BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Monday, November 28, 2011

I've got moving on my mind!

My ex-pat mommy community is dwindling... with two mommies having left for the USA in November, one mommy moving back to Canada in December, and one mommy moving to Australia in January.  So from amongst my crew of ex-pat friends that leaves just one person behind.  Me.

At least that was the case until last Thursday... when... Brad finally got a job!!! For ease of dissemination here are the details.

Where: At a small aeronautics company in Victoria, BC.

When: Brad's contract is up on Jan 11th, and our tickets are booked for Jan 18th.

What: AHHHH!  Three days and three nights of panic attacks have settled down into a quiet and blissful acceptance.

Why: I love Ireland, but I also love Victoria. My heart has more than enough chambers to hold all of this love.

How: I may be leaving Ireland, but I know it's not forever. The land of wind, sheep and embracing people will not escape us so easily.

Now we get down to the hard stuff.  Moving. Never easy, but definitely made difficult by the great stretches of land and water that we must travel. At the moment my life is full of shipping, selling, donating and flying our possessions out of this apartment. Add to all that the fun of an 18 day xmas vacation (no spoilers) landing right in the middle of all this planning, and all I can say is PHEW!

Anyways, because I refuse to get all teary and sentimental so early in my moving process (spent 3 days wound up tighter than a top last week, and I don't wish to go back there quite yet) this blog is going to be an informative piece on moving "stuff" overseas.

Moving overseas is an expensive endeavor... if you've only a few things to take, flying with them as checked baggage is probably the cheapest (€50 -€100 each).  Shipping is expensive and slow.  However, you aren't given a weight restriction, so that's an added bonus (especially if you have a husband who simply can't help himself when he walks past a bookstore).

Airfreight tends to run at €130 a box. This is usually door-to-door, but it does have a weight restriction.

Deep sea freight runs at about €125 for just a few boxes, or €700 for 50 cu.ft.  Though it does get cheaper the more you ship.  This is for a door-to-door price.  If you deliver to the shipping company yourself and collect it at the port it would be much cheaper.

Bells and Whistles: There are all sorts of things that companies can offer to make their prices seem more reasonable... like free fumigation, free boxes, bubble wrap and tape, free disposal of packing materials upon arrival, etc.  But basically they really don't make much of a difference... unless you're going to Australia.  Steffi is going Australia (good bye my sewing companion) and has a huge number of issues to deal with around inspections.  For example, no wooden toys for her daughter.

Insurance: Insurance is tricky, because if you pack yourself then they only insure total loss, not damages.  So if you want, say, your bike to be insured against damages then you have to hire professional packers. Insurance prices are based on your own evaluation of your items and is listed for each individual item (bike €700, book €10, etc). The price ranges from 2.5% to 3.5% of your goods evaluation.  (Brad will have fun fitting Maximum Likelihood Curves to the value of stuff).

Plane: It is insurance that makes bringing your stuff with you on the plane much more affordable, because the airline automatically has insurance against loss or damage.  And really, over seas there isn't a limit as to how much baggage you want to bring.  We are each allowed 10 checked items... however, getting those items to and from the airport is a pain in the @ss, and will likely add to the cost.  In our case, we have a starting point of 2 bikes, 1 bike trailer... then all of our boxes.

At the moment we're stuck between two shipping options and just bringing it all with us on the plane.  One company quoted us a price €100 cheaper than our second favorite company; however, their insurance costs are higher by 1%.  Just waiting to hear back about the cost of professional packers before doing the math to figure out what we're going to do.

The photos are emblematic of the blog.  Everywhere (in this case, Ireland) has it's blights (in the potato above) and it's benefit. This summer Brad, myself and Nikolai all took horseback riding lessons.  We loved it, and decided if we stayed in Ireland it would become a new hobby of ours. In the land of horses, a riding lesson is about the same price as a swimming lesson. Nikolai was in a class of very competent toddlers, and he wisely chose to ride the smallest horse.  He never did learn to remember to hold on to his reins!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A blog of blogs

This week I have a story to tell, which I am not going to tell.  Some things are too personal for a blog. But I am so full of the story I cannot share, that my brain draws a blank for this week's blog.  Oh the unfairness of it all!  Cursed by the unsharable nature of a public blog.  It concerns Nikolai, an unfortunate mishap and a trip to Crumlin hospital. (Where they asked us our religion upon admittance!! Brad and I felt a bit odd as we answered "none".  We are very spiritual, ethical people. Does "none" describe our attachment to the universe and the grand design?).

Anyways, I can assure you as to the ending... all is well... and Nikolai is back to good form (meaning: good spirits and health).

But the Internet is a "forever" repository of information...
And Nikolai Zarikoff is such an easily google-able name (quite like his parents, Brad Zarikoff and Emillie Parrish)...
So the story of his mishap, at age 3, shouldn't be allowed to exist in such a public and electronic form...
Ah, the benefit of being John Smith, or really even Claire Parrish (sorry Claire!).  It allows for an Internet anonymity that poor Nikolai shall never have.  His life will be documented as he progresses through a series of on-line personalities, and it will be ever searchable.  Most likely this will not mean very much... as his current career goals extend to being an airport security person or a train driver. It is most likely that his life will not enter to the zone of public scrutiny... but you never know.  And I certainly don't want to start him off with an embarrassing story.

So instead today I will share a few interesting blogs that I love to look at occasionally.  Perhaps if I'd gotten a bit more sleep last night... perhaps if the wind weren't battering against my window... perhaps if I weren't so full of motherly feelings I would have written a proper blog.  Instead, I hope you enjoy the eclectic collection below:

FOOD: I like this blog because it tries to recreate authentic medieval recipes... and if you're a fantasy fan, then you might like the fact that the recipes all come from the Game of Thrones.

CRAFTS: About everything and anything crafty. Primarily a collection of inspiring ideas.

ENVIRONMENT: This is a pretty extreme eco-blog.  It's all about how to live plastic free.  It has loads of good ideas... but tends to make me feel a bit guilty.  However, I still check it out to renew my sense of eco-warriorness.

HOME: This is my secret obsession.  Really the only website, besides the BBC and weather, that I would check weekly.  It's basically "Good Housekeeping" with an artsy-hippie kind of twist.

ECONOMICS: Brad follows Engineering/PhD blogs. But last week he found this... and it's worth a gander if you really want to know who has all the money.

INFORMATION: This website is all about creating visual graphics to depict science.  My particular favorite is the graphic depicting the scientific evidence for health supplements.  It's good to know if it's worth shelling out for the latest fad.

The picture is of Steffi and I at a craft sale.  We've been very busy crafting this fall.  We still have some of the items left, and created an etsy shop to try and tap into the online market.  It was only after I started playing around on esty that I realized there are many, many, many, many people just like me.  Hurrah for the Stay-at-Home moms!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My conspiracy theory

Today the students are marching in Dublin. Protesting cuts to government grants and increases in fees. Yesterday the news was all about the military bases that will be closed. And the day before that we were hearing all about the universal housing charges.

Yes, it's budget time again.  Hurrah for austerity measures as this small country tries to cut another €6 billion from it's budget.

I listen to the beating of the students' drums as they make their steady march past my current perch, from the campus to the train. Their forces are to join the other schools in the age-old student cry for free education. Meanwhile, back in the reality of EU/IMF bailout, and a government trying to please everyone and no one at the same time, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) has been meeting with the German Chancellor. Press articles about it are rather lack luster... it's not like anything real could come of such a meeting.  However, it is worth noting that the press release mentioned "treaty changes".

And that is the crux of my not-so-very-out-there conspiracy theory. Sorry, no aliens taking over the White House, or anything even as exciting as the mind controlling properties of Kellogg's Corn Flakes. My theory is, that this whole time... this endless spring-summer-fall meetings solving the Euro crisis (without actually solving anything) was really all about treaty changes.  Adding money to the bailout fund was just a time buying manoeuvre.  They need everyone on board before they can jump on the train that will eventually lead to the strengthening of the ECB.  And how do you get everyone on board?

Well, I think our friend George W. Bush perfected this particular political maneuver. I refer to it as "frightening everyone into blind submission". Want to invade some random oil rich countries? Keep everyone permanently on red alert.

Want to get rid of a rather sleazy head of state? Have the markets rally at a rumour of his demise. (Please note, that the markets don't need to follow through on that promised rallying after he's actually been dispatched.)

So if you want to have a centralized taxation system? Well then spend a few years being terrified about the markets completely blowing up! Then, slowly, ever so slightly, hint at the ideal solution.  As today's press conference has shown... it seems that a more unified European economy is the actual solution to the debt crisis. As for the continuous promises of bailouts and reforms?  Well, they're just around to distract, until everyone is ready to accept the difficult reality.

What does the future hold? A fractious Europe teetering on the brink of crisis? Or a unified front of economic power? This is how the future is being presented... and it is up to the European citizens to decide what that future actually looks like.

-of note: I don't really have an opinion on the issue. If Greece and Italy default, my meager savings will hardly be affected. It is the retirement funds of the baby boomers that are truly at stake here. So perhaps rather than a presentation of Europe in Crisis versus a United Continent, one could view it as a debate between European Sovereignty versus the Boomers' savings funds. Regardless, I don't imagine that this debate is over yet.  Once the European crisis is solved, I suppose we'll get to do it all over again with the USA! 

The photos are of a random roadside monastery and a sleeping cat.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Living Like an American in Paris

We've had a few people ask us about our ex-pat lives; wondering how is it different from just moving around Canada. This likely comes from a place of European dreaming, as there is a part in most of us that secretly ponders spending a year en Provence, or dancing in the lights of London. While I'm pretty sure that living in a suburb of Dublin isn't high on most people's lists, we are able to share our thoughts and experiences on being "abroad".

As well, the lens of our life has narrowed as of late, to focus on our ex-pat lives. Brad has been actively looking for a permanent position, and opportunities in Ireland are as appealing and tenable as those in Vancouver. So the questions and pondering of our living in Ireland have reached a heightened tenor. What would it mean for Nikolai to grow up in Ireland... to become Irish? Is that the end of Hockey and an embracing of Hurley? It is all too ephemeral... and certainly too stressful.  So instead I shall focus on what it means to be an ex-pat.

I cannot imagine how it must feel to live in a culture where the dominant language is not the first language that springs to your lips. Even in the freedom of the English language we find ourselves often stranded, not understanding the socially appropriate way to act. It's obvious how to mind your P's and Q's, but what about the deeper layer of social interactions? Something that everyone else in the culture instinctively understands because they were raised with it. It is not something that anyone can explain to you because they are not actively aware of the social taboos. Likewise no one would outright accuse you of doing the wrong thing because it's just not that obvious.

While I'm sure that I often blunder through this culture, like a social oaf, there is one cultural norm that Brad and I only just recently became aware of. And it involves the social exchange involving food. After a year and a half of consistently refusing the lollipops that Nikolai was offered by various shop keepers... Brad and I realised that the polite thing to do was to accept the candy, and dispose of it later.  This policy of offering and accepting, as a simple social interaction, extends to tea. Tea, (typically black tea) must be offered to every guest that comes to your home.  Likewise, the polite thing to do when offered tea, is to accept it.  If you don't want it, then just use the cup as a hand warmer, and leave the tea behind.

I'm certain that there is a similar social organization around drinking beer in a pub.  As of yet Brad hasn't figured out how avoid drinking more than he wants. The social standard is for everyone to continuously buy rounds of pints for the group. However, the last time he went out, most of his group wasn't into having more than a few pints so they all stopped early.  The only trick was that they kept buying pints for Brad!  He couldn't figure out why they would be buying him pints even when he said he didn't want them, and it was particularly odd since they weren't even drinking themselves!  I have theories, that perhaps an Irish reader could help confirm or deny... if you don't want any more pints should you simply leave some beer in the bottom of your pint glass?

And then there's the fact that we constantly sound like a tourist every time we open our mouths. Perhaps some people are able to change their native accents, but Nikolai's preschool teacher has lived in Ireland for more than twenty years, and she still sounds like she just stepped out of a record store in Ann Arbour.  OK, admittedly there are certain occasions when a well placed accent doesn't hurt... like when you're walking around the exclusive section of the golf course.  However, more often then not strangers will simply treat you like you're just a dumb tourist.

Perhaps the hardest part about being an ex-pat is constantly deciding what is your national identity.  If you were to meet us in London, how should we identify ourselves? As Canadians? But we don't keep up on the national politics or news. And our knowledge of the cultural scene is now outdated. Yeah we rocked to Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade... but who the hell is The Rural Alberta Advantage?  And we understand the European Debt Crisis in a way that no Canadian could ever understand it.  We get X-factor, and River Cottage. Our news is full of Papandreou and Berlusconi. A Canadian may have heard mention of the names, but a European has been listening to constant analysis on their politics for months now. (And a slight political comment... does anyone else find it utterly insane, that the markets seem to be driving "democratic" governments? Most political action in Europe is aimed at "stabilizing the markets" rather than actually serving the people who elected them.)

However, we are definitely NOT Irish. We could live here for twenty years and still be known as "The Canadians". So that is the crux of life as an ex-pat. You are a person who is neither here, nor there. Always lost for lack of belonging, and hoping to bridge the best of both worlds (maple syrup and potato farls).

To counter balance this tirade on our lack of belonging, I've included some pictures of our recent visit to our friend's (and current landlord's) house. Last week was a school holiday, and Nikolai and I spent two nights with Elaine and her brood. It was fun to hold and burp someone else's newborn. (No sleepless nights for us!) The picture above is of Elaine's father hauling a crew of three year olds around the house.  The picture below features Nikolai taking a bath with Elaine's two eldest boys (almost 3, and 18 months).