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Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Teetering

21/06/2016

As anyone who follows the Status Viatoris Blog Facebook page will know (and I apologise if you are finding it a little tedious), the run-up to the UK referendum on our Europe Union membership is seriously perturbing me.

Political referendums are tricky things. Essentially they are asking a public who has very little practical understanding of the political and financial workings of their country (myself most definitely included) to make a vitally important decision on… the political and financial future workings of their country. It is a big ask, denoting big responsibility.

But if said public were handed all the pertinent facts and figures in an impartial manner, and allowed to trawl through them and ask questions of impartial experts in the various fields before deciding which vote made the most sense to them as a layman, it would at least be a fair ask.

What we have been witnessing over the last weeks/months, however, is about as far from fair as it is possible to get. Both sides have preyed on the public’s ignorance in an attempt to frighten them into the desired vote, and the Leave campaign in particular has shown a viciousness and immorality that should cause any sane voter, even one that despises the EU and all it stands for, to stop dead and wonder what the hell is happening to their country.

For a large percentage of the general public will not be going to the urns armed with facts, they will instead be walking in with minds full of baseless yet highly inflammatory rhetoric, designed only to trigger existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices. The “facts” they think they have in their possession, turn out at best to be incomplete representations of the actual situation.

At worst they are quite simply lies, perpetuated by a group of people confident that their audience will be too busy enjoying having their existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices validated, to bother cross-checking the “information” they are handed with any reliable, and impartial, source.

Brexiteers are being promised a rosy future that nobody can actually vouch for, based on a premise that is no more than mere speculation and which is fuelled by hatred, mistrust, feelings of superiority, and a nationalism that history tells us we would be wise to be on our guard against.

We all know that there are many problems in the UK (as there are, always have been and always will be, in all countries), and I’m sure it is comforting for many to at last be able to openly slay their chosen scapegoats: Europe and the immigrants. There. One foul swoop and the majority of our niggles will apparently be gone.

I see exactly the same scenario being played out in my country of residence, Italy. Except here they have real problems as well: a corrupt (really corrupt, not David Cameron doing a small, perfectly legal offshore investment corrupt) behemoth of a ruling class, high unemployment, low wages, high taxes, minimum government assistance… And yet Europe and the immigrants are often top of the list in the blame game, simply because they are so ridiculously easy to hate: untangling the country’s actual problems is an infinitely more daunting task, requiring some serious and uncomfortable national introspection.

But beware of snake oil salesmen offering a quick fix: be it diet pills that will magic you effortlessly thin in a month or a single political decision that will seamlessly return us to a supposedly halcyon past. Such people are either after money or power; they are unlikely to be motivated by the best interests of their rapt audience.

The European Union (like any group of people just trying to get things done in an ever more challenging world) is not perfect, and mass immigration is far from ideal, bringing with it as it does undeniable complications.

But attempting to isolate ourselves (once again) from our nearest neighbours, rather than seeking strength in common good does not seem to me to offer any real solutions. And turning our backs on a massive humanitarian crisis rather than accepting the realities of the world we live in, acknowledging that sometimes we need to be flexible enough to absorb such consequences into our way of life and accepting that what is desirable is often not what is either right or necessary, does not seem like any kind of progress.

At the end of the day, if we were dealing in comprehensive facts and figures, both for and against, I would be able to observe this process more philosophically regardless of the outcome. But I cannot watch my country basing such an important decision on little more than hyperbole, scaremongering, preconceptions, fear, prejudice, hate, half-truths and untruths, without at least having a stab at expressing my feelings.

And for those of you who, like me, have been feeling hugely frustrated by the seeming lack of accessible, unbiased facts, I offer you this:

EU law expert responds as “industrial dishonesty” video goes viral

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jczmc

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jl61s

And to add some much-needed humour to the table, this:

Best of British for the 23rd, chaps. Use your collective power wisely.

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Where it all Began

21/11/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Strange things happen to a woman during pregnancy. I thought losing weight instead of gaining it was fairly far out, but it transpires that there was something even more unexpected going on during the longest nine months of my life: I was starting to reach the conclusion that Italy no longer really felt like home.

And at that very same moment, I realised that I was ready to go home, home.

Nobody could be more surprised than me at this abrupt turnaround. At five months pregnant I was still musing about moving into (or creating) a larger home for the Mothership to come and join us in her very very very far in the future dotage, yet by the time Maya was hauled, yowling, from my carved-up uterus I was wondering at which stage I might enroll her at the same local primary school I attended.

I think it’s fair to say that the rot started with the roof fiasco; the absurdity of the situation and the unsympathetic and intractable nature of most of those involved not being the best tonic for the general feelings of vulnerability that go hand in hand with gestation.

But then again, I am no stranger to the bureaucratic irritations that I’m sure exist to a greater and lesser extent in most countries. Indeed, after eight years in Spain, five years in France and nearly five years in Italy; I should be prepared for pretty much anything.

I thought I was prepared for pretty much anything.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the realisation that despite having declared repeatedly over the last nineteen years that England would never be my permanent home again, it would suddenly feel like the only place that I could call home with any honesty.

Four years in any one place has long been my limit. It seems to mark a crucial turning point at which all that was originally charm and contentment and endless possibilities, becomes tarnished with a scratchy veneer of mundaneness, dissatisfaction and feelings of confinement.

Of course I am aware that that says an awful lot more about me than it does about the places I have cast-off, and what it says most of all is that I am both hopelessly unrealistic and worryingly flighty.

Unrealistic because I have spent all these years snuffling my way round Europe in search of perfection: that perfect place with which to fill all my empty spaces and which in turn would let me grow to fill the perfect niche in life.

And flighty, because as quick as I am to declare my discovery of an earthly nirvana, I am just as quick to go off it entirely.

Because it’s not perfect. Because things go wrong there, just like they do everywhere else. Because the people there are normal, just like they are everywhere else. Because life there is essentially unremarkable, just like it is everywhere else.

Because I’m exactly the same person there, as I was everywhere else.

This blinding flash of self-knowledge hit me at approximately the same time I began to notice that the place that for a few years now has made me feel most at home, I once upon a time called home.

And I know home.

I know its strengths, but, more importantly, I know its weaknesses. I know it far too well to put it on a pedestal, but I am able to accept its frustrating idiosyncrasies more easily than I am those of another country. Probably because I’m English, a fact that no amount of country-hopping is likely to change.

So I am English and my husband is Romanian, neither of us is Italian. We don’t have really have any emotional ties to the country, but if we bring up our daughter here, she will, to all intents and purposes be Italian – I have seen it happen time and again. And with no disrespect to Italy, I’m not sure either of us feels entirely comfortable with that prospect.

And then there is my husband: an intelligent, hardworking and vastly capable man who has spent the last five years working for people who, although they often refuse him time off because no colleague can do what he does, still pay him the same pitiful wage he started on whilst openly informing him and his workmates that if they don’t like the conditions, they can leave.

It’s an employers’ market – something that many Italian bosses don’t hesitate to exploit – and the unpleasant reality of much of Italy’s workforce. A workforce too terrified of the prospect of unemployment to even try and change things. Perhaps the hope that he would have more chance to realise his potential in England is a vain one, but he is still unlikely to be worse off than in his current situation.

There is to be no ship-jumping quite yet, however. We would like Maya to continue to build up a relationship with the little cousins she already adores – five-year old Micky and fourteen-month old Mia (I know, molto confusing) and in order to communicate with them once she has left, she will have to speak and understand Italian as they are not being taught Romanian.

Her speaking and understanding Italian will also be useful for immediate family cohesion, as that is the language her parents use.

So at this stage it looks likely that we will be saying our goodbyes in 2018, in time for her to start primary school with her English peers. And we will be exchanging our lovely little apartment in a Ligurian hillside village, for the (hopefully converted) lovely attic of the Mothership’s home in rural Northamptonshire.

Poor, poor Mothership 😉

This is Status Viatoris, got three years to change her mind, – will she, won’t she, will she, won’t she … in Italy.

P.S Can a girl still be a Modern-Day Nomad, whilst living in her Mother’s attic??

Those Maleficent Men ‘n Their Mud Machine

15/05/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.

I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.

Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.

It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.

I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:

– Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.

– Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.

– Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).

– Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).

– Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.

Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.

The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.

For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of  the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.

And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.

Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):

We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.

We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.

We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!

We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.

As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.

Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.

One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.

Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.

This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.

Home from Home

28/03/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Maya samples budget transport...

Maya voices her opinions on budget travel…

Well, Maya and I finally made it back to Italy where we were duly greeted with much affection and a kind, if unfortunate, deluge of pastel-pink velour.

Pastel pink is just not my daughter’s colour.

Ok, ok. It’s not my colour. And while she’s still small and relatively malleable, I exercise my parental right to deck her in the hues of my delectation – with nary a pastel tone, nor a bow or frill, nor a single cutesy wootsey fluffy image of what society seems to think little girls should represent.

Which might well be why many Italians are wrongly identifying her as a boy (luckily for me, and my belligerent stance against gender pigeon-holing, she couldn’t care less about that… at least not yet).

The only non-pink offering. As you can tell, she's not entirely convinced...

The only non-pink offering. Note she’s still far from convinced by the sheer fluffy bunnyness of this get-up…

Our eventual return to la vita italiana was precipitated, not by the joyous installation of a brand new roof, but by a husband and father who – understandably after five long months and still no apparent end in sight – got thoroughly sick of being without his newly-minted little family.

But as Sod’s Law would have it, and as indeed I had predicted many moons before, the permission to get our roof replaced came through almost as soon as we had finally given up waiting and hoping: in fact on the very day the Mothership, Baby and I flew out of Luton Airport…

The relief after so many months of evasiveness and obfuscation (them), frustration and despair (us) is almost impossible to describe. So, it is with fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes crossed, that we can now tentatively assume the leaky lid will at last be lifted from our living quarters sometime in late spring.

That would be late spring of THIS year, Provincia di Imperia, do you hear me?

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of...

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of…

Maya is adapting well to Italian living.

The clucking concern about her being horribly under-dressed – hypothermia is apparently but a cotton vest away (she’d be so much cosier in pink velour), suffocated by her sling, and traumatised by her backward-facing back-seat car seat, must be a reassuring indication that here her interests will always be defended; even as the grindings from her mother’s pearly whites float down into the dandelion-fluff of her hair.

The first question on all Italian lips seems to be: Are you breastfeeding? Or as they rather clunkily put it: Are you giving her your own milk?

To which the answer is unfailingly: Yes, and lots of it.

Frustrations over sodden nightwear and chafed nipples aside, I find breastfeeding to be an absolute joy – especially now the dinky diner has entered that charming stage of staring adoringly up into my eyes as she guzzles; occasionally breaking suction in order to further wow me with a beaming milky grin.

I've been spotted!

Ooops! I appear to have been spotted…

We have become unabashed public feeders (always doing our utmost not to flash possibly prudish bystanders with unacceptable levels of bare boob, naturally). Maya has now noshed on a train, on a plane, in a train station and in an airport, on a bus, in many and varied cafés and restaurants, in public offices, in a curtain shop and even walking down the busy shopping street of a swanky coastal resort.

She has also weed on a desk of the local Fiat dealership, but that, dear Readers, is a story for another day…

Some of the older residents of My Little Italian Village are obviously slightly baffled by my sling-wearing, gender-ambiguous, meteorologically-unconcerned approach to motherhood in a place where prams appropriately decked with either pale pink or pale blue tend to contain infants bundled like Eskimos against those dreaded colpi d’aria.

And the younger mothers couldn’t help but express their astonishment when I declared my allegiance to washable nappies. All that extra lavoro! I must be completely fuori di testa!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

But I honestly don’t find the additional maintenance to be all that onerous – rinsing off a bit of poo and setting the washing machine to a cool wash every three days seems pretty simple when coupled with the satisfaction of not having contributed to the grotesque state of our landfills.

Plus they are wonderfully colourful and give my daughter the most squeezably plumped-up backside you could possibly imagine.

What’s not to like?!

This Living business is exhausting

Life is pretty exhausting when you’re only ten weeks old…

Another frequent question – and one I sometimes sense may be laced with a certain amount of sympathy-masked glee – is how we are sleeping.

She’ll be keeping you awake all night, I imagine?

Pacing the tiles from dusk to dawn with a squealing bundle in your arms, are you?

And for the first couple of weeks that’s exactly what happened, but as we approach the three-month mark I am hugely grateful to be able to announce that (at least for the time being) we have a baby who seems to have grasped that nighttime is for trundling off to the Land of Nod.

With just a little encouragement, and a tummy full of warm milk, she currently goes down at about half past seven every evening, waking for two or three dozy snacks during the night before finally rejoining full wakefulness any time from about half past seven in the morning.

Long may it last.

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what's required...

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what’s required…

So Life trundles on, with me still alternately overjoyed and petrified by the weight of my new responsibilities; not wanting to take them either too seriously, nor too lightly. Trying to continue being An Independent Woman, but whilst losing myself in the gloriously fascinating changes that mark Maya’s development with every passing day.

I helplessly confess to it: I’m having a blast. But as the nth nosy neighbour asks me if I’m expecting baby number two, it is brought to my uncomfortable attention that there are some things this Mummy has to set her mind to doing just for her…

Hey ho, it’s time to put the bikkies away and get out those trainers!

This is Status Viatoris, heading off to hang out a horde of vibrant crap-catchers and shockingly non-pink baby garments on her sun-drenched washing line, in Italy.

“There is No Such Thing as an Honest Romanian”

12/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Declared some daft besom apropos of nobody seems to quite know what, at the Mothership’s Italian class recently.

And had I been there personally, I would have hauled my pregnant bulk over the desks and taken enormous pleasure in bopping my fist right onto the end of her nose.

Of course it’s hardly surprising that she, and many others like her, feel utterly entitled to verbalise such prejudice in the righteous foghorn tones so beloved of the rather ignorant, given that their only information on it (and a vast many other subjects) comes from the criminally irresponsible British media.

And it would be a delightful thing if people actually backed up some of the “facts” they absorb from their Daily Rag (right or left-wing, tabloid or broadsheet – they are none of them free from the stigma of politically self-serving partiality) with a dash of thinking-for-themselves and a pinch of additional research, but hey, blindly following somebody else’s neatly packaged ideology-for-idiots is so much easier on an already overstretched brain cell.

(I wonder if any of them, media or media follower alike, has ever given a moment’s consideration to another time a country allowed itself to be whipped into a frenzy of distrust and hatred against a particular group of people. No? You know, way back when a significant proportion of an entire First World nation let themselves be convinced that all their socio-economic problems could be laid firmly at the door of an easily identifiable scapegoat? Still nothing? Oh well.)

Even the Italians, with their long history of fleeing Italian shores in times of crisis in order to seek their fortune elsewhere – North America, South America, Australasia, Germany, France, the UK… loathe these modern-day economic migrants just as much as the British, with their long history of pinching other people’s land and plundering its natural resources whilst oppressing the natives for their own good.

What a pair.

So what of the reviled Romanians?

Well first of all – and this might come as a surprise to much of the British media: all Romanians are not gypsies and not all gypsies are Romanian. Something I can only assume to be a well-kept secret when I note that 90% of articles talking about Romanians in the British press, clearly feature Roma gypsies.

The Roma, or Țigani, have been in Romania since before the 14th century, and, like their cousins in Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain and many other places, originate from Northern India. They have a rich musical tradition – usually one of the only aspects of their culture that finds favour with their host countries – but in most other ways they tend to be disliked outcasts due in part to their disregard for the local laws and social norms by which the rest of the local community abide.

They do emigrate, and all over the place, but sadly begging and pick-pocketing often remain their employment of choice (and necessity – prejudice rendering most other doors closed to them).

A Romanian is a different sort of character altogether.

Whilst keeping a strong sense of family and community, many are well-used to travelling to find employment, especially when it comes to construction and other manual labour. Sometimes within Romania itself, but very often further afield: Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia… Men leave their families, sometimes only returning once or twice a year, in order to work and send money home.

And not just the men, there are also plenty of Romanian women who opt to work (often as carers for the elderly or infirm) far away from their loved ones, so that they are in a position to be able to support them financially.

It is far from an easy life – and certainly not one the comfortable, media-led armchair critics from wealthier nations would consider sullying themselves with – but many Romanians just get on with it.

Because they have to.

Because they don’t have a government that will give them money if they can’t find employment in their home town.

Because there is nobody to complain to if they can’t find quite the right sort of job to suit them, or if the little work that is available doesn’t pay enough to keep on top of the bills.

Because they exist within the harsh parameters of the real world.

Yes; there are dishonest Romanians, just as there are dishonest Brits and dishonest Italians.

And yes, maybe a few might take advantage of Britain’s absurdly generous benefit system – after all, there are plenty of British natives who feel not a jot of loyalty to their country of birth, and happily plunder the loopholes presented by the lumbering welfare state.

But that is absolutely no reason not to accord respect to the vast numbers of hard-working, honest Romanians out there. As well as the Bulgarians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Albanians and indeed whoever else is just trying to do what every other human being has tried to do since the dawn of time…

…keep crop, feathers and family together.

It is, after all, a basic human right.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping that her honest, hard-working, kind-hearted, lovely Romanian husband never has to hear the sort of crap her countrymen are capable of coming out with, although after nearly five years in Italy, he is probably getting used to it… 😦


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