MotM Update | “Superdonna”
28 May 2019
Last week I flew to New York City for a week of work unrelated to MotM, but these things happen sometimes to keep the ship sailing, it’s a matter of administrative functioning––of livelihood. I sailed into the 48th floor of an agency smack in the middle of the Empire State Building where I met a Swedish expat who had just mailed her EU parliamentary election ballot, “I have to do everything I can to keep the equivalent of Trump out,” she said; I thought, water seeks its level; I thought, this temporary home will do just fine! Being in an office keeps me away from writing and fieldwork, but allows me to check in with the people I follow for light status checks nonetheless. Memorial Day yesterday marked the start of the summer in the US, and when summer is here school is out, also in Italy: Ousman finished classes and received his certificate of completion and an advance to the next level of the Italian language. Bakary continues to work his agricultural job, and has been given additional training to qualify, he hopes, for a written contract from his employer. Prince (Sierra Leone, story forthcoming), though, said initially that nothing new was up, but that just means the insidiousness of being sidelined while waiting for documents to work and live is creeping in in heavy ways, “When one has documents you can move ahead,” he said, “you can find work you need, find the better life you are looking for. But without documents, how can you have your freedom? Every day we wake up and it’s harder––things are going harder,” he implored. Another young Gambian waits in Belgium, where he moved after receiving multiple negative assessments on his asylum application in Italy, and later in June he will speak with authorities there; until then, he also waits. Fabulous takes his language exam this week and in a show of diligence is texting me only in Italian, teaching me words like “superdonna,” (superwoman), which he has taken to calling me in jest. I’ve returned in Arizona already for a stopover ahead of more travel west and then east again, all in the name of meetings and paperwork and the networking necessary to keep the work here alive before I’m back in Italy. That date of return is still unknown for documentation reasons of my own. But while I wait, I am being looked after by friends and family whose virtues are among the best, all of whom offering me couches and spare rooms to sleep in during what seems like a surreal life of endless movement, but of a shiny, metallic mileage badge being added to my airline’s frequent flyer account. I forgot to mention it before, but in a stroke of magic and the universe breathing benevolence, I bumped into a professor from my alma mater’s history department on a dewy afternoon in Rome before I left in May; he walked right out of the clouds and into direct interest in Migrants of the Mediterranean for its practical application of narrative history; we made it just at deadline for the annual University of Colorado at Denver’s newsletter, which I am sweetly featured in here. More next week.