Saturday, October 25, 2014

Becoming Italian

In July of 2009, I hired a lawyer to assist me with requesting Italian citizenship. My mom's family is all Italian, and Italian was the first language my mom learned to speak. When she was at school, the teachers asked my grandparents to stop speaking Italian to their children because it was making their life harder to lear Portuguese at school. So they did.

My mom no longer speaks Italian, but as you can imagine, has a very strong connection to the culture and the country too. So when I was living in Europe, after visiting Italy with my mom, we started speaking about recovering our Italian citizenship.

Anyway, millions of small document correction processes later, in March of 2013 I finally got all the documentation issued, translated and validated by the Italian Consulate in Porto Alegre.

Since my mom wouldn't be able to apply in Italy any time soon, and the line in Brazil is 10 years long, I decided to apply for Italian citizenship myself, in the United States, where I live now. The consulate website said the average waiting time for processing such requests was 5 months.

I got my appointment scheduled for July 16th, 2013. There I was: nervous as hell, I entered the consulate to have a chat with a very friendly gentleman.

After filling up the forms, talking about retirement in the Alps and how Como Lake is beautiful, we agreed that, if I haven't heard from him until after New Years, I would email him and he would tell me what happened with my case.

Back I went to the office, and after 1 hour of traffic in the US101 from San Francisco to Menlo Park, life moved on. Business as usual.

December arrived, but no news from the consulate. Then in January I emailed the consulate to ask for news. I never heard back. I emailed again, and again, and so I did for several times. Radio silence. I thought they just lost all my papers and were not able to tell me or something. I thought it was all lost.

A few months after giving up on emailing, I escalated: I started calling them. I called once, twice, a dozen times. All the time I got the same: no response, until a message would say something along the lines "Thank you for calling the citizenship office. We are all busy, but leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as possible. Sweet! Except that after the beep, there was another message "This mailbox is full". No message for me.

I tried a few times again, and sent a few emails again. Nothing.

This past week, I was on my way to an event in San Francisco. It was a one hour ride in a bus, so I used that time to, once more, send an email to the consulate. About 20 minutes later, an answer. Wow.

The message said I should actually contact another email address. So I re-sent my message and went to my event.

At around 3:40PM, I got an email. The email said:

"Ms. Weiden,
Please find attached a scan of the letter of recognition. If you did not receive the original, you can pick up a copy when you come in for your passport, but please be aware that it is unfortunately water-damaged from the second time my office flooded mildly."

After the millionth time reading the letter, I start paying attention to the details: the letter is dated: July 25th, 2013. This is 9 days after I applied. What the hell?! My Italian citizenship has been recognized for almost 1.5 years and they didn't inform me.

So I go back home, drink more wine than it is responsible to do. Post pictures of my tongue on Facebook. Celebration time!

Next morning, with a hangover, Mark looks at the pile of mail we received the day before. One of them was from the Italian Consulate in San Francisco. It tells me that I will soon have the opportunity to vote to choose members for the Committees of Italians Abroad. So it seems I would get to know about it one way or the other.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Get out of the road!"

Tonight is our last night on vacation in Maui, Hawaii. We did a lot of nice stuff, this place is beautiful. But this post is solely about bitching on the crap stuff about being here.

I am a driver. I drive to work every day, even though it would take me about 15 minutes to cycle to work. The reason I do that? Because I want to save time. It takes me less than 10 to drive. And I feel an asshole about it. While I am on vacation though, I don't want to drive. I want to walk to places, and see how people live in the place I am visiting, learn about their local life style.

In Maui, though, you can't walk anywhere. I stayed in a place near Lahaina, and the main road that connects the housing neighborhood, the hotel neighborhood and the "downtown" is a big motorway with no sidewalks. As far as I can tell, there is no bus lines either, and there's no parallel streets you can walk in either.

The first evening we walked through a pitch black seaside park that had signs saying "this park is closed after 8pm" to be able to get to a restaurant. As much as I know Hawaii and Maui in particular is a safe place, walking in the complete dark and not being able to see whether you're stepping on poop, grass or any weird animal is actually pretty scary. Anyway, we got there, we got food and we took a cab back.

A few days later, we tried again: we walked from our Bed and Breakfast to Roy's, a famous restaurant that was serving delicious Thanksgiving dinner. That time, since we knew that walking through the closed park was pretty scary, we preferred to walk by side side of the road, yes, that motorway. It was pretty scary. When we were near the restaurant, Mark suggested we crossed the road in the classic "Frogger" style, but I told him that I could see a pedestrian bridge and that we should walk to that bridge. We did. We did so we could be pissed off by the fact that, if you walked from the motorway towards that pedestrian bridge, there was no way to access it. It was basically a bridge from nowhere to nowhere else. So we played "Frogger". When we got to the other side, we had also zero sidewalks to walk on, and ended up walking through a grass field that had those water sprinklers that would go on by timer. Luckily we did not get a shower and made it to dinner with only my feet, in summery sandals, completely soaked.

The day after that we took the "road to Hana". Supposedly a very nice adventure. I have to say that the trip was nice. We were advised that sometimes there was no space for two cars in the road, so someone would have to back off to let the other car go. What I wasn't told though, is that the road was perfectly signalized with the right stuff so people would know when to stop and wait for upcoming traffic. The other thing I wasn't told is that nobody respect those signs, making the journey into a complete life threatening nightmare. We gave up half way and came back home, to the bed and breakfast.

We decided then to once more walk to dinner, because it was towards the old town, and not towards the same direction as the "no fucking way there's no side walk to get there" restaurants.

We found out that we could walk through the houses in the neighborhood and then just cross the motorway to get to the other side, where Lahaina downtown is. We did that. The funny part about that walk is that the pedestrian crossing that cross the motorway literally brings the pedestrian to motorway crash barriers with no sidewalk in the other side. Literally once you got to the other side, you had to walk against traffic for a block before you found a sidewalk. We made it to the restaurant, and got a cab back home.

We repeated the same today to see the Old Lahaina Luau. I won't go on and on how the whole Luau thing was a sad celebration on killing local culture and turning it into a circus. On the way home, when we were approaching the pedestrian crossing that took us from the crash barrier to the other side of the street, a stupid asshole driver yells at the window: "Get out of the road!". Seriously? What the fuck in hell people think that cars have more right than humans walking? I just yelled "Go fuck yourself" back, because at this point in my vacation, I was just way too upset to have a discussion on how there was no other possible place for me to walk about than the stupid road, and that yes, I thought it was a stupid thing to do, but I had no other options at that time.

So, I got this awesome tip for development in Maui. Its a means of transportation that allows people to move from place to place, it avoids drunk driving, and spends very little energy: build stupid sidewalks and let me give up on a car, at least on my vacation time!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sobre a pilantragem...

Meu feed de notícias no Facebook é cheio de indignação com relação a corrupção que acontece no governo.

Não quero desmerecer ou tirar o direito de ninguém se indignar com alguma coisa, mas eu gostaria de propor uma coisa diferente. Vamos pensar sobre o conceito de pilantragem.

Eu não moro no Brasil há quase 10 anos. Uma das coisas que mais me decepciona com o povo brasileiro é a falta o senso de coletivo que se tem. Sim, as pessoas arrombam um laboratório para salvar os cachorrinhos abusados para testes de medicamentos e cosméticos. O povo sai pra rua para protestar pelo direito de protestar, outros vão para rua para protestar contra a corrupção, outros contra sabe-se lá o que. 

Mas será que muita gente não tá jogando pedra na casa dos outros com telhado de vidro? Vamos fazer o exercício do "quem nunca?":

Quem nunca...
  • mentiu na declaração do imposto de renda, só um pouquinho, para não pagar o imposto que deveria, e reaver uns reais a mais do que realmente era de direito?
  • passou na frente do outro na fila do banco, do médico, do mercado, do aeroporto, mentindo ter urgência por um motivo ou outro?
  • pediu para o amigo que trabalha na empresa para qual você está aplicando para uma vaga para dar uma "atenção especial" para si mesmo, ou para um conhecido?
  • ficou indignado que o SUS não funciona, mas quando um familiar precisou, deu todos os jeitinhos para que o tal fulano passasse na frente de todo mundo na fila, mesmo sabendo que salvar a vida do seu talvez custaria a vida de um outro desconhecido?
  • encheu a mala de muambas numa viagem ao exterior, não declarou para a alfândega, apesar de ser completamente ilegal fazer algo desse tipo?
  • colou na prova para passar de ano?
  • pediu um "jeitinho" pra conseguir algo que queria, passando por cima das regras?
  • conhece alguém que recebe uma pensão do governo que não deveria, mas nunca denunciou para o governo?
  • comprou num camelô, ou numa loja sem nota fiscal? Se foi na loja sem nota fiscal, pediu desconto em função da ausência da nota?
  • trabalhou como pessoa jurídica para poder burlar a declaração do imposto de renda?
Se você respondeu que sim a alguma dessas questões acima, seja bem-vindo! Você também faz parte do grupo de pilantras que faz com que o Brasil seja tão podre quanto é. Então pára de falar o Dirceu, do Genoíno e dos outros, porque a diferença entre eles e você é que eles foram pegos fazendo algo, ou supostamente fizeram algo, e você AINDA não.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mario Quintana

He was a writer and translator from my home state in Brazil. He got known as the poet of simplicity. Saw this on my timeline today, thought I would translate and share. Not sure if anything he wrote ever got translated to English. Pardon my poor English though, I am not a poet myself, so be ready for a poor job at conveying his light, cheerful and heart-filling message.

"Over time you start noticing that to be happy with someone else you need, first of all, not to need that person... you learn about loving yourself, taking care of yourself, and specially, about loving those who also love you.

The secret is not to run after the butterflies, it is to take care of your garden so the butterflies come after you.

In the end, you'll find not the one you were looking for, but someone who was actually looking for you."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jorge Drexler, Transporte

Desde ahora mismo y aquí
hacia donde quiera que estés,
parte de mi alma
parte a tu encuentro.
Sabes que te llevo dentro mío
igual que yo sé que tu me llevas dentro.

Se trata de un leve pulsar
que se abre camino hacia tí
cruzando las estaciones, constelaciones,
los momentos.
Digo que esta vida es llevadera
sólo porque sientes tú
lo que yo siento.

Donde tu estás
yo tengo el Norte,
y no hay nada como tu amor
como medio de transporte.

En este instante,
más canto y más te tengo yo
más te tengo yo presente.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After the torment comes the sunshine

A lot has happened to me since I last wrote here. I actually don't think I can even say that I just gave this blog a break. I definitely abandoned it.

The past months have been a huge exercise for me. An exercise of opening my hands and letting things go. I did that a lot, and as much as I suffered and I know I have made people suffer a lot because of that, I feel more in peace and much lighter now. I look at the mirror and I don't question "what the hell am I doing with my life?" any longer. I know where it is going.

In March this year I decided to leave my "stable dream job". Since the decision was made, this required me to exercise one of the things that have been the most difficult in my life, but to understand what and how hard that is, I need to share some perspective first.
When I started being active in the Free Software community, very rapidly I received a lot of invitations to deliver talks in different places in Brazil, then later abroad. That experience was one of the most amazing of my life. I met so many people and seen so many different places, I had a great time.

But as you can imagine, being constantly on the road makes you exercise another skill which is not always pleasant: detachment. Detachment from local available friends, from having a relation to the local shop by my house, from having a stable relationship, from having a home. I did have an apartment at that time, but I definitely did not have a home (maybe the constant presence of half-full suitcases around the floor didn't help to build up that feeling).

Wikipedia says "detachment, also expressed as non-attachment, is a state in which a person overcomes his or her attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and thus attains a heightened perspective."

Depending on the level of proximity one need from people and desire one have of possessing things, and specially how much one need those things to feel safe, it is an exercise of making yourself so lonely, and therefore unstable, that you feel light. Its horrifying and nice. All at once.
Back to my current life, when I first told people that I was considering leaving my job, I don't think anyone even believed me. How come? 90% of all nerds in the world would love to get a job at Google. Are you sick in the head? Other people questioned the amount of money I was making, and how nearly impossible it would be for me to have same financial status elsewhere. 15% income tax in Switzerland, with big Google bucks is indeed very comfortable. But I was just not happy with my job and not specially happy with my life in general, so I had to change.

Early in March I received a job offer from Facebook. I really thought I had not made it through my onsite interviews. I thought people were nice to me, and that I did mostly ok, but I wasn't really positive that I would get a job. Maybe the fact that I was going through interviewing AND writing an essay for my MBA at the same time did not help on my interview performance either, but well, I am always doing 3 thousand things at the same time.

With the decision to join Facebook came lots of other life-changing decisions: I would have to change my entire life because of that. Bye bye 15% income tax, bye bye Swiss salary. After a lot of hard discussions and what I call "mindfucking", it ended up being bye bye to my relationship as well. My 4 months old marriage. What the fuck was I thinking? It just seemed right. I know I hurt people, and I am sorry I did that, but it wasn't optional.

I also had to say bye bye to all my local friends, the fun times, the very close friends whose affection became not only important to me, but essential. I am a community person, and I regard my close friends as the family I carefully built over time.

So all of a sudden I knew that, in order to be happy, I would have to temporarily go back to that place which made me feel very vulnerable in the past: the place where I am detached from feelings, objects and people. That place from where I can just open my hands and let things go.

I took the job. I shipped all my furniture, electronics and objects to Brazil. I carefully selected the clothes and shoes I was going to keep (if you know me well, you know how hard it is to give up on a pair of beloved shoes). I gave whatever I didn't think I should keep to my friends and other people. I was shrinking, not only in luggage weight but as a person. Getting smaller so I would get back to growing.

Currently I am in Dublin, waiting for my US visa to be issued, so I can move to San Francisco on October 8th. I have been working for Facebook for 2 months, and I am SO happy I can't even explain. The weather sucks. I just don't care. I am happy.

I have been learning about myself every day. Learning about my new job every day, and learning about what is important in my life. One. Day. At. The. Time.

I know how much I miss my friends. I miss them badly. Fortunately they are such fantastic people that they made a "let's not leave nanda alone" schedule for visits while I am in Dublin. I won't be cold and alone out in the rain (being in Dublin that is sort of literal).

I am very excited about my move to San Francisco. This move is sort of a personal debt to myself. My friends who live in San Francisco did not believe me when I told them I was moving. They said  "yeah, nanda, you say that every year". Dear friends, this time it is really happening!

I just feel like there's sunshine in my heart after a while living in torment.

"Quando já não tinha espaço, pequena fui
Onde a vida me cabia apertada
Em um canto qualquer,
Acomodei minha dança, os meu traços de chuva

Nada do que fui me veste agora, sou toda gota"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


We usually tend to find life difficult, until some bad thing happen and makes things truly difficult.

A few weeks ago, I was in one more of my usual business trips to the US, when I learned that my mom was at the hospital for a heart surgery. She is actually pretty lucky to be alive. She had a test made which monitored her heart for 24 hours and the doctors learned that her heart stopped 24 times in that timeframe. Tell me about scary.

Well, I took the first flight I could from the US to Porto Alegre, to stay with her. I had a feeling that if I was there, she wouldn't be allowed to leave me. Or leave us.

She is fine now, and a happy owner of a pacemaker. She looks healthier than before. It is amazing how being healthy is always stamped on your forehead, but we just don't give a shit about it. We don't read the signs from our own body.

Anyway, in the middle of that crisis, which has passed but still affects daily life for all of us, I had the chance, for the first time in a few years, of spending 15 consecutive days with my family. I call that quality time. We were united again, we felt like a team again. Well, at least most of us did, I am sure.

I think I can say that two weeks ago I had one of the largest crisis in my life. I am so glad I had so many people I love and who loves me around, and that they also took care of me when I had to take care of others. That's how it is in the end. One helps the other and everybody gets stronger that way.

Now I am back to Zurich, to work, and trying to get my daily routine back to normal. It is hard, but I will get there.