I had mentioned this saying (“piano, piano”) in a post last week and a few people e-mailed or commented asking me what it means. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain, as well as share how it plays out in our adjustment here in Italy. “Piano, piano” basically means “slowly” or that everything will happen in due course. A “piano” is actually a floor of a building – like “piano 3” – so it more literally means “step by step.” When I was in school in Bologna and I would get frustrated at not picking up a concept right away, my teachers would advise “piano, piano.” This encapsulates the approach you want to take here in order to remain upbeat as opposed to exasperated.
A few days ago, I have to admit I was getting frustrated and had fleeting thoughts of “what the heck were we thinking?!?!” Some of the things that I was letting bug me:
The electricity/ a/c situation – we have been here over 2 weeks and the electrician and a/c repair man are still out for ferie. At first I admired the vacation mindset here, but after 2 weeks with intermittent a/c (which, if I haven’t explained, are individual units limited to certain rooms; the rest of the house will remain a sauna regardless), and a fear of blowing out my remaining mini computer, the charm has started to wear…
Our packages – it is still a daily surprise 1) if any packages are going to arrive that day, and 2) if we are going to have to pay for them to be delivered. So far twice we have had identical packages come (the latest were boxes for pictures) and we have been charged for one, but not its twin. Every time a new package is on its way, customs in Milan either calls our realtor, calls here, or just mails me forms to fill-out. Each time its a different customs person and they each seem to have different ideas what goes on the forms and whether or not the box will cost to deliver. So far we have filled out forms on about 12 boxes, 8 have come, and none for the past few days. Each arrive in various states of squashed/smashed, but I was actually expecting that.
The paperwork – you seriously have to do more paperwork for everything here. I can’t think of one transaction that has taken a single form. From changing over the gas, to getting a pay-as-you-go cell phone, to sending mail. And don’t even ask about opening a bank account – literally 2+ hours and about 20 signatures (the lawyer in me is aghast that I am signing all of this stuff I really can’t read). On an entirely other level is immigration – though from what I know the US immigration process is no picnic either.
“Otherness” – it’s an interesting lesson to be the outsider (“stranieri”). I remember when we were traveling in small towns in Japan, sometimes people would literally cross over to the other side of the street when they saw us coming; once they even refused to get into an elevator with us. I suppose that is how we treat certain groups in the U.S. Here it is not that stark, but the fact that I can’t communicate well is frustrating. I think to the unobservant, lack of communication and lack of intelligence become one in the same (think about Stephen Hawking without his talking keyboard). Several times here I have completely understood what was going on (like why our wifi wasn’t working), but my inability to communicate effectively had people thinking I was just dumb. These are a few of our many challenges/frustrations.
However, today was a new day, approached with the “piano, piano” frame of mind. Our Sky tv box (and lots of cables, cards, usb key, etc.) came today – complete with installation instructions (yes, of course in Italian only). At first I was exasperated – giving up hope that I could manage to complete my first cable tv installation with only Italian instructions. But ya know what? Steve and I laid all the pieces out, and between the photos in the instruction manual (of a completely differently configured box), my few words of Italian, and some new-found patience, I magically accomplished installing Sky tv (again, YAY me!). We followed this accomplishment with a leisurely lunch out and then found the local public pool and passed the afternoon in sweet relief from the heat. No boxes came, a gas contract came which I can’t make out, and our other a/c has joined in making that horrific noise, but the tone of the day was different. I feel relaxed. It’ll all work itself out. I recall “what the heck” we were thinking. As they say, “piano, piano”…