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.