Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flashback or Deja Vu?

Tonight felt so familiar. A group of hysterically funny women having too much fun together to worry about whether they're being too loud. Only instead of my Friday Night Girlfriend posse in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham, NC) drinking Maker's Mark or wine and lounging around one of our houses, it was a group of 50+ year old Irish women and I lounging in the pub next door to the church where we'd all just finished choir practice drinking hot port, hot whiskey, and tea.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

6 Random Things

Since I've been a bad blogger the past month or so and been neglecting to post frequently enough, I'm taking up Beth's invitation for this meme. Here are the rules (I'm only going to obey the first 3. Such a rebel!):

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random, arbitrary things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

6 Random Things:
1. I was once hugged by Muhammed Ali as a child when my family came across him at Miami Int'l Airport.
2. I used to carry a book with me everywhere! Still do sometimes. I would read in the back of church, in class after finishing my work, in a corner at parties when all the social hullabaloo got too much, any chance I could get or when I needed some time in my own headspace.
3. They get on my nerves, but I'm terrified of giving up my glasses and losing that small barrier between me and the world. I've had them since I was 4 years old. They're as familiar a part of my body as anything else.
4. I'm allergic to my cat.
5. There's actually very few details I remember about college, but I have loads of great memories about high school.
6. Favorite fruit: your basic red grape or Otaheite apples from Jamaica.

Oooh, or a bunch of guineps. Tart, sweet and juicy... yum!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just Wrong

I've never been a huge potato or nacho chip fanatic, and it's a good thing too because I would have been up the proverbial creek living here.

Doritos, Walkers, you can find most of the big name brands here as well, but even when they sell the same, familiar flavor (e.g., Doritos Nacho Cheese), they often just don't taste the same. And then there are the frankly strange flavors that get marketed over here (chutney?). This for the people who love to bury their fries ("chips") in curry or other unnatural toppings. No thanks.

So, I've gotten used to just ignoring that aisle at Tesco. That is until last night, when I just had to stop and have an "ewwww" moment at two of the newest selections. Doritos Chicken Sizzler and T-Bone Steak. What?!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Birthday Surprises

So, the Big 4-0 is almost here, only 7 days to go, and I've already begun receiving some really great perks! My coworkers threw me a birthday lunch on Tuesday, complete with food (yes!), a beautiful filigree silver and onyx necklace, and a bouquet of flowers. So sweet of them!
Then, yesterday, the doorbell-from-hell rang as I was rushing to leave for work (late as usual), and what should I find leaning on my doorstep but a satisfyingly weighty box from my best friend, Heather, in San Diego. A total surprise :-) Can't wait to open it!

Almost as good a gift, though not necessarily birthday related, was this pair of beauties from friends at church:

"Dork Balls" - perfect name for the dorkiest, but most fun, pair of socks I now own! :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

(Sort of) Wild At Heart

My friend L.K. from NC made a teasing comment today about how "wild" I've gotten over here in Ireland. I know she was (mostly) joking, but the fact is that there is a kernel of truth in what she said. There's something about having made such an earth shattering (to me) life change that makes it that much easier to try things and contemplate possibilities that would never have fit with my old self.

The pre-Ireland, pre-blogger me was caught in a rut of her own making, and she knew it. I could have stayed in my mostly comfortable, largely happy life and kept on doing the same things on and on. Eventually, my sense of being boxed in and living inside skin just a size too small may have faded away and left me, and that probably would have been ok. But, you know what? I like doing more than ok. I like finding myself chancing things that I would have pooh poohed or talked myself out of (I'm a great overintellectualizer) or just been too darn scared to imagine before. The box, the limits, I'd created for myself and talked myself into accepting was very familiar and very comfortable.

This? Isn't comfortable. Not at all. And sometimes I really feel it. I miss my townhouse, family, friends and the other great things that surrounded me in Raleigh. I find myself flashing to the most random images sometimes... being in my car driving down the highway at 74 mph (if you keep it less than 10 under the speed limit, the cops probably won't stop you); meeting up with the Friday Night Girls for Maker's Mark and random conversations about bodily functions; spending a quiet Friday night till late in Barnes & Noble with a truckload of books and something sweet from their cafe (a bookstore open till 11 pm!); long, reflective conversations with E.J.; the final moments of the Maundy Thursday church service before Easter; getting my semi-regular massage from John (best hands ever!) while Narada-ish muzak plays in the background. But, the happy truth is that I'm still glad I made the move. On the face of it, my life here is pretty normal, but just being forced out of my routine and forced to examine my assumptions and beliefs about myself has been incredibly liberating.

So yeah, pre-Ireland me would never have put her thoughts out on the web for anyone to see, hosted strangers in her house, chanced making friends online, flirted madly via text, or considered getting inked. Considering my previous comfort zone, that is pretty darn wild. But then, as I face the last few weeks before the big 4-0, I'm thrilled I took the chance to see what life could be like outside the box.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"That One" Makes History and There's No Going Back

My stomach is in knots, my heart is like a stone in my chest, and I don't know if I can handle one more truly fascinated Irish compatriot asking me for my opinion about what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm torn between trolling the internet for every bit of election news I can get vs. not wanting to think about tomorrow night at all for fear that I might feel just a bit too much optimism and so totally jinx the whole thing!

Similarly, I'm alternately proud and saddened about what this election means for me personally and as a (Jamaican) American. The fact is it took me years to make the decision to relinquish my Jamaican citizenship for the U.S. one. Not because I ever planned to move back permanently, but because (as you might have guessed by now) being Jamaican is part of the core of my identity and the passport symbolized that. On the other hand, having spent all of the last 30 years but one in the States, I've also been quite americanized and am completely emotionally invested in what's going on at home.

This will be the very first presidential election I'll have had the opportunity to vote in since becoming a naturalized citizen 3 years ago, and what a way to lose my electoral virginity! I'm bursting with pride that America has come to the point of actually almost electing a partially black man to be President of the United States [wow, I get shivers just writing that!] and that I had the chance to be a part of that history. But, I'm also terrified that it all sounds too good to be true. That my hopes will be dashed (or stolen) again. Mostly, that it means so much and my history isn't great for these kind of things working out.

Of course the latter statement makes it sound like I think I actually have the power to personally jinx this. Sadly, I don't think I'm the only one with the same unwarranted superstition - I'm sure a lot of other Democrats feel the same way - so I'm imagining huge swathes of the population in the country right now all repeating the mantra "Don't wish too hard. Don't get too excited. Don't expect too much!"

In the end though, no matter what happens tomorrow, we will all survive. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. The world won't really come to an end, though I know several friends who've threatened (jokingly and not so jokingly) to use their passport and join me in expat-life if we have to face another 8 years of the same old, same old. We'll go back to living as neighbors again, no matter whether we're living in Red or Blue (or yellow-striped) country. We'll work together, socialize with each other, go to the same church, love each other, and fall asleep in the same bed together just like before all this started. The yard signs will come down and hopefully all the nasty Facebook flair will disappear, as will most of the rumors about who's secretly a terroristic, socialist-loving muslim. The Us vs. Them mentality will diminish a bit and we'll go back to being individuals again who can admit that our loved ones on The Other Side are actually relatively intelligent, thoughtful people who don't really want to destroy everything we believe in.

America and its politics will start to feel somewhat normal again. But, no one will ever be able to take away the fact that American politics has passed a major milestone, one I never seriously considered I would see in my lifetime. A woman yes. A "black" man? We've come a long way, baby, all of us. And there's nothing anyone can do to make us go back!

Note: Sadly, a piece of Obama's own personal history was lost today when his grandmother died of cancer. My condolences on his loss. But I loved the CNN commentator's quote from Psalm 30:5 - "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That's something we can all pray for.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Voted!

Have you?

If you're living abroad, send in your absentee ballot today so it gets there on time! If you're living at home, vote early! (In some states you can even register on the same day as early voting).

Avoid the madness on Election Day and the temptation not to stand in line thinking your candidate doesn't need you. No excuses if you want the right to complain, or gloat, afterwards.

It's mine, mine, mine!

OK, it's done. I held out as long as I could, but I finally HAD to give in to its seductive powers. I'm totally in love and like any new relationship we're spending as much time together as we can. A few frustrations - including the 6 hours I spent last night into the (not so) early morning fighting with it and trying to smooth out the relationship between another big part of my life, before finally figuring out how to make things work between them.

We're all happy together now, my new iPhone, home wifi, and me. Long may we hold this menage a trois! (And if I never have to read another Mac or iPhone help forum, I'll be a very happy camper!)

I do take the fact that I held out for so many months as a good sign of my impulse control. Although everyone who heard me salivating about it on and on for months may have wished I'd given in sooner :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Generous Heart

Despite having been here for 14 months now, I still get surprised more than every once in awhile by the difference in cultures between Ireland and the U.S.

The most recent event happened just 3 days ago. I was on my way to a work conference in Dublin, driving up with a coworker. We stopped off in Midleton (a place where I do not live and hardly ever go) in part so I could load up on chocolatey, high calorie yumminess to tide me over for the drive. We all know that calories you take in on a roadtrip don't count, right?

I stopped in at a small greengrocer, one of those places that are just so Irish . . . a few shelves of fruit and veg, with the small selection of candy and sweets kept behind the counter because there just wasn't enough space otherwise. A stranger to the proprietress, the high-spirited Angela, I immediately got drawn into a conversation with her. That is until everything drew to a screeching halt for me when I realized that I hadn't gone to the ATM and was flat out of cash. No cards taken of course, so I was prepared to leave everything behind and go and find a cash machine when Angela pooh-poohed my plan, insisting that I just take the bag of goodies because "I'm sure you'll be coming back through" and "I trust you, no problem!" No disagreement on my part was allowed and I walked out of there with a bagful of candy and my mouth literally hanging open.

I want to say "Only in Ireland", but maybe it's more like "Never in America" or just something about this one person I lucked into meeting. Whatever the case, is it any wonder I love living here?!

Note: I did give my friend the money to repay the wonderful Angela for me. Anybody that generous deserves to be met with trustworthiness.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

I would have voted for him as President if his wife had let him run, despite his being a Republican and making the mistake of serving under George W. as Secretary of State.  But Colin Powell has now raised himself even higher in my eyes by ENDORSING BARACK OBAMA for President on today's Meet The Press!

Take that, George Bush!!  I'm dancing in my seat :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's official, my sappiness is incurable

I'm currently helplessly engrossed in watching that pinnacle of horrible TV countdown shows, 100 Greatest Tearjerkers (in British TV and international movie history). And yet, despite knowing that it's designed from the ground up to yank mercilessly at the heart strings by showing the most climactic clips possible from some of the best and worst films and TV shows of the last century, and even with Jimmy Carr's insufferable smirk and snarky comments interjected, I'm still finding it impossible not to react.

Remains of the Day
Mr. Holland's Opus ("the ultimate in manipulative and phony tearjerkers")
Love Story
Truly, Madly Deeply
I, Spartacus
Ordinary People
The Color Purple
The Green Mile
Sophie's Choice
The Pianist
Four Weddings & a Funeral
Cinema Paradiso
Life is Beautiful
The Killing Fields
Stand By Me
E.T. (#1. The first movie I ever saw and still one of the most moving)

Like a puppet I've sat here for the last 3 1/2 hours welling up over and over again. Ridiculous! But, I defy anyone else to not do the same.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sign #523 that I am a sap

Tears in the eyes after catching a 15 minute RTE1 TV segment on JFK's visit to Ireland in June 1963, six months before he was assassinated.

The unaffected warmth, enthusiasm, excitement and genuine welcome evident on everyone's face in those old films. It reminds me why I love the people here and makes me sad for the loss his death was to the world. I have loads of images in my head of the grief his death caused in the States, but I never thought before about how people elsewhere must have reacted.

If the world could vote?

Ever wanted to see how the rest of the world would vote if given the chance? Now you can. Click on the link below, cast your vote, and then see how McCain and Obama are ranked country by country. Fascinating.

If the world could vote?

A little aggression goes a long way

Today I came home quite late. The rain was doing its Irish thing of misting in all directions so umbrellas are useless and it was hard to see. As usual lately, as I pulled into the apartment parking lot, I felt a burst of anxiety as I craned my neck to see if anyone was parked in my assigned spot.

Ever since the next door neighbors moved in with their 4-6 cars (not counting guests), it's been a crap shoot as to whether someone will decide that my empty spot is fair game. I've come home at all hours of the day and night to find some inconsiderate jerk sitting in the spot I pay for. Apparently the bright red sign perched 2 feet in front of my spot saying that illegally parked cars will be clamped was viewed as a suggestion rather than a warning. Such was also true of the numerous notes (progressing from polite to sharp) I placed on windshield after windshield.

The only thing that seemed to make anything of a difference was the handwritten sign I finally gave in and tacked to the official sign: "The next car that parks here illegally WILL BE CLAMPED!!" That got me some relief. Until the day a week later when I came home at 7:30 pm to find somebody's truck again in my space. I'd had enough! I took pictures, then called the management company, again, this time demanding that they come and clamp the car.

Apparently all it took was me finally giving in and acting like a hardass for people to decide that they needed to obey the rules and respect my space. Not a problem since. Tonight when I came home there were cars parked literally in every free space that could be seen, or created. The only empty space left was mine, blessedly free of interlopers. Hah!

But why did you have to make me act like a b---h?!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gorilla Only So-So

So, it's a year later and Cadbury's is back with the sequel to their original fantastic gorilla drummer commercial. This one has the same (amazingly trained) gorilla (vs. amazing make-up job with guy in gorilla suit), only this time he's rocking to Eclipse of the Heart.

Heh. It's ok, but nowhere near the caliber of the first ad to Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight. Maybe I just like that song a whole lot better.

What do you think?  Scroll down on the right to vote for your favorite!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

21st Century Plumbing

Is it too much to ask for that Ireland join the rest of the world and awaken to the joys of combined hot and cold water taps? Yes, Mr. Irish plumbing contractor, there is another option that doesn't include alternatively scalding and freezing the user. Lukewarm water. I know you've heard of it because, while it seems to be completely absent from bathroom sinks, it's definitely present in kitchen sinks (as well as in the tub/shower). Would it be that hard to use the same plumbing in the face basin?

I have to admit though that the Irish plumbing mafia aren't the only ones refusing to move away from The Dark Side. I've found the same situation in the U.K. And now I'm racking my brain trying to remember what it was like in Barcelona and Italy. Horrors... is this the case throughout Europe?? That can't be true, can it?

Phew! I just checked my pictures and Italy does have combined taps! So, apparently it's just us :-(

Escape From Cork

After a week of true work hellishness (though I take pains to point out that this still does not bring my job anywhere even close to the status of Job From Hell), I escaped my rampant sense of failure and inadequacy by jaunting off to Galway for the weekend to meet a friend.

Galway was great - pretty town on the coast with loads of time spent just walking around, eating, drinking and people watching :-) It was made even better by the fact that we had almost perfect weather! Sunny, blue skies and gorgeous temps. I had to wear my sunglasses! And I even pushed up the sleeves on my sweater a few times. Amazing.

Sadly, no pictures of the pretty town, my amazingly small B&B room with the Thumbelina-sized shower stall, or of me looking stylishly "hot" because I accidentally reformatted the memory card :-( But I'll be going back, I'm sure, so will have some to post in the future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I feel a hot flush coming on!

I'm all for shameless promotion of self and family/friends (what else is a blog for after all?), but I don't usually feel the need to help a company make more money. Except in this case.

First of all, I don't know what the science says, but I think Airborne is a fantastic product - great for boosting the immune system and comes in a variety of flavors. If only it were available here in Ireland, I'd be quite happy. Of course, the same goes for Cheese Nips, breadfruit, Altoids flavored mints, sharp cheddar cheese, and tamarind balls.

What makes Airborne deserving of it's own post though is this FANTASTIC and hilarious new ad promotion. Thanks to Beth, my favorite blogger and fellow romance novel aficionado, for the heads up :-) As a girl (Sebastian is yummy!) and a lover of romance novels, I'm loving it!

See for yourself. Just make sure the sound is on and that you follow the links to track Sebastian on his way to deliver your own personal Airborne sample.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Baby thinks Barack Obama is #1!

Shameless plugging of my best friend's immensely smart child!

Start 'em young, I say. Or is it, "train up a child..."? :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Secret Worlds

Though apparently this secret subculture is neither secret nor out of the mainstream for anybody but me.  After repeated invitations and incredulous requests ("You're not on it?"), I've finally given into peer pressure and joined FaceBook.  Imagine my surprise!

How could I not have known that so many of my friends and family had already gone over to the dark side?  Phhht!  There goes my assumptions about the kind of people who join up to these things.  Grown, intelligent people do this!  People I respect!  What happened to all the teenagers and slackers who I assumed were the main denizens of this shadowy world? 

Maybe they're all on MySpace.

Happily eating my words

The news just keeps on getting better.  The Jamaican girls sweep the women's 100 meter winning Gold, Silver + Silver (2nd and 3rd were too close to call).

Life is sweeeet!  Now if only I had some fried breadfruit for breakfast I would be a completely happy (Jamaican) woman :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It just doesn't get any better than this!

Just got to watch Usain Bolt (world's fastest man!) accept the 2008 Olympic GOLD for the 100 meter. Then heard the Jamaican anthem played as I sung along with Usain, the green, black and gold waving atop all the rest.

I'm happy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A first

I miss lots of people. Lots. And again I say, LOTS! But for the first time, I'm missing someone who left me behind rather than the other way around.

The Wayfaring Stranger and I had very little in common. She - Australian, blonde, mother of 2 kids (both with the cutest aussie accents!), and married to great guy.  I almost always end of friends with my girlfriends' husbands. They tend to make good choices :-)

Me - none of the above.

Yet, somehow, from the potential disaster of 2 kids getting plonked down next to a stranger at a dance recital, came a great friendship. Maybe it was our one thing in common, being expats from the colonies, but we bonded immediately and proceeded to make sure we always had a blast together. Whether putting together homemade pizzas in their kitchen, trekking to faraway festivals, or shivering together on a deserted beach in the middle of an Irish winter, it always worked.

Alas, life (and hubby's job) took her away from me and back to that sundrenched land of surfing and koalas.

I miss her.

Irish Men - strong in their masculinity

80 year old man walking along holding hands with 2 year old blond charmer.  Rainbow leash wrapped around both hands just in case she makes a break for it.

Grandfather type with hurling stick and ball walking with 5 year old blond charmer.  I guess they start them young with this GAA sports addiction.

12 year old boy pushing full-sized pram, presumably with young sibling inside?  I can just imagine the conversation:  harried mother-type screaming, "All of you, get out!  I need a break!" 

Middle-aged man ambling along the sidewalk pushing what looks like a pink doll's stroller.  I'm walking behind thinking, "Please get out of my way!" (that's the rushed american in me; she still hasn't completely given in to the whole "irish time" phenomenom).  Was relieved to see an actual child inside after passing.  Somehow less creepy than the alternative.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

blog readability test

It's official, I'm getting stupider. A few years ago this would definitely have been "Postgrad".

Apparently my mind is melting and all the intellect is running out. Hence the links to thoughtful, intellectual blogs rather than doing it myself :-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Body Disorientation

I'm in the strange situation of being slightly weirded out by my own body. I never thought getting in shape would have a dark side, but it does! For as long as I can remember clearly, basically the last 15 years, I've been on the soft side of curvy. Sometimes softer than others :-) Except for a few months around my sister's wedding in 2000 when I killed myself to slim down so I wouldn't be haunted by intolerable pictures forever, I've ranged from feeling slightly dissatisfied to majorly frustrated by my weight. As I got older, especially after passing 35, it just got harder and harder to stay as fit as I'd like.

Not so different from most other women these days, I guess.

What's so strange now is that, having finally committed to a regular and intense enough exercise routine and being cut off from America's endless supply of empty and unnecessary calories, I'm finally getting into the shape I've always wanted and it's freaking me the heck out! My arms do not look like this; you can see the muscles moving under the skin, like snakes in the shadows. I have indentations in places I didn't realize had muscles, and where did my hips go? I find myself watching myself in the mirror and not recognizing myself.

The good news is that my stamina has gone through the roof and I feel much healthier (though my high blood pressure isn't going away. Thanks mom for those genes!). I'm having to buy a whole new wardrobe (which is actually not as fun as it sounds when clothes are as expensive as they are here) and I'm definitely getting more male attention. But, I still haven't accepted that this is me yet and I don't know if and when I will.

Before the problem was that my outside didn't always match how I imagined myself inside. That's still the problem, only now I'm in the position of my head having to catch up with my body.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Pat On The Back

A completely self-serving shout out to myself. I was just reviewing the standard reference text for one of the core personality tests we psychologists use and came across a citation to an article I was 2nd author on in grad school. Woohoo! That is TOTALLY cool!!!

Ok, disclaimer: I'm not an academic, so aside from my dissertation, this is my only other publication. But, it still counts right? I'm still counting it.

Can't stop smiling even if I'm the only one who cares :-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ten Random Things You Never Knew About Me

I try to keep a balance between enough self-disclosure to keep readers interested and not so much that strangers can figure out who I am. Is it weird to want privacy as you blare your personal business in a public space?

Anyways, in the interest of letting you all (ye) know a little bit more about myself, here's the beginning of a list of semi-odd things about me. I'm not truly strange, just a bit quirky. But, in a totally funny and sexy way of course! :-)
  1. When I start laughing really hard, my arms stop working. Strange, but true! I can do large movements like wipe up the table, but fine motor tasks like writing are totally beyond me. An undiagnosed nerve problem?
  2. I'm a total night owl, but love my sleep and can sleep anywhere. Once, in college, I fell asleep in a crowded bar at the table with all my friends. And no, the fact that I'd used a fake ID to get in had nothing to do with it. Although, having all black people look alike does work in our favor sometimes :-)
  3. I'm a recovering nail biter. Nothing makes a teenager feel even stronger in her self-esteem than to always be worrying at a finger stuck in her mouth and then have "well-meaning" adults in her life ask if she's feeling anxious. Heck yes I'm feeling anxious! I'm 14, sure I'm a total social misfit but that everyone else is totally comfortable in themselves, and am convinced that any minute now somebody's going to figure out that I'm really not as smart and "mature for my age" as everyone keeps saying I am. Lay off and just let me just read my book in peace, will ya?!
  4. I'm a total sap. I cry every time I hear the American Anthem sung. I cry at Hallmark commercials, Extreme Home Makeover episodes, and sappy TV movies of the week. I almost never cry for myself.
  5. I'm a not-so closeted Trekkie and Battlestar Galactica fanatic. I was also a HUGE fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and pretty much all Joss Whedon projects. I am a geek.
  6. Every birthday, Christmas and Valentine's card I've ever gotten are stored away safely. I would NEVER throw them out. That would be like totally rude and mean!
  7. I've been kicked out of a foreign country AND off a NATO base. Not my fault. Plus, I was only 20, it doesn't count.
  8. My niece and nephew have a special name for me, Ti-ti, from when my niece couldn't pronounce the "Auntie" or "Tia" we were trying to make her learn. Every time I hear them use it my heart swells just a little bit.
  9. Going to my 10th high school reunion was a total mistake. I'd had a lot of nostalgia about high school and this totally killed it. The 25th is coming up next year, I wonder if it's still too soon?
  10. I hate litterers. Hate them, Hate Them, HATE THEM! It's all about consideration for others and the environment people! Why is that so hard to keep in mind? Were you raised by animals? And yes, cigarettes DO COUNT as trash when you flick them out your car window or as you're walking along.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

True Bredren: Jamaican-Irish Links

Hah, it's not all my imagination after all! Awhile ago, I wrote about my own reasons for thinking that Ireland reminds me of Jamaica. It seems that other, more scholarly folks have similar ideas as well.

I know Wiki has to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes, but look here to read about the history of the Irish in Jamaica and here for thoughts about the similarities in accents and pronunciation.

Thewildgeese.com also has a couple of pieces about the links between our two countries.

The Real Thing

How do I know Loray's a true friend? I get included on her email invitation to one of her classic get-togethers out in the North Carolina countryside with kids and dogs and friends chowing down on pork ribs and deviled eggs and banana pudding. Not to mention the bourbon.

Then, when I call to whine about how I'm missing out on all the goodies, she responds not with sympathy but by making a point of chewing really loudly and smacking her mouth at how good everything tastes.

Nothing says love more than some judicious taunting at just the right moment :-)

Still hungry though.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

The longer I’m here the more I get used to the strangeness of things. Then something happens to remind me that I’m in a foreign country and I have to go “Huh?” Here are just a few that have come up lately.

  1. Different standards re what counts as private information: listen to any news broadcast and you’ll hear it; when talking about the criminal of the day, the reporter will come right out and give the poor schmuck’s full address. No glossing around with just the name of the town or the general neighbourhood. Nuh uh. House number and everything. I’m not sure if it’s about shaming him in front of the whole country or what. I guess nobody’s afraid of being sued over here.
  2. At the last minute I found out that my Certificate of Registration from the Gardai was about to expire. What does this mean? I have to go stand in another queue, show the same papers I showed a year ago, and pay another €100. Why can’t they issue this thing for the full period I’m allowed to be here on my work permit instead of shaking me down for cash every year?
  3. It took me awhile to figure out, but there’s no such thing as prepaid credit cards in Ireland (I wanted one because I’m tired of having to use my US credit card when shopping online). Why not? Because the government tacks on a €40 tax per year for each card! This means no combo debit and Visa/MC cards either. Aaargh!!
  4. Another financial thing that gets my goat is the weird rules about savings accounts over here. No such thing as an account that you can sock money away in whenever the urge strikes. You have to set up a regular/monthly account debit and even then most of them have strict rules about how often and how much you can withdraw, and with how much notice. I’m not sure if this helps make the Irish better or worse savers than the U.S.
  5. One thing I do like about the financial/banking system here vs. the U.S. is how easily you can electronically transfer money to accounts not your own. All you need to do to send money to somebody (e.g., pay rent) is to have their branch’s Sort Code and the account number and you’re good to go. No charge either!
  6. Another cool thing? VAT included in all prices. This means no frantic calculating and guesstimating in your head about the total price of an item or how much your whole shopping cart is going to be. What you see is what you get.

Back To The Drawing Board

So, having taken the Driver Theory Test (barely squeaking through due to very little studying) and queueing forever at the Motor Tax Office, Ireland now deigns to officially consider me a learner driver. Which means: publicly labelling myself as a dork by driving around with big red and white stickers on the front and back windshields of my car, no driving alone, no driving after dark, no driving on motorways (what few there are), and practice, practice, practice for the next 6 months.

This after 18 years of driving America’s highways and byways, averaging hundreds of miles a week, plus 6 months of driving in Ireland on my American license.

Even criminals get consideration for time served!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Your Taste in Music Says About You

Your musical tastes are energetic and rhythmic.

You are full of energy and can be quite talkative.

You are forward thinking and open minded.

You despise conservatism of any sort.

You are intense, detail oriented, and motivated.

You are an ambitious person, though your ambition is anything but conventional.

All Is Not Lost

As a way to make up for my mini-meltdown rant last time, I thought I’d bring us back to a happy place. After all, I’m in Ireland darn it! What's not to feel good about? :-)

A list is always a good way to go. Here are some cool things that have happened in the past couple of weeks.
  1. Spent last Saturday evening hanging out by the waterfront (Lee-side at the Clarion Hotel) with L&L, their new baby, and their assorted family and friends, some of who had just taken part in the Lee Swim, a 2000 meter (1.2 mile) race in murky and mildly icky water. Had a great hamburger, my first in a year! Got to hog the baby for most of the evening when he wasn’t at momma’s breasticles. That child can eat! For awhile, my shoulder served as a good substitute for his pacifier. Having reminded L&L that “once you go black, you never go back”, I now have a bet with myself on just how brown his first girlfriend is going to be :-)
  2. Heard from two women who’d first contacted me as a result of this blog, one who’s visiting Dublin on a reconnaissance mission and one who’s actually now moved to Cork. Am hanging out with N. on Saturday and hopefully meeting up with A. sometime soon. Can’t wait!
  3. Jamaicans in Ireland! Who knew? Got an email from L-A, another reader who, it turns out, has been living here with her family for some time. She told me of a planned Independence celebration in a couple of weeks. Nice! Now I just have to get up the energy to drive up and back to Dublin this August Bank Holiday.
  4. Sunday dinner with friends from church. Great food and fun games afterward. I think the Americans there may have done a leeetle too much reminiscing for the Irish contingent, but you know how it is when expats get together. We just can't help it!
  5. The iPhone came out! Sadly, I have yet to get one because of the worldwide shortage. And why did I not know to pre-order? But, hopefully, my name on the waiting list will come up soon. Maybe this Friday? Please O2, be merciful!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Blue Tsunami

We now take an unscheduled break from the usual reflections on the pleasures of life in Cork for some lamentably (and possibly soon-to-be regretted) uncensored and disjointed ranting. Ya'll are just going to have to bear with me....

Today felt like a tidal wave of emotion just rose up, crashed through my wall of defenses, leaving it in soggy ruins, and sucked me under. I'm struggling to breathe the best way I know how by doing what I do best, self-analyzing the heck out of myself. (And, since you're my "captive" audience, you're stuck listening to me!) Intellectualization.... Jonathan, my old therapist, as well as some of you other "privileged" ones will recognize that as my stock in trade. But hey, at least I'm doing something rather than curled in the a fetal ball of soggy distress the way I really wish I could be.

Here's the truth: I'm sick. Tired. In withdrawal after so much family time. Worried to moderately panicked. Missing you all so much I could scream. And so pissed off at myself for so many reasons, including being totally ineffectual at work the last could of days, I can't breathe!

It all came to a head during spinning class today. 45 mins of pure physical activity that, while clearing enough head space so I could start listening to myself, also wasn't enough to let me escape from myself. The brain would just not shut off. No matter what tried and true self-hypnosis or breathing technique I used, could just not find the zone. The result? I totally phoned it in. No endorphins. No sense of accomplishment. Just me going round and round in circles in my head, lambasting myself and mentally yelling at GG. Until the perfect song came on! This is either an example of perfect, universe-imposed synchronicity or I made it all up. But I could swear (hah!) the electronic dance mix went like this: Melody = "F--- the F--- of It"; Chorus = "F--- This". That's it. The Whole Song. Perfect.

Just to make it a little less perfect though, as I'm driving home, desperately trying to pay attention to the road and not mess up big-time before my Driver Theory Test exam tomorrow morning, who should try calling(!!) me? GG. I didn't pick up and, since I was driving (and pissed off as hell at him), I let it go to voicemail. Haven't listened to it yet. Is there any reason to? Is ignoring him all during class and being the first one out the door the only way to get him to step up? Really? Is he really that lame?

I need a drink. Several drinks. Or a massage. A massage while drinking? No, really all I need is for someone who gives a hoot about me to give me a hug and let me calm down long enough to squeeze out a few tears and start venting. But no, I had to move eons away from everyone who cares about me. Why am I over here? So far away from my friends we all feel reluctant to pick up the phone and "bother" each other.

Almost the capper: I'm diverted via the hell that is the new Douglas roundabout construction fiasco and, as I'm rounding the other roundabout (45 secs from home), I pull out in front of a motorcycle Garda, who proceeds to put on his indicator and follow me to the gates of my apartment complex before going merrily on his little way. Now that would have been the perfect end to a perfect day.

Disclaimer: Don't worry mom, sis, other concerned readers, I'm really not as despondent as I sound here. I'm actually doing well. I'm blessed in so many ways, I know that. This is just the closest to therapy and immediate access venting to you all as I can get right now. If I had the $25 per person you all deserve for listening to me here ($150 per therapy hour; I figure it took you 5-10 mins), I'd definitely send it to you. Sublimation, thy name is blogging!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brief hiatus...

Taking a break while the family is in town. Two weeks of sleeping late, picking up the detritus trail of 2 preschoolers, losing track of the days, and getting lots of (mostly) unconditional love from the cutest kids in the world (no lie!), so no time to blog.

See you soon with pics and commentary.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's not only Americans who want to believe in change

Interesting New York Times op-ed piece pointing out some of the wider, diplomatic implications of Obama's nomination. I guess I'm not the only one who's eager to believe that change has already begun.

(And, please, no comments equating all Muslims with terrorists. I'll just delete them 'cause it's my blog and I don't want to read crap!)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Girl Love

What's not amazing about being a girl?!

Exhibit One: celebrating all things girly with a night out at the Sex And The City movie (slightly cheesy at the end, but mostly a blast). Of course, we properly hono(u)red the spirit of the occasion with the necessary cute outfits and great heels. Dinner conversation centered on one gal pal's fully ripened pregnancy (she was due the next day) and the amazing shoes in the window of the boutique across the lane.

Exhibit Two: My new Salsa and Bachata dance lessons. Being the follower is just soooo much easier than having to think up which steps both you and your partner are going to do. No wonder the poor blokes sweat so much!

Exhibit Three: Visiting a 1st Class (1st grade) primary school classroom this week where, just by virtue of being A Big Girl and having an American accent, I was lavished with love and attention by a mob of the cutest little girls you ever saw. I was still smiling when I went to bed that night! I'm smiling now.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

You Are Ginger

Like ginger, you are a total shape shifter.

You can be sweet, spicy, mellow, or overpowering.

You are both soothing and unique. You are popular... yet you are often overlooked.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Change You Want To Believe In

Two reasons I'm proud and hopeful for America right now:

I'm actually a little short of breath. This means so much. You all know I'm not one for pulling the race card very often, but... the first Black American to be fielded as a major party candidate (well, he's actually biracial and a hyphenated American, but that's another story that deserves a long, sad commentary on race in America that I don't have time or the inclination to get on my soapbox about now). The sad part is that it's only happening now, most of the way through the first decade of the freakin' 21st Century.

Who knows if he'll win. The possibility that the American people would actually, legitimately, vote for 4+ more years of Bushit via McCain (a man who, pre-Iraq War, used to hold quite a bit of my respect for his independent thinking) literally boggles my mind. The universe should not be able to hold that much illogic and still hold together. But, sad to say, we've all been shockingly disappointed before.

Mental Health Parity in insurance coverage. Shamefully overdue. Really, we should all be ashamed of ourselves that it's taken so long for basic human rights (not to mention consideration) and scientific logic to overcome the influence of big money and society's stigma about this issue. Another topic I could go on about for way to long to hold anybody's interest. But, if this is the only thing to come out of the Democrats' control of the House and Senate, they'll have justified themselves.

Sadly, it's like being proud of the delinquent child who finally starts making good decisions for herself. You're so deep down proud you want to dance for joy, but also sad and a little resentful it's taken so long, and desperately hopeful that they don't muck it up too quickly.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

P.C.A. (Public Consummation of Affection)

Flowers budding, weeds taking over my garden, and little lambies gamboling through the fields... Yes, spring has definitely arrived in the Emerald Isle and apparently it makes even the most unlikely of couples just a leeetle too frisky!

I won't post a picture of the love encounter because I'm a tactful person (and I didn't have my camera with me, darn it!), but believe me, yesterday's PCA extravaganza is burned into my retinas!

As I was leaving work to grab some lunch, I saw two lovers of the canine persuasion going at it like a porn movie in the middle of the street. The giver (an extremely hyper Jack Russell Terrier) and the receiver (a large black collie-type) were smack dab on the white line and so engrossed in each other they didn't stop to pay attention to any of the multiple cars passing them in either direction. Clearly Mr. Jack Russell had a lot of energy to work off because he kept at it for at least a minute and a half as I drove all the way up and past them, waited to make my turn, and drove (slowly due to rubbernecking) away.

Now, just in case you doubt the staying power of this tribute to manhood, you should know that when I told my story later, one of my coworkers reported witnessing the same couple doing their business when she went off to lunch, AND they were still going at it in the same place when she came back by a half hour later!

Is there such a thing as puppy Viagra?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Your Scent is Mango

Sultry, sweet, and mellow

You enjoy every moment of life!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Turkey Blues

Yes, that's right folks, the turkey lost! Poor Dustin... poor Ireland! But, seriously people, who else but the Irish would send off a turkey puppet as an inside joke to be the nation's representative at the biggest talent contest around?!

Sadly, the rest of Europe didn't get it, but at least this way I never have to hear the darn song again! Except for inflicting it on you that is, but that's just me being cruel :-)


Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring has (finally) sprung!

As I was walking home from Italian class tonight, it really hit me. Here it was 9:30 in the evening but it was still twilight and the street lights had only just come on. We'd had yet another day of no-jacket weather, the birds were chirping madly, and it smelled green, green, green!

Coming across this in the parking lot only seemed to make it official. What better harbinger of Spring could there be? :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

E strano, vero?

Leaving to go to Italian class tonight, I ran into yet another funeral crowd milling around the Catholic church next door, with the strangely glossy hearse inching its way through. I swear there's at least one of these things every week here! Not to mention morning mass several times during the week.

Now, I've never lived next door to a church before and certainly never next to a Catholic church. Actually, I now live next to two churches, one Catholic and one (much less attended) Church of Ireland. There are definite perks, the sound of bells ringing in the mornings and some very cool cemeteries primarily. But some major drawbacks as well, namely cars parked up and down every surrounding street, blocking your vision at a very iffy intersection when trying to come out of your driveway.

Is it just that there are a lot of people dying here, do you think? Or, that there aren't enough churches to go around?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Plays Well With Others

Honestly, I'm shocked. I thought I was going to turn out to be much more of a wimp. Obviously this gym thing is working out well :-)


Sunday Bliss

I'm sprawled on the living room floor looking out the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and doors leading into my own little garden and courtyard, watching my cat groom herself in the sunshine. All the while, she's surreptitiously eyeing the brick walls to gauge just how high they are and whether making a leap for it would entail any major exertion of energy on her part.

While avoiding answering my backlog of emails, I'm surfing, blogging after a long absence, and enjoying one of my favorite Southern delicacies. It sounds weird but I swear it's the best combination ever. A smash at dinner parties! Cream cheese smothered in red jalapeno pepper jelly. YUM!! If you've never tried it don't knock it!

Battlestar Galactica

No, it's not the campy 80's version. There's nothing shiny, pretty or one-dimensional about it. What it is is a gritty, character-driven space opera that, like all the best written stories no matter the setting, is incredibly subversive, forcing you to think and re-think, to question your basic beliefs and assumptions. Who do you cheer for when both the Cylons and the Humans are in the wrong? When does the communal good rightly override individual rights? Can you ever justify stealing a democratically valid election?

Like life, the cool thing about this show is trying to shed light on all the gray that dominates, and I'm not just talking about the color scheme for the show. The moral dilemmas on this show just keep unfolding. You're never bored.

Sometimes, though, easy answers can be appealing. For me, this show highlights a huge dilemma. What kind of future do I really believe in for the human race? The optimistic, societal self-actualization semi-utopia of the Star Trek vision or the dark, humans will never change uber-reality of Battlestar Galactica. As a dyed in the wool Trekkie, I also find my instincts at war with themselves for my vote of best television science-fiction ever. B.G has already won my vote for best TV show out there right now, even if I resent the fact that it's still, unfairly, seen as a cult favorite rather than a contender for the who shebang. (Of course, people still laugh when I say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was also one of the best shows ever on TV).

And the best thing is... it's coming to Ireland now! How fracking cool is that?! I've been subsisting on last season's versions of most U.S. shows, if not years old syndications of the "classics" that get sold out this way. But, B.G. is smart enough (!!) to allow U.K. satellite distribution of current episodes only 2 weeks after they were first shown in the States. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am. This is the 4th and last season and everything we ever believed is getting blown sky high! There's no way I could have handled waiting 6 months or more to find out what happened. This way I'm only a couple of weeks behind and don't have to yell at friends for "inadvertently" letting spoilers loose. Or entertain murderously jealous impulses 'cause they lucked out and I didn't. I'll be a much nicer friend this way :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Come to me my pretty!

Impulse control. That's what it's all about. I've been obsessed with the iPhone since I first saw Steve Jobs' presentation at last year's MacWorld conference. It blew me away, seriously, and it hurt to have to put off buying one because of the move overseas. I've been telling everyone for months now how I couldn't wait for it to actually get released in Ireland. Maybe it was the open letter I posted on one of the Mac/iPhone sites begging S.J. to please, please bring it to the Emerald Isle, but it actually got released here March 14th. Almost a month gone by and yet... I haven't bought it.

I have my reasons. Logical, rational reasons. Reasons echoed by other iPhone maniacs and tech heads. It's overpriced. No Visual Voicemail at all! Price gouging by O2 for the price plans. Plus, best of all, an updated, 3G version is due out soon. Like in May or June. But, it's still a day-to-day struggle not to give in and buy the darn thing already!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Baptist Easter in Ireland

This was the strangest and most disappointing Easter service I've ever been to. Easter is the highlight of the Christian religious calendar. Usually people go over the top in trying to cram things into the celebration; at the very least there's just more stuff going on. But, I left this service with my mouth (almost literally) hanging open, thinking "What just happened?"

Today was apparently "Family Sunday", so there were a couple of stories for the kids. But then.... nothing. No sermon. None. At all. On Easter, the most spiritually meaningful date on the Christian calendar! What were they thinking? And then, to just totally round out the weird picture, there was also no communion service. They always have a communion service. Every. Single. Sunday. It's one of the things I really do like about this church and prefer over my old one.

Usually I try and hold in my frustrations over ways this church just doesn't compare to mine in North Carolina. It's only normal, right, that the familiar seems better than the new, that the new seems not quite as good? I understand that the size difference, the culture difference, makes this like comparing apples and kumquats, but I still want my apple!

So, things I spent quite a bit of time missing about Chapel Hill Bible Church's Easter season activities today:
  • Stations of the Cross in the weeks leading up to Easter
  • Singing celebration songs and waving palms on Palm Sunday
  • Lighting a new candle every Sunday
  • Maundy Thursday service, so meditative and emotional
  • The joyful and celebratory atmosphere on Easter
  • Audience members being invited up to join the choir in singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah
  • A relevant sermon
  • A sermon

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Barcelona memories

Here are just a few of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite cities. Dominated by Gaudi, I know, but he's just so good!

Casa Batllo facade

Casa Batllo rooftop

An actual picture of the blogger!

Parque Guell fountain detail

Parque Guell walk

La Sagrada Familia - Passion Facade

Joan Miro statue

Las Ramblas denizens

Hand in Hand

Pretty cool even if the music (and crowd shots) are pretty sappy. Clearly these are dancers with skilz!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Things I do much more of in Cork than I did back home

  1. Walk.
  2. Watch where I'm walking very carefully. I think it must be city life (admittedly Raleigh is not your typical urban environment), but the amount of crap on the sidewalks I have to watch out for is frightening! Dog poo (apparently walking your dog here means letting it out on it's own to roam the streets), globs of spit (how hard would it be to aim your bodily secretions onto the road rather than where other, more civilized people have to put their feet?!), upchuck from people drinking waaay too much before walking home
  3. Carry reusable shopping bags. I heartily endorse the idea of reducing the amount of plastic bags littering the countryside and stuffing the landfills.
  4. Texting. I've become much more proficient with the thumb typing since I've been here.
  5. Tea! Day in and night. And not just the fun herbal stuff, though I found a great sorrel and ginger blend at the English Market that I'm totally in love with! At home I was the weirdo who liked to drink tea instead of coffee, but here I'm a wimp. Irish (and British) teas are so, so much stronger than what you find in your typical U.S. grocery store. I've had to cut down on my intake because it was giving me gastritis! Wimp.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Green Card advice

I realized that my answer to Celeste's comment on "Luckier than I knew" was getting so long, it deserved it's own post. She asked for advice, but I'm not sure I have any great advice to give. I only found out about the Green Card process after I'd gotten the job, and from then on it seemed mostly straightforward. Well, except for the company sitting on the completed paperwork for a month, thus delaying my planned leaving date, basically ruining my life and my bank account for awhile! Oh, and the 45 minute (very expensive) call (mostly on hold) in the frantic final few days before my flight, from the States to the Irish govt dept to arrange where the permit would be mailed so I'd have something in hand to show passport control at the airport. Those last few days were NOT restful!

I take it back, it wasn't straightforward at all. What it was was frustratingly out of my control and incredibly anxiety-provoking.

So, I guess my main advice is to get the job offer cemented first and then either you or someone else ride herd, hard, on the personnel dept to get everything sent in... correctly (another long story). Once all the paperwork was submitted, they govt took about 6 weeks to process it, though this included a break for corrected information from the personnel dept. However, I just checked the website and they're saying they're currently processing applications sent in only 2 weeks ago! Not bad. Hopefully things will be more straightforward for you. Good Luck!

Luckier than I knew

According to my source, it's clear that I was one of the few who managed to squeak in under Ireland's new work permit program, the Green Card, implemented in early 2007. Reportedly only 3000 (!!) people were able to snag one, though it's not clear how many applications met the criteria. The good news is that, under this new program scheme, I "should" be able to apply for permanent residency at the end of 2 years rather than the typical 5 year wait. That would mean I would be free of any specific indenturedom to a specific job and could work anywhere I wanted.

Of course, that's how things "should" work. I have a friend - fellow expat coworker - who found herself caught up in the dark-side of the whole work permit issue. Of course, she had to figure it all out herself with no help from her workplace. And, despite getting up close and on first name basis with various high up government officials and Garda supervisors, she still ended up getting moderately screwed, in large part because the system is so new that not even the people at the government agency in charge really know how it's supposed to work.

3000? That just seems like a crazily small number for a whole country. But, then, this is a small country.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Small pleasures

I was invited to Sunday dinner with an American friend and her family tonight. My fellow (Irish) guest and I shared an adventurous ride in and back together. We had great fun traveling the byways between Kinsale and Innishannon when we got lost both getting there and getting back home. Dinner was a blast as well. But, I have to say that one of the highlights of the evening was seeing my traveling companion's genuine shock when she found out how old I was, and being told that I act 9 years younger than I really am!

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Does getting your ego boosted by something like this indicate a small mind?

Gaudi rocks!

After 18 years, I have officially resumed my traveling adventures. Somehow I don't count moving to Ireland. I live here now, I'm supposed to try to see everything. But, maybe it's actually something closer to why I don't count Britain either. Being able to understand the language (mostly, with careful attention) takes away some of that adrenaline-fueled mix of excitement and terror that makes for a real getaway.

Thanks to Aer Lingus, I flew to Barcelona this weekend for less than it cost me to take the train to Dublin a month ago. How weird is that? Yes mom, I traveled by myself :-) I think I needed to do it to prove to myself that I could. Barcelona was great. Yes, the language caused a couple of hiccups, but having grown up in Miami definitely helped in negotiating some of the basics. Plus, gesturing is almost the universal language. I got by.

Barcelona is a beautiful city with a great Mediterranean feel - palm trees interspersed with knobby, almost aspen-like trees. Very walkable with intriguing little squares and something interesting around every corner. Amazing architecture. The colors, ceramics, and organic shapes of Modernisme were just astonishing. I used up the majority of my camera's battery power taking shots of all things Gaudi - Casa Batllo! La Sagrada Familia!! The man was a genius. Needless to say, I can't wait to go back, though I definitely plan to drag someone else with me next time.

I promise, my pictures will be coming soon. I'm hoping I got some good ones. The camera I borrowed from my sister seems to just eat battery power, so I'm not sure I got all the shots I tried for.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Welcome me back

So I've been away for awhile, okay a long while! No reflection on you, my scattered but wonderful readers and virtual co-adventurers. I just got busy and was actually enjoying having a life away from the computer. That's all over now :-) Not really, but I've been missing you all, so here I am!

Lots to tell about the past couple of months, but I decided to try filling you in as if I'd actually sat down and completed all the aborted posts I'd started. So here are a selection of vignettes from my Christmas and New Year adventures in pseudo-chronological order.

Shenanigans In the Real World (12/17/07): it's true, I have met Beth. How totally cool is that?! Think about it - you find a blog online written by someone who seems totally cool, you make a couple of comments on their blog and start chatting back and forth. Soon you're exchanging emails, then the occasional phone call, and a friendship is born. After having my guest room given away by Larry a few times (really, what's going on here Lars?), I finally managed to snag a visit this past weekend in The Big City. All I can say was I had a great time, and only partly because I got 95% of my Christmas shopping done :-) I just think it's amazing when someone you've never actually met turns out to be as fun and as much of a kindred spirit in real life as you imagined them to be. And Lars turned out to be OK too :-)

Battle of the Bulge (12/21/07): I just arrived in Miami a couple of days ago and already I'm in culture shock. My Lord, Americans are fat!

The True Meaning of Christmas (12/25/07): Without meaning to, and against all our efforts, we seem to have become trapped by the rampant consumerism of the season. Not the adults so much, but the children. How did this happen? My sister and husband work hard to set good boundaries and clear limits for their children. In fact my niece and nephew are the only kids, except for the children of my other Jamaican friends who grew up under the same kind of regime :-) and a select few others, whose childrearing I fully approve of. But still, Christmas had a small tinge of a nightmare. Gifts, stuff, coming out of the woodwork. My 2 year old nephew (who admittedly doesn't know any better), was like a wrapping opening machine, going from one package to the other ripping it open, then shoving it aside and moving on to the next one. He ended up trying to open his sister's and parents' gifts when he ran out of his own. And that took awhile because there was just so much darn stuff! My sister and brother-in-law finally had to end up choosing a selection to get stored away in the attic or outright donated somewhere else.

I now officially feel like an old fogey because all I could think of was how much my sister and I loved Christmas "in the old days". It had nothing to do with Santa (we weren't brought up to believe in Old St. Nick) and only about 60% to do with getting gifts :-) The whole season was special because of it's spiritual meaning and religious traditions, get-togethers with family and friends, and the ritual of Christmas morning - first early morning church service (6 am!), then breakfast, then opening gifts in rotation from person to person. We loved it. Even if we only got a handful of gifts each. I hope we're able to transmit something of the same experience to my niece and nephew, I really do.

The Surreal Life (12/28/07): spending a holiday at my sister's jungle cottage/amazingly landscaped house in Miami always makes me feel like I've left the real world behind. There's just something about not having any deadlines and living your days centered around the needs of the 2 amazing manifestations of my sister's (and my) DNA that just takes you out of your life. I have no responsibilities here except to engage in lengthy explorations of the backyard sandbox, take spontaneous trips to the zoo or the beach, or pretend I'm a soccer mom (or is that gymnastics aunt?) for a day. Nine days have passed since I dragged my whipped butt off the last connecting flight from Cork and it feels like I just got here yesterday. I can't wait till they come visiting in June! I wonder if they'll bring the same surreal world to Ireland with them?

Battle of the Bulge - II (12/29/07): Now I remember why it's so hard to keep the weight off here. I went to Macaroni Grill last night with my cousin and her beautiful and frighteningly athletic daughter and ordered one of my favorite pasta, cheese, and shrimp (not prawns) dishes. It smelled amazing and tasted even better, but it was so heavy and there was just so darn much of it that I could only eat about a quarter. The rest I brought back in a doggy bag. Has my stomach really shrunk that much? I'd like to think so :-) I have to admit though that a big part is just not having access to as much choice in Ireland. I'm overwhelmed now going into Tar-gay, or even just Eckerd Pharmacy, by just how much candy and sugared sodas and various crap calories packaged in pretty colors there are at the check-out counter and scattered everywhere. In fact, I'm overwhelmed just by the amount of choice in general!

I Feel The Need For Speed (12/29/07): How have I lived for 5 months without driving?! Since I still have not found someone to take over the lease on my beautiful Passat, it's been sitting in my cousin's garage in Raleigh patiently waiting for me to come back and give it some loving. And what a loving! I actually did get in some driving while with the family in Miami, but driving someone else's minivan around with a toddler and a talkative 5 yr old didn't give me quite the same rush as stepping into my own dream machine. The rush was totally unexpected but ohhh, so nice! The power beneath my feet, the authority of maneuvering a vehicle around vs. the innate helplessness of relying on my own 2 feet and the vicissitudes of public transportation, the sheer pleasure I got blasting the radio as loud as I could stand it with the sunroof open and putting the pedal-to-the-metal, driving way too fast down a straight, wide (4 lanes each way!) highway. There's nothing to beat it. Yeah, traffic was a bear and I rediscovered my inner impatient, angry cynic (there's nothing quite like road rage), but that first rush was totally worth it.

Worship (12/30/07): I love my church, I really really do! I knew I missed it. The small little Baptist fellowship I attend in Cork is great, but there's nothing like being around people who you've known for years (literally almost half my life now), in a fun setting that you're completely familiar and comfortable with, and knowing that your contributions were valued and are missed. I miss just knowing the rhythm of the place, including exactly how fast to sing the songs :-) Is it a Baptist thing where everything gets sung just a couple of beats too slow?

The message was great too, and only partly because it was given by the most recent minister I helped recruit :-) God wants us to enjoy life! We never seem to remember that part of the Good News. Dave also repeated a great rabbinical saying that I'm now taking as a personal challenge: God will call you to account for every permitted pleasure you refuse. I love that. I've got to get moving, there's a whole list of stuff I need to catch up on!

Kitty Love (12/31/07): Ah, there's nothing like the scorn of a high maintenance (possibly slightly spoiled?) cat who's been forced to live with a stranger (i.e., paid cat sitter and extremely patient professional) and several other animals for 5 months, without her owner around to provide the proper kowtowing and service! I was snubbed by my newly chubby sweetie today when I went by to see her. If only she knew how much money (lots!) and effort and angst I've put into finding her a good place to stay and preparing for her transfer overseas. Nahhh, she wouldn't give a hoot, she thinks it's her just due :-)

Overload (1/1/08): In contrast to my almost dreamy time in Miami over Christmas, my 4 days here at home in Raleigh have been crammed full! I've shopped to my heart's content, and my wallet's despair, and visited virtually every good friend I could find in town, some of them more than once! :-) I've loved it! Now I just have to find a way to cram everything into the previously empty suitcase and wrangle it back to Ireland. Remember my earlier smug complaints about rampant consumerism? Just call me Ms. Hypocrite.

Wheels! (1/27/08): It's small, cute, (relatively) cheap, and it's all mine. Yes! I am soooo ready to be mobile again. Walking everywhere may have been good for my waistline, but otherwise it was for the birds. Yesterday, for the first time, I had the freedom to go off exploring and, in some ways, I finally started to feel like I was in Ireland. My aussie friend, her 2 kids, and I meandered our way to Garryvoe Beach, Ballycotton, and several other very Irish sounding villages scattered across southeast Cork and the coast. We had a great time and I have the sand on my floorboards to prove it :-)

P.S. The picture is just a stock one, not my actual baby, but you get the idea.

Is this sexy or just plain wrong?

Very sexy athletic girl from the musical Africa Africa