Archive for August, 2012
Operation Eskimo Roll
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything which should in no way be interpreted that nothing is happening. A whole lot has happened since last summer; holidays, work, trips, birthdays, and lots of Lincoln quotes. I need to convince Claire to start a book called “The Lincoln Logs” in order to chronicle the evolution of what is sure to be one of the greatest events, or scandals, of all time at some point in the future. Anyhow, that has nothing to do with “Operation Eskimo Roll”.
In Ireland there is a deal website similar to Groupon in the US. It’s called “living Social”. A deal popped up last week for a full day of white-water kayaking lessons which I immediately signed both Claire and I up for. I did this without consulting with her of course. After breaking the news to her though she was game for it. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure some pictures make their way up here after we pull the trigger. The more interesting thing, as I began investigating the specifics, was that there was a link to a river race called the “Liffey Descent”. The Liffey is the main river that flows from the mountains through Dublin and down to Dublin Bay.
The Liffey Descent ……. Sounds ominous. So I obviously saw this as a natural follow-on to taking white-water kayaking lessons. The event is actually a 28k race from a point up river down to Trinity boat house. The race has 11 weirs, or drops. They event itself has been going on for nearly 50 years. It looks to be a great craic (pronounced crack – meaning good time). There are over a thousand entries and by all accounts is absolute mêlée. Don’t ask why my keyboard just made all those strange accent type symbols over my word, that is some weird foreign computer BS. Back to the event. Since Claire doesn’t have any interest in a 5 week course or putting her life in danger, I’ve convinced several of my colleagues to sign-up. Did I mention it’s sponsored by Jameson? That might have some additional benefits. The lads are up for it, so one night a week we will head over to the river with the objective of convincing some instructor that we can all make it down the river alive. I may have to bribe them in the end, but hey, it’s only my life and the life of several of my colleagues I’m endangering. I’m sure their “fungible”, great consulting word which means; you can be easily replaced so stop feeling important.
No, this is not some kind of mid-life crisis just because the same day I looked to sign up for rock climbing, sky diving, and I am going surfing in 3 weeks. I’m tired just thinking about it all FUN! Claire’s first reaction is “who’s watching the kids” while you do all this. Well….you are honey. [slap to the face]. Don’t worry, I can’t do all of it. Let’s start with plunging to my death at a flood stage river run. If I survive that, well….I guess I’ll have to try something else.
A kayak roll (often referred to as an Eskimo roll) is the act of righting a capsized kayak by use of body motion and/or a paddle.
I am coming to the bittersweet end of my month long “annual home visit”. This is what it is called in the big firm/expat package lingo. Basically it’s a trip home half-way through your stint overseas. In our case, this means one year in, with one year to go. So, it’s been an interesting visit. We left Dublin in mid-June, just before school had officially let out for the kids. We will be heading back for the second half of the summer. I need to order books, sports (PE) uniforms, and basically come to grips with the crappy Irish summer. The great thing is that it’s light out until about 11pm. But when it’s chilly and probably rainy, it’s harder to enjoy this perk. That’s great weather for November. It sucks in July. Everyone in Dublin keeps saying how it never used to be like this. Back in some undefined “good old days” the summer was truly warm and mostly sunny. Even the Irish seem perturbed by the bad weather of the past few summers and that’s saying something. I had also heard varying theories as to why it has been so bad the past few summers. Some people say the jet stream has changed and that has affected the climate. Other say it’s just bad luck. Either way, it does make you appreciate the sun when it does come out. And when it does, Dublin actually reminds me of San Francisco a bit: a city on a bay, never too warm, but never cold in the winter. Clear, clean air. Beautiful views if you happen to be on the coast.
I don’t remember if I read this or someone told me, but the idea is not mine: when you leave a place, you leave a hole in the lives of the people you leave behind. However, over time that hole starts to close up, filled with time, other people, just life moving on. I was so excited to come home. I was anxious to see family and friends, to have some summer, real summer. But to also see if I still had my space, my hole, as it were. It seems to all be in place. But I am still nervous. Will it be there in six months? Another year?
People at home want to mostly know the surface things. The question I get asked most often is “Do you like it over there?” I have realized that, for most people, the question is actually just a polite function of conversation, much like “how are you?” and that they don’t really want a full, honest answer. Just as someone who asks “how are you?” usually doesn’t want a litany of your highs and lows. Unless they are your therapist. And that’s because you are paying THEM. Not because they really want to hear your shit. The truth is that the answer is really complicated. I can’t say that I love it. But I certainly don’t hate it. There are some really great things about living here. Things that I will most certainly miss when I leave. But there are also other things that I wouldn’t miss tomorrow if they were gone or changed. But all places are like this, aren’t they? And living in a place is very, very different from visiting a place. I know full well that there are lots of places I love to visit, but if I were to live there I might have a whole other opinion. Paris is a good example. I love, love, love to go to Paris. The city, the museums, the food! But I don’t live there and don’t have to worry about making friends or finding a dentist that doesn’t exclaim “You Americans! You floss too much,” (as my one friend was told by her French dentist).
I have decided that loving where you live (or not) is much like falling in love. You can list on paper all the reasons that something (or someone) is perfect for you. But that paper goes out the window in real life. Someone with all those qualities can leave you as cold as an old sandwich in the back of the fridge. And someone who’s nothing like the “ideal list” can make your head swirl and swim. That’s how it is with places too. You can say to yourself, “I really should love living here in Sometown. It’s safe, clean, has great public school, a burgeoning art scene, amazing restaurants. “ etc. But it doesn’t always translate into you loving that place. Matters of the heart are much, much more complicated. And where you live and how you feel about it is a matter of the heart. I personally have come to regard Dublin as my arranged marriage husband: I can see and full appreciate all of the good qualities and Lord knows, it could certainly be a lot worse. But he doesn’t make my heart sing. It’s not his fault. We just don’t have that……thing. But, that being said I do want to take full advantage of being here while I am here. Some of that means travelling away from Ireland, because there are so many amazing places within a 2-hour flight and well within budget. But it also means taking advantage of all that life in Dublin and in Ireland has to offer.
Talking about travel brings me to that second thing people most often ask me about being here: “Where have you travelled to while you’ve been over there?” When I give them the list, quickly to avoid being a bore, they seem disappointed. Like we haven’t met their expectations for number of places visited in one year. What they are forgetting is that we LIVE here. We aren’t on a year-around-the-world trip, jobs and school be damned. We have many of the same obligations here as we do at home. John and I both have work. The three older kids have school. The toddler is a great sport about being schlepped everywhere, but still, he has his limits. We haven’t had 365 days of vacation to do with as we wish. Plus, we moved here with an 8-week old baby. The fact that I even made it from the US to Dublin to begin with is a feat in itself. We do get a nice series of breaks, with bank holidays, a week for midterm break in Nov and another in Feb, three weeks at Christmas and two weeks at spring break. So far, we have been to Wales, London, Nerja (Spain), Westport, Galway, Paris, Barcelona, Valencia, & El Vendrell. Plus throw in two trips back to the States. These were the ones we did as a family. There was also Rome for just me and John. Plus several day trips around Ireland. So, I think that’s quite a bit, especially for a family of six.
Right now, it looks like this is my last time in Atlanta until summer of 2013, at the earliest. So, as the annual home visit winds up, I am trying to take full advantage. Time with family, time with friends, and maybe a few more runs through Chik-fil-A, just for good measure.