Conversations at Work: Tech Support Guy

California, huh. Nope, never been out there. The missus and I went to Florida. We were just amazed at how many guns you could purchase. There it was, plain as I could see. Guns for the taking at the store. Wow, yeah. America.

In the 70s, we went into a store and I wanted to purchase a pair of boots. You know, working man’s boots. I just couldn’t believe I could purchase such a nice pair of boots. We didn’t get those over here at the time. So I walk in and say, let me try that pair on. And a man comes up to me and says, are you trying that pair on for your wife? And I said, EH? What you going on about? And he nods and says, oooh English. And I says, yes, bloody right English. Not Australian or South African, ‘cause you know, they tend to mix the two of them up. So he says, sir, you’re in the ladies section. So I get angry at this point, ‘cause I have a bit of a short temper and say to him, how in the bloody hell should I know, where are the signs? And he points up, so I look up, and there’s a ladies sign above my head. Do you think I look UP to find signs?And he asks my foot size and I said, UK 5, to which he says, well, we don’t make men’s sizes that small. Well, do you want to purchase these? And I look at him, that rightful prat, why would I want these now you’ve insulted me? And I walked out. But those were nice boots.

But see, back in those days we were separated by classes. Maybe we still are, to a certain extent. There was a wall, right there where you’re at now, which separated my lot and the directors. Separate toilets. You name it. Been here 30 years. I’d have to take off my shoes before entering a director’s office and wait for him to speak to me first before I could speak back.

::long pause::

Elitists. And women. They were secretaries or accountants and worked in the pool, no computers back then of course. It’s gotten better, but it’s still the same. There’s no wall here, but there’s still separation.

I can tell people don’t like talking to me. Maybe it’s my face. Boy, I can sure hold a grudge. Maybe that’s the English and Irish in me. The English part doesn’t say anything, but I’ll hold a grudge and the Irish side has a bit of a temper.

Yeah, California, huh. I loved New Orleans. Before Katrina hit. But they are a racist people. I walked in with my friend once and this man said, hey, we don’t serve your kind. And I said, what, English? And he said, no, HIS kind. See, my friend is black. And I turn to my friend and says, Gary, did you know you’re black? And he turns to me and says, wait, REALLY? When did this happen and starts looking at his arm. Well, that man put his gun on the counter and we left at that point. Boy we had a laugh. Yeah, America is alright. Except for those guns and racist people. But this was in the 70s, I bet that’s changed slightly now.

Anywho, have yourself a good night. Voicemail should be fixed.

Conversations at Work: Prologue

Co-workers are crazy. Anyone working the 9 to 5 is perfectly aware of just how crazy co-workers really are. Maybe it’s because we spend over 40 hours every week with each other. Like all relationships, we start to grow comfortable. When that comfort zone happens the crazy comes out! Their stories from childhood, dreams from the night before, fears, nightmares, weird collections, why the husband/wife/lover/girlfriend/boyfriend is driving them (and you!) completely insane. My co-workers are no exception.

But, crazy is hilarious. Maybe not at the time, you know, during full crazy. But after watching episodes of the Office, or having a few drinks, I’d recall the conversations and found them quite  … awesome. I’m intrigued by the British type of crazy.

Perhaps it’s my calm demeanor  or inability to walk away, but co workers love opening up. I’m receptive to these conversations, like some kind of lightning rod. Generally it’s when I’m incredibly pressed for time or at the end of the day, when I’m one foot out the door. OF COURSE I HAVE 10 MINUTES!

Unfortunately for them, I’m a writer. I like telling stories. And after much thought I decided to start writing these conversations down, at work, after they happen. I’m going to start writing a series of these aptly named: “Conversations at Work.” Which is ironic because 80-90% of the time it’s them talking and me just nodding in horror with a fake smile plastered on my face.

To cover my ass, I would like to mention a few things:

  • As previously stated, these are primarily one-sided conversations and shall be treated as such. Therefore, I’ve removed all my commentary. It just adds to the crazy. 
  • I won’t mention real names. Ever.
  • I won’t discuss anything personal about the company. Just the conversations.
  • All conversations are completely real. They are not verbatim, but pretty damn close. Because real is awesome.

Enjoy the cray cray.

10 more days until Astrofest!

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Astrofest posted the exhibition map today on FaceBook. Only 10 more days! Great to finally see the layout of the conference. It’s about what I expected: not too big, not too small. Goldilocks size 😉

I really hoped this would be the year for a telescope. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) this year we decided pay off the majority of our debt. That means no telescope. Maybe next year! In theory, we shouldn’t even be attending Astrofest, but these tickets were part of our Christmas nerdy presents for each other.

Either way, it’s a great opportunity to speak with other novice and professional astronomers. And get lots of telescope advice!

We’re attending all the sessions, anyone else doing the same?

On Meeting My Teenage Rock Idol

Fresno, California. 1999.

My hands felt cold. I stuck them in my jean pockets in a sad attempt to warm them. How embarrassing. My anxiety must have been obvious; the DJ next to me leaned over and whispered, “Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s a total doll.” I smiled and nodded. Of course she is. I knew it. I couldn’t trust my voice. It was bad enough my right knee wouldn’t stop shaking.

The station manager waved us over. I trailed behind the DJ and the three of us climbed, single file, inside the bus. OMIGOD.

I heard a couple of men in mid-conversation. Then I heard HER. “Why the fuck not,  sure,  if that’s what they wanted.” The men paused for a brief second while she spoke, then resumed speaking. I couldn’t quite see over the DJ, but her presence was definitely felt. I resisted the urge to hold my shaking leg.

The station manager and DJ introduced themselves, making small talk. Something made her laugh. The DJ stepped aside and then I saw her sitting on the table bench next to her two band mates.

I stared.

OH. MY. GOD.

I’m standing in front of the Queen. The Queen of Rock. Say something you moron!

“I’m so sorry,” my voice squeaked, breaking like a pre-pubescent boy. “I brought my camera, could I just …  trouble you …”

The smile froze on my face; I could feel the flush from my chest to the tips of my ears. Sweat rolled down my lower back, dripping into my pink tank top. My upper lip trembled.

How embarrassing.

She just smiled and casually flicked her hand towards the group, nonchalantly. “Of course sweetheart,” she said, in a richly decadent Scottish accent.

I didn’t deserve to feel that accent.

“Next to me!” She patted the bench seat on her right. Butch moved down to make room. His eyes were hidden behind thick, black sunglasses. Everyone looked amused.

I squeezed past the manager and DJ and walked over, next to Shirley. Her fiery red hair pulled tight into a ponytail, shining in the overhead light. Raccoon black eyeliner circled her almond-shaped green eyes, contrasting with her alabaster skin. She wore black bracelets, which shifted a bit as she moved. She smelled like vanilla spicy perfume.

She was so punk rock. I’m not worthy. 

“CHEEEESE!” said the DJ.

Click! said the camera.

He wound the canary yellow Kodak box and handed it back to me.

I smiled at her and she gave me a slight squeeze.

“Thanks, Shirley.” I said, as the blushing began to subside, except for the tips of my ears. The moment burned into memory.

She winked. “Enjoy the show.”

Road to Italian Citizenship, Part Two: Obtaining Certified Documents

A few weeks ago I wrote about considering dual Italian citizenship. Hopefully, you’re not dissuaded by the initial hoops you have to jump through. In case you missed it, please click here for part one.

Hopefully now you’re thinking, “Yes, I qualify! Yes, I want to DO EEEIT!” Okay, awesome! But look, I’m not going to lie … now you’re starting the hard part: getting shit loads of certified documents and then having those aforementioned documents Apostilled.

APOSTILLE: additional authentication required for international acceptance of notarized documents. 

In the United States, an Apostille is a legalization issued by the Secretaries of the fifty states. It’s a separate page bearing the seal of the state and the signature of the Secretary of State, stapled to the document it legalizes.

Yeah, that’s right folks. After you receive certified documents you’ll need to send those to out to STATE for further authenticity.

Did I lose you yet? Before you grab that bottle of wine, keep going 🙂

As I wrote in blog one,  I claimed citizenship through my great-grandfather, Pasquale. I never met Pasquale, obviously, but as my ascendant I claimed Jure Sanguinis or law of the blood.

Before you even get STARTED, call or email the Italian Consulate and get an appointment. Trust me. It will most likely take almost a year for you to get in (maybe longer now). It will take almost that long just to gather all the documents.

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I have to file what again?!

To help organise what you’ll need, I’ve broken the process into FOUR separate categories:

  1. Certified documents. These are the long form birth certificates, death, marriage, and divorce. They must be certified copies. You will need to get them from county records.
  2. Certification of Naturalisation: County or USCIS. If you cannot find the certificate of naturalisation through the County courthouse, you will need to request your ascendant’s naturalization record through USCIS’s Genealogy Program, or a Freedom of Information Act request. OR, USCIS will issue you a document saying naturalization could not be found.
  3. Your Italian-born ascendant’s birth certificate from a Comune in Italy (and marriage!). You will need to write to the Comune and ask for them to send a copy.
  4. Apostille documents which link YOU to your ascendant. The state government conducts all apostilles. You’ll need them translated into Italian. Do NOT use Google translate, get yourself a legitimate Italian translator (unless you already speak it yourself, fluently).

Yes. It is a SHIT load of work! However, you’ll find that once you get started it moves quickly. You may also find a treasure trove of forgotten family history. Apparently, my great grandmother had property in North Italy. I also found countless pictures, letters written in Italian and even their original passports from Italy to New York!

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PART ONE: CERTIFIED DOCUMENTS

Depending on who you are claiming through, the list might be longer or shorter. To give you an example, here is a list of documents I needed:

  • Pasquale’s birth certificate (in Montegrosso, Italy!), marriage certificate to my great grandmother, Cristina (Calosso, Italy!) and his death certificate (Madera, CA).
  • Pasquale’s certificate of naturalisation (USCIS).
  • Cristina’s birth certificate (in Calosso, Italy).
  • Birth certificate for my grandmother, Adele (Madera). Her marriage certificate to Charlie, my grandfather (in Nevada — yes, they eloped!).
  • Charlie’s birth certificate. (Manteca, CA).
  • Birth certificate for my mother, Kathy (Madera). Marriage certificate to my dad, Tony (Madera).
  • Tony’s birth certificate (New York).
  • My birth certificate (Fresno, CA).

You may not believe it, but gathering certified documents is EASY. Just find the county, download/fill out the appropriate forms, send in a check and wait for it to arrive. For all my local documents, I just dropped by the county office to pick them up. Since none of my family members divorced that cut down on time and cost.

 Word of warning: New York takes a long time! 

This should come as no surprise, given the massive Italian population. For my dad’s birth certificate I ordered online, but it took over a month. In comparison, I received my other certified documents from California and Nevada in less than a week.

DHS_cis_WR_atPART TWO: USCIS AND NATURALISATION PAPERWORK

You might get lucky (I didn’t on this) and get all naturalisation paperwork from the local country courthouse. Until 1991, naturalized U.S. citizens were sworn in at a local or federal courthouse. As a result, many U.S. Counties’ courthouse records include naturalization records. Except when an applicant has his or her ascendant’s certificate of naturalization, a County record is always required. Remember that a County record must have the signature and seal of a County official.

If, like me, you cannot locate these at County, you’ll need to search at Federal. It takes more time, but it’s definitely doable. Take a look at the USCIS Genealogy website. You’ll need to request a FILE NUMBER. I pulled some documents through Madera County which had my great grandfather’s case file number, but the rest of the documents were illegible. If you DO NOT have the file number, conduct an Index search. This will cost about $20-30 dollars.

Anticipate federal taking two or three months, maybe longer. Email them every few weeks and call. Ask to speak with someone. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I hounded these people and they finally sent me what I needed. It’s not their fault, they have only a few staff members and too much demand. They will most likely not send you a certified copy, which is perfectly fine. Just remember to keep the envelope, as you’ll need that as proof for the Italian Consulate.

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PART THREE: WRITING TO ITALY

When I first started, I thought writing to Italy would take the longest. I’ve heard horror stories about the postal network and figured I’d have to write two or three times. Boy, was I totally wrong. I got them in few weeks! They even sent the postage back. Color me pleasantly surprised!

Hell, even locating where to send is easy. In my own example, I just googled “Comune di Montegrosso di Asti”. BOOM! 

Address: Via Re Umberto, 60, Montegrosso d’Asti, Province of Asti, Italy 

So, write to the “Comune” where your ascendant was born, request a birth certificate in “formato internazionale”, or in “estratto per riassunto” (showing his/her parents’ names), enclose three/four dollars for shipping and handling and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. When writing to the Comune, address your request to:

COMUNE DI ____________________
Ufficio Anagrafe – Stato Civile
(zip code) _______ (City) _____ (province of) ________
ITALY

I had a friend write a little note in Italian explaining I needed information to process my Italian citizenship. Maybe that helped speed up the process, I’m not sure! Either way, it’s incredibly easy.

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PART FOUR: APOSTILLE DOCUMENTS AND ITALIAN TRANSLATIONS

You’ve gotten everything above. AWESOME!! You’re really getting there. Now, only a few things remain:

  • Your birth certificate needs an Apostille and translated into Italian
  • All your marriage certificates, if any, with Apostilles and translations
  • All your divorce decrees, if any, with Apostilles and translations

For the Apostille, just look up the Secretary of State online, find the document needed, fill out and send with the appropriate check amount. You may need to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope (I know I did).

The Italian Consulate does not require you to go through a professional translator, which is great. So if you or a family member speaks fluently you can do this all yourself. By far, translations are the most expensive part of this process. I went through a family friend and had no problems. Please note, you do NOT have to get the Apostille translated, only the certified document. This is because they will send your birth certificate to the Comune in Italy. So for example, my birth certificate is now located in Montegrosso in their records which proves I’m an Italian citizen.

Now, this might have changed but when I applied for citizenship I needed to do a few extra steps:

  • Provide Adele’s (grandmother) birth certificate and marriage certificate with Apostille, and translation
  • Provide Kathy (mother) birth certificate and marriage certificate Apostille and translation

I needed to get those done to PROVE my blood line to Pasquale. Check with your Italian Consulate if this has changed. 

Once you have this all finished, you’re well on your way! BE PROUD! Celebrate with some wine and gelato!

In part three, I’ll discuss problems you might come across and solutions if they do happen. Grazie!

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You’re so close, you can practically feel the Italian beaches!

Operation Stay Motivated. How do you combat fatigue?

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Story of my LIFE.

I work 40+ hours every week. After my commute, I cook dinner, clean and watch my favourite television shows. Sometimes, I mix it up. I’ll throw on work out clothes and shake my booty with body combat or yoga at Nuffield gym. Yet without fail at the end of the day, especially lately from winter, all I want to do is decompress, curl up in my jammies and spend time at home. And that’s when the fatigues kick in …

How the HELL do people stay motivated to write?! Even without a family, I’m struggling! I want to pick people’s brains here. Surely, I’m not the only person to feel overwhelming fatigue after work all the time. In the next some odd months the boy and I would like to purchase a home and have our own family. WHAT THEN??

And forget about trying to take a day off. Oh no. Even when I try to relax I’m plagued with overwhelming guilt! My brain goes into overdriving and wants me to make up for the lost time. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Why in the hell do creative minds have so much angst?

I’m curious how WordPress peeps in the writing community manage. Do you make specific time each morning, evening or weekends? Do you tell people to leave you alone, hole yourself up with some food and whiskey, and just write write write. Are you between jobs and decided to write out of boredom? Is it a hobby you do for fun, or are you trying to make a career out of it? What is the method to your madness??

I remember one story in particular that resonated with me personally. This lady would wake up at 4 or 5 AM to write each morning before her normal warehouse job. One day, she happened to mention to her supervisor her plans to be a writer and he, of course, chastised her for being stupid/silly and that her writing wouldn’t amount to anything. Writing was too damn hard. Of course she did amount to something, a very big something, as SHE is actually Kate DiCamillo, an award winning children’s fiction author. Stories like that give me hope. And help quell the critic in my head. Maybe I should print that out and post it on a bulletin board in my room whenever the fatigue and self-criticism begin to creep in.

I have the want and drive. Yet having two full-time jobs is draining and socially ostracizing. I’ve been known to blow off events so I can stay home and “do a bit of writing.” Some times it’s for the physically draining job. Other times it’s for fun or freelance gigs. Not a surprise, I like the freelance gigs sooo much more 🙂

Until then, I’ll keep fighting my writing evening fatigue. Maybe I should start rewarding myself with a glass of wine and dark chocolate…

Mmmm…chocolate…

AstroFest in London! Who’s going?

European AstroFest 2013

In a few weeks, AstroFest will here! This will be my first Astronomy conference, ever. I’m OVER THE MOON with excitement. Okay, that was bad, my apologies…

Bad puns aside, over the last month I’ve been voraciously devouring astronomy at a vigorous pace. Once I get going it is hard to let go. Astronomy NOW, BBC and National Geographic have all written fantastic articles. I’ve spread my research with both print and online (thanks Twitter!). I’m feeling engaged and focused!

Is anyone else attending? I’m going to visit all sessions. I just hope to have enough time to walk the floor and look at telescopes. I’m still a complete newbie, but I hope to find good advice for amateurs. My plan is to pay off all my debt and look into purchasing one late this year. I’ll be asking loads of questions at the conference, too. After all, when else do you get the opportunity to speak with some of the most brilliant minds in astronomy?!

263250-stargazers-almanac-2013I recently purchased the Stargazers 2013 Almanac. We have it hanging in our living room next to our large window, where we can see the North sky fairly vividly. Of course, the weather has been cloudy lately from all the snow (see previous post!) so it hasn’t been used QUITE as much as I hoped, but it’s a very informative and fun read. I also liked that Ethical Superstore has them on clearance right now, on the cheap! I do love finding a bargin.

Are there any astronomy events you’re looking forward to? I’ve also heard about some local astronomy camping adventures in the Brecon Beacons, in Wales. I’m sincerely interested, but having a difficult time convincing anyone else to join me in some camping adventures!

Winter reflections

Britain is covered in snow. Mass transit has shut down. People are advised not drive if they can avoid it. I’m not complaining, there is so much beauty in winter. What I love the most living here is learning to slow down and enjoy my surroundings. I grew so use to my normal environment in California, and I took its beauty for granted. Winter is my time for being thoughtful and a bit wistful. We can’t always be energizer bunnies! I’m taking the time to relax, and reflecting on the natural beauty of my surroundings. I live in another country. It’s not every day you get to wake up and say that.

All pictures taken in Leamington Spa, England. Please link back to my page if you use any pictures.

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Jephson Park
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Jephson Gardens
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View from window of my house.
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Walking over the bridge in the park
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In the park with the birds
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Snow tracks

Traipsing between full-on-nerd and somewhat obsession…

Andromeda Galaxy. Eventually, our galaxies will collide! 😀

When I was a wee lass of eight or nine, astronomy and stamp collecting and my little ponies were my latest obsessions. My mom brought home hard cover kid books that said things like THE SOLAR SYSTEM or THE SUN: OUR NEAREST STAR. My eyes popped out of my head. It was the pictures. I could NOT wrap my tiny mind around it. We had probes flying into SPACE. You know, that mysteriously dark, cold place that I only saw on television. We now had actual photographs of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Neptune. We could discuss and argue over things like, air quality on Titan or Mars. Science postitively blew my mind.

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Beautiful Sun

Fast forward years later. I’m still fascinated by astronomy. I catch myself reading Astronomy Now, Sarcastic Rover, Discovery News on Twitter. I’ll roam the magazine section of grocery stores just to pick up the latest Astronomy issues. Hell, just recently I watched Stargazing Live on BBC. I find that I cannot, will not, and don’t want to stop. I want to absorb and continue learning.

Should obsession have its boundaries?

Although it doesn’t interfere with my personal life or professional (hushhush, I do sneak quick reads at work) I do seriously wonder why I never went into astronomy as a career. Why, oh why, didn’t I major in astrobiology? What good is obsessing over something if you can never give back in any way?

My boyfriend and I want to have kids eventually, and we talked about how nerdy fun they will be. It’s definitely too late for me to go back to college, but I am thrilled to teach my kids about astronomy and take them to the Academy of Sciences. Maybe expanding my own child’s mind will be the ultimate way I give back.

Road to Italian Citizenship, Part One: How do I know I Qualify?

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Wanna be a dual citizen?

Let’s be honest. Coveting dual citizenship is an appealing concept. Having more than one passport reminds me of grand espionage, James Bond or Jason Bourne style. But on a serious note it can look great on your CV, possibly landing you a career globally!

I speak from personal experience: I work abroad! I’m a dual citizen in the United Kingdom. As part of the EU, I can work/study/travel in different European countries without any visa worry. Italians work in Belgium. Germans work in France. You get the idea! [EDIT: because of the Brexit decision, we’re not sure how this will affect current/future Europeans working in the UK]

From my understanding, dual Italian citizenship is an “easier” dual citizenship to pursue. I put this in quotations for a reason. Firstly, obtaining citizenship through jure sanguinis (ie. the blood-line) is more than just proving your Italian heritage through connections, you’ll need to collect forms, forms and MORE forms. You really need to do homework! Plus, like any government establishment, it requires a good deal of patience. Like the army, you’ll experience a lot of hurry up and wait as you send away for appropriate documents.

Do I regret it? Not for a second. It’s ABSOLUTELY worth the process. It took me about eight months of work to go this and I’m really glad I did!

I’ve broken this into a few parts to help those who are looking into obtaining citizenship for themselves, and their families.

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The road can be long, but it’s worth it!

How do I know if I qualify for dual citizenship?

Through jure sanguinis: “Italian citizenship is granted by birth through the paternal line (with no limit on the number of generations) or through the maternal line (for individuals born after January 1, 1948). If you were born in any country where citizenship is acquired by birth, and any one of the situations listed below pertains to you, you may be considered an Italian citizen.”

There are lots of different ways to qualify. Here are a few of the most typical:

  • Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you were born after January 1st, 1948 and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your father was born in your native country, your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth, neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your mother was born in your native country, your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, you were born after January 1, 1948 and neither you nor your mother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your paternal or maternal grandfather was born in your native country, your paternal great-grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your maternal grandmother was born in your native country, your maternal great grand-father was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, your mother was born after January 1st, 1948, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandmother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship. (This is the one I chose).

To find more, please look at this webpage:

I know all of that looks extremely daunting, but go over all of it slowly. The only way to actually RENOUNCE your citizenship rights is to declare at the embassy you no longer want to be an Italian citizen.

In my own example, I decided to go through my mother’s lineage (see above).

My great-grandfather was born in Montegrosso and moved to the States at a young age with my great-grandmother. My grandmother was born in Madera, California. And my mother was born in 1950 (not 1948). Although my great-grandfather became a naturalized citizen in the 1930s, he did not formally declare to the Italian government he wanted to renounce his citizenship. Because of that my grandmother, mother, and myself were all entitled to citizenship through his blood-line.

Why should I get this done?

In my own example, I chose dual citizenship to work abroad in Europe. I don’t speak Italian, but have always had the desire to learn other languages. Having dual citizenship allows me the freedom to be a full citizen. I will have an easier time purchasing property and can even vote! I’m also entitled to universal health care and retirement benefits, if I choose.

What about taxes?

If I decide to travel in/out of Italy, every couple of years I would have to pay a small tax. Currently I pay 50 EUR, however this will probably always change. As I don’t live or work in italy now, I’m exempt from this tax when I leave or travel out of the UK. This is ONLY when leaving Italy.

What about being in the army?

The Italian army is like the American army: strictly volunteer. Plus as a woman, I wouldn’t have to serve.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about the process of obtaining certificates and how to get those tricky documents in Italy!