That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Queues, Sections and Glass Partitions

(l) Ms. Eindhoven and (r) me ... oh so bored.
So... this is a long story:

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. Ms. Smartypants' first day of high school will start in 2 days. Every new freshman is put into a sezione, a section, which is actually a class. Here in Italy, kids are in the same class, with the same classmates and with the same teachers for all 5 years in primary school, all 3 years in middle school and for the first two and the last 3 years in high school - HS is for 5 years. Throughout their school years, rather than the students making their way to various classrooms for each new subject, it's the teachers or professors who will come to them.

So, naturally, all the alunni, or students, are eager to know in which section they will be and more importantly which classmates and professors they'll have for the next 5 years. Primary education is taught by teachers while Secondary and High Schools are taught by professors. Parents, on the other hand, are eager to know the section so they can scramble like mad hatters to purchase books. After all, school starts in just 2 days. Today is Saturday. On Sundays, most, if not all, stores are closed... and besides, school books can only be purchased at designated librerie, bookstores, and these are all closed on Sundays. 

I may be wrong, but I think most other industrialized countries would take precautions to avoid such... er... inconveniences... but here, in Italy, we tend to love them, these inconveniences. Well, some hate them, but love to complain about them. Still, others could have never ever ever, in their wildest most unrealistic most illogical highly irrational senseless screwy tomfool imaginations, even remotely thought of such possibilities and are left dumbfounded, flabbergasted, bewildered and knock me over with a feather duster dazed and confused when confronted with such inconveniences. I belong to the latter group.

So, here we are, my friend, Ms. Eindhoven and I, at the main school. Often there is a centrale, the main school, and a succursale, a branch. Like everyone else, we're in a hurry to know the section and be off to find a store where we can buy or order books. Each section requires different books according to the preferences of the professors. So those in section A have no or few books in common with those of section B. The school's website was kind enough to list each book according to section, and this has been available for weeks. Of course, it does little good to any of us if we don't know the section our kids are in.

High school books, will come to a total of 300-600 euro, the lower number if you can find used books and the higher number if you purchase new ones. I've had the pleasure of having always bought new books -yay- The reason being that there's always been one snare or another preventing me from buying used books. For instance, since we often learn about the section so late, used books have already been sold to those who knew their section before others. How do some know this while others do not? This is another topic altogether, but here in Italy, there is a rampant case of "favoritism" and that means family, friends, friends of friends, friends of family, family of friends of family (and so on) of teachers, professors and other staff will receive information way ahead of people like me... that is, people who don't know anyone. This is prevalent in just about every area. That is our lot. It pays to know people. It helps to be raccomandato, to be recommended.

Oh! Another thing: Mr. Uometto is starting middle school this year. Attending the same school as his big sister, he didn't end up in the same section that Ms. SmartyPants was in for the past 3 years... so he can't reuse her books. Well, why not sell them, right? That was the plan. Selling them at half price, we could have easily made 150€. Well, it turns out, Ms. SmartyPants' books have expired. They expired in 2007, during the scholastic year for which they were purchased. They are no good to anyone, now, you know, being expired and all. How do books "expire" anyway?
This raises another question: why are we buying books for public school? I don't know. Or, in Italian: corners of lips turned down, chin and shoulders jutting upward and forward, hands out with palms facing up, "boh?"

And now, I'm reminded of another thing (thanks Brain) : anonymous voluntary contributions. One would think this meant, if so inclined, that one could make an anonymous voluntary contribution to the school. sigh You are given a pre-printed module which includes your child's full name, the school's name PLUS the amount in Euro (100.00 of which 7.00 is for insurance purposes) and you are expected to pay this exact amount at the post office or bank, where you'll receive 2 copies of receipt of payment, one of which you will attach to your child's enrollment form. Your child's form will not be accepted without it. Well... no, I shouldn't say that. Rather, depending on whim and fancy, it may be accepted, but your child's place in the school will not be confirmed until you've brought the receipt. You will be expected to make another similar anonymous voluntary contribution the following semester. If, at some point, you ask to know what is being done with these "contributions" or if there is a viewable account of how or when money from this treasury has been used or if there's any small chance that your child will actually personally benefit from these donations in the form of school resources or extracurricular activities, you will surely be laughed at. Friends will wonder how you've managed to stay so innocent. You will be called ingenua, that is, naive.

So, back to Saturday morning, at the high school. On one side of the big hall there is a glass partition and 3 ladies are behind it, answering basic questions - the most common being, "Where is the list of class sections?" We all wait in line, and most of us, one by one, ask this very question. Their reply varies little, "We haven't put them up yet." I don't even know why we're waiting in line. We're all aware that the question has been answered. As one parent after another walks away from the glass partition, those of us still waiting stop them, "Did she say they've yet to put up the list? Did she give a time frame? Will they let us know today?" The list hasn't been put up yet. Ok... sure, that sounds reasonable enough. No list because it has yet to be "put up". Never mind that the list was supposed to be available on Friday, a whole three days before the first day of school. Never mind that people are double and triple parked (not uncommon) hoping to get a quick glimpse of the list so they can rush off to find books. Never mind that reception hours are 9-11am and it's already 10 o'clock. So... what happened? What is hindering these ladies from putting up the list? Are the lists not ready yet? Is there a problem with the computer? With the printer? Have they no paper? Do they need more sticky tape?!?!?!
What?!?!?! No... nothing like that... They JUST HAVEN'T PUT THEM UP YET, that's all.

y o u ' r e  k i d d i n g  m e  ,  r i g h t ?

No... no... this is for real.
I just don't get it... what, exactly, am I missing? Why and how can it seem more practical or sensible to sit behind a glass window and answer the same question, asked by parent after parent after parent, having them wait half an hour in line, each deluded man or woman, thinking they'll get an answer, like, "Why... here it is !! It's your very own copy !!" Or, "The list? Of course, there it is, to your left !! Why can't just ONE of these three ladies, rise from her chair, pick up the 5 pieces of printed paper (yes, the list) resting on the corner shelf, come out from behind the glass and put ... the ... list ... up ? Why? Why? Oh, Whyyyyyy?!?!?!
Ah... but we shouldn't blame only them... for all we know, these poor ladies are trapped behind the glass with no way out. It's a possibility. At any rate, there were others in the hall who could have just as easily grabbed the list and put it up. The two ladies behind the glass partition to the right, for example... or the gentleman and two ladies who kept walking in and out from behind both glass encased areas. The two ladies to the right were answering questions as well, taking in last minute enrollment forms and dealing with other admissions related issues. 

Ms. Eindhoven and I waited. We waited a little in line, talked with other parents, went to the coffee bar across the street, she moved her double parked car twice and finally found a legitimate parking space, we waited a little in the other line and I moved Ms. SmartyPants' from Traditional Scientific Studies to Bilingual Scientific Studies where the subjects remain the same but have the addition of French. As a consequence of this change, and possibly due to the fact that the woman had mistakenly spoken to me in the informal "tu" rather than the proper "lei" having thought I was a high school student, she felt embarrassed an d so was kind enough to tell me Ms. SmartyPants' new section. Section F. I was, for a brief moment, raccomandata!! But Ms. Eindhoven was not. And so, we waited some more.

We were sitting on a marble slab near the entrance when at a quarter to 11, the doors were closed... some people were still in line. They didn't actually lock the doors... only closed them. So parents who were just arriving would open the doors and enter. They would be greeted by a woman (one of the three ladies behind the left glass window) whose sole mission now was to watch the doors and run to anyone who entered them, all the while yelling, "We've closed !! We've closed !!" The parents would usually respond by asking, "Where are the lists?" And the woman would say, or rather, she would yell, "There are all these people who have been waiting in line that we must see. Once we've taken care of them, we'll put up the list. In the meantime, you can not come inside because we've closed !!"

Ohhh.... my.... goodness. Lord, give me grace to have patience with these nincompoops. Argh.
Well... the line finally came to an end. It was 12:30pm. The woman, the easily excitable door greeter, approached a window with ONE piece of paper. She attached it to the glass with scotch tape and then walked back behind her glass enclosed area. Immediately, every man, woman and child ran to the window, straining and stretching and up-on-their-tippy-toeing to see an 8X10 piece of paper with names and sections printed in size 11 Times Roman font. The woman on the other side of the window grabbed another piece of paper, came back to the window, attached it to the glass with scotch tape. She did this with paper #3 and paper #4 and paper #5. Then, finished, she stood in front of the window, legs spread, hands on her hips and stared at the people on the other side before finally, turning around and walking away. Odd, to say the least.
Ms. Eindhoven and I let most of the folks have a go at cramming themselves against the window to see the list and when the mass of people diminished to a manageable size, we went and had a look. Section H for Mr. SoapInABox and, as I was previously told, section F for Ms. SmartyPants.

One of her best friends and classmates from 6th-8th grade, Ms. Mengoni, is also in F along with Mr. Gabby with whom she was classmates for all 5 years of elementary school. He's also the older brother of Mr. Squeek, the very best friend of Mr. Uometto and they, too, were in the same class all throughout elementary school. Actually, out of 27 students, quite a few of them are from her elementary school. Small world.

The List
On the Bright Side
°spending time with Ms. Eindhoven
°being able to deliver on Ms. SmartyPants' last minute request to change to Bilingual Scientific Studies
°being mistaken for a high school student
°slightly tanning while waiting on the marble block
°learning to sympathize for those who are trapped behind glass partitions
°an ever rising patience threshold

After ten years, I'm still getting used to how things work here...
Now... another adventure finding books -yay-

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