by Melinda Gallo

Five hours for five years

I'm sure I'm like everybody else that I saw this morning at the Questura (Police station): hopeful and yet not that excited to be there. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. after riding my bici (bike) there. It was cloudy and I just hoped it wouldn't rain on me because it's not a short ride back home afterwards. I stood outside with about thirty other people to get a number. We were slowly let into the entrance to talk to a poliziotto (police officer) to know which letter we were supposed to select from the machine to get the correct number for our situation.

Once I got my number, I stood in the long area that is set up for the stranieri (foreigners). There must have been over two hundred of us either sitting or standing. All of us would peek up at the electronic board after we heard the beep to see if our number was being called.

I stood there for awhile and then asked the poliziotto at the door if I could go out and she said that was fine. I ran down to the farmacia (pharmacy) to get something for my sore throat and ran back. Only five numbers were called while I was gone.

I brought two books, but I couldn't concentrate on reading. I was watching all the others. I noticed that some people are quite patient and just sit and wait their turn while others are so anxious that they have to do something, like pacing, smoking, drinking, or eating. I'm fairly patient, so I just sat there.

One guy got physically thrown out of the Questura by a poliziotto and fell to the ground a few feet from me when I was coming back from the farmacia. Another guy got yelled at by a poliziotto after he kept yelling at the poliziotto behind the window.

I have a feeling that these types of things occur all the time at the Questura, especially in the area for the stranieri. People's lives are at stake. They want to stay in Italy legally, but things are not that simple or easy. Sometimes you waste your entire day and can't even get anything done. I know that when I was in France, it was the same. It seems that the more people work with stranieri, the more racist they seem to become. And, the more the stranieri have to deal with the poliziotti, the more angry they become too.

When my number was finally called at noon, I went to the window and handed the woman all my papers. I was hoping she'd overlook that my permesso di soggiorno expired at the end of October, and she did. I even had a modulo (form) filled out by Alessandro that states that I'm his responsibility if something were to happen. He was near the Questura and was able to swing by, fill out the modulo, and sign it. A friend of mine who had been to the Questura a few weeks ago said that she had to go back because she was missing this modulo.

It's a huge problem because they are quick to give you a number, but they don't help you out in getting the correct moduli to fill out so that you're ready and things can go smoothly.

The woman asked me if my matrimonio (marriage) was transcribed at the Comune (town hall) yet, and I said that I was waiting on the translation to be sent from the Italian Consulate in the States.

She disappeared with all of my paperwork, and when she appeared five minutes later, she told me to sit down.

I waited for at least an hour before Alessandro called me. "Non ti hanno detto quanto tempo devi aspettare? (Didn't they tell you how long you'll be waiting?)" I laughed and told him, "Non so niente...nemmeno se va tutto bene o no. (I don't know anything...not even if everything is good or not.)"

It wasn't until almost 1:30 p.m. that I heard my name called from another sportello (window). I noticed that my address was incorrect, but I didn't care. I just signed my new permesso di soggiorno and walked away.

As I was leaving, I went back to the entrance where I saw the poliziotto from yesterday who thought I was Brazilian. He told me that I could come back on Friday and he'd get me in quicker, but when he told me that he wasn't sure he'd be working, I didn't want to risk it. He helped me make a photocopy of my permesso di soggiorno and called the woman with the capelli crespi (frizzy hair) from yesterday.

She made me wait a few minutes before coming out to see me. I handed her the photocopy and she said, "GiÓ? (Already?)" I nodded and smiled at her. I wished her a nice day and waved goodbye.

My new permesso di soggiorno seems almost too good to be true. I quickly put it in a plastic sleeve and carefully placed it in my cartella (folder). I don't want to bend it, but I know that I will eventually have to carry it around with me wherever I go.

As soon as I got home, I sent a copy to my commercialista (public accountant), so hopefully the opening of my partita IVA (VAT account) can all move forward as well now.

Hopefully in five years, which is the validity of my new permesso di soggiorno, I will receive my cittadinanza italiana (Italian citizenship). I don't really want to have to go back to the Questura again. I feel bad saying that as I'm sure it's no one's fault. It's just such a stressful situation and I always feel that one false move and I'll be on a plane back to the US.

Well, I can now put all those worries behind me. I have five whole years and I can do whatever I like here in Italy. I don't have to worry about what type of work I do or even if I work. I'm as free as a bird now and so happy to have my permesso di soggiorno. I feel like I just won a huge prize and I want to celebrate.

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