Here are the Top 10 stops on our continued itinerary:
1. Navigating US bureaucracy to accommodate the surprise request for the girls' birth certificates, including international accreditation. Then having those birth certificates translated and officially stamped plus certified at another Italian government agency. Returning to the Questura (the Italian "General Headquarters of the Internal Police") to deliver those documents, and again test the girls' patience with the hours-long process.
2. Going through a finger and palm-printing session, while meeting and mingling with people from all over the world.
4. Scrambling to arrange childcare, while settling in for the “course”: which turned out to be watching dozens of painful, parody-worthy video segments (see sample below), designed to educate us on every aspect of the Italian constitution and government system. (As well as induce somnolence!)
5. The fact that the computer kept crashing was a source of slight comic relief, as we tried to help the IT guy explain to the administrator that the computers have inadequate memory to run the videos. The college students from India and Pakistan (needing the same Permit) did their best to feign interest, but ultimately succumbed to slumber!
7. Four weeks and fourteen inquiries later, we learned that our application had been processed and we returned to the Questura to pick up our Permits. However, we first needed to check a sheet of printed ID numbers posted inside an old kiosk on the street, to confirm our approval. Fortunately, we were listed. Unfortunately, that only meant we could get an appointment to return again in 3 days to retrieve our actual documents and permits.
8. Back to the Questura to join the throng of people in the same situation, where we were given number 186 in the queue.
In fairness, an Italian friend who went through a similar process in Portland pointed out that it's more efficient in the US, but no less daunting or bureaucratic. For us it was also humbling to go through a small slice of the immigration experience, both as a point of reference for what our ancestors went through a hundred-plus years ago (although in the opposite direction, under much more difficult circumstances), and for the challenges of contemporary immigrants. In this season of gratitude, it's another powerful reminder that our hardships really aren't that hard.