To Dublin, with love…

I was supposed to be living in Paris by now. My boss is based in Paris and, though I can work remotely from anywhere, all signs pointed to this being the time for me to make the move. It was nearly done and dusted – just needed to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. But for reasons I both understand and don’t understand, that final i couldn’t get dotted and my move to Paris evaporated.

I’m not going to lie. It hurt. I was nearly there, and then I wasn’t. And in between all that there was six months of emotional ups and downs as my boss and several others did their damnedest to make it happen for me. By the time I got the final FINAL word (and that word was “no”), I was utterly exhausted.

So, it looks like I’m staying in Dublin. And that isn’t a bad thing. But, in my mind, I had already relocated to Paris so when that notion went bye-bye, Operation Re-embrace Dublin commenced.

Working alone, on my living room sofa, has left me quite isolated over the past year. One of the reasons I wanted to move to Paris was because I would be able to divide my work time between home and the Paris studio.  But now that I am staying in Dublin, I have made a very conscious decision to really “be” in this city, to get out and spend time doing the plethora of things Dublin has to offer, to do things I had put off because I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying and also to go out and spend time with my people – the friends that I’ve been lucky enough to make while living here, but that I’d gotten into the habit of seeing very rarely. (I’m a hermit by nature, don’t judge.)

The day after I found out Paris had fallen through I went out and bought three things: a new living room rug, a new vacuum cleaner, and… a fiddle. The first two I really needed but it didn’t make sense to buy if I would be moving. But the fiddle? Well, that’s something I’ve wanted to learn to play since I moved to Ireland, yet something always stopped me. But now, fuck it. I’m going to learn to play the fiddle. I’m three lessons in and I’ve mastered “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and have moved on to the “Newmarket Polka”. When I play, it sounds like I am killing cats and my poor neighbors probably want to turn my fiddle into kindling. But I love it. I suck, but I love it.

My hermit-y nature means that I’m usually fine with not venturing out much but I’m actively putting a stop to that as well. Sitting on my sofa, I could just as easily be living back in Buffalo. But I’m not in Buffalo, I’m in Dublin. And I’m going to start making more of that, and really seeing and exploring the things this city has to offer. A couple weekends ago I took myself to the Little Museum of Dublin, a quirky place in a Georgian mansion right across from St. Stephen’s Green. I’ve been meaning to visit it for about four years now. I loved it. And last weekend a friend and I went to the breathtaking Caravaggio exhibit at the National Gallery of Ireland. It was utterly not quirky, but sometimes one really just has to get their art on, and this exhibit did it for me. It was amazing. So, look at that – two distinctly Dublin museums in as many weekends. And so many more to go.

And then there are my friends, my people. When I moved here more than four years ago, I knew no one. Now, I have a lovely circle of friends but, as I said, I’d gotten in the habit of staying home rather than going out to spend time with said circle. Last Thursday evening, I had to go out. There was a Women in Animation Ireland event and I’m a committee member – I had to be there. I planned on going, having a much-needed glass of wine and leaving after an hour, maybe two. But then something happened – friends that I had not seen in a really long time showed up. And you know how it goes – everyone takes turns buying the next round of drinks and before you know it, you’re stumbling home at 2:30am.

At one point during that evening, I realized, rather immodestly, that of the five people sitting with me, I was directly responsible for all but one of them being a part of this group. Two I had hired back when I was in my first job as a Producer, convincing one to relocate from Scotland and the other from London. Two others I’d met at previous Women In Animation events – both were just getting started in their careers in Dublin and I actively endeavored to help them get work. They are now both working with the studio where I had that first Producer job. Spending this unexpected time with these five people just drinking and talking about stupid stuff was, in a word, fun. And in another word, needed.

And then a couple days later, I had a Girls’ Day Out with two of my very best friends, not only here in Dublin, but in my life. We started at a pub at 1pm with cocktails and prosecco and didn’t finish until nearly midnight at my house with doritos, beer and warm white wine. Amazing on so many levels. And again, fun and needed.

Both of these events were something I really needed in the wake of my Paris debacle. I needed to be reminded that I have people here. Amazing, funny, supportive, fun people. And I love my people.

I still don’t know what the future holds for me, but Dublin feels more and more likely to be part of it in the long-term. I qualify for Irish Citizenship in November, and I am absolutely going for that. Some people collect magnets, I collect passports (and magnets, actually). I’m even kind of, sort of thinking about buying an apartment or a cottage or something here. That would require adulting on a level I’ve yet to do in my life, but there’s something about the idea that keeps calling to me.

So far, Operation Re-embrace Dublin is proving rather promising. Right now, I am where I am, and more than happy to be here.

 

 

 

 

Umbrellas and candles…

Yesterday was my last French class and we had to do a ten minute presentation about where we live. Yeah. Public speaking… in French.

What I imagined I was saying: “Dublin has been a around since the time of the Vikings. A beautiful and vibrant city, it is filled with history and culture and boasts, arguably, the friendliest people in all of Europe. It is a city of great literature, wonderful art and lovely nature. Yes, it rains a lot, but that means we get rainbows.”

What I probably actually said: “Dublin be old of the vikings. A city beauty and live with much the history and people of the very smiles. It is a place of more books and good the paintings but also to pretty the plants. Rain more, yes. But we be have much bows of rain.”

“It nice, the Dublin.”  😉

I really do struggle to learn this baffling but beautiful language. (Well, beautiful when someone other than me is speaking it.) But it’s hard, and the French, perhaps justifiably, are not charitable when it comes to their language. That can be frustrating when someone like me, who does not have an ear for languages, is nonetheless really trying.

Perhaps my biggest frustration is the accent. Not only am I trying to learn a new language, but I am expected to master the French accent as well. Now, I have a bit of a problem with this. I know a lot of French people who speak excellent English – with a French accent. I don’t understand why I have to get the accent right when they don’t.

True story – a couple years ago I was leaving the office for the weekend and in saying good-bye to a French colleague I said “Bon week-end.” And, I kid you not, he corrected my pronunciation of “week-end”. Seriously?!  I don’t think I could have rolled my eyes farther up into my head.

When I get responses like that, I’ve learned to “fight back” a teeny bit. I say “J’essaye”, which means “I am trying.”. Which I am. Really hard. And I have made progress. My daily class this month and back in November really helped my comprehension and conversation, though I still have a really difficult time understanding what people are saying when they speak to me – everyone talks so fast!

Some key phrases that help me in these situations:

  • Je ne comprends pas – I do not understand.
  • Désolé, mon français est très mauvais – I’m sorry, my french is very bad. 
  • Lentement, s’il vous plaît – Slowly, please.

I’ve also learned some french phrases that I kind of love:

  • ça m’est égal – this means “I don’t care” but it’s the formal more respectful way of saying it.
  • je m’en fiche – this also means “I don’t care” but it’s familiar, reserved for special people who are driving you nuts, like friends and family.
  • je m’en fous – and when you really need to kick it up a notch, this means “I don’t give a shit”. Everything really does sound better in French.
  • mon petit chou – literally “my little cabbage” but this is a term of endearment in French. I would love to be someone’s little cabbage.
  • tomber dans les pommes – literally “falling in the apples”, this is the french term for fainting.
  • chanter comme une casserole – I think this one is my favorite. It literally means “to sing like a saucepan” and it’s the phrase used to describe a god-awful singer.

Oh, and my two favorite words in the entire french language are parapluie (umbrella) and bougie (candle). I love how they sound and I often say them just because I find it fun.

I will continue to strive toward fluency in French and I will, to be sure, continue to struggle. But I love this language too much to not try. Or should I say “essaye“?

 

 

 

Making my world work…

Earlier this month Facebook declared February 4th Friends’ Day. And even though it was a fairly obvious publicity stunt, I liked the idea of it. After all, friendship is something that should be celebrated. As Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in his post announcing Friends’ Day: “Friendships make the world work.”

I’ve never been one who made friends easily and this was a real worry of mine as I started my expat journey. When I moved to Dublin nearly three and a half years ago, I knew that I was going to have to put myself out there and make some friends and that made me very nervous. (I wrote about it here.) But I knew that making friends was going to be the defining factor in whether I would have success as an expat. One can get along just fine without a significant other (lord knows, I’m a prime example of that) but can you imagine living a life without friends?

Last weekend, a friend that I made during my month in Paris came for a visit – and she brought a friend that I instantly hit it off with. So, two new friends! Making these friends was a nice surprise for me. When I went to Paris, I didn’t make a concerted effort to  meet people or make new friends – that wasn’t the purpose of my time there, and my stay there was temporary. So making these friends was an unexpected bonus but one for which I am very grateful.

And this weekend, I was out with a bunch of the first friends that I made in Dublin. They are people that I met through my first job here. I’m no longer at that job, so I don’t see them every day anymore but we all manage to get together every so often and have a nice time. And I really look forward to those nights. Not only because  I know it will always be a good time but because those people, those first friends I made, are very special to me.

Though they probably don’t realize it, they are the people who made me feel that I hadn’t made the worst decision of my life in leaving everything and everyone I knew and moving to a city I’d never even been to before. They are the people who made me feel like I belonged even though I was an outsider. They are the people who formed the foundation of the life I was starting to build in my new city. I don’t think they have any idea how important they were to me in those early days but I am forever grateful that they became and still are a part of my life.

After more than three years as an expat, the friends that I have made, in Dublin and beyond, are quite simply, awesome. They are people I share interests with. People who make me laugh. People who help and support me. People I like being around.

And they certainly play a huge part in making my world work.

Merci Paris…

This is the third thanksgiving I will celebrate in Paris. Actually, my first trip ever to Paris, fifteen (gasp!) years ago, was on Thanksgiving weekend. It was then that Paris first captivated me, and it has kept me enthralled ever since.

Over the past decade and a half, this city that I love more than any other place on the planet has motivated me, guided me and inspired me. Ever since that first visit, it has been a dream of mine to live here. My writing partner and I even named our production company Apartment in Paris Productions, because that was the goal – to make enough money writing to be able to afford an apartment. That didn’t quite pan out, but still, I can credit Paris with getting me started writing. I’m still writing, and even getting paid for it. Just not enough to afford to buy an apartment here. Yet.

If it wasn’t for Paris, and my desire to live here someday, I never would have looked into getting my Italian citizenship. And if I didn’t have that carrot dangling in front of me, I’m sure that I would have given up when things got tricky. Instead, I just hired someone to help me with the tricky bits because I was keeping my eyes on the prize – a European passport.

So, in a way, I have Paris to thank for the awesome life I now have in Dublin – the wonderful friends I’ve made during the past three years, the amazing, creative work I get to do, the pretty cool life I’ve managed to set up for myself. I wouldn’t have had any of that without first having fallen in love with Paris.

Paris has, of course, been on a lot of people’s minds of late. Nearly two weeks on from the horrific events of November 13th, Paris is indeed living up to the words emblazoned on its coat of arms: “Fluctuat nec mergitur”. Tossed but not sunk. And I am happy to be celebrating another Thanksgiving in this amazing city, even as it goes through such a difficult time.

I have so many things for which to be thankful, but this year I feel compelled to give a special shout-out to this city that stole my heart so many years ago and has shaped so much of the life ever since.

Merci Paris.

L’expérience Grande…

Translation: The Grand Experiment.

That is what I will be embarking on at the end of October. I am moving to Paris – for a month.

A little while back I came to the realization that I am not going to get full-time work before the end of the year. Instead of bemoaning that fact, I started thinking about what I might be able to do with this time and freedom. The jobs that I do have, pay me pretty good money, and more importantly, I can do them remotely. So, I decided to spend a month in Paris, not as a tourist but as someone who is living and working there.

I have rented a tiny apartment on my favorite street and signed myself up for a semi-intensive language course. And I’m just going to “be” in Paris. While I have been to the City of Light many, many times, the longest I’ve been there was for about ten days, and my previous stays were always vacations where I stayed in a hotel and the days were packed with things to do and see. With this month, I want to try and experience, at least a little bit, what it might be like to actually live in Paris. Yes, I’ll be working, as I said. I’ll also be cooking my meals, doing laundry, trying to exercise and keeping the apartment clean – you know, the everyday stuff I do here in Dublin, just in Paris.

When I had decided to make the move to Europe, I did talk to companies in Paris and it was a real possibility that I could have ended up there. I am so glad I wound up in Dublin because I think Paris as my first expat destination could have ruined my favorite city for me (you can read my ruminations on this here). But now, I am nearly three years into my expat experience and Paris does loom as a possibility. Professionally speaking, it has a very strong animation industry with several studios I would be happy to work for, and it’s fairly common knowledge that there is a real shortage of animation writers there as well, which is something I could definitely work to my advantage.

The language course is also a big part of my reasons for committing to this month in Paris. My French is pretty abysmal considering how often I visit. And I’m not being modest here – it’s truly awful. I don’t have a knack for languages at all. I am hoping that a month-long course that includes two hours of small group instruction per day, might help me turn the corner with my French. While I don’t necessarily need to speak French to work in the animation industry in Paris, I feel I do need a very strong grasp of it to live there or it would be a very lonely, frustrating life. So, hopefully after the month, I will be able to do more than order a glass of wine in a restaurant. Though seriously, if there is one thing you should learn how to say in French, it’s that (Je voudrais un verre de vin, s’il vouz plaît.).

A couple weeks ago, a friend asked me if I was tired of Dublin. The answer is no, not by a long shot. I am not spending this month in Paris because I want to leave Dublin. If the work stays steady, I could definitely see myself staying here for at least a few more years. But, as I said earlier, while I have the freedom to do so, why not give Paris a whirl? I would like to see if I realistically think I could live and work in the city, and be happy. Paris will always be a part of my life and I know that at the very least I will continue to visit on an annual basis, but could it be something more?

Peut-être.

 

 

There’s no place like home?

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a post that explored the question “What is home?” (you can read it here). And recently, I have found myself again reflecting on this notion.

Before the holidays I was talking to a co-worker and he asked me what I was doing for Christmas and I replied that I was going home. His response: “But Dublin is your home.” And he has a point. When I was heading to Buffalo for Christmas I thought of it as “going home” but then when it was time for me to return to Dublin I thought of that as “going home” as well. So, what’s the deal? Which one is home? Can they BOTH be home?

In that previous post, I wrote about how the concept of home is different for an expat and I still find that to be the case. I still think that, for an expat, home is more a state of mind. But what I am now realizing is that one place being “home” does not exclude another place from being “home” as well – they are just perhaps different kinds of “home”. As an expat, and a single person who lives on her own as well, different places can fulfill different aspects of “home” – aspects that most people probably get from just one home.

Buffalo is home for me because of the people. My parents, sisters, nieces and nephews are there, not to mention numerous uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. I don’t have a particular attachment to Buffalo as a place, but I do like the familiarity of returning to the suburb in which I grew up. Though, as I mentioned in that previous post, I am not part of the everyday there, so at times I feel like I am on the outside looking in. So, yes, Buffalo is still home but not completely.

Which brings me to Dublin. When I wrote that first post, I couldn’t even imagine where I would be or how I would feel in two years’ time. Even thinking about it would set me into a full-blown panic attack. But now, here I am in that future that seemed so unimaginably far away then.

So, what’s the verdict? Is Dublin home?

If I were still feeling the way I did two years ago, I would probably be looking for a new country in which to live. But I am happy to report that, two years on, I do think that Dublin is home. I have a nice circle of friends, I’m doing work that I really love, I live in an adorable house – all in a city that, despite some ups and downs, has been overall very kind to me over the past two years.

I don’t know how long Dublin will be “home”. I still can’t think two years into the future without getting itchy and anxious. I think I would like to still be in Dublin in two years’ time but, if there is one thing I’ve learned as an expat, it’s that trying to predict the future is utterly useless.

So, Buffalo will always be “home” and Dublin has transformed into “home, at least for now and possibly well into the future.

We’ll see what kind of post I write in another two years…

Somewhere over the…

I had been ruminating on the subject for my post this week and come up with a good topic. But that is going to have to wait for another time because as I was walking home from work at about 7pm last night this is what I saw:

IMG_0290I think I captured on film the exact moment that I fell in love with Dublin.

And, at least for this week, that is all I have to say.