Doctors and sofas and bills, oh my

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Botanical Garden, last month. I haven’t been back yet but will go soon.

When last we left our intrepid lost soul, I was in need of a doctor and some medications. Having the doctor’s hours, I went that day and waited, arriving a little before he was supposed to show up. He arrived and we talked for a few minutes. He looked up the medication and said that usually it could only be prescribed by a specialist, which he wasn’t. He talked to the pharmacy in the building and did, in fact, give me a prescription after all. He very kindly didn’t charge me for the visit, for which I was deeply grateful, though I had been prepared to pay cash and deal with filing an insurance claim with the VA’s foreign medical program. I’m really glad I haven’t had to deal with that just yet.

I went next door to the pharmacy and dropped off the prescription. They didn’t have exactly what I needed in stock, but said to come back late the next morning and pick it up. I am now the relieved possessor of a 15-day supply of my antidepressants, which will get me back to Seattle to deal with the VA pharmacy, mailing addresses, and all the rest of that mess. I also got a haircut, so it’s up out of my eyes finally. That’s a relief, because it was very annoying.

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I no longer look like a sheepdog.

My first gas/electric bill came in the mail last week, as well. My brother said it was a pretty reasonable amount (around €125 for the last two months), and that he’d seen some Americans come up with bills of over €1,000 because they were using power like they were still in the US. I will admit I’m uncertain whether this is the real amount or whether it was an estimate, given that apparently they don’t actually read the meter but a couple of times a year, if I was understanding the situation correctly. If you use more or less than their estimates, you either get a bill, or you can attempt to pry a refund out of them. Gods only know what the reconciling bill will look like if for some reason I’m using more than I think. I haven’t really had the heat on except the first couple of weeks of February, and I don’t have the lights on except at night or when it’s really dim. The computer’s on most of the time because I’m actually using it. Anyway, it was a reasonable amount, and I’ll find out later if I’m going to have a heart attack or not.

A lot of bills here get paid at the post office. They apparently also have accounts like a bank, for payment of bills and shipping and other such things. I knew I was going to have to brave the post office at some point. The main post office in Trieste is on Via Roma, opposite Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It’s a huge building, and the tourist map of Trieste says there’s a postal museum in there. It wouldn’t surprise me. The windows for paying bills and getting stamps and such are up a set of stairs on the first floor. I took a number, but there was no actual line and so I was immediately able to go up to the window. Being the sort who wants to be prepared, I’d already sorted the amount I needed from the bill and pulled exact change out of my pocket. The guy at the window took it and then started saying numbers at me. I was kind of thrown and he was speaking too fast for me to quite follow. I realized after a moment that I hadn’t given him enough, but couldn’t figure out quite what I’d done wrong. I told him that I didn’t have much Italian, so he showed me the receipt – the post office puts a surcharge on paying the bill, so I owed him about €1.30 for that. Easy enough to fix once I knew what was going on, but I was kind of embarrassed that I had missed it. Next time I’ll know, and will allow for that for the water bill when it arrives, as well.

Having slain the postal dragon with only a small amount of angst and anxiety, I tackled trying to get a pair of shoes, as I wanted something more comfy for walking than what I have. I tried my luck at one of the little stores nearby that carries a lot of everything. I found a pair that mostly fit, and got them, but they were mostly plastic and not terribly comfortable. Returning them was out of the question, so that was a waste. I did mention the whole mess to the folks at the American library. Denise mentioned that there is a Foot Locker on Corso Italia, noting that they were expensive, but that at least one person there spoke English. I wandered over and spent more money (not as much as I’d expected, though) on a pair of shoes that fit properly and are comfortable.

Amidst all this dashing about, I saw that one of the Italian furniture chain stores was having a 70%-off sale. They are expensive, but the quality is good, and I desperately need chairs and a small sofa for the library, so that I have places for people to sit when they come to see me. I wandered over to see what they had, and found some things that I liked. The prices were good but required me to go back to my place to check the balances on my credit cards to see if I had enough. It looked good, so I went over and got a chair and a small sofa, expecting to pay the entire amount up front.

No, they wanted a deposit, but the items would be delivered in June and it would be cash on delivery when they arrived. It was quite a feat doing the paperwork for it all. They needed to see my ID (at this point my passport) and my Codice Fiscale, they wanted my address in the US (I had to give them my APO box), and several other things. I was a little confused, but we managed. On getting home, I pondered for a bit and realized that I actually could afford to get the second chair, so I went back the next day and added that to the order. I’m squirreling away the cash for the items so it will be available when the delivery arrives, sometime in June.

Amidst all of this, I have been trying to talk to people in Italian. Most of them respond in English, if they have it, when it becomes obvious that I don’t have much Italian. I know that I need to speak it more if I’m going to get better at it, so I continue with my mangled bits as best I can.

I have, at several points, mentioned to people that I’m going back to Seattle soon to get my dog. It’s amazing how people light up when I say this. Dogs are everywhere in Trieste, water bowls on the sidewalks outside many businesses, dogs in restaurants, dogs in grocery stores, dogs in the piazza. Triestinos love their dogs. I’m looking forward to having the little guy here. I’m leaving in about a week and nervous already about flying, and about flying him, though I’m eager to see everyone back in Seattle.

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Chris, aka the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3, in the Everett condo before I sold everything. Soon to be a Triestino dog.

This week, two poems written for Slippery Elm’s anthology. It feels good to get things down on paper.

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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.