naturallypixie: (Default)
This is the news that you have all been waiting for. We are coming home after only a year of living in Italy. First, I want to say that we are enjoying ourselves very much! Friends, travel, weather, the country...all great. We have met some really great people who I will be sad to leave. We haven't seen everything we would like to see yet. It is warm, but many days, not overly so. Naples is not the worst city on the planet, but there are certainly better ones in Italy and we have seen several.

But the thing that is just intolerable is the reason why we are here: the PhD program. We were lied to from the very beginning and nothing is as I was told it was going to be. I am not getting the stipend I was promised. I am not in the lab that I was promised. I am not even in the building that I toured, the Tower. Instead, I am in the building that has apparently been feuding with the Tower for years and the animosity shows. Getting paper towels is like searching for a kidney on the black market and I am not so good in dealing with lawful evil people, especially in a language I don't completely comprehend. But even in a different language, I know when someone is lying to me.

Other things that are wrong with the lab/building:
1. There is a hole in the wall that opens to the outside in the cell culture room.
2. The air conditioning in the cell culture room is TURNED OFF over the weekend. WTF??
3. Antibiotic resistant Mycoplasma.
4. Ancient autoclaves that I just don't trust.
5. Ancient equipment in general.
6. Open windows in the lab.
7. I ordered supplies in FEBRUARY that still have not arrived.
8. 2,000 Euros per month to spend on a lab with seven active workers, yet they still insist on doing
everything with kits which are very expensive.
9. Seven people in a lab that should really have four.
10. Nobody works the entire month of August. (okay, so maybe that is not a totally bad thing, but it
freaks me out)
11. Because of #10, the cell incubator is turned off for the entire month, so I couldn't do anything even
if I wanted to.
12. I am beyond frustrated that it takes months to get supplies.
13. The lack of any semblance of organization is more than overwhelming to my OCD nature.
14. Because of these conditions, I can't trust any of my data.

There is more, but this will suffice I think. The really sad thing for me is that every morning I wake up in a good mood and go into lab thinking, "Today will be the day that I get the hang of it. Today will be better," but inevitably something goes wrong and I come home sad. Further, I don't want to waste my time with a degree that I can't respect even a little. So, now the life plan has to change. My goal was to be a lecturer at the university level, but without a PhD, that is almost an impossibility, which is terribly frustrating. Just because I don't have a degree, doesn't mean that I don't know the material and conversely, just because someone else has a degree, doesn't mean that he is a good teacher. I know I am a good teacher. I have taught karate, aerobics, genetics, intro bio and cross dressers how to do their hair and make up and I have enjoyed every minute of it. But now I am whining, so I will stop.

When will we be home? Not certain as to the exact date, but it will be late December or early January. My student visa expires on January 18th, so that is the latest that we can leave. When we have exact dates, I'll post.

See you all soon!
naturallypixie: (Default)
I met with Prof Vecchio on Monday, an hour and a half late after the world's longest bus ride. WLBR, I say? Yes, I do. let me take you back a bit to explain...

Currently Bart and I are staying with our fabulous new friends, Melanie and Donovan, who live in a little town about twenty or thirty minutes outside of Naples, depending on the driver. Instead of making them drive us into town all of the time, we all decided it would be better if we took the bus to the metro and the metro into town. We didn't know exactly which bus to take, but we knew of at least three from which we could choose. Mel has a friend who used to do it all of the time. We thought it would be best if we had a trial run before the day, so we set out on Sunday for our first Neaplotian bus ride. Mel took us to the place where these three busses stop and waited with us to make sure that the buses even run on a Sunday (this is Italy, remember). We were delighted to find that they do run on Sundays! We got on the one that has the longest route. It was a very windy, yet quick ride to a metro station, about thirty minutes. Determining where the bus would stop wasn't so easy. We actually jumped out when the driver was letting some folks on at an unofficial stop. This day was very easy: Get on the bus, get on the metro and in less than an hour, viola! We were anywhere in the city we want to be!!
Monday was not as good. I was supposed to be at the university at 10:30 AM to meet with Prof Vecchio, so we left the house at 7:55 AM to do the approximately twenty minute walk to the bus stop. No problem. We catch the 8:30 bus, but this is not the same bus that we took yesterday. This is a bus that should be faster because it takes the main highway. But it is raining out and there is tons of traffic on the the "tange" as it is called, and there was no indication that the driver was going to get off of the tange at any time. Bart and I were a little disturbed when we realized that we did not recognize anything and that this bus was going way past where we had gotten off the other bus. Eeeek. Okay, so the bus takes us all the way to the other side of Naples to the Central Station. It is now 10:15 and I have already phoned Giuliana to let her know that I am going to be late. We can get on the metro at this place no problem, except that apparently there were some police with a dog searching people on the train, so we could not get on. That is another 20 minutes. When we finally arrive at the university, it is 11:30, but I don't know where I am going, so we have to wait for Giuliana to come get me. That takes another half hour. sigh

The meeting went mostly well. The project that I will be working on sounds very cool: A proteomic approach to assessing the effects of DNA methylation on protein interactions in complexes (that sounds redundant and I think it is, but I'm leaving it anyway). Neat. The only thing that is bad is that my stipend is probably going to have to be decreased. It seems that Prof Vecchio is not the best at math and didn't realize that I would be here for three years, not two, and promised me more than his budget can handle. Again, sigh.

It will all work out. It always does.

Other good news: We will be moving into our apartment on Sunday!!! Woohoo!!
naturallypixie: (Default)
So, the last time I wrote about the consulate I mentioned that I had to get copies of my acceptance letters back from them. When I was able to contact them the next day, I was told that I could only have the English version back because it was address to "To Whom It May Concern," but the Italian version was addressed directly to the Consulate General and it was therefore, the Consulate's property. More anger. Another series of calls and emails to the Embassy.

"Anna, they won't give me the Italian version because they say it is addressed to them, so they can't release it." "Who is it addressed to?" "The Italian Consulate General." "That could just as easily be us. I'll call them and ask for them to send them to you. Let me know when you receive the letters so that we can set up your appointment to come in. By the way, we are trying to work it so that you only have to come in once and get your visa on the same day." "Thank you, thank you so much!"

"Anna, I didn't hear back from you yesterday. Did everything go will with the Philly people?" "I left a message. No one called me back. Can you just ask Prof. Vecchio to fax us new copies?" "Absolutely. Not a problem at all." "As soon as we get them, I will set up you appointment." "Thank you for everything."

And that is where we are now, waiting for the appointment to be set up. It could be tomorrow or it could be six weeks from now. Just sitting here waiting for a phone call or an email or a carrier pigeon or maybe a hot air balloon, which would be very exciting for the people of Ames, Iowa. Not much happens here. Even the World's largest Cheeto is an hour and a half away.
naturallypixie: (Default)

So, Bart and I went on a little trip last week. First to Cali to visit my friends, then to Washington to see my mom, then back to Cali to see the friends we didn't see the first time. While we were up in Washington I got an email from the consulate saying that they were denying my visa application because I don't have an actual diploma yet and that they are sending me back all of my paperwork. I gave them two pieces of paper saying that I finished the Master's program and will be getting the diploma in May, but this was not good enough. The thing that REALLY sucks about the whole thing is that when I was there in person, I told her that I wouldn't have the actual diploma until May and asked what I could do as a replacement. I gave her the documents she asked for then she said that they weren't good enough!!!!!!!!

So, I sent an email to Prof. Vecchio at Naples telling him what has happened. He writes back that he is "literally astonished" with the behaviour of the people at the consulate. So he calls his boys at the embassy in DC and they contact me the next day. Today I spent almost three hours faxing the all five billion pages to the embassy. At some point during this three hour odessy, the very nice lady at the embassy calls to make sure that I include a copy of my passport in the fax, which is good because I hadn't thought to do that. During this conversation she comments that she is amazed by the amount of detail that I have provided to the consulate! No shit! Me too! But the thing is, I have only given them what they asked for!!! What is the deal? Did they ask more of me than they do other people?!?! Now I start to growl because I am beyond irritated with the people in Philly. Bart laughs at me, which only makes me growl more.

At some point during the faxing, I realize that the consulate hasn't sent back the FOUR copies (two English, two Italian) of my acceptance letter to the University of Naples, so I have to call them and ask for them back, but when I do call, the office is already closed. Damn time change.

Any way, it looks like I have to wait to hear back from the embassy, then fly out there to apply in person, but when I do, I should get my visa the VERY NEXT DAY!!!! Can you freaking believe it? Whatever. I think while we are there, we might try to take over control of the country. I don't think it will be too hard.
naturallypixie: (Default)
Yea, Giuliana! She sent me the last of the translations on Thursday morning!!! So, on Friday I called the Italian consulate to see if it would be okay if I just mailed all the the paperwork that I have amassed for my visa application by mail or if they were going to be very picky about it and make me fly back to Philly and present it in person. Thankfully, it was okay to mail it. Express mail is WAY cheaper than a last minute plane ticket. Although, at almost $24.00, the mailing wasn't all that cheap either. And since I had to include a money order for $37.80, my free student visa application wasn't all that free. I think it was a fee for authenticating all of the translations that they wouldn't do in the first place. Better to pay someone to check other's work instead of just doing it yourself?

Anyway, the paperwork is now out of our hands and squarely in the belly of the Italian governmental bureaucracy. I'm terrified. I'm excited. No, really, I'm terrified. There are still so many things that could delay the approval of the visa AND the fact that they don't even have to give me one if they don't want to. I don't even want to think about that, I won't. Maybe I'll go read a book.
naturallypixie: (Default)
So here is what's up with my paperwork. Two days before Bart and I left Baltimore we went to the Italian consulate in Philly and found out that we didn't have all of the necessary paperwork. In addition to everything listed on the consulate site, I also needed a long list of things listed on the embassy website. After chastising me in Italian for wanting to study in Italy without speaking Italian, the consulate worker handed me a list of required documents and said that it was all very clearly written right here. I looked at the papers and agreed with her that it was all very clearly written in Italian. No where on the Italian consulate website does it say to refer to the embassy site for further requirements. Why couldn't these requirements be listed on the consulate's site? Why couldn't the guy who we spoke to when we were at the consulate the FIRST TIME tell us about these requirements?!?!?!?! What is wrong with these people? Do they not want people to come study in their country?

So, what I have been trying to do is get copies of all of my transcripts (three schools) and verification of degree from UCSB and Johns Hopkins. All of these must be notarized then taken to the county clerk's office to receive a verification of notary from the county and then all of these are taken to the Secretary of State's office to receive an official state notarization of the notary called an apostille. All of this takes time and money. I have the best friends in the entire world who helped with this process in California and in Maryland. The only problem was with Hopkins verification of degree. The first document they sent was incomplete. No big deal I thought, I'll call and tell them the mistake and they'll fix it right up. The woman who helped me lied at least three times about sending the documents and then when she finally did send them, they were wrong again!!!!! I was very Zen about the whole thing up until this point. No outbursts or name calling, just some lying on the floor and deep breathing I was livid when I saw this second mess up because at this point, it is almost four weeks after I have left Baltimore and I still don't have the proper document. When I called back I literally told the woman to get a pen and write down what to put in the letter. I was exceptionally calm about the whole thing and Bart told me that he was very proud of the way I handled it :) I got the new document on Saturday (she sent it FedEx Priority Overnight) and it is perfect :) I sent it off to Italy to be translated, because that too, is a requirement of the consulate.

Now we are waiting for all of the translations to be sent back from Italy so that we can submit the whole package to the consulate, at which time, we will begin the wait for approval.

Okay, I have written a ton and my elbows hurt.



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