Sunday, July 29, 2007

Familiar friends

Elizabeth, one of my best friends, arrives in Ireland on Wednesday and I can't wait! This was my first real weekend here - I don't count last weekend 'cause I'd just arrived - and I definitely felt the full force of being a stranger in a strange land.

On the bus home from work Friday I felt such a wave of longing come over me. What I wouldn't have given to be on my way to my usual Friday Night Girl outing! Good friends, loads of loud laughter, and a Maker's Mark & ginger or two would have definitely hit the spot. But, I chose to move away from all that, for the adventure, so instead I went back to the B&B and had my adventure emailing friends to tell them how much I missed them! :-)

It's going to be so, so nice to have a familiar friend here in this new place. My first plan for when Elizabeth gets here? Take my first trip to the pub! I've been unable to get up the gumption to go on my own so far. I can move to a new country, but going to a pub by myself? Waaay to scary! :-)

Best. Movie. Ever.

OK, maybe not the best ever, but it felt enough like it at the time that I had no compunctions about teaching this new mantra to my 2 yr old nephew :-) I'm talking about 2005's Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. Yes, I KNOW it's a couple of years old, but I just saw it, OK?!

I feel sort of disloyal, because I loved the 1995 TV adaptation with Colin Firth (yum). But, I kept flashing back to scenes from it while watching this new version and, sorry to say, I'm having to switch loyalties. This was so well directed and acted, I don't think it could be improved upon. Even though the one kiss happened at the very end - literally, credits rolled right after - this was just so romantic!

Of note: this is another example of why my sister and I are really twins at heart. We both think this movie rocks! Although I haven't checked with her about where P&P fits with our previous favorite movie LadyHawke which is still #1 with me! What can I say? I'm a romantic at heart!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Beth's recent comment prompted me to start a list of all the language-oriented differences between Ireland and the U.S. that I'm going to have to be on the lookout for:
- extra "u" in color, humor, behavior, etc.
- extra "a" in many medical terms (e.g., "paediatrician")
- extra "me" at end of program
- "scheme" is not a disparaging term (e.g., housing scheme, government scheme)
- "orientated" not oriented (see mistake above)
- "centre" not center
- weird placement of symbols on computer keyboards!
- "take away" rather than take-out

Any others?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Today was my first day of work in Ireland and I LOVED IT! After many, many weeks worth of feeling off keel and at the mercy of forces beyond my control (i.e., packing up my house, work permit getting delayed and so extra weeks of no income, daddy having a heart attack, moving to a new country, staying in temporary housing/B&B, being without a car, not knowing anyone here in Cork yet, etc.), it was bliss to finally be back in a setting where I felt like I actually knew what I was doing. This may be a new job with new coworkers and responsibilities (plus the lack of an assigned office for a few weeks till we move to our permanent location), and I'll certainly end up spending awhile getting oriented to the way the mental health system works here, much less just getting my head around the multitude of ways Ireland differs from what I'm used to, but it was soooo nice to finally feel like a professional again rather than just an overwhelmed supplicant.

Next steps on the road to normalcy - getting an apartment and a car.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My second full day

Spent the day Saturday doing my first bit of concentrated sightseeing. Low key and a tad lonely, but fun nonetheless.

Notable moments and memories from the day:
- feeling faint and like I wanted to go back to bed only an hour after I left the B&B. Jet lag crashing down? Thankfully, a pot of tea and a scone (with jam and clotted cream, of course!) did much to revive me.

- climbing the narrow stone stairs of Church of St. Anne Shandon to take in the view of the city from the very top.

- wandering Shandon Street in the rain, popping in and out of African shops to get a sense of how accessible some of my more exotic foodstuffs are going to be.

- getting stopped by a couple of confused Irish blokes in the door of a pub on Shandon St. who clearly noticed I didn't quite belong - "Are you alright lovey?"

- finding a cute little jewelry store on Paul Street that I just know is going to feed my craving for amber.

- finding plantains and assorted Jamaican spices in the English Market. Yes!

- sadly, on my way back to the B&B at the end of the day, seeing a normal looking guy smack his girlfriend/wife on the face right in the middle of the street! I was blown away. Is this normal here??

Friday, July 20, 2007

Today, the first full day in Ireland

Woke up at a reasonable hour this morning with, for the first time in over a week, no need to rush. Had a wonderful breakfast at the B&B (love this Irish bacon!) and caught a cab to the airport for my first errand of the day. None of the banks in town would change hundred dollar bills for fear of their being counterfeit, so I had to go the the Bureau De Change at the airport to get it done. Spent the day wandering the city center, shopping for necessaries, and generally getting through the first 7 things on my To Do list.

Aside from a little chill later in the afternoon (I forgot my jacket at the B&B's breakfast table), everything went pretty well. That is until my first semi-culture induced occasion for angst on my way home. I caught the bus back from the city center to the B&B - my 1st time on an Irish bus, but I thought I was handling it pretty well. That is until I asked the driver about how much the fare was (each route is different) and heard him say "one twenty-five". As I'd had 1.10 euro ready, I quickly found an extra 20 cents and handed it to him expecting change back. Instead, he asked "do you have 5?" Confused about why he wouldn't just give me change, I reflexively answered "I don't think so", to which he responded sarcastically, "I do tink so!" Still confused and now mightily embarrassed, I stepped aside for others to pass and searched the unfamiliar coins in my purse for the necessary 5 cents. I found it quickly enough, but once I paid him off, I was again caught up by another embarrassing gaffe, having not realized that I had to tear off the ticket. Another passenger had to hand it to me.

Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I then spent the rest of my 20 minute ride going over and over that short interaction in my mind trying to figure out what went wrong and how I could fix it! Once I saw the price on the ticket (1.35 euro), I figured out the problem. It was linguistic - he'd actually said "one turty-five". I then started fantasizing how I could communicate my new understanding to him and prove that I was not a 5 cent welsher! No amount of telling myself, "Let it go!" or "If this is the worst mistake you make this week, you'll be in great shape" could make me feel better. It's pathological, but the idea of that representative of Irish authority having a bad opinion of me just tore me up! As I was getting off at my stop, which I thankfully figured out before the bus rolled on, I made sure to give a quick apology and explanation, to which he replied, "Oh, aye!", as if to say "What are you talking about you stupid git? Who are you again?" I don't care though, I set the record straight and that was enough for me! Sigh.


On my final day, Wednesday the 18th, I'm stoked up again by 7 full hours of blessed sleep and actually allow myself to go to my lovely gym for the final time and get some non-packing/moving exercise. My body loves me even more. I still don't get everything done that I need to, but "close enough for horseshoes". I'm flying out and anything left to do will just have to be so.

I arrive at RDU airport an hour later than my initial, optimistic plan, but still in enough time. However, despite having culled more than a third of my closet and putting 3 bags of clothing in storage, my 2 checked bags are still overweight, and one is oversized, for which I get docked a huge amount! I pay without argument. After all this though, it turns out that the flight is delayed 3 hours bc of backups at JFK in New York City. I barely make my connecting flight to Shannon. I mean barely! The only reason I made it was by running all the way from the other Delta terminal, with my shockingly heavy carry on suitcase (Thank God for all the exercise I've been getting!), and only bc that flight was 10 minutes delayed by not having enough flight attendants.

Everything goes like roses after this point, however. Somehow I end up in First Class! Which, given how freaked out I am by the whole day, I don't realize till an hour or more into the flight when they tell us that we each have a selection of 6 movies on our personal video monitor and that we get a complimentary drink. How did I not notice the extra leg room, leather seats, and extra wide aisles? Remember my last few days?! I definitely take advantage of the movie and the drink.

I arrive at Shannon airport at 9:00 am GMT (this is only 4:00 am EST) and am met at the airport by the business-suited recruiter who takes control of the cart with my immensely heavy bags, buys me a newspaper and a bottle of water, and brings me to his Irish-sized Land Rover for the 90 minute drive to Cork. It starts to strike me that my agency must REALLY need a psychologist for me to be getting all this star treatment! Thankfully, he's as nice and helpful a guy in person as he has been by phone and email these last 5 months. We arrive at the B&B after only a little bit getting lost in Cork and he lugs my bags up 2 flights of stairs! He then spends the next 5 hours driving me around town to meet with my new coworkers, meet with the HR rep to get the final contract, and then back and forth downtown to help me change money, start up a new bank account, and buy a new cell phone since stupid Verizon's system doesn't work in Europe (or anywhere else in the developed world, given how behind America's cell phone system apparently is).

I get back to the B&B around 5:00, stay up for another 90 minutes or so, then crash. That is until I jerk awake at 1:30 am (still only 8:30 pm at home) and find myself unable to sleep for another 2 hours :-)

That was yesterday.

Last week and leading up to yesterday

So much has happened since my July 7th post that I thought a timeline (recalled to the best of my ability) might be useful:

Tuesday, 7/10 - I email the recruiter agency to follow-up on work permit (Green Card) processing. Receive call back from the recruiter that their person who handles/follow-ups on paperwork is out today, but he will have her call and get back with me tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7/11 - Receive a call from my recruiter that the reason I haven't gotten my work permit yet is bc of a relative trivial discrepancy in the agency's paperwork, but that the HR rep has been on the phone with the govt agency to resolve it.

Thursday, 7/12 - Call 3 from the recruiter saying that they're still working on it, and that it's possible that the paperwork will be processed today. **Keep in mind that I have a plane ticket for the 18th and desperately want to make the flight, so the latter is good news.** The recruiter suggests that I call the govt agency to have them redirect the hardcopy of the permit to his office in Ireland for fear that, when they do process it, the mail may not reach me in time there in North Carolina. It's the end of the work day in Ireland, so I'll have to do this tomorrow.

Friday, 7/13 - I spend 45 minutes on hold with the govt agency (int'l rates!) just so I could speak with someone in person and arrange to change where the permit is mailed. I'm told by the person checking the computer log that it's still being held up by need for certain information from my work agency. I'm crushed. If the Green Card is not processed and mailed out today, then it is likely that I will not have it in time for my flight next week. I'm instructed to fax a letter with the change of address request, which I then do. Less than 30 minutes later, I get a call from my recruiter that the govt agency rep called them to say that the permit will be processed today. Hallelujah! HUGE weight lifted. Disaster averted. I can now breathe!!

I spend the next several days and nights packing madly. Apparently I hadn't done as much as I thought in the past 5 weeks, bc there's still way to much crap in my house that I have to go through. Where did all this stuff come from and why haven't I gotten rid of it before? Plus, everything takes 3 times as long as I think it will. I end up sleeping only a handful of hours in the next several days, all on my floor since my bed and all the real furniture and boxes were moved to storage on the 11th. I also somehow acquire some very colorful bruises. I do do something nice for myself on the day before I leave and arrange a massage with the lovely masseur with the huge, hot hands. My body loves me! I'm also made happy by receiving the scanned copies of my work permit so I'll have something to show the immigration agent in Ireland. By my last night, I've given up on actually cleaning the kitchen - I'll leave that for the rental agency to do and let them charge me for the work. I. do. not. care. Anything to get some sleep!

Saturday, July 7, 2007


So, here I am in Miami and what a surreal week it's been. I drove down here to visit with family and friends since I had all this unexpected extra time to make use of. Thirteen (13) looong hours on the road. And for those of you who know, reaching Florida is almost the worst part. Once you hit the border, there's still five (5!) hours of boredom to go before you actually reach Miami. It's torture!

But, I'm getting distracted. What's made this such a strange week is that as soon as I walked into the door at my sister's home last Sunday, she told me that my dad in Jamaica had had a heart attack the previous night and was in the hospital, status unknown. I've never been so scared. There was no time to indulge though. I had to go straight into numb, problem-solving mode. While my sister worked the phones to figure out who knew what, we also immediately went online to find her flight down to JA that night. I spent the rest of the week taking care of her 2 kids (a great distraction) while she shuttled back and forth between Mandeville and Kingston, talking to and haranguing doctors and paying for procedures. Thank goodness she's a medical professional and up on all of this stuff.

To make a long story short, my dad is stable. He just came home from the hospital yesterday. His cardiac cath showed a blockage, but unlike in the U.S., the cardiologists there are holding off on doing an angioplasty while they observe him. In the meantime, my sister and I are looking into possibly bringing him here to the U.S. to get the angio done. Daddy is at home working on minimizing the seriousness of all this and being (almost) as stubborn as ever! :-)

What a blessing in disguise it was that my work permit was delayed! What if I'd already been in Ireland when I heard about this? Think how horrible that would have been. It was hard enough being the one who stayed "at home" and waited to hear updates :-( Being so much farther away and trying to start a new life while being weighted down by worry would have been insupportable!