Monday, August 31, 2009

But I am driving on my side of the road!

Do you remember what it felt like when you were first learning how to drive? The excitement, the fear of hitting anything and everything, the power, the fear of killing yourself and others, the independence, the fear of people honking and yelling at you, the deep down feeling like you could get lost and never be able to find your way home, the fear of get my point. Take all those emotions, cross out all those that don't involve fear and getting lost, and you will understand what it feels like to drive in Ireland. I thought my biggest problem would be driving on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. But, I soon learned that this country allows for so many more problems than that.

Take into consideration if you will, the following dilemmas:

Fact #1: Lines dividing the lanes of traffic are only suggestions in which you (or anyone else for that matter) may or may not choose to follow at any time during your outing without warning. These include the yellow lines dividing the opposite flow of traffic, which of course, are not yellow here because........ it doesn't matter what side of the road you drive on. In fact, the middle of the road is a coveted piece of pavement.

Fact #2: There seems to be no speed limits on surface streets.

Fact #3: Lanes tend to disappear right before your eyes. Have you ever driven on the freeway when a traffic lane is closed? You know how they set up cones for like a mile, slowly diverting you into the next lane? Forget that! No cones, no warning.....except for maybe the parked car in which you are about to hit (because you have no way of stopping in time) because you don't have time to watch your speed......see fact #1and #2.

Fact #4: Roads are as small as they appear. Take a road, any road where you live, double the amount of traffic lanes, add bus and bicycle lanes in both directions, allow street parking, and you've got yourself the typical road in Ireland.

Fact #5: Your GPS is not always your savior. Watch out, or that little woman will have you turning down a one-way street! Basically, if you miss your turn, you better figure out how to make a u-turn cuz there's no way back. It's extremely difficult to find a street where you can make a left or right turn in downtown Dublin. I'm not sure why. But, if you need to turn, chances are you're out of luck!

Fact #6: Intersections are not square. They can be hexagons, octagons, circles, Y's, X's, you name it. This can make it very difficult to see where oncoming traffic is coming from or which traffic light (if you can see one) you are supposed to follow.....I've only run one red light! I tend to be conservative here, believing that anyone can crash into my car at any moment.....hence the honking, white knuckles, holding of the breath, and flinching (and that's just when Jeremy is driving!).

Fact #7: The order is not always green, yellow, red. Sometimes, it's red, yellow, green. Throw in a random blinking yellow light occasionally just for fun.

I don't mind telling you that this is not an all inclusive list. But, I'm sure by now you get the picture. I don't think I'll ever get used to driving here. I always thought I was a pretty crazy, but crazy. Here, there's only crazy.....and soiled underwear.

Yesterday, I spent almost the entire day lost. I had to drop Jeremy off at work in an area I had never been. Then, I tried to make my way to our new church. It was very confusing. I never made it to the church and I barely made it home.

After a brief rest, I decided to head out to the grocery store. It would have been nice to know they didn't accept credit cards. No signs or warnings. Oh, except when you get up to the register, have bagged all your groceries (cuz they don't do that for you. Nor do they provide the bags to put them in), and try handing your credit card to the cashier. "Uh, sorry, this is not a Laser card"...."Oh yes, I'm sorry, it's a swipe card, it doesn't have a chip in it"..... "Uh, huh. No, we only take Laser cards here"......"Laser, what?"........"Ma'am, this is a MasterCard. We only accept Laser"............"OH..........that's all I have"............"There's an ATM across the road". Across the what?? Not across the store, across the road. Which of course meant, across town! It's not like anything can be easy! Mind you, Grant is still screaming, "I need to go potty!!!"

Have you ever driven in a roundabout? I'm not talking about those simple little circular intersections you may have encountered in a residential neighborhood. I'm talkin' a huge, 4 lane, circular intersection where cars are swerving in and out of multiple (like 5 or 6) different streets that all intersect, while driving approx. 60kph? Well, I have. 5 times that day to be exact. It's amazing what you will do for groceries. I swear I even had visions of pulling up on the sidewalk and letting Grant piddle on the side of the road because, as I'm sure you've public toilets in the grocery store either! pictures yet, my computer is acting up. I promise I'll get some as soon as I can. Until our next adventure.......

Saturday, August 29, 2009

All Appliances are not created equal

With all the shreiks and pounding on the floor, one would have thought they were being raided. After figuring out we were not under attack, I discovered a naked, shivering child, covered in soap, standing, no more like cowering, in the shower. What the heck is going on? Did you fall... hurt yourself somehow? What do you mean there's no hot water? It's 10am, of course there is! there's not.
Well, I have to admit, I sure was glad Nathan was the first to take a shower that morning. I will let you know that I didn't get my shower till sometime in the afternoon. I had to go online and google the make and model of our water heater to figure out how to fix the problem. Now, normally, I would call Jeremy and have him figure it all out. But, I don't have a cell phone just yet and if he's not at his computer, I'm all on my own. These europeans are so determined to conserve energy, that not only are they instituting a ban on 100 watt light bulbs, but everything is made to be conservation friendly.

Let's begin with the recently discussed hot water heater. I figured out it has a timer. It is only set to come on from 7am-9am. Any other time......forget it. We're talking no hot water for showers, washing your hands, dishes, nothing! Thank the Lord it has an override and I was able to crank that sucker up to a 24/7/365, give-it-to-me-now, give-it-to-me-fast, good ole 100% American setting.
Moving along to the outlets. Yes, we are all aware they are 240volts, but did you know you have to turn them on to use them? That's right. They're not just ready to use. You actually have to flip a switch first. I did have to wait for Jeremy to come home and help me with this one. I couldn't figure out why the dryer wasn't coming guessed it.........the outlet was "off"! The worst part about the outlets though, is they are not in the bathrooms. I'm not sure how the Irish get ready in the morning or if we just happened upon the only house in all of Ireland to not have outlets in the bathrooms. Also, you only get one outlet to a room.
And don't even get me started on these stinkin' appliances! I've never seen such user unfriendly gadgets in all my life! Take the oven for instance. No words, no numbers. Just pictures. Pictures? Pictures are easy you difficult could it be to follow pictures? Well, maybe you can help me figure out how to cook dinner for my family. Let's see...........I want to bake a casserole. Should I set the dial to "lightbulb", "raining snowflake", "fan", or the multitudes of other pictures I have no idea what are??

Oh, and if I do manage to get dinner on the table, how do I run the dishwasher? Do I select "pot", "shower", "wine glass", maybe "snowflake"?

It's all too confusing! But, this is nothing!! Tomorrow I start driving!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

Ok, so you think getting ready to travel abroad should be just like any other trip right? Well, that may be so, but when you are travelling by yourself with two children, things can get a little messy.

It wouldn't be so bad if Grant could carry his own crap (and maybe some of mine!)

I had it all figured out, or at least I thought I did. I did the laundry, had our travel outfits all picked out and layed out. All we had to do was wake up, get dressed, and go. In a perfect world, this makes total sense. However, in my world, not so much.

I guess it wasn't all that bad. Grant just spilled milk all over himself, the chair, and floor. It wasn't so much the mess that I minded cleaning up (well maybe a little, it's not like I didn't have anything else to do), but I had to rummage through the suitcases for clean clothes. After everything was all cleaned up, Grant discovered his magical ability to change the location of his stream while urinating. I guess I don't have to mention that this caused for another round of clean clothes (for Grant and myself), and more cleaning. Yay!

Leave it to me to wait to the last minute to get things done, but Nathan still had a Dr.'s appointment. It was definitely crunch time and, if it wasn't for the fire alarm, we probably would never have made it to the airport on time.

Ahhhh......the airport......finally! We had just enough time to get checked in, go through security, and grab a bite to eat. That is, until.......... Ever run through a busy airport, zig zagging through the crowds with your hand holding your toddlers crotch all while he's screaming, "I need to go potty, I need to go potty" and leaving a wet trail behind you? Well, I'll tell you, you're not missing anything! Clean clothes anyone??

The flight was actually not that bad. Aside from me walking in on a guy in the toilet (yes, toilet! this is Europe people) and then later, someone walking in on me. Both Nathan and Grant were great even though we didn't get much sleep. Grant got the most at about 2 hours, then Nate with 20 min., unfortunately, I didn't get any. That's okay though. It's not like I needed rest to prepare me for what was coming at the London Heathrow Airport!

There's nothing that says "Welcome to London" better than people puking during landing. Not only was the kid in front of us sick, but so was the kid next to us. Oh, and yes.......Nathan too! Poor baby. Green is not really his color. After regaining his composure, Nathan was a real trooper in helping with all our stuff. We had only 60 min beforfe we had to be at the gate for our connecting flight. Sound easy? Then you've never transferred in London! I've heard it was far. I had been warned. But, nothing drills in the truth better than experience. We walked for about 15 min. before we got to the tram. The tram ride was about another 15 min. Then we had to go through a liquids check, security check, biochemical check, and customs.

Customs was a nightmare in itself. We almost didn't make it through. They were telling us we had to have visa's. For about twenty minutes, I thought we were going to have to get back on a plane to the States. Fortunately, the customs lady really didn't know what she was taking about and we were allowed to pass through.

Let's pause for a helpful hint to all those wanting to travel to Europe with small children:
It is against British Customs to allow any baggage (this would include strollers) to be removed from the cargo area and brought up to the jetway. You're on your own until you get it at baggage claim!

At this point, we had decided we were definitely NOT going to make our connecting flight. However, upon arriving at the ticket counter, we were informed that if we What is that? Do you see the amount of luggage I have, the two year old child, the green tweener laying on the floor? Don't you know I don't run?? Well, unless challenged by my sister in Hawaii and even then, I just lose! Oh yes, you can make it ma'am. This must mean the gate is close right? It can't possibly mean that we aren't even half way there and still have another security checkpoint to go through can it?

Two miles later....seriously.....we arrive at our gate. Bloody and bruised (don't fall on those walking escalator deally-bobs it's not pretty), tired and weary (carrying a car seat, camera/video bag, backpack, purse, and a 30lb. two year old will do that to you), we make our way to the yes, you guessed it.... abandoned counter. What? Did you really think we made it?

When we finally did get on a flight to Dublin (40 min. later! I ran to avoid a 40 min. wait??? That's just stupidity), all three of us were completely knocked out before the plane ever taxied away from the terminal. Too bad it was only a 50 min. flight.

I'm in Ireland yet I'm pretty sure my brain is somewhere over the Altantic! My children are a complete mess. Nathan is laying on the floor...again... at the customs counter, still trying to recover from his air sickness (oh and the sleep deprivation and the two mile run!!!!), and Grant is screaming, once again, "I have to go potty, I have to go potty!!!"

Needless to say, we DID arrive safely. Somewhat derranged and battered, but safe. Only by the grace of God! Jeremy was very happy to see us and we were very excited to start our journey in the wonderful land of Ireland.

Oh, and remember that stroller I couldn't get back at the jetway and was supposed to pick up at baggage claim? Yeah, me neither. Hmmmm......where to buy a stroller......that'd be pun!

But, it's not over. We still have to get our luggage (all 5 bags) and go through security. You see, in Dublin, baggage claim is on the other side of security. So, no help from your loved ones waiting to greet you.