I have been in Ireland now for 8 1/2 days. There has been a lot to take in from different accents, different ways of doing things (like jaywalking, for example), cars driving on the opposite side of the road (and drivers driving on the opposite side of the car), different urban and nature landscapes, etc. I was doing pretty well with most things (I like to think I’m almost a pro jaywalker now!), until came the time to look for a room to rent.
Now, there are other factors that ultimately lead to a breakdown a couple of nights ago. For starters, I have been sleeping in dorm rooms this whole time without the medical equipment I technically require to get a complete night’s sleep. I also realized I had missed some days of medication that I take to control anxiety and depression issues I struggle with. Combine those factors with the moderate amounts of culture shock I hadn’t technically prepared for, and I was crying on the curb of a residential neighbourhood on Wednesday evening.
If you have followed my blog posts so far, you know I hit a setback when I got to Ireland regarding my working permit. I cannot work until February 20th, because of a new appointment system put in place to get said working permits. Had I known that I needed an appointment, I probably would have encountered less hurdles than the ones I am trying to jump over now.
Basically, I could get a working permit sooner from the Galway office if I could prove I have a permanent address here in Galway. However, without a job, most landlords are not willing to offer a room (which is completely understandable). Nonetheless, I am house hunting, and there have been some special discoveries in this different part of the world.
Because homes are generally much much older than the bulk of the ones you find in Canada, most homes do not come equipped with central heating. Instead, rooms can be heated individually with electric heaters, contributing as a team to the warmth in the home. Another form of heating I have discovered in my home tours has been oil heating. There is a lot of literature out there on the benefits of oil heating over natural gas, but the fact remains that it is a system I have no knowledge about, so when I saw the second room and the landlord mentioned oil heating I played it cool, but I legitimately had no idea what he was talking about.
Another thing that sparked my curiosity, and confusion is the concept of the electric shower. Doesn’t it sound like the most dangerous thing in the world to have an electrical device IN THE SHOWER!? This is apparently very common in Ireland. It is also very safe, I am told. It basically works with an element that heats the water on the way to the shower head, which in theory means you won’t run out of hot water, unlike the common hot water tank in Canada. I have yet to use one of these devices for myself, but I’ll let you know how it goes.
A common problem I have found while visiting homes is that wherever carpet is installed, there is a faint (or not so faint) smell of moulding carpets. Because the climate here is damp and the heating systems are somewhat patchy and old school, the carpets suffer from this unfortunate reality.
Kitchens (and subsequently appliances like fridges and stoves) are very small, and sometimes, large amounts of people are crammed into small apartments. Washing machines are in the kitchen, and most homes don’t come equipped with drying machines. Bathrooms don’t come with any counter space, and bathtubs are not always a given here in Ireland (as I imagine is the case all over Europe.) Also, grocery stores are not always as accessible in the more residential areas as they are in Canada.
All of these differences have been trying on my already tired mind. Luckily, the people, as I have previously mentioned, are overwhelmingly kind and welcoming. The first room I saw was in a more updated apartment shared by 5 people. After we spent roughly 10 minutes looking at the place and talking prices, Jenna invited me to stay for tea. I accepted, and proceeded to spend 3 hours there, discussing Ireland and Canada with her and her roommates.
Michael showed me the next room and explained to me how billing works in Ireland (Electricity is billed once every two months, water is not metered, therefore they don’t pay for water consumption in Ireland, as well as other costs I won’t bother to list off.)
Laura showed me the next room. It was in a fairly large home which was heated with oil. Laura was the absolute dearest person! She took her time explaining how oil heating works, how electric showers work, and because she works in recruitment, she also explained to me what work was more likely to suit my experience. She also knows the area well, so she explained where the bulk of the work is geographically, and what areas I should live in if I want better chances of being able to walk to work and avoid paying the 71 euro bus pass monthly fee. She then invited me to stay for tea, and as the evening dragged on, she extended her welcome for dinner. It was when I left Laura’s home that I hit my breaking point.
I was in a residential neighbourhood, it was dark, and I was all turned around and had no idea how to get back to downtown, or how long it would take me. I had taken a taxi to get to her home because I messed up and took the wrong bus, and was going to be late if I tried to catch the right bus. Therefore, I took a cab to not be late for the showing, and hadn’t paid too much attention to how we got there.
I crossed the street, and spotted a couple of cats, and figured I would pet them for a bit before pulling out my phone to look up the way back to the hostel. The cats, however, were strays I think, and were too afraid for me to pet them. I realize this is crazy, but the rejection was the cherry on top. Haha. I sat on the curb and cried for a few minutes. I then picked up my big girl panties, and started walking. I FaceTime’d my dad until I ran out of signs pointing to downtown, and more importantly ran out of sidewalk and street lights. I found a nearby hotel and took a cab back to city centre.
So close, yet so, so far!
I went to bed, and slept poorly. The next day I was very emotional still. I took a walk in the morning, and was so tired by noon. I went back to the hostel and spent the afternoon in bed, alternating between napping and crying. I got up for dinner, and socialized for a bit.
I know this has been a long post, but I just want to conclude by thanking everyone who helped me get through a couple of difficult days. My parents, who have been so supportive every day, answering almost every FaceTime call, even early in the Canadian morning. My friends Krista (and Stu), Rachel and Paul. My beloved cousins and aunts, and everyone who leaves encouraging comments on Facebook and Instagram. I read them all, and they truly help. So thank you.