Our first weeks in Ireland

We arrived in Ireland on December 30, 2015, which meant that our first weeks in Ireland were in the dead of winter. We left our typical snow, ice, and deep freeze conditions back in the States for a delightful spring-like season in Ireland.

We experienced one bizarre Irish snow event in which snow swirled around like the fake fluff in a musical glass-domed snow globe for about ten minutes (I took pictures, I’ll show you those later). This enchanted “snow” melted before it hit the ground. And, that’s it. The next hour the sun came out. Then I think it rained. And then the sun came back out. Then, there was probably another rainbow. That’s how it goes around here. Rain, sun, rainbow. Rinse, repeat.

The Irish snow was a freak event and it was rather hilarious from my perspective, as someone who spent the last twenty years living within commuting distance from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesotan weather this winter included a day when it was actually warmer in ANTARCTICA than in Minnesota! And of course they were buried in snow by multiple “snow events” and a blizzard.

But for mysterious unknown reasons, the Irish often complain about the weather! Everywhere we go, they say things like, “How do you like it, aside from the weather?” Or, “You could enjoy the sights today, if not for the weather.” Or, “It rains too much. We have too much rain this year.” And so on. The weather here is highly changeable. No matter how much it rains, the sun comes out every day and it’s glorious. I don’t mind a bit of rain if it means rainbows and sunshine afterward. The Irish would never last a Minnesota winter!

Highlights from January 2016

Our shipment arrived from the United States on January 7 — well, eventually. The drivers were from Belfast and they couldn’t find our house. Brent was only newly familiar with these roads himself, and his driving-on-the-left skills were still a bit scary.

So, it was dark comedy when the men from Belfast wanted Brent to meet them in the village (Grenagh) so that they could follow him back here. Brent had only successfully made it to the village centre once, and he had taken a wrong turn heading back. This could be interesting!

Also, we live on a boreen. My friend Marie had warned me that living on a boreen might be a problem, and that this house was “very” rural. (Yes, I had to look it up too: What is a “boreen”?)

Well, it turns out that the boreen where we live is so narrow that the brambles hit the car on both sides at certain points. In one dreadful stretch there are high walls that create a tunnel-like effect. That part freaks Brent out, as it is a tight squeeze and only one car can go through at a time. I’m OK with that section. It’s the extremely narrow part with the ditches on both sides that horrifies me! The road is crumbling away on the sides due to minor flooding. Water runs on the edges, which drop off sharply. Brent flinches where there’s a pothole on his side, and veers to the other side, and I swear we’re going to topple into the ditch. We haven’t. We probably won’t. But I caught myself doing my Lamaze breathing exercises when he drove through the ditch-lined parts of the boreen.

I mentioned that there’s room for only one vehicle at a time on the boreen, so what happens when we meet up with another car coming at us from the opposite direction? Well, the first time that happened Brent panicked and drove like an American. He zipped the rental mini-van (a “people carrier” as they call it here) into reverse and backed up onto the right hand side of the road.  The Irish gent in his truck calmly waited for the whole affair to come to an embarrassing end. Then Brent pulled up alongside him, to warn our Irish neighbor about a tree that was down (blocking part of the boreen). The gent wasn’t concerned about the tree, but he appeared to be quite concerned about how Brent was faring in his people carrier.  🙂

Anyway, back to the story about the drivers from Belfast… Brent asked them if they could get the truck to fit on the narrow roads. They didn’t know for sure, so one of them took a second smaller truck and followed Brent back to the house for a test drive. Brent did fine – no American driving, and he didn’t get lost!

The driver declared it to be OK for the bigger truck and said he’d seen worse. I could barely watch as they tried to get the truck through the stone gate, but they made it! Here they are, with one of them ground-guiding the other through the gate to our driveway.

IMG_2475

Rivendell_07YEA! Our shipment is here! Most of it made it to Ireland without damage. We had a few losses, but nothing that can’t be repaired or let go of. The drivers were gracious, careful with our things, and even helped us unpack. We couldn’t understand much of what the one man said. His accent was so heavy that his partner had to translate for us. Both men were friendly and easy to work with. It was good to see people after spending several days alone in the house.

The shipment contained a small amount of things compared to all that we sold or gave away, but I’m grateful for what we were able to keep. It’s amazing to have our possessions here in Ireland! It felt so good to see our familiar things again. We were able to keep our family photo albums, our home videos, the kids’ old toys, and our special Christmas decorations. We also held on to our musical instruments, a few household items, my art supplies, paintings, etc. And, the TARDIS console that we were crazy enough to ship… We had enough stuff — everything else could be replaced (or forgotten!).

IMG_2477How exciting, seeing that shipping label! My art was sent from New York City to Ireland, possibly on the same general route that my Irish ancestors took when they came over from Ireland to NY.

BTW: The shippers totally ignored my “up” arrows, but all of the paintings made it through just fine.

IMG_2476I’m ready for gallery showings and events! No excuses!

IMG_2478See that red filing cabinet? It was my parents’. They used it for paperwork, scissors, rubber bands, stamps, etc. It’s too small for full sized paper, so I never quite understood why Mom wouldn’t part with it. But when I saw the back of the cabinet, I understood why. I asked Brent to leave that part alone when he painted the cabinet red for me.

IMG_2482I’m so happy that this cabinet made it to Ireland! It is the perfect size for my paints and I use it all the time. Knowing that my dad’s doodle love note to my mom is on the back… well, that’s priceless. The cabinet is metal so I can put magnets on it too. I don’t want to think about how much it cost to ship this basically worthless old metal cabinet.

I sold many “valuable” things so that we could afford to ship our treasures. All of us feel good about what we let go of and what we kept. Whether we shipped a stuffed animal or a beaten up toolbox, a guitar or a dog-eared book… we all shipped things that make our new place feel like home. No regrets. And wow do we ever appreciate what we have!

Oh, as a side note – after the shipment reached port I got a message that customs needed clarification: Were the “stuffed animals” plush toys or hunting trophies? I assured them that they were toys, whew! We almost got flagged…. illegal hunting of exotic animals? Yi, yi, yi! That was a close call, but all was easily resolved and our shipment sailed through customs.

Here are pictures of that changeable weather I was talking about. Ireland in January:  IMG_2512 IMG_2510 IMG_2509  IMG_2507 IMG_2506 IMG_2505Brent (from inside the house) took this picture of me. It’s good to be back up to my old tricks – I used to love taking weather pictures. I haven’t been myself in a long time, as this move to Ireland took over my life for the past few years. I’m glad to be “back”!

Rivendell_17IMG_2504  IMG_2499    IMG_2487  IMG_2485 IMG_2484IMG_2535IMG_2656

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