Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lady's Reward

I can't help but love the poetess Dorothy Parker - she is exquisitely cynical, but her lyrics betray that she is an actual romantic searching for love and truth even if all her efforts to find those things are frustrated. And that's what many people are after (love and truth) - we just don't all admit when we've found them and call them by other, ugly names.

The Lady's Reward
Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.

Tutta su Eva

Some friends have been "OH WOW! WHAT'S THAT?" when this gets its turn on my playlist. So, for your enjoyment!

Carmen Consoli is an Italian cantautrice (singer-songwriter), who has a lovely, lovely, voice and delivery. My grasp of Italian isn't such that the nuances of her lyrics are caught, but Eva (Eve) is defending herself in this song and swearing before God and her mother that she has not the fault and was not the landlady of her senses when she did wot she did.

This is also a pretty song:


Italians - they do the whole "shoe" thing quite nicely, and take it quite seriously, so I bought two pairs of high-heels and am breaking them in so that I will not be laughed out of house and Rome, come late September. Lo! What a difference heels make in how people perceive you. Not only are you suddenly two inches taller, but you also gain poise, instant elegance, and age - at least, in the eyes of men. It's quite flattering when men stop to stare and you know you're dressed in a totally, rockingly modest way with shoes. Italians - you have got something good going on there. Don't stop. I love it. Kiss kiss.

Yesterday, a professor-friend was reading aloud from a Catholic medieval penitentiary book to some student-friends. It was hilarious - though many forbidden acts requiring penance involved vomit, animals, and R-rated material (tsk tsk). But I would just like to share a few things from it:

Mothers: if, for the sake of curing a fever, you put your daughter in the oven OR on a roof, you shall do penance for 7 years! ... .. .

Cooks: according to the book, if a weasel falls in liquid and drowns then you are to throw the liquid out - and if you feed that liquid to others, three fasts are laid upon you! If, on the other hand, the weasel is still alive, you take the weasel for food and sprinkle the liquid with holy water and use it if you need to.

This seemed to be the general rule: animal falls in your food? Check! Is it alive? Yes. Eat it. And sprinkle the food/liquid it was in with holy water. (Did they have holy water dispensers akin to salt and pepper shakers, I wonder?). Is it dead? Yes. Throw everything away. Don't feed anything to anyone. 'cause that's just...ew.

Would-be-thieves: know that if you, by stealth, steal a monk (?!??!), you shall do penance for 7 years. (And if you steal them in public?)

You can read more fun tidbits here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Primer for Applying to a Pontifical University in Rome

If you commit yourself to studying at a Pontifical University in Italy, you need to be cRaZy!

First step - you find lodging in Rome and commit to a lease. You say "What you say!?" because you have, cleverly, noticed that at this stage you have Not Been Accepted to your university of choice, that you have no way of knowing whether any of the apartments you've idly been looking up on craigslist are any good, whether the landlady (padrona) is nice, whether your roommates will be nice, etc. Why! You might not even know Italian! I didn't - so I networked with round-eyes (*cough*) I trusted and found something after a few months. I still don't know if my roommates are cool people - I don't even know their names. But, I'm sure they're nice ladies, for my padrona rents to women attending Pontifical Universities (PU's aren't noted for drawing thuggish folks), but they might be quite, quite boring. Their idea of a shockingly fun Friday evening might be playing Candyland and drinking herbal teas...before....a....PILLOWFIGHT!!!

Bleeeeeehhhhhh.....Bleh. Bleh.

Now - get a copy of your landlord's national ID card and get him to fill out a letter of invitation (available here). ***!!!!This is important!!!!*** You can't get a study visa without these documents. Srsly. I found out the hard way. Not all Italian consulate websites give detailed instructions as to what you need for a visa - it's just sort of assumed you'd know - and the national id bit was one of the documents that was not listed in my consulate's 14 page document concerning visa requirements. "La la la!," I said. "Here are my documents." "Young lady, do you know where your landlady's national id card is!?" "Oops," I said, outloud. Inside I said "@!#$%%^&%$#@!#$," only in a very ladylike and proper manner.

NEXT: I hope you're friends with your pastor. Your pastor needs to recommend you to the local ordinary (bishop)* who will write you a letter of recommendation (if you're good), and sign your declarations of sustenance (this "declaration of sustenance" bit is explained, quite nicely, here). Make this entire process as simple as possible for the bishop and your pastor. Send your pastor information that the bishop can use in your letter of recommendation: your academic standing, level of education, involvement with the diocese, etc. That information will likely constitute the letter that the bishop writes - and if you can add in awesome things that give you instant Catholic Street Cred, then do that! If, for example, you run a discussion group on Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, or started a local chapter of the Lepanto League, etc., that's the right sort of stuff to send - in an email/letter - to your pastor.

Once you've placed a request with your pastor, get in touch with your bishop or his secretary. Let him know the pastor's recommendation is coming and that you are sending him (the bishop) your declarations of sustenance and a self-addressed and stamped envelope. So - your bishop gets your declarations of sustenance (and, I'd suggest, supporting documentation to show your finances are as you state them), your pastor's recommendation, and your return envelope. That makes it *very easy* for him to compose a letter of recommendation, sign everything, and send everything back in a timely manner.

Now - get the bishop's signature verified by the Apostolic Nuncio. That sounds like a scary process (at least, it did to me), but it's really simple and quick. I found the address for the Nuncio here. You don't need to send any supporting documents (though you can), but you do need to send a return envelope with postage and an explanatory letter stating your intentions, which signatures need to be verified and where. Remember: MAKE THIS SIMPLE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE FOR OTHERS. Don't force people to do the work - do it for them, and they will sweetly send it back to you, delighted and charmed. I even got a nice little card thing with the "compliments of the Apostolic Nuncio" - kawaiiiii!

Next, send letter of recommendation, declaration of sustenance, a copy of your passport (make sure it's legible, because if a university accepts you they send a letter with your passport number in it that you need to get a study visa), original study transcripts, etc., etc. DO send all documents before August, 'cause, you know, Italians take their vacations quite seriously and they need to send you a letter of acceptance. DO get in touch with the dean of the department you're trying to study in - introduce yourself, let him know the documents are on the way, etc.

Ok. Here's the tough part - the study visa. Dun dun duuuun.

Assuming the University sent you a letter (not a fax - a letter) of acceptance, in order to get a study visa (at the SF Consulate), you need**:

  • your driver's license

  • a copy of your driver's license

  • your passport

  • a copy of your passport

  • your visa application (available here) -- !!!! with a passport sized photo glued in the upper-right corner of the app

  • a copy of your passport

  • affidavit of health insurance (I bought mine here)

  • copy of affidavit of health insurance (they take the original, so it's best to have a copy for your own records)

  • bank statements indicating you have not less than $900/month for your planned length of stay***

  • signed letters, on letterhead, from your financial institutions stating the amount you have in your account (this is just bureaucracy - I totally had these signed letters and the consulate-worker simply discarded them!)

  • copy of letters (some consulates will also ask for these)

  • your declaration of sustenance****

  • a letter from your employer (if employed) stating you're making monies (if you are) -- they liked this at the Italian consulate, 'cause it showed I was serious and had an income

  • original letter of acceptance from your university

  • copy of letter of acceptance

  • airplane reservations *to* Italy (it's not necessary to have roundtrip reservations)

  • the letter of invitation from your landlord (keep a copy for yourself)

  • a copy of your landlord's national id

Arrange *everything* in the order they ask for (you will, hopefully, see directions for the correct ordering of documents pasted on the consulate building), be sure you have copies of *everything*, and, if you want the consulate to mail your passport back to you, bring a self-addressed and stamped envelope. If you are missing one document, the consulate will turn you away. If your documents are out of order, they will tell you to put them in order before coming back to the window (if your consulate doesn't take appointments) and it's a toss-up as to whether they'll let you jump to the head of the line or tell you to wait at the back. DON'T provide too many documents (for example, copies of your affidavit of health insurance, plane reservations, etc., but have them handy, in case, because the consulate has the right to demand more documents than they ask for on their website) because the people working at the consulate have to go through lots of documents in a very short time and it irritates them to have to sift through stuff for you. DO be exceedingly polite. DON'T arrive at the consulate late if your consulate does not give appointments. DO make sure the dates on your financial documents are clearly visible and recent.

Hopefully, the consulate workers will like you and accept your application for a visa and everything will be smooth sailing for you! If not, try again, and again, and again.

This is information based off of my own recent experience as of 2009 - my experience was a horrible, horrible one, but I got it done in 8 months. Apparently, the norm for completing this process is more like 12 to 18 months.

*Your bishop may not need this. Mine did, however, request a recommendation from my pastor so if you want to speed things up, this can help.
** Check with your local consulate - the documents required VARY from consulate to consulate.
*** Again, this varies from consulate to consulate.
**** My consulate threw this out, along with the letters from my financial institutions. "What IS this!?!?!" the consulate worker asked. Le sigh. But it's best to bring, just in case, because some consulates do like 'em, maybe.