Wednesday, November 30, 2011
But as a shade in the night, nobody seems to have noticed him: Luis, the concierge, didn’t see him entering in the building, Mathilde didn’t hear him buzzing at the entry-phone or at the doorbell. We simply found a slip of paper stating that he passed without finding anyone at home.
Conclusion: we have to present ourselves at the police station on Monday at 7.30 am with a copy of our lease agreement to demonstrate we live in our home.
It’s a Kafkan situation, but perhaps by Monday this will be over…
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Interestingly, while in the States we never celebrated Thanksgiving with an American. We were invited a couple of times at Olga’s (Russian), another time we celebrated it with James and Kristina (an Australian-Bulgarian couple), and we once celebrated it with Pavel and Petra (a couple of Czech friends).
We had to wait to be in Rome to finally celebrate Thanksgiving with an American - and in the proper way: turkey and pumpkin soup.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
[Continues from previous post].
“Don’t worry, it can all be done via internet. It takes no more than 10-15 minutes…”
These reassuring words convinced me that perhaps my ancestral fears about INPS were old-fashioned, and that perhaps INPS has modernized itself while I was out of Italy...
And in fact the first impact with the INPS webpage has been quite positive: I could find relatively easily the link to ‘household staff’, and, although in an elaborated administrative language, plenty of information on how to hire a household staff, how to draw up a contract, how to pay his/her social security contributions, etc. etc.
I then discovered that the first step to hire a household staff is to get a PIN (Personal Identification Number). I thus called the INPS Call Center, as it seemed they could have provided me this magic number. But I then discovered that as of 30 September the Call Center was not authorized anymore to release PINs, and that I had to submit my request online.
A bit annoyed by the fact that things were getting longer than the 10-15 minutes that Jamie foresaw, but still full of trust and optimism, I duly completed my request for a PIN online and submitted it. Within half-hour, I received on my mobile an SMS with half-PIN (!) and a text saying that I would have received the other half of the PIN at home by mail.
Now I got a bit more annoyed. Ok all the security measures to avoid that your personal PIN is counterfeit (even though I wonder who on earth wants to steal a PIN that is meant to pay taxes!), but in a computerized world why to use the mail service that is (1) more expensive, (2) more unreliable, and (3) it takes more time, and not to send the second half of the PIN via email to your personal email account. Mysteries of the Italian public administration…
Anyway, I waited a few days, and still I hadn’t received my PIN by mail. Of course my level of annoyance was increasing (“it takes no more than 10-15 minutes”… yeah, certainly!), but still I was pervaded by a general sense of optimism (it’s not possible that my PIN got lost, it’s just the usual delay of a malfunctioning mail service… inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…). Until when, one day, Mathilde called me in the office saying that someone from INPS had called at home. And when I asked her if she gave this person my office telephone number, she told me that this person told her that they were authorized to call only the telephone number that I inserted in my online application, and that they could not receive information from anyone else than the submitter. Ok, stupid me who inserted the home instead of the office telephone number in the application form (but still they should have my mobile n. as the first part of the PIN was sent to my mobile), but, hell, what’s all this secrecy??? For a PIN that I need to pay taxes, not for the PIN of my credit card!!!
Anyway, from that moment it started my battle with INPS: hundreds of telephone calls asking, explaining, following-up; hours spent on hold waiting an operator to be available; dozens of emails hoping that those that respond to emails are a bit more competent than those that respond at the phone… (ps: normally the answer to my emails is to call the number I have been calling for weeks…)
I made my initial request on October 24th, and as of today I have not yet received the second half of the PIN (it should have taken no more than…). Meanwhile Claudia has started working for us, and I promised her that as soon as her position will be regularized, I will pay the contributions for the period she worked without a contract as well.
But at the same time I started feeling a certain sympathy for those that pay their staff in black. Certainly for many, probably the majority, this is a system to avoid paying taxes - and as such this behaviour should be condemned. But for some this may simply be the result of the frustration, the costs, or the barriers to actually comply with the rules…
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I continue and conclude my invective against the Italian public administration and bureaucracy by reporting my last (and fiercest) battle: with INPS, the National Social Security Institute, the mammoth of the whole Italian public administration…
You may remember we looked for a nursery where to send Leo when Mathilde would have started working again some time ago (click here if you don’t remember). And in fact we found one, quite close to where we live. But when time came to send Leo there, we had a second thought. At three months Leo seemed too little and vulnerable to us to be sent in the middle of a crowd of screaming babies that were at least twice bigger than him, and we decided to hire a nanny - at least until the end of the winter.
And luckily we found a very good one, Claudia (we’ll surely dedicate a post to her soon), highly recommended by a couple of colleagues of mine who were moving to New Zealand. But when we had to formalize the contract I realized that, as her employer, I had at one point to interact with INPS. And aware of the terrible reputation that this Institute enjoys, I started trembling, fearing (anticipating) the worst. It was my colleague Jamie that - I am not sure whether maliciously or not - reassured me: “Don’t worry - she told me - it can all be done via internet; it takes no more than 10-15 minutes…”
“It can all be done via internet…”
Now, allow me to open a parenthesis here for our non-Italian followers. Not sure about official statistics, but to my knowledge (and in my experience) Italy is one of the least computerized countries in the world. I remember when, a few years ago, I was describing the electronic filing system that we used at the Bank to a friend of mine who was working at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - who sadly confessed that at the Ministry everything (everything!) is still filed in paper. Or when at the cadastre (the land registry office) the officer on duty presented himself literally with a trolley full of papers to find out the map we requested…
Anyway, I remember that when Berlusconi took power in 2001, one of the pillars of his program was to promote in Italy what he called the three “i”: ‘inglese’ (English), ‘impresa’ (business enterprise), and, precisely, ‘informatica’ (informatics) - promising to computerize the whole public administration.
Despite a general skepticism on the whole program of the Berlusconi’s administration, that particular point seemed to me quite sharable, and, all in all, relatively easily achievable. But at that time I was already out of Italy, and soon lost track of the progress in this area.
Until when, recently, I had to deal directly with the Italian public administration again. Well, to tell the truth, the first impact was positive. In fact, all public offices in Italy have now an internet page. But this first positive impression soon revealed itself wrong. The web-page is in fact a cover, a bluff. You think you can find your answers or you can request your certificates online, but in fact you soon discover that after a few screens or beyond a certain level you can’t go further, and you need to interact with an operator. With all the previous problems of dealing with public employees…
I have plenty of examples. A recent one is when I had to request my own birth certificate. With my great surprise I discovered on the web-page of the Milan General Registry Office that I could request the certificate online. I duly completed all the necessary forms on line and submitted the request, but when I had to pay for the service, I discovered that I could not pay it online. In fact I had to call a green number. The operator of that number is not there to take your credit card details, but simply to register your request and to pass it to the General Registry Office (!). After about one week, an employee of the General Registry Office called me to verify that the request I made online was correct (!!). And finally, after another week, I was called by another operator who finally took my credit card details and processed the payment (!!!). Luckily there have not been problems with the mail service, and after only one week I received my birth certificate at home. All in all, after only one month from my initial request…
Provided this background, let’s move now back to my battle with INPS…
[It continues and finishes in the next post].
Monday, November 21, 2011
Today we finally managed to enroll Leo to the National Health System.
I will spare telling you in details all what it took to achieve this achievement. I will just list the offices I had to visit before getting this done: ASL - Anagrafe Comune di Roma - Agenzia delle Entrate - ASL - Ufficio di Collocamento - ASL*.
Why I had to go to the Ufficio di Collocamento (Employment Office) to have Leonardo enrolled to the National Health System, well, that's part of the mysteries of the Italian bureaucracy...
(*) Local Heath Office - Rome General Registry Office - Income Taxes Office - Local Health Office - Employment Office - Local Health Office.
Friday, November 18, 2011
In order to enroll Leonardo to the Italian National Health System, I needed a birth certificate. And in Italy to get a birth certificate, you need to be resident.
Now, Italy is the only country I know where in order to be registered as resident, it is not sufficient to bring a lease agreement or a utility bill in your name and with your home address as a proof of residence. In fact it is necessary that a ‘vigile’ (an urban policeman) comes to your home to certify you declared the truth.
Now, you may remember we had some troubles back in August to register Leonardo’s birth at the Rome General Registry Office**. But as the General Registry Office is also the office in charge of registering your residence, we shot two birds with one stone, and at the time we registered Leo’s birth, we also registered him as resident in Rome.
So I can’t deny I got quite annoyed today when, at the General Registry Office, I was told that unfortunately it was not possible to get a copy of Leonardo’s birth certificate because his residence had not yet been verified by the vigili.
And when I politely pointed out to the lady at the counter that it has been more than three months that we have been waiting for the vigili, she replied: “Well, they must have been very busy”…
I lived and worked in Africa, in India, and now in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and, well, I don’t want to say that the bureaucracies there are better, but well…
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Those that know me well know that I have a passion for dinosaurs. And those that know me even better know that - from the first time I saw it at the Milan Natural History Museum - my favourite dinosaur is the triceratops.
In London I had the priviledge to show the triceratops to Leo for the first time. And, observing his amazed and astonished expression, I am sure he felt the same thrill I felt when I saw it for the first time.
And I could see myself in his eyes…
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Olivier is (was) Mathilde’s manager. According to Mathilde, an excellent manager: positive, encouraging, empowering.
But we want to pay Olivier a tribute here on this Blog not for his qualities as a manager, but for a passion he managed to pass to our family.
Before being a manager, Olivier is an ornithologist, a bird-watcher. One of those people that wake up at 5 am every morning to watch birds. One of those people that have always two things with them: a pair of binoculars and a bird encyclopedia. One of those people that before going to sleep maniacally update a diary in which they report all their daily observations…
When I met Mathilde, she couldn’t care less about birds. But lately she has shown an increasing interest in them. To the extent that - when we were in India - she bought a couple of books on Indian birds to be able to identify them. And to the point that, when we visited the Natural History Museum in London last week, she chose to go, among the many galleries we could visit, to the bird collection.
And, surprisingly, Leo seemed to show a certain interest as well…
(By the way, does anyone know why dodos became extinct?)
Friday, November 11, 2011
Yes - one of the reasons why we decided to go to London and bring Leonardo was to smooth a bit his accent. ‘If he has to learn English - we thought - better he learns it with the right accent from the very beginning’…
But we all know that learning a language without simoulatneously experiencing the culture that surrounds that language is a dry process. We thus wanted Leo to taste a bit the British culture.
And so it was: ladies and gentlemen, Leo’s first pint*.
And, of course, the fish and chips...
(*) Differently from the US, in UK they don't ask you an ID when you order a beer...
Thursday, November 10, 2011
They say that in ancient times sailors used to plant trees and leave livestock on the islands they touched along their routes so that they could find fresh fruits and fresh meat every time they returned there.
With all due differences, we could consider ourselves modern sailors, who leave friends in every city they live in, so that they could find them back every time they return.
And so it was for us in London. The last time I was in London was in December 2004, for my graduation, almost seven years ago. Mathilde hasn’t been there for even longer.
But from the breakfast of day one our agenda was filled with rendez vous with old friends: Elena, Maxime and Ella, Piergiorgio, and Gianni and Debora. And, regretfully, our schedule was so tight that we didn’t manage to see Claire, Willem, and Kuli and Filipe.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Les M&M (&L)’s are leaving for… (surprise!*) for the week-end.
We’ll report back on Monday…
(*) Guess where les M&M (&L)’s are going for the week-end. Hints: it’s a European capital; weather forecasts: min 10, max 15 degrees; rainy on Saturday, cloudy on Sunday. Post your guess under ‘comments’...