Dreaming In Italian

Death of Peppino

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Peppino is a name, a diminutive of Giuseppe, just like Joe is a diminutive of Joseph. Peppino was 16 years old which would be a short life for a person but a fairly long life for a cat.

Peppino when he was a kitten
Peppino as adolescent

Laura has had him since he was a kitten and of course my relationship with Peppino has been much more brief, about 3 1/2 years. He was kind of emotionally needy I would say. If I would let him he would spend almost every waking hour on my lap but obviously that wouldn’t work for me. At least he did finally learn that he could stay on my lap longer if he didn’t use his claws to adjust his position. He was doing damage to my jeans.

Peppino as an adult – in Torino still

So while I’d say he was not the smartest cat that I’ve known, he was capable of learning. He had been pretty healthy until recently. At about 6 weeks ago he no longer could jump up enough to get on my lap when I was sitting down so I would give him an assist.

Then about 3 weeks ago things changed radically. He could barely walk and when he did he didn’t seem to be able to see obstacles. He would bump into walls and get stuck in narrow spaces. Laura took him to the vet a couple of times and there was no clear reason for his decline but in the end it was something obviously neurological. So reluctantly about 2 weeks ago Laura asked the vet to come to the house to provide euthanasia for Peppino. Laura has been very sad but is recovering.

That Was The Week That Was (and not a good one)

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Starting from the beginning: on Sunday April 17 Laura drove to Torino. Her daughter who lives in India was due to arrive with her family a few days later and she had some work to do in the house before they arrived. She planned to then spend another couple of weeks with them before returning. Since that was Easter (Pasqua) day it was ideal for the trip since the traffic should be pretty light – which it was. Of course I knew that I would miss her but that would also give me an opportunity to get together with friends who I hadn’t seen for two years due to the pandemic. On the following Tuesday I went to the main library to do my regular volunteer work. To get some exercise I usually walk the kilometer to arrive there. As I was almost there I tripped and fell down. It seemed that there was no harm done. I got up and went in and found that nobody had made a reservation for the English conversation for the first 45 minute period. To kill time I then found a book that seemed interesting and went to the bar inside the library for a coffee and pastry and read the book for about 45 minutes – still no problem. I liked the book and decided to check it out so I did that and found that I had a big problem with my right ankle. Since I expected that there would be the second person who would come for conversation I hobbled to the place where I would have said conversation, took off my right shoe and elevated that foot to try to recover a bit. Nobody came and the foot did not get any better. Fortunately I had made an appointment with my friend Rita for lunch at someplace near the library and I was really in need of some help. I called her and described the situation and she came to my aid. Like about any person I have sprained my ankle various times during my life but it was never anything as serious as this. I decided that I really had to get medical assistance right away and so I wanted to take a taxi to an emergency room but given that I could barely walk, the taxi needed to come as close as possible to the exit door from the library. With my still somewhat limited Italian that would be hard to describe to the taxi dispatcher. So my friend called for the taxi and in fact she struggled a bit to get the message across. I finally received a message that the taxi was on the way and would be on the side of the street nearest the library. So I then hobbled to the taxi just as it arrived and was off to the emergency room.

Emergency room visits always involve a significant wait time unless you’re seriously bleeding or otherwise in bad shape. I hobbled in, went through the triage process,was put on a bed on wheels and waited for my number to be called. Then a doctor gave me a cursory exam and I was then in the queue for the x-rays. After the X-rays I was then in the queue for treatment. Fortunately nothing was broken and I was given a choice between a cast to support the ankle or a brace. I opted for the brace which would allow more flexibility, I could take it off when needed rather than having to return to have it removed. I still was unable to walk without crutches and I had crutches at home from when I had a hip replacement last fall. Nobody at the hospital had a solution so I called a good friend and described the situation and asked for help. Then I took a taxi home and only had to wait for a few minutes before Renata and her husband arrived to help me. They helped me physically to arrive at my apartment and retrieved the crutches for me. I will be forever grateful for such good friends.

The brace – I hate it but it did it’s job

Of course I immediately called Laura and described the situation. She had planned to stay in Torino for a couple of weeks but quickly revised her plans to return to Bologna after another week. Fortunately there was plenty of food in the house for that period and with the crutches I was pretty mobile. So the emergency room visit was on a Tuesday and on Friday I had a sore throat. I had no fever but with some research I found that one of the symptoms with Omicron version of Covid was a sore throat. Renata had planned to come to the house on Saturday morning for our usual coffee and chat meeting and I asked if she could bring a couple of items (strawberries and milk) and also to buy an at home Covid test. She brought everything but was pressed for time and didn’t stay and I didn’t want to be with her if it turned out that the test was positive. The test was negative and I breathed a sigh of relief. A different friend, Leonardo, came by for lunch and we ordered pizzas from the pizzeria across the street and ate outside on the terrace. So far so good.

The next week my ankle improved a lot but also my sore throat got worse and I also had a runny nose (another symptom of Omicron). So when Laura arrived on the following Wednesday I asked her to stop by the pharmacy and buy another at home Covid test. Also just to be on the safe side I insisted that we stay apart and both wear masks until I took the test, fully expecting that it would be negative. Eeek it was positive! I called my primary care physician and he said that he would call whatever part of the health care organization that deals with Covid and a nurse would come to my house the next day to do a molecular test. She did and I received the results the next day – positive again. Even as the symptoms were already starting to wane Laura and I clearly had to be very careful in the house. We ate apart and slept in separate bedrooms and if in the same room we both wore masks and only stayed briefly in such proximity. By the way I let Leonardo know that I had tested positive and he said that he had no symptoms and wished me well.

Now I have to stay always at home for 7 days. If at the end of 7 days I have been asymptomatic for at least 3 days I can go to a pharmacy for a rapid Covid test which hopefully will be negative and then I can resume a reasonably normal life. So for a review:

  1. Alone in Bologna since Laura went to Torino. – Sunday
  2. Sprained my ankle badly 2 days later and went to the emergency room. – Tuesday
  3. Probably was infected while at the hospital.
  4. Learned that I was infected when Laura returned a week later on Wednesday

So that was my week from hell (well, more like 10 days).

On the bright side, the symptoms are pretty much gone and my ankle seems to be almost completely healed.

A trip to the country (the boonies!)

Monday, April 11th, 2022

One of Laura’s daughters who lives in Torino is a real horse person. She has two, I think that she competes in dressage and gives lessons in horsey stuff. Given that background she is considering moving to the Bologna area and of course she would have to have a place for her horses. She found a place on-line and after having talked to the owner (actually there are two partners that own the place) she asked Laura to take a look at it and give an opinion. Oh, no. That means that we have to move the car! Parking on the street in the center of Bologna is not easy, part of the reason that we rarely use the car and we had a prime sparking space. We take a trip of some sort every two months to keep the battery charged. Well, this time 2 months turned out to be too long. The battery wasn’t completely dead but definitely would not start the car. So Laura called a nearby mechanic who came had used jumper cables to get it started and then she drove it to his shop for further charging as well as adding air to one of the tires. So 2 days after our first attempt we went wandering through the countryside. I always hate going outside of the city since I inevitably get lost since intersections are well marked and even with Google maps I always miss a turn or make a wrong one. This time was no exception.

We had planned to eat lunch at a little trattoria that seemed at least OK not far from where we were to turn onto a tiny gravel road that led to the horse place. Well, after mistakes on the way we settled for eating a “good enough” lunch at the little town of Budrie. The road is about 1 1/2 cars wide with a ditch on each side. Meeting another car was tricky but since it’s a dead end there weren’t many cars and I guess if you live on a road like that you know not to have an SUV. Anyway we found the place and met the owner (I’ll refer to him as the guy) who was most involved with the sale. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos so you don’t get to see all of the geese, chickens, ducks and guinea hens roaming around. Nor you get to see the 8 horses in residence including a shetland pony – cute and just the right size for Laura. There were also kennels for dogs with 2 of the kennels having 2 dogs each in residence. I do have photos from the real estate add for the property.

Beyond the line of trees you can see the road – did I mention that it was tiny? In front of that line of trees and to the right is a house (as shown below), fully equipped about 100 square meters and to it’s right a large open space which is a space for people to practice riding and doing whatever they want to do and feel capable of doing with a horse. Also note the oval building. More details to follow.

Below is the entrance to the place. You pass through a sturdy gate that opens when you turn a key. Directly ahead you see the stables.

On the other side of the fence to the right is a shallow pond. There were a bunch of ducks enjoying the water and looking for stuff to eat.

A clearer view of the house.

Here’s more detail of the oval building. Something (since I’m not a horsey kind of guy) that I had never imagined. It’s an motorized exercise area for the horse. There are dividers between spaces for each horse and they are connected to a rail system that moves continuously so that the horses are required to walk. To avoid that they are always turning in one direction during their exercise time it reverses so they will need to turn in the other direction. It make sense to keep them balanced.

Below are the stables. Room for 11 horses and on the right you can note a shower area for the horses and also for riding gear.

The round structures were for showing off horses of maybe some kind of horsey competitions. I was unclear since the discussion was all in Italian.

All in all it was an interesting outing. When we were leaving we saw a car that had gone slightly off the narrow road and was at almost a 45 degree angle because of the ditch close to the road. I said ” Something’s wrong with this picture” and then saw a man crawling out of the passenger side door. He was an older guy, I’d say at least 80 but was unharmed. Laura walked back to the horse place to ask the guy there for help while I found a place to turn around and also returned and found a place off the road where I could park the car. The guy called someone who could come and tow the car out of the ditch so we were assured that all would be taken care of and drove back to Bologna where we found a parking space about 1/2 a kilometer away (600 yards).

Laura asked me what I thought of the place. I thought it seemed a really good place for horses but it’s in the middle of nowhere (even though only about 14 miles from our building in Bologna) and would be REALLY a lot of work. In fact the guy said as much. A lot of grass and weeds to mow, trees to prune, fences to maintain and horses to care for. A really big commitment.

Italian Citizenship (or not)

Saturday, March 26th, 2022

Since I am married to an Italian citizen I can request Italian citizenship after two years if I live in Italy during that time, 3 years if I lived elsewhere. So I could make a citizenship request in October of this year. What are the requirements and what are the advantages? For me the two advantages are that (1) I would never again need to renew my permesso di soggiorno – which is a major pain in the ass and (2) I wouldn’t need to renew my inscription in the national health system (the SSN) every year. However after I’ve been living here for 5 years I will make my last renewal for the permesso di soggiorno since it will be like a green card in the US. It will not need to be renewed and I will be considered a permanent resident. So the only significant bureaucratic hassle will be the SSN.

So now let’s look at the hurdles to make the request for the citizenship.

  1. Get a birth certificate from the U.S. with an apostille . The apostille is like a internationally recognized notarization. You are probably familiar with getting documents notarized in the U.S. (or some other country where you live). So this makes things a bit more complicated. Since I was born in Oklahoma I had to get a copy of my birth certificate (long-form with all of the details) and then have that sent to the Oklahoma office of the secretary of state where they attach an apostille to the document. Then when I have it in Italy I need to have it translated into Italian by an approved translator. I have the document here now but I have not had it translated yet since I’m now having doubts about whether I want to jump through all of the necessary hoops to become a citizen. So far it has cost about $200 to get the certificate authenticated and sent here. In the process of getting the birth certificate I had contact with the woman who does the apostille in Oklahoma. Maddie is her name and she restored my faith in humanity. It’s easy to complain about bureaucrats and sometimes it’s well deserved but Maddie was a great help to me, including putting me in contact with the records department in Oklahoma where they find the original birth certificate and make a copy.
  2. Get a certified copy of the marriage certificate. This would be pretty easy since we were married here in Bologna and I would just need to go to the appropriate office of the city government and the cost would probably be relatively minor. I think that I’ll do this regardless since it may be useful in the future.
  3. Take an Italian language exam (and pass it). The level is an intermediate level (B1) but it’s a bit simplified for a citizenship request. I have already paid for the test and will be taking it on April 7. I’ve been studying and feel pretty confident that with a little bit of study about pronouns I will pass. The cost are going to be about €120 – which includes a study book that I bought which I found well worth the price.
  4. I would need to pay €250 when I make the application with all of the required documents at the Prefettura. That is the local office that deals with national government affairs.
  5. Now comes the killer part. I need to get an FBI background check. I had to do this to get the visa to come to Italy to live. Since I’ve been a good boy I have zero records with the FBI so it’s something of a formality and easy to do in the U.S. However getting the check from here involves getting suitable set of fingerprints which turns out to be incredibly hard. I finally made contact with the U.S. consulate in Florence (which was also difficult) and finally had a conversation with them to clarify what was involved. It turns out, at least as of that conversation, that I had to go through the following process. Fill out an affidavit saying why I need the fingerprints. Then I need to go the Embassy in Rome and have it notarized there. Then I need to send a copy of said notarized affidavit to the ONLY place in the country as far as I can tell where they take the appropriate fingerprints. This is a branch of the polizia di stato (the national police) in Rome where they do technical work. I would then make an appointment with them and go there to get the fingerprints. Given my experience of getting appointments for other things, who knows how long I would have to wait for this one. Then I would send these fingerprints to an enterprise that contracts with the FBI to funnel requests to the FBI. From there the report would need to go to the U.S. State Department to have an apostille affixed and then have that sent to me in Italy for the translations, etc. Now this may seem like a bureaucratic nightmare, which it is, and would probably cost much more than the $200 for the birth certificate (2 round trip train tickets to Rome plus whatever I would be charged for the fingerprints. So maybe we’re talking about $350. But it gets worse, MUCH worse. I noted on an English language website that I needed to not only get the FBI report but a similar report from any state that I have lived in after the age of 14. Since I lived in Oklahoma until I was 16 years old then that probably counts as 1 state, then Virginia for 10 years and then California for about 46. So that’s 3 states doing the same bureaucratic dance. I thought perhaps this was just an erroneous translation from Italian since “state” in Italian in this context means “country”. Since I happen to know a woman here that works at the prefettura, I asked her if she could talk with a person there that deals with citizenship applications to clarify that point. Unfortunately she reported back that yes, in this case it means in other states of the U.S. This requirement is absolutely absurd since the FBI gets their info from the states but that’s the way it is. So I don’t think that avoiding a once a year trip to the AUSL (the office where I renew my subscription in the national health service) is worth this huge investment in time, money and anxiety. By the way the FBI report and probably the others are only considered valid for 6 months so I would be doing all four under that time pressure. I would probably need to return to the US for at least a week and perhaps more to get fingerprinted there (a MUCH easier process) and contacting the various bureaucracies. Of course that raises the cost by quite a lot. So we’re talking about quite a significant investment with, frankly, little benefit. So screw it.

So, it has been an adventure but it has also been pretty stressful. If I change my mind some time in the future I’ll already have the language test and the birth certificate part taken care of.

Oh, yes, one last note. After making the request for citizenship it’s probably a 2 year wait to get the results although that can be legally stretched to 3 years.