Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poste Italiane

(These pics above are from a parking lot I cut through on route to the movie theatre one evening and a hidden piazza I found nearby)

Thursday morning on my way out to italian class, I noticed a yellow 'Poste Italiane' sticker stuck to the mailbox with my name on it. Yipee, the package that my family sent had arrived! Sweaters, extra socks, my heels, my blender attachment, all those things I've been missing. I tucked the sticker in my bag and when I got home from school later in the afternoon I translated it. It said they would attempt delivery a second time or to call the number listed and make arrangements to pick it up.

There is unfortunately no door bell (campanello) for our apartment as we're tucked away at the back of the 3rd floor, which we access through an old servant's stairwell, so even though I was home I wasn't able to recieve the package. Knowing that I couldn't quite pull off a detailed converstation in italian on the phone (I'd much rather attempt this sort of thing in person where you can use body language and read facial expressions) I let the day pass by. Fridays I have off from school but had plans to meet for a language exchange in the afternoon with a tourist guide I met visiting Palazzo Medici Riccardi last week. On my way out another yellow sticker on the mailbox caught my eye, I had missed delivery attempt number 2... Luckily I would be able to ask the guy I was meeting with, Marco, how the italian postal system works.

When we sat down at the book store caffe`and I explained the situation to him, he looked a bit worried and said I really should've been waiting downstairs for the package. Both delivery attempts had been at 2pm (14:00) but I told him that I wouldn't have guessed they'd come at consistent times. I asked if he could 'help' me call the number on the sticker and find out where I could pick it up, but quickly handed over the phone as I couldn't understand even the initial recording. He proceeded to have at least a 5 minute converstaion with the woman on the other end, back and forth, just to get the address and details of the depot where my package was. He was a bit irritated by the time he hung up. This is one of those things that I was telling you about, he said. In Canada is very easy, but here, is difficult.

No worries, I said, I'll just go pick it up, where is this place? looking at the notes he'd scrawled on my notebook. He proceeded to explain that it was in a suburb of Florence, 20 kms from the centre, and the depot didn't have a street number. Okayyy, I'm sure I can figure it out, I said. He seemed a bit unsure and said he could help me but not until mercoledi`(wednesday) as he was busy until then. I told him that's fine, I would try to find it myself the next day, Saturday, as the depot was open from 9-12 as he'd written on my notebook. He said good luck rather skeptically and we continued with the language exchange. I'm helping him finetune his english so he can pass his tour guide certification exam with flying colors and he's helping me with italian so I can make a comprehensive sentence:)

That evening I spent a few hours online, plotting out the bus route to get to Campi Bisenzio (the town name), Viale Salvador Allende (the street name). It wasn't a very long street on the map so I figured my chances were good that I would be able to find this depot even though there was no street number. At 9:30 in the november rain, I got on the #30 bus from Santa Maria Novella Stazione (the main train station in Florence). As they were out of bus maps at the station, I kept my eye on the stop names so I'd know when to get off. About a half an hour later, we reached my stop, Orly. I got off the bus and followed along the road until I reached the traffic circle where Viale Salvador Attende began. Patting myself on the back for smooth navigating and thinking I'd accomplished this supposed difficult feat, I turned the corner. But then....... niente (nothing).

No buildings, other than a little house on my right with chickens running around, no people. Just street and cars. Uh oh. Knowing that it had to be somewhere on this road, and remembering that the road on the map wasn't that long, I continued walking. The rain continued also. As this wasn't exactly a pedestrian road, it wasn't long before a car pulled up and a guy asked me if I wanted a ride. I explained that I was looking for the address on my paper. He spoke some English and pointed to where he thought it was, a total different direction, but I showed him that we were on the road of the address. He advised me to walk back into town and ask someone there. I thanked him and proceeded to follow this advice.

I walked back into town and found a little bar/caffe` with some weekend customers lounging about. I went inside and showed the barista my paper, asking 'Sa dov'e` questo?' (You know where it is?). I showed her my yellow post italian stickers and tried to explain that I needed to go there to pick up my package. Although I couldn't remember how to say package in italian...eventually she understood. Meanwhile the old men in the bar had flocked around to observe, and my notebook with the address was passed around as they discussed amongst themselves. The barista then turned to me and offered in italian that she could take me. Thrilled at this offer but not wanting to inconvenience her I said 'si, se e` possibile per te ma forse prendo un taxi?' (Yes, if it possible for you but perhaps I take a taxi?). She said no, she'd take me (I don't think there are really taxi's readily available in this area anyway).

Before I knew it I was in this cute late 30's(?) italian woman's macchina (car) and we were back on the road I had attemped to walk down earlier. I made conversation with her and asked 'abiti qui?' (you live here?). She said no that she lived in anther town nearby. Earlier in the drive she pointed to an area and said she had thought it was there, but the man in the bar said it was somewhere else. We ended up in a big wearhouse parking lot where semi-trucks dock, but no sign of any SDA- the name of the courier depot. We got out of the car and peeked into one of the warehouses where there were a few men doing labour. Coincidentally she knew the men, and we showed them the paper with the address. Meanwhile another man came in and was asking them questions too. The lady made a joke that they were an information service. We departed with a suggestion from the men on where to go (although to be honest I understood little of their conversation apart from the joke).

We ended up at another spot very similar, just down the road, and repeated this process. Getting out of the car, in the rain, peeking in a warehouse, calling out 'mi scusi?' (excuse me?) and waiting for someone to come into sight. They gave the lady more directions and we basically ended up back at the first place. Across the street I spotted a truck with 'SDA' written on it, and we drove over, thinking we'd found the place, but no, it was just a single truck. The situation wasn't looking too promising. She asked another man in a car for directions but he didn't really seem to know and led us back across the street. We drove through the parking lot and saw some men fixing their vehicle, so the lady asked THEM for directions. This guy actually seemed to KNOW and we ended up back on the main road and drove some distance back towards the town.

Sure enough, an SDA sign came into sight and we pulled into the area that the lady had initially indicated were SHE thought it would be. I reminded her 'Pensi e`qui prima' (you think it was here before) and she said si!(yes!) and we laughed about the men giving directions. I got in line and the lady chatted with some other people standing in line that she knew, explaining that she was accompanying this 'ragazza' (girl). Funny enough, the guy who came into the first warehouse to ask questions to the men we were also questioning (when the lady joked about them being an information service), was also in line! I guess he had found the place only slightly faster than us.

Finally it was my turn and the man brought out my box (horaay!!!) that had been in my mom and sister Laura's hands only a number of days prior. I told the lady 'e` da mia famiglia' (it's from my family) and happily paid 10 Euros cash on delivery. On the way back to the car I explained how happy I was using my sophisticated italian vocabulary 'sono felice!' (I'm happy!), and expressed my gratitude to the extent of my abilities 'grazie mille mille mille!' (a thousand thank yous- but usually you just say one 'mille'). When asked, I explained that I'd catch the bus back to Florence at the stop near the bar.

I'm not sure how long this whole thing took, maybe 30-40 mins?? I asked the lady 'come posso ti pagare?' (how i can pay you?) but she insisted 'noooo, di neinte, di neinte' (no, it's of nothing, it's of nothing). I asked her name 'come ti chiami?' and she relied 'Annalisa' and asked what was mine. I told her 'Jenni', holding the double 'nnnn' sound in proper italian pronounciation. She proclaimed 'un bello nome!' (a nice/beautiful name) and I was reminded that my name is actually a masculine noun in italian because it ends with 'i'. As such she used 'bello' ('o' is also a masculine ending) to describe it rather than 'bella' (the feminine version). Interessante (interesting)...

I bid her goodbye with another rain of appreciation 'grazie mille mille mille!!' and 'buona giornata!' (have a good day!). I walked back to the bus stop (it was still raining), so relieved and amazed that things had actually worked out! As Marco had warned me, it was in fact a difficult task, even for the locals. I really thought he was exaggerating!

(waiting at the bus stop)

Once I got back to my apartment in Florence I tore into the box and found my beloveds (sweaters, socks, heels, blender attachment) as well as a late birthday present from my sisters, a beautiful handmade sketchbook/journal, and an early Christmas present from my big sis Laura, a set of fleece PJ's:) I slept warm last night. In italian, ho dormito caldo ieri sera. (yay, past tense!)

I think I'm going to make Annalisa a thank you card and mail it to her at the bar's address. Cause really, that was REALLY (x mille mille mille) nice!

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