Friday, September 30, 2011

We apparently do not have the luck of the Irish yet

We have officially been living in Ireland for one week now, although it feels longer. Every day feels so full and a little bit stressful, and yet at the same time we fell like we're just not getting anything done.

Yesterday, for example, was a rough day. Jorge rode down in the morning to the immigration office to register, as we were told we should do when we arrived at the airport. However, the man at the desk there told jorge he could not register until he applied for EU residency first. He explained he does not want residency, since we are only going to be here six months (it takes 6 months before you typically receive a decision on your residency application, at which point we would be leaving). The immigration officer told Jorge "It's not my job to answer your questions. This is how we do it."

So we applied for the residency card, which required us sending off both his and my passports. Which felt very risky, given that I travel for work, and Jorge has only 3 weeks left until his initial entry stamp into the country expires. So cross your fingers they send those passports back soon!

The other tricky thing is looking for a place to live. I feel like there must be a system that I'm just not tapping into yet. Apartments all seem to be either over-priced, too small, or already taken (particularly once they hear we have children).I came in with fairly low expectations, but I'm finding it hard to accept the idea of living in a run-down neighborhood, or in a run-down apartment, especially given what I am willing to pay.

So yesterday we had a viewing of a nice-looking place lived up, and Jorge biked all the way out there, only to find no one waiting to show him the place. when we called the agent, he told Jorge that we had the time wrong, and that the viewing was at 6:15.. Jorge said "Um, it IS 6:15. I'm 15 minutes early" and the agent backtracked and said, no the appointment was at 5:45. Which was a flat-out lie. Needless to say, we crossed that apartment off our lists.

Since nothing seems to happen on the weekends here, we decided to rent a car for the weekend, and are planning to go on a couple of day-trips out of town, to unwind and forget about everything that needs to be done for a few days. Then Monday I start work, and the pressure to find a place to live will really be on.

wish us luck. And if you happen to know of a two-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood in central Dublin, walking distance to my office, with a good shower, and preferably with a grocery store and running trails nearby, please do let me know. Not that I'm particular or anything.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And another adventure begins

We have moved to Ireland. We are still a little bit in shock. Fortunately, everything went pretty smoothly with the trip here - the boys slept most of the flight from Nairoble to Amsterdam, there were no issues at all with immigration coming into Ireland, all our bags showed up, and there was even a humongous van waiting at the taxi stand when we got out there.

The only complications were when an older American man hassled us for going around to the front of the line to board (with our two small, wailing children, of course). I resisted the urge to tell him to stuff it. And Aer Lingus made us check one of our carry-ons, even though we were well within the limit. I tried to explain that Milo gets the exact same allowances I get - as he pays almost full price - but math was apparently not her strong suit. Anyway, I didn't mind having the load off. We keep saying this, but we are really going to have to learn to pack lighter next time.

Ireland is all a bit overwhelming still. It's hard to overcome the urge to splurge and indulge in everything. "Look - shawarma! No wait, there's sushi! And burritos! Can we have some ice cream?" I even found myself thinking about getting a McDonald's sundae today, because, you know, they don't have those in Malawi. I keep having to remind myself that we are staing here, and there will be plenty of time to eat the foods I like, buy new clothes, go to the movies.

Jorge is having the opposite reaction - he's finding everything a little overstimulating, and just wants to eat bread and cheese in the hotel room.

I know it never really takes us long to adjust, but I think we have been permanently changed by the years we spent living in Africa. It is hard for me to ever imagine a time when spending 600 dollars on a telephone will make any sense. And I think I will always crave for my children the freedom they have gotten used to. My saddest moment so far was getting down to Milo eye-to-eye and having to explain to him "We are not in Malawi anymore - you have to stay with Mommy now, you can't run around whenever you want to."

We went to several parks today, and as he always does, Milo tried to make friends with the other kids. They pretty much ignored him, the same way they did in Seattle -something I found very difficult to understand. But I saw a little spark of interest in some of the kids, as if they were wistfully considering socializing with another child, and that gave me a little hope that Milo will indeed make some friends here.

Our next big job is to find an apartment. A friend very generously offered us her apartment while she travels to Somalia for work, but the clock is ticking - we've got 3 weeks at the most to find and move into a new place. We're OK with something small, even a little dingy, but there is one thing I won't sacrifice, and that is a good shower. So it may take a while...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Big news. Sad, but big.

Malawi has been our home for so long, I’ve forgotten that the nature of my job is more in the moving than the staying. In fact, when I was younger, I scoffed at the idea of staying put more than a year or two in any given place. I was born to roam, baby.

Now that I’m older, more maternal, and quite frankly, a little boring, I don’t see the point in being anywhere less than three years. What can you really accomplish in a year? Two? That’s just enough time to figure out what you’re doing, then you have to start all over again.

The norm, however, seems to be two to three years for most of my friends and colleagues, though. Which means that a couple of years ago, we went through one big endless year of farewell parties as most of our close friends moved on. Now, after 5 years in Malawi, the second wave is beginning.

And it seems, my friends, the tide is taking us out with it. In just one week, we are leaving Malawi.

My heart breaks just a little bit even writing those words.

We knew we would be leaving soon. I had extended my contract through the end of the year, but my feet have gotten itchy again, and it’s too hard to see everyone else leave and feel like we’re being left behind. So we made a conscious decision, come what may, we would be leaving Malawi by the end of the year, even if that meant moving back home to the U.S. to mooch off of our families.

As it turns out, we’re not having to couch-surf just yet. One of our senior advisers is out on maternity leave, and she asked if I would cover for her during the 7 months she will be out of work. I agreed, and so next week we are moving to Dublin (that’s Ireland, in case you were expecting yet another remote developing country).

Ireland. I know, right? How totally different can you get from Malawi (apart from Finland)? We’re expecting a total and completely new way of life, but that’s part of the excitement. After all, how much longer do we have that we can still traipse off to Europe for a few months if we want to?

I guess you can expect a whole new class of misadventures from us as we navigate immigration, find a place to live, and apparently the hardest thing, open a bank account. These may sound like menial tasks, but they scare the bajeezus out of me. I’m pretty sure I can’t just smile my way into getting a driver’s license in Europe, the way I can here.

Wish us luck as we make this big leap, friends. I will try to keep you up to date on this newest adventure in our lives.