My best hour in Palermo was a conversation I had with an ambitious Malian man at the train station. Jeanette and LouLou went shopping, leaving me with our bags, while waiting alongside this fellow headed to Alcamo — the same town my grandfather, Nicolo came from, southeast of Castellammare where Anna, my grandmother was born. Both grandparents left Sicily in 1917 to pursue a preferable life in America. One hundred years later this Malian lad sought his dream upon their old stomping grounds. I asked where he learned to speak English, replying, “In my country at university.” He also studied economics, yet the possibility of attaining success in Sicily, even though his present career was manual labor didn’t much matter stating, “I must take small steps.” Hearing his story up close and personal, opposed to the images of masses I’ve seen immigrating on television, magazines, and newspapers felt like being deeply in touch with Europe’s new culture.
This man’s accent sounded rich, as was the ebony color of his skin, not NBA towering tall, although I still looked up into both eyes to communicate and was practically blinded by a broad grin. He might’ve been twenty or thirty, impossible to guess really, nevertheless t0o young for the scars scratched on his cheeks and forehead, pain inflicted through conflict, by man or beast.
Hindsight, utterly useless after the fact, isn’t it? Had the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles been truly informed, famiglia di Schiavo more than likely would’ve made other arrangements between November 9, 2017 and August 14, 2018; we’ll call her “stonato” (dim). Back in October during our application process, Stonato, on at least ten different occasions told us, “Upon arrival, you must get your visas stamped at the local police department where you’ll be staying.” She made it sound as simple as that, child’s play. We started what should have been a seemingly mindless exercise the day after arrival in Partinico at their police department. They sent us back to Palermo, of all places, the U.S. Consular Agency, who directed us to the Palermo Immigration Office, who led us back to the Partinico Police Department. Knowing precisely where that went days prior, tried again in Castellammare, starting with their police department, who suggested we pick up forms at the Post Office, whose agent more or less claimed that paperwork would be too complicated, “hire a patrona.” After a hellish week of that Sicilian wild goose chase, and the cost rising exponentially to execute our Elective Residence Visa, having already paid several hundred dollars before leaving in Los Angeles decided to move onto greener pastures.
Now came the actual challenge — try leaving Sicily on a moment’s notice to Rome or Milan, then onto New York or Los Angeles, depending on Airbnb availability in South Beach, Miami during Thanksgiving week or Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Turns out Jeanette, the miracle worker, booked our air to Carrizalillo and hotel for just under a million dollars. Who knew that hefty Delta credit would get eaten up so quickly.