Sunday, August 02, 2020

Be My Quarantine (Doesn't Rhyme with Valentine)

Still quarantining. California cases and deaths seemed to reach a new high today, so things do not appear to be improving. Other places around the country are experiencing even more difficulties. Bad weather on the East Coast due to hurricane Isaias is compounding the problems. Who knows when this pandemic will subside, but without a more concerted effort by the majority of the population, this situation may linger for a long time...

Life goes on in its ramshackle manner, however; and school is beginning to start around the nation. Some schools are allowing students to attend classes, some are attempting to hold virtual classes, and some are implementing hybrid formats. I have about another two weeks to go before the first day of classes, but activity is ramping up for the new year, which will begin in an online format at the school at which I am employed. I'm excited about the unusual circumstances surrounding the year and the great opportunity to augment my teaching arsenal. At least, I have a job. I can't really complain when so many people are unemployed right now.

Angela's visa epic continues. I am still waiting for her and our son to move to California. Angela is still waiting for an appointment at the US Consulate in Naples. It has been almost two months since we were notified that an appointment is pending, but no notifications have arrived. None will arrive during the weekend...

Cutout fans at the Oakland Coliseum.
All sporting activity has been suspended during this pandemic, too. After delaying the start of the baseball season, it finally started a little more than a week ago with a reduced 60-game schedule (they usually play 162!). The stadiums are empty, aside from the cardboard cut-outs that have been arranged in some seats, but the teams are still traveling from city to city. Unfortunately, it looks like games may come to a halt prematurely, because a number of teams have cancelled games due to numerous players contracting the coronavirus. Basketballits season interrupted in the middle of March when the quarantine startedalso started a couple days ago hoping to finish the interrupted season. All the teams are quarantined in Walt Disney World in Florida (they are not moving around the country like baseball teams), playing games in what they are referring to as the NBA bubble. It's nice to listen to sports again, but, as the pandemic has shown, athletes are no more than useless athletic freaks without professional sports to nurture their celebrity.

For the last two nights, I have seen shooting stars in the sky, which I have interpreted as positive signs. In fact, I actually saw two simultaneously, and it was quite dramatic. Hopefully, it is a sign that my family and I will be rejoined in the near future. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 12, 2020


I don't look forward to Saturdays. No one is working. E-mail is quiet.

Still under quarantine. Some states started loosening restrictions a few weeks ago, but cases are surging in various places (including California), and states are re-imposing restrictions. Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is compulsory, although, it is easy to see that not everyone abides. Travel out of the country is impossible for Americans, and it is even prohibited to travel to and from some states. I am not sure when I will be reunited with my wife and son. I probably mentioned it before, but we haven't seen each other since the beginning of January. Angela is still waiting for an appointment at the US Consulate in Naples.

Counting the days toward an unknown end.

Schools are making plans for the fall semester. The president wants schools to open as usual, but many people have expressed concerns about how safe it will be. The school at which I have been employed, schedule to start one month from today, will not be opening, and all of the classes will be conducted in an online format for, at least, the fall semester; however, there was some grumbling among the staff recently that the virtual learning could bleed into the spring semester, as well. Time will tell...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pandemic Recapitulation

Hooray! Our application for a spouse visa for Angela was approved, or, to use their language, "documentarily qualified," last week. I write "our," because both of us file jointlyI am the petitioner and Angela is the applicant. We have both been notified at each stage in the process. Now, Angela has to wait to receive an appointment at the US Consulate in Naples, which, we read somewhere, could take anywhere from 60 to 90 days. Who knows, after that span of time, when the appointment will be scheduled...

We are hoping it will happen sooner rather than later, obviously, but, with no help from the pandemic, progress in almost everything has been sluggish. Still, I'm an optimist and I anticipate brevity. Why not? In any case, the more time we have before the start of the next school year, the more time we will have to look for housing and a school for Vito who is longing to start school in the US instead of another six-day gig in Italy, which is what he suffered through last year. To be fair, his report card, which was issued today, was, in Italian, ottimo, which, if you can't tell, was quite strong, so his parents are proud. It was a good experience for him and for the improvement of his Italian, but he is anxious for something else. School starts here in California around the middle of August, so we're hoping that we can get situated and that Vito can get started at the beginning of the next school year, rather than transferring at, as of this moment, an unknown date in the future.

Wingspan by Stonemaier Games.
My school year finished without much of a hitch. A drive-thru graduation was hosted in the campus parking lot, but I did not attend; however, I did view some photographs of the event. It is such a strange ending for everyone, but that will almost certainly fix it more firmly in our minds. Now, I'm looking toward future adventures. I have been searching for a new job since the beginning of March, and I believe I have found something promising for next year, but I will leave that announcement for another time...

Anyway, the three of us have been separated since the beginning of August of last year, and the last time we saw one another in person as a family was at the beginning of January, so we're hoping that we won't have to endure too much more of this lingering apart. It's especially painful during a time (summer vacation) when we would otherwise be together. So, in the meanwhile, more of windy Rio Vista, more Wingspan with my parents (which we have played, at least, once a week since the middle of March), more time to read new books and write new poems or whatnot, and more time to study Italian.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

It's Still Quar-n-tine to Me (Think Billy Joel)

Still here, plunking away at whatever. Trying to stay centered amid all of the coronavirus hullabaloo and the rioting that is happening in many places around the world in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis... What's new since my last post?

We're still working on submitting our application for Angela's spouse visa, a process that we started in August of last year by filing the Petition for an Alien Relative; never mind that she had a green card once upon a time. Anyway, the petition was approved at the beginning of March, and we were informed that we could begin the next part of the process, which was to complete and submit the application for a spouse visa. After delays due to amending my flubbed taxes from 2018 and filing my 2019 return, which prove that I can support my family and warrant, at least financially, bringing my family back to the US, we still needed police clearance from China. Police clearance is an official document that indicates whether or not an individual has done anything untoward or not in a particular country. Angela actually needs to submit police clearance from every country in which she has previously lived, which, in her case, comprises five countries: China, Italy, Japan, Qatar, and the US. Angela lives in Italy, so obtaining Italian clearance didn't seem to pose any significant problems there (I mentioned it before in a previous post). The US government already has records of her previous stay here, and we left Qatar with police clearance, anticipating its need for a potential employment opportunity, but we didn't have the documents from China and Japan. Employers didn't request those kinds of documents twenty years ago, but in today's technological world, those forms should be easier to acquire electronically.

On the online form in which we should upload the required documentation, there is an option to write an excuse about why an applicant might not be able to procure the required supporting documents, so we entered excuses for both Japan (travel to the Japanese Embassy in Rome was impossible due to the quarantine in Italy) and China (the cancelled passport was lost), but submitted the translated Italian police clearance document hoping that would be sufficient. The excuse for Japan was accepted, but the Chinese excuse was not. Strangely, the Italian document was also rejected. I'm not sure why the Italian police clearance was not accepted, but Angela is waiting for a new version that should meet the expectations of the National Visa Center. We are still waiting for police clearance from Italy, as well, but those should be the last documents that we need to finally submit the application. We're also going to submit a more detailed explanation of why we no longer have the Angela's old passport with the Chinese visas, because we think our former explanation was too vague. Crossing our fingers, we hope it doesn't take any longer than two more weeks. So that's where we are on that front...

Next week is the last week of school, if what has transpired over the last ten weeks could have been called that. Some late work will trickle in at the last moment, grades will be submitted, and I will have to check out since I resigned from my position. I am not sure what checking out entails, yet, but news is forthcoming.

I was hoping to travel to Italy in the evening on Friday, which is a scheduled teacher work day, so I am contractually obligated to stick around, or on Saturday. I don't even know if tickets are available. The quarantine restrictions for travelers arriving to Italy from abroad seem a bit complicated, too, and pose additional complexities for us, so, for now, I will wait another week to see if those restrictions are loosened so I can travel without too much difficulty.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Quarantine Life Goes On

At first, it was nice not having to set my alarm every day, and for three weeks, I went without it, even bragged to friends about how nice it was to do without, but, because I was losing track of the hours of the day and the days of the week, it became a habit that I had to change, if only to impose a bit of order upon my otherwise disorderly existence. It's hard to muster the motivation to do much when there's no expectation to be anywhere, and, at least for the time being, no possibility of traveling to Italy to be with Angela and Vito, but I still want to be more productive.

Some states are starting to loosen some of the quarantine restrictions, which is part of Governor Newsom's four-phase plan to return to normalcy, by allowing some business and stores to open for limited services. This won't be news to most of you, but I write it here to preserve my own record of events. Initially, states like California and New York, where there were more reported cases of infection, imposed stricter restrictions in an attempt to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but other states were not as concerned. Because of this contradiction, it has made for some discord among citizens living in different communities. Still, things look to change, and everyone is advised to wear a mask in public and observe the six-foot social distance bubble around themselves and others, but people are anxious to get back to what life was like before this fear of contagion spread among us.

So I thought I would start my return to a more orderly existence by setting my alarm clock again, so that I could wake up earlier and bang out some writing, but, after a couple days, it hasn't really worked out as planned. I won't be too hard on myself in trying to build a new habit. For the past two days, I have been using the alarm, although not as I had intended. This morning, for example, after the alarm woke me, I checked my phone to see what news had arrived during the night and stayed in bed flicking through social media for another hour, which put me in a malaise that I didn't recover from for the rest of the day. In terms of writing, however, I'm not a complete failure. Last month, I tweeted multiple times every day for International Pwoermds Writing Month, and that's writing. And even though I didn't wake up and write, by the end of the day I had made the time to write something, some fiction, which is uncharted territory for me. I hadn't reached my goal of writing 2,000 words, and, in general, tweeting every day is an anomaly for me, but it's nothing to snort at. I still write poems occasionally, too, and I wrote old-fashioned hand-written letters to both Angela and Vito within the last two weeks, which is something I probably haven't done in more than a decade. Additionally, I've written five blog posts (including this one) since the quarantine started, which is one more than I wrote all of last year, and, finally, I should also include the innumerable filler that I have written in e-mails to colleagues, parents, and students, for school, which labors along on its distance learning trajectory for another few weeks.

Tomorrow I will try to wake up and complete my infrequent jog-walk around my parent's retirement compound (where I have been living this year), which I have been doing in the afternoon, but summer's approaching and it's just getting to be too hot outside. The three-mile circumference takes me about thirty minutes to complete, but it is some good cardiovascular activity, which is something that I have been seriously lacking since this ordeal started. Anyway, I will try to get my exercise in the morning and then write in the evening, which is what I am doing right now, and it seems like an apt adjustment to my initial plan.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A Day in the Quarantine Life

Another week in quarantine, this one off to a bad start with a phone that needed reformatting; I lost contacts, photos, poems, and other stuff I probably haven't noticed, yet. Blech. Who knew my backup file needed its own password?

While Vito was practicing piano, I talked with Angela via WhatsApp. Learned that she was finally able to set in motion a request to get a police clearance document from the Italian authorities. When its available, she will have to get it translated before we can submit it as the final document in our application for a spouse visa, the approval of which, as President Trump mentioned last week, will likely be suspended for sixty days.

A trip to the post office today to buy stamps. My car needs service, but I'm only driving it into town about once per week. The patron in line in front of me at the post office wasn't wearing a face mask, even though there was a sign on the door that said no one is allowed inside without one. I stood on a red X on the floor a safe social distance away from him and waited for my turn.

Random plant-identification of the flora in my parents' yard.

Allergic runny-nose, scratchy-eyed sneezing, squalling, and storming me into a state of disrepair.

Watched part of another press conference by the president about our on-going war against the coronavirus.

All day, off-and-on, grading digital papers and plagiarism in the distance learning paradigm while listening to podcast after podcast.

Considerable time looking at lists of words and manipulating them.