Monday, July 14, 2014

Comes in 3's...or 4's if you're counting

There's a saying here in Ireland that bad things come in 3's.  If two bad things happen at once, well, just wait for the inevitable 3rd one to occur.

Back in January, I found that expression rather applicable.

Over the course of two weeks, an electrician, an appliance repairman, a plumber, and an exterminator were needed at the house we rent here in Ireland.

There was the electrician, who replaced the transformers in several blinking ceiling lights (yes, the light sockets have their own transformer) and the exhaust fan in the bathroom that had worn and grown very loud.  These issues were mostly existing when we moved in to the property, and had finally been scheduled for proper remediation in January.  We are very glad to have done away with the strobe light effect in the bathroom. 

That same week, the front load washing machine quit working mid-cycle while full of water.  While investigating the issue, it was discovered, as a bonus, that there was a leak in the plumbing behind the appliances, including a leak from the pipe that the dishwasher drains into.  Thus knocking that appliance out of commission as well.  Those issues took several days and multiple visits from repairmen and a deliveryman (new washing machine was ordered when a replacement part failed to correct the electrical issue).

Big surprise, the area behind the washing machine was mouldy.  I've spent a good amount of time cleaning the mould found in various places around this house in Ireland. 

Mouldy area behind the washing machine in the kitchen.

Cleaned up a bit on the parts I could scrub.

To top it off, there had been an occasional funny noise in the wall at night in the living room, but nothing consistent.  Until, of course, Z leaves town on business.  Then it became a nightly occurrence.  Right around 10pm, just as I was trying to unwind before bedtime, little tapping, scratching, scurrying noises pulled my attention to the living room ceiling, wall, and kitchen.  Eeeeek!  There is only one thing that does that.  Rodents. 

After the DIY store-bought traps proved ineffective.  An exterminator was called.  There were a couple evenings I called it an early night and hid in the master bedroom with a book so I wouldn't have to hear the nightly excursions in the ceiling and walls in the living room and kitchen.  About two weeks later, the noises abated.  Finally. 

Things mostly quieted down on the house after those eventful couple of weeks.  Until March, when the boiler started making a loud clicking/buzzing noise, also while Z was away on another business trip.  Apparently there was a problem with the circuit board and the buzzing was coming from an electrical contact causing the pump to run continuously when it shouldn't.  Every time I wanted to heat up the house, I had to manually flip the fuse on to get the heating to run for a little while, and then switch it off to keep the buzzing at bay.  Not as bad as being entirely without heat, but tedious nonetheless.  A replacement part was ordered, and after a few days, we had regular heat again. 

So perhaps bad things come in 3's in Ireland, but I honestly lost count with the maintenance incidences at the house we are renting.  Thankfully they have mostly been addressed by the landlord.

Ireland thus far presents many challenges.  We did, nonetheless, make regular visits to the seaside during the winter months.  In fact, we went more during the cold, windy weather early in the year, than we have this summer.  On windy days, the waves were quite a sight to behold.

A winter visit to the beach.

And for those of you wondering about the weather during the winter here in Ireland.  Well, this is about as much snow as we got: A light dusting on a couple occasions.  Temperatures rarely dropped below freezing.

It's raining light sticks! (but really just snow)

In February, we took a trip back to England for business and to visit friends.  Then in April, we took a long family holiday and traveled to a few different countries in Europe.  I'll try to write a post about about our travels when I can.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Setting Up in Dublin

Because so much time and energy was spent cleaning our latest place (partially furnished) to get it up to standard, I thought it deserves it's own post.  Disclaimer: This post contains pictures of real dirt and grime.  Read on at your own risk if you are sensitive to images of things that should have been cleaned a long time ago. 

A fair question may be why we selected such a place to rent.  Well, it was the nicest property we looked at in our housing search.  There is such demand for housing in the Dublin area that there is a lack of incentive for property owners to put even minimal effort and money into upkeep.  They know properties will sell or rent regardless.

Another question that may be raised, "but what about the relocation support company--didn't they have a responsibility to look out for your interests and ensure the property was cleaned before tenancy?"  Yes, they should have.  But they didn't.  And when you get keys and check in the night before the moving van arrives with all your stuff, there really isn't time to insist cleaners be sent in to whip the property into shape.

So, we documented the dirty condition of the property as best we could, and went back to our temporary flat in the city for another night.  The next day, move-in day, I had a few hours to buy cleaning supplies and do the best I could before the moving van arrived.  I started with the floors as I figured at least then there would be a relatively clean surface to place our stuff.  The carpets had not even been vacuumed, let alone steam cleaned, and the wood & tile floors downstairs were impressively soiled.

This rug got rolled up while wearing gloves.

Smelly Hairy Rug Covered in Stains

I mostly got the floors swept, mopped & vacuumed just as the moving van pulled up in front of the house.

Cleaning the floors was just the beginning.  Over the next few weeks, between unpacking boxes and all the little time consuming things that come with relocation, especially international relocation, I cleaned.   

This was good to go again in their minds.  Ew.
 After a good long soak in the kitchen sink, and lots of scrubbing with mold remover spray, I was no longer afraid to open the Washing Machine detergent dispenser.

That's more like it.

The kitchen cupboards held their own in the grime department.

Left Side: I cleaned.  Right Side: To be cleaned.

And cleaned some more...

The overall level of mold growth in the property is impressive. 

No, that's not a swarm of insects outside the window.  It's mold, on the inside.

I know it was hard to believe when I told people it was taking me about an hour to clean each window.  This is the dirt, grime, and mold that came off of just half of one window pane (about 1.5 sq. foot area).  There are 2 - 4 panes in the windows.  And about 8 windows in the house.  So lots of time spent cleaning just the insides of the windows.

After wiping one half of a window pane.

Mold in Master Bedroom.

Without opening every cupboard and closet door when viewing a house, it can be difficult to find hidden damp and funky smells.  There were a few unpleasant discoveries as we went along.

Ceiling of Built-in Wardrobe in Office.  Very stinky too.

Cleaned up a bit.

The thing is, if each of these issues had been attended to and cleaned as they happened, it probably wouldn't have been such a big deal.  But they were left unaddressed and got worse over time, growing in to big, time consuming jobs.

Dirt, mold, and even dog hair.

Same window.  Just, clean.
There were even mystery spots.

Is it dirt?  Is it marked?  Or wait for it...

When you go over it with a cloth and nothing comes off, but then you spray it with a bit of mold remover.  And voila!

Yes, yes it was mold.  Somehow.

And there was the cleaning of the stained, dog hair-covered, & damp smelling curtains.  The wiping down of the walls (because really, there shouldn't be old splatter and drip marks in the living room and bedrooms).  And the bathrooms--while not as bad as they could have been, I will spare the pictures in this post.   

So after hours upon hours of cleaning, countless disinfectant wipes, many pairs of disposable gloves, and a few bottles of various cleaning agents, most of the house is no longer offensive, but has almost reached a neutral state.

There are still some things that need to be addressed, but for now, I can sit in my living room on our new couch (the sofa set that was here when we arrived was broken, hairy, and had that special dog bed smell) and enjoy looking at our Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Status Report

Where are we?  Well, let's see...I think we are somewhere around 53.3478° N, 6.2597° W.  How did we get here? 

Thus far, it has taken:

  • 2 months of limbo (and counting)
  • 3 temporary apartments
  • 3 hotel stays
  • 3 rental cars (4 if you count our regular UK lease car)
  • 4 school visits
  • 4 house viewings
  • Countless hours doing paperwork and waiting in line

At the beginning of October, six weeks after moving out of our house, we finally received the permit we needed to move to Ireland.  A couple days later, we were finally on our way to Dublin.

Very bright and sunny during take off from Birmingham Airport, UK.
We arrived in Dublin on Saturday, and the temporary apartment our relo "support" company found was not available until Tuesday.  And no, for some reason, they could not book us a hotel in the mean time.  We had to do that ourselves.  So for the first few days, we stayed at a lovely hotel, complete with room service and bathrobes (I am still wearing the complimentary slippers).  For 3 wonderful days a hot breakfast including tea, coffee, juice & fresh fruit was delivered to our room at a time of my choosing.  Mmmm hot breakfast, that I didn't make and didn't need to do the washing up (dishes) afterwards.  So nice.
Hot Breakfast.  Mmmmm....
(Was tempted to crop sock out of pic, but decided to keep it real)
On Monday, Z started his first day at the new office. 
Lookin' good.
(notice the darkened cave, er, room, in the background:  shhhh...don't wake the sleeping cub)
And when C had enough change and just wanted to take a break and stay in the room all day (watching Curious George between race car rocket boosting sessions), well, yes, I would like my own pot of hot tea with the chicken Caesar salad, please. 
At the Hotel
Keep Calm and make another cuppa
These small luxuries offered some much needed comfort in the midst of the chaos of relocation.  And I am so thankful to God for the resources that allowed a small reprieve.
On Tuesday, after taking advantage of a late check-out option (I was not going to spend another day in the car between accommodations, thank you very much), we drove to our temporary apartment where we will stay until we can move in to a place of our own. 
The apartment is ok.  It has two bedrooms and a living area.  And some furniture from the early-2000s-in-the-midst-of-divorce-bachelor-pad store closeout.  Besides the over-use of gold-tones for decorating, the chief short-comings of this apartment are the lack of an oven & clothes drying rack.  One is relatively easily remedied.  The other, not so much.  Nothing to really experience local everyday life like carrying groceries and a clothes drying rack a half mile through town back to your flat.  I felt very European.  Even as my hands turned a strange shade of purple-red and my fingers took on a semi-permanent claw shape from the weight of the bags.
At the end of our first week in Ireland, we spent 8 hours in the car visiting state-funded schools and looking at rental properties.  The schools were not at all what we are looking for, making me miss the local county school in which we had C enrolled back in the UK.  There was a general lack of adequate outdoor space and equipment for recess and running around.  Some schools demonstrated a lack of patience with children.  Others are over-subscribed, and do not offer the supportive learning environment we want for C.  Mainly, we didn't find a place I would feel comfortable leaving C on his own every day.  We have since asked the relo liason to focus on private Montessori primary schools in the area, and sent her a list of schools I would like to visit.  At least the relo support will save me some cold-calling of schools.  Hopefully we will find a Montessori school that will be a good fit for C.

We did, however, find a house we wanted to pursue.  So our relo liason put an offer in on the house on our behalf (renting in the UK and Ireland generally involves a bit of negotiating).  We heard back the next day that the landlord had accepted our preliminary offer. The following week we were asked to pay the deposit and sign the lease.  Which we did.  But there still seems to be some questions from the landlord who lives, funny enough, in the UK.  Seems like the questions would be asked before accepting a deposit and requesting future tenants to sign the lease.  Some of this may be the sometimes helpful, sometimes muddling middle-man addition of relo support in the communications.  So we have a house to move in to in a couple weeks...I think.  I'll get more excited once we have a signed copy of the lease from the landlord.  Multi-country rental dealings, mixed with a resistance to use technology to streamline the process, makes for extra days of waiting.  Random fact: The 3 places we have rented since moving from the States have all had "resides out of the country" landlords. 

Also this week, we spent about 6 hours waiting in line to register with the Garda and apply for PPS numbers.  It was not fun, but C did well and that part is over...until next year when we need to renew our registration with the Garda.  Oh boy.
And now, a little relo deja vu for your enjoyment:
2011 Dualing Work Blackberries: US & UK

2013 Dualing Work iPhones: UK & Ireland

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Playing Tourist

Well, we're still here.  In the UK.  Waiting.

Last weekend we played tourist and drove into Oxford.  We visited Oxford about a year and a half ago in February 2012, and mainly spent our time at Christ Church Cathedral buildings and grounds.  This time around, we wanted to visit the city centre and meander through the historic Radcliffe Square area. 

Driving through the countryside on the way to Oxford.

 There are historic, beautiful buildings in every direction around Oxford.  We focused on the area around St Mary's Church.

The Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square
We even came across some knitting graffiti on the fence surrounding Radcliffe Camera.  Purl on, yarnstormers, purl on.
Knitting Graffiti extending 15 meters or so along the fence.
Running around Radcliffe Square while Z climbs the Tower at St Mary's
The Tower at St Mary's Church.  The overlook is just above the clock.
We also walked around the courtyard of the Bodleian Library where signs are posted reminding visitors to be quiet, as there is actual studying taking place inside the buildings.  Real students, not just relics inhabit these grounds.  Shhhhhh... 
The Tower of the Five Orders inside the Bodleian Library courtyard.

Walking behind statue of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, in courtyard of Bodleian Library

 It was really nice to get out of town for the day and enjoy some sight-seeing on what is hopefully one of our last weekends living in the UK. 
And sometimes, along the drive, there are sightings of things very out of place.
Anyone who has driven on roads in England, or pretty much anywhere in Western Europe,
 will know just how absurd it would be to navigate this around the countryside.

Also on our way, we encountered the cheapest toll road yet.  A booth staffed by two attendants, charging a preposterous 5p each for cars.  Does that even pay the wages of the staffers, let alone help with road maintenance?

Toll Booth: 5 pence (pennies) for cars.

We have been in our current temporary apartment here in the UK for almost 5 weeks now.  Our visa application is still being processed by the Irish government.  So we wait some more.  The place we are staying in is rented out to someone else beginning this weekend.  Thus, we are packing up our suitcases and household sundries, loading up the car, and driving across town to another apartment.  No living out of the car needed this time around.  Though it is a pain to pack everything up, it is nice to have an apartment for the next week, and not be staying in a hotel room (which would still be better than the car). 
Hopefully, based on the current processing timetable of the DJEI (Department of Jobs, Enterprise, & Innovation) in Ireland, our visas will come through within the next 10 days.  Then we can book flights to Dublin and be on our way to starting the next chapter.  We hope, we hope.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Definitive Limbo

We've been living in the UK for just over 2 years now.  Two years ago we sold our cars and electronics in the States.  Said farewell to dear ones.  Movers packed up our belongings.  And we got on a plane bound for London.

In July of this year, we accepted another international transfer opportunity.  To Dublin, Ireland!

A few weeks after accepting the job offer, we eventually received our PIK (Personal Immigration Kit) from the immigration support company which included a list of documents required for our Irish visa application.  Within about 36 hours, we had gathered, scanned, emailed, and overnighted the necessary documents required from us back to the immigration support company and HR in Ireland.  And then we waited.  Followed up with relo support.  And waited some more.  Went back and forth with different offices looking for a status update.  And then we waited again.  Until it had been 4 weeks of waiting on the correct paperwork just so our visa applications could be submitted, not processed or issued, just submitted, to the Irish government.  Finally, finally, yesterday we received confirmation that our application is complete and has been submitted to the authorities in Ireland!  Whew.  It got ridiculous a couple of weeks ago with the waiting.  After 4 weeks, it just became absurd.

So we are now waiting again, but this time it's an anticipated bureaucratic process: government visa processing.  And no, there is no "expedite" option for Irish visas, unlike the process we went through to obtain our UK visas.

In the midst of all this waiting, we have had "goodbye" play dates so C could say fair well to some of his little friends from preschool.  Some of the families of his friends were travelling in August, so we wanted to be sure he got a chance to say goodbye before we left for Ireland, as we were unsure of our departure date.  It's hard for C to go through another big change, but we are supporting him as best we can and know there will be new little friends for him in Ireland. 

The movers also came to pack up our belongings and we left the house that has been such a good place for us to live over the past year.  It was honestly hard to leave that house.  It really felt like home to live there even though we were renting.  It was so nice to live in a townhouse with a back yard after living in an apartment our first year in England. 

I will  miss this view from the kitchen window.

Our stuff was packed into large crates to be stored in a warehouse here in the UK until we send for them in Ireland.

Our stuff being loaded into crates for storage.

The week we moved out of the house we endured a bit too much of chaotic limbo for my liking.  We were scheduled to stay in temporary housing while we wait for our visas, but declined to stay at a dirty apartment in a shady building (it's really not a good sign when all of the mail boxes have been vandalized and pried open in the hallway).  When the "director" of the accommodations met us a couple days later dressed in t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops during business hours to show us an alternative apartment in the same building, well, it really cemented the "hen and stag crash pad" vibe of the premises.  So we were in and out of the Holiday Inn while we waited for the relo support company to find us a new apartment.  And after a few days of waiting on them, we went out and found a nice place on our own where we are now living for at least the next 2-3 weeks.
Z is still going to work every day and C and I are hanging out in our temporary apartment while we wait.  As we will turn in our lease car and fly to Dublin once our visas arrive, we are living with only the things we can take on an airplane.  So our belongings essentially consist of 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, and 1 car seat for the next couple of months. It is a bit like being on a rather monotonous holiday. 

We took C to the cinema for the first time last weekend (Planes in 3D) and even rented a row boat to take out on the little lake at a local park this past weekend.  And thankfully, the apartment has the largest couch I have ever seen in Europe, with lots of pillows and cushions for daily fort-making. 

At the Cinema for 3D film (with popcorn and gummy worms)!

Rowing on the lake

 There is some deja vu with this relocation: living out of suitcases for several weeks, starting from scratch with house-hunting, researching and applying to a new school for C, finding new friends, and did I mention the paperwork?  But this time it feels different because we are going to leave a place that was temporary from the beginning.  And chances are, we will not return to live full time in England.  We may visit with the friends we have made here, but we won't return "home" to live here because it's not our base.  And that is a different kind of goodbye. 

Temporary Apartment August 2011

Temporary Apartment September 2013

God has been gracious to us and we are excited for the next Adventure.  Now, if we could just receive our visas and book those plane tickets, we could get on with it.