Thursday, 27 November 2014

My very unorganized life

I'm normally super-organized at work, or at least I used to be until two weeks ago, when I started my new job. Suddenly, everything I knew was gone and I was thrown in the unknown. I was the new person again, the learner, the trainee. I love being on top of things. I hate being all over the place and most importantly, I need to have a clear understanding of what I need to do. 

I wasn't expecting to know everything about my job within a couple of weeks, but I was hoping to have clear answers to my questions. Or at least work off clear procedures. None of that has really happened and I'm starting to wonder if this is an Irish thing. There's no certainty, everything is approximate and well, of course I end up making mistakes (which I absolutely hate). This is as much as I will tell you about my job, because I don't think this is the place to do so, but today, I'm feeling really down about the whole thing and I just need to vent.

The thing is, this new job has taken up so much space in my mind, I can't think about anything else. My brain is constantly working, and for some reason, I find it impossible to switch off (see, I'm even writing a post about it!). 

Before, my super-organized working brain was enough to compensate for the mess that is my home life. It's hard to believe, but I'm really messy when it comes to my house, paperwork, kids stuff, and so on. For some extraordinary reason, we've never been late paying any bills or never missed any appointments. I always pay my childminder on time, remember my friend's kids birthday parties, and I rarely forget to buy milk or bread on my way home. My job and my personal life were always separated and as soon as I stepped in my car after work, I stopped thinking about it until the following day.

But for the past two weeks, switching off has just been impossible. I keep forgetting things and it's destabilizing. Every time there's a change in my routine, I freak out and can't seem to stay calm and rational. In short, my life is pure chaos. I even dream about my job so it's in my mind 24/7, and I'm tired.

I think I like what I do. It's very varied, interesting, but incredibly stressful. I thought I knew what stress was but I was clearly wrong. It was nothing compared to what I have to deal with now. I'm not dreading to go to work as such, but the amount of things I have to do and the fact that I haven't found a way to be efficient yet is scaring me.

I hope it will get better but for the moment, I'm lost and I hate that feeling.  

Any advice will be greatly appreciated :-)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Expatriation vs emigration

Expat or emigrant? After 12 years in Ireland and with no intention (so far) of going home, I should maybe start considering myself as an immigrant. When I decided to leave France, in my mind I was "going abroad", "expatriating", "discovering a new country". Never once I told someone I was "emigrating"!

Why do Irish people always talk about "emigration" when they leave Ireland? It's something that gets me confused because I really feel this word has a very negative connotation. It feels like they are being forced out of their home country to re-build a whole new life somewhere else.

I've looked up the definition of both words and this is what I found:

Expatriate: An individual living in a country other than their country of citizenship, often temporarily and for work reasons. 

Emigrant: A person who leaves their own country in order to settle permanently in another.

I understand that Ireland is a small country (therefore with less opportunities) and emigration is part of Irish history for centuries, but I don't believe we should talk about it so negatively. When I read articles about the subject, most of the time it's about families torn apart and people being forced to leave. And it feels like there is no hope of these people ever coming back to Ireland (hence the "emigrant" definition). So yes, maybe even before leaving, they already believe there is no coming back.

I left France voluntarily. Back in the early 2000's when I finished my studies, the economic outlook in France was quite bleak. If you didn't have experience, there was very little chance of a job. But if you couldn't get a job, how were you supposed to get experience? I made the choice of leaving the country, but it was more to discover another culture and improve my English than just by pure economic necessity. I was hoping to stay two or three years and then go back home with experience and find a better job. As it happened, I met a guy, bought an apartment, had kids and I'm still here. But it wasn't my initial plan!
The majority of French people and foreigners I've met throughout the years are back in their home country and found a job without too much difficulty. The experience abroad definitely helped.

My husband left Mauritius in 2002 because he was offered a job in Ireland. Of course, his reasons for accepting the offer were very different than mine. He was working at the time but wasn't earning enough to sustain himself and take care of his parents. Trust me, when you earn less than 200 Euros a month (and you're the only one working in your family), you're not living, you're just surviving. He decided that leaving would be a better option to be able to help his family. He had the same plan as me. A couple of years saving money and he would be back home. As you can see, things haven't really worked the way he had planned! Now, there is no way he would live again in Mauritius. Re-adaptation would simply be impossible.

My brother-in-law also came to Ireland, in 2005. He left behind his wife and his then 5 years old daughter. He came here, studied computer science during the day and worked as a chef at night and at week-ends. He worked and worked and worked. He saved a lot of money and really sacrificed himself to offer a better life to his family. After a few years here, he had enough money to build a house back home. He actually had a great time in Ireland. He made a lot of friends and managed to have a good social life. He really enjoyed his time here but it was just impossible for his wife and daughter to join him and after 6 years, he decided to go back home and move into his newly built house. 
Nobody ever forced him to emigrate. He just decided to do what he thought was best for his family. I'm not saying it was an easy choice, but he took the experience positively and in the long run, it paid off.

And he's not the only person I know in this case.  A lot of foreigners come to Ireland to work, save money, and go back home after a few years. And then, some of them like me or Fabrice just decide to stay. I also have other family members in Mauritius who are not in a great financial situation but wouldn't want to leave their country and their family, even if it meant more money. 

So why is it so hard for Irish people to realise that maybe a good part of all these "expats/emigrants" will come back to Ireland? Why is there such negativity around the idea of emigration? Why does the general consensus seem to be that people are forced to leave without any chance of returning?

We all have different experiences, but maybe if people who emigrate were trying to take it as a chance instead of a punishment, and had a more positive attitude there wouldn't be so much negativity around the subject. 

Maybe we should stop using the word "emigration" for a start...


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Shopping nightmare

I should have written this post last night, but I got stuck in my children's bedroom. Literally. Let's just say I will never ever slam a door again, or I will carry a screwdriver at all times...

Anyway, back to the real subject of this post.

For the past 8 years, I wore a uniform at work. I never had to ask myself "what am I going to wear tomorrow?", which in my case was just perfect because I absolutely hate shopping. And especially for clothes. Retail therapy? Well for me it's more about the therapy I need after the shopping experience...When I was a teenager, my mum used to give me money to go shopping, because she knew I would come back with nothing. And if I did, it meant I would definitely wear it. I'm just not lucky when it comes to clothes, and I'm not making this up, it's been witnessed by several people. When I eventually find something I like, you can be sure there won't be my size, or the colour, or it will be too expensive. If my size is available, it won't fit. The size above will be too big. Basically, I never win. The thing is, I just find the experience too stressful and I give up easily if I can't find what I am looking for. The fact that I usually have a very precise idea of what I want doesn't help either, because I rarely find what I have in mind.

Starting a new job, I had no choice but to go and buy office wear. I didn't even know if there was a dress code in the company, but considering I have a very casual style, I really had to buy something decent. I had a plan in mind: 3 tops/jumpers, 3 pair of different colour trousers, a new pair of shoes and a coat. Simple enough you would think, well, not for me.

Off I went to Penneys. I couldn't have picked the worst day. The shop was celebrating 30 years in business, so it was absolutely full. Basket in hand, I tried to make my way around the aisles. Every time I was checking something out, a few clothes would fall as the hangers were too full, or I would bump into a customer. The queue for the fitting rooms was unreal, so I just threw a brown jumper and a pair of black trousers in my basket. The only choice of colour was black or blue (or hideous prints) so I couldn't find any other pair I liked. I then tried on a few coats, and in the end I was lucky. I found the perfect one but off course they didn't have my size, so I took a chance I tried a smaller one, that amazingly fitted.

In the shoes section,things got a bit more difficult. Seriously, why are there no shoes with a regular heel? They are either completely flat, or 10cms high. I can't walk in high heels but I'm not very tall so I still need a bit of height! Needless to say I got very frustrated, so I just decided to pay and escape the battlefield.

I went to another shop. Same story. Giant heels or flat shoes, no middle. In the end I gave up and decided the pair of boots I had at home would be fine. I was so stressed I didn't even try on the grey pair of trousers and cardigan I found, and just made my way to the checkout.

In the end, I came home exhausted, with a headache and unhappy because I didn't find everything I wanted (even though I knew it would happen). Then I spent a good hour figuring out what I would wear and finally settled on the grey trousers and brown jumper.

I went to work yesterday in my new "office clothes". Everybody was in JEANS.

Friday, 14 November 2014

My last day

As you might know, I'm crap at saying goodbye. And when I'm the one who leaves, it's even worse. 

Today was my last day at work and I will start my new job on Monday. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. You always know what you leave but you never know what you get, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Sure, I'll be grand (I'm really trying to convince myself here -Irish style!-).

First of all, I thought I would actually not make it to my last day. My village was flooded on each side, and I had to take a 20 mns detour to go to work! Thank God I eventually got there after a good hour of driving. All the way to work, I thought about how it was the last time I was waking up early, taking the same road, going through the toll bridge. The last time. The LAST time.

I arrived at work and started my day as usual. I'm actually surprised about the amount of work I got done. Of course I took it a bit easy today, but I'm still professional and didn't want to leave on a bad impression, especially after all those years.

I worked (it feels very strange to say it in the past tense) for an International delivery company, so my early morning was spent saying goodbye to all the drivers before they left for their own day's work. I don't think I've been hugged by so many men in a such period of time. There were awkward hugs (most of them), squeezing hugs, kisses (they were trying to do it the French way obviously), a handshake (So impersonal!), and one of them even lift me off the floor... But all of them had kind words and trust me, by the end of my tour I was becoming very emotional. They really are a nice bunch of lads and they were always very nice to me (even at the beginning when I couldn't understand half of what they were saying).

I then spent probably an hour working on my "Goodbye" e-mail. I just couldn't get into it. I didn't know what to say, how to say it. I usually have no problem writing, but when it comes to goodbye, I just can't do it. Everything I came up with was flat, boring and didn't reflect how I felt. Maybe I'm just not great at expressing my feelings in general. I couldn't spend the whole day writing an email, so in the end, I wrote something generic, with a little joke and some words in French...

I got lovely presents from my colleagues. And here's the funny bit. It looks like the different departments and people I work with, didn't really consult each other. They all did their own little thing. And that's how I got 4 cards and 4 bunches of flowers! I also received a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine.

My managers slagged me off till the last minute. I wouldn't have expected my exit any other way to be honest. One of them joked that the next time I would have that many flowers would be on my grave... Oh, typical Irish humour!

8 years is a long time. It took me a while to settle, mainly because I wasn't used to work with Irish people, but I can now say that I've learned a lot about my adoptive country with my Irish colleagues.

And to be honest, I'm probably "Nearly Irish" thanks to them.

Monday, 10 November 2014

My great great Grand-mother

This picture has been in my family for a long time and has an unusual history. We don't know when it was taken or who took it. We don't even know if the woman in picture had any knowledge of her portrait being taken because when the picture was discovered, she had already passed away.

The headpiece she wears could indicate a time period, but I'm no expert, so I would say it's probably the early 1900s.  

Her grand-son, my grand-father's cousin, used to work for the SNCF (the National Railway company) and on a trip to Paris in the 1950's-1960's, he found this picture, which is actually a postcard, in a shop.

He instantly recognized his grand-mother and bought the postcard. When he came back he made it into photographs so the family could keep it.

The picture was taken in the church porch of my native village. This is also where I got married, so it has a special significance.

I love this photograph and the atmosphere the comes out of it. Every time I look at it, I feel serenity and peacefulness. 

I have never known my great great grand-mother, but I can feel she's watching over me.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Breton connections

My mum is sending me about 20 kgs of Breton biscuits next week. You've read it right. In fairness, a lot of those biscuits are presents for my colleagues. They just love them and there's always a bit of excitement in the office every time I receive a package full of Breton delights. This time, it's the last one, so everyone at work will taste a bit of Brittany before I leave for good. They all have their favorite. One of the managers love the chocolate-orange biscuits, another one always ask for "brioche" and one of my colleague couldn't contain his joy when I told him he would get a kouing-amann (literally "butter cake"), or "Cholesterol bomb", as he calls it...

I love when my mum sends me food packages. The thing is, I don't actively look for anything Breton in shops around here (because I could be looking for months, really). I'm satisfied enough with what supermarkets have to offer, and I didn't come to Ireland to eat the same cuisine than at home (actually, I didn't come to Ireland for the food, that's for sure!). But I think it's nice to taste a bit of home once in a while.

Sometimes I get surprised by the Breton stuff I can find around though, and yes, I get very excited whenever I discover little bits of my country when I go shopping.

A few months after I moved to Ireland, I went to the off-licence and do you know what I found in one of the fridges? A Breton Camembert! In a place where they sell alcohol? Seriously? I got all excited about it (I don't need much, I know), until I spotted the price: 5.99 Euros! Clearly, it was the only Camembert they imported from Brittany to sell it at that price, or maybe it was branded as a luxury product, to eat with their finest French Red wine (It was the Celtic tiger era after all)... I didn't find out. I was just shocked and left. Without my beloved Breton Camembert.

5.99 euros for that??

Last year, in Dunnes Stores clothes section, I saw this striped shirt, a typical Breton fashion item. 

I thought to myself " That's funny, a Breton shirt in an Irish shop!" And then I looked at the tag:

I really think Dunnes Stores has someone on the inside who is either Breton or passionate about the region, because a couple of months ago, this is what I read in their leaflet :

The last line reads "Bretonne Baguette"

A Bretonne baguette?!! I was so intrigued I asked the manager of my local Dunnes Stores if he knew who could possibly have come up with that name. Unfortunately, I was told the bread was made by Cuisine de France and that they were just selling it. 
So I contacted them, but sadly, I was informed they didn't make that bread. Back to square one, I sent an email to Dunnes stores Customer Service but they never came back to me. So I guess I will never know...

Another Breton delicacy famous throughout the world is the "crêpe". Because my mum makes the best ones, and I also can make my own on the traditional bilig (crêpe maker), I can be very picky when it comes to taste.

At the Drogheda Maritime Festival two years ago, there were of course a few "crêpes" stands. I was pretty sure they used the same horrible mix for sweet and savory crêpes but I decided to try one, just for the craic, although I made sure to ask what type of flour was used ( At this stage, you must really think I'm a freak).

"Oh, don't worry, I use buckwheat flour. I'm from Northern Ireland but I was trained in Brittany, in a crêperie" the seller told me.

So I bought one and I have to say, it was delicious. I was about to leave when the guy hailed at me:

"Wait, I'll show you something"

He went to his car, and came back with that:
A Northern Irish crepe maker, who drives around with a Breton flag in the boot...

I knew Irish people liked Brittany, obviously because of the Celtic connection, but I didn't think that some shops would actually try to sell products branded as "Breton" or that Irish people would learn how to make crêpes. 
Maybe I should make a business of selling Breton biscuits in Ireland. Who knows, it might just work!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Good things come to those who wait

A new chapter in my life

I've been ill for the past week. Cold, flu or something in between, I don't really know. All I know is I feel shit. The weird temperatures haven't helped I think. One morning it was 18° and the following day it was 5°. Apparently we had the warmest Halloween on record, and we'll have the coldest winter ever. Sounds familiar?

Anyway, between the odd weather and 3 boxes of Lempsip, last week was pretty eventful but I was so stressed and anxious during the day that I was shattered in the evening and therefore not very prolific with the writing. 

So what happened?  

At the beginning of the year, I took two big resolutions: Buying a new car, and finding a new job (I like putting pressure on myself, I know!).

I bought a new car back in March, a bit by accident. Well, because of an accident, really. In short, Fabrice was involved in a crash. Fortunately, he escaped uninjured but his car had to be written off. Mine had to be changed for a while, but I kept postponing the big purchase. A couple of years ago, my job moved 15 miles further and I knew I would have to buy a diesel car eventually, especially because my good old Citroen C3 kept giving up on me with all the extra daily travel. So, when Fabrice had the accident, although it was a shock, we realised it was actually the sign we had been waiting for. We decided he would keep my old car and I would get a diesel. I saw the difference in the petrol bill straight away and it gave us a bit of relief financially.

However, since my job has relocated, I have to drive an extra 20 mns each way and pay the M50 toll bridge (4.20 euros a day!). Even if my hours are good and I don't get stuck in traffic too much, I am very tired. I'm up at 5:30am to start at 7am and I'm not home before 4:15pm once the kids are collected from the childminder. And of course, it's not like I could just crash on couch after a long day. The afternoons are usually a mix of housework, homework battles and constant toddler entertainment! Add a mix of flooding when bath time gets a little to exciting, multiple story telling (of course none of them want the same story!), bed time fighting and I eventually get to put my feet up at 8pm. By that time, all I want to do is go to sleep myself, but that's when I take on the laptop and try to write a little something! I'm usually asleep by 9:30pm as I need my 8 hours of beauty sleep to be able to function the next day.

I had been looking for a job for a long time, but even more since the move. I have to admit I was always a bit picky. I didn't want a job where I would speak French (even though there are plenty of them), I wanted a job closer to home, with good hours, but still in line with my studies (I have a degree in International trade and worked in logistics for the past 12 years). I had quite a good few interviews over the years. I had a couple of job offers but the hours or the money didn't suit. Sometimes I didn't get the jobs I applied for and at times I was just too comfortable in my position to look for something else.

In French we say "Tout vient a point qui sait attendre", which means "Good things come to those who wait". After all those years of waiting for a good opportunity, I have finally come very close. I just landed a job 15 minutes drive from home, with very good hours, where I'll be able to put into practice different things I've learned in my studies and during my working life. 

Needless to say I'm very happy. Of course it will feel very strange to say goodbye to the people I've worked with for the past 8 years but I think it's time to open a new chapter in my life. 

And for once, it comes at the right moment.