bank account.

Banks here make me nervous. Every bank has an airlock at the entrance designed for one person at a time to enter. Some banks have armed guards standing outside at all times. I'm not sure how effective they are as they seem to spend most of their time on their cell phones, but it's still a little intimidating. Leif's bank has been in business since the 1500's. I decided to be totally American and chose a fairly new credit union close to our house. They still have to let you in through controlled glass doors but there aren't any guards so I'm comfortable there.

I'm giving you everything in English here, but remember that all this is happening in Italian. Fast, Florentine accented Italian.

Leif:  We'd like to open an account for my wife.

Bank Girl: OK. (looks at me) Is she Italian?

Leif: No, American"

Bank Girl: (slight frown) Is she a resident?

Leif: No, but she has a permesso and lives with me. I'm a resident.

Bank Girl: (calls an office 10 feet away from us and he comes over to help. She looks relieved.)

Bank Guy: (takes us to his office and whips out a brochure) What can I do for you today?

Leif: We want to open an account for my wife because she will be working and they will do direct deposit.

Bank Guy:  (Long spiel about the bank and accounts.) Which would you like?

Leif looks at me...I chose the "small" account which costs nothing and has a bancomat card so I don't have to come inside the bank to take out money.

Bank Guy: So we just need her Carta D"Identita (residence card) and we can open the account.

Leif: re-explains my non-resident status.

Bank Guy: (calls girl at front desk [just like she called him] and asked how to open an account for a non-resident. She still doesn't think it can be done.) I'm so sorry (yes, he apologized) but we can't give her a bancomat card. She can open an account, she just has to come in to the window to get money.

Me: That's fine. I walk by this office nearly every day anyway to shop.

Bank Guy: (looking relieved) Ok, we just have to fill out some paperwork. (and leads us back to the girl we started with)

Bank Girl:  I need to make copies of your passport and permesso and codice fiscale (and whisks them away while handing me a form for non-residents to fill out)

As I finish filling out the paperwork with fewer mistakes than the day before Bank Guy comes back with Bank Girl and my permesso.

BankGuy: But Signora! Your permesso says you are a resident! This is wonderful! Now we can give you the bancomat card!

Bank Girl grabs the paperwork I just filled out and loudly crumples the pages up and throws them in the trash. She attacks her keyboard with enthusiasm now. Page after page starts spitting out of the printer. She and Leif joke about printing a book and she starts placing pages in front of me to sign.

Bank Girl:, here, here.........and here. You have to come back to get the code for your bancomat card and to initiate the online banking, but all that can wait till you come back. Have a good trip and we'll see you at the end of the month.

I walked out of my new bank feeling a little dazed. At first there seemed to be no way they could do anything for me and suddenly they nearly burst into song because they found a small loophole that allowed them to give me all that I wanted.

So I should be ready now for the personnel office when they call. Of course there's always the possibility that they're going to ask for some other obscure paper I've never heard of, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. After I've rested.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I was wrong...apparently I DO look like Mary Poppins

It's been a long week. That's putting it mildly, but if I state it truthfully you'll be afraid to read this. On top of the scorching heat and drought that currently has Tuscany in a death grip I have been watching a three year old. All day. Not just a few hours here and there but breakfast till the folks are done with work. I don't remember three year olds being this much work. Then again, I don't really remember a whole lot of my children's toddler years. I worked all the time and that doesn't leave a lot of the day to form those priceless memories that everyone else seem to have. What I remember most is always being tired and wishing I could spend more time with them as I tried my damnedest to get them into bed (semi-clean) at a reasonable hour.

But that was then and this is now. Now is where my 50 year old body tries to keep up with a three year old. I can't really say "Not now, I'm tired," because they're paying me to be there for her. So we walk to the park and play on the slide and the swings. We go to the pool and I spend hours jumping up and down with her and letting her chase me back and forth across the pool. We crawl around on her floor playing with dolls and stuffed animals and doing puzzles.

I come home at night completely exhausted in part because I'm riding home at the hottest part of the day. Then it's too hot to sleep, so I also wake up exhausted. Not a good way to start the day. I did this for four days last week and I'll do it for three days this week before we leave for Sweden. I'm so ready for vacation.

And that's not all that happened this week. I got offered a job nannying. (Side note: spell check says nannying isn't a word and would I like to replace it with annoying or angina? Who knew spell check had a sense of humor?) I wasn't looking for permanent work but it seems to have found me through the network I've been building over the last year here. It's a little crazy really, because I've only watched their kids one morning  yet they really, really want me to work for them.

I'm going to take it for several reasons. It would only be for thirteen days a month, leaving me over half the month to do what ever I want. Or nothing, it's up to me. It's a contract job, which means nothing to an American but everything to an Italian. Most jobs don't offer employment contracts that protect the employee and gives benefits. So somehow I've accidentally stumbled on the holy grail of jobs here. Yay me. Also, I never have to cook. They have someone who does that for them. Yup, it's a pretty sweet deal.

I did hesitate a bit. All this stuff is new to me. I was looking at it as committing to 13 days every month. Leif said "Yeah, but you don't have to do anything the other 18 days. You'll get to see how the other half lives. It's an adventure." Tough to argue with that. Sometimes he's pretty smart.

Now comes the inevitable stack of Italian paperwork. If I can best the Questura, I can handle this office too. It's exciting in an "Oh my God what have I done" kind of way.