When I was 24 I decided to go on my first real vacation, I was single and had disposable income…what I didn’t have were adventurous friends or family, at least any that could afford to do the things I wanted to do. I tried to wait it out until someone could go someplace fun with me, some place out of the country, which was a first for me.
I had a few bites; I mean who isn’t interested in going someplace new and exciting? Well, in the end no one came through… as was always the story with me. I always had the good ideas and made the plans and did the things but never seemed to be in the right group of people that could join in on my fun so I always did everything alone… I got used to doing things alone.
So I said fuck it and got my passport and bought a ticket to Ireland. I had never been anywhere outside of west Virginia by myself, so taking a trip to another country all by myself was kind of a big deal. My friends and family couldn’t believe I was doing it, I had more to shock them with when I came back but let’s not jump ahead.
So, while I was planning this trip I have to admit that I had a little motivation, you see I had made 3 online friends who lived there. Each one of them were in a different part of the country, one south, one west and one east. So I got to see the whole country when I went over just about. I had planned to meet each one of them on different days; the first person I met was my good friend to this day Niall. Before I get to Niall let me back up to the drama surrounding the trip…
You see, I bought my ticket about 6 months before the trip and so the events that were to come were unknown to us all. My trip was to take place on November 12th 2001 … just 2 months after the tragedy of 9/11
Shortly after the attacks in NY I had a dream that a plane would crash on the day of my trip… I did not think it would be my plane exactly I just knew that after the dream I was uneasy every day until the trip. I did not sleep the night before my trip, not one wink. I was up all night full of nerves. My flight went from Cleveland to JFK in NY… American Airlines. When I walked through the airport in NY I got sick, I never had a migraine like that in my life ever before or since… If you do not know what happened that day yet just wait…I will get there.
I have to mention here that I did a stupid thing the night before my trip and watched the movie “Final Destination” yep, I did. That didn’t help my nerves at all lol. The day of the trip I am sitting at the gate and realize that oh my god I forgot my makeup bag! I didn’t have my makeup on this trip to another country where I would be meeting these 3 guys I had been writing to for months! I look up at the clock for the first time since I have been there, the big digital clock on the wall in bright red numbers and what time do you think it was? 9:11 am 911! I walked to the payphone and called my cousin and completely freaked out. No makeup, no sleep, a creepy movie and nerves on end… she calmed me down and told me I could buy some makeup at the New York airport… I did but it cost $30 for concealer that turned out to be the wrong color for me, I was a pasty white ghost the whole trip lol
When I finally made it to Ireland I had been awake for 48 hours and I still had to rent a car and learn to drive on the opposite side of the road, wow was that a learning experience lol My B&B was only 15 minutes from the airport but it took me 2 hours to find it… yep. I was so dead tired when I finally got there that I showered and sat on the bed and passed out with my towels still on my head and body… I woke up 12 hours later to my room phone ringing. It was my friend Niall calling to make sure I was there and ok… the first words out of his mouth were, turn on the tv… I searched for the remote and asked what channel; he said it’s on every channel. Then I saw it, American Airlines Flight 587 that left the ground the same time my flight did crashed killing everyone on board.
I remember walking by those passengers, right before I got sick. The first thought was oh my god, my family! I hung up and made some calls, my family was frantic… they hadn’t released information on the flight yet so my family had no idea if it was my plane. I can’t even imagine what they were going through. After everyone was updated to my safety I got dressed and went back to bed, now that I was wide awake it was still only midnight there and I had no choice but to try and go back to sleep.
The next few days I spent with Niall who showed me all around the eastern coast and was so kind and really made my trip special. In fact I took his kindness the wrong way and had to make it weird by telling him I had a crush on him but alas the feeling was not mutual, it is all good though because we have remained good friends all these years and I am glad we did because he is a wonderful person to call friend.
The next visit was to my friend Cathal in the west and also drove me all over the countryside and showed me such a great time…and yep you guessed it, I also had a crush on him lol hey, I was a young impressionable and naïve girl in Ireland surrounded by hot guys with irresistible accents lol So anyways this time I actually thought he might like me too and so I left him a little note, ok it was like a 5 page letter lol He too did not feel the same way and he too remained friends with me over the years until these last few when he married and became too busy with life, which happens.
My 3rd visit didn’t happen, I went south and tried to get a hold of my friend Derek but we never managed to hook up so what happened, my friend Niall came to my rescue! He took me to stay at his brother’s house that lived nearby and made the end of my trip absolutely wonderful, I came to know his family and they are such wonderful people who I hope to see again someday soon when I return.
So the trip turned out great after a rocky start…so great in fact that I decided I was going to move there. I felt like I was at home the whole time I was there, it was amazing.
The very day that I got home I called the Irish Consulate general in Chicago (because that was the only thing I could think to do) and asked what I needed to do to Move to Ireland. They gave me a little info and set me on my way.
I started saving every extra Penney I made, I sold everything I owned and what I didn’t sell I put into storage. I applied to jobs almost every day and I got a rejection letter for every application. Finally after about 9 months I got a bite, which was all I needed. They set up an interview with me and I booked my flight. I rented an apartment and left with hopes that this interview would be the job that would allow me to stay there. There was so much I didn’t know, I cannot even begin to tell you the things I did not know. I learned so much from this experience, more than I thought I would ever learn that is for sure.
I never even got to sit for the interview; they turned me away in the waiting room when they heard my American accent. She said, oh I am sorry we do not offer work permits here… I said, but I was very clear on my CV that I was an American who needed a work permit. She apologized and sent me on my way… that was the biggest bubble that had ever been burst in my life up to that point.
I felt dizzy as I walked out of there, I walked to a little café and messaged a friend of mine I had just made and he came to me straight away, Colm…you rescued me that day. I admired his knowledge; he is one of the smartest people I know. He walked me around town distracting my despair by filling my head with facts and history of the city. He would rescue me again before the end of my time there; I really owe him so much.
So for those of you that do not know here is the deal with work visas and permits. There are only a few professions that allow for visas, at the time there were only 3 and I qualified for none. That means I needed a work permit which is something that only the employer can buy for the employee. They have to pay a large fee; at the time it was 600 euro. Then they have to file paperwork with the courts proving why I am more qualified for the job than an Irish citizen tat applied… so you see the red tape is crazy and that is why I was never going to be hired by anyone. I didn’t know any of this before I went there.
I had to find a new way now; I already paid for my apartment through December so I was determined to make this work. I would live off of my savings until I found a job or went broke and went home with my tail between my legs. Well, the whole apartment situation became weird and I was forced to leave. What happened you ask? Oh, well my flat mates turned out to be a little coocky… the guy was ok and super nice but the girl… she was off her damned rocker. You see, they used to be a couple but still lived together, separate rooms etc… well she had it in her head that I wanted her man or that he wanted me and that set her off the edge. She started throwing shit and fighting with him and banging doors etc… the last straw was when she started acting like an asshole towards me, I do not play that shit.
So I asked for my money back for the remainder of the time there and he gave it to me. I moved in with a woman I had met online who needed a nanny to live with her and cook, clean and watch her 3 kids as single mom she needed help and I needed a rent free room and it paid so I took it. That was a mistake, a big mistake. Another lesson learned though, I lasted there a month and then fled, like I literally ran out of there with my bags trailing behind me… it was like living in a carnival of horrors … a whole other story unto itself.
This is where Colm comes to the rescue again. He rented me a bed in his flat mate’s room… Bubbles and I shared a room and almost shared a last name… but not how you think. OK Maybe it is how you think, if you are thinking green card marriage then ya that’s how. Lol
He sympathized with me and my situation, not wanting to go back home and not being able to find legal work being a non citizen so he offered to marry me to help me stay and become a citizen. I accepted and we registered to get married on Valentine ’s Day. Cheesy I know, remember I am still a young dumb naïve girl trying to live her dreams in a foreign country and trying my best not to fail so I wouldn’t have to go home to all the “I told you so’s” that I was sure awaited me.
It all seemed like a great plan until I dug deeper. Divorce is a new thing in Ireland, in fact it is so new that at the time and perhaps still to this day they have a rule about it. You must remain married for 5 years before you can file for divorce… five whole years married to a man named “Bubbles” ya, he changed his name legally to piss of his dad. He also thought getting hitched to an American would piss him off too by the way. Don’t get me wrong he was the nicest of nice guys and I appreciated the offer and everything he did but the more I thought about it the more wrong it felt. When I told the boyfriend I had at the time of my plan to stay in the country I thought he would be excited since it would mean me not having to move 4,000 miles away from him but he was not happy, in fact he was a little upset. That was the beginning of the end for us…I mean I get it now, who wants their girlfriend marrying some other guy even it is was just for a green card. At the time I expected a little more encouragement though, a little more of “whatever you have to do to stay with me” kind of shit … man I was so ignorant… or maybe just so young.
In the end I decided to go back home when my money ran out, which it did pretty fast. I literally had $5 in my pocket, the only thing left to my name and I arrived just in time for Christmas. I felt like a bum not being able to buy gifts that year so I made my stories of all my adventures around the table my gift and to everyone else apparently the only gift they wanted was having me home. I didn’t get any I told you so comments, only hugs and gratitude that I was back.
I learned a lot from that experience and I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it…I would do it all again because I learned the most important lesson of my life at that time, I was humbled. I learned that what I had wasn’t so bad after all…in fact it was pretty great and it still is.