The last part of Daniele’s visit was almost two weeks staying around NJ. Last time we did not spend much time here and I wanted him to see more if we might move here someday.
Our redeye from San Diego got in to Philadelphia Wednesday morning. This day was just meant to be a recovery and unpacking. I also planned to help my mom prepare for Thanksgiving. I committed Daniele and myself to making the now traditional “leaf cookies”. My mom was cooking for my dad’s whole extended family which can be anywhere from 40 to 60 people, and since many don’t reply to her invite she is normally cooking for almost that wide of a range. She makes all the traditional turkey fair with stuffing and cranberry, as well as sides including yams, mashed potatoes, her own hand-made bread, and two salads. She also makes Italian dishes: baked stuffed shells and meat balls. We start with a large antipasto course served from when the first guest arrives until we serve dinner, as well as the usual chips and dips and all sorts or drinks.
My mother starts way in advance planning and preparing, but as you can imagine she is very busy the day before cooking what can be prepared in advance (most of it). So imagine what it was like when our power went out on Wednesday afternoon. And then stayed out.
Our power was out for hours, despite there being no storm or any sign of what would cause an outage. Eventually I convinced my dad to make some calls. What if it doesn’t come back? No one else can do Thanksgiving on such short notice, and if we don’t host it, all this food will go bad. He called up a buddy of his who had just bought a brand new generator (he had been one of those effected by the outages during the October snow storm and hurricanes that came through NJ this Fall). My parents went to pick it up late, when the friend got back home. They got back around 11pm and our power came back on at midnight. All that for nothing, but better safe than no Thanksgiving!
Daniele and I had waited to tell anyone about our engagement until today when we planed to tell everyone together. Daniele was meeting most of my family for the first time today, so it seemed nicer to do it this way rather than me tell everyone alone that I plan on marrying that guy I’ve been dating that they still haven’t met. Also we could tell everyone at once and then everyone knows, rather than gradually all finding out from the grape vines. We were basically using the holiday for an old fashion engagement party. The revealing happy news and celebrating together type, rather than the having a party to celebrate another party type.
I told my grandmother first because I knew she would be annoyed at being kept in the dark this long, I could at least give her that. She was all excited. As family members arrived I hung around by the door and introduced Daniele to them as my fiance. Also I was wearing my ring for the first time to a family event. But I guess Grandma was expecting it more or is just generally more quick on the uptake than my Aunts and Uncles because they just gave a “nice to meet you” and moved on to the food. No one noticed anything until dessert when my Aunt Morreen finally noticed the sparkle and the gig was up. The news quickly spread throughout the house and the congratulations followed. Apparently my grandma had been dieing all day that no one was noticing and kept trying to prod her other two children into looking at me better. Special mention for Vivian, my cousin Marc’s fiancee, who actually did notice and asked Marc if I was engaged earlier in the night and was told no. I feel a little bad about not letting Marc in on it, especially since he told me before he proposed (actually he told everyone he knew), but I couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t tell his sister, who would tell her mom, would would tell her sisters, and so forth.
My Aunt Linda pulls a double hitter on Turkey Day, eating first with us then dessert with our cousins on my mom’s side. I told her to let that side of the family all know so now everyone found out today.
Daniele and I planned to do some Black Friday shopping, but we weren’t very serious about it. We woke up at a reasonable hour and went to the Garden State Plaza where the door busters were all over and only other casual shoppers like us lingered. The sales were not anything impressive, maybe early in the morning they were. I’m going to take the hipster approach here and say Black Friday just isn’t as good since it became mainstream.
We had been invited to dinner at my Aunt Terry’s house. I was really hoping we would have a chance to also see my mom’s side of the family, and they were all coming over my Aunt’s for a Turkey Day leftover dinner and to wish my cousin Donnie, Uncle Greg, Uncle Harry, and Aunt Linda all happy birthday.
Dinner was really great. It was a little less hectic than the day before (or even other holidays with this side). I also think Daniele fell in better with the Italian relatives.
Saturday we had what my family calls “Second Thanksgiving”. (Didn’t we just do that yesterday? No, didn’t count.) Second Thanksgiving my Uncle Larry cooks another whole Thanksgiving dinner, this time for closer to ten of us, and we celebrate my Aunt Linda’s birthday. Unlike the first time around, this is a sit down meal served in courses. While my mother puts everything on buffet trays and lets people take what they want; my uncle, on the other hand, fills your plate over and over again; then asks– don’t you want seconds? I used to be saved by skipping the actual turkey, then he started making a bigger pasta course; a few times he has made me my own pizza. Then we have dessert where often there are as many pies as people.
I end up eating more at Second Thanksgiving than actual Thanksgiving. Luckily my Uncle Larry is a very good cook, especially when making recipes he’s made before.
While we were having dinner Saturday we were getting text message updates about my cousin Corrine, who had been due to deliver her baby. She gave birth to a baby girl, Cella, that night.
Sunday morning Daniele, my mom, and I went to the hospital to visit the proud new parents and little girl. While we were there Lori, Tim, and Kayla came by as well as my Aunt Linda. It’s always nice to see them. Corrine was so cute, not only did she text us all announcing her own labor, she had favors she handed out to all of us baby visitors. Amazing!
That afternoon Daniele and I met up with Lisa. We went to Cheeburger Cheeburger, which is one of Lisa’s favorites and I knew Daniele would love the “American” food.
After we went back to her and Brian’s place and played some kinect. I had actually never played one. It was really fun!
We went to the Spruce Run Reservoir, very close to my parent’s house, to show off some of the natural beauty here in NJ. It’s a nice park with paths, a big lake/reservoir, camp and picnic sites. Plus there are always a lot of deer running around.
In the evening we went to Verona to join in on Marc and Vivian’s regular poker game. My other cousins John and Robby and my Uncle Rob were there too. It was a good time. Daniele liked Verona, so that’s a bonus.
We spend all day Tuesday doing work research for Daniele. He has a masters degree in Emergency Care and 6 years experience and an ER Nurse. I had truly believed that as an experienced Emergency Room Nurse, one of the most in demand jobs in the US, he would be able to get a Working Visa. Apparently I was completely wrong.
Following my Aunt’s advice, we concentrated on the larger medical centers. I called various people in HR and ER Nursing departments. The nurses typically didn’t answer, the HR women were some of the hugest bitches I have ever talked to in my 26 years. The nicest women I talked to told me straight up that they used to issue working visas, but they are not right now and she doesn’t know if that will change. The most horrible and cruel women I spoke to throughout the day was a human resources employee in the Nursing Department of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. This is a very large hospital. To quote them, “[w]ith more than 800 physicians, 3,200 employees and 150 volunteers, the Medical Center has over 300,000 outpatient visits and 25,000 admissions annually”. I asked her if she could tell me anything about the process of foreign trained nurses coming to work at Beth Israel and she insisted there were none. I pressed this because it seems downright impossible that such a large employer could fill its workforce 100% with natural born US citizens. Maybe in a land-locked state, but NJ is rather diverse. Personally, I have never had a job where I have not worked with some foreign born and/or trained coworkers since I was an assistant dance teacher in high school at a single instructor studio. This woman insisted she had never met a nurse who was foreign, and was not nice about it. Is that consistent with anyone’s anecdotal experience? I’ve found *most* nurses I encounter are foreign.
Based on these calls, it seems Daniele can not work in the US without being a citizen, so it seems we can not live here until we are married and have started that process. There have been a few suggestions that we get “married” quickly now and have the wedding we want later. I hate this idea and think it is contrary to what a wedding should symbolize– the celebration of the beginning of a marriage, rather than a big party where two people justify putting themselves in debt and demanding to be the center of attention. If we were already married, that is really all we would doing (and it would be much harder for me to justify the attention I expect that day *grin*). The mere fact that this seems like a viable option reflects poorly on the state of American marriage and citizenship.
Today they lit the Rockafeller Christmas Tree. Daniele and I went into the city to check it out. We first went to Rockefeller Center to check out the stage and tree. There wasn’t anything going on, so we went to do other things.
We did some midtown Christmas time stuff, like the Macy’s window displays and the tree in Bryant Park.
Daniele wanted to check out this neighborhood in Brooklyn, Bensonhurst. It has a very dense population of Italians. I didn’t believe it would be anything special, lit any Italian neighborhood. But in fact there was a lot of Italian writing and people speaking Italian that seemed to have been born there.
We got back to the Rockafeller area only an hour before the show was supposed to start. However we did have the slight advantage of having scouted out the area in the morning. The police had set up those barriers to control pedestrian traffic. They corralled us considerably around the square and forced us to enter from another side. Unfortunately they were either just messing with the tourists or genuinely not talking to each other because one cop forced us all one way, across a street. Then the cop there just said “I don’t know why they are sending you all here, you have to go that way”, that way was back around and though the line a second time. We did it again, and then it was pretty open and we filled in shoulder to shoulder with the other spectators. Thank goodness they were all really nice and joking about being squished in there. Sometimes when people are pushing me I just can’t stand it, but everyone was nice. Packing in tight, but not trying to push ahead of each other. We were about 15 feet from the corner of one of the buildings on the square. That building blocked our view of the stage, that would have been facing us if we were just a little more ahead. We could hear the music and there was a big screen across from us where we could see the show. So we just watched the show on a screen anyway, but it was an experience. When the show was over we were able to get into the square and take some pictures. There were people waiting to get in that had been much worse off than us. Over all the whole experience was much better than I imagined.
Worth noting, the crowd was probably a bit smaller because Justin Beiber wasn’t there. He was supposed to perform live, however the president ended up being in NYC that day. And apparently the city can’t handle both Obama and the Beibs on the same day. The Obama traffic made it impossible for Beiber to logistically make his performance, so he prerecorded it. Better for us!
We hit up another park near my parent’s, the Round Valley Recreation Area. This one is a bit bigger, but I actually like Spruce Run better. We did some of the hikes and enjoyed the views before moving on.
In the afternoon we walked around Somerville. It’s a really cute town with restaurants and shops on the main street and Victorian houses going off of it. They have a train station, too. If I was going to live in the burbs, this would be a good choice.
When Daniele first arrived and we walked around Hoboken and Jersey City he really wanted to see Liberty State Park, the park in Jersey City opposite Liberty Island. Unfortunately we quickly realized that was unrealistic for the time we had and made plans to come back this week when we had more time.
Later had the even better idea to take bikes with us. This turned out to be very smart because Liberty State Park is actually pretty big.
We packed some sandwiches, wrapped up with layers (it was a cold day) and drove into the park.
The park has nice paths for pedestrians or bikes. We rode through all of it, saw New York City, Lady Liberty (her back side), and some of the other attractions. There was even a couple taking wedding photos.
Saturday we all went to the birthday party my cousin Michelle threw for her daughter.
This was our last full day. Daniele had wanted to see Easton, the first town over the Pennsylvania border. He seems to like PA. Ehh. We walked around there, it was kinda sad and desolate. A lot of empty stores. We went through Phillipsburg on our way back to New Jersey.
We also made plans to have dinner and catch up with Fabienne, who had visited us in Italy in the summer.
Daniele flew back to Rome. I would see him again in January.
Photos from the NJ part of Daniele’s visit are here: