Life in Ireland, Pt.2 - First Steps

Tonight I'm in the mood to write and these last few days I've felt that an update on my Life in Ireland (click here for Part 1) is long overdue. I'm in the right frame of mind to brave a trip down memory lane so pull up a chair, a top up on your coffee / tea / wine and let me tell you what happened when I finally arrived in Kinsale after spending the better part of the day travelling through the country side on a Bus Eireann coach.

I distinctly remember that I was the last passenger to disembark the coach in the centre of Kinsale town, County Cork, a sleepy, small town on the southeast coast of Ireland. 

I had three big problems:

1) Where is my friend?
2) I need my luggage.
3) I'm bloody starving.

My first problem resolved itself the moment I got off the coach, the second problem was also remedied pretty quickly. The third took somewhat longer to resolve as it was temporarily replaced by "I need to place to sleep" tonight. Thankfully we sorted out the accommodation issue in next to no time by getting me a room in a lovely bed & breakfast just a stone's throw away from the bus station. In saying that, in Kinsale everything is just a stone's throw away. With the luggage safely stowed away in my lovely attic bedroom with its cracking wooden floorboards all around the bed and bathroom, my thoughts returned to my earlier problem - food. I needed food for my food intake during my travels had been limited to gummy-bears and chocolate.

My friend (whom I won't be mentioning much since we fell out a few years ago and haven't spoken since) and I decided that I deserved a treat so we wandered off to the best pub in town. Needless to say I was excited. I'd never before been to a real Irish pub (unless you count my leaving party in Germany for which my friends dragged me to our local Irish pub) and even though I was still worried about not being able to understand anyone, my hunger got the better of me. The pub was packed when we got there - seemingly all of Kinsale was excited to see me and had decided to gather at the pub to welcome me in style...and welcomed I was indeed.

Most of the lads at the bar all raised their pints of Guinness to great me and the various exclamations such as 'hello girls' and 'the evening just got interesting' as well as 'someone get those girls a drink' echoed through the pub. For a split moment I was tempted to walk back out but then one of the waiters got his hands on me and before I knew what was going on I was sat at a table with a glass of coke in my hand that I don't really recall ordering. I poured over the menu and when the waiter got impatient some fifteen minutes later I asked him if I could have something that neither made of pork nor resembled a steak. 'Roast Chicken, Gravy, Chips and Veg' it is then, he laughed and wandered off to the kitchen to place my order. Meanwhile I tried to distract myself with whatever footie match that was on the telly for my friend and I seemed to be the most interesting thing in the entire pub. Questions were fired at us left, right and centre and I had just one thought: 'those Irish are nuts'!

All in all it was a good evening and night...the next morning wasn't all that fabulous because I woke up with a rotten blocked noseand had to take a trip to the local supermarket (next door to my bed & breakfast) to stock up on tissues. Nevertheless I indulged in my first, real Irish breakfast and spend the day exploring Kinsale town. The majority of the afternoon was spent on Kinsale beach which is tiny but absolutely gorgeous!

I ate a late lunch in a cosy little café in the centre of Kinsale town and returned to the pub for dinner with my friend. The staff seemed to appreciate that and having warmed up to them, I spent the evening joking about with just about everyone who started a conversation with me. That night I changed my mind and 'those Irish' were no longer nuts but pretty darn cool. I left the pub with a seemingly endless list of suggestions on how to get rid of my cold for no-one deserves to be sick on holiday but I still spend the entire night twisting and turning in my super-comfy bed. I positively tortured my poor nose with one tissue after the other. My friend (who stayed the night to keep me company) must have been miserable, trying to get some sleep...

The next few days kind of passed in a blur and before long it was time to return to Dublin. By that time my cold was finally gone and most of the locals seemed to strongly disagree with me wanting to leave for the 'big smoke'. I probably spent most of the journey back to Dublin looking out the back window of the coach, remembering the fabulous few days I'd spent with a bunch of strangers who had become 'family' in the space of a few hours. Even though I've never seen any of them again since and the memory of their faces has blurred over the years, I treasure the experience. A truly amazing first impression of Ireland, one I'll remember for life.

Once in Dublin, life got wild. There was tons to see and a million and twelve things to do and within three days it became a home away from home. This time we were staying in a hostel and the staff was super nice. Some of the male guests were total jerks but I cured one of them of his foul tongue when I whipped him into shape in a game of billiard. I haven't got the faintest idea why I won that game for I'm usually utterly rubbish at it but I beat that bloke fair and square and he never stepped out of line again.

My days in Dublin flew by faster than my leisure holiday in Kinsale and before soon it was time to meet my Au Pair family who picked me up at my hostel and took me to Kinvera, County Galway with them. That was the start of my venture of looking after three small children (the oldest was five at the time) somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was an exciting adventure at first and time flew by because when you're looking after three children you just don't have the time to do much else than that. I fell into bed, completely exhausted, most nights and what with literally being in the middle of nowhere (30 minutes drive from the nearest shop to stock up on toothpaste) the days soon got bleak and dreary. Pretty soon my last thought before bed was 'please let me wake up in Dublin' and one day I did. I left the Au Pair world behind and returned to Dublin, determined to find a proper job.

My quest lasted six months. During that time I returned home once - for two weeks over Christmas and that particular Christmas was the last Christmas I spent at home with my family and friends since moving to Ireland - my current job is to blame but not for much longer.

18-year-old me was overwhelmed with trying to find a job in Dublin and living in a hostel for three months, sharing my room with 15 other people who were coming and going, rapidly turned into a nightmare. There is only so much lack of privacy a gal can take before too much is too much. Stephen's Green Park pretty soon became my sanctuary and I escaped there whenever I was not looking for a job or a room to rent together with a friend. The day we found a place to live, we bought a bottle of bubbly and had a 'mad' party in our new room. You cannot imagine my excitement. My own room, only one room mate with me in the room, my own television, my own wardrobe and night stand. I considered being able to hang up my clothes in my new wardrobe a luxury beyond belief. The suitcase got banned to a place where I wouldn't be forced to look at it until I actually needed it. I had my own bathroom with a proper shower and hot water. A kitchen with a fridge and a proper cabinet to store food instead of a labelled plastic bag. A washing machine and a little back garden. It was heaven, it was luxury. Back then I was easily impressed...

Finding our own place after such a long time in a hostel was my first success for around that time I was contemplating on returning to Germany, finding a job proved to be quite a challenge. That all changed when I got what I now consider a lousy job in a hotel. I worked as a maid, getting up at five every morning. It took me two hours to get to work and by the time I returned home (after 5pm) I was fit for bed. I didn't stick with the job for long and eventually I quite and found my current job. I celebrate I went all out and took my friend on a fancy 'date' to celebrate. To say I was excited was an understatement. All the hard work had paid off...I had a job, I finally had a job. A proper job - my dad was the first person who got the news and his support meant the world to me.

The moment I signed my contract all my worries and some very unpleasant memories of unpleasant encounters evaporated into thin air - never to be seen again. I got bolt, I went shopping for some new clothes in preparation for my job, then got incredibly worried, thinking I wouldn't be good enough for the job and they'd kick me out before the end of my first day...I worked myself into such a state that I ended up fleeing to Stephen's Green Park and hiding in a corner. I munched on a bar of chocolate and listened to my best friend telling me what a moron I was for daring to think I wasn't good enough. I of course felt better when I put down the phone - there is no better person to get you back on track than your best friend. I felt ready to take on the world but instead I settled for sitting on Malahide beach to watch the sunset...

Here are some observations/discoveries/experiences I made in my first few months of living in Dublin:
  • the majority of Irish people are incredibly friendly
  • there is no such thing as a 'moving house' surcharge when booking a taxi to take you from your former hostel to your new house however taxi drivers do have some awesome stories to tell
  • it is possible to feel like you were born in Dublin after a mere three days
  • the first clothing item I ever bought in Ireland was a leather belt and yes I still have it
  • it is entirely possibly to spend every afternoon sat at the window of your favourite café (Bewley's Café), watching the world go by
  • Dublin Bus cannot be trusted
  • working as a maid in a hotel sucks even if you're working in a five star hotel
  • Sunday brunch in Stephen's Green truly is a treat
  • there are disrespectful drivers who will drench you while you're walking from the Four Courts to O'Connell Bridge in the pouring rain
  • blokes (men) are not to be trusted
  • it is advisable to wear up to 15 layers when watching the parade on St Patrick's Day
  • do not lean close and whisper into your friend's ear in the middle of a hostel's kitchen, the lads on the other side of the room will misinterpret what they have seen and when asked they will tell everyone they saw two girls snogging
  • it is possible to walk from Dublin 1 (The O2 Arena near the Port) to Dublin 4 (Southside) to Dublin 5 (Northside) but it will take you more than four hours. You'll get home at the crack of dawn, thirsty and knackered
  • wear a lucky Irish shirt from Carrolls for you may find 50 euro on the street
  • you're either Southside or Northside but both doesn't work
  • you can convert from Northside to Southside but not many people do it the other way around
  • they just don't do them cocktails in Ireland like they do them back home
  • bread tastes better at home
  • you feel like a dork when everyone thanks the bus driver when they get off and you cop on too late
  • you're everyone's 'love' or 'darling'
  • there are places in Dublin where you just don't order Guinness
  • you may be forced to show your passport to prove you're not from Australia
  • The guards at the GPO may also be referred to as the IIC (Irish Information Centre) for everyone asks them for directions
  • A traffic cop on O'Connell Bridge is more entertaining than cinema will ever be
  • The Gardai uniform is H.O.T.