Italy, You Don’t Work
November 20, 2013 § 6 Comments
A positive aspect about living in a foreign country is that you learn new words you wouldn’t usually learn in the classroom: la tessera, il codice fiscale, il conto corrente, l’agenzia delle entrate, la multa, la carta d’indentita’, l’affitto, il monolocale, l’abbonamento mensile, la chiavetta internet , l’orario, la sala professori, la rete, la caldaia, il congelatore, il gas venomoso.
The negative part about this is that it’s not words you ever really want to learn, much less use on a daily basis.
Sometimes, I find few things more stressful than this dolce vita. It’s tough living in Italy. Especially by yourself. Because, most of the time, things do not work. And, unless you are friends with the grandson of the baker’s hairdresser who works for the accountant of your mother’s best friend, you probably will not get your watch fixed. At the very least, not without paying a small fortune. But, most of the time, it will still not get fixed. You will merely have a significantly-thinner wallet. And a watch that still doesn’t work.
My advice: get to know that grandson.
Trying to settle down in Italy has had its share of less-than-amusing adventures that shouldn’t even be adventures in the first place. A few of them I have had success with: opening up a bank account (though only halfway, because while I have a debit card, the credit card remains a far-off dream), getting a solo living space (though not entirely legally, because there’s no contract), getting a job (that, after 6 weeks of working, finally sent me my first paycheck… for half of the amount it is supposed to be), setting up a phone plan (though not without a lot of help), getting internet at the house (although I ended up buying internet keys I did not want and paid a lot more than I wanted for an internet plan that only works for stretches of three minutes, in the middle of the night, in one corner of the garden, and does not give me more than 2 GB a month), and…
actually, never mind. Let’s stop there; these successes aren’t making me feel much better.
If you’re not from ‘round here, Italy is about compromising. It is about settling on something you don’t really want, because after a month and a half of researching and talking to people and wasting days and days going from one person to another and waiting and restarting and waiting some more, you’re so frustrated with everything that you take what you can. At least that’s what it seems like to me most of the time.
After a rough (but glorious) month of living completely solo, I have spent too many hours at the internet store, waited a week for the heater of the house to get fixed, and feel just about ready to throw my textbook at the kids at school to get them to shut up and at least pretend that they care the slightest bit about getting an education. And, to top it off, today, it seems that I broke the fridge (it’s a long story). Now I am sitting here, debating whether I really want to buy a new fridge for this house that I am renting out for three months, or if I should just let the gas keep leaking out and suffocate me and then I don’t have to worry about any of this stuff anymore.
Just kidding. I will not let a mini-fridge kill me.
Point being, this land of beautiful Tuscan hills and delicious wine is not as cute and fluffy as it seems. In fact, it’s the most difficult place I have ever lived in, when it comes to convenience and efficiency. If I lived in some third-world country or war zone, obviously, I wouldn’t be having meltdowns that the internet connection sucks or that I cannot find an avocado that tastes like an avocado for under $7. But, I’m not. I’m living in a country where, theoretically, stuff should work. I’m experienced, I’ve been on my own for a while now. And I have money, and I am paying for things. It’s jut that… it doesn’t work.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and about why I am still here. Is it for the language, or the little countryside villages I stumbled upon during weekend jaunts, or the vineyards, or the cheese from Piemonte, or the shape of the cliffs on the Adriatic Coast, or the noontime caffe’s at the bars, or the old men in suits and hats that ride rusty bicycles down dusty country roads? It’s difficult to say. It’s easy to write a pro- and con- list about Italy. And the con- list seems to be a lot longer and a lot more developed. And, in comparison to the unemployment level and the racism and the general inefficiency, “the color of the Umbrian grass during summer sunsets” sounds silly. And, yet, somehow, it’s enough to balance out the negatives.
Otherwise I would already be back on the other side of the ocean, with working fridges, internet keys that connect, fully-stocked art stores, and a bank account that is not in the red. But then where would I find that Umbrian sunset?