17 April 2014

Making Progress

Plowing ahead! I am sure many people in Ballinrobe will start to recognize us as the weirdo Americans who can be seen every day rushing around town with their backpacks. It’s quarter to 5 on Wednesday as I am typing this and we have just returned for the evening after doing exactly that once again and I think we have made some more progress!! We had to hang around a bit this morning because the bank did not open until 10:30. Then we went there and found out we couldn’t open an account, so we walked to the health clinic to find out where Bill could get his blood test. There was no one there to talk to--just a tiny waiting room with a couple of doors. One had a sign with a phone number to make appointments, so he wrote that down in the hopes that he could reach someone with some info that way and we came home for lunch.

The library opened at noon, so we headed that way. We both checked out books and we got a DVD about the Aran Islands. We still have 3 slots left on the library card! Then we headed over to Vodaphone. We had told the guy there that we’d be back today after we’d gotten our bank account. We didn’t want him to think we’d just abandoned him, lest he be working on commission, so we went in to tell him that we were unsuccessful in our bank account quest, but would return when we met with success. He went online and looked up “the best” number for us to call Electricity Ireland. He was very helpful. There is no reason for us to go with Eircom anyway, but Vodaphone would have the edge in my book, just because of how helpful this guy has been!!

We came home and Bill called Electricity Ireland. They had no record of us, the woman said. Off to the letting agent’s office, to see what we could find out. She was supposed to set things up, but if she hadn’t, we needed some number from her and a meter reading. For the latter, we would have to have a hint about where the meter is.

She was out, but Bill saw her rushing down the street in her stiletto heels. We waited. She ushered us in, holding her sandwich in one hand. We explained that we needed the letter from the utility to open the bank account. She said she’d done it this very day. We told her we’d called and they’d no record of us. “When was that?” she asked. “Ten minutes ago,” I replied. To the phone she went where she punched in a bunch of numbers and started eating her wrap. When a live person was on the line, she told him that she’d called earlier, there was no record, and we needed a letter ASAP to open a bank account. She gave him a bunch of numbers (guess that was what they wanted) and repeated her name a couple of times through a mouthful of cold cuts. Then she waved the receiver in our direction and said they needed to talk to William. While Bill chatted with the very helpful Electricity Ireland representative, the agent rolled her eyes and made a comment about the system being crazy. She was actually very helpful and I felt kind of sorry for her--I know how annoyed I get when I have to waste time and it must bug the crap out of her. Of course, if she had done this when she was supposed to, this episode could have been avoided. She said that after Bill left yesterday she realized that we would need the letter from the utility to open the bank account--I guess that’s what made her finally call nearly a week after we’d moved in.  Bill had to give the guy his date of birth--it’s not easy to remember that they do that in the following order here: day, month, year.

So a letter is going out via registered mail, according to the guy on the phone and we should have it within 3 days, if not Friday, he said. Bearing in mind that Monday is a bank holiday, we will hopefully have the letter in our hands within a week or so. Then we can try again at the bank.

After we left her office, we headed down to Tesco to get some groceries--I am slowly building up the supplies. We were greeted by a little dog whom we had talked to before. He was in his yard the first time, but this time, he’d escaped and was running toward us on the very narrow sidewalk with cars whizzing by. He wanted to play and kept following us. We tried to walk away and he just jogged along with us. We kept walking back to what we thought was his yard, which was gated and had chicken wire across the gate. Looks like some alternate plan is in order there. We finally lost him when someone pulled up in a minivan across the street--he went to greet them. It seemed like they were all acquainted--dog and people. I checked his collar to see if there was an address, though there are rarely house numbers anyway, so that wouldn’t have been very helpful, I guess. But from his tag, I learned that his name is Max. When we were on our way home, he was back in his yard and a bit more subdued.

Also on the way home, we saw the ice cream truck. We’ve heard it going by every day and I commented that it was funny that the song it plays is Yankee Doodle Dandy. Turns out the name of the truck is, “Americano.”

When we got home, we discovered that Tesco gave us a voucher for 38 cents to use on our next shopping trip. It said that today our groceries would have been 38 cents cheaper elsewhere, so they were making up the difference.

So we are home for the night and I am glad. It was a productive day. And I got to play with a cute little dog.

It’s now Thursday morning. I woke up thinking that these posts might have come across as a bit whiny. It is true that I have been annoyed and amazed at the way things are done--or more properly, not done. This has no doubt been exacerbated by the fact that my annual spring blahs have arrived right on schedule. Sometimes it helps to vent my frustrations. However, my primary reason for describing these experiences in such detail is that it is possible that someone else might be thinking about making the same kind of move, and if so, knowing what to expect might be helpful. For example, had we known about the bank thing, we could have made sure that we were in the Electricity Ireland system a week ago instead of prioritizing the lease agreement. We continue to wait in vain for the other set of keys, so it’s a good thing that we always go out together! One is a kind of skeleton key, so I am not sure that we could even have another one of those made. The deadbolt key could be copied if we can find a place to do it, so looking for a place to do that might be a project for next week. I know that in time we will get settled in and then be able to spend our time doing more productive and useful things. We will be able to explore the area and learn a lot of new stuff. We already know that we probably won’t stay in this apartment after our lease is up. It’s a shame, because I really like it, but we aren’t allowed to have pets. We decided that we would wait until we are more familiar with things here before getting a dog and possibly a cat, but we will want 4-legged-furry people around again and we won’t be able to do that here, so we will go to a place where we can adopt from a shelter. That might be in Ballinrobe and it might be somewhere else. Our future explorations will help us decide.

Since this is the last day I can post anything this week (the library is closed on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays, and this week on Saturday too, because it’s Easter holiday), I wanted to end on a positive note. There is a lot that has been nice about being here.

When we come home after running around, it is always a great feeling to walk in the door. This is partly because I am a homebody, but it’s also because “home” is a nice place--the apartment is comfortable, quiet, and it has a good vibe. I like being here. The furniture is comfortable. I sleep really well too, which is great!

I have been here for 2 weeks and have not needed to take any allergy meds. I am completely surprised by this--I expected to be swallowing benadryl as soon as I walked out of the airport. The flowers are in bloom, shrubs and trees are blooming and leafing, there is grass growing on the ground and in the gutters. It is windy. I expected lots of pollen and lots of symptoms, but it hasn’t happened. I thought maybe the rain kept the pollen counts down, but there hasn’t been enough of it to make a difference. We had one outbreak of rain yesterday and a few sprinkles, but other than that, it hasn’t rained in several days. I do not know why I am not being laid low, but I am grateful for it! I do wonder whether the next point might have something to do with this, but I have no scientific evidence to say with any certainty.

We have access to high quality, affordable food here. In spite of what we had been told, we are finding that the food is no more expensive than it was in Maine and it’s possible that it is slightly cheaper overall. Because many of the chemicals and other crap that are allowed in the US are not allowed here, the food is better quality. I got some Irish organic yogurt with no sugar added--just the yogurt and blueberries--and it was the cheapest yogurt option in the store. I picked up some drinking chocolate yesterday so we could have a nice cup of cocoa and the ingredients are sugar, cocoa, and salt. It did not taste like chemicals. The sugar is not GM sugar. Most of what we buy is produce and that is highlighted and featured in the grocery stores. We have a fridge and counters full of fruit and veg. Healthy fish is available and affordable. Every time we leave the store, Bill says, “I can’t believe that’s all it cost! I always expect it to cost more!” It is nice to be able to get healthy, local, affordable food--many people all over do not have that luxury. There’s a produce market on Main St that I will have to check out sometime and a small Polish grocery down the street.

People here are friendly. The guy cleaning up the litter yesterday noticed Bill taking a photo and pointed out to him the mailbox across the street that has “VR” on it. This was apparently dedicated by Queen Victoria.

The library is small, but it’s a library. It appears that there is a decent collection of books about various aspects of Irish culture, history, and people. We’ve checked out a couple of them and will check out more in future. This collection will be a good resource. There’s also a bunch of fiction, which will be nice too. Some of the authors are familiar and some not. I checked out a novel by Donna Tartt yesterday, and there are plenty more books that look like they will be worth checking out. There will be opportunities to read work by authors I would not have had access to in the US.

Now that we have done what we can do to move things along and we are coming up on a holiday weekend here, I am looking forward to a quiet weekend spent mostly puttering around the flat. This is exactly my kind of thing! I will end this looong post on that positive note! Hope that wherever you are, your weekend is great!


  1. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to read your post. Please keep them. Coming. Getting to live Ireland. Through you