Sunday, November 6, 2011


Today I committed to the one thing I've been putting off since I arrived in Ireland...

The mobile phone contract.

For the past 3 years I've been hammering away credit with my archaic, little Nokia phone that only makes and receives calls and texts.  Email?  Wouldn't dream of it.  Applications?  No way.  Who needs an extra expense and 2 year commitment to a communications conglomerate? Not this gal.

My view began to change about a year and a half ago when I started working for one of the largest tech companies in the world.  I would need a smart phone just to do my job.  But I hesitated and powered through the lack of technology relying on other resources to assist with my daily tasks.

This whole cloud computing thing changed my mind.  In order to support the people I deal with everyday, I would need to understand how the heck this all works.  And I'm much more of a visual/learn by doing person than learn by reading/remembering/etc.  After weighing the costs of credit vs paying a bill every month, the solution seemed simple.  Buy the iPhone and sign a contract.

Well yeah I could have bought the phone outright if I had a spare 600 euro or so sitting around, but I didn't.  Plus at this point in my life, I should be able to handle something like a cell phone bill.  But signing a contract is a huge (ahem 2 year) commitment to a phone and to Ireland.  I feel like such a grown up.

And it's so pretty.  A 16 GB, iPhone 4S in white all to myself.  I've been glued to it all night setting up my email, texting my friends on iMessage, playing Angry Birds, and talking to that bitch Siri.  It really is a lovely little gem and I'm glad I took the plunge and finally signed away my soul to Vodafone.

Hopefully my decision will still be sound when the bill arrives.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back to the Land of Living

Everyone will be happy to know that my dad's visit to Cork went very well, minus the torrential downpours we had on Saturday that disrupted our trip to the Cliffs of Moher.

In spite of the above, we managed to do a little sightseeing, ate some fine foods, and drank some fine drinks.

The morning dad left to return to the mother land it hit me...a dreaded relapse of the illness I had just taken a week to get over.

Normally every winter I get one bout of the plague (in addition to a sinus infection every two months) that puts me on my ass.  Hopefully, this is it because man, it was rough.  Headaches, a horrible cough, and extreme tiredness.  Breathing hurt and staying awake was a challenge.

After about 4 visits to the doctor I am now on my second round of steroids and have a lovely, strong antibiotic to bust this thing out of me.  Lovely enough, it's finally working and I get to return to work tomorrow.  This is nice because daytime TV is absolutely horrendous in Ireland.  I'm excited to get back to the land of the living because staying home (as nice as it seems) is just down right depressing.

The downside is, the drugs that are helping me have horrible side effects. I have a nasty taste in my mouth 24/7, anything I eat makes me feel sick and bloated, I can't sleep, I'm sweating a lot, and I'm moody.  I have a whole new respect for people who are put on steroids for a long period of time.  I've been on them for almost 2 weeks and I'm going crazy.  I finish my dose of meds on Saturday and am looking forward to it indeed.

So no news really as I've been glued to the couch or asleep for the past 2.5 weeks.  The most exciting thing that happened recently is Baxter got into the trash and ate 2 tampons.  Yep, color me disgusting.  He managed to purge them though (details aside) and is hopefully okay.

Aren't you happy I've left you with that lovely image?

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yank Alert!

Tomorrow marks a very important event...

My dad is coming to Cork for a visit.

There are a few great things about this.  Not only do I get to see my dad, but my dad gets to be immersed more into Irish culture now that I am living here permanently.  My dad has been to Ireland a few times and knows the lay of the land pretty well, so much that you could play "Spot the Yank" and he'd blend in effortlessly (until he opens his mouth and asks for a dry martini at the local pub).

Side note:  Did I mention my dad is the 62 year old version of Ron Burgandy?

Anyway, enough about my dad, and more about me.  I swear I'm not shallow.

Whenever I have American visitors come to stay, I feel pressured to show them just how wonderful living in Ireland is and that they don't have to worry about me, I'm okay here.  I feel the need to expose them to the wonderfulness that is Cork, in spite of the cold, rainy, and damp weather.  Basically I want them to leave feeling as though they don't need to call my mother to tell her to hop on the first American Airlines flight she can find to come rescue me.

Preparations have been lagging this time around since I've been sick with the plague for about a week.  Well, not the plague, but a sinus infection that's gone rogue and infected my entire respiratory system.  I've been curled up with meds, my dog, a blanket, and non stop episodes of Modern Family to get me through this difficult time.  After plenty of rest and fluids I'm feeling much better, minus the death rattle cough that's been lingering, but I'll live.

One American trait that I haven't been able to shake since I've arrived in Cork is my idealism and need to strive for perfection.  No matter how laid back the Irish can be, my neurosis just won't allow me to stop and sniff the roses.  Therefore, before a fellow American arrives (especially a parent), the following must be complete:

1) Living quarters must be spotless.
2) Living quarters must be well accessorized.
3) Car must be washed and looking as nice as possible.
4) Dog must be bathed.
5) Career plan must be formed in head and ready to discuss.
6) Sheets must be clean.
7) Living quarters must smell nice.
8) I must appear as if I really do have it all together.

Aside from having said plague this week, here are the following reasons why the above will never be completely fulfilled:

1) Living quarters must be spotless. I'm just feeling too crappy to care about this.  I finally mustered up the energy to hoover the carpet and I had to take a nap for an hour afterward.  In addition, Baxter keeps leaving mystery poos everywhere.
2) Living quarters must be well accessorized. I recently bought a new rug for the sitting room and a few picture frames.  That will have to do.  In Ireland when you rent a house/apartment/dwelling small enough to be a box, but they call it a house, the furniture is included.  So are paintings, curtains, and little bits and bobs.  Our landlord is a farmer and therefore, our kitchen is a scene out of a modern day Green Acres, our sitting room has sage colored sofas and pepto colored curtains, and there isn't a painting to be seen.  I don't see the point in buying many decoratives if we're just going to move again.  And as far as art work goes, I'd like to wait to find something worth buying.
3) Car must be washed and looking as nice as possible.  I drive a 1997 polo that I bought in cash.  I'm 99% sure an old lady owned it before me due to the religious paraphernalia in it and the 50 small dents along the sides.  I'm totally stereotyping here, but after all, it only had 50,000 miles on it when I bought it.  Just enough to drive to the local shop, bingo, and back home.  In any case, no matter how much I wash that baby, it's still going to be a dented, 1997 polo.
4) Dog must be bathed.  Check.  I did that during my energy spurt along with the hoovering.  He still hates me for it.
5) Career plan must be formed in head and ready to discuss. Check and check.  Thank you work for giving me direction.
6) Sheets must be clean. Always a must.  Check.
7) Living quarters must smell nice.  Impossible.  Our downstairs toilet has some sort of plumbing issue (it works but at random, terrible scents come from it).  Thank god if you close the door, it doesn't permeate further than the hall. However, I purchased scented candles because I wanted the place to smell Autumn ish.  To my demise, it is apparently very difficult to find spice scented Yankee Candles in Cork.  And when one does find them, they cost a ridiculous amount to purchase.  I settled for a generic cinnamon candle from the local Dunnes.  It's been lit for the entire afternoon and doesn't smell like a damn thing.
8) I must appear as if I really do have it all together.  Read the above.  Seriously, what do you think? 

I think the point beneath it all is that I experience reverse culture shock before and after an American visitor arrives.  All this week I've been thinking about how small our master bedroom is.  I'm nearly 27 and I still sleep in a double bed, with another person.  I thought about it and my 10 year old sister's bedroom and bed is bigger than mine.  But things here are smaller and we live in a duplex, not a house, so what can I expect.  I shouldn't have to justify everything being different than where I'm from and I should be well accustomed to it by now, but whenever my people come, I default back to a true Yank.  Bigger is better.

In spite of it all, I'm looking forward to seeing my dad.  My health is nearly back to normal so I'm sure I'll be able to show him a good time.

One day I'll learn to look at all the positives instead of focusing on the negatives (that was a goal I set for myself when I was 16...look how far I got).  And for now I'll focus on how lucky I am to be living my dream.  No one said it would be easy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meet Baxter.

Most of the people who know me, know Baxter.  But for any strangers stumbling across this page, you now know him too.

Baxter is a long haired, mini dachshund and this picture of him is quite outdated.  He's now almost 6 months old and losing all his baby teeth (about 1 a day).  I'm such a proud parent.

The boyfriend surprised me with Baxter a few months ago out of the blue.  BEST SURPRISE EVER.  I came home from a grueling day at work to find a little, black ball of fur cuddled up on my sofa.  He was so tiny I could nearly hold him in one hand.  Now he's a lean, mean, chewing machine.

So far the most notable things he has digested are as follows:

- Earplugs ( x 4)
- An arm from his favorite chew toy
- The eyes of a stuffed pig
- The corner of the carpet in the sitting room
- His harness (he ate half. I immediately bought him another and he's not allowed near it, except on walks)
- Multiple loose teeth
- Paper...lots of paper.

Thankfully he's managed to...manage all of the above.

Baxter is currently going through a stage where he does not listen.  For example, he's currently chewing on the new rug I bought as boyfriend continuously yells, "no."  In these situations, he gets put on a time out (quiet time in the kitchen).  I always made fun of those people who treated their dogs like children.  I am slowly becoming one of them.  The Jo Frost of puppies would be proud of my tactic.  Maybe I should get Baxter a naughty step.

But in spite all of the chewing, being bold, and testing my patience, nothing beats coming home to a lovely little puppy every day.  No matter how hard a day it is, Baxter is there to greet me with a tail wag and a lick to the face.  

Boyfriend better watch out, he's got serious competition.

More to come on Baxter as the puppy rearing adventure continues!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Driving Like a Bat Out of Hell

You will all be happy to know that I am officially a vehicle owner. I'm absolutely in love with my euro car and even better, I survived the journey from Dublin to Cork when I collected her (it's for sure a she) on Friday.

I was surprised at how easy driving came to me. Granted, I've been driving since the age of 16, but the fact that it was on the other side of the road on the other side of the car really intimidated me. Our 2 night stop over in Tipperary gave me a chance to try my hand at driving on country roads. Nothing scarier than driving on a one lane road that's supposed to fit two cars in both directions. Or getting stuck behind a tractor and having to pass it when I'm afraid to go faster than 40 mph. Or better yet, praying silently that random dogs roaming the side of the road won't dodge out in front of me. Still, I managed.

Other than completely underestimating the cost of petrol (gas), I'm thrilled to be back on the road. I've been driving myself to and from work for the past few days and actually have time to get up in the morning and do things prior to leaving for work instead of rushing for the bus as soon as I hop out of bed.

Next on the list is a new job. I start next Thursday and am pretty excited about that as well. Last week I was starting to think I was coming down with a bit of Stockholm Syndrome. I was feeling really bad and scared about leaving the company I'm currently with. I started to feel very anxious about going somewhere different, learning a new product, and meeting new people. But as the start date gets closer and closer, I'm more excited to take on the new challenge. Not so excited about the commute to the new place considering I have to go through more roundabouts and drive partially through the city (ahhhh!) to get there. More to come on that!

So I did it. I always said I would be happy to live in Ireland if I could have a car and get a job here. Done and done. Don't get me wrong, I still miss home and every so often get the "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???!!" voice in my head. This week I'm bummed that my mom and 2 of my sisters are going to all be in Ohio in June without me. If I wasn't starting a new job and didn't just spend my entire bank account on a car, I may have been able to swing meeting them there. This time though I'll just have to get email and picture updates. I'll survive, but I wish I could be there.

Ok, enough sap. Bed time is swiftly approaching. Today I woke up and thought it was Wednesday. Tonight I can take comfort in the fact that when I wake up tomorrow, I'll be correct.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hit the Road Jack

After a year and a half of being without wheels here in Ireland, tomorrow marks my first day back on the road (actually, the first time being on the road in Ireland) in my first right hand drive car.

In fact, tomorrow will also mark the first time in my life I've ever purchased my own car. The other two were purchased by my father (one when I was 16 and one when I graduated college which subsequently now belongs to my sister. That's what happens when you leave the country and a brand new Honda Civic behind). So the daddy's girl act is up and here I am making my first big purchase.

Except, I would be lying if I said I bought the entire thing on me own. My current salary does not allow much wiggle room and my budget was tight. The boyfriend stepped in and helped out with a deposit and insurance. I have sworn to pay him back (most likely in installments or in home cooked meals) and boyfriend, if you're reading this, THANK YOU SO MUCH. Honestly, I think he's just as happy about this car as I am. No longer will I complain to him (and everyone I know for that matter) about how awful public transport here in Cork is and how unreliable Bus Eireann is. He can forget about ever having to wake up early to bring me to work or stay up late to collect me. And I finally have freedom of the road.

It currently takes me 2 buses and 1.5 hours to get to work. By car it only takes 15 minutes. I can't wait to not have to leave my house at 9:30 to make it in for work by 11 am. Huzzah!

So 1997 Volkswagen Polo here I come. You may be 13 years old, but I don't care. You're automatic, compact, and all mine.

The tricky part is collecting the car from Dublin. For those of you not familiar with geography in Ireland, Dublin is about a 3 hour or so drive from Cork. It's mostly motorway (aka freeway) but yours truly will be making her maiden voyage in her new Polo from Dublin. We'll most likely be making a one night pit stop in Tipperary which will nicely break up the journey, but I have to admit, I am a little nervous. The furthest I've driven in Ireland is to the shop. Which is located up the small hill from my house. It's about a 40 second drive. That's it. That's all I've done. And here I am expected to use my indicators, go through roundabouts, go above speeds of 90 kilometers an hour, and all while doing it on the opposite side of the road to what I'm used to.

Guess I have to break myself in somehow. Please pray for my safety.

So that's the big news from this side of the pond. Now it's off to snoozy dreamy land. Can't be tired for tomorrow!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter in Eire

Happy Easter to all of my 5 followers and random readers out there.

As I sit here nibbling on my Easter chocolate I can't help but feel fat. Well, fat and homesick. While Easter isn't the biggest holiday gathering in the Gustafson household, there is in fact a gathering. And, once again, I shall be absent for it. No Easter dinner for moi. I had a burger and chips from the local chipper for my Easter dinner. I miss my mom's cheesy gratin potatoes and the wine flowing plentifully at dad's. But alas, this is the compromise of international, independent living.

Enough woe is me talk and time get down to more interesting things. Today's topic, Good Friday and Easter in Ireland.

There's not too much to say about Easter in Ireland. I mean, it's the same religious focus throughout the world mixed in with bunnies, chicks and baby lambs. Families go to church, children have Easter egg hunts, and chocolate flows from neighborhood grocery stores like the Nile. The Monday following Easter Sunday is a bank holiday and most of us have the day off, there's one important difference, but other than that, Easter is Easter.

Good Friday however is an entirely different story. Good Friday in Ireland is essentially the one day alcohol Apocalypse and that's exactly how the Irish treat it. Being the infrequent church goer that I am (let's save the religion discussion for another day), Good Friday to me is the one day of the year when I'm not supposed to eat meat. Apparently, my parents did not raise a good Catholic, nor did I pay enough attention in Sunday school. I had chicken on Good Friday this year and felt guilty about it. But I know God loves me and won't mind a little chicken in my belly. If I'm worried about what God thinks of me eating chicken on a holy day, then I better start watching my back for the other 364 days of the year.

Moving forward...

Good Friday in Ireland is alcohol free. That's right, one day when the pubs shut their doors and the stores don' t sell booze to the inebriated inhabitants of this fine nation. It's a huge ordeal and there really is a sense of panic in the air. I was in the store on Thursday evening and as I was going in others were coming out with cases upon cases of lager in their arms stocking up as if the world was ending (come on, don't tell me you wouldn't want to have copious amounts of alcohol when the world ends). Just out of curiosity I approached the alcohol aisle to survey the damage. The vodka section was cleared out of merchandise, the beer section left only with a few lonely cans of Dutch Gold, and the wine section was barren.

Pretty crazy I must say. One day, that's all people needed to get through. One day of not being able to buy alcohol. Granted, there was one small difference this year in Ireland. There was a big rugby match on in Limerick this year. Quite the scandal to be honest. Pub owners in Limerick protested the liquor selling laws on Good Friday. After all, they would lose out on loads of business had they been required to shut their doors on Good Friday. And besides that, where would all the thirsty folks after the match congregate? So the powers that be decided to bend the laws slightly this year and allowed pubs in Limerick only to be open for a few hours for the match on Good Friday. This only meant one thing, half the population of Ireland would descend on Limerick city on April 2nd. Craziness would ensue, taps would run a plenty, as thirsty individuals stormed the streets of alcohol mecca.

I'm not sure if that's the way it went down. On Friday I was in bed by 12am watching a terrible moving starring John Travolta (if he's not in tight pants from a movie made in the 70's, I don't want to see it). But what I do know is, mayhem ensued in the booze aisle in Tesco on Thursday night and I survived it.

Now, back to this hollow, chocolate egg...