#76 – Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

I crossed something off my Before 30 list this week. #76 Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.

My friend Louise and I hanging out by St Patrick's Cathedral for the parade.

My friend Louise and I hanging out by St Patrick’s Cathedral for the parade.

Ireland is a small country with big history. According to Google, Ireland’s population is sitting at 4,487,000 and the size of the country is 84,421 km². To give you some perspective, Canada’s population is 34,482,779 and the size of the country is 9,985,000 km². Ontario, a single Canadian province, has a population of 12,851,821 (2011) and is 1,076,395 km². It would take me longer to drive from my hometown to my university (which were both in Ontario) than it would for me to drive from one end of Ireland to the other. Even though Ireland is relatively small, Saint Patrick’s Day reminds us of how big of a presence Ireland has on the world stage. There is something about this culture that makes everyone wants to be at least a little bit Irish.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national holiday. Saint Patrick’s day, a religious fest, was first celebrated in a quiet fashion in Ireland around 500 years after the saint’s death (March 17, 460, 461 or maybe 493) (The Little Big Book of Ireland). In 1903, it became a public holiday in Ireland, and pubs were ordered by law to remain closed. Since the law has been abolished in the 1970s, it seems there is a lot more drinking than feasting happening on the holiday.

Green!

Green!

Facts:

– Guinness has lobbied the Canadian government to make Saint Patrick’s Day a national holiday

– Chicago dyes its rivers green on St. Patrick’s Day

– Savannah, Georgia (home to the world’s second-largest parade) dyes its fountains green on St. Patrick’s Day

ref. The Little Big Book of Ireland

I had to work on Paddy’s Day, but I made sure to do a few cliche things during the day. I checked out the parade, had an Irish coffee at a traditional pub, and had some Guinness stew and a pint while listening to a musician belt out some tunes. The parade was underwhelming considering I could only see the tops of

I missed the ladder memo.

I missed the ladder memo.

the floats and the occasional flag waved from a marching band. People get there extremely early to stake out the prime real estate and some individuals go so far as to bring ladders to climb and perch on. Everyone was decked out in green, orange and white and the giddy children running around in the rain with their faces painted were adorable. I wanted to avoid Temple Bar because I knew it was jammed with tourists so my friend and I checked out a pub on Thomas Street that was filled with locals. I can’t believe it was the first time I had an Irish coffee because that drink is designed for me — black coffee, whiskey, and topped with cream. Delicious. There were some older people sitting around playing some trad music and everyone sang along, making it a very cozy atmosphere.

I don’t have many crazy stories from Paddy’s Day, so I figured I’d take this opportunity to reflect on a few of my favourite Irish things.

Music: I LOVE how much of a role music plays in the Irish culture. Anytime I’m in a room where everyone is singing along to an old Irish tune I have a big silly smile pasted on my face. Everyone knows the words to these songs! Ireland is a perfect representation of how music brings people together, and I love it.

Louise - prime example of friendly Irish people :)

Louise – prime example of friendly Irish people 🙂

Beauty: When I get out of Dublin and drive through Irish countryside I feel like I’m in a movie. The stone hedges, rolling green hills spotted with fluffy sheep, and trees reflected in shining lakes take my breath away. I will never tire of this country’s beauty.

People: Irish people are very friendly and in my experience they love to help you out and will chat your ear off if given the opportunity. On the other hand, once you get to know them they’re way of being friendly is to “take the piss” (translation – slag, chirp, tease, etc). I now know when they tease me about Canadian’s being slow, it’s out of love. Or that’s what I tell myself…

History: It’s hard for me to comprehend how much older Ireland is than Canada. There is so much history rooted in this country it overwhelms and challenges my mind.

Whiskey: I was never interested in whiskey before moving to Ireland, and now I fully appreciate the culture around it. I’m really into wine so it just makes sense that I’d appreciate whiskey tasting as well.

I LOVE YOU IRISH COFFEE!

I LOVE YOU IRISH COFFEE!

I made some Bailey's Irish Cream cupcakes in honor of Paddy's Day. delish.

I made some Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcakes in honor of Paddy’s Day. delish.

Note to self: St Patrick’s Day is March 17. After making the mistake of booking (and consequently cancelling) a cheap flight to Edinburgh on March 17, I’ll never forget international drinking day again.

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How to become a Dublin “local” in under a week.

It’s official. I am a Dublin local. How, you ask? I am renting a flat, I have a job, I have a phone, I walk when the light is red, and I’ve ventured away from Temple Bar and Grafton Street.

Here’s how I settled into Dublin in five days:

Step 1: Mobile phone

Before you can do anything important, like apply for jobs or houses, you need a phone. I brought my phone from Australia and got a pay as you go plan. I thought my phone would be unlocked because it was prepaid, but it wasn’t so I had to do that before purchasing a SIM card. I went to Moore Street off of Henry Street and it cost 25 euros (less if your phone isn’t from Australia) and only took about an hour because it was a simple phone. Vodafone, Meteor, and O2 Ireland are the major networks here. I went with O2 because it is affordable, has good coverage, and I know people who use it so it’s free to communicate with them. Step one, complete!

Step 2: Housing

Welcome to the part of my blog where I rant about my hostel experience. I stayed at Isaac’s Hostel for five days, and I got out of there as quickly as possible. If you’re just staying for a night or two, it ticks off every important box: clean enough, good heating, decent location. For long term stay, it wasn’t the best choice. They advertised breakfast, but it just ended up being toast and cereal. Better than nothing, but there was supposed to be boiled eggs as well and out of the five days I was there I got one egg. The WiFi was not reliable, the reception was unaccommodating and answered every question with “go to the supermarket.” The “hot” water was more like “warm” water, and the showers would turn off automatically after one minute if you didn’t press the button again. The first shower I had was a vicious cycle of the water turning off and me frantically trying to turn it back on as I shivered away. I then realized the key was to keep pressing the button every 30 seconds so it would never turn off. All of those things are minor lack of luxuries, but then you get to the other guests in my room. I was in an eight person all girls room. Every night without fail my sleep would be disrupted for hours. I was on a top bunk, and the woman staying in the top bunk behind me made me miss sleep like never before. First of all, she snored. I can’t handle snoring in general, and she snored so loudly she might as well have just shaken my bed non stop. I would go to sleep with my ear buds in listening to lovely Bethel Live music and then would wake up every time it was over because of the snoring. The worst part was when she would stop snoring — I’d relax and become hopeful that the chainsaw was finally gone, only for it to start up again. The Bethel music was strategic, because as I was lying there I was just getting angrier and angrier and had to mediate on something good. One day she woke up at 6:00am, turned on the lights, stomped heavily back and forth, back and forth, and proceeded to spray her deodorant right in front of our bunk. Thanks a lot, lady. I understand we’re all paying for shared accommodation, but is it really necessary to spray your deodorant by my face at 6:00am?

Once that lady left, I was gifted with two Russian women who not only liked to converse to each other across the room in the middle of the night, but they conveniently snored as well. And they ate chips — in the middle. of. the. night. The best thing that happened in that room was when one Russian lady held the bunk bed in place while the other Russian lady got onto the top. Let’s just say there was falling (on the bed), rolling, awkward maneuvering, and lots of laughing on their part.

Ultimately though I really should thank these women because they lit a fire under me to get out of that hostel as soon as possible.

After gathering tips from locals, I discovered which areas are best to live in. As I was looking up apartments on daft.ie, I figured that the Dublin zones were in order of distance from the city centre. For example, Dublin 1 would be city centre, and Dublin 8 would be much further (after 1, 2, 3, 4, etc). I discovered that I was wrong, and what matters more is whether the number is odd or even. Odd numbers on on the North side of the Liffey River and even numbers are on the South. I was told to live on the South side of the city because the North has a rough reputation.

Dublin zone map. Turns out zone 8 is closer to the city than zone 6. Who knew!

Finding accommodation that is in a good location for a good price is difficult because it’s a city and there’s a lot of competition for rooms. Often times I would phone to make an appointment to view a place and they would inform me that it had already been rented. If you want to rent instead of share it is even more difficult because they require references and a 12 month contract. I was lucky because it’s just me and finding a single room in a house share is relatively easy. I’ve lived with enough people and in enough apartments to know what’s good and what’s bad, so I knew at the first place I looked at that I should snatch it up. It’s a good location, I’m sharing with three other pleasant working girls, there’s no contract, and it’s only 340 euros/month + bills. Not having to set up electricity, wifi, etc, makes the moving (both in and out) process much easier.

In terms of setting up my room I got everything (bedding, organizational things, etc) at Penney’s and Dunnes.

Step 3: Get your GNIB card

Upon arrival in Ireland, Canadian’s need to register with the Immigration Bureau within 30 days. I went to the immigration office two days in a row around noon time and both days they were no longer giving out numbers (even though they service people until 10pm). I came back the following day at 7am and waiting in line until they opened at around 8:30. I was number 16 so I didn’t end up having to wait too long. By the time the office opened the Que was huge and I was grateful I’d woken up at 6:00am to line up (and no, I did not spray my deodorant or stomp around in the hostel room). You need your passport and visa to register and it’s a fee of 150 euros. They take your picture and fingerprints and then give you the card which I’ll need to bring with me anytime I leave the country and want to get back in. It’s important to have the card in order to get a job, PPS (social insurance) number, bank account, etc. I definitely recommend getting there first thing in the morning because I had a friend who ended up waiting a combined 10 hours whereas I was only there for about two hours.

The Irish working holiday visa is much more complicated than the Australian version. For my Aussie working holiday visa all I had to do was apply online and pay a small fee and then the visa number was paired with my passport number. I also didn’t need all of the extensive documentation that’s required here for a social insurance number and bank account.

Step 4: PPS number

Before you can get a PPS number you need proof of a permanent address. They make you jump through a lot of hurdles and I’m still the in the process of obtaining my number. It’s necessary to have a PPS in order to work in Ireland, so it’s important to get this step done as soon as possible.

Step 5: Get a job

I actually started handing out my CV while I was still living at the hostel. I treated applying for jobs as a full time job. I came at an excellent time of year for hiring because summer staff are all gone and businesses are hiring for the holidays. I got a couple of job offers within the week and I’ll share my employment story in my next post. It’s another one of those “everything happens for a reason” situations.

Finally, venture away from the tourist districts and look like you know where you’re going and it’ll at least appear like you’re a Dublin local.

You never know when a stranger will change your life

wait·ing/ˈwātiNG/

Noun:
  1. The action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.

“Waiting” is a word that I have become very familiar with this year. I returned to Canada in February with the intention of “waiting” for three months for my new visa to be approved for Australia. Three months passed and slowly turned into four, five, and six months, until suddenly it was September and I had been home for eight months.

Good things are worth waiting for, and trust me, my life in Australia was one of those things. It was so good that I cannot even begin to describe the beautiful times and amazing relationships I experienced. Eventually though I started to feel the constraints of waiting, and although I never let go of my desire to move back to Brisbane, I began to dream new dreams.

One day I sent an email to the Australian immigration office inquiring about the status of our application, and received an automated email that implied our application was considered invalid. It was unexpected, freak circumstances, but our application was thrown in the trash without them directly notifying us.

I had been waiting for so long, refraining from making any future plans. And then, once I received that email, I was released from the waiting game. It became possible to take action.

That night I served a lovely couple from Dublin, Ireland. It was a slow night at work so I had the opportunity to really chat with them. As it turns out they own restaurants in the Dublin, and after I shared a bit of my travel tales with them they told me that if I were to move to Dublin tomorrow they’d give me a job. The very idea gave me butterflies and I thought “well, why not?”

Two completely random people planted a seed in my mind and got me thinking about Ireland non-stop. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to Ireland and even looked into schools there at one point, but I had been so distracted with Australia that I didn’t even consider getting a working holiday visa somewhere else. I desperately want to travel Europe, and working overseas will give me a really affordable option to experience Europe.

After that day things quickly fell into place. I got into research mode and discovered how simple it would be for me to move to Dublin. There are plenty of serving jobs, housing, and cheap flights to choose from. Applying for a visa is straightforward and I met all of the qualifications. It was meant to be!

Ireland feels right and makes me excited in the pit of my stomach. It seems crazy that I was waiting for eight months for my Australian visa to work out, and then the possibility of Ireland unfolded so easily in a couple of days. Now I am about to begin a brand new journey, filled with new cultures, people, music, food, and land to explore. My future holds the promise of adventure.

I met that couple from Dublin on September 8, 2012, and my flight to Ireland is booked for October 26, 2012. You never know when, and how quickly, a stranger will change your life.

Thinking of moving to Ireland? Here’s what I did:

Visa application: SWAP working holidays (www.swap.ca). You have to apply at least four weeks before your departure date.

Flight: CanadianAffair.ca (found a flight for $303 taxes in from Toronto)

Health insurance: applied through SWAP for RBC’s Bon Voyage travel insurance. I got 12 months of coverage for $432, which is half of what I paid for my insurance when I went to Australia.

Accommodation upon arrival: Hostel World

Housing research: daft.ie

Job research: http://www.jobs.ie/