Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yesterday marked one year since I touched down in Dublin with two bags each easily twice the size of myself (and I mean that), plus my bike and my cat Gypsy. I arrived at about 5a.m. then promptly went to sleep. On the plane over, it took me a good hour to stop crying. To be honest, the emotions I felt when I left made me wonder if I was doing the right thing by leaving my friends and family behind to go to a place I didn't know anything about.

The first few months were not easy. Sure, if you read my blog it looks pretty rosy, but I can tell you I felt homesick; discouraged by running out of money and not being able to find work; hemmed in by the rainy, windy weather; at times depressed because I didn't have any friends; frustrated at getting lost and having to look at maps, not to mention trying to negotiate the buses; isolated from people back home whenever bad news struck -- you name it, I felt it. Some days I would just log onto my gmail and wait for people in the US to wake up so I could talk to them, and then would do little else all day.

But slowly things started to turn around. I began to make friends. I got used to being broke! The weather got a bit warmer and drier. I started to realize that there are places in Dublin to have fun without spending a ton of money. I started being better at exploring the city. I started getting back to the things I used to enjoy doing, and found some new hobbies too. I set up a work table for myself. Basically, I got myself out of my rut.

So looking back on the past year, I feel satisfied. Did I accomplish everything I would have liked to this year? Hell, no. But was it a happy year? It definitely was. And for the first time in many, many years, I'm going to have a couple of New Year's resolutions!

However, the weather over the past few days does remind me of what I encountered when I first got to Ireland. I'll take a snowstorm any day over this wind and rain. All I can think of to do is stay inside as much as possible, safe in my little hovel! It's so easy to hole yourself away when it's like this and decide not to come out until Spring. But sadly, spring won't be much better! Living in Ireland means coming to terms with the crap weather. So I'm going to make an effort to go out and do fun things rather than stay in with tea (ok, whiskey) and TV just to stay warm and dry. But I gotta tell ya, it ain't gonna be easy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just a note to say HI! I'm still alive! We "moved house" yesterday, and it's been sort of nuts. First, there was having to pack all of our stuff. Considering that apartments come furnished, we had a surprising amount of stuff. We managed to get help from a new friend of ours who has a small van, but it took three trips!

However, our new cool, homey place wasn't exactly what we planned on. Our landlord didn't have time to really do anything to the apartment since the guy before us moved out (the day before, admittedly), but also the guy left a TON of stuff behind. And nearly all of it junk, too.

Additionally, he apparently didn't use the front bedroom, and had shut the radiator off. So there's a bit of a "damp" problem in there. Today we shuffled stuff around all day, trying to clean mildewy spots and move furniture to where it needed to be, which was no small feat considering all the extra crap in here. When we moved the nicer wardrobe from the front room into our bedroom, we realized the extent of the damp problem in that room. It wasn't actually "damp," but "wet." Half the wall was actually wet. However the landlord luckily supplied a dehumidifier for us, and it's working away. My hope is that with some heat and a dehumidifier, cleaning, and a bit of paint, we can say good-bye to the damp and mildew.

But seriously I'd like to punch the previous tenant in the mouth. The filter on the washer/dryer unit appears to never have been cleaned out. The inside of the microwave is RUSTED (yes, the microwave is rusted -- you read that right) -- because the dude never took the plastic off the vent on it, so the moisture has never escaped. It's literally the dirtiest microwave I've ever seen. Every nook and cranny seems to contain some new horror.

HOWEVER, having said that...I think this place has amazing potential. The kitchen is adorable. We've been cleaning it and re-arranging things to get it work-able. The livingroom will be spectacular with a coat of paint and some nice things on the walls. It's just not as much space as we'd hoped. Actually I take that back -- it's just that we have too much STUFF. But it will all fit nicely with some planning (and maybe help from Ikea). We are going to get rid of the bed in the front room, move the small futon from the living room into there, and then snag one of Mark's uncle's extra arm chairs for its place. The landlord said she would pay for paint, so all we have to do is pick some colors and do it. I'm thinking a nice simple caramel for the living room.

But the biggest thing is cleaning. The guy who lived here before clearly never cleaned once while he lived here. The shower is downright disgusting. The only thing to do is re-grout the tiles. But despite all the work that needs doing, when I look around I see a vision of it in my head and I can't wait to execute it!

Tomorrow we start cooking, and won't stop until Friday afternoon. Then it's back to home improvement. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I will never be a bag lady.

And by that I mean I will never be one of those people who gives a bunch of presents in gift bags. One thing about living in a different country is that you discover your customs are foreign in ways you never expected. For example: in my house, when you give a gift that's soft, like clothing, you wrap it in a box. Usually, the store will give you said box for free. Maybe this is why they call America the land of plenty -- all you gotta do is say, "Can I get a box with that?" and there you go, FREE BOX for your wrapping pleasure. I quickly realized that gift boxes aren't really a "thing" here, but I thought no problemo, I'll just buy gift boxes somewhere. Because at home you can buy them at any pharmacy, stationery store, or department store. Well, let me just say I've been to a LOT of shops in Dublin this week, and there are no gift boxes to be had. I mean, Easons had these really small fancy things that looked like pre-wrapped boxes, but not clothing gift boxes. Just gift bags. Everywhere.

Mark insisted that his family wraps soft items as-is, and that it was "the way it's done," but I actually did not believe him. But then I talked to a friend about it and she corroborated his testimony. Not only that, but she didn't get what I even meant, that's how foreign the concept of gift boxes for clothing was. She also said that half the fun of Christmas was feeling the presents and trying to guess what they were. After a brief pause, I said, "Yeah...we tried to guess by shaking the boxes."

The idea of wrapping an irregularly shaped object is horrifying to me. Everything must be in a box!!! Is that weird? Even if it is, I still think it's better than handing someone a gift bag

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Study in Irish Politics. (Language not suitable for Children.)

You know, he sure would have sounded a lot less crazy if he hadn't apologized in the next breath. If you have the guts to yell F*** you in the Dail, then I don't see why you should take it back.