Thursday, April 16, 2009

Curinga Where You Least Expect It

Last Saturday I went to the mall. If you know me well, you know I don't like malls. Malls drain me. I spend less and less time in malls because I seem to leave them feeling like I have been robbed of my life force. What brought me to the mall was that I just happen to have a coupon for Macy's and a big need for some dress pants. So, I endured the visit telling myself that it would be a short, simple trip.

Try again. It seemed that I had circled the department store several times before actually finding something I could try on. Nothing appealed to me. The few articles of clothing I did try on made me look like a matron, and I could hear my mother saying, "Jennifer, why don't you pick something from the catalog and I will order it for you. Everything here looks so poorly made."

Yes, that was my mom. She could pick out a cheap piece of clothing from 20 yards away. Now, when I go to the store, I can hear her voice telling me, "No. Look at the fabric. You wash it once and it will fall apart." These days, when I really need to find an outfit, I say a little prayer and I tell my mom to lead me in the right direction. Usually this results in me walking out of the store without having spent a cent. I suppose this is a good thing. I am saving money, right?

Well, on Saturday mom's voice was in my head and she was telling me nothing I tried on was worth buying. Until I found a simple pair of black dress pants. These met her approval. Finally! I can use the coupon!

I get back into my sweat pants and sneakers and I make my way to the register where I hand my item to the clerk. She takes my credit card and coupon. She does her little magic thing with the bar codes and then starts to tell me, "This coupon can't be used with these pants. See the price? It ends in .98 cents. Whenever an item ends in .98 cents, you can't use this kind of coupon. It actually says it on the back here in little print."

Little print? Who is looking at little print? This sounds like I signed a contract for cell phone service. Lovely. I just overstayed my time here in the mall, using the darn coupon as my carrot, and now you tell me that I have to pay the full price. Arghh!

"That's fine. I will take them anyway," I said as I looked at my watch. I had spent over an hour shopping, far longer than I wanted to be here, and now I have to pay the full price. Go figure.

I left Macy's and I stepped into the mall. Part of me wanted to run straight to my car and forget I had ever made that stop at Macy's. Another part of me wanted to walk to my favorite beauty boutique so I could lather on some sweet smelling Pacifica lotions and forget what I had just spent on the pants. Ahh yes, some Mango Grapefruit Pacifica lotion. I can squirt some from the tester and look at all the pretty perfume bottles.

Instead of seeking refuge in my car, I pushed on and made my way to the last and final stop: Sephora. I walked around, testing the new natural product lines, and then I made my way to the skin products.

A saleswoman approached me and she tried to help me. I was indecisive about making a purchase. She showed me a few products and we started to talk about skin care in this country and in Europe. She talked about how she lived in Europe before she came to this country, but she didn't say where she came from.

You know where I am going with this, right?

Well, I proceeded to ask her what country she was from, and she explained that she was from Italy, but she had grown up in France. Immediately, I started to speak Italian with her, wanting to know where she was from.

"I am from the southern part of Italy." My eyes widened.

"Really? What part?" I thought, "She is probably Sicilian. I never meet anyone from Calabria around here."


"Really?! What city?"

"Lamezia Terme." I didn't quite understand her.

"I don't know if I know this town. Where is it exactly?"

"It's the town where the airport is."

"Madonna! My grandfather is from Curinga!"

"My husband is from Curinga! I am from the same area!"

Can you believe this? I come to the mall to buy some clothing and I meet a woman whose husband is from Curinga. She is from a nearby town. Does it get much better than this?

We continued to talk for a while, a mix of Italian and English. She informed me she would be in Curinga, just one month before me this year. We would just miss seeing each other there.

* * * *

That afternoon I left the mall with a refreshed feeling. It was unlike most other days when leave feeling tired and drained of my energy. Saturday was different, however, all because I had make a Curinga connection. I had met someone from precisely the area that I have been dreaming about for the last year and a half.

I guess the mall isn't so bad after all. And those full priced pants I searched so long and hard for in Macy's? Maybe it wasn't so bad that it took me so long to find them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NIAF Abruzzo Relief Fund

As of today, news reports indicate that at least 207 people have perished in the devasting earthquake that hit the region of Abruzzo, Italy. Close to 50,000 people are without shelter and 1,000 people have been injured.

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has established a special NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund to help the victims and their families who perished from the recent earthquake in the town of L’Aquila and other small towns in central Italy in the region of Abruzzo. To make a contribution, please visit NIAF Abruzzo Relief Fund .

You make also make donations to the Italian Red Cross.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Another $30 for USCIS?

So, this is the response I received regarding my search for my grandfather Carmelo Orlando. No, I am not going to try to convince them to do the search free of charge. I have worked with too many government agencies at this point to know that it would drag out the process even more...

Response from USCIS:

We conducted the searches based on the search criteria that you entered when you submitted your requests via the USCIS Genealogy Program website.

On December 24, 2008, you submitted an online search request for information relating to Antonio Orlando aka Anthony Orlando. On December 24, 2008, you also submitted an online search request for information relating to Antoinette Piccione aka Angeline Orlando.

Our records do not reflect that we are in receipt of a search request from you for information relating to Camelo/Carmen Orlando. If you want a request to submit Form G-1041 / Index Search request, please visit the Index Search page for more information. You can also review download and/or submit Form G-1041 / Index Search Request. Before submitting a search request, please be sure to visit our website: to review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and the Historical Records Series page, which summarizes the records that are available through the program.

To begin a search request, you must provide the subject/immigrant’s name (including any other names or aliases), date of birth (actual or approx), and country of birth. We also ask for information about when the subject/immigrant arrived (actual or approximate) in the United States and when or where he/she naturalized (again, actual or suggestions). In cases where more than one name combination is provided for the same subject/immigrant, we run multiple searches. There are no additional fees as long as the name combinations that are provided to conduct the search are for the same subject/immigrant.

My Response:

Well, if I need to submit another request, I will. However, I have a hard time believing that I typed in Antonio or Anthony into the online form since we have no one in the family with that name. I was completely alert and aware of what I was typing into the form at that moment. I entered, CARMELO/CARMEN ORLANDO because that was my grandfather's name. There are no relatives in our family with the name Antonio so that name could not have possibly been in my head as I filled in the form.

In fact, you make reference below to the search you conducted for my grandmother, Antoinette Orlando/Piccione. I did not type in Angeline as a possible alias. I entered Angeline as a daughter of hers in the section that asked for additional information that might help the search process.

Is it possible that your online request system is not working properly? I have a very hard time believing that I typed Antonio.

I will follow up with you as soon as I have completed the form to make sure that the proper names have been received on your end.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Excuse Me, USCIS, Who in the World Is Antonio Orlando?

The awaited letter has arrived. Today I received the letter in response to my request for naturalization documentation on my grandfather, Elia Carmelo Orlando.

As I approached my mailbox, I could see the return address on the white envelope. My heart rate increased. I kept my composure outside the house and retrieved the mail while holding my briefcase, lunch box, and purse.

I no sooner stepped through the threshold of my front door, and I dropped my bags, except the laptop... I took a deep breath, told myself to be prepared for whatever, and I ripped open the envelope.

The first line read,

"Your request was received in this office on 12/24/2008 regarding Antonio Orlando. "

Antonio? I think you have the wrong granddaughter. I mean, I think you have the wrong grandfather. Was this a clerical error in composing my letter, or was it that they actually searched for the wrong man? They couldn't have. I was very clear in my request, completed online by the way, that my grandfather's name was Carmelo Orlando. In fact, I think they asked for variations in the name or spelling. I provided Carmen as a back-up.

Surely this must be a clerical error, right? They typed the wrong name, but they looked for the right guy. It took them three months to respond, a whole 4 weeks after what they say is the typical wait time for processing a document.

Well, I guess it's back to the drawing board. I will have to do a few things now.

I will have to contact them regarding this letter to see if they mistakenly typed the wrong name or if they actually searched for the wrong man.

I will also have to follow up with the National Archives and Records Administration as they instructed me to do for both my grandmother and my grandfather.


I have to laugh. Both of the letters I received had errors. The letter for my grandfather got his name totally wrong, and the letter for my grandmother had at least two spelling errors.

Humm.... This is where the plot thickens, I guess.

This is where I get to exercise patience, once again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Family Tree Just Grew Again!

Who would have ever thought I could tell you the name, profession, and year of birth for my great, great maternal grandfather? I certainly did not. When I started this journey back in 2006, I set out to identify my maternal grandfather and that was pretty much the extent of my hopes and wishes. It’s taken me two years to uncover Carmelo’s identity and origin, but persistence has paid off. My genealogy research continues to reward me beyond what I ever expected.

Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Typically I want my requests fulfilled yesterday. That’s right, yesterday. With such a small threshold for waiting, I have done pretty well on this ancestral journey.

Yes, I admit, recently there are days when I come racing home after work to see if there is mail from USCIS. Afterall, it has been three months since I requested information about my grandfather. Somehow though, I have been taking the wait time in stride. I figure that in due time, the information about Carmelo citizenship status will be revealed. I have begun to see this waiting game as a great exercise that will bring me to a new understanding about myself and my family history.

In the interim, just when I think I am going to explode from waiting for news from Italy or some government office in this country, I receive treasures that I never asked for. These treasures enrich the Orlando tapestry and given it more dimension.

One of these treasures is the Orlando family I contacted to help me research my grandfather’s identity. They could have easily hung up the phone that day I mustered up the courage to call all the Orlando numbers from the phone book in the town of Curinga. They didn’t hang up the phone though. E. did the research for me, updating me along the way, and always reassuring me not to worry. I look forward to meeting her in October. I feel such gratitude towards her. It will be a special moment when I finally come face to face with Eleonora.

Another treasure is something Eleonora sent me yesterday. She was able to find out more information about my grandfather’s family. She said I was extremely fortunate that they found the documents they did because many of the civil records for Curinga had been lost or burnt during a widespread uprising that took place around 1948. In fact, she said she found less information about her own family than she did about my grandfather’s lineage.

So, I introduce you to yet another Orlando family member: Santo Orlando, my great great grandfather born circa 1802. The document found in the town hall of Curinga also included some priceless information about my great great grandfather’s profession. I leave you with this little You Tube video to celebrate Santo’s craft. Enjoy…

Circolo Calabrese