Culture shock and the third grade

I don’t remember my third grade teacher’s name, and I no longer have the year books from that particular school to go check. I did third grade twice, though not because I failed the year or something tragic like that (tragic because it would have resulted in my mother actually killing me and being sentenced to death – since we lived in Texas). I repeated the third grade because I started school a year (or possibly two, it was a British school so things were a little different) early, we moved to the US from Italy in January, right smack in the middle of the fourth grade, and when my mom enrolled me in school I would have been at the youngest by far in my class, so I repeated the third grade, where I was still the youngest in my class but only by a few months, and could concentrate on getting over the culture shock rather than the actual school work. Incidentally, one of my first memories of America was sitting in the principal’s office taking a test to see where I measured up academically and one of the questions was about American coins, how much a nickel, a dime and a quarter where or something like that, and I had just seen a sesame street episode that morning that explained the whole thing to me (thank you PBS). I was also thoroughly confused by lockers, we didn’t have them in my old school and when the principal asked me if I needed to use the restroom (other completely foreign word to me then) I looked down the hall and all I noticed was the long rows of little doors and couldn’t figure out how on earth Americans went to the bathroom.

Anyway, back to my third grade teacher, I had a really hard time that year because I was different. I had a weird (British) accent, my parents had enrolled me in a (of all the ridiculous things) Baptist private school – I didn’t even know what “Baptist” meant, a lot of things were strange to me – like pb&j sandwiches. I had never learned cursive, rarely used a ballpoint pen, or a pencil since we used a fountain pen for everything at my old school and I had learned division the European way.

One day I get to class, and every kid in the whole entire school was wearing cowboy/cowgirl outfits, this completely shocked me… it was Go Texan Day, and there I was, in my regular clothes. I was so upset I ran to the teacher and buried my face in her navy blue skirt and she hugged me. Teachers didn’t hug at the British school I went to in Italy. She then explained to me what was going on, put a cowboy hat on my head and a bandana around my neck and there I was, a cowgirl, though without the boots.

It’s not a big deal, stuff like this happens daily to kids, it’s how they learn, we went to the gym and square-danced and it was all better, but even though I don’t remember her name, I will never forget her face and how she hugged me. Teachers are important. Teachers make a difference.

Mama’s Losin’ It

I have no concept of brevity, and also, I don’t have my passport.

Yesterday I was in Milan with the husband, I had to go to the Brazilian Consulate to get my passport and register the kids’ birth and get a few other documents. For those of you as confused as I am on my heritage, I was born in Italy, I grew up in Texas, my Dad was Italian and my Mom is Brazilian, when I lived in the US none of the responsible adults got their act together enough to get American citizenship, although my Mother is now married to an American and merrily on her way to being naturalized. So, though I may well go about my life feeling American and wanting to go “home” to Houston, I do not have American citizenship, I do, however, have Italian citizenship and Brazilian citizenship, I foresee the latter soon becoming the bane of my existence.

The reason for my distress, which, though not overtly apparent, is pronounced and far-reaching, is due to the fact that I’ve come to the realization that all government workers are actually sadistic assholes who basically get their kicks making the rest of us jump through hoops of burning fire. (I know, redundant, but effective imagery. I’m referring to “burning fire” here, not “sadistic assholes”, though that qualifies as redundant as well.)

About a month and a half ago I called a friend of a friend at the Brazilian consulate, cause I had a lot of things to get done there and wanted to go about it in the most efficient way possible. This very nice gentleman kindly walked me through all the steps of all of the things I needed to get done: get a crapload of documents from a variety of offices in Italy, many of which are not commonly used in Italy, but hey, no surprise there. Make the relevant appointments through the consular website, send them the forms they need ahead of time, get pictures taken, I then divided up all my documents in neat little folders, got in the car and drove two and a half hours to Milan and spend the night in a hotel so I could be there bright and early (and most importantly, on time) for my appointment. I got to the consulate fifteen minutes early and waited outside with two hundred other people for them to open their doors (ten minutes late).

All this to say, I was fucking ready to get my passport.

When I finally sat in front of the lady who was effectively holding my life and my sanity in her hands, I found myself helplessly going through the governmental equivalent of “who’s on third” with many rounds of: ma’am, you need a valid Brazilian ID to get your passport, oh, well, I’ve brought you 33 documents that state me to be who I am, including, but not limited to, my Brazilian birth certificate, both the one issued to me by the embassy in Rome in 1975 when I was born, and the transcription (from 2008, when I happened to be in Brazil) of my birth certificate in some Brazilian government office that does this just so they know I actually exist in case the embassy’s birth certificate and the myriad of passports I’ve had since my birth weren’t enough, the police report that states that my old passport was lost or stolen (my old passport that expired fifteen years ago, so no, no one has likely stolen my identity in the meantime), and no less than three (3!) valid Italian picture IDs, that, considering this is the Brazilian consulate IN ITALY, should have some sort of, if not legal, at least demonstrative value. The only way I could possibly have further proven my identity was getting her to google me, and befriended her on facebook, but, going back to my point, I don’t have any valid Brazilian picture ID because my passport was lost and I’ve never lived in Brazil. I understand ma’am, but you need to get an ID from Brazil, Yes, sure I get it, but you see, I tried, but I’ve never, not one day in my life, lived in Brazil, I have no proof of residence, they won’t give me an ID until I bring them a fucking passport (which is what the consulate it there for, incidentally).

So basically, I need an ID to get a passport, yet I need a passport to get an ID. Oh and, by the way, who’s on third?? When I finally managed to get through to her, that I needed to get the stupid passport FIRST, she comes up with excuse number… honestly, I’ve lost count… that the transcript from the Brazilian government office registering my birth was too old (2008), that person with my name, (I don’t have a common name, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the only person in the world with my name – as far as google is concerned, in fact, I am – and no, it’s not Bonny Bard) could have died in the meantime and I could be trying to steal her identity.

This excuse, the one that made me get up and leave in frustration and defeat, is so ridiculous that I swear to you I had no comeback (right then, I came up with plenty later, but isn’t that what always happens?). I mean for the love of God and all that is holy! I must be a genius in identity theft because I had already apparently swindled the Italian government, since I had a driver’s licence, identity card AND A PASSPORT with my name and picture on it. I had birth certificates for my kids, a marriage certificate with my husband, copies of my Mother’s Brazilian passport and ID, and by God I was set on swindling the Brazilian consulate too! What next? World domination? Am I… could I possibly be a spy? Or a drug dealer? And rather than buying fake documents of the black market, like any respectable criminal would, I wanted to up the ante by getting an official passport from the Brazilian Consulate in Milan. I’m an evil genius, Bwahahahaha!

Are they fucking kidding me?

No seriously. Are they?

I left, unable to comprehend that I hadn’t gotten anything done. And now I’m pissed, mostly at myself, as usual, because I should have thrown the mother of all hissy fits right there in the consulate. It may not have helped me get what I wanted, though frankly I’ve seen it work lots of times, but I would’ve at least vented directly there and you wouldn’t be reading what amounts to practically the complete, unabridged, works of William Shakespeare, if not in style, at least in length.

Monday Listicles – we’re not in kansas anymore, Toto

This week’s listicle is coming to you from Milan, more specifically from the Brazilian consulate, where I’m trying to get my Brazilian passport sorted and the kids’ births registered and whatnot. Considering the lines, I’ll probably be old and grey by the time I make it out of here, but hey, my kids will have dual citizenship so it’ll be worth losing the better part of my youth over (or not…). Anywaaaay…. This week’s listicle is courtesy of Anja of Cocalores, ten clues you’re living in 2012, or for us born in the seventies the “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” edition.

Ten clues you’re living in 2012

1. you text your husband to ask him to bring you a glass of water

2. your whole entire life is on your phone

3. all your framed pictures are ten years old

4. you not only type faster than you can write, your hand gets crampy from writing out an honest to goodness pen to paper thank you note

5. you don’t understand “thank you note”

6. you haven’t bought an actual, non digital book in at least four years

7. you obsessively google every tiny little question that pops into your mind, no “I wonder” is left unanswered

8. you spend hours of your day on facebook, instagram, pinterest, and blogs

9. your best friends are online

10. your mind has processed more information in the last hour than you can even imagine and yet you can’t remember what you had for dinner unless you sit there and think about it

11. you know none of your friends’ or loved ones’ numbers by heart

12. you have serious problems following simple directions, like keeping a list at ten.

Boa segunda feira a todos! (Happy Monday to all!)

Stuff that drives me nuts… y’all.

In my opinion the English language is sorely in need of a second person plural, “you” is simply not enough. Many languages have it, and the South has found a solution to this grievous problem: y’all. As far as I’m concerned y’all is just another personal pronoun, you is the second person singular, y’all is the second person plural. But… you’ve got to know how to use it, most people don’t.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and many of the books were set in the south or had southern characters. I get that the easiest way to make a character sound southern is to use “y’all” and “bless her heart” and arcane and/or seldom used colloquialisms like “faster than a dog with his tail on fire” or “longer than a ‘coons age”, but for the love of God can’t these authors just freakin’ do some research before using unfamiliar terminology. When I read y’all used instead of you (singular) it makes me want to rip my teeth out.

So, let’s just review, you can say: Sandy and Bobby, are y’all coming?  But you cannot say: Sandy are y’all coming? If you’re only referring to Sandy. (unless you’re asking Sandy if both she and Bobby are coming, but honestly, when in doubt don’t use it!)

Okey dokey. Y’all leave me some comments now, y’hear!

Monday Listicles – Vroom, vroom

Stasha has been having car trouble lately, so cars are on the mind (though not in the garage, apparently), so the listicle this week is ten things about my car. I’m not much of a car person, as long as it’s reasonably comfortable, plays music and gets me where I want to get well that’s as far as my interest goes. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted the Husband to have a nice car, mostly because when I’m driving I have to get stuff done, when he’s driving I’m getting carted around, usually to dinner or on vacation or some other fun activity. My interest in cars is utilitarian at best, however, had she asked us to list ten things about our shoes… well, I would’ve had a hard time keeping it at only ten.

1. It’s grey. I hate grey, grey is boring. It’s practically the only color you can get a car straight off the lot here.

2. It’s a hybrid. With gas prices almost four times as high in Italy as in the US frankly it’s saving my wallet from a long, drawn out, and gory death. (Also, I hate listening to North Americans complain about gas prices. Seriously, four times as much!)

3. It’s not too big, it’s not too small…

4. I can actually park it in the land of no parking.

5. I still miss my lovely, fast, sassy, red mini cooper.

6. It’s got cameras for when I reverse, no risk of running over kids’ toys! (or kids)

7. I secretly want to get a minivan (or a Porsche)

8. I feel virtuous driving a hybrid.

9. The Husband just got a new car and the kids keep asking me when I’m going to change mine… not any time soon, since we just also bought a house.

10. Though it may not sound like it, I’m actually quite fond of my Prius and still happy I bought it.

Since I wrote this post a few days ago, I’ve actually come up with two more things about my car…

11. It’s the first car I’ve bought myself.

12. When my dad bought my cars, I drove nicer cars.

Happy Monday!

Stronger than the wind, hotter than the sun, steady like a mountain

I have some very good girlfriends, I realized today.

When the Husband was sick I felt abandoned by everyone, everyone but my internet family. And today I realized that the problem wasn’t that I don’t have good friends, the problem was that I can’t let people in when I’m down. I have to put up a strong front, I have to keep it together, I also have a bit of “money guilt” (interesting subject in which I’d like to delve in the near future), I’m lucky, I can hire help when I need it, so I feel like I can’t and shouldn’t ask friends for help. This is pretty stupid of me. On my old blog I could talk (almost) freely about how his illness affected me, about the hard parts, and I felt a strong sense of understanding and support from my internet friends but when my real life friends asked how I was, or if I needed anything, my answer was always a chirpy “fine”, or “life is what it is”, and “not a thing, thanks”, when it probably should have been come on over and bring some wine I need someone to get shitfaced with and cry.

Of course through most of the Husband’s hospital stay I was breastfeeding, but I could have asked for ice cream, right?

I was lonely because I put up walls.

I’m better now, I’ve ventured back into the world so to speak, I actually have the energy to see what’s going on around me. I had a bunch of my “anglo” girls over for coffee today, it’s a great group of women who are all originally from English speaking countries (some American, some Canadian, some Brits, some Australian and South African) who all ended up in this tiny corner of rural Italy. We get together and speak our mother tongue, gripe about Italy, complain about the proximity of our in-laws and the distance from our own families, we drink coffee or wine or cocktails (depending on the time of day or our respective moods) and we stay sane, away from home.

One of my friends is going through an ugly divorce (which is clearly all her asshole husband’s fault), another is struggling with a newborn and a slightly older baby that barely counts as a toddler (yeah, contraception doesn’t always work), one wants kids while her husband doesn’t and has to listen to her biological clock clanking away like an amplified bell in her head all the time. Everyone of us has her own personal tragedies or difficulties, large or small, and today I realized I cannot, I will not, allow any of them to put up and hide behind walls when having a friend stand by you could make the difference between depression and despair or strength and understanding.

Because when life throws you lemons all you can do is make lemonade, whereas a friend will call reinforcements, make gin lemon fizzes and strong arm you into a party.

I’m grateful for my friends, so this week I’m linking up with Maxabella Loves for 52 weeks of grateful

Monday Listicles Two for the price of one…

I’ve been MIA. I didn’t even do the listicle last week…. Even though it was my friend Bridget’s and I can’t believe I missed her listicle! Which is why you get two for the price of one today. Yessiree, cause you can’t not do the listicle when one of your favorite bloggers and very supportive internet friend comes up with it, and the one that Lisa came up with for this week is pretty cool too so there you have it, double lists. Sooooo, first ten things my parents did right thanks to Lisa of TheSprog and then ten people (more or less) alive or dead I’d like to have dinner with.

Before I begin, I’d like to add that I realize I’ve been crap at blogging, and more importantly, at reading all the blogs I love the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been enjoying the summer, and having my kids with me more than I had for the almost two months since summer started. We’ve been having adventures, and sleeping in, and seeing friends, and discovering new, fun, play areas around here, we’ve been hanging out with family and friends visiting from all over, we’ve been cooking, and lazying in front of the tv, well, in a word (or three) we’ve been having fun. And who can possibly blame me for having fun? There’s so much heartache and anger and frustration and sadness and tedium in life (even when there isn’t much, it’s still too much) that we need to just stop everything and have pure, unadulterated and simple fun some of the time. So my appeal to you is: have fun. Pick a week (or even just a weekend) and stop everything else, no commitments, no guilt, no yelling, just fun, just whatever you want to do, even if it’s completely ridiculous. Having a little fun all year is great, and it’s healthy, but having a whole lot of fun, all together, an overdose of fun and joie de vivre, every once in awhile is crucial. Trust me, try it!

Back to listicling, here goes…

Ten things my parents did right:

1. they taught me to be an optimist (by example)

2. they sent me to Italy when I was nineteen

3, they let me work, even though it was going to affect my studies a bit

4. they loved my husband as soon as they met him (unlike all the boyfriends before him)

5. they showed me the world and taught me to navigate it

6. they (well, my mom mostly in this case) taught me to cook decently

7. though my Dad taught me to make the perfect breakfast omelette, no mean feat.

8. they let me be me, and showed me that I was more than I expected

9. they were firm and unapologetic

10. they stayed together, through the hard times, and loved each other till the end. (and beyond).

My parents did a lot of things right so I could probably go on and on and on… but now it’s time to list ten people I’d want to have dinner with:

1. My paternal grandparents, since they died before I was born.

2. Henry the eighth, mostly because I’m watching the Tudors right now and would really like to know what’s with the obsession with Anne Boleyn.

3. Harry Dresden, because he’s the coolest wizard of them all (this list accepts fictional characters, yes?)

4. Marie Antoinette, so I could tell her to keep her freaking mouth shut and possibly get the hell out of dodge.

5. Tomàs de Torquemada, so I could tell him to just chill out a little with the inquisition please.

6. Prince William and Kate, cause they’re cute and I wonder whether they wouldn’t rather have eloped to Vegas.

7. Ryan Gosling – no explanation needed.

8. E.L. James, so I could hand her a dictionary, and a thesaurus, and a book on grammar and writing and… maybe I’d just ask her to please stop writing crap or alternatively to get an editor already,

9. Picasso – cause he sounds like he was a good time.

10. Bridget – cause I’ll probably never make it to Alaska and I’m sure I could persuade her to come to Italy, our wine is exceptionally good!

Linking up with Stasha for another great listicle monday!