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Friday, 27 February 2015

Half-Way Home...

Week 2 started with lashing rain and 130kmph winds, while I looked at the photos of the girls in Melbourne on the beach in their bikinis! Again I couldn't be more removed from this scene as I am driving down the road with Mam and we have to stop to let a farmer with a huge flock of sheep herd them from one field to another down the road we were on. Not a sight you would normally see on Chapel Street in Melbourne...

Day 8:

Up early to the gym, followed by a trip to the dentist I was not looking forward to. He put me at ease telling me I had "lovely teeth" and to keep up the good work - although he did the mandatory mentioning of the tongue ring, telling me that he had to look to be frowning on them. All good, as I was afraid since it had been the three years since my last visit!
From here I did the 3 hour drive to see my beautiful Ita in Co. Clare. I made it all the way to about 50m from her house, but did about 5 trips up and down the road before finding her lovely house!
We spent the day chatting on the sofa and catching up while eating Wine Gums, where she tried to convince me to come home again next July for her 40th. We reminisced on the Cystic Fibrosis trip to Turkey which we did together with Michelle and her family in 2011; something which only seems like yesterday. She cooked the dinner (with starter and dessert if you don't mind!) and ordered a pair of boots that I was wearing that she liked. She then sent me on my way as it was so stormy and I'd another 3 hours drive ahead of me before I got home. I wouldn't tell her when my flight was home in January as I know what she's like and she'd make the trip up to Dublin when she wasn't able for it! 39 going on 4 I think my dear!
This girl is a daily inspiration for me. The strength and positivity that comes from Ita when confronted with full dialysis every second day, weeks on end spent in hospital, dozens of daily tablets, jabs, pumps etc. is astounding and literally unbeliveable. Here's me complaining about having a headache for a week and feeling sorry for myself because I'm jet-lagged yet this little ray of sunshine continues to beam despite all that's against her. I love you Ita, you are a credit to your family and one of the strongest people I know. And I still maintain if I win the lotto between now and July I'll come home to you :)

Day 9:

I was tired from all the driving the day before, so I chilled at home for a bit minding Izzy and wrapping my Christmas presents. I sorted through some of the stuff I had left behind when I thought I was only going for a year originally. I went to the gym in the evening, where I bumped into Eamonn again and where Al put us through our paces. Looking at the circuit on the board you don't actually think it's that bad; til you start and realise that you're dead after 3 laps, and you have 12 to go...

From here I drove to Orla's and chilled with her over dinner that night. We argued with Oisin how a certain character on his Marvel bedspread wasn't Wolverine (turned out the following week that the soon-to-be-4-year-old was right...). It was great to just sit down and talk about everything and about nothing. Although Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Instagram etc are great for keeping in touch with everyone from across the world, nothing beats sitting down and talking; and boy am I good at that! We chatted for hours on this and that, about how things have changed and about times gone past. We laughed about old times and wondered about the future. We laughed about the "flamboyant" bird that Oisin picked to go on the Christmas Tree! I love these times, but they also make me feel the worst; as you know that it is going to be a long time before you get to do it again. Be grateful for the times you have and have had though, as nothing else is certain; right? So, we talked and laughed and ate (of course!) and stayed up til the early hours of the morning before we went to bed.


Day 10:

A particularly random kind of day today. Went from Orla's to the gym for 7am and from here to Sarah's where I got changed, robbed a top (which I still have to return), and then went with her to meet Michelle and Gab for lunch in Bray. It was really cold today - we met in Michelle and Gab's beautiful home where Michelle was telling Sarah about how much Matteo's reflux has improved and how he hasn't been sick in ages. I'm not even sure if the words were out of her mouth when the contents of his stomach were out of his!


We went to this lovely restaurant on the seaside and sat for a few hours there and had a great time. I got to meet the first addition to the family; Matteo's big brother Liam, who is obsessed with Bin Trucks, Fire Engines, Trains etc. He was very good at the table and entertained by "YouTube" and when that wore thin the surprise present they pulled out of the boot of the car for "emergencies like these". Sarah, Michelle and I all cringed as Gab (who is Italian) tried to order a specific coffee from the waitress, who clearly wasn't getting it. Our mortification reached peak levels when she returned with an espresso and ask Gab was it OK, only to have Gab reply "No, not really, but it's too complicated to explain". This was meant in the nicest way possible if you knew Gab, but considering how we knew what it was sounding like, each of us had out heads down staring into the plates trying to let the ground swallow us up! It didn't make anything better when Liam starting shouting "SHITE" at the top of his lungs - which turned out to be his way of pronouncing "Slide". Awkward.

From here Sarah and I went to another part of Dublin to collect my medicine. Una had come up with the ingenious plan of sending the medicine back to Ireland with Clara who had just returned home. I went to her house where her Dad gave me the goods and like that, the swiftest of drug deals was done! :)


Day 11:

A minus 1 degree morning this morning meant the cars had to be left to defrost for a while before you would dare to get in them. 


A trip to the gym before setting off to get the Christening Cake that Kev and I had bought for Izzy. I crawled home in the hope that I wouldn't ruin the cake after getting it that far! Doireann and Gary called over and we went to Avoca for lunch, which was lovely! How much do I love this kid?! I wish that I could take everyone I love and move them over to Melbourne. It's funny because you miss people when you're away, but I actually think you can miss people more when you're back and realise how much you miss not having them around when you're back to normal - if that makes any sense? I used to live with Doireann, and then when I wasn't living with her I used to call over to her every day. The days where she came home from work and I wasn't sitting in her sitting room already, she would ask questions as to where I was. Now going from that to only seeing someone once every 3 years is a shock to the system; but it's the stupid non-eventful moments I miss the most. The hanging out on the couch drinking green tea. The driving around in the car. The going to Tesco at random times in the morning because we were still up. The not being there for her when I know that she needs me. That's what hurts the most. I can't even imagine what it was like for people who left for The States or Australia years ago and were never seen or heard of again? We laughed at the silly things that we figured out we both do without realising and I'm sure Gary regretted the moment he met me! I hope that Doireann gets to come to Melbourne some time to see what I mean when I talk about my other "Home" - although I'm not too sure if I'd let her return to Ireland!

The evening was spent hanging out with family and preparing for the big Christening Day the next day. Izzy was well and truly getting spoilt now with all this attention, choosing who was her favourite (after King Kev of course!) and playing Mam and Dad against Bhany and Luke, who wouldn't fall to her demands as the Grandparents would! They're blessed with the "Angel Child" who sleeps all night through, from 8pm to 7am and is pretty easy going. God help them if they ever have a "normal" child :)

Day 12:

Well the whole day was taken up with Isabel's Christening. We had Deacon Bob say the Mass and then come back to the house. We joked about how Mam assaulted him, but he didn't seem to mind :) Up since 6am we got the place ready and went to Mass. The Christening was on after mass, and with Kev and I as Godparents, Dad took some of the photos. Isabel was happy enough and lapped up the attention. Lots of visitors to the house and lots of food consumed. It was great to see Donal and Ellen again and how much they've grown. It's hard to believe that we used to put them in cardboard boxes and push them around the house as "trains", or how I was still in school when we used to mind Donal who is almost as tall as me now. Emer called over and I got to catch up with her, which was great after seeing her in Melbourne a number of months previously. Doireann called over, but was still sick with Pleurisy that she didn't stay. She and Emer shared stories on both having the random illness - something that I thought went out with the Black Plague! We chatted all evening to whoever came through the house, but were all fit for bed early with the excitement of the day. We watched "The Late Late Toy Show" and loved it, reminiscing about the many Christmas weekend trips we would have to various hotels for Dad's Christmas parties and how they would always fall on the weekend that "The Late Late Toy Show" was being screened on TV. We laughed about how we would get a set of lego each and some chocolate to entertain ourselves and how Mam and Dad would then go downstairs for the meal and drinks. Then we cringed as we watched the TV3 version. Enough said.



Day 13:

Morning gym (still amazed that I'm going?!) followed by some food shopping for Dad. I bumped into the lovely May whom I knew from school. May has her own business going with "My Wedding Planner" (http://myweddingplanner.ie/) and it's fantastic for any of you thinking of getting married and needing some tips and organisation put into place! She told me she was keeping up to date with my daily posts to Facebook, which is funny since I presume that nobody really reads them outside of close friends and family. I decided to head into town (Dublin) to see the city and to catch up with Antoinette where I used to work in Arnotts. She hasn't changed a bit - still as glamorous as always. A quick walk around Dublin, which I had noticed had gone downhill a lot since I was last there, and then back home to drive to the airport to pick up Anna, another "Melbourne Mate" from Leeds who was coming over to spend the day with me. Well she would have been coming over to spend the two days as originally planned if she didn't get her AM and PMs mixed up and so it only turned out to be a day :) It was great to see her - she looks AMAZING, and a much happier Anna then the girl who left me in Melbourne. Chats catching up on the last 6 months lasted til about 1am and then we were off to bed.


Day 14:

After the gym we decided to set off to show Anna something "Irishy" since she hadn't really seen much of Ireland. We took Mam's car and headed off to Sally Gap and then onto Glendalough. We didn't think the car would make the hills with Bhany, Luke, Anna and I in the car, we didn't know if Luke would make the journey without being sick or if the rest of us would make the journey without dying of hunger - but we got there in the end. It was beautiful as always and we got to see the deer in the fields around the church and thank God we had wrapped up enough as it was very very cold. From here we went to Johnnie Foxes Pub (http://www.jfp.ie/) - famed as the highest pub in Ireland and ended up sitting beside an Aussie randomly! We ate our fill; with Luke eating most of my dinner as well as his own, and set off home again in the pouring rain.
Bhany, Anna and I went out in Maynooth a couple of hours later to see "Fox E and The Good Hands" (https://www.facebook.com/foxeandthegoodhands) play alongside "The Barley Mob" (https://www.facebook.com/thebarleymob), but by midnight we were so tired that we called it a night and headed home. Love their music and it was great to get the treat to see the both of them perform when I was home! Bhany even got chatted up at the door by some guy who she then avoided for the rest of the night! On the way back to the car, we had this randomer stop in his and ask us if we wanted a taxi - even though he clearly wasn't one?! Weirdo!!
Home to bed by about 1am - straight to sleep as we were up at 6am the next morning to bring Anna back to the airport already!


 And so, just like that, Week 2 is over! I keep thinking that there's something different about home, that it's like it's changed but hasn't - I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm trying to soak up as much of my friends and family and take as many photos as I can to make sure that I don't forget or so I have the memories imprinted forever. I know it'll probably be another 2 years before I'm back for another visit; but how quickly did the last 3 years go?! What will be different then? Hopefully I'll have Permanent Residency and be aiming towards Citizenship, but what else? I mean, apart from the fact that I'll be amazingly fit, good looking, happy and filthy rich of course?! Think it's time to start doing the lotto...

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Who said this was going to be a holiday??

So everyone who is "Facebook Friends" with me will have seen a daily update on my goings on during my four weeks at home. I didn't stop for one day during the entire time; afraid of not getting to see people or of having regrets after leaving that I should have made more of an effort to do something.
I can honestly say that I tried my hardest to make time for everyone, but it's hard! Everyone wants a piece of you, and because they are either working or have kids, you end up doing the running around.
I've decided to break the trip up into "Weeks" for the rest of you so that it's enough for you to chew on, and so it's not an 11-page screen full of babble!

Day 1:

I woke at 4:30am and waited until a more acceptable time to get up. I had pre-arranged a gym consultation with Al from "Peak Performance Fitness" in Celbridge (http://www.performanceclinic.ie/gym/) as I had been with him before I left for Oz. I thought I would like to have a bit of routine in my month at home; not to mention the amount of food I was clearly going to consume over Christmas needed to be combatted in some form!
Turns out Mam had taken the morning off work, so I had to postpone the appointment to the next day and so we headed into Maynooth to have a walk around and pick up some food shopping. I found it very weird how everything was so familiar, yet also so different. I couldn't get my head around how everyone had an Irish accent and I kept saying "Dollars" instead of "Euro". I also said and spelt my name out to an Irish guy working at Carphone Warehouse who just looked at me and with one eyebrow raised said "Been away?". I have clearly just been so used to saying "Ciara; C-I-A-R-A" every time I had to say my name to Aussies - without even realising that it was now second nature for me to do it! I also kept saying "Home" for when I was talking about Melbourne, something that wasn't taken very well by some people "You ARE home Ciara!" I would get from Doireann or others. In my mind I have two "Homes" - when I'm in Melbourne "Home" means Ireland and in Ireland it's the opposite. I also found out that I apparently speak differently. Not with an Aussie accent, but more the intonation of my voice. I apparently speak using some Aussie words ("super", "I feel like" as some examples) but in an Irish accent, and lift the ends of my sentences - which is a very stereotypical Australian way of speaking. I haven't noticed it at all, but apparently now amongst "my own" I stood out as the person who lived away.

After getting home to my house, Doireann called over. A brief encounter the night before, she had taken some time off work to spend it with me. We sat in the kitchen waiting for the kids my Mam minds to come home from Playschool so that they could meet "Her Ciara". Their minds were blown at the thought my being Mam's daughter - they just looked at me; the adult sitting at the kitchen table, and laughed when Mam tried to explain to them that I was to her as they were to their own mother. And as for the living on the other side of the world component - don't even try and explain that to a 3 and 4-year-old!

A trip to Tesco may sound like a random thing to do with one of your best mates when you haven't seen them in 3 years, but it's the first thing we do - heading to have a walk about and a laugh at the selfies we take in the aisles. It comes from the random 2am trips we used to make there when we lived in Enfield and as sad as it sounds brings back good memories! I bump into Dee with her kids and smile at the times of attending Modern Dancing with her Mam in Maynooth Convent School of a Friday evening. 


Later on I go home for dinner and then head out for an impromptu meeting with Leno who happened to be in her parents house not too far away. It was weird to see her in Ireland but also felt like the most normal thing in the world. We chatted and caught up over tea and then when I was leaving a neighbour of hers was waving from the other side of the road. We walked over and it was only when we were beside her did the "neighbour" turn out to be Aisling from Melbourne, who had since moved home, and we all laughed at the randomness of it all. It literally is a small world and Ireland is tiny.




Day 2:

Another early start to the morning, at 4:30am, but once I was wrapped up against the cold I didn't mind. I had yet to take my hat and scarf off indoors, despite the fact that the heating and the open fire were both on! I went into the gym and met with Al who took me through a routine that he had in mind for me. We took some measurements and decided to book me in for the next morning to start. I laughed at how Irish the South African sounded now after not having seen him in 3 years.


I headed to Orla's new home in Celbridge and got to meet 14 month old Laoise, whom I hadn't yet met. Oisin was so grown up, he was a proper little boy now in comparison to the 1 year old I had left behind. After about 30 seconds of Orla opening the door to me and our hugging, she said "Oh my God it doesn't feel like 3 years since we last saw you!"; and she was right. Every encounter I had with my family and friends slipped right back into the moment I left. The only difference was the kids and how they have grown (or came to exist!), but otherwise everything was exactly as normal and Melbourne seemed as though it never existed in my life. I guess cos the two worlds are so far apart from each other, it's very difficult to explain to someone what you life is like when they only know the you from one of those existences. I can't explain to an Aussie what my life in Ireland was like when they don't know what it's like to be from the Irish countryside, or what it's like to be ruined by Recession, or what family means, or how a real Christmas feels. There are no words that explain what it means to be on the other side of the world from everyone you know and love and how alone it can feel even when you're surrounded by others. It's impossible to show someone why you work hard and how hard you feel you need to work to prove your worth in the workplace when they've never had to worry about job security. And I cannot convey how important my friends are to me on this side of the world to those who are living amongst their families and are always complaining about it. Equally, it's hard to tell an Irish person about how much better your life is over in Australia if you can see they're suffering at home. It's almost impossible to explain why you love a big city like Melbourne to someone who has grown up surrounded by fields. It's hard to explain your Aussie life to the people at home who have never seen anything different and whose minds are closed through no fault of their own. I struggle with the thoughts of possibly not coming home and the guilt of having to actively make that decision. And the worst is trying to answer the question that everyone asks you "When are you coming home?".

Anyway, after this I went to Doireann's Mam and Dad's, met her boyfriend Gary and we went to Dublin; dropping her Dad Ray off to his work Christmas party. We went to see Peter Pan Panto in The Gaiety where we were possibly the biggest kids there! It was a great laugh; dancing and singing, shouting "he's behind you!" like crazy lunatics - it certainly kept me awake! From here we went to Eddie Rockets to get dinner; where I was too jet-lagged to even appreciate the experience and couldn't eat all of the food! After this we went to Lucan to pick up Ray from his Christmas party and ended up staying for a vodka! An hour later I was fit for bed and got dropped home about 1am or so - I slept that night for sure!!

Day 3:

So today was the beginning of dragging my lazy ass to the gym. It gave me something to do in the morning when I work up early anyway. You forget how dangerous it is on the roads at home when it's cold. You literally skate and crawl the 5kms to the nearest "main road" where there is more chance they have been gritted. An hour in HELL with Al and then I'm set for the day. Home to mind the kids for Mam while she and Dad go to collect their baby from the airport. I sat down to have a Tea-Party with a 3-year-old and had to stop myself from laughing out loud while she told me the story about how "the man who lives in the church pushed my uncle into a hole where the flowers are". "Why?", I asked, "cos he was dead" she said looking at me very matter-of-factly. The vision was hilarious, even though the situation obviously wasn't!

Bhany, Luke and a wrapped up and confused Izzy arrive home around 3pm. Apparently Isabel slept pretty much the whole journey from Townsville - Sydney - Abu Dhabi - Dublin! Angel child!! The poor thing is so used to it being hot and being in nothing but her nappy, she couldn't figure out what she was wearing and why - boots, hat, pants, top, jumper, vest etc - she kept trying to pull them off! 
 Mam and Dad go into "Supper-affectionate-Grandparent-mode" and you can immediately see what everyone talks about when they say that your parents are completely different to you than to your kids. Now they get to be the ones who spoil them and smother them with love as the disciplining is left to you! It was funny to see my parents like this, as - although I love my parents and think I had the best upbringing - I don't remember them like this with us. I remember Mam discussing with me years ago how their generation of parenting was very different to the way my generation and younger are so "lovey-dovey" or "touchy-feely", which I completely agree with. Seeing my Mam and Dad coo over Isabel, constantly pick her up and play with her, laugh at every little thing she did and rush to her aid should she fall over was strange for me and admittedly made me feel both sad and probably a little jealous. How the hell does a 32-year-old get jealous of an 11-month-old you probably say? I don't think it was necessarily her, but more I felt like I was the one who was "supposed" to have the first grandchild or that she was getting the love that I was afraid of not getting? I don't know - I guess it was always presumed that I would be the one that would bring the new-found excitement into the house and now I felt like I had brought nothing but disappointment in the last year. Probably all in my head and not something that you would and should necessarily admit to, but I'm being honest in trying to explain the thoughts and emotions going through my head. I think a lot of it had to do with the last year I've been through, but also coming home a much different person than the Ciara who left for Australia in Jan 2012.



Doireann wasn't very well and so I headed over to hers to help her put up her Christmas Tree and decorate her apartment. This was the first time it was starting to feel like Christmas - and the first Christmas I'd had in 3 years! How great was the cold, with the open fire on and the candles lighting?! I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

 I went home about 8pm when I knew Kev would be home from driving back from his new home in Cork. It was so normal to see him sitting at the kitchen table eating his dinner, so normal to have the chats with him around the fire and the 3 years disappeared in an instant and I was 29-years-old again and living at home. How great was it going to be to have three generations of immediate family sleeping in the house? How exciting to have everyone around!

Day 4:

Another morning trip to the gym, meant that I was home early to start the day, but not before some "Aunty B" cuddle time with Izzy - who was admittedly more interested in her toys and 200% more interested in the newly dubbed "King Kev". She had never actually met Kev before this morning, yet went straight to his arms, stroked his face, gazed into his eyes, laughed at everything he did, lay quietly against his chest - UNBELIEVABLE! Kev just smiled and said "This kid lark is easy!". It was honestly like he had cast a spell on her - she was absolutely in love with him!



I then called down to see Abby, my other beautiful Goddaughter who was now 4-years-old. The only time she remembers me from is through Skype, and so it was beautiful to have her run to me and give me a big hug; recognising me. Abby was full of energy, showing me her ballet, her toys, chatting away as though we were having the most interesting conversation in the world and showing me her "Frozen" dance - which was to die for, it was so cute!!! Bhany and I sat with them and chatted for an hour or so before Izzy decided it was time for bed and we had to go. I explained to a very sad Abby that I'd be back the next day before she went home to Poland and she was happy enough to let me go.


For lunch I headed into Celbridge to meet Elise, Sarah and Michelle who had baby Matteo with her. Again a child I had never met, another indication of how long I had been away. Otherwise things continued as normal; my filling the girls in on the drama that is my life and them laughing at my misfortune and hanging onto every juicy detail; urging me to leave nothing out. These are the things I miss the most - the people who know me inside out and know what I need to get by. Elise is all grown up now and has a body to die for! :) The beautiful Matteo was so well behaved and is one of the most gorgeous babies I'd even seen; half-Irish, half-Italian; he's going to break some hearts when he's older. We sat around for a couple of hours before Bhany and Luke came to collect me, showing off her newly purchased phone for the 3 weeks that she was at home...a EUR15 not-very-smart phone - I didn't even think these phones existed any more! 
From here we went home because we had some visitors coming, and the fun continued when our cousins Jennifer and Katie, Jennifer's boyfriend Thomas and my aunty and uncle Bridie and Henry called out to the house. We sat around chatting and laughing, with their having to open the windows as they thought it was so hot in the house. How it felt like we had never left as we all crowded onto the sofa together to get a photo (although Bridie refused to get involved!). I was determined to take as many photos as possible when I was home, to document every day on my trip so that I would remember it all. It's funny because my family make fun of me for taking so many photos, for always saying "Take a picture of..."; yet they're the first to say "Send me on those photos of..." or "Share those on Facebook"! They love it really....


Day 5:

It's Sunday, so we go to Mass. And - get this - they've changed all the words?! I mean, they haven't modernised them or made them any easier, they've just changed them?! Swapped some words around and taken some out. For example: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed" changed to "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed". Or instead of "And also with you" we now apparently say "And with your spirit". How ridiculous is that?! What's the point?! Imagine the amount of money spent to change all of the books and pamphlets?? Apparently the changes are designed to be more faithful to the original Latin texts on which the Missal is based...Don't you think making it more relevant to the year 2014 would have been more productive?! Anyway, rant over. 

We then went home where Bhany and Dad did the traditional "putting up the lights" outside the house in the freezing cold while I had some Izzy play-time. I went back down to see Abby and the family and had some good chats with Siofra as Buster Mark got angry with the train he got as a present. I got to see my babies, who have grown up so much! Taylor (Rottweiler) must weigh close to 80kgs now and was only delighted to see me. He was crying at the back door when he could hear my voice. Bella (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) had the huff with me for probably leaving her, so she was happy but also trying to ignore me in the same way! It was sad to say goodbye to all of them knowing that I wouldn't see Abby grow up apart from via Skype or the odd visit. These hard emotions so early in the trip home are exhausting and I found myself having to lie down when I went home from the visit. 

Bhany and I took it upon ourselves to put the Christmas Decorations and the Tree up when Mam and Dad were out. I didn't think you could possibly have so many decorations, but we got them all up in the end; assuming that Izzy would have them torn down in about 5 mins of her getting hold of them. Now the Christmas feeling was in the house, we all sat around the fire in the sitting room while Izzy had a bath in a basin; thinking she was having the time of her life. It's clearly the simple things!

 
















Day 6:

Not too hectic of a day today. The morning was the usual battle with the icy roads to get to and from the gym in one piece. It was snowing this morning and this added to the festive feeling, We went to Blanchardstown to get some shopping done for Christmas, but couldn't stay long as Miss Isabel was in need of a sleep. The discussion was raised about Bhany and Luke moving back to Ireland. This hit me like a tonne of bricks. I know I live a 3-hour flight away from them in Queensland, but having Bhany on more or less the same time-zone and the idea that she's in the same country makes such a big difference, or being able to see her 4 times a year also gives me something to look forward to. Now they were talking about moving home, I was suddenly feeling like Australia was a big place and very far away from everything else. Thinking about it though, it made sense and I just said to them not to tell Mam unless they were 100% sure that they were going to do it.

I quickly called in to say hi to Eamonn in The Leinster Clinic on the way to see Doireann who was now stuck at home sick with Pleurisy! Poor thing isn't allowed outside the door, especially since it's so cold! I'm starting to feel the effects of all my running around and have now got bloodshot eyes and a week-long headache. I'm drinking about 4 or 5 litres of water a day and am always thirsty - presumably from the artificial heat in the house and the fact that Irish food is more salty - and I forgot to bring my Thyroxine medicine with me, so I'm having to formulate a plan to get that. I contact my old GP who tells me they can't prescribe me with it but they can issue a script if I get my Aussie doc to send the prescription to them by fax. Easy...you would think. I rang the Aussie doctors every day for about a week and in the end they said they would only post the prescription to me?! Bearing in mind that it's Christmas post, I didn't have much faith on it arriving very soon. 

Day 7:

I can't believe that it's been a week already. I have been non-stop, but I'm glad as the time is flying by and before I know it I'll be on a plane again. It's so hard trying to fit 3 years into 4 weeks! What a miserable day today, weather-wise. A futile trip to the gym as it was closed, so I just came home before having to go to my mate Dave's Granny's Removal in Fermoy, Co. Cork with Dad. 
Got home about 9pm and watched a "Prime Time" report on some horrible scenes at Aras Attract nursing homes in Ireland. The poor elderly sick patients in these homes were being emotionally and physically abused and it was all caught on camera. It was actually sick to watch, but hopefully this will open a door to whistle-blowers in other locations. 
http://www.sundayworld.com/news/shocking-abuse-of-elderly-woman-in-care-featured-on-prime-time


So that's Week 1 of 4 done! Non-stop running around trying to see everyone and fit everything in. Mam even had me hoovering and cleaning on Day 2 at home - so I was laughing telling Dad to take a photo of me "on my holidays". But that's the thing when you go home - most ex-Pats will tell you the same thing; you use all your annual leave and spend A LOT of money to go home, but it's not a holiday; it's going home. There's a difference, but it's a good kind of difference - when your Mam gets you to go to the shops for some mince or asks you to put on a wash; I might groan but it feels good to be part of a family again!
Who ever said this was going to be a holiday?!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

I'm coming home, I'm coming home...

So I head home to Ireland for the first time in 3 years...


Even saying that now feels like it never happened, or that I'm telling someone else's story. I'm not sure how I was feeling about it, but I wouldn't say I was looking forward to it anyway - questions to answer, people to see, situations to face and all beginning with the 27 hour trip that was ahead of me..

My flight path was Melbourne - Doha - Manchester - Dublin, starting at midnight on the Monday night. I was still not packed after working the Monday, so it was a rushed, last ditched attempt to figure out what I was going to need to bring with me (more on the apparently incorrect use of the word "bring" later) for a month in Ireland in Winter; which was hard to fathom since it was 35 degrees that day in Melbourne!
My mate Maire was lying on my bed in a drink-induced coma, so wasn't making things any easier when it came to packing. I won't post the photo that I took of you that day flat out on my bed in your bikini Maire... :)
Eventually after several packing and unpacking attempts, I settled on what I had in the 2 bags and headed to the airport. A teary goodbye and I was on my way to the other side of the world and about to realise how far away from everything it really is.


14 hours later I landed in Doha, but we were delayed. Due to this, my transit time was now cut to an hour and 10 mins to get to the other gate - which was still "plenty of time" according to the air-hostess. Not so, my dear. I had to queue with everyone else to go through immigration and security again and despite my asking the male security workers if I could go through quickly as I had a flight to catch, I was refused and told to stay in line. It was, needless to say, a very male dominated environment and they didn't take too kindly to the blonde girl ignoring their demands and eventually forcing her way through the queue in order to not miss her flight. I had done what I had been told and waited, but at this stage I had 4 mins to make the gate, where it would close for boarding 20 mins before take-off. I barged my way through the queue, saying "sorry, excuse me, sorry" until I got to the front where some man was shouting at me in Arabic. I'm guessing it was along the lines of "What the hell are you doing?", but I didn't wait to find out - I just smiled and jumped in front of the immigration guy and tore the passport out of his hand as soon as the stamp hit it. I ran as fast as I could through the airport, ignoring the whistles and cat-calling and dragging my cabin and camera bag behind me whilst holding my teddy in the other hand. I probably looked like a crazed lunatic in fairness, but I made the gate bang on 20 mins before the flight; gasping for breath so much so that I couldn't speak. After paying $2,000 for the flights home (which was a bargain?!), there was no way I was going to miss this plane! I was greeted by a not-very-impressed-looking man who looked me up and down and then said "we were calling you, you're late" when I presented him with my passport. I politely told him, that I was held up in Immigration and asked him how was he saying my name. "Si-ay-e-ra". Original at least I guess. I was the last person allowed on the flight.

The next leg wasn't too bad and I touched down in freezing Manchester with a 3-hour gap to kill before my flight to Dublin. My Aunties Margaret and Lula were at the airport with my cousin's child Mairead to pick me up and we went to a local pub for some food. My cousin Amanda and her daughter Megan turned up and we chatted for a bit before I had to head back to the airport to check in and go home. I called Mam to tell her that I was OK and in Manchester and to expect me home soon. It was great to see familiar faces - the first non-immediate family I had seen in over 3 years!


I arrived at the Aer Lingus desk in Manchester airport to check in. I say my name and show my passport and the guy behind the desk says "Oh yea, I have you here" and then proceeds to take MY boarding pass out of his SHIRT POCKET?!?! I just stared at him in confusion as he unfolded the pass and handed it to me. Now, bearing in mind that my luggage was checked in all the way from Melbourne to Dublin; surely they shouldn't have checked me in without knowing I was actually going to be on the flight?! Isn't that the whole idea of security and not letting people's bags on the plane if they're not on it too?? Clearly my name must have looked friendly and non-terrorist enough for them to not care?!


So, I get the last flight of my journey, which is a mere 45 mins up and down. Upon viewing Irish soil for the first time in so long and with my overactive imagination I began picturing scenes from "Love Actually"; tears of joy at the airport, running and hugging, signs and perhaps friends there too. I'm picturing how everything will be the same, but different, how it'll all be OK once I land and see everyone. But when I get my bags and come outside, there is nobody there to meet me. I stand there, thinking that whoever has come for me is hiding and playing a joke on me. But the airport is empty as it's too far away from Christmas for people to be coming home and so I just plonk myself on the ground and wait. I'm tired and so disappointed that I can't even hide it when my parents turn up 20 mins later with my half-sister Ellen (not really my half-sister, but we've grown up together from when she was weeks old, so she has earned the title!). We go for dinner and it's so cold that my back is hurting from shivering. I've gone from 35 degrees to minus 6 and I think I'm in shock! After a lovely meal in Dunboyne, we then go home and I'm up about an hour or so before I retire to my sister's bed (as she and her fiance are taking my double-bed when they arrive) with a valium to make sure I sleep the night and get ready for the four jam-packed weeks ahead! Let the adventure begin...