Friday, October 29, 2010

irish travellers

Have you heard of Irish Travellers? With my job in the non-profit field, I have worked with immigrants from around the world but the culture of the Travellers is new to me since moving to Ireland. Out of pure interest, I have applied to NGO organizations like the Irish Traveller Movement that work for advocacy on behalf of Travellers, access to government assistance, and preservation of their traditions. So who are the Travellers?

Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority gypsy community that live mostly in Ireland and England today. Irish Travellers are similar to Romani gypsies but are ethnically Irish (Caucasian). They speak a language called Shelta which combines the Irish language (Gaelic), modern English, and a complex set of techniques like word reversal and substitution to make their spoken language almost unintelligible to outsiders. Have you ever seen the movie Snatch? Brad Pitt famously plays an Irish Traveller named Mickey O’Neil who the British characters can hardly understand because of his thick accent.

Romani gypsies originated near India during medieval times. Although they are different in origin, Romani and Irish Travellers have similar cultures due to their strictly conservative religious values as well as nomadic lifestyles. Irish Travellers are sometimes referred to as "tinkers" or "knackers" (a derogatory term) based on their historical occupations in metal work and animal slaughter. In modern times, Traveller men are revered as experts in horse-breeding.

Travellers have always been fiercely nomadic and continue to live in caravans, moving from place to place each season. They don’t often mix with mainstream Irish society or "country people" in order to avoid diluting their tradition. A typical Traveller grows up doing outdoor activities like hunting with dogs and racing horses rather than indoor hobbies. Although most Travellers live on the road, new generations have settled in mobile homes, which is why mobile homes are called "caravans" in Ireland.

There is a documentary-style TV program on BBC Channel4 called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that follows Irish Travellers and their
outlandish weddings. Based on chatting with a boisterous Traveller family that lives in my building, the program does a fair portrayal of real families and lets them speak about their own values.
click above to see the show

Another excellent look at gypsy life is a book I borrowed from the library called Gypsy Boy: One Boy's Struggle to Escape from a Secret WorldThis memoir is the true story of Mikey Walsh, who is from the Romani background. He writes about a gritty childhood being groomed as a boxer—a tradition for gypsy and Traveller boys as young as 3 years old—and his struggles accepting his community’s way of life.

What do you think about these modern-day gypsies?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

manna from heaven

glory to God in the highest and peace to his green-sauce-loving people on earth
LOOK WHAT CAME IN THE MAIL! MIL and FIL came through in a big way today. Not only did I get five whole bottles of Yucateco Green Sauce but they came with a giant sheet of bubble wrap. Double Awesome.

color-coordinated tea towel & green hot sauce décor

Oh and there was some kind of gift for hubby in there. I think it's his birthday or something. I didn't pay too much attention because at the time I was throwing the hot sauce bottles on the floor so I could roll around in them. 

I kid, I kid. What do you think I should plan for hubby's birthday? I am trying to come up with ideas. We only have only two real friends in Dublin so having people over would be odd. His birthday is on the 2nd and we might celebrate next Saturday since this week is probably Halloween parties and such.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

happy christmas

a christmas sign...i think
It looks like Dublin is getting ready for Christmas already. I am excited because hubby's classmates told him that Christmas in Dublin is beautiful. I wonder what it will be like without snow?

This is a garland and lights stretched across George Street in Temple Bar. I have no idea what it says because it's in Irish but I'm fairly sure it's 'Merry Christmas'. I think the Irish language is what Americans tend to call Gaelic but I've only heard people refer to "speaking Irish" so far. Here I looked it up on the magical internet:

"Nollaig Shona Duit" = Happy Christmas

Monday, October 25, 2010

directions in irish

looking south towards Strand Street Great and the river
I never realized how much linguistics plays a part in cultural differences. Even though Americans and Irish both speak English (hey so do the English for that matter!) we still have a hard time understanding each other. That last post had me thinking about Irish directions. I have been lost plenty of times in the last two months, most notably the horrible day we spent trying to find the Social Welfare offices. I found out quickly that the way Irish people give directions is drastically different than I am used to.

I like to be told every single moment of my journey so that I don't have to feel apprehensive and I can be sure I am on the right track. I like to know what landmarks to look out for. I like to know the name of the street I should be turning onto. I like directions to be so informative that I can draw a map in my mind and then hang onto the image until I arrive safely at my destination...Not so with the Irish. I dont think they know how apprehensive we Americans can get. They often tell me how long to walk instead of how far. They say to "walk for twenty minutes". As if everybody has standardized legs and pacing. As if Little Old Gran and Daddy Long Legs walked it off and they both got there in twenty minutes flat. Here is what I mean:

Directions In America
Me: Excuse me. Do you know how to get to the ILAC Centre? I want to go shopping.
American Lady: Sure. Take this street north [pointing] for about five blocks, turn right at the stoplight on Upper Abbey Street. There is a McDonalds and a Penney's on the corner. Then walk one block and take a left once you pass H&M. There will be big glass doors at the entrance and it says 'ILAC Centre' in the window so you'll know. If you pass the River Island store you've gone too far.

Directions In Ireland
 Me: Excuse me. Do you know how to get to ILAC Centre? I want to go shopping.
Irish Lady: Sure. Stay on this road here. You'll want to walk for five minutes. It's right there.

phoenix park

 Hubby and I took a lovely walk heading east along the river today. Tomorrow is the last bank holiday before Christmas and the streets of the city centre were full of people. We decided to head away from the people and take a long walk. At the end we delivered some of the pumpkin muffins to our friends (yes we have friends!) who live in Stoneybatter. I just realized I've been saying "Stoneybanner" this whole time. Anywho, we went for our stroll and ended up over there for tea + biscuits, pizza for dinner, and some lovely conversation. We discussed trashy tv (Jersey Shore) in pop culture and whether it's inconsequential or negatively impacts society. We are so smart.
lifesaver strategically placed in case you fall into the Liffey

looking across the river at the Guinness Storehouse

building full of beer

the Irish love extra letters

hubby waiting for me to catch up

looking back at the entrance

a lovely pathway
These pictures are mostly taken in Phoenix Park, which is about a 30 minute walk from our building. You can read more about how awesome Phoenix Park is by clicking here. On our next trip I hope to find the walled garden that I just saw on that website. I hope we have some more autumn-type days before it gets too cold. We also found out where the Guinness Storehouse is by walking past it.

A fun fact about Dublin (maybe all of Ireland?) is that streets that stretch on for miles can have many different names. Almost every block you go past, the street's name will change. Dublin does not believe in street numbers so instead of navigating by counting, you know where something is located by the street name + building name. There can only be 3-5 buildings on one block so you can walk up the street looking at their entrances to see what the building name is. They all have stately sounding names: Jervis Place, Baileys Court, Castleforbes Square, Palace Gardens, Custom House, The Stockyard, Ha'penny House.

We live at Ha'penny House, Lower Ormond Quay--said "key". I wont say the apartment number since I might have blog stalkers.

As you walk along the quays--the streets right next to the river--the street has the following names for each of the blocks before hitting Phoenix Park: Upper Ormond Quay, Inns Quay, Arran Quay, Ellis Quay, and Wolf Tone Quay. Those are the northside quays and in my (American) mind they are all the same dang street. Quay is a fancy word for street similar to Drive or Boulevard except it means the street is by the river. On the southside of the river the quays have all different names. That way you dont have to say "south" when giving directions or say a street number along the road because the road is only one or two blocks long. Get it? Me neither.

pumkin muffins

split pumpkin in half with gigantic knife

So Ireland doesn't believe in Thanksgiving, ergo Ireland doesn't believe in Libby's canned pumpkin with the spices already mixed in. Fail. I was getting a craving for pumpkin-flavored baked goods and after visiting 6 grocery stores I decided to do it the Amish way--with a real pumpkin. This pumpkin was originally meant for children to carve for fun on Halloween. I bought it at Tesco for €2. I found the muffin recipe here, the roasted seeds recipe here, and the pumpkin-preparation instructions here. It takes 1.5 hours in the oven to soften the pumpkin meat, which is a complete joke. I recommend the microwave. This is the saga of the pumpkin muffins.
scoop out seeds with your fingers (ew) and put in a colander

be very scared of the pumpkin

wash away the goopy mess part

stop being immature and clean out the pulp

put the seeds on a pan and shoot with spray oil, s+p, and chili powder. eat.

stick pumpkin chunks (after peeling & microwaving) in bowl.
wrestle with immersion blender until smooth.

add other ingredients and stir.
do not sift the flour, pre-mix wet ingredients, or other time wasters.

eat some raw batter to make sure it's tasty
bake them in the oven. smell the smells.

poke with a fork to make sure they are done and also ugly. let cool.

voila! now you have 12 muffins that you will eat in one sitting.
I forgot to mention that these muffins include chocolate chips. Apparently Ireland doesn't believe in chocolate chips either so I bought a Dairy Milk bar and had hubby turn it into chunks by hitting it repeatedly with a serving spoon. This resulted in holes, chocolate all over the carpet, and some very delicious muffins. Big chunks are OK in this case.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

the science of shopping

the "hurry up" hand
This gesture looks sweet but this is the  hurry up hand. It's what hubby gives me when I am walking too slow. With the hurry up hand I am able to move twice as fast because his legs are two times longer than mine and he acts like a tug boat. I like to take my time and meander. See the sights. Think my thoughts--like Gob Bluth. With the hurry-up hand firmly in place, we cruise along at a moderate pace and enjoy the sights together. Not as fast as he'd go on his own (dear me, no) but at a mediocre trot we get around the streets of Dublin.

Today we went to the Temple Bar Food Market. It was gorgeous. I have never seen such lovely looking food. We bought fresh ciabbatta bred and soft cow's cheese to make sweet potato sandwiches tonight for dinner. I also discovered a Mexican--hooray! A very nice Mexican man has a stand at the food market and he makes...wait for it...HOMEMADE HOT SAUCE! He has a habanero salsa and although he was sold out today, I am most definitely going back to buy some next week. I promised. He also makes fresh tacos and other things that looked delicious so we are going hungry on Saturday morning.
Temple Bar food market

beautiful cheese. duh.

see my polka-dot shopping bag?
Here you will notice I am carrying a lovely nylon shopping bag. This is my re-usable shopping bag that I bought at the €2 Euro Shop (AKA the Dollar Store). I have a plain black one too. Here in Ireland you have to carry your own shopping bags around. They are light years ahead of the U.S. "green" movement in that respect--they actually charge money for shopping bags at the grocery store. Bags at Tesco are made of plastic and cost €0.23 apiece.

I bought some fancy-pants bags made out of hay at Fallon & Byrne, the organic/import grocery store. They are adorable with giant painted avocados and tomatoes on the hay. Also they are horrible because they are sturdy; they are so high-quality that they dont fold up. It's sort of odd to go into other stores carrying large, empty bags. They made me feel like a shoplifter so I threw them out. Now with my cheap-o nylon bags that smoosh into a tiny ball at the bottom of my purse, I am free to roam.

flock of seagulls

bird attack
I was so excited when I saw this tornado of seagulls. They were going nuts flying around and diving into the water. Passersby probably thought I'd never seen birds before the way I was snapping away on my camera. I'll spare you the rest but here are two lovely shots. These are probably the same birds that shat on that one girl.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

think happy thoughts

hubs at Gruel-Dublin 2

me sitting across the table. check out those fish keBABs!
I must say we are eating well. With some help from Yelp online reviews, we find the most amazing restaurants in this city. Here we are at Gruel and sharing some keBABs and hummus. It was also the first restaurant we've been to that has microbrews. This one was an Irish-brewed wheat bear and it tasted just like my favorite Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat from the Midwest. It made me so happy. It felt a little like home. The other thing is that Gruel is full of hippies. By hippies I mean post-indie hipsters in their early 30s who have dirty hair and wear buffalo plaid with their ironically large glasses. Put it together with aloof service and you've got a great Minneapolis vibe going!
winter has arrived
I have been trying to get out of my no-job funk lately. I keep applying to jobs but so far not even an interview. By next month I may reach 100 applications! Anyway, we went to a Halloween party last night and they had a fortune teller. At first I thought she was just in costume because I saw her sitting alone throwing back a few beers. Later I noticed she had a deck of tarot cards and was reading people's cards. Hmmm. I sat down at my turn and she asked me if I had a specific question. I said, "I want to know when I am going to get a job." She then produced a card with an old guy holding a lantern. This old man, she explained, meant I was in charge of my own destiny because he lights his own way. She said if I think negative thoughts then my fears will come true, but if I think positively then my hopes will be realized. Admittedly, she was on her 3rd pint by that time (yes I was counting) but I still took it to heart. There's no reason to be negative when I am doing my best. Thanks drunk fortune teller lady!
my MN coat makes its first appearance-Temple Bar
Irish vocab lesson of the day:
"fancy dress" = costume, as in Halloween fancy dress party

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

making a mountain

...out of a molehill...

...of Kleenex! Ugh.
OJ, Earl Grey, and Magical Tissues
My box of tissues says that "independent laboratory tests proved these Anti Viral Tissues killed 99% of cold and flu viruses in the tissue in less than 15 minutes". Does that mean that 15 minutes after my last use, a healthy person could jump in--and roll around amongst--my snotty mountain of tissue balls? That's disgusting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

go go go

sick sad world

Today I was sick. I almost wrote "stayed home sick" but what am I staying home from? Exactly. I sat on the couch bundled in blankets most of the day.

I did complete six job applications though. That felt excellent. Productive. Hopeful.

One of the applications was a 10-page mammoth form I had to fill out and re-format on my computer. I think it's a new trend to have ridiculously long application forms because it was not the first. They state in the job post that regular CVs will not be accepted and applications are only accepted in this special format. Then they basically ask for all the information in my CV, rip it apart, put it back together in an oddly illogical format, and then have me turn it in. It's completely pointless as far as I can tell; a total waste of time. They actually remove the ability to copy + paste. I think it's a last ditch effort to weed out the less-committed of the applicants because each one takes 2-3 hours to finish correctly. If I dont get one of these jobs I just might go insane. Logical, intelligent people should not be asked to do these things.

Monday, October 18, 2010

cookery grind

mole sauce on tacos, rice, and beans
Today my friend Rachel joined me at Cafe Azteca for a "cookery grind" which is a cooking lesson. Hugo, who owns Cafe Azteca with his Irish wife, has built a reputation on fresh and quality Mexican food. I can honestly say it is the best Mexican food that I've had in Dublin and there really aren't many others who are doing Mexican food well in this country.

After hearing that Hugo offered lessons I made an appointment and invited Rachel to join me. I thought it fitting since Rachel and I originally met in San Diego where we worked at a seafood restaurant on the San Diego Marina. It was called Hudson Bay Seafood at the time (it has since been sold) and focused on dishes from coastal Mexico like fish tacos, the 'best clam chowder on the planet', and seafood salads. Anyway, with our love of Mexican food Rachel and I had a lot of fun in the class with Hugo.

We went from the very basics of pico de gallo and guacamole to refried beans and a delicious mole sauce blended and imported from a mill in Mexico. We even made corn tortillas and sopes by hand and I think I figured out what I was doing wrong before. My favorite part of the class was figuring out restaurant-style Mexican rice because mine never turns out fluffy enough. The secret is to quick-fry the rice in oil first and then add a tomato-based sauce in the water, which gives it the lovely pink color. I cant wait to visit Rachel in Carlow next week and recreate all the dishes on our own.

Hugo took some pictures of us after the class eating our food--which tasted heavenly by the way. If I can get those from him I'll post a better picture. Here is the picture below--gracias Hugo!
yes we are awesome

Saturday, October 16, 2010

woe is me

no more green sauce
Today I ran out of green sauce. It is Yucateco brand green habanero hot sauce and measures at 9,000 Scoville units on the heat scale. That means it is DELICIOUS multiplied by a factor of 9,000. Nine-thousand-times-delicious is extremely delicious. I used to order it by the case from La Cosecha Imports at the Midtown Global Market. They imported it from Mexico and they would sell me 30 bottles at a time. I developed a very healthy addiction and I am sad to say that today I used the very last drop in my lunch of Asian noodle soup.

Green sauce is my absolute favorite condiment--just ahead of guacamole. I only had room to bring two bottles of green sauce with me to Ireland (thanks MIL!) and I was very judicious with my use of green sauce. Only two bottles in a month and a half? Unheard of.

Unfortunately, Ireland doesn't believe in hot sauce. The Irish believe in potatoes and cabbage and other innocent things. I have been looking for a suitable replacement since we got here but with the sad state of the Mexican food situation in Dublin I know there isn't much hope. I found a fancy-pants grocery store that carries a red sauce made from Scotch Bonnet peppers but it is a poor substitute. Alas, it is done. Commence sobbing.

package in the post

so excited

Today a package arrived. It is the record player hubby ordered off of Ebay UK. I dont know much about record players but this is a vintage Bush record player and it plays 33s, 45s, and 78s. That means when we go thrift store shopping I can look for old Country & Western and ABBA albums.

New vocab:
"post" = snail mail
"biscuits" = cookies
"savoury biscuits" = crackers
"chips" = french fries, as in fish + chips
"crisps" = chips, as in tortilla crisps
"slag" = make fun of somebody
What are buttery-bread biscuits called?
Nobody knows but I'm going to check next time I walk by a KFC

Friday, October 15, 2010

suzie homemaker

food photography is so unappetizing: sun-dried tomato, basil, and cheddar biscuits.
I still have no job. Of every three applications I send out, I generally receive one rejection letter within two weeks of the application deadline--sometimes later. They come by email and some even come by snail mail which is called "the post". I have to admit the rejection letters are always encouraging and generally wish me luck in my search. At this point I have a lot of luck saved up. Apparently I am "highly qualified" and almost always in competition with at least "a pool of 100 applicants". I like to think I am often #2 in line rather than #99.

For a majority of the jobs, I never hear anything at all though. One application even set a date: "Due to the high volume of applications, only accepted applicants will be contacted. If you have not heard anything within 6 weeks of the deadline, you can assume your application was passed over." Six whole weeks?! Surely, you jest.

Besides, it's difficult to check in on those positions and decipher who is silently rejecting me and/or forgot to send a note. I'm already working on a new application with a new deadline so why look back and spend more time on a lost cause? It is an interesting process...and by "interesting" I think I mean depressing.

In other news, I continue with my stint as a homemaker. Props to all the stay-at-home-moms and housewives out there if you enjoy this type of life. Personally, I feel completely unproductive and useless. There is no glory in cleaning house and after you eat the cheddar biscuits you are back to square one. Completely and utterly mindless. If Ireland gave out work permits for any sort of job, I would take anything at this point. Unfortunately, the rules state it has to be a career-type salaried position of at least 12-months. Boo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

do i know you

"Ryan T." appeared to me on a sticker in the TopShop changing room
This creepy thing happens when you move to another city. You start to see people you "know". But it's not the person you actually know, it is an alternate version of them. It's their otherworldly twin that looks just familiar enough to stop you in your tracks and then realize it's not them--usually by then they've caught you staring like a freak and go speedwalking in the other direction. It happened when I moved to Minneapolis and now it's happening in Dublin. Frankly it's a cruel joke for a girl with only a handful of friends in the entire country. Somewhere God is having a laugh.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

out of my comfort zone

clockwise from top left: insane fried rice, outrageous chili prawns, incredible coconut topping for putting on everything, screaming hot homemade chili sauce, totally mediocre salad, best calamari of my life, and super yummy noodles.
seeing that you are closed, i'll just take a snapshot and return at a later date. good day.
Today I experimented with a shimmery green eyeshadow I found in the bottom of my makeup bag as well as parted my hair on the opposite side in a very extreme way. As a reward I was taken out to dinner for amazing Indonesian food, saw an amazing play called Diciembre by Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón (more intense than you can imagine), and discovered an incredible mid-century furniture store. Did you know a play can be in Spanish with English subtitles? That's what you get when you push yourself beyond the comfort zone folks!

Friday, October 8, 2010

culture shock

chilled wine at the grocery store. sold by the glass. seriously.
 There are little things throughout my day that, as an American, I just have to chuckle at. I dont know if they are actual cultural differences or merely a difference in opinion between myself and the wholesale purchasing agent at the Marks & Spencer grocery store. Still, they do give me a good laugh. I'd like to think it's my little bit of "craic" for the day.
"craic" = fun, entertainment, or enjoyable conversation
On that note, craic is pronounced "crack" and I enjoy a little bit of craic every day. See what I mean?:
because it looked delicious? not because i'm immature.
For your information, spotted dick pudding is a spongy bread pudding with shriveled currants (those are the babies of raisins) and Christmas-like spices.
actually quite tasty. thought of buying it for company but i'd never say it out loud.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

beautiful city

my dream job? a Diet Coke Girl hawking free cans on the street corner...welcome to my application portfolio. I KID, I KID. unless of course, they actually offered me a job.
the windblown look-O'Connell Street, Dublin 1
it's always sunny in dublindelphia
Today we spent the day walking around beautiful, sunny, gorgeous Dublin. It wasn't for enjoyment--no it was because nobody in this country knows how anything works. I will admit that government bureaucracy is not limited to Ireland but today made me think they are on a special Top Ten list.

After an eventful day at the GNIB on Monday, I will mention that they would not give hubby his GNIB identification card because they did not believe he was actually enrolled in school. We had a letter written from the school saying he was attending but although the letter proved our address, the letter did not mention payment. We were obviously lying. So add another day onto the 6 hours we spent there on Monday in order to get a receipt for tuition payments and he ended up with a lovely little plastic card with crooked printing that proves he is welcome here. Upon receipt of said card, we were astonished to discover that hubby did not receive a PPSN or Personal Public Service Number on his card. Here we had been told by the immigration officer entering the country, by our apartment rental agent (who desperately wanted to get hubby's PPS number), and by just about every other person in Dublin that the GNIB gave out PPS numbers. Wrong. You have to go to the Office of Social Services. Which one? Any one.

Cut ahead to us arriving at the Social Services in Temple Bar which is in Dublin 2. Pan to large sign in window stating that this office only provides PPS numbers to those residing in Dublin 2 and Dublin 4. Excellent since we live in Dublin 1. We ask for directions to the Dublin 1 office. I wont get into how Dubliners give directions (save that for another day) but suffice to say the office we were looking for was "just at the top of the street, turn left, and you can't miss it".

Cut ahead to us wandering aimlessly for an hour near what we decided was the "top" of the street. We enter the Irish Aid Office (sounds vaguely like Social Services right?) to ask directions and are informed that the Social Services is NOT the place to get your PPS number. Oh really? Yes really. It's at the Office of Revenue. Just around the corner.

Arrival. IS THIS WHERE WE GET A PPS NUMBER? No. WELL I JUST MIGHT EXPLODE. DO YOU REALIZE THAT PEOPLE IN CHARGE TOLD US TO COME HERE? They dont know what they are talking about. You really needed to go to the Office of Social Services at the top of the street. I DEMAND A DETAILED MAP. Ok fine, just calm down please.

Final arrival and whaddayaknow: It's a line. To get a ticket. To make an appointment for later in the day. To arrive and wait in line. To hear your ticket called. Around 5pm hubby got his PPS number. I now have a spouse who is a full-time international student recognized by the Irish State and I don't care anymore either.