It never occurred to me that moving to another country would mean no turkey dinner on thanksgiving.
I was 25 and still figuring it all out. Of course I know that Thanksgiving is an American holiday. It is one of those things you know but never really apply to the world outside until you are on the outside.
I decided to move to Ireland and in early September I had my bags backed and my plane ticket in hand.
There were a lot of tearful goodbye hugs and sure the holiday season was coming up but I was more excited about the adventures that awaited me.
I rented my apartment ahead of time and was about to meet my new flat mates. They seemed like perfectly normal nice people during our Skype chats. I paid for three months of rent ahead of time so I was sure to have a roof over my head until I found a job.
Finding a job, who knew it was going to be that difficult.
I have a drawer with no less than 100 rejection letters. I finally called one of them up and expressed my despair and explained my situation. The woman on the other end of the phone sympathized and finally told me the truth of the matter.
I am American and I do not have a work visa, I did not qualify for one. So to work there I needed a work permit, only granted by employers willing to hire someone. I knew I was qualified for the work I was applying for but she further explained that in order for a work permit to be granted an employer must file with the government explaining why this non-citizen is more qualified than this Irish citizen. Boom, there it was, the bomb had finally dropped. I was never going to find a job here…a legal one anyway.
I soon discovered that my flat mate’s who played a good game of normal on Skype were actually a little bit Looney… ok a lot Looney. The man would pull my underwear from the dryer and fold them neatly for me, even after I asked him not to. The woman thought I was trying to scam on her man (they were exes with separate rooms but I had zero interest, ZERO) She started fighting with him and breaking things accusing him of flirting etc… needless to say after one month I asked for my money back for the next 2 months and got the hell out of dodge.
A friend I met made an offer that I could not resist. She needed a nanny and I needed a place to stay. I lived there rent free and got paid, all I had to do was cook, clean and mind the kids. Sounds great right? It was great for a day, one single day. Each day after that only got worse…I mean nightmarish.
I soon found out that these three kids and this single mother had gone through a nanny every month since her husband left her. I now know why none of them stayed. At first I felt sorry for the kids, I knew they were acting out because their mother neglected them and wanted a nanny to raise them for her. In my life never before or after then have I come across kids in real life who were as awful as they were. On TV sure, in movies and fictional stories sure. No, this was real. I was living on a hidden camera show I thought, this cannot be happening.
A few examples if you will. I tried bonding with the kids by getting them pumpkins to carve for Halloween, something to my surprise, they had never done before. It started out ok, and kids will be kids right. I knew there would be some mess with the gooey insides. These kids took handfuls of the pumpkins insides and ran around the house throwing it on the walls and floor and ceiling…The CEILING!
Guess who got to clean that up? You guessed it. Guess who never did anything nice for those kids again. I wasn’t mean to them; they had their mother for that. I just did my job. I did my job while they opened the bay window at the front of the house and jumped out of it, at night. I did my job while they jumped on top of the dining room table during dinner and danced knocking their food onto the floor. I did my job until the last straw.
The mother decided to go out of town for the weekend with a friend and decided her friends children would stay at her house. There were now five kids in the house who did not think they had to listen to me and who ran wild day and night, when I say wild please use your imagination here because I cannot bring myself to drudge up the memories. I think I even blocked out part of that weekend because all I can remember is packing my bags and leaving the day the mother came home.
I called a friend who offered to rent me a bed in his shared apartment. I left her a note telling her she was lucky I didn’t report her to the authorities and never looked back. It was then that I also decided I was never having children, or watching anyone else’s ever again.
I finally found peace living in a flat with two guys. They were pretty easy going and decent. I was finally able to enjoy the time I had left there. My plan to live there permanently was not working out so I knew that soon I would run out of money and have to go. Then something funny happened, a marriage proposal…and not from the guy I was dating.
My flat mate knew of my situation and my not wanting to move back home so he offered a green card marriage. I said yes. He applied for the marriage certificate and the wedding was slated for Valentine’s Day…to make it look like we were in love. I was so, so naïve.
We spent time learning about each other so we could answer the questions we would surely be asked by immigration. Everything seemed to be working out after all. Then I found out the “catch” not just for me, but for him. In Ireland divorce is a fairly recent thing that is allowed but is not taken lightly. If we were to get married and I got my green card and got my job and lived happily ever after we wouldn’t be allowed to divorce for five years…five whole years!
Did I mention that my flat mates name was Bubbles? Yes, he legally changed it to bubbles to piss off his father. This is who I would be married to. If I wanted to move back home or marry someone else or if he met someone else we would be stuck. It was a lot to consider and I was running out of money.
Thanksgiving arrived. Did you know that they don’t sell turkey there? I didn’t know that either. At least they didn’t when I lived there.
I made my daily walk into town and proceeded to have my thanksgiving dinner at burger king. I had the chicken sandwich, the closet thing I was going to get to a turkey dinner.
I then went and called my family and they passed the phone around to everyone. When I told them I had burger king for dinner they had the same reaction I did, what no turkey?
It’s not something you think about, who would? How could you know until you were in that situation? In another country while back home your family celebrated an American holiday. I felt the deep pang of homesickness on that call.
Would I want to sit in this internet café calling my family at Christmas too? How would they react to the news of my marriage to Bubbles? What about my Irish marriage enslavement period of five years? All to just be able to get a legal job that paid enough for me to live there while I figured life out. I would like to mention here also that Bubbles and I had no romantic feelings towards each other at all; it was strictly a platonic green card arrangement.
It turns out that through all of these events I was already figuring things out. I was learning one of the most valuable lessons of my life, but I wouldn’t realize that until later.
I thought that the grass really was greener on the other side like so many young impressionable and ignorant kids before me.
I found out that yes, in Ireland their grass is greener because it rains every single day. My problems and my life however did not get better and life did not magically make everything into rainbows and unicorns because I moved across the ocean.
I had some great experiences and adventures during my four months there, and some pretty not great ones too. I made a lot of new friends and learned a huge life lesson; and I would do it all over again.
In the end I decided it was too huge of a sacrifice to make, five long years married to Bubbles. So I packed my bags and promised I would come back, but I think he knew I wouldn’t.
It was the right thing to do and I got home just in time for Christmas with $5 to my name. That was all I had left in the world, $5.00 and the tales I had to tell to my friends and family at Christmas dinner.