A red-letter day in our bureaucratic lives

As of today, our family is finally part of the Italian health-care system. We can now go to the doctor. It took one year and two months. Part of the problem, admittedly, was that I had no idea how to find out where you sign up, nor did anyone else. Another part of the delay was that there are a number of pre-requisite documents that you have to have first. In the end, I discovered that the health care system is one of the very few things in Italy that you can apply for by e-mail—I don’t think even many Italians know this! Very thankfully, we’ve not been sick with anything worse than a cold since we arrived.

In other bureaucratic news, two of us received renewed permessi di soggiorno (immigration permits) today.  All we had to do was pick up the cards, but we waited an hour.  The questura, which is the immigration office for non-EU/EEA immigrants, is hands down the most unpleasant building in Torino. It has no (or little) heat, no air-conditioning, and looks like a jail. In fact, it is a police headquarters. In true “Harrison Bergeron” fashion, buzzers go off approximately every ten seconds, for one of three different number/waiting systems. Bob thinks all the people waiting ought to arrange a flashmob to brighten things up–each country doing its own choreographed dance. My own morning was brightened when I ran into a woman from church who was helping her husband to submit his paperwork.

Sarie’s permesso wasn’t ready.  I spoke cheerfully to the woman behind the counter about Sarie missing school, and she wrote on the back of Sarie’s receipt, “Ritira senza numero.”   This means she can go straight into the main room after school, without waiting for the buzzer!  Our first bureaucratic favor!  And I’m happy that these new permessi are for two years, which means we don’t have to do this again next year.

As I came back to the apartment and picked up the mail, there was an envelope from the anagrafe.  The anagrafe is the office that controls residency–for everyone, not just immigrants. We don’t have anything like it in the US. They had found Bob’s lost carta d’identità, the one Turkish customs accidentally kept when they were checking his passport.  He doesn’t need it now, because he’s already gone through the whole process again and gotten a new one, but we did laugh that it was addressed to sig. Anderson.  This idea that our name should be Anderson seems to be so universal that we think we should create an identity for our bureaucratic alter-egos, as in Prokofiev’s Lt. Kijé.

The strangest bit of bureaucratic news this week: Sarie missed getting the talented teacher she wanted at the conservatory because no one told her she had to send in a written request to the director. Mind you, this isn’t posted anywhere, nor did anyone tell her this is what you have to do. Knowing how arbitrary the process was, Sarie had even asked for help at the office with her re-enrollment. And furthermore, everyone knew which teacher she wanted and her previous teacher (who retired) had even said he was “handing his students over” to this teacher. But now she’s been assigned a new teacher that no one even knows, so we have to hope for the best.

But, we’re getting used to this sort of thing by now. An Italian friend told me that the same thing happened to her son. Things don’t always work according to merit in Italy, but if Sarie continues to work as hard as she has been lately, I don’t see how they can’t not notice. Or at least, eventually she’ll get her official European diploma and go study somewhere else.

The weirdest thing about all of this is that no situation in this post would have even occurred to me before we moved here last September.  But here, not only does it happen, but no one even thinks it’s strange.

Oh, and we moved into our apartment exactly one year ago today.


5 thoughts on “A red-letter day in our bureaucratic lives

  1. This makes me chuckle – except the part about Sarie’s teacher. Things like this used to happen to us when we lived in Cameroon. We would say, “TIA … This is Africa.” Some friends of ours used to say, “Warning! You are entering a logic-free zone.” So much seemed to depend on the whim of the person behind the desk which you’d been waiting in line for hours to reach. Heaven forbid they decided at that moment to take a tea break! Glad you got your papers!

    1. Ha, I’ve been there–only it was a coffee break. There must be something that makes places like this, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. Why, for instance, is Italy this way, but as Susan mentions below, Switzerland is not? I can take a train to Switzerland in an hour.

      I think the Africans in our church have a lot more patience with the questura than I do. They’ve seen much worse, I’m sure!

  2. Good Morning from a reader in Zurich – life in a foreign country can certainly be interesting. Keeping a sense of humor helps, but some days are more difficult than others. I’m sorry about the teacher. Life here in Switzerland ticks along quite efficiently and for that I’m grateful. Things generally make sense and are do-able, and yes – costly.

    I am enjoying your blog so much – thanks for sharing your experiences. And blessings to your daughter, especially, and the new teacher.

    1. Hi, Susan, and welcome! Have you been in Switzerland for a long time? And are you originally American? You’re so right about the sense of humor. It’s essential for just about any place, including home!

      1. Good Morning – just read about your trip to the market. Which reminded me to eat my persimmon in the fruit bowl!

        Yes, I’m American – we have been here since 2006; my husband works for an international company. Unlike you I have NOT taken to the local language, but thankfully many people speak English in Zurich. Swiss German is a dialect and I’d need more language skills than I possess to get conversational in standard German,

        We have 3 grown children back in the Chicago area — I’m pretty certain if I had kids at home I would have had to hunker down and get better with the language.

        Thanks for blogging, and a window into your world 🙂

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