by Melinda Gallo

My citizenship interview

I have been waiting for today with much impatience that I was eager to jump out of bed at 7 a.m. Ever since I made the appuntamento (appointment) a few weeks ago with the woman at the Ufficio della cittadinanza (citizenship office) of the Questura (police station), I've been wondering what the colloquio (interview/conversation) would be about. She told me that it was a formalità (formality), but I kept wondering if I could say something that would hurt my chances of getting my cittadinanza italiana.

I rode my bici (bike) to the Questura near the Fortezza and arrived a little early. I showed the poliziotto (police officer) at the entrance my letter and said that I had an appointment. He picked up the phone, told the person that I was there, and then told me to wait for a woman to come out to get me. "Ha i capelli crespi (She has frizzy hair)," he said as I stood there holding onto my cartella (folder).

While I was waiting, the same poliziotto came out and asked, "Sei brasiliana? (Are you Brazilian?)" I told him that I was californiana (Californian) because I feared he'd ask me if I was from another South American country and it would just waste time. "California? Adoro la California. Ci sono stato in viaggio di nozze qualche anno fa. (California? I love California. I was on my honeymoon there a few years ago.)," he said. He was so excited to tell me about every city that he visited and how he absolutely loved San Francisco. He was excited about returning there some day although he has no plans right now.

We ended up talking for about 10 minutes because the woman didn't come out immediately. I asked him how he liked the new area they created for the stranieri (foreigners) and he said it was better, but the entrance wasn't that great because the entrance was uninviting and cold.

I almost giggled when I saw the woman, who was probably about my age if not a little bit younger, with the capelli crespi come out. I recognized her before she recognized me. At first, she seemed quite nice because she smiled a lot, but once we began talking together I began to feel very uncomfortable with her.

I sat across from her desk, which was strewn with papers and files all over it, and she pulled out a four-page modulo (form) to fill out. Some of the information she already had, like my birthday, address, etc. When she asked me where my permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay) was, I explained that I had been to the Posta (Post office) and they told me to wait until my matrimonio was transcribed at the Comune (town hall).

"Cosa? Non sanno niente lì. Lei deve avere un permesso di soggiorno valido! (What? They don't know anything there. You must have a valid permit to stay!)," she barked at me. I luckily had brought my certificato di matrimonio (marriage certificate) with the Apostille on it and showed it to her. She rushed past me and told me that she was going to get some information for me.

She came back and said that I can come back any morning from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. to file for a new permesso di soggiorno. I told her that I spoke with a vigile (local city police officer) and he told me that my matrimonio (marriage) had to be transcribed at the Comune first, which is why I hadn't gone already.

She looked at me intensely, squinted her eyes and then put on a big smile that stretched her entire face, "Non siamo vigili. Siamo polizotti. (We are not local city police officers. We are national police officers.)" I wanted to tell her that I wasn't offending her, but I could tell that the damage was done as I could feel the sting of her words for a bit longer even after we continued the colloquio.

She asked me if I followed politics in Italy and I said that I do. "Chi è il capo dello Stato? Che fa il parlamento? (Who is the head of state? What does the Parliament do?)" I obviously answered her questions correctly because she wrote OK in that box for me.

I could tell that she wanted to be nice to me, but I don't think she had it in her to be nice. Every once in a while, she would look over at her colleghi (colleagues) who were sitting at their desks in the room and I felt that as soon as I walked out the door, they were going to make fun of me as long as they could.

She asked me, "Che sono i nomi dei suoi amici? (What are your friends' names?)" I rattled off my friends' first and last names, but she only wrote down two first names. I did think of all my Italian friends first because I thought that's what she'd want to hear.

"I tuoi nonni parlavano italiano? (Did your grandparents speak Italian?" she asked me. I explained that my grandmother had passed away before I was born and I never met my grandfather who died when I was young. And, I added, my mother was Chinese and I didn't learn to speak Chinese either. "Ho capito...è per quello che Lei ha gli occhi strani. (I understand...that's why you have strange eyes.)" I was surprised she said strani since that has such a negative connotation. She might have realized it because after staring at me for a few more seconds she said, "Bellina. (Cute.)"

One question I was a little startled by was, "Cosa sono le abitudini italiane che Lei ha adottato? (What Italian habits have you adopted?)" It may seem like I could easily respond to that question, but I took a long time to respond. I didn't want to give any stereotypical answers even though she said, "Beve un caffè la mattina? (Do you drink coffee in the morning?)"

I was trying to think of something truly Italian, but not much came to mind except my going to the mercato (market). I explained how I go shopping there almost every morning to purchase what I will cook for lunch and dinner. She half-smiled at me as she wrote that down. I then joked with her and said, "Ogni tanto faccio anche un pisolino. (Every once in a while I also take naps.)" She giggled, but didn't smile this time.

After a few more questions, she turned the papers around and asked me to sign them. While I was signing, she said she'd get more information for me about the permesso di soggiorno and come back.

As soon as she walked back into the room, she rattled off the list of items that I needed to bring with me. At first I tried to keep them in my head, but then I fumbled around in my purse to get a pen and paper. I wrote down everything and repeated it to her.

She told me to come back as soon as possible with the photocopy of the permesso di soggiorno or at least the ricevuta (receipt) so she can move my pratica (file) on. She told me that if I ever change address to send a letter to the man with whom I filed everything with at the Prefettura (Prefecture). I asked her if I had to send a copy to her at the Questura and she said that her office only handles the colloquio. My whole body let out a sigh of relief.

She told me that I will receive a decreto (decree) from the Presidente della Repubblica and I will have to stand before a judge and be sworn in as an Italian citizen. It sounds exciting, but she told me the wait is long and that she couldn't even give me an estimate as to how long the wait really is.

I thanked her for all the help with the permesso di soggiorno and wished her a wonderful day.

I sped home on my bici so I could go to the anagrafe (registry office) before it closed to get an official document that has my and Alessandro's address on it. While I was in centro (downtown), I also got my four pictures taken at a photo booth because that was an item on my list of items to bring to the Questura as well.

I was excited that I no longer have to wait on the Italian Consulate in the States any more to get my permesso di soggiorno. It seems like everything is now coming along for me. We'll see what tomorrow brings when I return to the Questura with all my documents in hand.

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