Thursday, December 30, 2010

please let me stay

i am a nice, upstanding citizen. just not an Irish citizen.

On December 23rd I sent all my final paperwork to the Gara National Immigration Bureau for the final processing on my 'Leave to Remain' status. I have been checking the mail every single day hoping to hear back. I hope they let me stay in Ireland and don't decide to deport me. Since starting this process, it seems that hubby and I have concocted a plan B, C, and even D in the event that Ireland decides to kick me out. I still haven't gotten a job offer so therefore I have no work permit and as the wife of an international mature student, I am not automatically entitled to remain in the country. I tried to make all my documents as convincing as possible and wrote my letter in such a way that they would know I am not an idiot. 

Why? Because I was treated like an idiot on the one and only day I interacted with Mr. Pea Brain GNIB official at the main office. I was told to my face that I should leave the country immediately (!). I was lied to by a GNIB officer and I was told there was no process to request 'Leave to Remain' when there obviously IS. Thanks to the Irish Immigrant Council and the glorious Internet, I followed up and found the information for myself. In my final letter, I made sure that the officials who read through my paperwork understand that I am resourceful, that I understand my immigration rights under the law, and that they can't just dismiss me as another uninformed person who will go away if they ignore me. I realize they have the final say but I will not be denied permission to remain based on ignorance. 

Even though we have made other plans for our future just in case the worst happens, we'd really like to stick to plan A which is live in Ireland. Besides, hubs is through with an entire semester of college and has exams in a week and a half. Have we come this far to be disappointed? I sure hope not.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

famine memorial


nice doggy

Yesterday with our international visitors, hubs and I walked to the Docklands and saw the Famine Memorial. It was really a cool sculpture piece--very Giacometti-esque and he's basically the only sculptor I'm a fan of so they did a great job. Hubs told me it was sacrilegious to pet the famine dog. Whatevs. Here I am petting the dog.

Would you like to know more about this memorial? I would. I am lazy so here's what the Dublin Tourism site has to say about the Famine Memorial:

"Here you will see the Famine statues, presented to the City of Dublin in 1997. 

These statues commemorate the Great Famine of the mid 19th century. No event in history has had a more profound effect on Ireland and the worldwide Irish community than that of the Great Irish Famine which lasted 1845 until 1849. During that time more than one million men, women and children died and a further one and a half million were forced to emigrate."

I know you might have followed the link there, but what a waste of time because honestly that's all they have written. I seriously just copy+pasted that shizz. Hope you enjoyed those two paragraphs of information. When I go back next time I'll try to pick up a pamphlet or something with a little more info because I feel like this is serious stuff. It's is all about the abandonment of the fatherland and things like that. I will follow up on this, just you wait.


artist is sculptor Rowen Gillespie
famine memorial-Custom House Quay, Dublin 1
i thought this was the main plaque first but then i read and it's just asking for money.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

a visit from my broham

hubs, myself, Erik my brother, Grieta our friend

My brother finally arrived in Dublin for his Christmas visit! After two days in London, Air Lingus finally got the go-ahead to fly. Grieta is a family friend (or more precisely the sister-in-law of my brother's best friend who are family friends) who lived in the bay area for college and who I'd met once before back home. Now she is studying international human rights in London and Erik stayed with Grieta while they were snowed in. After hearing the no-fly-zone was lifted (ha ha Larry David), they got their tickets for the 26th and flew into Dublin. 

We had a great little visit! I thought more would be open after Christmas was over but I guess the Irish take their holidays vrrry seriously. They are excellent Catholics, of course, and we found out the country essentially shuts down from December 23rd through the beginning of January. Shop owners are probably in the countryside with family so shops are all closed and dark and even pubs were closed (what the what?!). December 26th was St. Stephen's Day and a few late bars were open but the streets were positively empty. Still, we had a nice relaxing vacation-style visit. We slept in late, walked all around Dublin, and spent relaxing afternoons drinking coffee and enjoying the scenery. The ice covering the streets and sidewalks made for a treacherous time slipping around the cobblestones, but thankfully nobody fell.

Finally on the 28th when Erik and Grieta were flying out, the sun came out and melted all the snow. We took advantage of the beautiful morning and walked out to the Docklands. We got far enough to glimpse the ocean, saw a ton of amazing bridges crossing the Liffey, and saw the Dublin Eye--a huge permanent ferris wheel on the coast which I will be riding as soon as possible. We even found the famine museum aboard this crazy ship and saw the famine memorial. The most amazing part is we got along the entire time, which is not necessarily the normal state our sibling relationship. We didn't even argue or squabble once! Does this mean we are mature? I wont get ahead of myself, since Erik is planning another trip this summer (kidding), but it felt good to talk like normal human beings. So this is what adulthood is all about. Most of all, it was nice to be with family and hanging out with my brother made everything feel a bit more Christmas-y I think. I am so glad he made the trip and am looking forward to next time. Oh and the duty-free Christmas gifts? So awesome.


brothers-in-law

street art along the river-Docklands, Dublin 1

fam bam

Saturday, December 25, 2010

happy chrimbo

beef topside joint. all hail the master of the meat!

crazy delicious

Well my brother was supposed to be here for Christmas dinner but he got snowed out. With everything being closed because the Irish are such good Catholics, we had stocked our tiny fridge with groceries for his 2-day visit including fixins for Christmas dinner. Since our mini-fridge doesn't really keep things for very long and we weren't sure if my brother would be flying, hubs and I decided to eat the Christmas food anyway and freeze the leftovers.

We had shrimp and cocktail sauce for lunch and a true Christmas dinner--just the two of us. We had the most delicious cream cheese mashed potatoes (my mother-in-law's recipe...pretty much the best on earth), vegetable chips made from rutabaga, carrots, and parsnips, and a beef top joint (is that a cow's shoulder?). Hubs lovingly marinated  and basted the beouf in Irish whisky for hours, which made for a killer gravy. Even though it was our first Christmas alone in our lives, we made it a special one with a cozy day in. We skyped with both sides of the family and got to open some gifts, including a special international shipment of chex mix--not made from 'Shreddies' thank you very much.

Also, we opened some lovely gifts to each other. I got hubs a winter jacket he had his eye on at Debenham's that in his words, "doesn't have a ton of crap hanging off it". I think he means toggles, extra pockets, rope ties, shoulder straps, and all the other embellishments that seem to be in style. For me, hubs wrote the sweetest card and got me a gift card to my absolute favorite store Carousel. Carousel, as I've mentioned before, is a vintage dress shop from heaven on the south side and I can't wait to go pick out some pretty little frock! It's the kind of place I have been dying to shop but with the prices being a little higher (ok a lot higher) than Penneys I just didn't feel like I could get anything without a special occasion in mind. Problem solved. Very thoughtful hubs!

christmas eve

christmas for two 
dinner for two
video
music for two


My brother was supposed to fly into Dublin today with a friend and join hubs and I for Christmas. Unfortunately he is snowed in at Heathrow Airport in London and wont be able to get here until the 26th.

That means not only do we have a TON of food in our tiny little fridge, but we are on our own for the very first Christmas of our lives. So far, it's been cozy. We are saving the big meal for later in the week and picked up dinner from the Chinese restaurant up on Parnell Street (which one? not sure). We've been entertaining ourselves with Christmas music and movies all day long. Top three songs are Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You", Ruben Studdard's "This Christmas", and anything from A Charlie Brown Christmas. We have Skype calls with our families lined up and we're itching to open our presents, which we have arranged on our lovely "Christmas Tree Chair". Merry Christmas Eve to all our loved ones!

Friday, December 24, 2010

mall madness

marks&spencer food hall. look at them go! 
busiest store by far around the holidays--the liquor store

tried to take a picture of a guy (very drunk) who serenaded the entire liquor store

last minute scramble

final Christmas markets-Henry Street, Dublin 1

So we did some grocery shopping and walking around in the final days before Christmas. It was complete madness. At the Marks&Spencer food hall the people were like vultures, snatching up whatever they could get their hands on. The line took about 15 minutes. Then at Tesco, I waited in a line about 30 minutes. Finally, we stopped in to an off-license to get a nice bottle of Whiskey for the holidays and the line was literally all the way around the store. When we walked in the door, we were already standing in line for the till. I have not seen people buying such large amounts of liquor in my life. Shopping carts FULL of booze. Wow.

On the way out, a guy in the doorway was slightly inebriated (ok maybe a lot inebriated) belting out his very best version of a love song. I think he was singing it to the actual liquor store.

My favorite thing about the last-minute scramble of Christmas shopping was the amount of men carrying shopping bags around. I think it's at that point where the moms have done all their shopping and they have sent dad to get the final gifts 'from Santa'. I have never seen so many men walking the streets with giant bags full of toys and gifts. It was actually lovely to see.
Irish Vocab:
"food hall" = grocery store
"off license" = liquor store

Thursday, December 23, 2010

pizza pie

check out the sweet rise on that dough 
whoa nelly 
spinach, onion, & tomato pizza

We are pretty much the best pizza makers in the world. We have mastered the art of the homemade pizza pie. I have no problem admitting our pizza is the bomb dot com. Take that, Apache Pizza.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

christmas crack

almost done 
there. that's better

I was craving all the Christmas goodies that usually come with the holidays and decided I'd have to make some of my own. Here is my Christmas Crack, aka 'toffee pieces' that cheat by using saltine crackers. I had to be a little creative as Ireland doesn't believe in saltines so I had to use Tesco brand Cream Biscuits, which were slightly thicker. Still, I think they turned out great. There's nothing like melting butter, sugar, and chocolate together and pouring it over an already-processed food! I made a little gift-y for my friends Ian and Meagan too.

Here is the recipe I followed. It's incredibly easy to make but I liked how this lady put up pictures so it would be absolutely idiot-proof. I agree with her that the bars look fancier than they are. I love impressive-looking food that takes all of 30 seconds to make.

If you have questions about my new hairstyle, please consult Bubz, who showed me how to do it. I am infatuated with the Catholic school girls that run around Dublin in their frumpy uniforms and pile their hair on top of their head in the rattiest, messiest bun I've ever seen. They look like grandmas who just became homeless. I MUST learn to do this horrible mess of a hairstyle for myself but all I can find is Bubz. I suspect copious amounts of back-combing, but there is a certain je ne sais quoi that I cant seem to capture.

Next time I see a good specimen of the fabulous Ratty-Bun at the Jervis Shopping Centre (which is where the high school girls tend to hang out) I will approach her, ask her how to do it, and snap a picture for you all. Truly a wonder.

Monday, December 20, 2010

ferris wheel

walking in a 
winter wonderland

One day I was minding my own business, just walking to the grocery store, and look what popped up. A huge light-up ferris wheel right in the middle of the plaza in front of The Church Gallery Restaurant! Of course, it's FREEZING outside so nobody in their right mind would ride this thing. Maybe next week I'll give it a try? To be honest, I hate going on ferris wheels. It's just pretty is all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

oh my goodness gracious

Hoegarden the size of my head

potted crab w/ sourdough soldiers and twice cooked chips

If anybody from the States comes to visit us, this is where we are taking you for dinner. L Mulligan Grocer is a gastropub in Stoneybatter, the neighborhood next to us in Dublin 7. This place is just the coolest medium between old-style Irish pub and locavore foodie restaurant. I found out about it after reading local food blog 9 Bean Row and trying to learn about Irish cooking. The blogger is one of the owners and their focus is on locally-sourced food and a great beer selection. Blasphemy of blasphemies they dont serve Guinness, but in our books it wasn't missed. We had some appe-tease-ers including the lovely victuals above and a big bowl of broth-steamed mussels. To wash it all down we chose two delicious beers: a Hoegarden and Molly's Chocolate Stout brewed right here in Dublin. Oh my goodness gracious.

odds & ends

tortilla soup. shazam. 
frozen cattails in a pond-St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2

what is in the neighbor's mailbox?

a scale. what a rude gift at Christmas!

i'm dreaming

of a white christmas

with every christmas card i write

ok so i didn't bother writing christmas cards

merry christmas anyway

the wellies strike again!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

gender

it's very cold and i am bundling

ladies' room
My first time in a pub that has Irish written on the bathroom doors. Thanks to a friend from St. Paul, I knew exactly which door was mine at Sin é! This is important so pay attention: M is for females and F is for males.
Irish vocab:
"sin é" = say 'shin aye' and it means 'that's it' in Gaelic/Irish
"mna" = women in Irish
"fir" = men in Irish

Thursday, December 16, 2010

from dublin with ♥

our electronic christmas card

Today hubs and I are hanging out at home, listening to Sufjan Stevens' beautiful Christmas albums, guzzling berry-flavored tea, and trying to make chex mix with some cereal we found called 'Shreddies'. What a cozy afternoon. Happy Crimbo to all!
"crimbo" = xmas

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

shopping season

a window at Brown Thomas-Grafton Street, Dublin 2

another window at Brown Thomas-Grafton Street, Dublin 2

Brown Thomas is the most fancy-pants department store in all of Dublin as far as I know. I had to post these incredible pictures as their holiday window displays look truly amazing. Grafton Street is where all the best (or more precisely 'most expensive') shopping is found. Christmas shopping is in full swing here in Dublin and people are scrambling to get ready. It truly is a family holiday though--I recently found out that NOTHING is open on Christmas. Not hotels, not restaurants, nothing. If Travis and I dont want to cook we might just end up at a Chinese food place. Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra...Ra-ra ra-ra! If you are into fashion, check out the style pages on the BT website. I thought they were interesting.
"prezzies" = presents

street art

a stencil on Dame Court by Odessa restaurant-Dublin 2

I took it upon myself to learn about the difference between graffiti and street art the other day. Thanks, internets! Here is a prime example of street art from Dublin. If I remember, I'll take a picture of the graffiti opposite Jervis Centre so you can see the difference too. Thanks to my new street knowledge, I have correctly identified the graffiti mentioned as "throwies". Picture coming soon. Holla.

Monday, December 13, 2010

italian quarter



I live in the Italian Quarter of Dublin--a tiny stretch of Millenium Walkway that is deemed the "Italian Quarter" because of the presence of two Italian restaurants, one coffee shop with an Italian name, a former gelato shop that now sells computers, and THIS. This is a giant photo replication of DaVinci's Last Supper. DaVinci was Italian, of course.

The lady who leads the tours around the neighborhood always explains to the tourist group, "The artist/photographer [that's actually what she says aloud--pausing slightly at the slash] John Byrne took regular, ordinary people off the streets of Dublin for this painting. People just like you and me! IMAGINE!" The tour groups generally swoon about this time in the presentation.

My thoughts? A person that photographs portraits and rips off other, rather famous art, has not magically become an 'artist-slash-photographer'. They are merely a photographer. Also, it's hardly a painting--even though that's what the lady is constantly saying. I've been up close to this thing and it has not been painted. Seems to me it's a picture blown up to fit the wall. I dont think there was paint involved here at all. Mayhaps it's a photograph that was painted and then photographed again? Anyway, here it is and I am in it. Imagine, me, just an ordinary person off the street! Welcome to Italy folks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

domestic goddess

queen of risotto

Gordon Ramsey would be so proud of me. I made mushroom ris-OTT-o with dried porcini mushrooms and a lovely bottle of J.P.Chenet Blanc--the best that Spar has to offer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?

somebody's chuck norris impression

Our building is a fortress, and yet people are doing their best to break in. Neighbor Dave says the older couple living below us have been broken into before and another neighbor on the other side of him had a break-in too. The other day I saw a pair of "scumbags" in the hallway I had never seen in the building before. Maybe it's the economy but I think some people are turning to burglary...

Last week I was buzzed on the intercom from the front door. The woman's frantic voice on the other end claimed she was a Garda officer (police) and needed to be let in. I almost buzzed her in but hesitated. What if she was just a raging drunk lady who was trying to break in? I told her I would not buzz her in. She claimed a neighbor of mine had reported a burglary and the Guards wanted to catch them in the act. "How do I know you're telling the truth? I cant even see you. YOU might be the burglar!" I exclaimed. She was furious and demanded to be let in. Finally I said to her, "I'll come open the door where I can see you." On my way through the courtyard I saw three guards burst through the hallway--including a female officer (thankfully). The neighbors that live above us came shuffling out of the foyer and said the guards had plowed them over as they opened the door. Rude. In the end they just clomped around in the courtyard and didn't do anything. What a joke.

The newest evidence of hoodlums is this giant hole in the safety glass of our foyer. They didn't get in since they probably didn't get their hand past the glass. I am glad that we have TWO doors in the entryway so if the front one is caught, the intruders can only get into the foyer. I am also glad we live on the 2nd floor of the building and nobody has ever broken into our place. What would they steal? My ABBA album on vinyl? My four year old laptop that has trouble typing the letter "B" ever since I spilled sprinkles on the keyoard? Should I post a sign that says 'We do not own a telly as we refuse to pay the telly tax' just to be safe? Still, we have a loud and obnoxious alarm that should help out if we were to be burglarized. I've tripped it twice now on accident and almost had a heart attack both times. Dublin--what is going on?!

Friday, December 10, 2010

the GB&U

The Good
The GNIB already responded to my application for Leave to Remain and they didn't reject my application. I find that reason to celebrate! Woo hoo! There was some outdated paperwork in my application from August (hey I thought I'd be showing it to them in September) so they requested newer records. In my mind, that means they are actually considering granting me permission to remain even though I dont have a work permit. Am I being overly hopeful? Maybe...but still...hooray!

The Bad
Now I have to all kinds of skype phone calls and emailing to do. I need to get this stuff ready to send a response as soon as possible. So far:
New expatriate health & medical coverage for hubs & I? Check.
Letter of Recommendation on my behalf from All Hallows College? Check.
Financial paperwork for the GNIB office? In the works.
ETA of final information for my Leave to Remain Application? Monday.

The Ugly
They responded so quickly to my application. I sent it by registered post on Friday and yesterday (Wednesday) I received a response. Based on that timeline, we might actually hear back from them as early as Thursday of next week. I am so scared. Eeek!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

inner conflict

Four Courts-Dublin 8 
walking to Stoneybatter

rowing team going west along the Liffey

Hubs and I are trying to be positive about our chances here in Dublin. As you can see, Dublin is a beautiful city. All we want to do is stay here and make a life for ourselves. Still, I need to find work in order to legally stay or be given permission by the State to stay on my own finances until I find work (more on this soon!). Surely I am thinking of the tuition money we've already paid for hubby's first year in college but I am also thinking of the experiences that I already cherish about being in a new country with new friends and an interesting history.

The fact is, I need to find a job. Not only is the lack of vacant jobs a factor, but I am beginning to wonder if I am being rejected because I am not an Irish citizen. I have been told outright that companies are unwilling to hire me, even though I am legally permitted to work. Today I was rejected for the War Child Ireland position. With each new rejection letter in the mail, I wonder if there is something beyond economic recession that comes into play.

What exactly am I trying to say? There is a deep-seated vein of nationalism running through this country. The more conversations I have, the more I realize that most Irish people share it to varying degrees. There are a few things that factor into this nationalism, not the least of which is a history of centuries of exploitation and division of Ireland's resources by outsiders.

Ever since arriving in Ireland, I have detected this undercurrent of nationalism. There is a distinct attitude of 'Ireland for the Irish' at the forefront of any discussion about the economy, especially when it comes to jobs. There was talk in the news that the bailout of the Irish economy should be rejected because it would mean admitting Irish dependence on outsiders. Terms like 'national disgrace' are tossed around--not because of the fiscal irresponsibility that got the Celtic Tiger in this mess but because 'Michael Collins didn't fight for Irish independence just so Ireland could depend on the EU for money'.

These ideas are not the radical thoughts of one side of the political spectrum either. When I mention that I am looking for work, the reaction is sometimes ambiguous--as if the person might not want to encourage me to find a job. After all, wouldn't I be taking a job away from an Irish person? (This is, of course, where the work permit comes into the equation. Any company that wants to hire me will have to sign a document stating that I am more qualified than the Irish applicants for the position. In this case, how would I know if they hire an Irish citizen who is less-qualified than I am? Would that be considered discrimination or just a valid option in that situation? I dont know.)

The next layer of 'Ireland for the Irish' is the discriminatory attitude towards EU citizens who can also legally get jobs in Ireland. The largest population of non-Irish EU citizens in the country are the Polish. There are so many that the local Tesco has a Polish-food aisle and it is not abnormal to pass by a Polski Sklep or the red and white bedecked Polish shops and butcher counters as you walk around the city centre. Although many Polish citizens are in the country legally and permitted to work, some Irish believe they are stealing jobs from citizens and undermining the traditional way of life. I also hear the other side of the argument--that the Poles do work no Irish citizen would agree to, they work jobs with hours that no Irish citizen would work, and that Polish people are a driven population who work harder than the average Irish person in the same position.  It seems obvious to me that the feeling towards the Poles here in Ireland is very similar to the feelings towards Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Ireland has a distinct identity and it is impossible to extract that bit of Irish-ness without taking into account the tragic history of the Irish over the years. This attitude is present in the population and I dont explain it to claim that my lack of job is the fault of nationalism. I explain it because it is something uniquely Irish. Being familiar with discrimination in the US, there is something different about this attitude. It is an instinct for self-preservation for a people who have a history of being taken advantage of. It is a reluctance to trust outsiders. It is not racially charged per se; interestingly enough it extends to the descendants of Irish ancestors from other counties.

Have you seen an Irish person react when you tell them you 'are Irish' because you have Irish ancestry? In the mind of the one claiming to be Irish, it's a simple statement of heritage. In the mind of the Irish, it is a poseur. Those who left Ireland for America or Australia when Ireland could no longer support its own population are not welcomed home. Simply put, they did not 'stick around' through the hard times. They gave up on Ireland in a sense and dont deserve to share fully in the culture. These are just a few of the layers of Irish nationalism that I have discovered after only 3 months in the country. I hope I do proper justice to the explanation so if you see an error, please comment and correct me.

Why has all this been on my mind? Knowing some of the history of the Irish State, I certainly understand the sentiment at the root of this attitude. Obviously, I am intrigued and want to learn more. Unfortunately, I feel it may be affecting my job search negatively and there is nothing I can do about it. As the completely qualified and legally permitted immigrant who is trying to get a job in this country, it is hard not to feel slighted.

stonewalled

Today I was told by Leann Murphy at recruiters.ie not to bother filling out any more applications through their company. I managed to find a job as a Website Manager that I met the requirements for and paid quite a bit. I decided to go ahead and apply. Leann promptly called me up (yes this is the same woman as yesterday) and informed me first that the position was no longer available. While on the phone with her I notice the job was posted that day so I questioned her and she went back on her story. Then she claimed that the real reason she cant consider my application is that none of their clients would be willing to sponsor my work permit. Her company recruits and hires for multiple companies in Ireland, yet she was confident to speak on behalf of all of them and reject me ahead of time.

Contrary to what she told me yesterday it appears that even those offering over €60K salaries will not hire me now. In my opinion, she made up what she said yesterday about the salary cut-off and she made up what she said today without consulting her clients. Essentially I've been stonewalled from applying to about 1/4 of the jobs on most job boards because they go through her company. Thanks Leann. Thanks a whole lot. I hope one of your clients disagrees with this action, finds out, and somehow you reap the fallout.

I dont think what she is doing is illegal but I doubt it is company policy to reject all non-Irish applications on the spot. Could it be that the entire country agrees with Leann?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

whatever winston

grumpy pants in 2008 -Prague, Czech Republic


“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; 
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” 
-Winston Churchill

...doesn't know what he's talking about.