My toughest year abroad.
28.09.2008 - 28.09.2009 10 °C
Lets just start with the absolute truth. Ireland, was without doubt my hardest year abroad. It wasn't because of the rain or all the bleak grey buildings, the knackers or the tinkers, the bogs, the drinking or the potatoes. It was a little more complex than all that. However on the flip side, it was also my most rewarding year.
I arrived on the 29 of September 2008 on a wet miserable day in Dublin. I found an apartment almost immediately in the center of Galway city. Eager to settle in and get unpacked I moved into a three-storey apartment called 'The Cobblestones'. Johnny was a builder and Caroline worked in a Call Centre. Arlene, a student was a ghost whom we never saw.
To say I struggled to find work is an understatement. I applied for everything, dropped CV's in to any store who would actually take one. I landed an interview with a marketing company as a trainee. I got a call back, but ended up in Tuam, a small town out in the country with a door to door sales man trying to sell makeup. I walked away saying it wasn't for me, and ended up having a complete Bridget Jones moment, by getting completely drenched by a passing truck - is that karma or what? But that wasn't my low point. I eventually got a bottom of the barrel job doing tele-marketing for an Insurance company a couple of hours a night. It drained my soul, but in the end my jaw put an end to that. On the outside I was keeping my composure and standing strong, but internally I was at breaking point. My jaw eventually packed in, and locked itself. You have no idea how often you use your Temporomandibular joint until it hurts beyond belief. I couldn't eat anything that involved biting or chewing, it hurt to talk. I found a dentist who couldn't find what the exact problem was, and unfortunately at €80 a pop the problem got worse. I was stressed beyond belief. He tried everything, but the problem didn't budge.
I exhausted any savings I had, and eventually had to ask for help from my Mother and Sister. Although they were supportive, neither could really understand why I was so determined to stick it out, when everything was going against me. They gave me a deadline of Christmas, to get work or move home. I couldn't even afford rent at that stage, and Caroline my landlord, who was living in Australia took pity on me, with out her understanding there was no way I would've been able to last as long as I did.
It wasn't until my birthday in the middle of December till I got a break work wise. A large cafe around the corner from my house gave me a job as a waitress. I busted my guts, worked ridiculously long hours with minimal breaks. My first day, I had less than a €1 to my name, and honestly didn't know what I was going to eat for dinner. A grumpy old man who'd hassled me constantly during the hour he'd sat at his table eating his one bowl of soup, came up to me when he was leaving the cafe and slipped €5 into my hand and smiled at me. He had no idea of the predicament I was in, and I could have burst into tears then and there but he slipped away without a word.
A week later I went in on my first day off, to pick up my pay and got told not to come back. I had apparently mislead them about my previous experience even though I had said I had never waitressed in that sort of Cafe ever before. I was distraught beyond belief. It was a week before Christmas, and all options had seemingly been exhausted. That was my low point. I had an appointment at the dentists immediately after I'd been fired, and tried to hold it together, but couldn't keep the fat tears rolling down my face while the dentist worked away. I started laughing/crying at the ridiculousness of the situation, and told him to ignore me and work away. He stopped what he was doing, and demanded to know what was going on. I explained the situation and he immediately said "Stop right now, you're not paying for another cent." He ended up doing well over €300 worth of treatment for free, and even called a few times to check up on me in the months afterward. He didn't know me from a bar of soap and didn't have to be so kind but for whatever reason he took pity on me.
So Christmas came and went, and at the beginning of January I did one last massive CV drop. I applied at every factory and fastfood outlet, as well as any store who would even take a CV (which wasn't many). I had a successful interview at Quizno's, an American Sandwich chain and was due to start at the end of January. In the meantime I got a call from a Temping Agency to come in to do a Computer Competency test. Scoring above average, I was absolutely ecstatic to get called a few days later to say I had got a contract for 6 weeks at the Business School in the local University. I took a risk and chose to do the 6 week contract rather than the permanent Sandwhich job. It paid off and 4 months after arriving in the country, I was set up in my own office, with a view of the river and a job that I thrived in. I loved it at the University, and they must've picked up on that - because every time my contract was due to expire I kept getting asked back. The University even put an embargo on all new hires due to the Recession, but I still got to keep my job. I was at least 10 years younger than all the people I worked with, and the same age as some of the students but I slotted in and soon made a name for myself. It was tough to say goodbye thats for sure.
So with work sorted out, I focused on travelling and exploring. In March I went to Glendalough and Dublin. My Sister Ana came to visit, and we drove down to meet up with her boyfriend and friend to do the Ring of Kerry. In April I went to Edinburgh and did a tour around Scotland. In May I got offered a Nissan Micra by Mairead a woman I worked with. Since she wasn't using it, I paid for the Insurance and got to have the little car to run around in. I ended up doing roadtrips to Dingle, Achill Island, Donegal, Northern Ireland, and Cork. Cath from my Uni days, Aimee my sisters high school friend, Sam my cousin and his Girlfriend Anneke all came to visit at various points. I also had several fantastic Couch Surfers (Paul, Christina, Heinke, Kelly & Rinkse) come to stay who have since remained good friends.
At the beginning of June I found out my mother was sick. Very sick actually. And the question to stay or go was beyond tricky. With her consent and strong approval I made the decision to stay. She wanted me to finish out my Visa, see out my summer plans and neither of us knew when I'd be able to come back to Europe. She was feeling relatively ok, and had the support of my stepfather Neil, her friends and rest of the family at home. My sister flew back from London for her first lot of Surgery and we kept in constant contact.
In July I went to Poland and the Czech Republic to catch up with Jitka and Jan, two cool cats I'd made friends with in Vancouver. At the end of the month I spent a week with Lisa (high school friend and her husband Andrea) travelling all over the west of Sicily. And in September I returned to Germany to visit my old Au Pair family, and to see old friends. I loved being back, and it was good for the soul to be back in Germany.
So now that I'm back home in New Zealand, abd have said good bye to the Emerald Isle, what are my final thoughts? Well you may have noticed a distinct lack of new friends being mentioned, and thats because this country, no matter how friendly the people are, its incredibly difficult to make good friends. I have nothing in common with other 24 year old girls there, who are obsessed with wearing Neon coloured belts as dresses, who cake on the fake tan, clock up notches on their bedposts and drink till they pass out in the street. The boys are easier to chat with, and are great for a laugh but unless you're born and breed there you'll always be the newbie. I couldn't keep up with the drinking, and wasn't interested in Hash. I couldn't go out when I had work in the morning and struggled with the noise from the pub across the road. I was ready to leave, lets just put it that away.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Its a beautiful country (Dingle being my highlight) I wanted to move to Ireland almost as long as I wanted to live in Germany. I was going to go there straight after Germany but the Visa Application process didn't really allow for it. It was the hardest, most challenging year I've ever had, but I wanted it bad enough and stuck it out. Thanks to the generosity of my family, friends and a couple of crazy locals, it all worked out. I couldn't have asked for a more quintessential Irish experience. Broke, unemployed on the West Coast of Ireland in the middle of winter. I always thought I was a quitter, but I've got more strength than I ever gave myself credit for. People can be insanely generous, and you should absolutely trust your instincts. Its not always good, but sometimes it can be absolutely brilliant. I am done with traveling for the next 6 months at least, I'm worn down and I need to be around people who love me, its been nearly 4 years since I was last home. I am planning on heading to Japan next, to teach English in a few months times. But lets just see how things go :o)
Its the things you don't do, that you regret.