Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Emerald Isle

Before last week, I had never been outside of North America. My mom planned for our family to go to Ireland. She and my father ventured there on their honeymoon twenty four years ago, and she wanted us children to see the beauty that the country has. And we did. 
The peak season for visitors in Ireland is July- September. This is when the grass is the lushest and the water is warm enough to swim in. Dingle, Ireland, which is where were went, gets a majority of their income from tourists (the other percentage they get from sheep).

 I seriously have never seen so many sheep in my life. Incredible. And each batch or herd or flock of sheep is marked with a different color. Which I can only assume is the way that they keep track of whose sheep are whose! It's amazing how here in America, people have to worry about if the animals used for meat, wool, etc are treated well, have enough room to roam, and are not underfed. Room to roam: well just about anywhere. The animals here just hop over the fence if they think the grass is greener. They have enough to eat, unless the grass stops growing. And I am sure that they have probably the best quality of life of any animal anywhere. If I were a sheep farmer in Ireland, I would have a great laugh if one of my marked sheep ended up on the other side of the country! 

Well I got quite side tracked with the sheep..we went to Ireland in mid February, and the locals told us that this was the worst winter they had, had in forty years. Not a snow flake in sight. I think I realized that although I have grown up with four seasons, I think I could do without one: SNOW. It was quite windy and did rain about everyday, but most of the rain was light and gone within ten minutes. I guess what my point is, that Ireland is beautiful not only in the few tourist months. 

Another difference I noted that I was quite happy with was the lack of "Americanization". Christopher told me that I continued to use this phrase wrong and that it is "Globalization" that I was thinking of. I guess I am just a naive American who has not traveled the globe and thinks that America is the only place that is so.. industrialized.. for lack of a better word. The example of this that stuck in my mind was that there were no fences. You know...go to look at the Grand Canyon, there is a big old fence making sure you don't fall off the side of the mountain. Here, no fence, you just fall. It doesn't take away the beauty like a fence does. You just have to be smart and not fall off the side of the cliff. Natural beauty at it's finest. 

At first it was hard to get used to the Euro to 
Dollar exchange. I was confused because a Euro is one dollar and forty cents. I am very thrifty and I found my self holding back but I wasn't sure why. Then I realized that it was because although the Euro is more valuable than the dollar, the food cost the same number of Euros as it would have been dollars. So I saw a muffin for one euro, but I stopped myself because that meant the muffin was really one dollar and forty cents. But it was the same muffin as I bought in the airport in Newark for 99 cents. So why did it cost forty extra cents? Americans are not willing to spend a lot of money on food, therefore the prices are cheaper in the United States. If I would spend more money on one think I think it would be food. 

Americans value time, so do Europeans, but on opposite ends of the spectrum. Rush, rush rush. That's all we ever do. How fast can you get from point A to point B? How long will you spend in line at the grocery store? It seems like the emphasis is always on the wait. In Ireland it often takes several hours to get from point A to B. This is not only because of the windey or as my mom said "piggly wiggly" roads, but because you have to cross mountains and valleys to get to your destination. People don't rush around the way that we are accustomed to. This is a theme that runs throughout other areas across the pond. In Spain they break their day in half with a siesta! A more relaxed way of life, I would take that. Here we often don't even break for lunch, while in other places they go home for the meal mid day. 

Needless to say by the end of our trip we were ready to go home. But on the last leg, a discussion rose in the car. My dad wondered why Americans had a better quality of life than the Irish. I guffawed. I would love to live as a sheep farmer. I would enjoy being self sufficient. I would relish a relaxed environment. I would fancy a trip home from work to eat lunch with my family. I would adore living close to nature. I would savor the higher quality food products. I would love to immerse myself in the culture of another land. And one day I will.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day of Hearts

So the big day of hearts is coming up, what is every body doing for their loved ones?

I have always been into holidays. I love getting excited about them, decorating, and celebrating even if it is for a small reason. I know a lot of people boycott Valentine's day because it's about love. But it's not just about that mushy gushy stuff, it's about letting those around you know that you appreciate and love them.

My brother has been my longest standing Valentine. He was once a cute, slender boy who was excited to have a big sister as his Valentine. Then he grew up a little and I'm sure now he might be embarrassed to have me as a Valentine. But one year we went out on Valentine's day. We went to a fine Italian restaurant and had a delicious meal over candlelight. It was funny to watch other people on dates, maybe even people we knew, but we just got to share a good meal. Afterwards we went to a movie. It was just nice to have a reason to celebrate.

Every Valentine's day my Father got us a classic heart filled with chocolates. I guess the men are supposed to be the givers on this day. Unlike Sweetest day, October 18th, which is when the women are supposed to shower their favorite men in gifts.

I think the best gift you could give anyone on the 14th is probably flowers. Who wouldn't be cheered by some bright flowers in this cold winter weather? Sure they won't last for ever, but I think flowers is better than a poor attempt with something material that will get forgotten in a box somewhere. See I think it's all about the hype. Girls get hyped up about the holiday, they expect something fantastic, but whatever their man gets them is not what they expected even though they have no idea what would have been better. Well I will tell you. Simple. A nice dinner out, enjoying each other's company. Not a waste of money on a set of fragrant soap or a new bathrobe. I think gifts that involve doing something together are much more sentimental than materials.

So what will I be doing on Valentine's day you ask? Well Chris and I will probably celebrate with a dinner on the thirteenth because that is the day that he has off. I bought him some small sweets that he can gobble up and other treats that he may find useful. The fourteenth I will finish off our packing and when Christopher comes home from work we will head off to my parents house. After a restless night we will all huddle into a van and head to Newark airport, where we will catch the red eye flight to Ireland, and we will spend a week on the peaceful island. Needless to say I am a bit excited. Bet you can't top that!

Monday, February 10, 2014

On the Move

Lately moving has been on my mind. 

Chris and I moved to Rochester last June. It was too good to be true. Perfect place. Everything we were looking for. Hardwoods. Claw-foot tub. Gas Stove. Natural Lighting. Washer and Dryer. Internet and Cable included. Great Location. Don't do it, it's a trap. We love our apartment. We really, really don't like our landlord. He lives above us. We hear everything he does, I mean everything. Phone conversations. Loud music- if I liked country music before, I really don't anymore. We hear long baths. Stomping. Dog paws. Sometimes I am seriously certain someone is going to fall through the ceiling. And he has. While working on his bathroom (above ours) He came through the ceiling. And he assured us it would be fixed in May, which of course it wasn't. And still isn't. Instead we have a makeshift ceiling, a piece of wood that is secure thankfully. Christopher painted it so that it wasn't plain wood. It's yellow, like sunshine, to make us happy. 

I guess Chris and I moved in together to be on our own. Together. We are very independent people. We don't have a lot of friends. Maybe because we are too critical. Probably because we prefer to be alone. We are very good housemates. We work really well together. When we were looking for housing, we never considered having a third roommate because we never ever wanted one. Our landlord is almost like a third roommate. Not because he lives in our apartment but because it feels like he does. And we h a t e it. He sends us texts about everything. He treats us like we are young kids in our first apartment (we are). He takes advantage of that. And it really, really sucks. We are extremely good tenants. We are quiet. We get our rent in on time. We are self sufficient. We don't ask for much. You could compare us to the elderly: Quiet, clean, and like to sleep at least 8 hours. It's very hard to explain to you how much he drives us crazy. It's no use to do all of this complaining. Chris really grounds me. I love that about him. There are people out there who don't have a roof over their heads. We have thought about moving before our lease is up. But we are too poor to lose our security deposit. So I guess we can only count down. Now a lot of our energy is being put into finding another place to live. 

We need to cut our expenses and housing is probably where it has to happen. News flash to anyone who isn't living on their own yet: It's harder than you think. My advice: find someone to go through it with. I don't know where I would be if I had to face all of this alone. Thank goodness I found a mate before I had to do this growing up stuff. 

Do we want to stay where we are, in Rochester? We don't know. If we had our way, we would move out west and live in a cabin in the woods. Okay, no first we would move to Europe and work for a year. Not sure where maybe France, Italy, or Greece. I want to go to Israel, but Chris warns me that there is a lot of civil unrest. It's on my bucket list though. We will move to Europe for at least a year. I want to work in a vineyard, on a farm, or in a fish market.  So when you think about cost of living. Dreams are crushed. Maybe we won't be able to move ourselves to Europe right away. Or haul a bunch of stuff (mainly Christopher's library) out west. U.S. cities on my list include D.C., Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. Cost of living in those cities: A TON more than Rochester NY.  Hmm quite the dilemma. So moving is on my mind, but where to? The world's your oyster right? Briney and slimy? Hard to swallow?