We took the same bus on that humid Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t supposed to be on it, but I got distracted by a phone call and hopped on, didn’t think twice. I’d seen you around before, you’re what’s-his-name’s friend, right? The one from Naples? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.
Our eyes met for a second. I gave you a hesitant closed-lipped smile, the “I-know-you-but-not-really” kind. You didn’t return it. You continued staring. I got painfully awkward and ran my tongue across my lips. Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Is there something on my face? It’s my hair, isn’t it? I can’t get it to look normal in this heat.
I’m sure if I looked in your bathroom, I’d find lipstick in the cabinet. Red lipstick, belonging to “her” of course. I can’t pull off red lipstick, it always ends up looking a bit out of place on my face. I don’t know who “she” is, but she must melt every time you look at her like that. Little pangs of jealousy found there way into my insides, hugging them without wanting to let go.
You weren’t particularly tall, or muscular, or any other quality that’s usually on a woman’s checklist, but you were..captivating. Your eyes were dark, almost black – with a lighter brown in the middle. It was as if two countries had a battle over your eyes, and neither really won.
I didn’t think about you after that.
I’m looking at you right now, sitting across from me, and mouthing the words to a cheesy 80s song that’s on the radio. We’re waiting for my train to come, (late as usual) inside a typical Italian cafe. The old man at the bar has a warm smile on his face, and an oil stain on his t-shirt. You slide my half of the pizza towards me, the one you divided unevenly – giving me the bigger half. You look up at me, smirk, and continue singing.
If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella or la vida loca in Spain or Italy, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way (especially if you’re North American).
If you are planning on staying in either of these countries for more than three months, and you are not a European citizen, you must apply for a work or student visa in your country of origin.
Before I renewed my European passport, I was forced to go through this process which involved buying private health insurance, and printing out my bank statements in order to prove I had enough money to survive in case all hell broke loose.
The people you will deal with at the embassy or consulate in your country of origin will definitely be very mean to you. I’m pretty sure when they hire people, they ask them to sell their souls. I don’t know what it is about consulate workers, but they aren’t happy balls of sunshine.
-TIP: Photocopy- Make several copies of documentation. If the office misplaces something, you can immediately fax or send whatever may be missing ASAP.
When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station in order to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno, or certificado de registro (see picture above).
-TIP: If you don’t speak the language, bring someone with you who does. The police officers probably don’t speak English, and the receptionists aren’t much better, so if you have someone next to you who can fully explain what’s going on, you’ll save yourself a headache.
Working illegally: Many Americans and Canadians choose to travel and stay in Spain or Italy without a visa. After the three months are up, they continue working and living at their destination. This is 100% possible and fairly easy to do. You arrive, you stay, and no one checks. It may save you the initial headache by avoiding paperwork and visa costs, but you run into several problems:
– You don’t have a real work contract. You have no rights as an employee, because you aren’t “really there”. They can “forget” to pay you, and you can’t do anything about it. Moreover, you don’t have access to free healthcare, which is automatic if the contract is real, and you pay taxes.
-You can’t travel. Sure, weekend trips to neighbouring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the U.K, or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I forgot my residence card at home, and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office)
-Deportation. In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp (you have an entrance stamp over three months old), you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the E.U for “x” amount of years.
I’ve met people who work both illegally and legally in Spain or Italy. In the end, I highly recommend you follow legal procedures and do things the right way. A bit of stress at the beginning will save you a lot of worry in the long run. If you have any questions about travel/preparation, don’t hesitate to contact me!
– hiking, running, getting, lost, finding your way, getting lost again, and after wandering mindlessly for hours – finding the oasis.
Once a week, I turn off my phone, my computer, iPad etc. and I go for a walk. A couple hours of complete disconnection do wonders for your sanity. It’s sad to think that going for a walk, completely alone, just you and your thoughts, is a thing of the past. I do my best thinking in these moments, everything else can wait. Unfortunately, this time I cheated a little bit. I came across a beautiful canal, a “secret” canal in fact, that locals will brag about.
My personal challenge for you is to take a walk, once a week, completely alone. You can stop for a coffee, sit on a park bench, and disconnect from outside worries (maybe even take a quick picture if the opportunity is too beautiful to pass up).
My new favourite bar in Bologna, Italy is Le Stanze. It is a bar located inside a former 16th century church that was later deconsecrated. You can enjoy cocktails, beer, wine, and the famous Italian Aperitivo(6-9pm), that is served with sandwiches, chips, and mini pizzas. The traditional Aperitivo drink is the “spritz” made with carbonated water, dry Italian wine, and either Aperol or Campari. The drinks cost around €3-8 euros. Le Stanze is also a restaurant where you can eat a good meal for €10-30. If you’re not too hungry, grab a cappuccino and stare at the beautiful frescoes surrounding you.
I’m turning 25 next March. When I was 16 years old, I imagined myself very differently at 25. I narrated my lavish lifestyle using my naive imagination. I was supposed to have a nice house, a ton of money, and an engagement ring. I have neither of these checked off on my list. I don’t know if I have myself to blame or if society is working against me. Most of my 20 something friends are in a similar situation and we feel robbed of what we were promised when we were kids.
Living in southern Europe has further confirmed the fears for my generation. At this point, I don’t know who is worse off, the Italians or the Spanish? Unemployment rates are skyrocketing among young people, and we are blaming ourselves. We are highly educated. Most of us have a bachelors degree, if not a masters. When the universities came to recruit at my high school in Ontario, Canada, they all had a really nice powerpoint presentation prepared for us. Photos of smiling, multicultural campuses, students reading under the trees – it was a form of sugary propaganda. We were the fresh meat, ready for student debt slaughter. My education cost me nearly $30,000 for 4 years, and I lived at home. Two years after graduation, I’m making around €1,200 which is the equivalent of around $1,800 CAD. After paying my rent and other living expenses, it’s hard to make a dent on my student loan payments.
Staying in Canada wouldn’t have provided me with a world of opportunities either. I would have had to move to a bigger city, rent an expensive bachelor pad, and probably work as a bartender or waitress. I prefer teaching English as a second language overseas. My former classmates opted to enter the public education system, forcing them to move halfway across the country where rent is three times higher than Ontario, and it’s really damn cold. I don’t want to come across as a brat who isn’t willing to make life changes in order to find career options. What I’m pissed off about is that our post-secondary institutions are nothing but a money making scam.
The university brain-washing must stop. I was sold an idea that was completely untrue. My teachers and professors promoted the overpriced North American university system as if it were a godsend, when after all, I could have avoided the student loan hell and got an E.S.L teaching certificate that costs around $1,000. It would have provided me with the same amount of opportunities, especially abroad.
Education is supposed to be the key to freedom, but it has been nothing but a heavy chain preventing me from achieving any sense of financial independence. The average cost of tuition at a reasonably sized Spanish university is around €1,000/year, while Canadian universities start at around $3,500-4000 annually, excluding textbooks. If I’m going to be unemployed or earning minimum wage, I’d like to be debt free at least, but it seems that ship has already sailed.
In a previous post, I included a photograph of a poem that was painted onto a wall here in Bologna. The city is full of these short poems that can be spotted on signs, stone walls, and street corners. I’ve been collecting and translating them for the past few weeks, but I’ve edited this post to include a few. The poems are still a mystery to me, but they seem to have been placed around the city by the Movement for the Emancipation of Poetry.
The MVP (Movimento Emancipazione Poesia) has stated the following about their work in Bologna, Italy
“To this day, in the vulgar contemporary society, poetry does not hold the role that, for cultural and historical reasons, it is entitled to. This is not because it no longer carries the ability to communicate and elicit emotions, feelings and fantasies, but rather because although poetry continues to be written, it is no longer read, the preference being for cheap empty entertainment over the noble and difficult exercise of spirited thought. […]”
These photos and translations (done by me) will be edition number one of a series of posts I’d like to do. It seems that I’ve still got over 100 poems to discover in this city.
I swear on my own heart
I’ve never wanted it!
Can you hear it beating?
How do we surrender to the certainty of possessing one another?
It’s the fear
We’ll go in search of
from which we can
Finally, my personal favourite
I hate you.
I hate you because you came into my life way too early.
I’m nothing yet. I’m mud between the fingers of destiny.
An insane compass driving me.
I’m afraid that what I will be will destroy what we were, removing your eyes that watch me every morning, hanging on the ceiling of my bedroom.