Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

A trip to the Italian Consulate

September 4, 2007

After getting home past midnight from work, I was out the door by 6 AM this morning to catch a train to Manhattan. I volunteered to keep my girlfriend’s daughter, Emily, company while she applied for a Visa at the Italian Consulate to study at the University of Urbino for this coming fall and spring semesters. The last time she went was a complete horror show which I’ve blogged about before, and though we were pretty sure things would go okay this time, nothing was for certain.

We got on line at the consulate at 9, when it opened, and Emily went in a few minutes later with a group of people. Only those getting Visas are allowed in, so I went across the street to sit down on concrete. The consulate is right off of Park Avenue, and the sidewalks have trees planted every 25 feet or so in 5×5 beds filled with wood chips. The beds are square and contained by 6 inch wide humps of concrete rising about a foot off of the ground.

It makes the street quite lovely.

As lovely as it is though, it obviously is not meant to be too comfortable, or the fancy folk on Park Avenue would no doubt find themselves troubled by bums making an afternoon of lounging under the trees. There was nowhere else to sit though, so I made the best of it, took out a book I brought with me, and began to read.

11:30 and still no sign of Emily, I took a walk of a couple of blocks to Hunter College to use the restroom. When I came back I decided to try to grab one of the two chairs on the sidewalk right outside of the consulate. After a few minutes of waiting I managed to get one of the chairs. While waiting, I struck up a conversation with the person sitting in the other, a charming young lady from Turkey.

Eda just got to the United States two weeks ago. She’s attending the University of Connecticut as a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature. She, too, was keeping a friend company on his trip to get a Visa and like me was more or less stranded on the street corner waiting much longer than expected for her friend to come out.

At 12:20 — almost 3 1/2 hours since our friends had entered the consulate — Emily sent me the following text message: “Probably going to be here for a long time.” A second message followed: “Not allowed to use phone.” It turns out she was sending these messages on the sly from the bathroom.

Eda had no cell phone with her, but we figured the news couldn’t be any better regarding her friend.

We spent the next hour or so chatting about her studies, the curriculum she was planning for her teaching assistantship, and her favorite books. It turns out we both very much like Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey. At some point we grabbed coffee from a street vendor on the other end of the block.

Emily came out around 1:30. It turns out she was chatting with Eda’s friend while in the consulate. She figured Eda’s friend wouldn’t be too much longer, and so with that bit of good news Emily and I wished Eda good luck and took off for lunch.

We had lunch a few blocks away at an Italian restaurant that had tables out on the sidewalk. Both of our lunches were fantastic. I had homemade ravioli stuffed with veal in a wild mushroom sauce — “Panzotti alla ‘Casalinga.'” As we were eating, Emily made the point that it makes no sense whatsoever to eat at Applebee’s. For three bucks more per entrée, you go from a greasy concoction of corporate America to the best dish you’ve had in a while.

We took the train back shortly after lunch and arrived home around 5. She has to go back to the consulate one more time to pick up her Visa. It’ll be cutting it close — only two days before she leaves for Italy — but it seems everything is going to work out.

I may have to make another trip of it.