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Entries tagged with “living in Ireland”.


country kids 2 country kids

My friend Earnan enjoys the sun and horseplay with his nieces and nephew at a country barbeque

From reading this blog, you probably get the impression that I am a city girl through and through. After all I’m always going on about the differences between the place from where I came (Los Angeles) and where I landed (Drogheda, Ireland). It’s not always the cultural dissimilarities that shock and confuse; it’s the stark contrast between city life and small town country living that often leaves my head spinning.

So you may be a tad surprised by the confession I am about to make: I haven’t always been an urban city dweller. Sure, I was born in Tokyo and spent my formative years in Los Angeles and went to college in San Francisco. But there was a short period of my life where I lived out in the country, and when I say “country” I’m talkin’ authentic, down-home sticksville. When I was five years old, my family moved from Tokyo, Japan to Cherokee Village, Arkansas. Of course you’ve never heard of the place, and why would you? It’s tiny. It’s country. It’s the sticks.

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lambs field The good life: Sheep graze on Ciara’s farm

Being someone who has never lived in the country before, I have a typical urbanite’s image of what a farm is like. The sun is shining, the grass is a deep shade of emerald green and the little lambs and big cows and chubby pigs all play together while being watched over by a talking spider named Charlotte.

Of course the truth is that most animal farms I’ve encountered in the United States are the complete opposite of that fantastical picture I created in my head. The only ones I ever came across were on my drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, but they were more like factories than farms. Thousands of cows kept in a field of mucky dirt and mud, covered in filth and baking in the hot sun – not exactly a good life (the “Happy Cows” ad series by California Cheese has to be the most blatant example of false advertising I’ve ever seen – these cows are miserable). The “farmers” were actually minimum-wage employees of some big corporation, and I imagine none had any real farming experience or much care for the animals.

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clogher cemetary 2 Beautiful cemetery in Clogherhead

Funerals, to state the obvious, are typically bleak affairs. Everyone wears black, there is a good deal of crying and I think it’s safe to say that everyone feels some sort of pressure to behave in an appropriate manner. This includes not smiling or laughing, keeping one’s head bowed down for a good portion of the event and speaking in soft, hushed tones.

Only two weeks after arriving in Ireland, I attended my first Irish wake and funeral for my friend Trevor’s father, Nicholas, who passed away after a long illness. The family chose to do a traditional Irish wake, which takes place over three days. Trevor, who is the eldest son, opted to have it at his house in Clogherhead, the fishing village where he had grown up. The open casket was placed in a room toward the front of the house, and for those three days friends and family came to pay their respects. For Americans, the idea of having a body in someone’s house is a morbid one. But I can say from personal experience that it was anything but.

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boys funny3

If you were to ask most people to describe me, I think one of the first adjectives they’d use is independent. In the literal sense, I am single, live alone and have no kids or pets. Very independent. In compliance with the larger meaning of the word, I don’t often require the help of others, have and show a deep desire for freedom and rarely look to others’ opinions for guidance in conduct.

Sometimes my independence is a good thing; I’m very proud of the fact that in most situations, I can rely on myself. I can stitch a hem, operate a weed wacker, drive a stick shift, throw a mean left hook, identify a crescent wrench, and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. But there are times when being a self-governing island creates a feeling of isolation and indifference. And as difficult as it is for me to admit, it can also make me feel less…like a woman.

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Stop yer messin!

While it isn’t exactly the Irish nature to be mean-spirited, they are known to carry on a joke a bit too far. This is why I live in fear. Now before you judge me as paranoid, allow me to share a few gags – all carried out by people I know personally – and then you can tell me if you’d feel safe in this group of jokers. Me? I prefer to sleep with one eye open.

Sometimes, one can just be at the wrong place at the wrong time. As my friend sat in her car, stuck in traffic on West Street (the main thoroughfare in Drogheda), she saw another friend walking on the sidewalk. Foolishly, she called out to him to say hello. He walked over, said hello, reached into her car and promptly removed the keys from her ignition before walking away – with keys in hand. Now most people would get a good laugh, turn around and hand the keys back. Not this fella! He kept walking and my friend had to leave her car parked there, amidst the blaring horns and vocal abuse from annoyed fellow drivers, and run after him to get her keys back.

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Yolks were used to make this

As I’ve mentioned before, there are few nationalities in the world more creative in the verbal insults department than the Irish. This knack for clever verbiage also applies to slang words and phrases, so I wanted to share a few of my favorites along with my misunderstandings of them.

Phrase: Cop on
What I Thought It Meant: Something to do with the police or “garda” as they say here, as “cop” is what we call the police in America.
Meaning: Kind of the same as “get with it.” If someone is telling you to “cop on,” they want you to realize something already. Typically used as a verb (“Cop on, you stupid cow!”) it can also be used as a noun, which I find hilarious.
Best Use I’ve Heard so Far: “Daddy can’t buy you cop on!”

Word: Jeggings
What I Thought It Meant: When I first saw a sign that said “Jeggings” in a storefront, I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what this meant.
Meaning: These are a cross between jeans and leggings, known back in the states as “jean leggings.” In typical Irish tradition where everything is shortened into a nickname or catchphrase, they are jeggings. Imagine if J-Lo was instead Jopez or instead of “chillax” (a  way of combining “chill” and “relax”) we said “relachill.” It just doesn’t sound right nor does it glide off the tongue the way good nicknames should. Jeggings? Can you think of a word that sounds more jarring (besides the word jarring, that is)?
Verdict: Though the name leaves much to be desired, I love jeggings. Finally I can tuck my jeans into my boots without them bunching up around the knees. So for this reason, and this reason only, I will forgive the God-awful name.

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Mark of shame on my beloved blue car…

Just when you think things are going well, Life has a way of giving you a paper cut topped with a handful of salt and vinegar crisps. And if Life is feeling especially frisky, it will also toss your toast on the floor, jam-side down, before dropping a gigantic piano on your head.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started off well enough: it was only partly cloudy and relatively temperate, and I had a productive morning sending pitches out to a few magazines. I did the dishes, straightened up the apartment and readied myself for a workout. That’s when things took an ominous turn. As I pulled out of the parking garage to go to the gym, a man pulled his car nose-to-nose with mine, trying to get into the parking garage. Since I was already 90% out of the one-lane driveway, I stood my ground as it was HIS responsibility to back up and let me out. He stayed put, and started honking obnoxiously and waving at me to move back into the garage. Flustered, I threw the car into reverse and heard the most God-awful sound as my car scraped the concrete wall of my parking space.  Feck!

Nothing like a hot meal after a bad day

The guy, in all his douchebaggery, failed to notice and just drove into his space with nary a comment or care in the world. I was too angry to get out of the car; though he pressured me and was all-around f*ckchop, technically it was my fault. I drove to the gym, got out of the car and inspected the damage. Two panels, scraped to sh*t and a nice, big dent near the tire. GREAT.

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Mr. Lepruchaun says: “Open yer ears!” 

I’m finding that it’s not always good practice to pretend I understand what someone is saying even when I do not. It’s just that I feel like an idiot when I have to ask someone to repeat themselves again and again because I can’t make sense of their Irish accent. Sometimes it’s just easier to nod my head and act like I know what the person is talking about.

Case in point: Recently I was at the pub with a group of friends. One guy at the table told a sexual joke (half of which I couldn’t even hear). A few minutes later, my friend turned to me and asked me a question. To me, it sounded like this:

 “[blah blah blah blah blah blah] hung?”

The only word I understood from his whole sentence was “hung,” which was clearly a reference to the other guy’s tasteless joke, so I just made a face at him and ignored his question. He pressed on.

“[blah blah blah blah blah blah] hung?”

Now he was just being cheeky, I thought. “F*ck off!” I said, laughing. He looked at me, confused. This time he leaned over and spoke louder.

“DID YOU GET YOUR TOWEL RACKS HUNG?”

I realized then he was referring to some bathroom towel racks I had purchased the previous week. He’d driven me to the hardware store in search of them, hence his interest.

“Oh, uh…no,” I responded, red-faced.

Lesson learned: It’s better to ask than to assume, and it’s not always easy being an American in Ireland!

Dislike: Lack of variety on television…

It’s been a little over one month since my arrival to Drogheda and I’m starting to settle and adjust to my new environment. Things that I thought I’d never get used to, like driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car, is now second nature. I use my laser card for nearly all my purchases, drink tea about 3-5 times a day and have become quite adept at hanging an entire load of laundry on one clothes horse.

…sigh.

There are some things, however, that I still have a hard time with. And while I realize the following may make me sound a bit like an entitled, spoiled American, I’m just being honest. So, without any further ado, here are some things that drive me pretty nuts:

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Patrick and me surrounded by bread; scenes from McCloskey’s main bakery

One of the benefits about living in a small town is that it doesn’t take long to find out where or who has the best of the best. For fish, I’ve heard it’s Kirwan’s Fish Cart; for meat, rumor is that Eamonn James Sampson on Peter Street has the best cuts. And for baked goods, most specifically Irish brown bread, I can personally say that it’s McCloskey’s Bakery.

Good brown bread, according to my Irish friends, should be substantial in texture, moist and a bit crumbly on the inside. Though it’s made with whole wheat flour, it’s nothing like the regular wheat sandwich/toast bread I was used to back in the U.S. This is a yeast-free bread that’s dense and nutty, made in a process similar to Irish soda bread. McCloskey’s signature “Cottage Brown” bread, with its perfect crumb and hearty wheat flavor, is truly the perfect brown bread and has become a staple in my pantry.

So I was thrilled when Patrick McCloskey, Master Baker and Managing Director of the company, invited me for a tour of his main bakery in Drogheda. Patrick and his immediate family are third generation in the bakery, which has become a local institution over the years. The family runs a bakery plant in Drogheda, a McCloskey’s Bakery shop in town plus the Moorland Café, which sells a range of fresh-baked pastries and breads along with a variety of sandwiches, salads and other savory dishes. The name has become synonymous with fantastic baked goods here. Just one taste of any of their products and it’s easy to understand how this family has gained such a positive reputation.

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