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Moving to Ireland « An American in Ireland

Entries tagged with “Moving to Ireland”.


Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes 2

The other day as I was chatting away with a fewvendors at the Honest 2 Goodness farmers market, I realised that somewhere between arriving in Ireland on March 4th, 2010 and last Saturday, I’d managed to create a life here.

When I first landed, I had a few friends I knew from years ago but as they all lived in a different area it was common for me to walk around town (Drogheda, which was my first home here) and not know a single face. I’d go grocery shopping, sit and read at a café for hours, stroll around the streets without seeing a single person I knew. I stumbled my way through getting to know the one-way streets and the opening hours of the post office and Tesco and which roads allowed free parking and which ones didn’t.

Ocean Water

People say you either sink or swim, but for the first several months I was doggy paddling rather soppily – and doing a pretty good job at staying afloat. I couldn’t quite open my eyes underwater and sometimes I’d bump my head into a wall, but I kept kicking. After meeting Mountaineering Man and dating for several months, I made the move to Dublin and started that process again – the getting-to-know-you part – finding my way around the city, making new friends and creating a home. And I kept on paddling.

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Clare view

The other day I came across a notebook that I brought from Los Angeles but hadn’t looked at in ages. It was a journal of notes that started in 2008 and ended before I moved to Ireland, which was on March 4, 2010. The last few pages are my frantic “to do” lists for my move, which included such chores as burn 10 CDs a day every day to iTunes, go to packing supply store, and don’t forget your PASSPORT!!!

What’s more interesting was a list of goals I’d set for myself back in 2008. They ranged from things I wanted to accomplish that day, like transcribe Tahiti interviews (for a story I was writing for a food/travel magazine) to tasks I wanted to finish within a month like clean up patio and buy plants for it. But further down the list were some life goals:

· I want to write a novel

· I want to be in a committed relationship with a great guy

· I want to buy a condo/house in Pasadena

· I want to travel more or live abroad

· I want to earn $100,000 per year

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mattock 1

When I was visiting my friends in Collon last September (this was the trip that basically got the wheels turning about moving to Ireland), I noticed red and black checkered flags all over the village. Pubs, houses, telephone poles – they were everywhere. I soon found out that these flags bore the colors of the Mattock Rangers, the local Gaelic football club, and that the team was close to securing a spot in the 2009 finals. The anticipation and anxiety of the village was evident in the bits and pieces of conversation I overheard during my visit. It was as if the entire population of Collon was holding its collective breath, careful not to jinx a victory by too much talk while at the same time silently agonizing over the thought of a loss.

mattock 11

I went back to America before the final match but heard from friends that the Mattock Rangers clinched the championship the following month. I saw video and photos of the three-day celebration around Collon village, and it looked absolutely mad. The guys were jumping on tables, the team paraded through the streets on the back of a huge flat-bed truck and it seemed the entire village was out partying for those three days and nights – kids, moms, dads, grandparents, the whole lot. I didn’t quite understand the passion and, most importantly, the significance of the team and what they meant to the community until I saw that evidence. For the village of Collon, the Mattock Rangers represent its hopes and dreams; it’s not just a football team, it’s a way of life for many in the community.

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007

Nancy (right smack in the middle!) with her siblings at a recent birthday celebration for her brother.

Being from Los Angeles, I have a pretty specific definition of the Independent Woman. She’s single or dating someone (or a few people!), has a successful career, rents a nice apartment or perhaps even owns a condo or house and has a social calendar that involves lots of fabulous restaurants, bars and friends. She not only brings home the bacon (or maybe some organic chorizo), but she can fry it up in a pan, toss it on a bed of farmers’ market vegetables and have it all ready for an impromptu Friday-night dinner party for a few of her closest pals without breaking a sweat.

Suffice it to say, I was that Independent Woman living in Los Angeles. And though now I live in Ireland, I’ve worked hard to maintain that IW lifestyle – though it’s not always easy. I do rent a fabulous apartment and have maintained my writing career but there are not a lot of great restaurants or bars in the town of Drogheda, where I reside. However I still have my dinner parties and nights out and I’ve made some incredibly fabulous friends. But the more time I spend here in Ireland, the more I’m realizing that there is a whole other type of independent woman out there, and she is the polar opposite of me.

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thur tomato

I’m not going to lie: Sometimes Ireland gets to me, and not in a good way. Lately I’ve been feeling quite cranky, to be rather polite, and it seems every little thing gets on my nerves. Whether it’s a silly thing like the lack of “plain” clothing I can find (what is up with this country’s obsession with bows and floral patterns?) or something more serious like the blatant sexism I witness on a weekly basis, there are times when I feel like Drogheda itself is squeezing every last bit of sanity right out of my soul. The constant hay fever, the zillions of greenfly in the air and lackadaisical approach to customer service drives me nuts. The other day I had to go to three grocery shops just to find the ingredients for a pretty basic meal. As I searched yet another store for fresh basil, I found myself muttering under my breath like a crazy old bag lady, “What is wrong with this place?!”

thur rain

The weather doesn’t help either. While we’ve had a relatively mild summer so far, the last week brought monsoon-type rain showers that made everything more difficult. The other day I was walking to the store when another downpour suddenly occurred and I had to struggle to get inside the shop because customers were all standing in the doorway, waiting for the rain to subside. I wanted to physically push them aside but I value my freedom so I refrained. We had 5 days in a row of lashing rain with no letup in sight and even though I was warned about the Irish summers before I came, it’s nearly pushed me over the edge.

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fry up table
 Sunday mornings in Ireland

*In Ireland, you can buy a meat pie…in a can.

*That even though I’ve never been a nationalist, I can get defensive when the Irish slag off America/Americans. It’s the same thing with your bratty little brother; you’re allowed to say whatever you want about the little sh*tbird but when someone else does, it’s on.

*You know you’re turning Irish when you start dropping the “t” off words like what (“wha?”) and not (“noh!?”).

*Really depressing novels, especially ones that center on a former abuse victim who rises above adversity and creates a fulfilling life for him/herself, are very popular here. People go mad for titles like “Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes” and “Don’t Tell Mummy.”

*Nudity on network television is no big deal in Ireland. That said, most of the naked people on TV are none you’d ever want to see sans clothing (see popular television show Embarrassing Bodies for many prime examples).

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LA Paris

LA view

 LA sufers  LA 2

My snaps of LA life: View of LA hillside; Paris Hilton waiting for her car; Surfers at the beach; Restaurant opening party in Santa Monica

It’s hard to believe that barely three months ago, I was packing up my life in Los Angeles and preparing for a whole new adventure in small-town Ireland. As I’ve hinted in several previous posts, I decided to move because I wanted to challenge myself and to force a change that felt necessary.

LA can be a strange place. It’s a city where residents get to observe celebrities in their natural habitat. It was perfectly common for me to see Drew Barrymore in the grocery check-out line or Orlando Bloom picking up coffee at Starbucks. Most people in my circle of friends have some connection to the entertainment industry whether it’s through work or social circles. My freelance work with a well-known celebrity magazine frequently placed me right in the center of Hollywood parties, red carpets and celeb-driven charity functions. One of my best friends works for Screen Actors Guild and my sister is a managing editor for a celebrity gossip television show. There are also actors, musicians, chefs, and filmmakers in my social group in Los Angeles.

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There’s nothing like a dinner party to make a new apartment truly feel like home. And though it’s been two months since I up and left the bustling city of Los Angeles for the quiet adventure of Drogheda, Ireland, it was only last Saturday that I finally hosted friends for a home-cooked meal.

I will admit that I geeked out a bit on the preparations: out came the cloth napkins and napkin rings, matching dishware and candles. I cleaned the apartment top to bottom. I even created a playlist on my iPod specifically for the dinner (major nerd, I know!). But when it came to the meal, I made food that could be cooked in advanced so I could enjoy my friends’ company versus being stuck in the kitchen all night.

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When Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” he’d obviously never been to Ireland. From what my friends tell me, the last three summers here have been unbearably wet and cold, with weeks of downpours and cloudy skies keeping any semblance of sun from making an appearance.

That is the reason why they all predict we will have a fabulous summer this year (“Ah sure after dem last few summers, we’ll have a great one – we deserve it!”). Of course this makes no logical sense at all; good weather isn’t earned. This type of wishful thinking is just a way to cope with the weather in Ireland, which can be flat-out schizophrenic at times. In a 24-hour period, you can experience lashing rain, sun, gusting winds, hail and cloudless skies. The sheer volatility of the climate here makes it impossible to plan anything outdoors in advance, and often wrecks havoc on such important events as weddings and funerals.

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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!