More Irish language

Hoover = Vacuum (the act of vacuuming)

Fringe = Bangs

Grinds = Cramming for exams

Zimmer frame = Walker (the frame device on wheels that people use to assist their walking)

Tannoy system = Public address system

Cling film = Saran wrap

Caster = Sugar (a fine sugar that can pass through a sieve or “caster”)

Howyeh? = How are you?

Yeh = You

Yis = Y’all

Heyyis = Hi, y’all

I’m just slaggin’ yeh = I’m just teasing you

Bap = Bun (as in hamburger bun)

Homely = Homey

I’m sure there will be more…



Geography lesson

Having lived in Denver, Colorado for a number of years, I became used to the ready availability of a variety of goods and services, things I didn’t have to wait to acquire, services made available almost immediately.  The only real disadvantage to living in Denver was the fact that there is only the one airport to use for long-range travel – however, that one airport is Denver International Airport, one of the largest and busiest hubs in the world.

Another lovely advantage is the Denver Mattress Company, a large manufacturing concern that turns out some of the most comfortable beds a body can find on the market today.  A few years ago I made a major purchase, one I had saved months and months for, of a Doctor’s Choice bed from Denver Mattress.  It was oh-so-comfortable.  No more waking to sleeping limbs or back aches.  Aside from the occasional trip to the loo, I could sleep all the way through the night.  What bliss.

So imagine my heartbreak when I discovered that moving my wonderful bed to Ireland was going to cost us a ton of money.  You see, the way they measure these things is not by weight alone but also by dimension.  The size of my bed precluded me from being able to afford to move it!  I was devastated; it was, for me, the most frustrating element of our move.

Upon arriving in Ireland I also discovered that the bed sizes (like so many other things) are completely different here.  A twin-sized bed in the States is a double in Ireland; queen-sized is king; king-sized is super king – and all the dimensions are just different enough to render our bed linens completely useless.  Since we were searching for a furnished home to rent it was only natural that the furnishings included beds.  The condition of the beds in the homes at which we looked were a major consideration for me.  I finally came to the conclusion that I was going to have to settle for whatever was there in the house and just live with it.

It’s been 3 months now and my back is killing me.  I can’t go any longer without a decent mattress.  So I went to the one and only mattress showroom I could find in Galway in search of a good night’s sleep.  I found one mattress that seemed to have everything I wanted – not those foam things, they hold heat and make me all sweaty (yuk), and not all coil spring because they eventually sproing and end up poking you in unpleasant places all night, and not pillow-topped because those pits the buttons create make it quite uncomfortable  – in the right size and for a reasonable price.  (I saved some € because I don’t have to replace the base of the bed.)  I called the landlord and asked permission to replace his mattress and he has no problem with it as long as I leave it when/if we move.  Obviously I can’t move it back to the States so I think that’s a no-brainer.

The woman who helped me warned me not to take too long deciding because there were only two left in stock.  They have to truck them in from Dublin – that didn’t surprise me, it’s usually the case with large ticket items here – and it will cost me € to have it delivered and more € to have them haul the old mattress away.  I chose to speak to Claude about it instead of just ordering on the spot… Big mistake.  A call to the retailer revealed that the 2 in stock are now gone and it’s going to be mid-February before they have more in.  I guess that isn’t so bad… Wait!  There’s only one coming in, it might be spoken for already, it takes at least a week to get it on the truck, the truck only delivers to Galway twice per week…  Now I’m looking at early March before this mattress comes in!

Oh mercy, my poor aching back!

We went to a lecture last week on what a puzzle MS is and the efforts being made to solve it.  One element to the occurrence of MS is geographically related.  There is this longitudinal band around the earth in which the frequency is higher for the people who are likely to suffer from the condition.  Denver and Ireland fall right smack in that band.  As a US Caucasian with European ancestral roots, I’m just the ideal candidate.  One of the things the doctor conducting the lecture pointed out is that vitamin D is being researched as having some sort of beneficial effect on slowing the demyelinzation of the nerves, which is the main reason MS is debilitating.  In other words, the coating around the nerves (myelin) breaks down and the path of communication between that nerve and the central nervous system breaks down, and the introduction of more vitamin D may slow this process.  Vitamin D is not very prevalent in many food sources, which is why cereal companies add it to boxed cereals and milk producers add it to milk products.  It is also found in fatty fish.  You can also, as most people know, get it from being exposed to the sun.

This is where the problem lies.  Most people in Ireland, England & Scotland don’t see much sun.  (However, Denver and Las Vegas have a great number of sunny days so I’m not sure what I was doing wrong while I was living in those places.)  According to one of the researchers at the lecture, 20 minutes of sun on exposed, non-sunscreened skin can provide one’s daily dose.  According to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements fact sheet on vitamin D, under cloudy skies you can get about 60% of the sun required for that daily dose.  The acupuncturist I saw said that many people in Ireland suffer from “the damp.”  She meant that it gets into your system and you have to make concerted efforts to clear it up or it adversely affects your health.  I can believe that.  I’ve purchased a vitamin D supplement, am hoping the medical card comes through soon so I can take advantage of new breakthroughs in drug therapies being made available in Ireland, and I have every intention of sitting in the sun whenever it peeks its head out from behind the clouds.

The upshot to all this blathering is that I am becoming more acutely aware of our geographical isolation here in western Ireland and in how many different ways it has changed our everyday lives.  I guess that’s the price you pay for peace of mind.  And peace and quiet.

Oh, and for this:



























— Cindy

The Sound of the Sea Making Sand

Cycling is a solitary sport.  I know that the commentators and racing fanatics will tell you that it is a team sport, and tandem aficionados will expound on the closeness they feel to their cycling partner, but on the whole cycling is a solitary sport.  It is you and the bicycle and the environment.  You are moving too fast to have conversation with pedestrians, too slow to talk to drivers, and yelling across the wind to another cyclist seems pointless.  So it is you, the bicycle, the environment, and the space between your ears.

I find that it is a time for me.  It doesn’t take me long to get lost in thought when I am cruising some quiet stretch.  My thoughts are only interrupted by the beauty of the nature around me, the singing of the birds, the smell of peat or coal smoke, the sight of the sun going down in a purple sea, the sound of the sea making sand.  Yes, I heard the sea making sand the other evening.  The waves crashing against the groynes and sea wall, and as they retreated the stones at the tide line clicked together as they rolled back and forth; the clicking of the sea making sand — lovely.

— Claude

Watch Out For The Cliff

I do not recall what I expected Ireland to be like.  I do not remember what I thought being an ex-pat would be like.  I remember that I wanted to move to the the EU for many reasons, most of them political, and Ireland because I almost speak the same English they do.  What I do know is that taking that leap of faith has been the most amazing experience.  As you have probably noted, if you have read much of this blog, Cindy and I have encountered many things that, from an American’s perspective, are different or strange.  Some tasks have been difficult to navigate and some have been easier than expected, and some have not been needed at all.  My point here is that experiencing the life of an ex-pat is not hard.  Getting here took perseverance, but living here is no more difficult than living in the states — just different.

So to all of you who look at Cindy and I and say:  “That looks like fun, I wish I could do that,” I say “Grab your self by your bootstraps and lift.”  Set a course and follow it.  Live your dream.  You may find that the precipice that looks like a cliff is nothing more than a small curb.

— Claude

Best laid plans

It’s shaped up to be somewhat of a disappointing week.  The frustration began when Claude noted that we probably needed re-entry visas to get back home when we are done with our summer travels.  Research on the web produced an application that required us to send in our passports and registration cards along with a €200 processing fee.  I decided that there was no way I was going to mail in every bit of our identifying information, relying on An Post to handle it properly and the immigration office to return it properly.  So I emailed the ministry and asked specifically whether or not we needed the re-entry visas – the answer was yes, accompanied by the same information provided on the application.  That clinched my decision, I hopped online to purchase my bus ticket for my trip to Dublin.

On Tuesday I boarded the 8 AM bus for the 2.5 hour (each way) ride to the big city.  It’s not such a bad ride but the book I brought to read wasn’t all that good so it kind of stretched the ride out.  We arrived at the city center on time and I immediately set out to complete my task at the immigration office, just in case I had to spend a lot of time waiting.  I found it right away – after experiencing that small bit of panic I always experience whenever I think I know where I’m going but it’s not readily apparent – and got to the right office.  As I was making my way to what I thought was the proper queue I was stopped by a man asking what I was there for.  I told him “re-entry visa” and he asked to see my ID.  He took one look at my registration card and said, “Oh you’re American, you don’t need it.”  In my head I said, “SAY WHAT?!” but outside in my polite voice I asked, “Are you sure?”  He went back behind a door, returned in a few moments with a woman who looked me in the eye and said I didn’t need it.  Well howdy.  I’ve just spent €18 and set aside an entire day only to find out about 20 minutes into the process that I didn’t need to be there.

On top of that revelation, I realized it was way too early for lunch and I was going to have to find something else to do!  I did have it in mind to go to a medical supply store and obtain a folding cane.  I don’t need a cane all the time so carrying one around becomes a bit of a pain.  I figured if I bought a folding cane I could easily tote it around in my backpack and only use it when I truly need it.  I found the store and purchased a pretty flowered cane.  At that point I decided that I wasn’t going to treat the trek as a waste of time and went in search of a nice lunch in a restaurant with a view.  I meandered down to the quays and found the spot at which I needed to be to catch my return bus home.  Then I wandered around until it was close to noon, looking at the storefronts along the river.  I found a small place with a view of the river and got a quick lunch (not very good, can’t recommend the place so I won’t name names).  I had run across a store that boasted all books €5 so I headed back to it after eating.  I picked up a couple of books by Irish authors and had just enough time to catch the return ride.

Wednesday I had an appointment with an acupuncturist; I had purchased a Living Social deal back in December thinking I would try an acupuncture treatment on the off chance that it might help with my movement issues.  When I made the appointment she told me where I was to go to reach her office; it sounded like it was quite a distance from home so I decided to taxi over.  The ride was €17.50!  After consulting with her and getting the treatment I thought it might be helpful to continue with further treatment… Until she told me it’s €50 per visit.  I told her I would have to consult our finances before making another appointment.  Fortunately there is a bus stop quite close to her office so I saved taxi fare, but it’s still at least a 30 minute ride and two buses one way.  (I’m hoping to find an acupuncture office somewhat closer to home and perhaps less pricey.)

Of course while I was gone on Tuesday the postman tried to deliver a package we have been waiting for weeks to arrive.  I returned home to a note from An Post that I had to go to the office to pick it up.  Now in the US you only have to go to the post office that serves your neighborhood.  Not so the Irish An Post.  There’s a central mail office located way out on the east side of town where I can go myself to pick up the package or send “an agent” with proper ID.  Or I could save the taxi fare and request a re-delivery for the low, low sum of €3.  So I spent all of today waiting – no joy.  I get to spend all day Monday waiting too, hoping that their promise of re-delivery within two working days is a good one.  You’ll have to forgive me my skepticism but I’ve dealt enough with Irish bureaucracy this week to know that the government is somewhat unreliable.

One thing went well – Connacht won their last home game tonight!



I keep meaning to write something about the fashions I’ve seen here but it keeps eluding me.  I think I’ve finally hit on why: Fashion isn’t something specific that one can point to and define, it’s more a state of mind of certain subsets of people. I don’t perceive it as being as diverse in Ireland as it is in America; people seem to stick to the ‘uniform’ of their age and/or peer group.

For instance, the young women – at least those in Galway and Dublin – seem to have their own idea of trendy that includes short-shorts or mini-skirts coupled with fancy nylons (hosiery, tights, whatever you want to call them) topped by a smart looking woollen coat with a fancy hat, or a woollen cap and a brightly patterned scarf.  They also vary from wearing ‘how can she walk in those?’ high heels to sensible looking flats and everything in between.  This is usually accompanied by an excess of make-up including eyelashes that look like they could take off and fly on their own.  I saw a young woman in Dublin wearing all of the above but the boots she was wearing were two-toned (black & bright red) and had stiletto heels that just made me want to cringe.  I saw a young woman on the bus in Galway who had her hair pulled back into a nice, conservative bun with the sides of her head shaved.  They also tend to have their hair colored – a strange unnatural maroon red shade seems to be very popular – but it’s streaky and uneven, which lends them an air of phoniness that strikes me as unnecessary.

The university girls who don’t dress like fashion plates seem to be pretty standard: blouse, scarf, jacket, jeans, walking shoes.  Most of the school girls I’ve seen are wearing uniforms and entirely too much make-up for little girls.  They coat their skin with foundation and powder and use a lot of mascara.  I want desperately to take them home and scrub their little faces clean but I remember those horrible teen years and the tragedy of just trying to fit in…

Young mothers and working women seem to dress pretty similarly to their counterparts in America.  Slacks, trousers, blouses, sensible heels or walking shoes.  I notice that women here do not wear t-shirts of any kind.  If anyone is wearing a t-shirt it’s a man, and usually then it’s either declaring a brand (Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger, Jack & Jones Co.) or an allegiance to a team. The young men also seem to wear a lot of athletic wear, track pants and hoodies.

Evening wear is another story.  The dresses tend to be awfully short here, so much so that you can typically see at least one or two women struggling with yanking them down to cover their bums.  Lots of sparkly sequins, etc.  The high heels are high, dangerously so in my opinion.  But you get to see all kinds of fancy patterned hosiery, some of which is really attractive.  Of course I always end up feeling sorry for those women, as it can get quite chilly at night here and they have simply got to be freezing for fashion.

Women and men in our age group are pretty conservative.  The women who aren’t in the work force seem to get old really quickly, as most of what I see them wearing is the same sort of outfit you’d expect a grandmother to wear.  I don’t see a whole lot of older people wearing jeans either.  I think that might be why people can pick me out as American so quickly: I wear jeans all the time and do not dress like my grandma.  In this respect I’ll just keep sticking out from the crowd, thanks very much.

— Cindy