Garrettstown beach

First, some housekeeping items:


I kept seeing red L signs in rear car windows. I thought it was supporting some team, maybe Leinster, but we are in Munster so it was odd to have so many L fans. Then I found these at the grocery store: Learner! I considered putting one in my window to warn everyone of my bad driving, but then I figured there are probably rules for Learners like having a “mentor” in the car and not driving after certain hours, so that might backfire. I’m not sure anyone would respond to my transgression, though, because I’ve never seen anyone pulled over (I have yet to see speeding or aggressive driving), and cops themselves are pretty far between. They aren’t even usually armed and yet crime is really low. The local radio stations report on murders nationwide and they don’t seem to happen every day. Heck, they report on deaths in car crashes nationwide and even those don’t happen every day. Ireland is the size of Indiana and seems to have a bit fewer people, but apparently having no guns *ahem* other than for hunting would be my guess as to the lack of violently-dead people. That is a much bigger topic than I have time to get into here.

Because: a grammar find! This is the second time I saw a corrected sign, which means there are others like me on this side of the pond. This one is awesome because someone corrected the Gaelic! It’s at a coordinated stoplight near Ballyfeard, I think, that controls who gets to use the one lane of traffic while the other lane is under construction. Note the inserted letter and Gaelige!!! admonishing the sign maker.

Another expat and I like these signs that look like the car is chasing down the pedestrian to run him over. (The first times I saw it it didn’t mention kids…) Are those rocks spitting out from the car tire at the edge of the road, or is the tire excited for a fresh victim?

On the way to the local beach today (Sunday), I made yet another wrong turn and found this classic view looking back over Kinsale, where I live. Fields are starting to get greener and daffodils bloomed last week, but a lot of trees still don’t have leaves, so it seems similar to home (except there are fewer trees here, I think). However, I don’t know if the dry/cold winter here affected what is normal for the island.

The local strands are at Garrettstown, though I mostly saw signs for Ballinspittle. The first thing I saw at the beach was a cow. This reminded me of my friend Jason who is touring the world and posted a picture from India this week on Facebook with cows on the beach with him (the pic is not on his blog yet, but I’ll update when it’s there because it’s pretty funny). I guess the Irish cows, being bounded by electric fencing across the street, at least won’t leave us piles in the sand.

This view looks back at the beaches/cows. Do you see the people surfing when it’s 50 degrees out?? The Irish are serious about their watersports and wetsuits. There were many people at the beach, food vendors, you name it. Kids were digging in the sand wearing hats and coats.

I drove out to Old Head, the tip of the land in this area, where you can’t get past those ruins because yet another golf club has put a fence around their precious holes in the ground. Sorry, I just don’t get golf. On the plus side, the golfers are greeted with the constant odor of dairy cows.

A typical street in the town of Kinsale. I like this Guinness sign.

About a block from that pub is St. Multose, a church built by the Normans in the 1100s!! It’s still in use today; I went inside and saw that people from several countries had signed the guestbook this weekend. It smells old inside but is in very good repair.

After the local wandering, I picked up the slowest fast food I’ve had in awhile (plus I had to walk to get it; does that even count?) and went to the gym for the first time, which is a hotel exercise room! We can get passes through work and it’s a rather nice hotel gym (even if the scale weighed me in stone), so I may even join it. The fact that it’s five minutes from home and has a hot tub weighs into this heavily. Anyway, after that and the previous day’s long hikes, I’m all joint-crunchy and sore and I’m guessing tomorrow will be worse. That will be the day to hit the hot tub!

I had many adventures on Saturday, too, but felt this post would be faster to craft and I need to get to bed. We moved the clocks to “summer time” this weekend so we’re back to five hours ahead of the eastern U.S. My trainer and I only missed one international conference call last week due to the misaligned time changes. There was talk on the radio here that they might switch to a different European central time; I can only imagine the fights after the last couple of years in Indiana! I imagine a Hoosier saying it’s important to stay on Greenwich Mean Time because that’s how the rest of the world bases their clocks and therefore we’re more important.

Moving house

I’m abandoning my computer desk assembly. I was feeling too dumb to understand the complicated instructions, and then realized I have no screwdriver! I feel like I packed a silly little one, but I don’t recall unpacking it and have no idea where it would be. The flathead one on my bike tool won’t cut it.

I signed up for satellite TV online last week but it had a one-week wait for installation. Then they called yesterday to say the online system isn’t working right (though they somehow had all my info) and scheduled for yet another week out. I’m still amazed that every customer service person I talk to IS ACTUALLY IN IRELAND (or else their foreign call center counterparts have mastered the accent): the bank, the TV people, the electric company. Today I was excited to receive a temporary login to watch the TV channels online for a month. But: it didn’t work, and the site is having technical problems. Sigh.

A few pictures of the house, mostly from moving day:

Kitchen eating area, with patio doors to backyard


Kitchen, the other way


Living room 1


Living room 1, looking out the other set of patio doors. I’m not using this room for anything except storing packing boxes right now


Living room 2


Living room 2, the other way. This gas fireplace howls with the wind. At some point I will have the new TV, computer desk, and various other comfort items set up in here but at the moment it’s a wreck


Stairs going up to the loft


Master BR (downstairs; that would be ground floor, while first floor is what I think is second floor!)


Guest BR 1. See how I made the bed?


Guest BR 2. Home to camping equipment now and apparently a little girl in the past


Guest bath, one of three bathrooms. The showers in the other ones are worth a separate blog post


The loft upstairs with sleeper couch and its own bathroom with skylight


View of the harbor harbour and ocean from the loft balcony. Someone told me you can see the lighthouse at night up there but I just checked and it’s too rainy to go out.

The style of the house, with bright natural light (even on gray days), neutral colors, and white trim is exactly what I would pick for myself, so the relocation people did a great job considering I had never been here when it was picked for me. It’s pretty new and seems energy efficient, an improvement over our uninsulated 90-year-old house at home! There is a nice yard and patio in the back and lots of landscaping that I don’t have to maintain, which is brilliant or perfect if you go by the slang here. Grand, fair play, lads.

Today I saw yet another person walking in the road with a stick, but it wasn’t long enough to be a walking stick. I asked my coworkers and they hadn’t noticed all the stick-carrying pedestrians before. I need more data.

Driving, shopping, getting losting

Last week was my first driving trip on my own to Cork. I got lost a lot, mostly listening to my GPS but not being in the right lane or seeing the right sign to correlate to her directions in time. Due to significant shopping needs (having a partially furnished house, e.g., no forks or pots or groceries), I went both Saturday and Sunday last weekend. Then I was up there again on Wednesday for the parade and also grabbed a television from a grumpy salesperson. Then I went up again today to go to an animal rescue event and did a little more shopping, this time in the zippy areas of the Grand Parade, English Market, and pedestrian streets where shops weren’t open on Wednesday.

Noted:

    I’m not a very good driver, but drivers here are polite, so no one has honked at me. Sometimes this is bad because I don’t know it’s my turn to go.

    I still don’t know if I can turn on red (I’m hoping not, because I need the red lights to think and regroup! But I wouldn’t know anyway since no one honks)

    I find it thrilling to go 100, even if it’s really 60 back in the non-metric world.

    There is no taco sauce in Ireland. Jalapeno-tomato relish is not the same – I tried it on my burrito.

    There are no king size pillowcases here. In fact, king size here is queen size at home, so I’m really looking for super king size. You can find the super king sheets occasionally, but no one sleeps on giant pillows. Also, pillowcases come in styles like Oxford and housewife, but I have no idea what those mean. Since I’ve been learning so much about pillow sizes, more than once I used the known of 45 cm x 75 cm (standard pillow) to approximate other purchases like a 32″ TV and a towel rack — my metric approximations aren’t so good outside a laboratory.

    The shopping carts trolleys are locked to each other in the corral. It takes a one Euro coin to release one, and you get it back when you return the cart to the corral. Anyone remember how much loose shopping carts in parking lots drive me nuts?? Solved. However, on my first shopping trip, I had no idea what value coin to use and had to ask some random guy. I now hoard these coins in fear of not being able to get a cart. Also I kept fearing someone would steal my cart from the store aisles if I didn’t have my hand on it, to get the money, since they totally would in the U.S.

    There are some lovely European laws about not testing household products (like cleaners) on animals. 🙂 This means I can buy generic dish soap washing up liquid and no bunnies were hurt. In the U.S. I usually have to shop at a special store for that.

    Carmel prepared me for roundabouts, but not the four-lane variety with stoplights.

    I now expect to make one or two wrong turns on any trip to a new place. My GPS says “Recalculating” and “Make a U-turn” a lot. Today I never did find the pet supply store or the catalog store and just went home.

    Everyone else’s credit card has a chip in it that lets them wave it past readers at the checkout till and not have to sign anything. I preempt all payments now with “it doesn’t have a chip” and prepare for the cashier to figure out how to swipe the card.

    No pay at the pump, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t work for me due to the above. It took almost €60 to fill the 12-gallon-ish tank of my new diesel Golf, and that’s at about 40 cents a gallon less than gas petrol would have cost.

    On the road, the line in the middle is white but the lines on the edge are yellow. Parking garages are scaled down to match the smaller cars. Like on the country roads, I find myself clenching my teeth and holding my breath/thinking skinny to get past tight spaces.

    On the way to work, there is an intersection with a stop sign but YIELD is painted on the road, and two blocks later there is a yield sign but STOP is painted on the road.

    No one is fat here.

A few pics from today:

“Cream crackers” are popular. I’m not sure where they get the name, but it’s even printed on the cracker itself. They taste a lot like unsalted Saltines.

Roofs of Cork

Back to Quay Co-op for lunch

St. Patrick’s Day: wandering Cork


After the parade, I ate at hippie-friendly Quay Co-op, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Cork. The food was great! They also have a grocery which would have helped my pantry a lot (it’s hard to find a few veggie-specific items in regular groceries), but it was closed for the holiday.

A note on the word quay: I used to use it a lot in Scrabble and therefore knew it to mean dock or wharf. This word is part of every other street or building name around here, and it’s pronounced key. Whoops!

Cork has a central island of sorts within the split of the River Lee, which is pedestrian-only and has lots of neat little shops, restaurants, and pubs. The parade went around this area so I couldn’t get in until it was over, where it was jammed with people. Most of the shops were closed for the holiday so I didn’t get to explore much, so I just took some pictures. At a central spot there were food booths and a concert stage and it was so crowded it was difficult to even walk.


This is what’s left of the Red Abbey, a 14th-century church. It’s basically the oldest thing in town now since everything else from that era and before burned down long ago.

St. Patrick’s Day parade

I had no alcohol, sorry. I drove up to Cork and took the Park-n-Ride (€5 to park on the way and take the double-decker bus into the center of the city: avoid crazy city parking, save money, help the environment!) to see the parade.


Fota Wildlife Park


bunch of pirate kids


more than meets the eye


some kind of smoking dragon alligator thing following a Captain Hook type guy, out of the picture (I think this is a play on a movie I didn’t see but I’m vaguely aware of… Disney?)


Not really sure what’s going on with these guys!

The parade wasn’t very high energy in places, but there was a ton of people. I kept getting crowded by kids sneaking in front of me, which was fine except for the one too tall to see over! But his name was Paddy so it seemed appropriate.

huh huh… Doody.

While we’re on the subject, this is hilarious!

I’m really not a bad cook

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, which is a national holiday here. However, I hear America parties more on this one than the Irish do. I feel obligated to acknowledge the date given where I am located so I’ll report back on the state of an actual Irish St. Patty’s Day soon. (I still have no internet/phone/TV at home so my access is sporadic and I haven’t read blogs or been on Facebook or really done anything I usually do online in almost a week, and many online things I haven’t gotten to at all since I moved over here.)

The new house is really nice, though the alarm system was faulty and screamed at me Sunday morning even though it wasn’t armed, and then the oven cooker and I have had a falling out before we even met. I couldn’t get the ovens to work at all a couple nights ago, but the stovetop was ok, so I switched the dinner menu. The landlord had a guy out to repair a dead burner the next day and I scored a copy of the manual, where I figured out that the clock has to be set to operate the oven. Huh? Like every other outlet and powered item here, there is a wall switch to give power to the oven. Since the switch is off when not using the oven, the clock resets. So you have to set the clock (which is not intuitive anyway and you need the manual to learn it) to get the oven to turn on. I should have figured something was up when the landlord breezed right through a hard clock setting example operation when I saw the house last week.

So then I tried the oven last night, and after fifteen minutes there was a pop and a flash and it blew the breaker. (Fortunately my pizza was done enough to eat.) I called the landlord today and she said the repair guy had also replaced an oven lightbulb, which I assume is the problem. I’m hoping I don’t burn down the house on the next attempt and I did have a brief brainflash to source a fire extinguisher!

Since I’m already behind at work and tomorrow is a day off where I’m not sure exactly how to keep busy (lacking internet and all), I’m collecting some reading material to keep me occupied. But now it’s time to go home (long after everyone else) and drive my new car! They swapped my rental for my lease vehicle, a diesel VW Golf with 500 km on it. Now I’m worried my bad lefthand driving will scratch up a brand new car.

Note: I think Seamus (“shaymus”) is a funny name.

Health Center Centre

Wednesday night I developed a sore throat. By Friday morning, my baby sinus infection was much worse, and I got desperate enough to figure out the employee health services since I only had a couple Sudafed left from home and wasn’t sure what I would find at a pharmacy (which all close by six p.m. anyway). My doctor in Indianapolis is very stingy with antibiotics and would wait until I had green stuff coming out of my head before she’d give me anything, so I’ve gotten in the habit of waiting out some of these horrible sinus things with cold medicine and throat spray, because by the time I’ve had that green symptom I’ve already been sick for five days and it seems kind of pointless to bother with it then. (Sometimes this backfires into a three-week illness but other times my immune system catches up in a few more days.) Anyway, the nurse at the health center couldn’t give me much more than “Sinutabs” (which were much appreciated), and acknowledged I needed an antibiotic, but she did give me the name of a clinic in town, which is more information than I had when I went in there. At this point I still had to work the rest of the morning, then get the keys to my house, move in, and accept/unload delivery of my big shipping container. But at least I had the afternoon off, so I called the doctor place, and got an appointment for quarter to five.

Except after successfully wandering around Kinsale making sure I could find the clinic, scoping out the pharmacy (also called a “chemist” here, but the building still says pharmacy), getting a few groceries, and determining if I had enough cash for the doctor and the rest of the weekend – I get paid Monday which will be the first time there is money in my Irish bank account, and the ATM percentage charge off my American bank account is annoying — I arrived at the clinic at 4:20 to find out my appointment had been at 3:45! I guess I just didn’t understand the accent on the phone and while the receptionist seemed annoyed, I asked if I could at least fill out the forms to be a new patient so I could establish a GP somewhere. I guess you need GP blessing to go get any other medical work done anyway. She handed me a slip that consisted of my name, DOB, address, and phone numbers. That was it! I thought I would get the full six-page questions with a nurse later but I never did. It was kind of weird not to detail my history for a new doctor… even my root canal guy at home wants every detail since I was born.

She still seemed annoyed but said she would try to squeeze me in since I said I was really sick, and I went into a waiting room which was a little dumpy like the rest of the place, but I felt too crappy to even read the magazines and listened to a three year old bother everyone else in a cute way. After about fifteen minutes someone called me (I think it was the actual doctor, again no nurse in this setup), and I went in his office and explained how I’d just moved there and that I had a sinus infection and what the symptoms were. He took a VERY brief history right into his computer, which was basically what meds I was already taking and if my immediate family had any major illness history. Not even height and weight, but heck, this was pretty awesome to get right in and have him proclaim I needed an antibiotic. He did check ENT areas and when he listened to my lungs he kept saying “excuse me” as I lifted my sweater jumper, which was also a little funny. I guess this is where the super-politeness comes in; my doctor at home never “apologizes” for each move of the stethoscope. He even apologized that it might not have been my fault for misunderstanding the accent when I apologized for being late to my appointment!

Dr. Tony Somebody also asked how I was doing with the move and being away from home and suggested being on airplanes and the big stress of moving could have contributed, though we also discussed how many of these stupid infections I’d had before. I liked that he listened to me and seemed to respect that I know my particular history with this affliction well, something I don’t always get with my home doctor. By this time I was practically in tears anyway, being so sick and having such a LONG day already (I did successfully move into the house and get my shipment), so I was glad he not only wrote a prescription but that he also was happy to write others for meds I already took if I just brought in my current containers, no third degree to reestablish my various ailments to be deemed worthy of medication. Most of what I’ve taken recently seems to have a different name in Ireland, so we worked out some of those differences and I ended up with name brand Augmentin for under €12. The actual visit cost €50 and they don’t seem to file your insurance for you (while it’s true there is some form of national health insurance, many Irish people buy private insurance too). I would have had to file my own anyway with the new international insurance I’m supposedly on. I can’t seem to get any info on the plan and I don’t know how/where to file a claim yet.

At the pharmacy I also found actual Sudafed (hooray!), though they didn’t have a generic, and some sore throat spray, and that stuff is so strong it almost hurts more than the ailment it treats. Much of the OTC stuff is behind the counter so you have to ask them to get it for you. The pharmacist pronounced my name correctly, which makes him the second person since I arrived to do that. I kind of thought Europeans might get the whole German spelling/pronunciation right more often, but not so far. The other guy who got it right was a Polish guy on the IT help line at work. I need to find more Poles and test the theory for other parts of the continent.

I had dinner plans with other Americans from work at one of their homes and sniffled my way through that. Despite being ill, I’m glad I went, not only because they had a dog and a cat but because even this introvert gets tired of eating in a restaurant by herself every night. Some nights I just haven’t eaten because it seemed too much of a hassle and too depressing to walk into town for food I couldn’t store as leftovers anyway, and I was never that hungry after the big lunches at work.

I spent an hour or so unpacking enough things to have pajamas and bedding and slept pretty well that night with all my drugs. The next adventure: driving to Cork to shop for household goods. I survived, but you’ll have to read about that next. Also, I have no phone, TV, or internet yet, and I’m going insane. If you are reading this I must have stolen a wifi connection somewhere.

World’s End

World’s End is the name of the location or neighborhood or whatever this place is. I’m staying in the Trident Hotel, and that’s their address. A lot of the homes and businesses here don’t seem to have (or at least use) numerical addresses, just names like Old Head and Seaward and Highlanes Gallery. I’m glad I’m not delivering pizza here. Also most streets don’t have signs with the street name, just arrows pointing to various named shops and points of interest. My GPS SatNav goes by street names, and they’re on maps, but not actually posted in public. Very confusing.

I’m moving into my house tomorrow, but the phone and internet connections could take a few to several days, so I may not be around much on here or on the phone. Meanwhile I’m fighting the early parts of a sinus infection, but my insurance is suddenly bizarre and the pharmacies don’t stay open past six, so I’m doing my best with Aleve and Sudafed–glad I brought at least a couple things with me. Apparently rather than having a selection of OTC meds on the shelves at any grocery or drugstore, you have to talk to the pharmacist and explain your symptoms and they might sell you something.

Also: Arliss has a Twitter account now too! She’s advanced past my own level of connectivity. I expect I’ll see her cell phone bill on my credit card next. She has a couple new posts at her blog, too.

Pics I took right before I left.

Springtime

Went to Bandon, a bigger town, to do some immigration paperwork and lighten my wallet of €150 so they can process my GNIB card, which is basically the official permission to be here for a certain length of time. I now have a bank account, too, with €0 in it. I looked at cell phones and then bought tissues at Lidl, basically a German Aldi (though apparently there is regular Aldi here too). Then my relocation agent drove me to Cork, a big city (but not really more populous than South Bend/Fort Wayne type cities) about thirty minutes north. I had flown into Cork last weekend but never saw the city since the airport is south of it. Anyway, I finally saw a McDonald’s and a Burger King in the shopping districts but no other fast food places and none that were standalone/drive-thrus at all. We stopped at a Bed Bath & Beyond type place and then Argos, which is like Service Merchandise but without the examples of all the stuff you can buy–it’s all catalog based and then it shows up from a conveyor a few minutes after you pay. I picked up bedding so I can sleep in my new house on Friday night. I’ll have to go back out shopping for dishes and such but at least I have the basics and my shipping container should be delivered on Friday too.

Bandon had crocuses! I miss watching for things budding in my yard at home.

I kept hearing how green everything would be here. IT’S NOT. But apparently that’s because they had their driest winter in 40 years or something like that. Right now it’s very brown in most places and I’m looking for spring.

First days of work

Tonight I stopped at a little grocery in town to grab some food to supplement my hotel stay. Matt: they have Orange Juice with Bits! Get the strainer. There are lots of biscuits but not many that look like cookies to me. The eggs are kept on the shelf and you have to pay €0.22 for a plastic shopping bag (finally, I’m not the only freak with my own bag).

I am amused by some of the commercials, including kitten-branded TP that a guy wears to the tune of Kung Fu Fighting.

I’ve been surprised by the number of TV shows in Gaelic Irish. Right now I’m watching an Irish language talent show where viewers call in to vote: stoopid. It’s much like English language talent shows, but the judges are sickeningly nicer even when performers stink, and every other act is Irish dancing. One of those was 40-something moms who all needed sport bras. The judges tell everyone they are brilliant.

I’ve been to work two days so far and only hit a couple curbs (I consider this success). Everyone takes a tea break in the morning (which also includes a lot of breakfast foods) and then a couple hours later everyone eats a big lunch together. The cafeteria has been quite good so far and recycling is the norm. I have to say my coworkers are extremely friendly. I’m having issues getting my computer set up so I’m even less useful than I would otherwise be, but it looks to be an interesting job once I get done reading a LOT of training.

Tonight I wasn’t very hungry after all the food from work, so I decided to get some fries chips to go for takeaway. I stopped in my first real pub, where the locals were watching soccer football. The bartender left right after I placed my order and the cook had to get a beer for an old guy who just arrived. The bartender came back after a couple of minutes with a roll of foil he’d just bought down the street to wrap my fries! Then he repoured the Carling in the right glass (the old guy wouldn’t drink it in the wrong glass though he didn’t say anything to the cook when he poured it) and I chatted a bit with another old guy who was friendlier. Back to the hotel for an unhealthy dinner!

On Wednesday, I am going to the police station Garda to complete some immigration paperwork, getting a bank account, seeing my house (but not moving in yet), and getting up to Cork for the first time to see where to shop and figure out if this country has any fast food places.

Post Office in Kinsale

Harbor shots; all but the first one are right outside my hotel window

That big ship was full of some kind of sand. It woke me up two days in a row when they took the lid on and off. It took them a whole day to unload it into trucks.

This mast has been turned into a tourist lookout point