All your books are belong to us!

I went to the Questura in Pordenone last week to sign some forms, as noted in my last entry. I’ve been in a sort of legal limbo regarding identity and legal residence for a couple of months now because the people at the comune of Montereale would not give me a Carta d’Identita, apparently due to not having a clue what to do with an Elective Residence visa. The woman we talked to at the Questura was very confused as to why he hadn’t given me the card, as he was supposed to. This led to some questions about my being in Trieste rather than Montereale and we explained the situation and why I had rented here and had not yet legally changed my address and registered with the comune of Trieste.

I apologized for being a problem, even though the situation was largely beyond my control, and said that we’d been trying to make it less complicated. She said that since I am living in Trieste, she will transfer the forms I need to sign to the Questura here, which will mean that once the papers are signed, I can take the required classes here in Trieste rather than going to Pordenone for them. “You are not the kind of problem we have here,” she said, assuring me that everything would be all right, and that I should take the form she gave me to the Questura in Trieste sometime this week, and then register with the comune here to get my Carta d’Identita. Once that’s done, everything will be legal and proper and all the bureaucrats should be happy. The Permesso di Soggiorno is still approved and the current kerfuffle won’t change that; I’ll still be getting it about a month after I sign the papers here. My brother will be in town Thursday so we can take care of this.

After the appointment at the Questura, we stopped and got me an oven (combination microwave/convection) for the kitchen. I had to email the company to get a user’s manual in English; I couldn’t find a download on their website anywhere. I managed enough Italian to set the clock on it, but I didn’t want to take any chances misunderstanding the rest, considering that microwaves can actually catch fire under certain circumstances. Better to know what the different settings are supposed to do!

We also stopped at Ikea, where I got a bunch of bookshelves. I still need about three more, but most of the books, and all the dvds and cd’s are now up off the floor. The packing materials are broken down and consolidated into a mountain in the corner of the library, and some of the art is up on the walls. I feel so much better and more settled now that the clutter has been largely dealt with and that I have my books around me and accessible once again. Disorganized clutter tends to raise my anxiety levels a lot, so dealing with it as quickly as possible was as much for my mental health as anything else. One of the women at the American Corner said that she’d been here in Trieste for seven years and still hasn’t unpacked all her boxes. I do kind of understand that, if you haven’t got a place for things, or if you have closets you can shove less-needed things into and forget about them. I’ve done it before, usually with boxes of papers. Before I left Everett, I sorted through those and recycled about 95% of what was in them as the papers really weren’t relevant or needed anymore. Lightening that load helped a lot, as well.

I spent three solid days building bookshelves and shelving books. I finished up on Friday with what I had here, and am still aching like crazy.

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Books in the office

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Books in the library

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Less of a mess at the desk

Sunday I met some new people. In the morning, I met with Michelle, a young woman originally from South Africa, who came to Trieste by way of London with her partner, who is working at the university here. She’s a photographer. I was introduced to her via Twitter by one of my writer friends, who’d met her in #blogchat a couple of weeks ago. We went to Caffè degli Specchi and sat out with tea (me) and a cappuccino (her) until the rain rolled in, at which point we went and had lunch at the pizza place here in Piazza della Libertà. She’s very interested in museums, as am I, so we are going to see about going to some museums together, possibly this coming week.

Later in the day, I was invited to an art opening at a small bar called Juice, on Via della Madonnina. The art is the thesis work by a woman who is, I believe, the sister of a friend of Giulia’s. We were told to show up at 6pm, only to find that the bar didn’t open until 7, so four of us – me, Giulia, another American, and an engineering student who is a friend of Guilia’s – went looking for a little snack. We grabbed a quick bite in Piazza San Giovanni, then headed back to Juice. Which opened twenty minutes late. We were going to meet Giulia’s boyfriend at Cinema dei Fabbri for a showing of The Imposter at about 8, so we didn’t really have time for more than just ducking in to see the art and leaving. The show was a bunch of sequential art, nicely done, with a manga influence.

Cinema dei Fabbri shows films in the original language. This one was an American film in English with Italian subtitles. I liked being able to see the subtitles to help with my Italian skills, which really do need a lot of work. I’m doing a little better and catching a bit more of the conversations as they go by, but am still having trouble actually speaking much. I did use a little of my Italian over the course of the evening, though.

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Film projector at Cinema dei Fabbri

After the cinema, we went to Taverna del Giglio. It’s a burgers and beer place popular with the university students. They had a pretty extensive menu of flavored grappa, as well. I had a grilled chicken and cheese sandwich with a grappa rosmarino. Usually an herbal grappa would be a digestif for after dinner, but the rosemary flavor was really fantastic with the chicken and cheese. Several of the tables of younger people had ordered a long series of grappa shots, which were brought in on skis. It was an interesting presentation. I hadn’t realized that grappa came in colors, but these were creamy pinks and greens and other milky colors, with sweet flavors like strawberry and chocolate. I’ll have to try some of the other grappas when I go again.

We parted company after dinner, as it was about midnight, but I had a really good time and the people I met were very nice. Giulia’s boyfriend has done an extensive academic history of Masonry in Trieste and is doing a presentation at the university sometime in the next week or so. He’s apparently also done a short film on some of the Masonic locations in the city that I would like to find. I need to ask him if it’s up on YouTube.

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Paperwork, apartments, and minor frustrations

It looks like I have an apartment!

We went back to Trieste a couple of days ago and talked with people at the rental agency about contract details, and are supposed to go back tomorrow to sign the contract with the building’s owner. I’m not sure if I’ll get the keys on the 15th of January or the 1st of February, but it will, at any rate, be soon. I’d like to work on getting a bed in there, and things for the kitchen as soon as I can, as I won’t really be able to live there without a place to sleep and something to cook and eat with.

The building with my soon-to-be apartment

The building with my soon-to-be apartment

Getting a bank account was a little more challenging than I’d anticipated. The first place we went to was reluctant and the person we talked to said that services for Americans were much more restricted than for other people. Apparently after 9/11 the US government put a lot of restrictions in place for offshore accounts, and that means that people like me, who just want to be able to pay rent and the bills, will have a harder time than otherwise. He called around for us and said that another bank would be able to help us, and we thanked him and headed over there.

The process of opening the account there took half an hour or so, not counting the waiting in line. I had to sign a novel’s worth of papers, and was asked if I was a political activist. The answer to this question, unlike the answer to “are you a god?” is always “no.” If I do any deposits that aren’t electronic deposits, I have to fill out a paper saying where the money came from each time I make one, so I’m going to talk to the VA and see about them automatically depositing my disability check while still having my Social Security check deposited in my US account so that I have options for dealing with things in both countries. I have a debit card and some limited internet banking availability. I’m still not sure yet if I can pay the rent electronically or if I’ll have to get checks every month for the rent and my bills. At any rate, I am bank-enabled now and this is a start.

Amid the frustrations of dealing with banks and rental agents, we took a walk around other parts of the city. The Roman amphitheater is right across the street from the Questura office, so I’ll be able to find the place pretty easily when I need to go there to do things like renew my Permesso when that becomes necessary.

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Roman amphitheater in Trieste

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Stained glass at Pescada

A little toward the waterfront from the Questura, and into a pedestrian street, we grabbed some lunch at a fish restaurant called Pescada. The décor was cozy and a bit funky, and they were playing chill electronica rather that the surprisingly ubiquitous English-language pop that most places seem to have going all the time. The food was fantastic as well. It’s definitely a place I’ll be returning to.

The restaurant generally caters to the office workers at lunch, with a fixed-price menu, except on Fridays. I’m betting dinner is really nice too. The stained glass separating one of the dining areas from the kitchen was oceanic, complete with octopus.

We walked around on the waterfront, too, and I took some photos of the city from the dock. The day was overcast and a little chilly, but not too bad. There was a little drizzle but certainly not anything I wasn’t used to.

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Triestine waterfront

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View of the city looking toward the train station

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View of Piazza Unità d’Italia from the waterfront

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Image of the Bora wind from a wind rose on the dock

I still don’t have a Carta d’Itentità. It turned out my brother’s landlady didn’t actually have to sign anything. The guy down at the office in Montereale has never dealt with an elective residence visa before and was concerned that the Questura would want one. They didn’t ask for it, so that wasn’t at issue. Since I arrived on an elective residence visa but am being sponsored into the country as though it was a family reunification type visa, he was not certain which category I belong in, and is not going to issue the identity card until I actually have my Permesso in hand. As previously noted in other posts, that may not be until the first or second week of February. While this isn’t really that long in the larger scheme of things, it does mean that I can’t legally change my address to Trieste until after I have a card for Montereale. Even if I get the keys to my apartment on January 15th, I can’t register my address there until that paperwork is done. I will still mostly have to be living here in Montereale. I suppose it’s not that big a deal, as I do still need to get things together to make the place actually inhabitable by someone who needs to be able to eat and sleep.

The Dawn Chorus

They start well before dawn, really. I’ve heard them going at 3:30 and 4am, before the light has even started seeping into the sky.  If I’m half-awake, as I often am at that hour, I hear them crowing. There seem to be roosters everywhere.

Back in Everett, it was Canada geese, wild ducks, and seagulls, or the occasional osprey. Sometimes the Oregon juncoes would join in or, rarely, a Steller’s jay. Here, roosters. Multitudinous roosters.

I haven’t lived on a farm in decades and when I did, it was the sort where the potatoes didn’t wake you up before the sun rose. You didn’t have to worry about squawking cucumbers or restless squash. Vegetables, as a rule, are a silent lot. Chickens are not.

Yesterday one of my brother’s friends showed up at the door, needing a hand with one of the huge, cylindrical bales of hay for bedding. She knocked. My brother was asleep, as we’ve both been down hard with head colds; I’d been perusing Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult, a little light reading and an interruptible project. I fumbled with the key in the lock, trying to open the door; I’m not terribly practiced at letting myself out because there’s nowhere to go out here, so I usually leave with my brother. The farm is gated and I don’t have an electronic door opener, so I can’t really even go out to take a walk by myself. There are moments when I feel like I’m secretly in a Laurel and Hardy short film.

Once I got the door open, his friend asked if he was around. I offered to help, and then my brother woke up, so all three of us wandered around to the back of the building, where we were confronted with a mountainous bale nearly as tall as I am. I’ve heaved the smaller rectangular bales in my childhood. I’m not as young as I was then, and I’m a little iffy on the whole walking in a straight line thing, but I’m capable of putting my weight behind something and pushing. We needed all three of us.

I met some of the denizens of the farmyard out there – a horse, three donkeys, and a bunch of chickens, along with several more cats than I’d previously seen. The donkeys were not terribly patient and were trying to nibble off the bale as we rolled it through the mud. It’s been raining a fair bit, and yesterday we actually had some sun, so it was the best time to move the bale from the barn to the shelter in the barnyard.

The view of the Dolomites from the barnyard is really quite spectacular, whether they are cloud-crowned or not. Snow fell in the mountains recently, and the peaks looked distinctly fluffy from this distance. They’re much closer than either the Cascades or the Olympics were back on Puget Sound. When the view hasn’t been fogged it, it’s been lovely.

But chickens. Most of them live in the barnyard. Two of them, however, live out in the front here, with the humans and the dogs and a couple of the other fowl. Chickens, as a rule, are a flighty lot. Quick to scurry out of the way or to have a bit of a panic about whatever happens around them, they have, in my experience, at least, been a bit excitable. These two are the Zen masters of chickendom. A car pulls in to park? They arise, ruffle their feathers a bit to straighten them out, and take a leisurely stroll out of the way. Dogs go off at the wind in the leaves?  A feathery eyebrow is raised, a wing might be shrugged, and the Zen chickens get on with whatever they were doing. Napping, most likely. They’re always within a few feet of each other, a symbiotic chicken unit of mellow. I hear them in the mornings out front, rooster-doodling along with the rest, declaring the sun before it rises, rain or pre-shine. These chickens will probably calmly announce the apocalypse and then settle in again for a nap.

Small town offices, and a Codice Fiscale

While I’m not much of a fan of small town life, there are moments when it’s very useful.

Today we went down to the municipal offices at Montereale Valcellina to see about getting my identity card. The offices were open later in the morning than the ones we’ve been going to of late, so we didn’t have to get out of the house quite so early.

The line was very short and my brother talked to the lady behind the counter, who gave us some forms to fill out, but said we have to get my Codice Fiscale before we do anything else. This is the Italian tax number, without which you can’t do much of anything. No getting a phone, no opening a bank account, not getting internet, any of that kind of thing. There’s no Agenzia Entrate office in Montereale, so my brother assumed we’d have to go over to Pordenone to the main office there.

“Try Maniago first,” the lady said. “There’s a small office there. They might do this.”

Maniago is larger than Montereale but not really by that much. The town was pretty quiet when we arrived, though presumably busy enough for a town of its size during a week day. We parked and walked along the narrow streets out into the main piazza, then through some open passageways to the back of a complex that included shops, a grocery store, offices, and the Agenzia Entrate.

The place might as well have been deserted. One woman was leaving as we arrived, and we were seen immediately. The clerk there had us sign in on a piece of paper. “We need to keep track of who comes, because we don’t get many people here and we’re trying to justify keeping the office open,” she said. The process took maybe fifteen minutes; I filled out some papers and left with a new Codice Fiscale that will enable me to actually interact with all the various services here.

My brother was practically dancing on the way out of the office. “If we’d gone to Pordenone, this would have taken hours. There probably would have been a couple of hundred people in front of us. I’ve been living here for years and never even knew this office existed.”

I am all in favor of tiny offices where the clerks are happy to actually see someone come in so they’ll have something to do. It certainly made my life easier. Most of the people we’ve encountered are surprised that I’m not here on a work visa. Apparently almost everyone is, unless you’re in a big university area, in which case you might be a student. Away from the base at Aviano, Americans around here are a little unusual, but once they’ve got it figured out the process has been easy enough.

There wasn’t enough time to finish filling out the paperwork for my ID card before the Montereale municipal offices closed for the day, so we’ll go in to file that tomorrow or the next day. I think they’re only open three days a week, in the morning, so we might have to wait until Friday. I wasn’t clear on the whole thing, as everything was (of course) taking place in Italian and my brother, while keeping me informed, wasn’t translating everything.

When we got home, I finished with the forms. Once I’ve filed for the card, the police will come by to see that I’m actually living where I say I am, and I can then pick the card up.

Today I also made my first trip to an Italian grocery store. This was one of the larger ones, and things were set up slightly differently than US stores, but enough was familiar that I didn’t feel too out of place. What has been a bit odd for me in the shops and bars is that the Italians don’t hand you your change. They set it down on the counter and you pick it up from there. Holding out my hand for the change is a lifelong reflex and will probably be a little hard to avoid until I get used to this.

I’ve got a habit of reading ingredient lists on things that I buy, which is kind of a challenge here, given my very limited Italian skills. Thankfully, I was only buying juice, and all I had to really check for was whether or not there was apple in it; I know the word for apple. In the US, nearly any juice that isn’t sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners has got apple juice in it, and I’m allergic to apples, so I always had to read the labels to make sure I wasn’t going to poison myself. Sometimes the same brand would change the formulation and I would end up disappointed and juiceless. Here in Italy, ingredient lists are a lot shorter. I’m very pleased by this, as it means there’s less crap in the food. I’m really looking forward to having my own place, and my own kitchen again. Cooking is going to be an adventure.

Also? Italian artichokes are really really tasty.

The Questura and the Post Office

In the past two days, I’ve been dealing with paperwork to apply for my Permesso di Soggiorno, my permission to reside in Italy.  It’s involved a lot of running around, but I have successfully slain the application and have my receipt, which allows me to relax a little, as my eight day deadline has been met.

I had read in a number of places that one goes to the Post Office for many of the everyday functions of the bureaucracy. I’d been under the impression one went there to get the application packet for the Permesso. My brother said that he hadn’t done it that way, and that going directly to the Questura would be faster. That said, yesterday morning we set off bright and early for Pordenone and the Questura office.

We waited around outside in the frosty morning for the office to open, and inquired at the front window, only to be told we had to wait at the next door down. Still outside in the frost.

We waited for another fifteen minutes or so until the second door opened and we were given a number. I had been told that Italians do not do “take a number” or “wait in line” but here we were, doing both. When we got up to the desk, the officer informed us that we had to go to the Post Office to get the application packet, fill it out, take it back to the Post Office, and that they would make an appointment for me at the Questura, so we should go and do that.

Duly chastised, but slightly warmer, we headed off to Aviano, where the line at the Post Office was about two hours long. My brother, understandably not eager to wait so long, said we should just go out to Montereale Valcellina, and see if the line was shorter there.

Indeed, there was no line at all in Montereale. He spoke briefly to a woman in a little office and asked her about the procedure. Apparently it’s only recently that all Post Offices have applications available, and they were not too familiar with the process, but we were handed a packet and sent along our merry way. The forms, of course, are all in Italian, as are all the instructions.

Most of it was fairly straightforward, though one of my brother’s friends helped us out with some of the less obvious stuff. There were a couple of places were she wasn’t sure, so we decided we’d save those questions for the Post Office the next day, and went off to the Aviano Inn for some pizza.

This morning, after procuring a bite of breakfast, we got photocopies of the documents from my visa application packet that were required for the Permesso application, which included a copy of all of the pages of my passport. We also got the marco di bollo or tax stamp (€16) that had to be affixed to the application. That done, we headed back to Montereale to talk to the people there. The same woman was in, and was able to answer most of the questions, but wasn’t sure which of the payment options we were supposed to tick for an elective residence visa – most of the ones they have seen are for people coming to Italy to work. She suggested we go to Maniago, to the union office, where they regularly helped people with the application process.

A short drive to Maniago brought us to the union office, which wouldn’t be open until 3pm. The post office would close at noon. Obviously we were not going to get anything done today if we waited for that, and we had other things that needed doing, so we headed back home and my brother checked the Questura’s website, where we found out which option we needed to use; the fee for the one to two year Permesso is €127.50. That allowed me to fill out the final form, and we were off to Montereale again, where we finished everything up, paid for everything, and got the receipt for my application.

My appointment with the Questura is the morning of January 2nd, about two weeks from now. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable amount of time, actually, especially considering the holidays between now and then.

Tomorrow we have to go back down to Montereale and talk to the police and the city offices to register my residence and see if we can get my Codice Fiscale now, or if I have to wait until I actually have my Permesso first. I need the Codice in order to get a phone number and a bank account here.

By the time we were done at the Post Office, I was having a serious blood sugar crash and shaking pretty badly, so we drove back to Aviano for some lunch, then wandered through the weekly market, which was just closing down. Fruits and veggies were got, and then we headed back home, where we have other work to do.

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the difficulties of the process. So far it hasn’t been too bad, but it should be noted that I’m comparing it to the Veterans Administration, with whom I had to fight for 12 years to get my disability pension. I figure anything less strenuous than that is probably a win in my books. The fact that I have my brother to help me navigate this process also makes an immense difference. I don’t have enough Italian to do more than ask where the bathroom is as yet, and he’s been doing most of the talking for me.

I’m looking forward to being able to communicate with people rather than just standing there looking puzzled.

Arrival

I don’t have a lot of time right at the moment, but I arrived in Venice yesterday through pea soup fog. My brother met me at the airport and fetched me away to his place. I now have internet for my laptop.

All of my flights arrived early, with fair following winds for my travels.

Today we’ll go to the base at Aviano to see the new Hobbit movie. There are a lot of other things to deal with as well. Monday will be our visit to the Questura to file for my Permesso di Soggiorno. I also have to register with the Comune of Montereale Valcellina and they will have to come by and see that yes, I am actually in residence with my brother.

First things first, though – a shower, tea, and out for breakfast.