Weekend Adventures, Kevin the koala and my Epiphany

DSC_0146During the week I made a new friend, he’s an Australian who’s been living in Ireland the last few years. His name is Kevin and he is a koala.

After meeting Kevin he very quickly grew on me, I think the idea was that he was something familiar from home, but without knowing it actually hit another soft spot. You see my mother has a little teddy bear called Yellow Ted, I gave him to mum years ago and now that my parents are retired Yellow Ted travels Australia with my parents. Yellow Ted even has his own Facebook page  where he shares his adventures… it is very cute and I love reading it and seeing his pictures.

DSC_0202Don’t worry, I am not about to set Kevin up with his own Facebook page. But Kevin the koala reminded me of Yellow Ted. So this weekend when I decided to go on my mini adventure Kevin came with me.
It had been a couple of weeks since my last mini adventure and I had decided to walk from Greystone to Bray via the Cliff Walk before heading to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I started the Cliff Walk at a decent hour, about 9.30am and the track was quiet. The walk itself has a lot more untamed beauty to it than Howth Heads or any of the other trail I have done in Ireland so far and I really enjoyed it.

I had lunch and ice-cream in Bray and headed over to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I love Powerscourt. When my mother was 17 she lived in Ireland and went to Powerscourt. We had a picture at home of her in front of the main water fountain feature there. When I first went there 8 years ago I took a photo in that same spot, and today I went back to that same spot and had another picture taken of me in front of the same water-fountain.

The gardens at Powerscourt are amazing, everywhere there are people, friends, couples, families just wandering around or laying on the grass enjoy the serenity of the place. I could have spent an entire day there, and I wished I had brought a picnic blanket and some lunch to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day with friends. But as usual I was doing this adventure alone, I had actively decided not to invite anyone on my mini adventure and for once I was starting to regret my decision.

I can be stubbornly independent. For the last 10 years I have almost always traveled on my own and am so use to it I find it difficult to  travel with others. I like to decide where I go, what I do, what I don’t do, where I eat, when I eat and not have to worry if the other people do … I don’t like having to spend an entire day in mindless chatter. I can go minutes, even hours happily being in peoples company without talking to them. Pretty much I like things my way. I know, I know, not my most endearing quality but at least I recognize it and can work on improving it.

Anyway being at Powerscourt today, just Kevin and I, brought this all to the forefront of my mind as I wondered the gardens. After sitting in the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt for some time pondering my newest epiphany I  decided that I am going to make more of an effort to invite my friends to come with me on my mini-adventures. Because lets face it, sometimes the things that we most dread or the events that make us most anxious usually turn out to be some of our best adventures…. or misadventures.

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Dublin Horror Renting Show

It’s been several weeks since I moved into my new home and finally the anxiety I would get thinking about the events leading up to the move have now disappeared, so I have decided it is time to share my renting horror story.

In the months leading up to my move to Dublin I had been fiercely watching DAFT.ie to get an idea of house sharing options in Dublin. I was keen to live in the Swords / Malahide area as I knew the area well and thought it a great place to spend my weekends. I had done a few Skype calls to try and secure accommodation before I arrived but to no success. Instead I arrived in Ireland with 5 night’s accommodation at a local hotel and determined to find a place within that timeframe. What I hadn’t realised was that Dublin has been in the midst of a housing crisis, rents were astronomical and though discrimination against people without references is illegal the surplus of people looking for accommodation means that landlords can and do only rent to those who provide all the right references.

In the end, I did find accommodation that did not require references within my 5 day time frame (maybe that should have been my first warning bell). It was a 3 bedroom house on the outskirts of Malahide sharing with a young married couple and another married guy who worked in Ireland to and sent money home to his family. When I moved in I paid a deposit and my one month’s rent in advance; I was promised a sub-lease agreement to sign in a few days from the main tenants of the house once they received the paper work from the agent. The sub-lease agreement never materialised even after multiple requests.

For the first week my housemates seemed quite friendly, and I thought everything would be grand. However the 1 ½ hour commute into the city each way for work was more than I had expected so after only a fortnight I told one of my house mates (the wife of the married couple) I would start looking for a new place to live close to work, however assured her I would give notice. By this stage I was already beginning to feel uncomfortable in my new home; two of my new housemates did not speak English as a first language and when the wife was not home, always spoke in their mother tongue even when I was around. They also watched television in their native language meaning I was never able to sit with them and watch television if I wanted. The husband only worked casually and spent most of his days at home lazing about the house in his underwear leaving dirty dishes everywhere – when I approached him about being uncomfortable with him lying around in his underwear I got a lecture about he and his wife being the main tenant of the household and it being his ‘home’.  Only working causally meant the husband was constantly concerned about the cost of gas and electricity and would often follow you around the house reminding you to turn off the lights when you left a room (whether you would be returning to the room 5 min later or not); he wouldn’t use the timer on the hot water to save energy and often turn off the hot water the moment you got in the shower leaving you with cold water a few minutes into your shower; and when you turned on the heating on a cold evening he would turn it off and suggest you go put more layers on…. I was getting infuriated with him and so was the other house mate, however talking about it only ended in argument and being told we could leave if we don’t like it.

After a few weeks in the house our first guests arrived… it was the wife’s mother, two sisters, and the new born baby to one of the sisters. They stayed for 5 days, meaning there were 6 people sharing a 3 bedroom house with only 1 working bathroom. Finally they left but a fortnight later the other housemate’s wife and daughter arrived to stay for almost 3 weeks. It was a full house, and I was expected to make allowances for the toddler staying in the house.  I understand people have families but I never signed up for this when I first moved into the house. All of these extra people don’t just mean that the house is more crowded, it also means that it can take longer to get a shower, use the kitchen, or that more electricity is being used… and when I brought this up with my housemate they thought me selfish for asking whether they would be paying for the extra electricity being used by their families while they were here.

All the while I had continued to look for a new place to live. Finally I found the place, my lovely little old miner’s cottage with its 170 year old fireplace in Irishtown, and not a moment too soon! A few days earlier I had had another run in with the husband about the hot water system, I had turned it on for his wife to have a shower after he misuroomnderstood me telling him the water was not hot enough yet for the wife to shower. I had then left the house and no one turned the hot water off after his wife had showered, so he had a go at me for leaving it on… I, being a bit fed up at this stage and didn’t back down, in the end after a few harsh words I just walked away with nothing resolved and things had been tense between us since.

Anyway, I had my new place and was now only a few weeks away from moving out… The day I found out about the new place told the wife, when I first told her I was leaving she was very good about it, thanking me for giving notice and acting as normal. We chatted and laughed in the kitchen about the bingo night I had been to the night before, everything seemed good. However that was the last time she talked to me unless I asked her a direct question which she could not avoid. From that day on she avoided me, would not say good morning when I would see her or communicate with me in any way. Her brother had happened to show up the evening I told her I was moving out and continued to stay at that house every night from then on, sleeping in the lounge room. The brother made me feel uncomfortable, constantly sleazing up to me when I was home and being a right misogynist, while the sores on his mouth and face suggested he had a drug problem. After he started to stay with us, on several occasions I found my bedroom door and window open either when I got home from work or in the morning when I woke up making me feel even more uncomfortable and causing me to hide my valuables.

By the end of the week, after telling my housemates I was moving out, the father of the wife was also staying at the house and the 4 of them would start drinking and carrying on loudly about 11pm at night. As this started on a Friday night I did not mind so much until this continued on to Sunday and Monday night when I had to get up early for work. Monday night about 2am I went down stairs and asked them to keep it down as I would need to be up shortly. I was meet with a string of abuse and laughter, and returned to bed angry and upset. It had happened to be Census night on the previous Sunday and as it was my first Census I was keen to complete the survey. I had asked my housemates about it and they had told me they never received on, so on the Tuesday I rang the Census office to ask for a new copy to be delivered. While on the phone they had asked me my address and I could never remember if it was 57 or 75 so I quickly jumped on DAFT to check the number on the ad for the new housemate… turns out it was 76. But while I was there I noticed they had the move in date a number of weeks after I had moved out. I thought they may not have realised I was moving out that weekend so sent a text message to my housemates to tell them. The reply was a phone call with another string of abuse, and when I explained about the Census all hell broke loose… apparently we had received a Census but they had not wanted to complete it so had thrown it out and did not like that I had organised a new one.

I hung up the phone to the housemate shaking and in tears. After several nights of lack of sleep, the ongoing isolation I had left in that house, and the overall stress of the situation I had reached my breaking point. Walking back to the office I had decided I was going to rent a car that evening and move out, I had no idea where I would go for the next 4 nights until my new place was ready but I needed to get out. As I neared the office I saw the one person from work that I knew would help me if it was in their power. I walked up to him and explained through some uncontrolled sobs what had just happened and asked if he knew anyone with a spare bed, couch anything who may be able to put me up for a few days. In the end he was able to offer me a room in his apartment that luckily was free that week as its usual occupant was on holidays. After sitting through a team meeting with a big fake, calm, smile plastered on my face I pulled my Head of Department aside and explained briefly that I no longer felt safe at my home and was moving out that evening. As much as I tried I was unable to keep the calm composure I had managed through the meeting, and the tears and silent shaking came back. Of course leaving early was not a problem.

I sent my housemates a text message advising them I would be moving out immediately and went to pick up my rental car. When I got back to the house the lot of them where there: the husband, wife, brother and father. They proceeded to sit there and watch me pack my stuff into the car, never offering any assistance, appearing to be trying to intimidate me. I asked the husband to transfer my deposit back to my account, which he said he would do, and I got into my car and left.  I left the car I had rented with some friends of mine, who gave me food and the comfort good friends can only give before I caught the bus to my workmates house. Finally about 9pm that night I arrived at my workmates place, he and his partner welcomed me into their house making me feel more at ease in the first 5 minutes then I ever had at the other house. A glass of wine later and I was relaxed. 3 bottles later I was drunk. The next morning I am not sure if I was hungover or still drunk…

I never received my deposit back on the other place. I did contact them several times to no avail and with no sub-lease agreement in place I had little to no legislative backing to assist me in getting my money back. In the end I decided that the stress of trying to get the money back was not worth taking the matter to the small claims tribunal.

houseIn my new place, we signed all of the leasing documents before I moved in; receipts were given and each tenant even has an ongoing spreadsheet of expenses. I have meet the landlords and there is a much more open and by the book approach to the rental of the property.

The whole ordeal has been an eye opener to some of the harsh realities of Dublin life. But this problem is not isolated to Dublin or Ireland. Any major city often does not have the capacity to provide accommodation to the 1,000s or millions which move to the city in search of work, adventure or a new life each year, and without the correct knowledge and out of desperation many of these people will find themselves in situations like mine or worse. However unlike myself, they will not have the knowledge, ability or supports around them to get themselves out of this situation.

I don’t want this post to put anyone off moving to a new city or country, instead use my experience to learn from my mistakes and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. Travelling is an adventure and allows for so much personal growth, as much as this has been a major challenge to me it has also helped me to grow and develop as a person; and while I would not wish this experience on others I do not regret the decisions I made at the time – at least I have learnt from them.

Until next time….

Charmaine

Impromptu Road Trip to Belfast

A couple of weeks ago I was between homes, I had moved out of my old house before my
new house was ready following a string of irreconcilable differences between myself and the main tenants of the house (i.e. parties starting at 11pm on a weekday, moving additional people into the house – one I am pretty sure had a drug problem, people going into my room when I wasn’t there, and generally making me feel unsafe).  A work colleague and his partner had graciously let me stay in his spare room and had made me feel well at home introducing me to his friends, and eating all their food; but they was off away for the weekend and for 1 night I didn’t have a place to stay so I decided to book into a hotel for the night.  DSC_0374

I had rented a car to put all my stuff in for the move, so I had a transport and an entire country to pick my hotel from. Finally Friday afternoon I made my decision and booked a hotel in Belfast. I drove up straight after work and arrived about 9pm. I had booked into a hotel called the Balmoral about 6km from the city centre, and from the outside it looked like a decent place. I didn’t really have any plans and was pretty exhausted so ended up just hanging out in the hotel room and watching telly (considering I don’t own a television it was kind of a treat). The hotel room stunk of cigarette smoke and all the facilities where basic but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.

I went to bed and was woken up about 2am by yelling, and I mean yelling. Three people in the room next to me were getting into a massive domestic in the hotel room, and by the way they shouted, swore and carried on you could imagine that these people where all flannel shirt wearing, front teeth missing and mullet haircut yobbo’s. Security came and told them to keep it down, which they did for about 15 minutes and then they were at it again. This carried on until 5am when security finally kicked them out of the hotel but it was too little too late for everyone in the surrounding rooms.

But I didn’t let it put a dampener on my visit to Belfast, and in the end I was up and out of the hotel by 9am and on my way to the Titanic museum.

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I had intended to spend maybe 2 hours max in the museum and then have a quick look around the city before driving back to Dublin. The museum was fantastic, I am not really a reader of all the little bits of information they put around the place at Museums but thank-fully a lot of it is audio and visual as well so you really get a great sense of everything around you.  The museum is divided into sections and runs through everything to do with the Titanic; from Belfast the city at the time the Titanic was commissioned, to building the ship, examples of the different classes on the ship, the sinking, the survivors, the review into the sinking, movies made about the titanic, and finding the wreckage years later… Everything about the Titanic is covered and really makes for a fascinating tour.

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Four hours later I stroll out of the museum and with no time to look at the rest of the city I jump in the car to head back to Dublin. Now it wouldn’t be a road trip without me getting lost, so after missing my exit and the next exit being closed I decided to use Google Maps to get me back to Dublin…. Well that was an adventure.  I ended up going through every little country village between Armagh and Newry before I ended up back on the national motorway and on the right road to Dublin. I was hungry and constantly on the lookout for a little village shop, café, bakery or something to get some lunch but if these places did exists in the little villages I drove through I didn’t see them. Eventually I got back on the motorway and decided I would just have to settle for something at one of those big petrol station / MacDonald / Insomnia all in one stops.

By late afternoon I found myself back in Dublin and pulling up with a car full of gear out front my new home in Irishtown. I was greeted by my new, very excited housemate and after we finished fixing my not quite complete bed I was ready to settle myself into my new home. It had been a ridiculously crazy week, and even my relaxed overnight adventure to Belfast wasn’t as relaxed as I had planned but I did enjoy Belfast and I am keen to get back up there again very soon and check out the rest of the city. My next trip to Belfast though I think I will take the train… J

Care Packages

It is now over 2 months since I first moved to Dublin and my birthday is fast approaching. As such my mum has already been given the heads up that I would like a care package full of the things I am missing from Australia. It is funny, for a country that I am not particularly fond of there are a few things that I really do miss, such as:

  • Going into one supermarket and being able to buy everything I need! – This is driving me absolutely insane; I walked all across the city centre last weekend going into every Asian / Middle Eastern/ African / Western supermarket I could find looking for endame beans and only found one store on Thursday on the way home from work that stocked them…. In Australia I could walk into any Coles or Woolworths and find them in the frozen veg section of any store.
  • Cheap, decent quality electronics and appliances. I always took it for granted how cheap and easy it was to get a microwave, new headphones, a television, etc. in Australia. Now, when I need to buy all of those things here in Ireland without the benefit of Australia’s trade agreements with Asia the cost of electrical goods here is SO, SO much more expensive.
  • Clothes drying in one day. Yes, yes… I know I came to a wet cold country what did I expect… but I did think I would have a dryer.cadbury_oldgold_rum
  • Old Jamaican chocolate by Cadburys – I forgot to pack a block or two when I left, however this stuff does not travel well in a care package so sadly I will have to wait until someone is coming over here and ask them to bring a block with them.
  • My friends. I know they are only a phone call, Facebook message, SnapChat away but I miss not having them around on the weekends when you are wanting to just hang out in the park or go shopping. I know I will make new missyfriends that I will be able to do this with eventually but for the mean time I miss my Australian friends.
  • My dog, Missy.

But all of these cannot be packaged up and sent in my care package from home, so I will have to be more strategic… and a little materialistic on what my care package will contain.

So, for my birthday mummy dearest I would like in my care package:

  • Bean bag covers – these things are ridiculously expensive in Ireland 80euro and up! In Australia I brought one with filling from Kmart for $25 total. So I would like Bean Bag covers so I can have a bean bag in my room (and some spares just in case).
  • A Kate Hill overnight/ weekend away handbag and/or side bag – I love Kate Hill handbags and am really missing not being able to order a bag online anytime I want (they don’t ship to Ireland)!

KH travel bag  KH Crossbody bag

  • 1 double adaptor and 1 power board – I brought 2 Australian to European plug adaptors with me when I came over here, however I must of brought about 6 items which require the adaptors and I am constantly switching back and forth between them, so instead I would like 1 double adaptor and 1 multiple power board so I do not have to be constantly switching back and forth.
  • Hydralyte – I had a massive hangover the other day so I checked in to the chemist to pick up what in Australia we call Hydralyte – pretty much it rehydrates you. Turns out the Irish stuff tastes horrible and is nowhere near as effective at curing a hangover as the Australian version. So in preparation for my next hangover I would like some Hydralyte (the orange one please).

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  • Brown Brothers Cienna…. Well if I am going to have the Hydralyte I Cienna-glass-ShaneHengst-201502may as well have my favourite bottle of wine to go with it. Still haven’t found anything that I enjoy drinking as much as a bottle of Cienna.

So that is what is in my care package, fingers crossed mummy dearest doesn’t kill me with my list and I shall definitely update you and show you the goodies when it arrives at the end of June!  In the meantime I am curious to know what others would have in their care package so feel free to leave a comment telling me what you miss from your country of origin and would have in your care package.

Cheers

Charmaine

Back in the Game…

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted something… my bad. Between work, finding a new place to live, moving, getting sick, not having access to my music and all of the other small stresses that have seeped into my life, my motivation for writing has been at a low. I am still not wanting to talk about finally leaving my old house, but when I am ready I will share my story as I think it would be a good warning to others.

But this week I have begun to feel motivated to write and engage in my blog and motivated to be in my life again.

I moved into my new home a fortnight ago and it has been great so far. It is a shousemall two bedroom miner’s cottage in Irishtown, just outside of Dublin’s city center and less than 5 minutes’ walk to the beach. Owing to the housing crisis this 2 bedroom cottage has been converted into 3 bedrooms by turning the lounge room into a bedroom… not that I mind at all, I have always wanted a fireplace in my bedroom!

I love being close to the beach, and although it’s not the same as an Australian beach it does relax me to be so close to the sea. Irishtown is proving a great little suburb, a decade ago it would have been considered one of the more run down suburbs of Dublin but owning to the boom of marketing and IT companies in the Grand Canal Docks, most notably – Google HQ, the area is really up and coming. In-fact Irishtown is sometimes dubbed Googletown owing to the amount of Google employees living in the area. Irishtown, the Grand Canal Docks and Sandymount (all within a stones throw from each other) have many cute little bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes, and organic food stores all within a 10 minute walk from my front door, while if I want to do some serious shopping or have a night out it is only a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute bus ride to the city centre.

docksIt’s a 45 minute walk to work from my new place, which is great; even if I am feeling lazy and don’t want to work out I still get at least 45min of activity each way going to and from work. There are plenty of gyms as well within a 10 minute walk from my front door, a nature reserve, a sport ground, and of course the beach so I am spoilt for choice in creating my new workout routine.

Now that I have moved into my new home I am really starting to feel settled in my new life. I still have to work on finding a permanent job, but now after working in Ireland for the last 2 months and seeing the level of what is expected of employee’s I have grown more confident in my own abilities to break a few glass ceilings.

Love

Charmaine

My first blog…

Hi my name’s Charmaine, and this blog is about me. That may sound a bit narcissistic but the first piece of advice that seems to be given about writing a blog is write what you know, and I know me.

I know that I am a woman in her late 20’s who has just moved to Dublin on her own from Australia and am hoping to achieve a complete career as well as life change all at the same time.  This isn’t the first time I have done this, at 19 I moved to Germany then Dublin before giving into family pressure and returning to Australia; and at 22 I was an exchange student in Canada.

So this blog will hopefully not only allow me to share with you my experiences  and adventures but will also offer advice to other women (and maybe men) wanting to take the huge leap and move overseas to a new country and ultimately begin a new life.  What else this blog may offer I don’t know yet, I am in the midst’s of trying new things and learning more about myself… Maybe this blog will include my own fashion views… guides to hiking the Wicklow Mountains… the top 20 pubs to pick up in, in Dublin… who knows but that is all in the adventure of discovering yourself.

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