When mysterious connections happen, such as landing a job interview for a job we never applied for… are we really prepared to reject the opportunity? Indiana was the likely answer to our prayers, darn it. I wanted God’s answer to be “Yes, you can live in Ireland happily ever after”.
I’d originally written the “Ireland Forever!” post a few weeks ago, but I postponed finishing it until our plans fell into place. I didn’t expect it to take so long – wow, we were running out of time! I’m relieved to share that we will have a house in the States to live in. WHEW!
Friends are helping us with the house. It’s been stressful and exciting, waiting for things to play out. Last night we received the happy e-mail, “You got it!” So, I can now announce that we are headed back to the States very soon.
Wouldn’t you know it? God’s timing and all… the same day as our third (and final) immigration appointment, we found out that we were getting enough money back in taxes to pay for a flight home for all five of us! So, the worry about “how will we get back?” was immediately resolved. Oh… and the tickets were mysteriously, coincidentally, VERY discounted in a temporary flash sale that would expire within 24 hours! We didn’t hesitate.
I also worried about how we’d ship our household goods back. We trimmed the shipment down, keeping even less stuff. The guys said that they’d like to rebuild the TARDIS. They kept only the panels. They were willing to let it go, but they are on a quest to rebuild it and do it even better. Anyway, with that sacrifice the load was significantly smaller. I also let go of things I used for business. I believe those things will be replaced by something better. In the end, our shipment cost is much more reasonable. On the down side, it all fit into one room. On a positive note, I can start over. A fresh start is a good idea.
My other fears were also resolved:
Our property manager here was very understanding about the lease. We handled it with plenty of advance notice and all is well. We were able to sell the car back to the dealer. He was fully awesome! He said he’d be as fair to us as possible and we were relieved by the offer. With the money from selling the car we have the funds for the shipment and money toward the house. I mentioned before that our friends are helping us with the rest of what we need for the house.
Here we were, about to sign on to a very bad situation (a house across the road from a grain elevator that had water damage, a recent history of a squatter with dogs living in it for several months, many things wrong with it, in a high crime rate area). I’d even considered camping in a tent for the summer. You think I’m joking? No, I’m not.
Landlords want people to have JOBS. It doesn’t matter that we have good credit (we do, and that took time to achieve), or that we have had several successful mortgages (most of them fixers that we put many hours of sweat into), or that we are awesome people (and we are!) – nothing matters but employment. People weren’t even answering my e-mails.
But cash on hand does help, and it helps to have fabulous friends who are successful and generous. I know people in high places. 🙂 So, we’ve got the house, a house far better than what I expected. I can’t wait to live there! The house is so pretty and I know that we’ll win the fight to get our lives back. It’s my dream house – I’m absolutely giddy!
And… Brent will have a job soon. He has already interviewed over the phone and he’ll meet in person shortly after he gets there. He’ll be fine. There are many openings in the area and he’s already been told he’s a strong candidate. Well, of course! He had an A average all through grad school, he’s a fantastic loyal worker, he has glowing references, and he’s a likeable guy. Sometimes he gets free stuff just for being Brent.
Money will be tight and our friends are going out on a limb for us, but I believe we can do it. We are bringing a part of Ireland back with us. We are strong. We are empowered. We can do anything that we set our minds to do. Of course if any of you want to help, I’m not too proud to reject your help. We’ll have no furniture to start with and plenty of bills to repay. But of course I know that many of you have big needs of your own. That’s how it is with so many of us these days. With or without surprise generosity, we’ll make it. On that note, I have to say that we are blown away by our friends’ amazing offer to help us with the house. It’s not often I’m speechless… I literally couldn’t think of what to say. That’s a rare event for sure!
Nicholas has already been accepted into a tech school that offers the exact major he wanted. While UCC is a world class university, they didn’t offer the highly specific computer major he was hoping for. He has chosen to go into Systems Administration (Linux) – don’t ask me to explain it. After he finishes two years, he can apply his associates degree to a university transfer, where he would still like to add languages, especially Japanese.
It might be a tough road ahead for us as we adjust to our new lives, but I’m already looking for ways to have free adventures like we had in Ireland. I’ve found amazing natural parks and exciting places to explore, places I’ve never been and I’ve always wanted to go. We even have points to redeem for hotel stays or event tickets – our mileage from international travel counts for something!
I’m a different person going back to the States from the person I was when I left. I saw myself through my kids’ eyes and I liked the changes in me. They watch us more than we think they do. No matter what we say to them, they learn the most by watching how we LIVE. If I want them to be happy, fearless, faithful, and real, that’s who I have to be. Life is a whole lot easier when I let go.
These are some pictures that were on Savannah’s camera.
Me running ahead to see the Celtic Sea for the first timeMe braving my fear of heights (not a phobia, just a fear of falling because my balance isn’t what it was when I was younger and in better fitness… but hey, look at me, getting back into shape!)
And… Cassie took these.
I’ve shown you this one just recently. I didn’t remember her taking this. It was at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cork.
And Nicholas took these wonderful pictures – all of which I’ve shown you before.
I want to be this happy person that my kids are watching. I want them to believe that their dreams will come true – they can make them happen! I want them to believe that when one dream ends, it’s time to dream a new dream.
There’s no excuse to fall into a dull and miserable life. The adventures of the Thomas family will continue! We’ll just be somewhere new. Life has only just begun!
Hmm, I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? Where are we going?
I’ll show you our pretty new house, but that’s all I’m saying. I’m leaving you with a cliffhanger so you’ll have to return to my blog to find out. And I blurred out the house number – no spoilers. HA! HA!
Please keep us in your hearts and prayers for our upcoming travel back to the United States. We’re coming home! And I’m starting a new series of blogging adventures – are you in???
Back when Ireland was just a dream, when it was a faraway fantasy world of rainbows and leprechauns, when it wasn’t a real place… when it was a mythical magical island that only existed in fairy tales… well, back then, I met Marie O’Halloran. She lives here. She could confirm that Ireland is a real place.
As if that didn’t rock my world enough, when I mentioned that I’d never seen a dolphin in the wild, Marie said that I must go to Ireland, where I will surely see a real dolphin in a real sea. In fact, I must go to Dingle, where I will meet Fungie, a very special dolphin who loves to chase boats.
It took me years to get here, years of hoping and planning, years of selling our possessions and saving whatever we could. I wanted a better life for me and my family. And… if God wasn’t too busy, I’d really like to see a dolphin in the wild. Just once. That’s all I ask.
Whenever this journey felt impossible, whenever life was too hard, whenever I felt defeated, I thought of the dolphin. I will see him, I will. For inspiration, my daughter Savannah gave me a beautiful dolphin necklace. I tucked that special jewelry away, and I’d look at it from time to time. I saved it, but didn’t wear it. I brought it with me to Ireland, and I put it out where I could see it every day.
Finally, I wore the necklace. It was April 19, 2016 – the day I saw a dolphin in the wild. My life will never be the same, because I now I know the truth. Dreams do come true, and when they do, it’s worth all of the effort, the heartbreak, and the fear.
We’ve booked the dolphin tour. As you can see, the tours are inexpensive. Because Fungie is a wild animal, they can’t guarantee that we’ll see him. If he doesn’t show up, there’s a refund policy. But, we’ve come all the way from America, and at this point, I know that I’m leaving Ireland and may never make it back. I may never get another chance! No, that’s unacceptable. I won’t take no for an answer.
I’d call the dolphin to me with my positive thinking – oh, you may laugh, but I have a magical way with animals. Even though I’m allergic to anything with fur, animals are drawn to me. They stare at me and come right to me. This happens in zoos, in parks, and in backyards. Sometimes this attention from the animal world is unwelcome, but other times I’m blissfully like Snow White and all the beautiful little birdies and rabbits and butterflies gather round me.
Would this mysterious phenomena work on a dolphin? Possibly. But I left nothing to chance. I prayed. I prayed for God to show Himself to me. Send me the dolphin. Let me see him. Please… I’ve come so far. I’ve had faith. And here I am. Just as You’ve asked. Am I going back home without even seeing a dolphin? After all that we’ve been through to get here? No, no, no! You have to send him to me.
Well… you’ll see for yourself. Fungie not only appeared, but he stayed by my side, even when I went to a different section of the boat! There was a boat full of people he could have chosen, and yet, he went right to me. Cassie was amazed. She liked standing wherever I was because Fungie would soon appear.
Funny thing, it’s like I knew where he was even when he was far away from the boat, deep under the water. I’d look in the exact spot where soon a fin would appear above the surface. The sightings were fleeting – if my camera wasn’t trained on the water where he’d pop up, I’d miss him. But I somehow knew where he was.
Nicholas stood near me and trained his camera in the same location. We have many, many gorgeous photos of this most beautiful and amazing creature. I can’t begin to describe how deliriously happy I felt when I saw him. It took my breath away.
Near the lighthouse there is also a part of a castle wall or some other ruin. Brent would know… he was listening to the tour. I was too busy taking pictures and looking for the dolphin. No sign of him yet…
In between dolphin sightings… my husband Brent and me… one of the happiest days of my life!!!!!
But I haven’t forgotten about the dolphin, nice try Sea Arch…
Brent took these pictures from his phone:
Well, back to the beautiful scenery… Fungie is tired, and so are we!
Well, we are sad to be back on land, but it was the most exhilarating, amazing, and beautiful experience! I feel so loved by that dolphin. I can’t explain it. I had heard that it is magical to see a dolphin in the wild, but I didn’t expect to feel that way for real. I thought it was an exaggeration… it wasn’t. Wow… I just… I’m blessed.
And now it’s time to explore Dingle. Marie had told us about Murphy’s ice cream. It’s been on our list for years – it was second to the dolphin of course! But now that we’ve crossed something off my bucket list, it’s time for ice cream! (My family is enjoying my bucket list – the girls have tried to add something to it, LOL!)
You probably noticed that it’s chilly. I’m wearing three layers (a heavy sweatshirt, my hoodie that’s crammed with stuff in the pockets–that’s why I look oddly lumpy, LOL!–and my trenchcoat). But… we have to try the ice cream. And besides, the sun is shining in Ireland! What a truly gorgeous day we’ve had!!!!
Time to go shopping! This is our last Irish adventure… We’ll be headed home soon. I said I’d get a dolphin souvenir if I saw a dolphin, but I’d go home empty handed if I didn’t… I also said that I’d know my special dolphin keepsake when I saw it. Wouldn’t you know, the very first shop window had my dolphin in it??? It was FUNGIE himself, complete with the scar on his fin! And it’s beautiful. Want to see????
Can you see him in the store window? He’s above the teddy bear and the mug… he’s to the left of the big green mug, hiding behind the little shamrock jar. I saw that as soon as we started walking past Murphy’s ice cream. There it was! That’s my dolphin!
But could we afford it? We’d been doing everything on a very low budget. Most of what we do is FREE. Dingle was a bit more for us, but not that much. We had to budget for the special ice cream and the boat tour. That didn’t leave much for trinkets. Well, if it was too much I wouldn’t get it. Then I saw the sign – Everything 50% off! WHAT? Was this one of those magic stores that will disappear as soon as our family leaves Dingle?
My beautiful dolphin was only about $8 and he’s such a treasure! I plan to display him in our home forever! Do you notice the little notch on his fin? That’s what identifies him as Fungie.
OK, back to Dingle, where shopping was in progress. My girl Savannah found a precious necklace… from the same mysteriously inexpensive gift shop where everything was 50% off. We said YES to the pretty necklace. She hasn’t taken it off since!
Nicholas also found a couple of treasures. He had his own money and he bought two interesting figurines – small, they can fit in his pocket. Cassie found a Murphy’s Ice Cream pencil. Brent said he didn’t need a souvenir. Besides, he’ll see my dolphin forever, and he’ll likely build a shelf for it… I’m finally understanding that he is happy when I’m happy. Life doesn’t need to be complicated. He likes to build things. I like what he builds.
Aww, our day in Dingle is coming to an end. We have one last stop through Killarney… where they have another Murphy’s Ice Cream! Here, we have to try the Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brent’s teacher friend Jen recommended it. She was student teaching here in Ireland. We were able to visit with Jen and her husband when they came through Cork and made the long detour to our remote house in rural Grenagh.
Sticky Toffee Pudding is.. hmmm… it’s like a soft cake type of thing with toffee bits in it, with a creamy ice cream on the top, with a syrup? Not sure if I described it well, but it was sweet and delicious. I’m glad we got a chance to try it!
I’ll wrap up my Dingle story with this beautiful picture of the three shells that Cassie found. They are tiny and fragile – see them compared to drops of water. She wanted one for each of us girls… She gifted the large reddish orange one to me, saying that the one with the “blush of color” seemed like me. She chose the smallest one for Savannah, and kept the third for herself. She wrapped them up delicately to bring home. I hope they make it! Surely we can glue them if broken? I thought of butterfly wings. Cassie thought of angels. They’re both!
Forever in history, our family’s time here has been officially recorded in the Irish Census! Archived, searchable records will verify that Brent, Natalie, Cassandra, Nicholas and Savannah Thomas lived in Ireland in 2016.
Every five years, anyone residing in Ireland on census day must take part in the census. It’s illegal not to do so, regardless of whether or not one is a citizen of Ireland. And we just happened to be living in Ireland on census day, one specific day that happens only once in five years.
I really do have the luck of the Irish! The odds of this happening were less than 1:1,500 (365 days a year, minus the days we’ve been here, and rounding conservatively). I’m probably the only person on this island who was absolutely thrilled to take part in the census.
The teaching council application required a PPS number that can only be obtained via residency. The only way to get a teaching job is by first registering with the Irish Teaching Council. Therefore, an American who wants to teach in Ireland cannot secure a job offer before moving here, only AFTER, which is a big risk for us to have taken. But we did everything that the teaching council requested and Brent successfully obtained his PPS number, by first establishing residency and by proving it via utility bills.
Well, this was a huge shock and headache for our immigration officer! We weren’t supposed to get a PPS number until we had permission to remain in the country. The officer was floored that a) the teaching council requested this number before a visa was obtained and b) the number was granted to Brent based on the council’s application request. Neither should have happened, since he shouldn’t have been able to get that number as a non-EU person without a GNIB card or a work visa. Yi yi yi! The agencies really need to have a talk.
Local Time: April 21, 2016 10:58 AM
Thank you for your application to University College Cork.
I am pleased to inform you that your application for the BA World Languages at University College Cork has been successful.
I note that you have also received an offer for the BSc Computer Science degree. I would be grateful if you could please let us know for which programme you wish to receive an official Letter of Acceptance by replying to this email. Once we receive this confirmation, we will prepare your relevant official Letter of Acceptance and send it to you by email.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Non-EU Undergraduate Admissions Coordinator
International Office, UCC
From the American perspective, Ireland is a foreign country and a magical island, but it’s not another planet. Both are Western cultures that share the same language (sort of), the same technological advances (sort of) and the same products (sort of). So, you’d think that there would be few (if any) misunderstandings. But if you know our history of misadventures, you won’t be surprised to hear that some Americans living in Ireland are easily confused… and potentially stinky.
My husband Brent bought the product on the left “Comfort”, 42 loads of sunshiny days. I looked at it and I was immediately suspicious. “Are you sure that this is laundry detergent?” The liquid was so watery. Hmm. He was confident. Meanwhile, I suspected that Comfort might be fabric softener, not detergent with softening agents. So after we bought laundry pods, I switched to that… while the rest of the family trusted Comfort and used it until it was almost gone.
After a few weeks, my family had begun to smell. Brent noticed that his clothes weren’t “getting clean enough”, but when he got a whiff of our 18 year old son, he realized that he should probably take a closer look at Comfort… which was fabric softener, not soap. They’d been washing their clothes with nothing but water and fabric softener for over a month! I could have said “I told you so” but it’s more fun to remember this forever and bring it up at random. 🙂
All right, I’ve picked on them enough. It’s my turn. These are “digestives” or “digestive biscuits“. I know that these are cookies, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious. What did they mean by “digestive”? How do these cookies aid in digestion? Will those of us who need no added help end up with, uh, problems? Was there a laxative effect to these so-called cookies? My daughter Cassie still mocks me for this one. They are just cookies – no hidden laxatives. Although I suppose if you ate too many of them you’d be in trouble, the reason why they are called digestives is because it is thought that food made with baking soda is good for the digestion.
And apparently there’s even a proper way to eat them.
These biscuits are not the same thing as American cookies. They’re like the “cookie” layer of a Twix bar. They are very inexpensive to buy, less than 1€ for a whole roll, and are a staple when serving tea.
I also had trouble finding shortening. We asked at the Tesco grocery store and they had no idea what I was talking about. I had to describe it and what it’s used for. It was a funny conversation. Finally they understood what it was and they led me to the refrigerated section. In the U.S., shortening is typically sold in a can and is found on a shelf near baking supplies, vegetable oil, etc. Here, they sell shortening in blocks that look like butter, and they keep it in the refrigerated section.
Remember the story of my Irish friend Marie surprising us with a big Irish welcome? She was amused that I thought that a mince pie was a meat pie.
But I was off by only one letter! There’s “mince” pie and there’s “minced” pie. Look at this Irish specialty:
We thought both meat pies tasted pretty much the same, and I can’t remember which one was which. Both were good and I’ll probably make something like this from scratch next winter. It’s a comfort food meal that’s perfect for a chilly day.
There’s never a shortage of potatoes here! These are called “salad potatoes”. I mixed them with vegetables in my favorite cast iron skillet that I shipped from the United States. I know, I know… it’s expensive to do that. But those of you who cook with cast iron will understand. I had it perfectly seasoned and it’s an American made Lodge. Besides, it’s a good thing that I did this… Brent threw my smaller skillet into the trash at the airport because our suitcases were over the weight limit. I bring that up to him on occasion. :-/
A lot of people have an electric large capacity kettle, for making loads and loads of tea! I brought a very small kettle with me. I thought Marie was going to break out laughing when she saw the size of it. 🙂 And now we’re spoiled. We like the fast electric kettle that heats up enough water for all of us in a couple minutes.
Speaking of heating up water… this is our immersion shower. I hate it. I really, really, hate it. Most of my showers here have been frigid, either from start to finish, or after I’ve had a short while with some heat. I tell you, if there’s no hot water in that thing it’s like doing the Polar Plunge in reverse. I’ve learned that if I skip shaving my legs it’s no big hairy deal.
There’s a gadget in the attic to boost our cell phone signal. Way out here in rural and remote Ireland, we can’t get any cell phone signal unless we are standing right here in this hallway. And even then, the call could cut out without warning. Hello? Hello? Hello? That’s a lot of fun when on hold with a customer service call or when conducing an over-the-phone interview! :-O
I tried to explain to Marie what a “tater tot hot dish” (a Minnesotan thing) or “tater tot casserole” (other American states) is. She has never had a tater tot! She thought maybe it is the same thing as a “potato croquette”, which is a mashed potato that is shaped into pieces, breaded, and deep fried. Uh, no… but now I was intrigued!
Yep, that’s a stick of mashed potatoes… breaded, deep fried, frozen, then baked in my oven. Hmm… Well, those were weird. The texture was hard to get used to. These are definitely not tater tots. Marie, tater tots are crispy, greasy, and salty – like french fries (or “chips”).
The Irish may not know their tater tots, but they sure do know their banking technology. We held up many a line because we had our inferior lame-o swipe credit cards (that some had never seen before and had no machine to swipe them with!). We finally got new cards, but even now that we have the new ones that have a chip in them, our American cards apparently still respond a bit differently because there’s a moment of befuddlement and then a scramble to find a pen because, unlike the Irish, we have to sign a real slip of paper… and the cashier often doesn’t know which copy we keep. Speaking of pens…They sure don’t have many pens around here. No one seems to have one available when we have to sign something. Nope, all paperless here. The bank even gave me this gadget (in the photo above) to do online banking transactions that are made easier by inserting my debit card. Except that our Internet connection is crap (via satellite, very slow, very unstable, data capped—we always go over!–and expensive), so we can’t get it to work. The bank knows us. We’re the Yanks.
But hey, they seem to like our mustard. There are several products that are labeled “American Style”, like pancakes and BBQ sauce. Some name brand American foods are expensive to buy here. Old El Paso brand seems popular here, along with Kellogg’s and a few others. Some things the Americans just do better… like chocolate chips.
Oh dear, the size of the bag is a bit worrisome! Can I make chocolate chip cookies with this tiny amount of chips? Yes, they turned out fine. But I’m not one for using a whole bag of morsels for one batch – I routinely use only half of a regular sized bag. Those of you Americans (most of you!) who use the whole bag would definitely need to buy two of these to make a single batch of cookies.
These are kind of like Wonka Nerds… I guess – Nerds that have somehow “gone off”. I thought these were horrible! I gave mine to Nicholas. A while later, Cassie gave hers to Nicholas. He ended up with at least three… I think Brent may have caved and given his up too.
Speaking of fresh… they sell a LOT of eggs here… a LOT. They are everywhere–even outside of stores in sort of a vending machine! They don’t refrigerate the eggs, but we pop them in the fridge as soon as we get home because we are Americans and can’t bear to see eggs at room temperature (especially Brent who got salmonella from under-cooked eggs while in the Army). The eggs are brown (haven’t seen any white eggs so far) and are delicious. I’ve made eggs for meals much more often since moving to Ireland. Great source of protein, inexpensive, and keeps the five of us fed!
We also love the Irish sausages, although they are quite rich compared to the American version. The “Full Irish” is a huge breakfast platter, and I do mean HUGE. It can be shared by two or more people. Ours had eggs, toast, sausage (delicious and very different from American or German sausage), rashers (like bacon, but unfortunately not the same at all), blood pudding (breaded and fried with seasonings), potato cake (like a McDonald’s hashbrown), and… I want to say something else… maybe ham? I think there were baked beans and fried mushrooms too. I tell you, there was a LOT of food on that platter! Brent and I had been doing errands and wanted to try the Full Irish. We had no idea that it would be such a feast! Had we known, we would have picked one up for the whole family.
Well, they can’t do cheese like Wisconsin, but they have good cheese. They have even better BUTTER…. Remember me mentioning Kerrygold?
Here’s another thing the Irish do better than us Americans – they offer huge quantities of vegetables at low prices! Look at the size of that bag compared to my hand. Fresh vegetables are less expensive too. The local Aldi (I know, German owned, but they carry a lot of Irish locally grown/produced food) has a special section called Super 6 for “fruit and veg” deals. This week we picked up a large container of fresh mushrooms for only 39 cents!
Jelly Babies were featured in Doctor Who. Our son Nicholas is a Doctor Who fan who built a TARDIS console with his father and played guitar at the Minneapolis Doctor Who convention. So, when I saw Jelly Babies, I just HAD to get them!
But… these are absolutely REVOLTING, lol! I can barely stand to touch them, let alone eat them. They have a slippery coating of powdery sugar over a solid gummy exterior that holds a gooey gummy interior. The red ones taste good, but it’s hard to get past the bizarre texture. It’s the slippery powder that gets me.
There’s the red one. It’s tolerable because the flavor is good and it’s sort of like a jelly bean. But… the other flavors aren’t as easy to handle. If you get one that you don’t like, getting past the slippery powder is like eating a slug… or something. It’s in a class of its own, the Jelly Baby. :::shiver:::
It’s been great fun trying all of these foods, products, and candies!
Along with eating new foods, we’ve had to learn the local language. When I first met Marie, she said, “Shall I put the kettle on?” I couldn’t understand her Irish accent at all. I stared at her, blinking. She said it three or four times. Only when she picked up the kettle did I finally get it. To my ears it sounded like this: “ShallIputthe (<–so fast that it sounded like gibberish) keh-hill un”.
Since then, we’ve adapted and can usually understand even the thickest of Cork accents. We’ve also picked up on things that people say all the time, and what they probably really mean.
“Thanks a million!” – What they often really mean is, “I’m done with you, please go.” 🙂
“sorted” – Anything taken care of is sorted. Need paperwork? “Get that sorted.” Done with shopping? “That’s Christmas sorted.”
“No bother.” – Something people say even when what they’re doing is just an expected part of their job. I get the impression that they don’t like to be bothered, so they’re really saying the opposite when they say “No bother”.
A “cowboy” job/company/etc. – Shoddy work, shady
“Yanks” – Americans from anywhere in the United States, even if you’ve never stepped foot in NY or the East Coast.
“Brilliant” – Used to describe something or someone that is impressive, but not reserved for only the best… even only mildly interesting or entertaining things/people can be brilliant. Adequate customer service replies might be “brilliant”, bland and expected responses to standard questions might be “brilliant”, getting one’s own way is especially “brilliant”. So, when people have called me, or something I said, “brilliant”, it probably wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I may have been marginally interesting. :-/
Well, I’ve found the Irish to be more than brilliant, as they are certainly an interesting lot (“lot” = group of people). We almost speak the same language, but not quite. I look Irish, so no one knows that I’m an American until I open my mouth. And then the grins appear, especially if I don’t say “Thanks a million”, but instead, in my typically American accent say, “Thanks a lot”. I don’t know why, but I’ve nearly cracked the Irish up by saying this.
So, thanks a lot for reading my blog, and thanks a million. 😉
By this time we knew that we were in trouble. Immigration appointments hadn’t gone well. Everything was starting to unravel.
What do we do now? Should we sit at home, defeated, waiting until the inevitable happens? My advice to my three kids- ranging in age from young teen, teen, and young adult -means absolutely nothing if I don’t live the words I say. I’ve told them “bad things happen that aren’t your choice, but your attitude is up to you“.
I could have stayed home, sulking and fretting. My attitude was my choice. But the Celtic Sea coast was sitting out there, sparkling and free, costing nothing but a little diesel to visit – just waiting for someone like me who, with a little faith and a little luck, may just find herself under a glorious double rainbow.
As the Mom of the house, my attitude can drag down or lift up the entire family. It’s a heavy responsibility sometimes. I’m glad I chose the sea.
These pictures were taken on March 13 and March 29, 2016. Both locations are a short drive from Cork, Ireland. I know that there are many photos here. It was hard to decide which ones to share!
I feel proud of myself for doing this. Somehow over the last decade or so, I began to feel old. I developed a fear of heights – or maybe a fear of falling. But I conquered this wall of rocks. I’m capable of more than I think I am. And I’m not old. I never will be if I choose to be young.
Savannah walking along the beach. Plenty of Irish locals were out that day, when the sun was out. Mums were pushing babies in strollers across the sand. The wet sand is so dense and compacted that it’s like walking on a sidewalk. There’s such a wide area to walk – very good place to get some fresh air and exercise.
Nicholas with camera in hand – his photography is awesome! He’s learned a lot from the photography class he was taking through UCC in Cork.
I asked the kids what souvenirs they wanted from Ireland. The girls said that they wanted a sweatshirt. Nicholas said that our photos are souvenirs. For Easter we surprised them with Ireland sweatshirts, European candy (some if it is delicious, but some of it is quite nasty, LOL – that’s a story for a future post!), and a plan to take a family picture of us wearing the sweatshirts (we bought one for Brent and me too!). So, everyone got what they wanted – thanks to Aldi who had a “special buy” on these sweatshirts! WOOT!
Now for our trip to the coast on March 29. I brought my tripod to take family pictures. Brent was kind enough to set it up for me. Then he was kind enough to climb back over the rocks and go back to the car when I wanted another family picture in a remote area. I hefted it back over the rocks though, and I didn’t fall. Anyway, we pulled it off! We got our special family picture!!! And… a perfectly magical day!!!
I love this picture! I’ll definitely frame this one. We took it a few minutes after we arrived at the coast. The wind was brisk and we were freezing! It was hard to get a shot without our hair blowing in front of our faces.
Savannah, wearing my hoodie over her sweatshirt. She didn’t expect it to be this cold. It’s the wind! Yi yi yi…. but, wait a little while and the weather changes in Ireland. It calmed down and warmed up some after we’d been there a while. We also found a gorgeous remote sheltered area that we enjoyed all by ourselves! First we had to brave the chilly winds though… and Cassie decided to sit some of that time out in the car. I’m glad we didn’t give up… the rest of the day was beautiful! Wait and see…
Oh yes, it’s looking like a good shower…
See how changeable the weather is? Misty, rainy, sunny, windy… repeat…
I love these shots that Nicholas took of Brent and me when we didn’t know he was looking.
If we stay long enough…
Maybe we’ll see something new… What’s over here?
If you wait in the rain long enough, you may just see…
It’s a double rainbow!
Cassie didn’t see the rainbow from where she was sitting in the car, waiting out the cold/wind/rain. All she saw was me twirling in some sort of blissful state on the beach, LOL! To get an idea of what she saw, here are the photos Brent took in rapid succession. You have to imagine seeing all of this without knowing there’s a double rainbow in the sky!
The whole thing only took a few seconds, but… well, do the rainbow dance with me!
Just like rainbows, some dreams appear only fleetingly… but they are glorious! And when the dream fades, it’s time to dream a new dream. Rebuilding is hard. But we are stronger than we think we are.
Shortly after the double rainbow, Nicholas disappeared around the bend, where those rocks were… Where did he go? What’s over there? I ventured over… and it was BEAUTIFUL! That’s when I begged for another round of family pictures!
Today we were invited to stay after church for a “light lunch”. This is Ireland. There’s no such thing as a light lunch!
American friends: doesn’t a light lunch suggest soup and salad, maybe some bread… possibly a tea sandwich and a cookie? Here in Cork, Ireland, the light lunch spread was this:
- Lasagna – probably the best lasagna I’ve ever had
- Meatballs – DEFINITELY the best I’ve ever had – what WAS that?
- Fresh Salad
- Fresh Vegetables
- Chicken curry
- Potatoes (of course, right?)
- Spicy chicken wings
- Dessert that was so awesome that I’m glad I made room for it! I think it was a torte? Homemade & *DELICIOUS*!
Well, all of this food has made me sleepy, but I’ll try to fill you in on our church story. I’ve lifted these photos of the church from the official website. The building is beautiful, agree?
Week one, we were late. It took Brent a while to find the place. But I was determined that our family would get ourselves to church, even if it meant being temporarily embarrassed about coming in late.
The service was exactly what we needed. It was simple. It was welcoming. It was peaceful. We had come to the right place.
Afterward, there was tea and biscuits (cookies). We stayed for that, because really, there was no escaping it anyway! Members of the church trapped us into the pews (seriously – the pews have only one way out and they were blocking it!), talking to us, shaking our hands, and welcoming us. Then, we were plied with tea, and when tea happens in Ireland, it’s best to go along with it. 🙂
Well, we have been to many, many churches. Sometimes we dive right in and become active in the church. Sometimes we stay for years. We’ve been Sunday School teachers, Praise and Worship Team leaders, choir members, Power Point techs, musicians, theater directors, etc. We’ve also had long absences from church – in which we didn’t attend any church at all. These breaks can last for years.
Always when we take the plunge and return, we expect a certain amount of handshaking. We know we’ll have to explain who we are and why we’re there. It’s the part about being new to a church that I dread. But this was different.
I don’t know if it’s because we are an American family, with a built-in excuse for why we are new, or if this church treats everyone this way, but instead of feeling as if we had to account for why we’d never been inside their church before, we were welcomed as if we were coming home for the first time. I tell you, it felt so good.
It was only days before when I told Brent, “I can’t do this anymore. I need help.” The constant fear that we won’t get jobs in time to get permission to stay in Ireland was weighing on me. What if we are deported after we’ve given up everything to be here? Of course I felt all of this (and still do), but I was fighting hard to stay positive and fight for our new life. My family though… they were hard to talk to. They were weary. Brent was defeated. No amount of coaching would pep them up. Instead, I was wearing down too.
I couldn’t build my family up anymore, not by myself. I was exhausted. I said that their negativity was overwhelming me. I couldn’t be positive enough for all five of us. It was time for reinforcements. Why not try the church that was mysteriously calling to me when I was sitting in a near-empty house looking at a silent computer screen, searching for answers?
I’d found their website, back when moving to Ireland felt like an impossible dream. I could imagine my family going to that church. I can’t explain it. I stared at the web page and it was as if I had a memory of having been there before. I don’t know how else to say it. I looked at several other church websites, but I always went back to this one. Then, when it was time to consider giving church a try, this church was the only one that made sense. It was as if God was calling us to this church… which is interesting because…
The church body is startled by what God is doing to their Irish church. For reasons that no one has an explanation for, only half of their congregation is Irish! The other half is international. People from all over the world are arriving at their church.
I was asked why we chose their church. I babbled something about their web site, but the truth is… I don’t know! It drew me in. When it was time to go to church, it was the one I was sure of.
Here are some of the countries represented by people in this church:
- South Africa
- United States
And others… I’m still new so I don’t know all of the countries represented by the surprisingly large international population at this relatively small protestant church in Cork, Ireland. I got the impression that the Irish reverend and congregation members are astonished by this… and they think it’s wonderful. As do I!
We felt completely at home here, in this diverse congregation. We truly gathered for one common purpose. It was as if the hour spent in that building was an hour bathed in Light and Love. There was no language barrier, no cultural barrier, and nothing really needed to be said.
But people spoke to us anyway. During the after-service tea, they asked us detailed questions. And then they did something unexpected. They didn’t offer to help us. They just DID. They helped us immediately and swiftly. I could barely keep up as my family members were being led away to speak to various people. My desperate plea had been heard! Reinforcements were on the way! I could feel myself relaxing for the first time in months.
Here are two examples:
- Cassie saw a job opening at Apple’s international headquarters in Cork. She would love to get in! Someone at church works there and offered to speak to her manager on her behalf.
- Nicholas wants to apply to UCC but he’s been dragging his feet. An IT major talked to Nicholas at length and answered all of his questions. This encouragement was just what Nicholas needed to finally finish his application essay!
Keep in mind, this is a small church. I think there were maybe only four or five young adults there. How is it that these highly specific connections were made? I had reached the end of what I could do for them. They needed connections of their own.
And what about my husband? He was so down and out, struggling with the emotions of being unemployed for the first time in his life. He has had a job ever since he was a kid. He had a paper route, he de-tassled corn, he worked in an auto parts store, and at nineteen years old he joined the Army. After serving in Germany and then in Iraq, he got out. Thereafter he always held down at least one job, sometimes several jobs at once.
While he had a salaried job as a commercial photographer for almost twenty years, he also did odd jobs to pay for braces for two daughters, medical bills, and other life expenses. He’s been a security guard (he was armed with only a whistle – something that still cracks me up), he’s fixed toilets (well, there was a flooding incident when he botched a plumbing job, but that was quickly taken care of), he milked dairy cows (no, his laundry was NOT fun to do!), and more. He’s had few vacations. He’s worked himself to beyond the point of exhaustion. And now… he’s had to tell people over and over again that he has no job. BTW: This is Brent’s Go Fund Me Page
I had to get our lease agreement based on my author/artist connections. I had to get an Irish bank account in my name only. All of this is absurd. Brent has been the primary source of income for our entire marriage. Twenty-eight years of supporting me suddenly didn’t matter. Now he can’t even rent a house. It was wearing on him. Sure, he had courageously gone back to school to become a teacher. And yes, he finished with an A average. But the path to become certified is long and windy. The jubilation over finishing school has long faded.
It will be weeks before his certification in the States goes through, and then he has to start the process with the Irish Teaching Council to get certified to teach in Ireland. There are connections he needs to make in person, so sitting back in the States wouldn’t have helped. For example, he had to apply for a government issued number in person. He needs that number to get Garda vetted for the Irish Teaching Council. He got that done last week. Anyway… it’s a tedious game of hurry up and wait. No one seems to care that while prospective teachers are going through this process they are unable to get a full time permanent position. I guess they expect teachers to be young, female, and supported by someone else? No wonder they get so few men into the teaching profession. They can’t afford it, especially if they are older and have families.
But back to Brent…
Not working is more exhausting than working. And I just couldn’t prop him up anymore. I needed help. I was wearing down myself. I’d gotten sick, very sick, for the first time in years. I’ve struggled to get myself back on track. I have to let go and let God. It’s time to admit that I can’t do this myself. I can’t fix these big unknown problems. I can’t be “everything” and “everyone” for my family. There’s a church for that. THIS church.
So, week one – there was instant relief! WHEW! It was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to do this alone, and I didn’t have to lean too heavily on our Irish friends either — they’ve nearly adopted us! No, it was time that we plugged into the community and made our own way. We only had to get through one day at a time and then it would be Sunday again.
On week two we followed through on an after-church lunch invitation from the week before. Before we get to that though, I have to mention that there was an engaging guest speaker during the service who really captured my attention. I talked with him and bought his book during tea time. I’m reading his book now. This was an interesting connection because Cassie and Nicholas are studying Japanese and his book is about his years in Japan.
Back to week two and our lunch date:
We followed the couple to their home, which was on the other side of Cork, where we hadn’t yet been to before. It was a beautiful drive. At the time we had a small rental car, so we were unpleasantly squished, but it was well worth it.
“Lunch” was an elaborate meal (roasted chicken, vegetables, and potatoes) followed by tea and dessert (a large slab of apple pie with hot custard spooned over it). We were very full and it was late afternoon by the time we wrapped up Sunday feasting and conversation.
After lunch we were shown a beautiful HANDCRAFTED organ! WHAT?!!? Brent makes handcrafted musical instruments and Nicholas has been his apprentice, so this was right up their alley. I mean, seriously??? How did we end up with this perfect match? This organ is extraordinary! It’s mammoth, for one thing! And it was pure genius how this man built it – he’s an engineer by the way. He took keyboard keys from an inexpensive keyboard and laid them into a gorgeous wooden instrument. There’s a massive speaker built in that rattles the house! 🙂
His wife gave us a delightful impromptu concert. She plays beautifully. It was fun to watch her hands move so fast across the keys. What was best of all is the obvious love between the pair of them. What a treat to spend time in their home!
On to week three…
On week three I was prepared to coast through the service. I was looking forward to singing the songs and sitting peacefully in the pew until tea time. There was no lunch date today and I was planning to go home without any excitement. I could shut my busy brain down. Or could I? The sermon had me with the opening statement. Oh dear, I didn’t expect to get emotional. I’m someone who rarely cries. I hate crying. I get mad if I’m tricked into watching a sad movie. I’m still mad at Disney/Pixar for making me cry during Toy Story 3. But there I was, trying to blink back the tears. Because the reverend was saying a few simple words that spoke directly to my heart:
God knows. God cares.
My best friend from school told me something similar: God sees. God loves you.
Some of you reading this are shaking your heads and thinking, “So what? That sounds like a common theme for a church.” Obviously I’ve heard it said that God loves me, that Jesus loves me. But what I needed to hear is that God knows what’s going on in my life, that He sees. That’s not a message I usually hear in church, even though it seems obvious. I’m a person who needs to be reminded that I matter. Maybe you feel the same.
Sometimes I feel invisible. No matter how hard I push, I’m often forgotten by people. Don’t you ever feel that way? I mean, weeks slip by and people are busy. Maybe months slip by. The next thing you know, years have passed. And… well, maybe by then we’ve given up on that person being in our lives. But God isn’t that way. He sees us always. We are never forgotten. And He’ll never slip out of our lives. And no matter how far from home we go, He’s there. He’s waiting for us on the other side. He’s already there, ahead of us.
I don’t know how to put this into words any more than I already have, other than to share a song with you that I played over and over again when I was feeling overwhelmed by the unknowns. In the weeks before our big move to Ireland, this song helped me get through the anxiety and the loneliness. I played it while I was painting. Pay attention to the lyrics: Already There by Casting Crowns
Bottom line, week three was spiritually personal for me, as if God was sending me a direct message. Brent was moved by the sermon too – a different part of it, having to do with faith and not worrying, staying strong, etc. He came away from it feeling positive.
And now we’re at week four, today.
Today they fed us a “light” lunch. It sure wasn’t light. But maybe it was Light? Is that what they meant? If so, they got it exactly right.
My husband Brent, Johnny O’Halloran holding their beautiful son Lorcan, Marie O’Halloran, and me, with a cameo appearance by Roxy, the contest-winning dog who is responsible for this friendship! (Story here, if you missed it) at the O’Halloran’s home in Munster, Ireland
We had a ball visiting Johnny, Marie, and Lorcan. It was our first time seeing Lorcan and it was all I could do not to rush over to him and squeeze him! I waited until he was warmed up to me – which was right away! Then I swooped him up. He is an adorable and happy little boy who stole our hearts.
A baby in the house, tea and pie served, stories about faerie rings, serious heart-to-heart talks as well as silliness- and plenty of hugs – it was a wonderful first visit in the O’Halloran’s home.
But… it wasn’t a “just for fun” visit. Marie and Johnny were helping us shop for a car. This was all part of our settling in experience. It was one.more.thing to add to a long list of stressful things. We couldn’t keep renting a temporary car. It was too expensive, for starters. We’d quickly go broke. Beyond that, renting means a lack of commitment. As scary as it was, we needed to buy a car.
The first step was to find a car that we liked. Marie offered to help us find a car, and to help us negotiate a fair price. We took her up on this offer and shopped for cars in her neck of the woods. Marie and Johnny live about forty-five minutes’ drive from our house. Given all of the driving and commuting Brent did in the States, this is a relatively small distance between us. I love that we live close to our dear friends! We were grateful for their help in making such a nerve-wracking decision.
Fortunately, I had laser focus that day. I’d prayed for God to give us a car. Sure, I didn’t expect the car to be literally given to us, but I fully expected that a car would show itself to us – that it would be clear which one was ours. That happened. We were looking for a “7 seater”, which is a small version of a typical mini-van, but sportier and classier. I love it! It is large enough to fit our adult-sized family of five, plus there’s a bit of room for hauling books and art to events. Perfect! Grocery bags are a breeze too.
It’s odd how Nicholas has to get into the car. Folding down one of the seats in the middle row (where the girls sit) is awkward and frustrating so I suggested that he hop into the back. It works! He opens the “boot” (trunk) door and climbs into his seat in the back (we keep the second back seat permanently folded down). Of course he could sit in the middle row of three seats, thigh-to-thigh with his sisters. Ha! Anyway, the 7-seater is AWESOME! But… getting the car was not awesome.
Brent doesn’t have a job here yet and I’m on an author/artist income that’s largely inconsistent–banks don’t like that. In addition, we’d only been in the country for a few weeks. It was a humbling experience to go to my new Irish bank and beg for a loan. I dressed up and gave my best speech, but we were denied.
So, we approached our bank in the U.S. After all, we’d had three consecutive successful home mortgages that made the bank a lot of money in interest over the past twenty years. Surely they’d loan us the money. No, no, they would not. Apparently our wonderful history with them meant very little. The only way they’d loan us the money is via a secured personal loan that would freeze what was left of the money we’d saved to live on while Brent is unemployed. Oh, and also, they required a co-signer.
I won’t get into the specifics of what all of this meant, and how incredibly frustrating it was, or what was involved with the baggage of the co-signer. I’ll have to leave that here. To put it simply: we had to make difficult unwanted decisions.
It was taxing logistics wise too. Why oh why in the year 2016 did we need to send actual hard-copies for a relatively small loan? We had to ship papers express to the United States from Ireland. Later, when all of this was done, we had to pay $75 for a wire transfer to get the funds to our account. The only saving grace in all of this is that the person who serviced our loan is someone who knew us, and she was very helpful.
I could go on with this, but I think you get the picture. Buying a car was terribly stressful and it meant freezing our savings. Life was suddenly a whole lot harder!
But in the end, we had our car. Our salesperson at the dealership was absolutely wonderful! He had offered to hold the car for us (with a deposit) for as long as we needed. It ended up being about three weeks of back and forth before we could pick up the car. Through it all, he was bright and friendly. He even offered to help us make networking connections for our daughter. We knew we were true friends though when he left us a note on the gas cap “for the Yank”, reminding Brent to use diesel instead of petrol . 🙂
Well, from what I’ve said here, you can probably imagine how tightly wound Brent and I have been. The car is only one issue of many that we’ve been dealing with. It felt so good to be with friends! Having Johnny and Marie with us at the dealership made all the difference. And then, when we picked up the car, it was Johnny who drove us from the rental drop off (Cork airport) to the dealership. We needed help from friends, and we got it.
I’ll forever remember how hard it was to be new in this country, and how humbling it was to be rejected for a simple loan. We were afraid when we realized that it wouldn’t be easy to get a car. The anxiety continued when we couldn’t find anyone who would insure us.
In the end, it all fell into place, even if it didn’t happen the way that we wanted it to. We got the car, apple pie with our Irish friends, and a hug from a baby. Life is grand!
When we meet new people, they ask us how we’re settling in. Hmm… I’m sure they don’t want to hear the full story. I just say “fine” and “We love it here, we love Ireland!” But the truth is much more complicated.
Our friends Marie and Johnny made sure that we had food in the house before they left us on our own. Food doesn’t last long with a family of five, so it was important that we visit a grocery store before we completely ran out of food. My plan was to go to the nearest Aldi, as we’d been shopping at Aldi in the States for the past five years. We knew that store inside and out. At least grocery shopping would be familiar, after we made it there in one piece of course.
Well, that plan went awry. Brent found the Aldi without any trouble. Thank God for the Internet! We didn’t have Google when Brent and I lived in Germany from 1988-1990. I don’t know how we managed. This time around, living in Europe, we Google everything! But not everything is on the Internet. Sometimes we have to figure out things for ourselves.
Let’s back up to something important to this story. We flew out from Minneapolis on December 29, just four days after Christmas. The kids couldn’t fit much in their luggage, so we were limited in what we could give them. I came up with the perfect solution – cash in EUROS! Naturally, we waited too late to actually get the Euros. We had to drive to multiple banks to find one that had them on hand (we didn’t have time to order them, as it was Christmas Eve!). It was also snowing, of course. So here we were, driving to the big Wells Fargo, the only bank in the area that had Euros. Sure, it was dicey coming back home, with cars in the ditch and the snow accumulating, but Santa would deliver!
We separated the denominations, put them into separate bags, and then tied the three bags together with ribbon – 100€ for each of our three kids. Now they could buy what they needed to settle in! Sure, it couldn’t replace everything they had to give up, but they’d be able to get something nice. It was fun money, at the very least. I couldn’t wait to see their faces! They weren’t expecting to get much this year, so this was a big surprise! So… THEY had money.
But WE didn’t. We didn’t think to get Euros for ourselves. DOH!
And guess what? Aldi doesn’t accept our American credit card because it doesn’t have a chip on it. We had already checked out and people were waiting. Fortunately Savannah, our youngest, was with us. And she had her Christmas money…
Well, that was the first IOU. Santa giveth and taketh away… (Before I get hate mail, we paid her back with interest!)
After that, we realized we needed to find a store that would accept our credit cards–at least until we figured out how to keep enough cash on hand. At this point we didn’t have an Irish bank account (and that’s another long story!). Anyway, we had to venture out past our comfort zone. What other store could we try?
Look at how tightly packed the cars are. The parking lot is challenging. This is the norm for parking in Ireland. Whether driving in or backing in, parking generally involves several attempts to “straighten up” the car. Sometimes the space is so tight that Brent drops me off before he parks – because I won’t be able to open the door otherwise. And forget parallel parking for now! The last time he attempted it, he ended up temporarily on the curb to squeeze us into the space. It’s crazy – people often drive up on the curb in tight spaces, such as when driving on a busy narrow street where cars are also parked and only one car can pass through at a time! Anyway, back to the Tesco parking lot situation..
BTW: Brent is an excellent driver. I am a horrible driver – there is no way I’d be able to do any of this!!! I’m impressed (but not surprised) at how fast he’s learned how to drive on the left and navigate the narrow spaces. Oh and the jay walking! Pedestrians just sort of walk whenever and wherever they want to… yi yi yi! It’s like we’re playing a video game – trying to drive around crazy obstacles like people, stray dogs that jump out of no where, and cars that can’t fit on the same road…! Brent has even mastered the round a bouts.
There’s Savannah, our shopping buddy! She was happy we didn’t need to bum cash off of her. She was having a ball buying candy and oddball treats that she’s never had before – or has had rarely. One of the first things she bought was a Kinderegg from Germany. It had been years since we’d had one. She was generous enough to buy one for every member of the family.
Notice that the shrubs are in bloom – in JANUARY! These shrubs are in the Tesco parking lot. Yes, I’m the crazy American taking pictures outside the grocery store.
Tesco is very nice, by the way. We enjoy shopping there. I appreciate the “any 3 for 10€” meat deals. I’ve managed to cut our grocery bills in HALF compared to what we spent in the States! The food is fresh everywhere and DELICIOUS! But it’s not always easy to get in the store.
Here’s a little learning curve… there are few free parking areas in Ireland, and the parking spaces are tiny.
At Tesco, you pay at this machine. If you spend enough in the store you get money back. We were pleased to figure this one out right away, by reading the signs. Sadly, we did this for the first time on a Sunday – the day when parking is FREE. So we still managed to look like idiots… we asked for parking validation when we didn’t need to pay! (For the record, I noticed that no one else had a parking slip in their car, but did Brent listen?) So much of this Irish adventure is about stumbling and bumbling around, finding our way through trial, error, dumb luck, and the kids’ Euros we found after driving an hour in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Oh yes, the “kids'” Euros… it wasn’t just Savannah’s cash we borrowed. We needed Cassie’s and Nicholas’ too. That’s another thing about Ireland – there are plenty of times when cash (and ONLY cash) is accepted… like parking, garbage drop-off (“rubbish”), grocery cart (“trolly”), and more.
But now I have an Irish bank account and access to cash. The only problem of course is that I need more money in the account… Sigh, isn’t that how life goes?