Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sono qui in Roma. (I am here in Rome)

This is f*cking weird.

Please excuse all typos. I'm in a cafe using their WiFi (my temporary apartment doesn't have Internet). The Internet here is free but you have to buy a drink or something. I am chilling with a glass of red wine while I look out at the remains of the walls that used to guard the city (Porta Pia). My feet are killing me. I got lost countless times today. I tried to find my permanent apartment but instead walked around the Piazza Farnese. Trying to get back to Termini area, got lost, saw the Trevi fountain. Finally found the station which is a 20 minute walk from my aparment, got lost. Well, at least I walked off the piece of piazza I had for lunch and the gelato.

The last 48 hours in Los Angeles were just crazy. I didn't have enough luggage for all my stuff. I ended up checking in four bags at an additional cost of $250. I connected in Chicago. As the plane started to descend I had a complete freak out (quietly). It's as if I finally realized that I quit a job I loved and was moving to a foreign country...not just going on vacation. I starting crying (and was embarassed and try to hide it) as I felt completely overwhelmed. What irrational thing to do at my age. I'm a middle age lady (yes my friends if you are over 35 you are middle aged) trying to get a writing career off the Hollywood. A place where if you are not an "it boy" by 30 your chances of working are slim.

I thought about my family and all my friends I had to say good-bye to, my questionable Italian speaking skills, where whould I find a hairdresser who knows how to work with natural black hair, and how I don't know the metric system. The Chicago to Rome leg I tried to sleep and had the pleasure of a screaming toddler sitting behind me for almost eight hours. The good news...none of my bags were lost.

I had some jet lag and crashed at 6:30 p.m. I was up at 12:30 a.m. and tossed and turned all night until I got up at 4:00 a.m. I knew today was going to be my first dealing with the infamous Italian red tape. My stomach was in knots. I did have a my first good writing day in about two weeks (I'm working on a romantic comedy script). Feeling good about that, I went down to Trastevere to get my Codice Fiscale (kind of like a Social Security Number, you need it to open a bank account, work, pay utilities etc.). As I walked past the area where I have rented apartments for the last two years I felt like I was back home.

I got to the office just as they were opening and there was a line. I have to say I am SHOCKED at how organized it was. The older gentleman at the front desk couldn't be more helpful. He listened to my broken Italian and he chuckled when he saw my cheat sheet. That is how organized/anal I am. I wrote down in Italian what I wanted to say. In Italian he asked me where I was from, when did I arrived in Rome and then he said welcome and I could come back to him if I had any questions. I know he slowed down his normal speaking speed so I was able to understand most of what he said. I saw him later speaking to a colleague of his and seriously it sounded so lyrical but I had no idea what they were talking about they spoke so quickly.

The woman who processed my info spoke ZERO English, was super sweet and told me I had a "bel nome/beautiful name" (for some reason my middle name is spelled out on my French passport, so now all my Italian documents have my middle name). From the time I sat down at her desk I think it took less than 10 minutes for her to do the paperwork.

Next onto the bank. I spoke to the branch manager yesterday on the phone (he spoke no English). I got his name from through an affiliate branch in the States after my landlord gave me the number of the closest branch to the apartment. He had me work with a employee who knew some English. That was an overstatement. She said she studied it in school but she never speaks it. Similar to me and French. I studied it for 7 years and know maybe 6 sentences. Her younger colleague came over and she spoke as much English as I do Italian. We were able to work it out. We kept laughing because every other sentence was "come si dice" (how do you say?) Since I elected to go with the plan that is banking online I will avoid some the crazy high fees. I still have to pay a tax of about 32 Euros a year. It was so weird to open a checking account and receive no checks. Nobody uses them. My rent, bills will be taked out of my account.

I couldn't bring my bag into the bank. You have to go through these secure doors. After all the terrorist attacks in the 70s you can't just walk into a bank here. At first I was wondering why the inner door wouldn't open. I didn't understand what the automated voice was saying. The security guard pointed to the lockers. In English I said something like "I need my bag to open my account". He looked at me like, are you "molto stupida?" you would want to put your bag in the locker right now.

After 30 minutes or so I had my account after signing a million documents. It's interesting the things I read I would need and made sure I had, reference letter from my home back, tax return or proof of income, and only being able to open a "strainieri" (foriegner's account) never came up. The two women, patiently explained everything to me and also asked me a bunch of questions about L.A. As I was standing in line to desposit money, an American tourist next to me who was exchanging money was complaining that there were only two tellers and about all the security. The women in front of me was an American expat who has lived in Rome for 10 years. She told the tourist that she liked the security and thinks the energy in the States now is more paranoid (she went back for time in years). He then went on to say loudly " I guess customer service is not a priortity to these people." ouch.

I know getting residency will require a bunch of steps but I don't have to worry about that until after I move into my place. Thanks to reading all the negative threads on Expats in Italy I was prepared for the worst. Rude bureaucrats (like the ones I had to deal with at the DMV in Washington DC) disorganization and what not. Instead the people I dealt with today were great. I think by the summer my Italian will be much better. I am forced to used it now. I went to get a gelato near the Trevi fountain. The minute I walked in the lady behind the counter spoke English to me. In the areas near tourist destintations there are plenty of people who speak English.

Tomorrow I am going to write all morning and then if I feel like it go down to Telecom Italia to get a permanent cell phone. My manager is supposed to call me for our weekly conference call tonight at 7:00 p.m. my time. After my call I might go walk around my neighborhood or something. I have to get on Roman time.

Randomissia - The U.S. presidential election is getting major coverage on Italian television. Rihanna and the new Gnarls Barkley song are huge here. A British brother walking by me on the street asked me if I was Jamaican. I said no..he asked "where are you from" all loud. ha. Some Italian guy on a Vespa, stopped in the middle of traffic and blew me a kiss. At first I thought he was a friend of mine, that is the only reason I made eye contact. When I realized it wasn't him I was like get moving homeslice. I would like to state for the record, I was saying homeslice long before Diablo Cody.

Since I don't have Internet at my place postings will be sporadic.


glamah16 said...

Wow. You have accomplished a lot in just a few days.And the freak out is normal.Everything thing is just snowballing and propelling you forward to your destiny. And it seems so seemless.Of course being organized and efficent helps. I still cringe when I remember the whole Carte de Sejour thig in France when I was student. Lines, rudenss, etc.Your home!

gibber said...

HI SIS! I can't believe you did ALL that ALREADY! you are anal, but it's ok, so am i. I loved reading this post. I feel reconnected to you. I was so sad, not being able to talk to you yesterday!!!

Welcome home :)

erin said...

WOW! I'm so excited for you :) :) :) You are on the ball for sure. So much done already. The first sentence sums it up though during that first month (or 2...or 10) :)

Have so much fun and BRAVA for doing it on your own. Looking forward to seeing you at the GTG!

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Ya, you are kicking some Italian bureaucracy A! :)

Other than your breakdown....which is totally normal and when you get here, we'll swap "just-landed" stories, but you are doing GREAT!

Can't wait to see you.

And if you get bored you are always welcome to pop up - you know where I live! :)

Joanne said...

Wow, what a day. You sound energized and positive and way more prepared than I was. Good for you! Congratulations and welcome!If you write to me here:
I'll send you my phone numbers. I won't be in Florence on the 19th so who knows when we can meet, but I am looking forward to it!

Delina said...

Welcome!! I'm so glad you're here. You've done so much already. Bravissima you!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Congrats on everything. I echo everyone else - the freak-out is normal.

I can't BELIEVE how much you got done! When I first moved to Russia, I think I just stared slack-jawed when I finally got to Krasnodar, and I even had the extra support because I was on a teacher exchange.

Oh, hearing about these different places makes me so nostalgic! Have a wonderful time getting acclimated.

Paula Puryear said...

Congratulations! I'm going to sound like a broken record and laud you for how much you've accomplished you and echo the sentiment that the freak-out is normal. You've taken the bull by the horns and that makes me proud, inspired, envious, all of the above. xoxo

Linda said...

Ciao Raga!!
So glad you're finally here!! And considering how you've handled the first few days, andrĂ  benissimo. I can totally relate to the freak out. I had one in the car on the way to my wedding, while my husband was driving! But it all turned out well - 10 yrs and two kids later we're still together.
And Homeslice, 35 is NOT middle-aged. Not in this country at least. People are still living with mamma and just graduating from university at 35. So consider yourself rejuvenated in Italy.

Won't be able to go to Florence but would looove to meet if you ever make it to Milan, which just happens to be Fabio's hometown ;)

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Texas Espresso said...

Congrats and benvenuto!

I haven't experienced that freak out feeling yet - but I know I will. I have small episodes here just THINKING about moving to

man - why'd you have to say over 35 is middle aged. I am already over 35 and my bday is coming up. sigh my Italian and I are going thru some of the same things - lifestyle/work wise and you are right, at our age we are like "what the hell are we doing?" lol

good luck - I think things are going to work out very well for you there =)

looking forward to hearing more about it...

Claudia said...

Freakouts are probably par for the course when leaving everything behind to start a new life, no? It's good to hear that you had a good experience at the bank-that idiot that was complaining should go to a branch where they are on the phone with a friend and they will serve you when they are good and ready!

Tina said...

Ah, I am grinning ear to ear as I read your post. Congratulations, you!! :-)

You're in Rome! You did it!

BigCNYC said...

Ciao bella nyc/caribbean ragazza! Wait, do they say ciao bella? I always loved how it sounds. You're first days in your new city sound amazing. Thanks for the detail. I felt as if I was walking right along with you. My friend Sonya B. had a similar breakdown in Heathrow when she moved to London for a few months. Just think of it as a cleasing. (sp?) You're going to have a grand time. I can't wait to read your daily adventures.

Giulia said...

Welcome to the boot! Glad you made it over here safely! I almost teared up reading about your experience on the plane... it happened to me and I'm sure to every expat that has moved here. As for 35 being middle age, honey, that is the LA frame of mind. You are now in Italy where you are as young as you feel! Age is just a number here... it does not define you. ;)
I hope the rest of your settling in goes as smoothly as these first few days have!

Benvenuti and in bocca al lupo! :)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thanks everyone!! I feel much better this morning. The jet lag is getting better.

I am now in a laundrymat-internet place. It is like the United Nations in here. Mostly Americans, including a woman from Sacremento who is going to Florence to meet her friend.

It is good to hear from the other expats that they to had freak outs. Thanks to anon for the hair places. I will look them up.

bleeding espresso said...

Wooooohoooooo! I'm so happy to read this; you're doing *fabulously* and I look forward to riding along ;)

And the romantic comedy script?! I'm intrigued....

Anonymous said...

I had the same freak out as I moved back to the States - of course I was headed to L.A. at the time, ugh. You on the other hand are in my favorite city in the world. And your first bureaucratic experiences were so good - I believe that this is a good omen. Onward and upward!
anna l'americana

Janet said...

GOOD FOR YOU, girl -- you made it!

Being an expat has its ups and downs, and I think you're perfectly prepared for the adventure. I LOVE the energy in that post.

I can't wait to hear more!!!! And when are you going to post some photos for us?


paolaccio said...

Complimenti! I am so happy for you. I want to hear everything not least which laundromats have internet. I have visions of thrying to blog from a CrackBerry which won't be fun.

Hang in there, culture shocker!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Mazl tov! That is a terrific day's work if your Italian isn't great. I am supposed to be doing a reconaissance of Verona in May and the language thing is scaring me silly.

Anonymous said...

tracey k/ohio: CONGRATULATIONS Ragazza!!! I'm so happy for you! And look at you - just going all around taking care of business. The meltdown was perfectly normal- probably the first time you had time to sit & realize you're doing your dream. So proud of you & I don't even know you! (LOL!) Please continue to keep us updated (as you can). Like you said - you are now "home." Now the 'real' adventures of your life will begin! Peace & blessings!

lele215 said...

I'm so excited for you and a bit envious. Please keep posting as often as you can.

odessa said...

congratulations on everything that you've accomplished so far! i really enjoyed this post, it reminded me of the time when i moved to the US. and like everyone said, the freak out is perfectly OK. mine happened 2 days after i got to L.A. and i couldn't stop crying -- in the middle of a busy office with a relative that i had just met! ah, those were the days. best of luck with the writing! =)

Rose said...

You have no idea the smile this post caused. To read about you just going for it is awesome and I can't wait to read about your new life in Rome.

I wish you nothing but the best in your new adventure.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

grazie mille tutti.

paolaccio there are bunch of them near termini station (I guess it's because of all the hostel around here)

Kataroma said...

Welcome to Rome, caribbean ragazza! Let me know if you want to meet for a gelato sometime.

Like others have said above you seem so prepared and organized. I think I was here several months before I opened a bank acct, got residency etc.

Anyway, if you need any tips - I'm also an EU country citizen living in Rome. Don't let them treat you like a foreigner (ie. get a foreigner bank account or what-not) cos you're not - you're European. :)

I also had a pretty good experience with the anagrafe in Trastevere getting my codice fiscale. I think they're efficient as it means you're going to pay your taxes!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

grazie Kataroma. I will get your email/info from Shelley. Yes when I opened my account I got the same one Italians can open, not the "Straniera" one.

I am not looking forward to dealing with the residency red tape but have a month or so before I have to get into it. Hopefully my Italian will be stronger by then.

wordtryst said...

Ahh, you're there. You did it!

The freak out is perfectly normal. I suppose it happens to everyone who makes a change like that, who makes that leap into the unknown. But it's exciting, no? I can feel your excitement.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

wordtryst - yes it is exciting.

islandgirl550 said...

I have been quietly reading your page for a few weeks now and honestly I read it every chance I get. I'm so proud of you. I've been pondering a career change and a life abroad as well. I love reading about how you came to your decision. Good luck in Rome and I can't wait to read about your life abroad.

PS. I'm a West Indian too! (Jamaican and Cuban)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

grazie my fellow Island girl!! Good luck with your move.