Tag: american in ireland

Exciting Job Opportunity for Rubbish Assistant in West Kerry!

Taking out the trash is a complicated, time-consuming and expensive business. I spend hours  scraping, rinsing, sorting, jamming and pulling rubbish that if it wasn’t for me paying for the pleasure, I think it would qualify as a part-time job.  Living in rural Ireland makes simple things a pain in the arse. Dealing with rubbish being one of my main complaints during the winter (windy) months.

Recycling, composting, rubbish – yuck, yuck, yuck. Gone are the days of horsing black trash bags into a bin or even straight onto the sidewalk on trash night in Boston. Every rubbish item has a different home and none of them are as convenient as a black trash bag thrown out the back door.

We now have three wheelie bins (big plastic trash cans) that all have to be pulled down our small road for patchy collection by the rubbish company every two weeks. It’s probably a 250 meter walk down a bumpy pot-holed road wide enough for one car. This in itself isn’t too bad until you add in a fifty pounds of dirty nappies in one bin which makes it impossible for me to pull both together.  Let alone our new third ‘food waste’ bin.  Add hurricane winds and sleeting rain plus either a stroller or one or two dawdling toddlers that have ‘tired legs’ and want to be carried. (I have considered stuffing the smallest in the bin at times but thankfully for her there’s never room).

Once the bins are deposited, they are supposedly emptied early Monday morning and then someone has to go back during the week and drag them back home so we can start emptying our kitchen bin, recycling collection and now counter-top food collector thing again. This never happens on Monday, rarely on Tuesday and sometimes by Wednesday.  At least four times last winter the bin truck never arrived.  The high tides and storms washed our road away on a Monday.  Rocks were covering the road from the beach another Monday.  The local Council was ‘fixing’ the road another Monday.  So the bin truck comes back later in the day or perhaps the next week and empties the trash, right? No.  They just never come.  You call, complain, whine, plead.  They don’t come so now you have the fun of getting all the full bins back to the house and having no where to dispose of your rubbish and recycling for another two weeks.

We then have to hoard bags of stinking rubbish in the shed. We need to empty the recyclables into another bag every few days.  Then on the next rubbish day the rotting bins have to be maneuvered back down the road along with bags of leaking trash which are piled next to the bins waiting for a dog to rip them open and spew your dirty tissues and worse all over the road.

Between rubbish days the rubbish struggle continues. We don’t have a garbage disposal in the sink (think it has something do with with the septic tanks but Irish people have a strong distrust of them) which means all the plates and leftovers are scraped into the trash can. Except now we have a brown food waste bin for our counter that then needs to be emptied into a larger brown bin outside.  Easier said than done with clinging moldy food in the bottom.  The large bin fills up after one week so then we are hoarding vegetable and fruit waste for our own compost bin (that serves no purpose on the other end of this endless compost process) which is outside through the wet grass and swarms with flies even in winter.  The last place I want to go after cleaning up the kitchen from dinner.

The recycling is cleaner and lighter.  Lighter means when the lid blows open the top layer blows out and flies around the yard so when I am trying to load the kids into the car, I have to then run around chasing skittering cans, cereal boxes and empty toilet paper rolls.  After stuffing them back in the bin eventually will blow over all together in a big gust of wind and I’ll be greeted by this sight when I pull back in the driveway.  If this happens enough times, I’ll eventually drag the bin to the shed where at least it won’t blow over but then anytime I want to clear out the recycling I have to run about 20 yards holding an overflowing pile of recyclables. At least one milk carton will blow away.

We pay over €200 a year for the pleasure of this great service but the alternatives are no better.  At least when I am dragging a full bin down the road against the wind and choking on my neighbors toxic smoke from the trash he burns in a specially built lean-to, I have the moral high ground.  The moral high ground is the only thing keeping me from ‘shock’ stuffing all my recycling (glass included) and food into one bag and throwing it off a cliff.

Shop local makes sense – and makes me sweat.

So far my well-intentioned plans for buying local Christmas gifts this year have failed.  I did very well last year between a very good Christmas market in Dingle and an Original Kerry http://www.originalkerry.com/ holiday shop trip.  Please check out the link for some great Irish craft & design that comes from Kerry and see my recommendations below based on last year’s shop local success.

This year my attempts have amounted to showing up at the Original Kerry pop-up shop in Tralee that was advertised as open every day before Christmas only to find it closed for the afternoon. I had two hours to get all my Christmas shopping that can’t be done with two pests in tow and shopping local falls into this category so I raced across town in the pouring rain carrying a pirate sword only to find a cheery hand-written sign telling me the store was open only until 1:30 that day.

Second attempt was walking through a local Christmas Craft fair in the village hall and buying the kids a piece of pizza to split between them after ushering my son away from a ‘magician’ trying to wow him into buying an assortment of magic tricks by showing him a jumping $50 bill in Ireland where there are no dollars and Mr. Magic was English and had a long grey pony tail and swirly patterned vest.  My son was a little bit wowed – I was not.

Third attempt was a big Christmas market that I went to last year and found some great presents.  This year I convinced my husband that it would be a nice family day out in Dingle.  The venue was changed the day before and I only found out by chance from a neighbour and the most appealing stand turned out to be Cookie Monster and reindeer cupcakes.

These failures, along with the well-meaning Christmas Shop Local campaigns, have made me defensive about my online mega store shopping this year.  The brow beating tone of Shop Local campaigns have always made me feel pointlessly rebellious because of the inferred obligation  to buy from local sellers. But what if there gluten-free pie is horrible or what if it’s your neighbor who whose dog poops in your yard or what if you don’t feel like apologizing 5-10 times for having small children around their ‘art’?  Let’s be honest there are HUGE personal (selfish) benefits to shopping with large merchandisers that have nothing to do with prices.  Here’s are some problems for me – a mother with two small children who is not going to hire a babysitter to go shopping.

Problem #1 with ‘Shopping Local’ – Logistics

Are you ever going to turn up at Toys R Us and find them closed at 4 pm on the second Wednesday of December? The laid-back informality of local producers that is supposed to be so charming to shoppers translates into shops having random hours (not advertised online), crappy websites, no one answering the phones and events or markets being poorly organised, stocked or cancelled.  This is not the norm but I don’t have the time or energy to risk it.  I don’t think spending money should require a massive energy input on the consumer’s end. If it does, than it feels like a pity purchase and that is just ridiculous outside of school bake sales, gift wrapping fundraisers and lemonade stands.

Physical logistics are a problem, especially doorways. The doorways to lovely local boutiques are not wide enough to get in a stroller. One hundred year old buildings were not designed for buggys with all-terrain wheels that fit 5 children and two shopping bags   My general rule is that if I can’t get a stroller in without requiring someone to swing open an extra door, another person to try to lift the front wheel up wet granite steps and my bag falling off my shoulder and either knocking over a display or else dumping all my contents out, then the shop is not meant for babies or toddlers. Once you get in the logistics will be a nightmare.  Getting to these shops is also not easy because they are in quaint down towns where you have to circle for parking and then walk through winter storms to these tiny doorway shops.

Problem #2 – Face to Face contact

Is it always a good thing to ‘get to know” the crafts person or owner? Is it just me that feels terribly uncomfortable looking around when I know the owner or even worse when perusing at a market and then walking away with nothing after making chit-chat with the woman who lives up the road and makes dream catchers, or worse, angel art? ugh.  Or entering any number of small boutiques in the Old Port and being greeted by an appraising look by a well-groomed woman who is more interested in modeling the merchandise than customer service.  Amazon doesn’t care if you shop in your holy slippers stuffing your face with gingerbread covered in frosting with your bra slung over the couch (hypothetically of course).

(I worked in one of these shops years ago and I could actually see the discomfort in shopper’s faces when they looked at the price tags and then mimed to each other via eyebrows and glances “Holy shit $50 for a baby tee-shirt” until they could politely back out of the tiny store and say out loud “Holy shit $50 for a baby’s tee-shirt!”

Problem # 3 – Quality Assurance

I’m sure it’s pretty clear now that I am not a good shopper so if I am shopping than I want to buy something. Craft markets and local produce shops too often feature knitted tea-pot covers, beaded jewelry, jam, felt flowers and lately paté and olives.  There is just not a granny nice-enough to make me buy a tea-pot cover.  No matter how deserving the makers are, if their products are crappy than why should their community feel obligated to buy them? There are also high-quality natural skin care lines, beautiful jewelry, flower arrangements, chocolates, knits and great foods at most markets but they need to be the majority and easier to buy.

I think campaigns need to focus on raising the standard of local producers and shop keepers.  Someone needs to start saying no to that lovely lady Agnes or to Mr. Magic at a Christmas market. Local producers need to regulate themselves to ensure quality for the shoppers. Consumers can spend money where ever they want.  It’s great to have a reminder that buying locally keeps small businesses alive and hence rural communities or down towns thriving but I am not going to feel guilty for shopping with a glass of wine in front of The Desperate Housewives of New Jersey!

I will put my recommendations for great local Dingle or Kerry products in a post later this week.

In Pursuit of Christmas

“Pat, come-in, come-in, do you read me?” Ryan asked into his radio. ”Silver Transit van backing up into the woods at the Torc car park”, he continued in a whisper. “Yes, the Torc waterfall car park. It’s 11 pm the night before Christmas Eve, I don’t think it’s tourists.”

He crept behind a tree and continued, “Not sure how many there are yet. Ok, the van’s parked but lights are still on. One suspect out, two, three…I think there’s three men. They’ve gone around to the back and opened the doors. Are you on your way? Did you call it into the station?” Ryan asked.

He was about 100 yards away from the van. The moon was covered in thick clouds and a fine mist shimmered in front of the van’s front beams. Good thing he’d bought those night vision goggles. Deirdre was bitter that he had spent €200 of their money before Christmas. There was no way those plastic ones the department bought would have cut it tonight. Not in these conditions.
He squatted and rested his shoulder against an oak trunk and put the radio to his ear again. They should really have ear pieces too. He didn’t fancy ending up in the back of a transit trundling to Tralee, or worse, Limerick if these guys heard him. €200 wouldn’t seem so important if he ended up bashed and hanging over Ladies’ View.

Ryan shook his head while listening through the static. He depressed the talk button and shouted, “What, they’re not sending anyone?” He continued in a whisper “I don’t care what’s going on outside the night club. This is supposed to be a priority. How long will you be? Ah Pat…. No, having a pint in the Lake House bar does not count as patrolling. Forget it. I’m on my own. Over and out.”
Ryan unclipped his official uniform cap from his belt and pulled it on. He shoved the silent radio into his belt, pulled out his flashlight and took a deep breath. He headed towards the van. Seconds into his march, a roar smashed the night’s silence and bounced around the trees. A chainsaw!
He broke into a run but as he neared the van the roar was replaced by the sounds of crashing and crunching. As he neared the van he saw three shapes emerge from the dark dragging two full holly trees.
“Stop! Killarney Park Ranger. You are breaking the law. Put down the holly!! “He shouted towards the men. They hesitated long enough for Ryan to hear laughing before throwing the trees into the back of the van. Slam. Two more slams and the van took off into the road as Ryan reached the clearing.
“Fa la la la la, la la la la” his phone trilled over his heaving breathing.
“God damn, what?” he barked.
“Hi honey, just me. I’m here at Niamh’s house and everyone is very intrigued by your special patrol. Is it very exciting tonight?” Deirdre giggled above tinkling glasses and music.
“Special and secret, Dee. It’s a secret patrol.” He crouched down and picked up a broken holly twig.
“Sure it’s just Niamh and few others. Anyway let me finish. She was saying how fabulous the holly looked on her neighbour’s front door but she forgot to get some in town. She was delighted when I said you could bring her back a nice big bunch tonight. You don’t mind do you, ‘tis the season and all that…Honey? Ryan? Are you there? Why are you panting?”

Are American’s ready to have babies the Irish way? Do you want a mid-wife or a maternity concierge?

I received a letter from my ob/gyn’s office today with an appointment date. I thought it was a mistake until I got a voice mail from the secretary requesting I ring back to confirm the appointment which was based on a referral from my GP’s office.

Sounds standard but just a year late!

I had gone to my GP with a complaint almost a year ago. The same week I got this letter, I also got an e-mail from my mother complaining about the Obamacare website in Maine and how much her policy cost.  I can not even bring myself to investigate the cost of insuring my family over there when we move over since we won’t have jobs for a few months. This all got me thinking again about the differences in healthcare between here and the US.

The main difference is price but the principle of universal healthcare leads to other differences that I am not sure supporters of healthcare reform (particularly liberal, well-educated, middle and upper class urbanites) would be ready to face themselves.  Social policy is personal and when I see FB posts about healthcare reform I chuckle at the thought of my friend’s having babies the Irish way.

I had two straightforward and uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries and found the mid-wife led service very good but there is nothing dressed up or glamorous about your choices.

For people not familiar with the Irish healthcare system, here are few general points:

  • I don’t actually have a ob/gyn – you are assigned one when you are pregnant and she supervised my pregnancy, labour and delivery and post-natal care but I only met her once.
  • Your maternity care is delivered by a combination of GP, nurses or midwives, registrars (this is like a resident
  • The GP is your first point of call for everything and then you get referred to Consultants (specialists)
  • It is not uncommon to wait over 12 months to get an appointment for a consultant
  • You can pay and make an appointment with the same doctor directly and it doesn’t take as long
  • You get standard red-tape letters about health matters, no phone calls (I always found this disconcerting, impersonal  and kind of inappropriate – what if it didn’t arrive or someone else opened it and you never got it?)
  • Because the health system is publicly run (even if you pay you are still using the public health system because the hospitals, doctors and management are all public) it is run by civil servants and in the same manner as say the DMV.

My maternity experiences were very different from my friend’s in the U.S. and I am frankly not sure American’s are really ready for universal affordable healthcare.  It is one thing to be a liberal educated middle-class woman who believes in equal access to health care for all Americans but it is another thing when it becomes personal.  The reality is that you will have the same experience as women who don’t pay and they will be next to you.  In the chair, room or bed next to you as is the case in Ireland.

There was an Irish Traveller in the bed next to me who had just had her 12th baby and was getting given free formula and bottles. I knew the husband from work and know they live in a free house and get a lot of social welfare.  They probably get paid about $2000 per month of universal payments for children alone. The nurses spent a lot of time finding extra formula and bottles for them to take home (for free) but they were in a hurry so the nurses made arrangement for them to collect them later.

You will continue to pay for your healthcare so that other women can receive the same healthcare without paying. You will have limited choices and we know American’s are obsessed with choice (just walk down the shampoo aisle in CVS). My friend’s shopped around for their doctors and their hospitals.  I think this is all just an illusion of choice  because at the end of the day the baby will come out one of two ways and it works the same for everyone but these choices let women think they have an element of control over things. I personally think this pretense that you can control your healthcare is  dangerous expectation that leads to a lot of misinformation and disappointment at the reality of childbirth and beyond.

Has anyone heard of a maternity concierge?? Well, I hadn’t either until a friend living in LA suggested that I look up this reality show called ‘Pregnant in Heel’s’. This show is fantastic.  This woman, a maternity concierge, charges about $500/hour to fulfill your every crazy wish and demand through pregnancy.  I can’t even begin to describe the craziness I saw on the show but much of it makes you wonder how have these people become successful – they are idiots?.

No one here has heard of a maternity concierge and when I try to explain the hilarity of the tv show, they think I am making it all up.  I wish.

I received an e-mail from a close friend right after having her baby in a city in the US. There was a link to a professional photographer’s website to see the results of his photo shoot…in the hospital. The pictures were adorable and the mother looked great except for the exhausted and confused look in her eye. She had clothes on and makeup and jewelry and the baby was in props.  I started looking more closely.  The hospital room seemed to have hardwood floors! There were suggested colors to bring and tips for looking good from the photographer that included clear nail polish.  What?? This was the day after giving birth to your first baby and the hospital arranged for professional photographer’s to visit your room and sell you a photo shoot.  First I had a bit of a breakdown – how could she manage a family photo shoot the day after giving birth when I was barely able to get my son to latch on and nurse without tears (both of ours)? Then I thought, god how awful for her to be forced to present herself like that and forced to make that choice in such a vulnerable moment.

In contrast the labor ward of my local hospital was described to me by a new father as dairy barn with cows trundling up and down ready to give birth to calves. He was describing (complete with agricultural references not really appreciated by my female colleagues) how his wife had to wait until she was fully in labor before getting into a delivery room because they were all full.  In the meantime you walk the corridors.  Up and down stopping for contractions and looking at County football jerseys hanging on the walls.

The mid-wives lead the unit under the supervision of a consultant but I never saw a consultant ob/gyn in my deliveries (thank god) and since there are only three I am sure more often than not, it is a resident doctor.  The mid-wives are great.  They have seen it all and at least one stayed with me the whole time.  They are funny, relaxed, helpful, straightforward, stern when needed and made me feel relatively calm.

Give me an Irish mid-wife over a maternity concierge any day.

Note: Midwifery is a medical profession in Ireland – I realize the term midwife can be used much more loosely in the US and Australia.  I am not an advocate of these self-determined midwifes who are more like doulas that advocate home births. Midwives here are nurses with additional training and experience in pre-natal, labor & delivery and post natal care.