God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Consulate, The Visa...What To Do?

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Ok--now I'm ready to pull my head out of the sand and begin the coping and "let's solve the problem" mentality that I used so well in pre-retirement days. It is impossible to be successful as a junior high school administrator without facing problems head-on and finding a way around, through, over or under them. Burying just doesn't work--sort of like New Orleans cemeteries--when the storms come, what's down there just sort of floats on up.

So--I decided yesterday to take the plunge and call the the Los Angeles Consulate office--you will remember that there are eleven consulates in the US and each one sort of, more or less, does its own thing--Italian bureacracy style. I would rather not have to use LA as, from what I understand from people on the Expats in Italy forum, it has been having difficulties--but, sometimes choices aren't available and we march as we must. Anyway, I guess they do OK if things are rather ordinary but--we have never been ordinary--haven't quite figured out that life would be quite less complicated if we were.

It has been two weeks since the woman, who so thoughtfully raised my awareness level by clarifying that moving to another country is not the same as deciding to change hair color, had me fax the legal paperwork about the guardianship issue. And surprise! I have heard nary a word in reply.

So, I decided to take the plunge into bureaucratic darkness and--remembering that the visa office does not take phone calls until 2 PM waited until 3 to call. I knew that this would not be an easy venture as my helpful lady had declined to give me her name. Thus, I had no person or reference to give and wondered if anyone would have a clue as to what I was talking about.

Next came the descent into 21st century telephone etiquette--the world of the disembodied voice giving instructions, warnings and options--which we are always told are in a state of change--heaven help the poor caller who misses the option and must start over. Never mind that it is missed because no relevant option has been offered--right? And the Italian consulate has perfected this well--the enumeration of categories and the corresponding number is interminable and comprehensive--including what to do if you are an Italian citizen who has died here and wants to go home. But--there is no mention--not one--of a visa department.

Digression: For those of you who manage to read this, I give a helpful clue: In almost all telephone jungles, if you just press "O" at anytime, you will get connected to a real, live person! It's as if someone is just there lurking in the background. This works particularly well when calling United Airlines--one of those awful interactive phone robots.

After listening to all of the options, knowing that if I didn't do it the right way--for instance push "O" when I hadn't been told to, someone would be sure to point out the necessity for following instructions--gee, am I becoming paranoid, or what?, I finally did what I should have done at first and with mighty force, hit the bit "O". Lo and behold, a nice, young, man answered.

No--he couldn't connect me to the visa department because they were too busy to take phone calls. Could he help me? I explained the situation. He said: "Just a minute." And then disconnected me. So---I called back and dared to push "O" right away--feeling very brave.

Now the man told me that they still wouldn't take calls but he would see what he could do. And then---a miracle occured. I was talking to Sandra--that same woman who wouldn't give me her name last time.

She actually knew what I was talking about but was far, far from encouraging.....

"This case is very difficult and unusual. We have to send it to Rome for their decision."
I asked if they would be sending all of the paperwork or did they need something more.
"No, no, no--we won't send it now. It will be sent when you apply for your visa. You can't do that until 90 days before you go."

Now we have a very large problem.

In order to apply for a visa, we need to have:
1. A rental contract--maybe we can get by with a letter of invitation but I'm afraid that would not fly even though I am told it would (by my lady friend.)

2. Maybe--can't get a straight answer on this--proof that Casey is enrolled in a school. Even if this is not necessary, we need to enroll him in early spring for the fall semester--assuming we opt for the international school. This requires a considerable upfront outlay.

3. Our plane itinerary.

All of these things add up to a lot of euro! But--we won't know until Rome sends its decision if we can even go. And this is unusual enough that it's hard to tell what the powers will decide.

This Sandra also told me that there is no guarantee that Rome will make a decision within the 90 days as "they are very busy." Optimistically she said she thinks we have a major problem because of the mother's visitation rights--as she read it. I explained and began reading to her the order stating that we control all visitation rights-if, when, where, how. At this point she admitted that she isn't "a legal person" and so really doesn't understand it at all. "That is exactly why it goes to Rome and because we are talking about a minor child it is an iffy situation."
So--we are in a quandry. Do we just continue with our plans, trusting that all will work out--that the people in Rome have enough experience in these things to know what they are reading? And--it just now occured to me--do we need to get all the papers translated? I bet we do.

Fortunately, the good folks on the Expats board have given me the name of an Italian attorney who has helped many of them with their problems. Hopefully, he will be able to give us advice that will get us through this. Wonder how much cost this will add to our dream fullfilment? But, then, what is money for if not to make dreams come true?

I keep pictures such as this in mind when seeds of discouragement seek to be planted. For, if they aren't planted, they can't grow!

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