Home, Sweet… maybe not.

There’s an online article that’s been getting lot a lot of attention here. In a study published last week, Dublin has been ranked the worst city in the world to find a place to live for expats. Dead last. IN THE WORLD. Let that sink for a moment.

The thing is though, Dublin’s got a serious housing crisis going on for everyone, not just expats. Rents have gotten stupidly high and it’s nearly impossible to buy a place – trust me, I’ve been trying to do so for the past several months.

After a couple missteps, I thought I’d finally found a place last week. I made an offer. It was accepted. Yay! I’d actually decided on a one-bedroom. Sure, it was small but it was in Ranelagh and it had really nice high-end features, the likes of which I couldn’t afford in a two bedroom. I emailed my mortgage person at the bank to let them know and I got an email back saying that it’s bank policy to only finance one-bedrooms at 80% rather than the 90% I was supposed to be able to finance as a first-time buyer. That meant I’d have to put down 20% of the sale price which would be… wait for it… €77,000!!!

It’s no secret that Dublin’s lending practices were one of the main causes for its economic collapse a decade ago, but the measures that are in place now as a response to what happened back then often defy logic. If you want a mortgage, you need to have a 20% down payment, unless you are a first-time buyer in which case you only need to put 10% down. But even a 10% down payment is prohibitively expensive in a city where the average income is less than €40,000 and the average house price is €383,000. It isn’t hard to see that that math just doesn’t work for most people.

It just doesn’t seem fair to me. The Dublin housing market seems open to only the rich and well-established. Young people just starting out can’t afford to buy. Single people (like me) who might be just fine with a one-bedroom are being discriminated against because they can actually live with less than two bedrooms. Oh, and Ireland will only mortgage you to the age of 70, so it’s also ageist. If you are over 40 the cost of your monthly mortgage payments will be significantly higher than one might be planning because you won’t be able to get a 30-year mortgage.

I finally live somewhere where I actually want to buy a place. Someplace that I want to make my “forever” home. And I’m being met with obstacle after obstacle. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. And it’s left me feeling rather lost. I’m not sure what to do next. I’m taking a break from my search over the holidays but I’m not hopeful that things will go any better in 2020.

 

Citizenship denied?

I’ve been back in Dublin for three months now and it’s been pretty great. Work is crazy and exciting and I love it. Though I miss my Paris friends, I love being back with my Dublin tribe. I love the apartment I’m renting and am now even looking for a place to buy. So, obviously, there’s a lot to love, and I’m confident that I made the right decision in returning.

I feel like Ireland is home and because it’s now home, I want to be an Irish citizen. Getting my Irish citizenship has always been part of my plan, even though I technically don’t need it. I have Italian citizenship and since Ireland and Italy are both part of the European Union, I can live and work here without a visa. So, Irish citizenship is more of a want for me than a need.

But this past week there was a crazy court ruling stating that an individual has to be physically in Ireland continuously for the entire year previous to submitting their application. That means one can’t venture outside Ireland for even ONE DAY or they risk their citizenship being denied. That’s insane. Such a stipulation had always been part of the citizenship criteria but applicants could be outside Ireland for up to six weeks in that last year. This interpretation of the law is almost laughably literal.

Except that for many, it isn’t the least bit funny. People, including myself, have to travel for work. There are at least three work trips I need to take each year, often many, many more. I literally cannot do my job if I am not allowed to travel outside the country. And this also means there’s no visiting family or friends who live outside Ireland. You couldn’t leave to attend a wedding, no Christmas visits and god forbid there’s a funeral. And then there’s travel just for travel’s sake. My citizenship is going to be denied because there are other places in this world I want to explore?! I honestly get claustrophobic just thinking about not being able to travel anywhere for an entire year.

So, I just won’t get my Irish citizenship. As I said, I don’t need it. But there are a lot of people who do and this strict interpretation is going to seriously impact their lives. Many people need their Irish citizenship to stay in the country, never mind that they’ve earned it. So, it’s either rearrange your life for the next year, if you can – or don’t become an Irish citizen. For many, that’s an impossible choice.

It’s widely assumed that this ruling is going to be overturned on appeal but after Trump and Brexit, I’ve learned that one cannot assume such things. Trump and Brexit have also let loose a staggering amount of anti-immigrant rhetoric and downright racism. The new wildly racist, Trump-coined catchphrase making its way across America is “Send her back!”. Isn’t that just lovely, in a skin-crawling, rage-inducing kind of way? I like to think that Ireland is above this, but I also thought that there was no way Trump would get elected or that the UK would vote to leave the EU.

So, until and if this ruling is overturned my dream of Irish citizenship is on hold. I can deal with it but I am truly concerned for those who can’t.

There’s a petition making the rounds here. Please consider signing it if you are so inclined.

How Lucky I Am…

Today is my last day in Paris.

It’s hard to believe that my little Parisian adventure is coming to an end, and yet, here I am. I’m feeling a bit wobbly about it all. I’ve cried more than a few times this week as I thought about leaving. The horrific fire at Notre Dame on Monday certainly stirred up my feelings of love for this city but I’d been having a hard time even before that. Honestly, it’s not unlike how I was feeling about Dublin when I was getting ready to move to Paris. So, this is kind of just what I do. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m still excited to be moving back to Dublin. Professionally, it’s an absolute no-brainer that Dublin is where I belong and where this next part of my career will thrive. I’m returning to my beloved Dublin neighborhood of Ranelagh, and actually, in a funny twist, I’ll be living in the apartment complex I lived in during my first year in Dublin. Personally, it’s a mixed bag – I have wonderful friends in Dublin that I’m so happy to get back to, but I’m leaving behind some equally wonderful friends in Paris. They actually surprised me with an early birthday celebration on Friday, so they aren’t making leaving any easier that’s for sure.

But as I reflect on this past year, what I truly feel is grateful. Living in Paris has been a dream of mine for such a long time and I actually made that dream come true. How many people can say that? Living here certainly came with challenges – French bureaucracy’s reputation is well-earned and my struggles with the language never got any easier. But everyday I was astounded and humbled by the beauty of this city. The French people were, for the most part, very kind and very welcoming. And don’t even get me started on the wine and the cheese.

So tomorrow as I lock up the apartment I have loved living in this past year, as I leave the city I have called home, I am sure I will shed more than a few tears. But that means to me that this time in Paris had meaning, that this time in Paris had an impact on me, that this time in Paris was very, very special.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 -A.A.  Milne

 

My Paris, in pictures…

I’m heading to Dublin tomorrow (pretty apropos for St. Paddy’s Day, huh?!) for the next phase of my move. I have so much going on right now that most of the time I’m not sure if I’m coming or going. Amidst all the chaos of moving, I’m trying to find time to reflect on this past year in Paris and to enjoy the time I have left here – easier said than done when your to-do list has a to-do list. There are so many things that I am going to miss once I leave, things that are more about living here. So, I’ve started to take pictures of them…

 

This is the view from my window. This Indian restaurant is the closest thing I’ve got to a local in Paris. I order from here far too often, but it’s so good. They know my regular order, they wave to me when they see me in my window, they always include a little something free in my order, and when I opt to eat in the restaurant, there is always a free liquer to finish off the meal. I shall miss my Taj Mahal.

 

The beauty of this picture may be lost on my American readers but those in Europe will understand the absolute luxury it has been to have a separate washer and dryer, and brand new to boot! I have an older combo washer/dryer in my new Dublin apartment and it’ll do the trick but I’m fully aware that my clothes will now be “dry” rather than actually dry.

 

This little nook is my favorite spot in my Paris apartment. It’s just so cute, and French. It fills me with joy on a daily basis.

 

This is my neighborhood bodega – the new yorker in me doesn’t know what else to call it. It’s right across the street from my place and is great for those quick items when I don’t want to go all the way (meaning, to the end of my block) to the grocery store. I can literally run down to buy a quick snack (or bottle of wine) during a commercial break on the telly. And the two men who work there are so sweet. I love little shops like this.

 

There are no less than three boulangeries within a one block radius of my apartment but this one is by far the best. The line to get a baguette is often out the door. Baguettes are a way of life in Paris – not a great thing for someone like me who tries to eat low carb, but I shall miss them nonetheless.

 

The waiters here are dicks in the way only french waiters can be but the food is really good and I’ve had so many meals here with friends from all over the world, as well as on my own. Lots of wonderful memories here, just not of the waiters. It’s also got the best terrace on Rue Cler.

And speaking of Rue Cler…

My absolutely favorite street in Paris. End of.

 

Also on Rue Cler, the waiters at Cafe Roussillon are definitely not dicks. This restaurant is also where I randomly met someone (okay I was being nosy and honed in on her conversation with her husband) who has become a dear friend, so I’ve got a special fondness for this place because of that synchronous meeting. (Fun fact, when he is not in the Elysees Palace, Macron lives just a couple doors down from here.)

 

The produce in the actual grocery stores is pretty lackluster but I love my fruit and veggie shop on Rue Cler.

 

I always like to have fresh cut flowers in my home, preferably tulips if they are in season. I’m in my flower shop on Rue Cler nearly every week. They always ask if the flowers are a gift and I always answer that they are un cadeau pour moi – a gift for me, which they certainly are.


My fromagerie on Rue Cler. It’s not just cheese, it’s art.

 

This sweet little cafe is where me and the friend I met at Roussillon have spent many an hour chatting about nearly everything. It’s teeny tiny and super cosy and they have really good, cheap food.

 

The wine selection at my local grocery store. Yes, I can buy wine at grocery stores in Dublin, but…

… I certainly won’t be getting any bottle of Côtes du Rhône for €4. Let’s face it, I won’t be getting a bottle of any wine for €4 in Dublin. My palette has become much more selective regarding wine after a year in Paris and I fear that once I’m back in Dublin, my wallet will feel the greatest impact.

 

And then there’s this beauty who still takes my breath away every time I see her. It’s been a dream come true to live so close to her this past year.

I will miss her, however, this is not au revoir, but rather, a bientôt.

Explaining the Unexplainable…

I’ve been an expat for six years now and by far the question I get asked most often from Europeans when they learn that I am American is “What is it with Americans and guns?”.

Sigh.

I usually reply that it isn’t all Americans and that, in fact, a majority of Americans support stricter gun laws but the NRA is rich and powerful and has a stranglehold on too many politicians so nothing ever changes. Again, sigh.

Not long after I moved to Dublin the mass shooting in Sandyhook, Connecticut took place. Twenty-eight people, most of them children, were massacred. I thought (it turns out stupidly) that a bunch of first graders being gunned down would finally lead to sensible gun control in the US.

Nothing changed.

The mass shootings have continued – in schools, movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, concerts. Truly, nowhere is safe. Just a couple days ago a dozen people were killed in a mass shooting in a bar in a Los Angeles suburb. This shooting came less than two weeks after eleven people were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

It’s gotten so bad that it seems like more than 10 people need to be killed in order for it to get any sort of broad media coverage. By definition, a mass shooting is an incident where at least four people, not including the gunman, are killed or injured in a single event at the same general time and location. There were between the Pittsburgh shooting and the Los Angeles shooting ELEVEN other mass shootings in the US. There have been 307 mass shootings in America this year alone. This has become normal in the US. But this is not normal. That’s why I get asked to explain it so often.

I know that even in places with stricter laws bad guys still get their hands on guns and terrible things still happen. Tuesday is the anniversary of the terror attacks in Paris. Those bad guys had guns, dozens of people were killed. But there’s no denying that the US takes gun violence to an entirely new level and the main thing that sets us apart is our government’s refusal to enact common sense gun laws. I really, really don’t think this is what our founding fathers meant when they included the right to bear arms in the constitution.

The gun situation in the US is definitely a reason I’m thankful to be an expat. I don’t think I could live in a country were there is a mass shooting nearly every day. I try to be hopeful that things will change, eventually. But I’m fairly certain they won’t. There will be another mass shooting with substantial casualties and I’ll be asked to explain the unexplainable again.

And again.

And again.

Gun control rally in Paris after the Parkland, Florida mass shooting.

March For Our Lives in Paris.

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Cities…

I’ve been living in Paris for nearly six months now and had my first trip back to Dublin a couple weeks ago. It was… weird. During my time living in Dublin I’d done several extended stays in Paris so in many ways it felt like I was returning home after one of those, except that I didn’t have a home to return to.

But that sense of familiarity was there from the moment I stepped off the plane. And the sense of familiarity soon gave way to a renewed sense of belonging. It was great to return to my beloved Ranelagh neighborhood – I even walked by my old house (gee, I wonder if the new tenants have running water?). I returned to my local and they greeted me with open arms. I ran errands on Grafton Street, daydreamed as I walked along the canal, visited one of the studios where I used to work. It was truly like I never left.

And of course, there were my people. Some I’d seen a few times on various work and play trips since my move, some I hadn’t seen since my leaving drinks last January, but it sure was lovely to see them all again here in Dublin. On my last evening in town, a small group of most of my closest Dublin friends met up at my local for one last pint. They are the people who ground me in my Dublin-ness and we’ve remained close even though I am now in Paris. Those peeps, my peeps, reminded me of how much I still have in Dublin.

Of course, this visit was certainly more than a bit rose-tinged. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I was pretty much forced out of Dublin because of the current housing situation. They will recall that this past winter I had no heat and intermittent-at-best running water. I would also go weeks without seeing any of my aforementioned people. That’s not on them, that’s on me – I have hermity tendencies and my self-esteem is low enough so that I think that no one will want to do anything social with me so why bother asking. Couple these issues of mine with the fact that everyone is busy with work and life, and my last few months in Dublin were actually rather lonely.

And then there’s Paris. I have people in Paris too. Awesome people. But now that I’ve been here for a few months, my hermity ways are getting the better of me again and that, combined with a lot of travel, means I haven’t really seen anyone in quite some time. Sure, everyone’s busy but, as with Dublin, I’ve no one to blame but myself.

That sense of familiarity and belonging is here too. I know Paris better than I know any city in the world. I’ve always felt that I belong in Paris and the day I moved here in February, everything was instantly so familiar.

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from these ruminations. Except that I know these two cities are both a part of me. And I feel like I belong in, and need, both of them.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

I stared at my computer monitor in vain for over an hour trying to get this post started yesterday. And then I have stopped and started so much since then that I wondered if this post was even worth writing. I have so much that I want and need to say yet I can’t seem to get my thoughts out. To quote Evan Hansen, “Words fail.”

My native country has been a tire fire for nearly two years now but the events that unfolded at the Mexican border this past week took my breath away.

Children. Some of them infants, some with disabilities, all of them in a situation through no fault of their own, ripped away from their parents. Those parents, not the rapists and murderers Fox News would have you believe, but people fleeing actual murderers and drug cartels and abject poverty. People seeking ASYLUM. People who yes, committed a crime at the border, but a MISDEMEANOR. And a necessary crime because one can only apply for asylum if you are physically present in the United States. Wouldn’t you commit this “necessary” crime if it meant a better, safer life for your children?

I’ve written a couple of times previously in this blog about myself as an immigrant and an expat (you can read those posts here and here). About how being an “expat” conjures of notions of romance and adventure but “immigrant” has become a four-letter-word. And it’s only gotten worse in the years since I wrote those posts. The utter lack of empathy and common decency amongst people has me stymied. I don’t understand how people can be so uncaring, so cold, so cruel.

And I’m not talking only about the oompa-loompa in the oval office or his administration. I know, through their policies on women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, and healthcare that this administration’s status quo is cruelty. But what has truly made me despair is the cruelty of everyday Americans.

Even in my European, liberal, socialist bubble, I see the hate and cruelty seeping in. People who think border crossers should be shot on sight, people who cry “but Clinton, but Obama, but her emails”, people who have conveniently forgotten that, unless they happen to be Native American, they come from immigrants.

You know what these people are? Lucky. They got dealt a good hand, and the people seeking asylum got dealt a bad one. We Americans don’t deserve our situation any more than these desperate asylum seekers deserve theirs. Luck. Chance. That. Is. It.

I cannot imagine the terror that these children are feeling. I cannot imagine the trauma they (and their parents) are going through. Good lord, when I moved to Dublin I was an utter mess, inconsolable because I was separated from the life I knew and the people I loved. I was an adult who made the active choice to immigrate to Ireland – and I have never felt so desperate, sad and alone in my life. I could barely deal with my situation – how the hell are these children expected to deal with theirs? Oh wait, to quote Melania’s jacket “I really don’t care, do u?”.

I am despairing because I think Melania’s jacket speaks for far too many people in America right now. To have so many not caring about this, or worse yet, supporting the separation of these children from their parents is truly a national tragedy.

As an American, as a human being, I am ashamed that more of us aren’t ashamed.