You know how they say a little sneeze can start an avalanche?
Well on Monday I sneezed…
My first mistake was waiting till pretty much the last minute to get some important paperwork done. This knowing very well for something like, uhm, ten years that this day was approaching. This even if I had started working on the process well over a month ago.
In my defense I would like to point out a few of things:
- I am normally a pretty organized person
- I usually don’t leave things to the last minute
- The immigration officer on the other end of the phone seemed pretty relaxed about deadlines when I called to enquire
- How was I supposed to know that as of 1 January 2012 the whole certification procedure between bodies of the Italian Public Administrations was going to change? I mean even the guy in point 3) didn’t know! Ok, I live in Italy, I shoulda known better.
Back to Monday:
Blonde female puts papers into an envelope with a satisfied smirk (she has after all just solved problem in the above point 4) and fills out the last page of a stack of forms. She pulls out her passport to copy the number and expiry date and lets out a bloodcurdling scream. (Cut)
Yes, my passport is expiring in 3 weeks, when the abovementioned envelope should have been sitting on a desk at immigration containing a valid copy of said passport.
After this horrible Monday-morning discovery, images of a big red stamp reading "deported" loomed in my mind for the rest of the day. Images of my Italian children crying out "Mamma, Mamma" as I am being dragged handcuffed onto an airplane. My husband declaring eternal love and promising he will find a way of getting me back.
A question arises spontaneously: how the heck did I not remember that my passport was expiring exactly in the timeframe of the process required to renew that slip of paper that allows me to live in this country?
Well, the truth is I have a phobia of all things involving red tape. As a citizen of one country with a parent from another country growing up in yet a third country, my situation is sometimes a little confusing. As a person who often feels like she belongs everywhere and nowhere, bureaucracy can get a little intimidating. I am always waiting for that paragraph 10b, subsection VIII to jump out at me demanding a paper everyone else in the country has that totally screws me over because "I am not an xyz citizen" or "I wasn’t living here at the time sir". My phobia is not at all helped by the fact that I live in a country that is notorious, to say the least, when it comes to bureaucracy.
So let’s just say that despite point 1) and 2) above, this is one of the few cases when I tend to push off a problem, to pretend it does not exist.
Maybe if I don’t think about it, it will go away… (girl rocks back and forth in a dark corner with children’s song playing in the background).
Oh, and then life got in the way with birthdays and Christmas and family visiting and then the deadline was suddenly upon me. I always leave extra time for last minute problems or emergencies. But no, when it involved something as important as this, yours truly decided not to count the days and to live in lala land instead.
And that is how the avalanche started and got worse and worse.
The rest of my day was spent on the phone, on the Internet, mumbling and cursing, with a tear or two in between.
Did you know, conveniently, that immigration calling hours are in the morning and Consulate calling hours are in the afternoon? And that I work in an open plan office space? And that the lines are constantly busy and when the line is free you are endlessly transferred to another extention where you have to explain your whole life story again? I am sure my colleagues enjoyed that. And the pigeons on the terrace, where I eventually moved after a few dirty looks.
And did you know you have to make an appointment to even get in to the Consulate? And that the US passport photo format differs from the European size? And that only one out of ten photographers will print in that size? And that this is the era of digital photography so finding a photo lab (what where they even called when they existed???) is practically impossible? And that when you find one their computer has broken down? And when you find another one, they are closing early? And that I had to print out three pages in English from the Consulate's website for the Italian photographer to study before clicking away?
Well, as much as you like a good story, I will admit that at the end of all this I found a place right next to home where a lovely lady studied hard and knew exactly what she was doing (25 to 35mm from chin to top of head, no smiling, white backdrop, no headgear, no strange accessories etcetera, etcetera, etcetera).
And then after searching for the entrance for quite a while and leaving any electronic devices at the office and asking the bar tender next door if he could watch my bike helmet while I disappeared into Fort Knox because it could turn into a weapon of mass destruction if inappropriately used, and getting undressed and storing my lip gloss in a miniature locker and showing my passport and answering questions and being escorted from the elevator I actually got everything done at the Consulate in the matter of minutes with the assistance of very kind and helpful personnel, both inside and out.
And it seems, after searching on line for hours, like the deadline for my permit renewal is actually not as close as I initially read so the man in point 3) had every reason to be relaxed.
So fingers crossed, but it seems that things are looking up.
After a week like this, a nice bowl of warm and comforting soup is all I ask for.
If you have been reading my blog for a while you know about my revelation. This time I changed the ingredients around a bit, getting the creaminess from potatoes instead of flour and a nice little additional boost from the garlic.
It hit the spot!
1 medium-sized celeriac4 medium-sized potatoes
1 head of garlic, roasted
about 4 cups vegetable stock
Preheat your oven to about 200°C/400°F, peel the excess skin off of a head of garlic and cut off the top. Sprinkle with salt and oil and place on a baking tray wrapped in alluminum foil. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, peel the potatoes and celeriac with a potato peeler and cut into smallish chunks. Warm a little olive oil in a pot and throw in the root vegetables. After you have let them cook for a couple of minutes, mixing well to coat with oil, cover with vegetable stock and let cook with a lid until the vegetables are soft. When the vegetables are tender and the garlic is caramelized and soft, squeeze the cloves right out of the skin into the pot. Let cook a few more minutes and then blend. Adjust with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese sprinkled and some extra freshly ground pepper.