14 December 2011


Life in Italy is a constant contradiction, and I suspect that this paradox is part of the magic of Italy for me. For every potential frustration (see the renovation programmes) there is a positive delight!

This year was supposed to be census year in New Zealand, but because of the Christchurch earthquake it was cancelled, despite the huge amount of money already thrown at it. That was only the second cancellation ever, the other being during the war years. Here in Italy it is also census year.

The date of the Italian census was 9 October. I was here that day, with my papers - all in Italian of course - anxious to do the right thing. Every time I mentioned filling them in my neighbours warned me how much information it asked for, how long it would take me to fill them in, how I would need to do one for my house as well, how much help I would need... and so I delayed, and delayed. I had the occasional peek inside the thick envelope, and seemed to understand most of it, but the fear had been established, I would need help.

Well, time, as it does, marched on. The final date (as far as I remember) for filling in and submitting the forms is 23 December. If they were not submitted by a certain date then the local comune (council) would send someone house to house to assist. I didn't like the sound of that, so yesterday I set myself down at a friend's table and began the task while she did her housework around me. In the end there were only two points I needed to clarify, and all (there really wasn't so much) was done.

But that's not all...

Here you may also submit online. This has to be Italy's very elegant joke against itself... the queues at the post offices are legendary. There were stories of people standing in the long queues to post their forms only to be sent away to re-package because the envelope provided hadn't been used correctly. I opted for the internet. Last night, sitting in bed with my glasses perched on the end of my Efudix nose, I tried to to submit my census paper.

It pays to read the instructions first.

After trying all three numbers at the top of my paper, having located the password at the bottom, no result. Mildly panicking at the thought that after three attempts it might be "Go straight to Jail and do not pass Go" I read the instructions. Oooops! I needed my codice fiscale to complete this. Whew! No problem, or so I thought.

By now it was late and I was a little tired. I tried unsuccessfully yet again (more than three times, this round). Was this just a cruel joke? Time to sleep, not fret or stress.

Finally, in the light of morning, all was revealed. My codice fiscale has a letter at the end of it. My particular letter looks like a number. The password I was given had F4N in it, and in the night light I was reading that as FAN. For every attempt I had got a letter or a number wrong. When I did put in the correct combination (first attempt in the morning I might add) all was well. (Ironically, one of the answers I submitted was that I had no trouble seeing with my glasses on...)

Answering the questions on line was a breeze. If the answer I gave ruled out other sections, they simply faded and I moved quickly through the pages, saving and clicking "avanti" every page. It was much faster than my paper version I had completed yesterday.

When finally saved, downloaded onto my computer and submitted electronically I clicked for the receipt and it arrived instantly, ready to print.

Now why couldn't New Zealand do that, and simply add a section (and extension of time) for folks affected by the earthquake, to be answered whereever in the country they ended up? This has to be a far more cost effective way of assessing the needs of the country.

Today I am grateful for the vagaries of my adopted country.

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