January is normally cold, damp and foggy in Umbria. We’ve been fortunate this year, though….it’s been quite mild and very dry. As we left the house this morning I snapped this picture of the rose bush by the front door. There are leaves starting to sprout all over the bush, and the hydrangeas that line the wall are covered in fat buds. I know this will end badly, but what can I do???
As we drove down to Marsciano, we could see the snow covering the mountains off in the northeast. This is what Umbria looks like in the winter…cloudy, foggy, and with reminders of how cold it can be.
We were headed to the ASL office to renew our health insurance coverage for 2007. As residents, we’re allowed to participate in the Italian healthcare system by paying a percentage of our income, and we find it to be a pretty good deal. We’d been to the ASL office on Tuesday, but the line had been way too long, and we decided to return another day. Art needs to fill his prescriptions for the month, so today was the day.
I went ahead while Art parked the car, and I could tell right away that things weren’t any better today than they’d been before. Today there was even a large roll of numbers, something we’d said they really needed in order for everyone to keep track of whose turn it was.
Once Art arrived he rolled his eyes, but we had no choice but to wait. We’d left it until the end of the month and now we had to pay the price. In true Italian style, everyone kept crowding around the door, asking this question and that, and the two women who work in the office patiently answered everyone as best they could.
At one point another woman appeared from a different office, and she tried to explain the system to everyone. She said that some people needed numbers, others did not. I wasn’t really paying attention, and Art was confused enough to ask for clarification. All of a sudden we were in! Apparently we didn’t need a number!
The woman who was supposed to help us wasn’t familiar enough with how to help retired foreigners like us, so the other woman called us over to her desk, just as she had last year. Although there are lots of foreigners here, most are EU citizens who work and pay into the system, making their healthcare needs the same as the Italians.
We presented the woman with all our documents….our Permessi, our now expired 2006 health cards, and bank statements from the last three months, showing the automatic deposit for Art’s pension. We told her everything was the same as last year, and that the documents hadn’t yet arrived from the United States, all we had were the bank statements.
None of this was a problem and she quickly computed our payment and sent us to the Post Office where we would pay the bill. She gave us a printed piece of paper showing who we should make the payment to, and said that I should write my name on the form as well. Because only Art has a pension, I’m covered with him.
At the Post Office there were only two people in line, but it took me longer to fill out the forms since I had to fill them out in triplicate. By the time I was ready, several other people had completed their transactions. The nice thing about the Marsciano Post Office is that because it’s bigger, the banking transactions are always handled separately from the postal transactions. In San Venanzo things are a bit more casual, and usually there’s only one person at the window to handle everything.
We drove back to the ASL office, disappointed to note that it had started to sprinkle. We were hoping to walk on the paved track near the pool before we drove back home.
Pandemonium still reigned at the ASL office….there were just as many people waiting when we got back, although we knew that we wouldn’t have to wait long since we were just returning to complete our business. How everyone keeps track of whose turn it is, and who has to wait versus who doesn’t is always a mystery to me.
The woman who’d been helping us came out to make an announcement: the computer wasn’t working, therefore she couldn’t issue any new health cards. She didn’t know when the computer would be fixed, so she told everyone they could wait, or they could come back another day.
I stuck my head in the door to ask if she wanted to go ahead and make copies of our paper work. If we had to come back, and all the people in the waiting area had to come back, I figured this would be one less thing to do when we returned.
She told me no, to just bring the papers back, but said she did need for us to complete and sign a document. Actually she filled it out and Art just signed. I never even got to read it, but I’m guessing that it was just a verification of our income and information. She told us we could come back next week and hope the computer was working! Apparently after February first everyone must use the new credit card instead of the old fashioned green ASL card. Even Umbria is coming into the 21st century!
As we drove back up to San Venanzo the fog got heavier the higher we drove. By the time we got home it was just starting to rain again, and the rain was trying to turn into snow. The rain and snow mix continued on for a while, and eventually the snow won out.
Big fat wet flakes fell for about thirty minutes, then gradually slowed down. The park behind us looked like a winter wonderland, but what I was happiest about was that we had plenty of food and no need to go anywhere!
The forecast calls for temperatures close to 50ºF within the next few days, so we’ll get another reprieve from winter. Personally, I’m ready for spring, but I’m betting that this won’t be the last of the cold weather, or the snow.