Yesterday I grabbed my debit card and headed out the door to complete what I thought would be an easy task of sending a money order. My mom had asked me put in a deposit at the place we’re staying at over Christmas to the next region over of Italy, since it made much more sense for me to send it from Italy rather than her sending it across the Atlantic, in dollars and with an extra $50 fee. I went over to the nearest bank and told the grumpy guy at the first available desk my situtaion (Goodday… I must send money…Is possible?… I have the destination.. It’s a hotel..No I don’t have documents with me! Only a card…You can’t do anything?…Ok, sigh, goodbye). At a loss for words, I then headed to the bank next door and began explaining, in broken italian, that I needed to mandare i soldi to a less-grumpy banker, but I was met with the same wall: Do you have documents? Shaking my head, I left the office of the bank and ran back to my apartment to grab them. I returned to Carisbo shortly with a fresh smile on my face and not one but 2 passports in hand. I don’t think he expected (or really wanted) me to come back, and I explained I now had what I needed. No, now what I really needed was a codice fiscale, some financial code that I should have been given by being an Italian resident. I just don’t have one, I explained, shrugging my shoulders. What can I do? He got his supervisor to come out and work with me in better Itanglese, and then I sat down at her desk for a little bit, and we established that a money transfer wasn’t possible. Try a vaglia— sending the money through the postal service. So off I went, three blocks away to the post office. Got a number, waited in line, showed the man the email on my phone from the Bed & Breakfast lady that had asked for the deposit. He sent me to another booth, where I took a Vaglia form and a pen-on-a-string and got to work. After many confused glances across the room he beckoned me back over to his station and we finished the form together. Then we got to the “codice fiscale” line. Yup, I needed that ID number to do this, too. He looked up ways to get around it, called over his coworkers to see if I could send a money order senza. I’m studying at the University, so I should have one, right? I don’t have an Italian friend who’s code I could use? Really? Then you should go to this office, only a bus ride away near this porta, wait in line and register for a codice there, then come back. There’s no way I’m doing that, I thought, exasperated look on my face.
The lady in line at the next booth over, finished with sending her package (without struggle) hears the “don’t you have an Italian friend who’s code you could use” part and says, half seriously, she can use mine! She then joined what was now a 5-person discussion on My Next Steps, acting as English translator. When the Italian postal service established there was nothing I could do before going to that other bureaucracy, she offered me a ride and we walked out together. And when she found out the nature of my situation, that I just needed to send 100 euros to an albergo so my family and I could spend Christmas together, she looked at me and said, seriously, I’ll can send the vaglia with my code. We walk back into the postal office, and re-fill the form. Even the postal workers are laughing, and we’re all letting out sighs of relief as I finally recieve a photocopy reciept of the money order. I pay the lady back, and rather than let me give her 6 euros extra since I don’t have change and am pretty greatful to her, she runs to the nearest bar to get a 1 euro bottle of water and 3 coins back to me.
Her name was Cecilia, pronounced Che-Chi-Lea. She was petite and thirty-something, with a short choppy haircut and a shawl and camoflauge patterned pants and a bit of freckles over her straight nose, and this beautiful smile that transcended the ridiculousness of my spending 2 hours just to find out I couldn’t send a damn form. She has been just another person this semester to prove to me the nurturing Italian ethos. When I thanked her and apologized for taking so much time out of her day, she responded almost flabbergasted, non importa, I’m on maternity leave anyway. I’ll likely never see her again, but I can only take that warmness and willingness to help a straniere back to the States, when I get there.