Thursday, August 2, 2012

FAS - Feck, Arse, Shite?

I know. You're probably wondering how I, normally more articulate than today's heading may suggest, could have regressed to the mental level of Father Jack Hackett!
However, everyone who is struggling to find employment in Ireland will also understand my suspiciousness that comes along with the mention of FAS, the Irish National Training and Employment Authority.

Despite there not being many job openings, FAS and JobBridge seemingly create opportunities for job seekers through so-called placements or internships, which are provided by private or public institutions. Anyone with little or no work experience, as well as people who have been long-term unemployed, are given the chance to contribute to society and get their feet in the so-called door, while working for free and waiting to collect their dole.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

What remains unmentioned, however, is the fact that even bigger opportunities are given to the potential employers, who decide to advertise with FAS or JobBridge.
Positions requiring a low or medium level of qualification, which normally would have been filled in by contractors or advertised as tenders, are now offered to people who may not have any qualification at all, as long as they work for free. That might sound bitter, but I am also talking from my own experiece.

Unlike FAS, the national job bridge scam - ehm, scheme I mean - even lists a number of requirements that a candidate must fulfill to apply for a placement, one of which being the eligibility for social welfare! This way, large numbers of people are ruled out from the very start and job seekers who had hoped for a fresh start are once again left behind demoralized.

But as we all know, there are always two sides to every story and bad experiences with Irelands big employment bureau did not stop me from consulting them at around this time last year.

Beaten down by the sight of rejection letters, which appropriately are often referred to as "fuck off letters" , I walked into our local FAS office to seek advice.

They offered me the chance to take place in a six week course on CV and interview preparation, which I wasn't to keen on at first. The thought of a token course with a bunch of unmotivated people just passing their time and an instructor, who wouldn't tell me anything that I hadn't heard before, did not bare any redeeming features. Except for one: The prospect of an expert to cross-read my CV and tell me what I have been doing wrong all along.
Eventually, I decided to go for it and guess what!

I wasn't disappointed at all!

Our instructor Terry O'Brien turned out to be a very capable man, who had been giving those classes for years and definitely exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations in this course.
Besides cross-reading CVs and rating our appearance at mock interviews, he would analyse our job hunting strategies from all angles and encourage us to find out what we really want from a job, which would sometimes even lead to the conclusion that people had been searching for the wrong position all along.
Another part of the course were group exercises, which I also enjoyed as my fellow participants were people of all ages and professional backgrounds, all of them sharing a serious approach to their respective careers.

So, it seems that after all that moaning and groaning even the national employment authority has positives that should not stay unmentioned. Anything else would be an ecumenical matter (I know, that doesn't make sense. I just wanted to finish this off with another Father Ted catchphrase ;-).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

It may not come as a surprise, yet today the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has issued its first official figures on something that we have been suspecting for a long time: 4 out of 10 Irish families with children under the age of five are better off on the dole! To blame are expenses for childcare, transport, lunch and clothing.

With Ireland being the country with the highest costs for childcare in the Western World (!) according to an OECD survey, even families with two incomes inevitably find themselves facing the question: "Should one of us stay at home or go to work?"
As a matter of fact, childcare eats up up to one third of a family's monthly income and choosing work over staying at home simply does not pay off financially in many cases.

It is not only women who are affected by "stay at home parent being". Previous Celtic Tiger years have left a bitter aftertaste and many builders who once used to be the family's breadwinners now find themselves in the role of a house husband.

Understandably enough, not everyone is embracing their role, which often goes hand in hand with yet another difficult decision: "Should I stay in Ireland or should I go and support my family from abroad?"
Speaking from my own experience, mixed-race families where one of the parents has not been living in Ireland long enough to build up sufficient tax credits to be eligible for social welfare, are facing these problems on a daily basis.

As for my own situation, I have been commuting jobwise between Germany and Ireland for the past nine months and finally found a place in a German creche for Aviva. Over here, creches are subsidized and both the parents' wages are taken into consideration so you only pay what you can afford to.

It's not like it's all doom and gloom in Ireland though!
According to the ESRI, their paper on the costs of working in Ireland is only a "work in progress" and its "underlying analysis required major revision". Sounds like someone is trying to rub their eyes at a reality who they wish to be a bad dream. No worries, ESRI! You've done your homework. Now it is up to the government to do theirs!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Come on you fans in green!

It's time for the Euro 2012! Now don't get me wrong here. It's not like I have the slightest idea about soccer. The first time I heard of Robbie Keane was through Jedward's charity single "Put the green cape on".
But ever since Germany was host to the World Cup in 2006, I started to understand the fascination behind international football and like to think of it as an ambassador for a peaceful bringing together of the nations.

Paradoxically enough though, it is also one of the rare occasions when you can run around drunk in German public and proudly shout "DEUTSCHLAND" without being arrested, but instead getting hugs off random strangers.

Football both encourages an innocent form of patriotism, as well as it sparks curiosity for other nations' lifestyles. Or an easier way of saying it: "It makes people have the craic!"

Now, none of that would be possible without the support of fans. Being a self-appointed girl in green, I am a huge fan of the Irish crowd and their enthusiasm towards soccer (and sports in general). Despite not being one of the world's leading football nations, the Irish have a very positive attitude towards their boys in green. Unlike Germany, who are spoilt by their success and only appreciate their players after a decent match, Ireland fans even seem to get a great pleasure out of the simple fact  that they are part of the Euro again.
Girl in Green supports Boys in Green (I know. It's a rugby jersey.)

On that note I can't wait to watch tomorrow's match against Croatia, cheer for the boys in green and all their fans with their green capes on. Come on Ireland!

By the way, don't forget to support Germany in this evening's match against Portugal though ;-)!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Girls in Green talk Feminism

Ever since I had my first contract with the civil services, I became a keen listener of the Irish radio station RTÉ 2fm.
Having quickly adapted to the comfort of a dull office job, I started to get my daily ups out of listening to Tubs and Colm Hayes and sending in the odd e-mail to feed my new addiction. Last year, I even got to talk to Colm about the matter of German Bratwurst, Döner Kebabs and sausages on the go!

Lately, there have a number of feminism-related issues been discussed on the radio, such as the current state of abortion in Ireland, whether women should have armpit hair, if there are any funny females out there, and last but not least Colm was asking on yesterday's show, whether feminism itself is still existent or not.

I have always been a silent yet passionate supporter of feminism, once I wasn't busy cooking, cleaning or changing nappies of course, and felt that I could make a valuable contribution to his show. So, I sent in a mail, which I am proud to say received loads of credit through Colm :-). I was also asked if I'd like to talk about it on air, but as you know I was supposed to be working and am admittedly being too much of a coward to stand up for my believes in public, just like so many other women. On that note it is no surprise that Colm hasn't heard much about feminism for a long time.

A podcast of the show can be found here (keyword "feminism"): 

And if you can't be bothered to listen to it online, this was my mail to Colm: (even though you're going to miss out on some great praise ;)

Hi Colm,
There are so many reasons to be a supporter of feminism that I can't list them in my short mail.
I just want to make you aware of the way women are brought up to be watching their every step to comply with society. Anti-feminism is a deeply social problem that has always been there and because it is going a long way back, we are not even aware of it!
From the moment a baby girl is born, other than a baby boy, she is going to be raised to please the people around her and from the moment she reaches adolescence her every move will be watched and she will always be judged by her looks (Does she shave her armpit hair?) and by her ability to be a good mother(it is unnatural for a mother not to be constantly around her kids) and wife (Is she being faithful?).
To make it more vivid, just think of a hairy lad who loves his family, but doesn't want to be around them the whole time amd instead spend time in a pub to watch matches. He also loves his wife, but after a few years of marriage physical interaction has become rare and he starts an affair with another woman. Sounds normal enough to be socially accepted, doesn't it? For a man that is!
How come the biggest enemies of feminism are found amongst women? Lack of equality perhaps?

If you are interested in feminism, particularly the way womankind is portrayed in the media, I would love to recommend this beautiful and professionally done blog: , which was created by a number of young modern age feminists who don't feed the stereotype of bra-burning, angry lesbians, that many of us have in mind when thinking of (the early and very important days of) feminism. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Here come the Girls!

Due to popular demand (and because I'm writing an awful lot about Irish men), I would like to dedicate today's article to the Irish female. Careful now! The following post contains strong prejudice and therefore isn't for the easily offended ;-).
Brenda Fricker in "The Field" Vs. ...

Having first arrived in Ireland, one of the most peculiar things that struck me was that the expression "girl" virtually applies to every female between the ages of zero and way beyond ninety here.
Some of you might understand my confusion over people talking about so-called "girls", when in fact they've been referring to a group of pensioners that they've just met. I guess it is sweet in a way, but also confusing to someone straight talking like me. Even back home in Germany I always find it strange and slightly patronizing when I see someone adressing an elderly lady as "junge Frau".

Whereas all Irish women may pass as girls regardless their age and looks, the following stereotypes however, portray two completely different breeds of females.

Remember Oscar-winning Brenda Fricker in "My Left Foot" playing Christie Brown's mother and ever since getting typecast as the "proud Irish mother" (despite not having children of her own)? The "proud Irish mother" is typically described as the backbone of a country family, which she usually dedicates and sacrifices her whole life to. The Irish mother is a down to earth woman with seemingly little needs, who is superior to her usually bullish husband in a quiet and knowing way.

And now take the likes of Rosanna Davison or Georgia Salpa as the "Glamour Girls" counterpart to our "proud Irish mothers".
You usually meet them at big social gatherings, such as horse races and, well, horse races, and unlike our plain Irish mothers, they are hard to miss in a crowd of people. I will never forget when I first went to the traditional Stephen's Day (Boxing Day in the UK) race at Leopardstown. Despite temperatures barely above freezing point, I have never again seen as many women wearing high heels without tights and dresses so short, they barely covered their vital organs. Not to mention thick layers of make-up and fake tan obviously.
...The "Tallafornia"-Girls

Where do you think does it all start? And are our fame-hungry glamour girls really a different breed to our Irish mothers? Or is it a process of transformation and every glamour girl will eventually turn into a proud Irish mother?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

(You can't fool) The children of globalisation

According to some famous T-Rex lyrics, you can't fool the children of the revolution. If you couldn't do it back in 1972, you certainly can't do it to our furure generation who are growing to be culturally diverse adults - the children of globalisation. Or can you?

I don't know how it only came to my attention recently, but there are a hell of a lot of multi-national children out here in Ireland!
Amongst Aviva's extended family and playground friends are the most interesting co-productions of at least two nationalities you can think of. Due to Celtic Tiger years, the most seen mix of genes would be Irish-Polish. However, thinking of all the parents and children I've met so far, I can list you any combination from Irish-Italian to South-African-Austrian-Irish.

Now, how come there are so many mixed race children in Ireland?
And do you think their future life will be easier, due to superior language skills, or only more complicated, through cultural clashes that their parents may never have experienced when they grew up?

One explanation for multiculural Ireland might just be a general misinterpretation of mine. As you all know it's a very small country with a population of just 4.6 million, most of which live in the general Dublin area (apparently where most of the jobs are...). As we live in this melting pot too, it's hard for me to judge what's going on "down the country" and it may just seem as if there are so many different cultures coming together in Ireland, when in fact there are still many purely Irish families in Offaly with six or more kids.

But isn't it also an accepted truth that since the Great Famine the Irish spread out (their seed) all over the world and continue to do so? Expressions like "Irish Twins" wouldn't have found their way into Idiomatic dictionaries if it wasn't for the US-Americans who mocked Irish-Catholic immigrant families for their fertility in the 1800s. And how come there are Irish pubs in every country of the world? It has also become a tradition amongst young Irish people to go travelling for a year after their Leaving Cert and in many cases to bring back more than only a souvenir from a foreign country (I'm talking about a girl or boyfriend obviously).

So, what will the future bring for our multicultural children? Experts predict that in a few thousand years there won't be such a thing as racial differences anymore, as we are all going to "melt" into one big race so to speak. On the positive side, this would eventually mean an end to racism. On the negative side, due to increasing globalisation there will be a flood of apparent possibilities that even our current generation is struggling to cope with. Being a binational family certainly has many positives, such as bringing up a child bilingually without much of an effort. But what is a young family to do in a recession-ridden country, where only one of them has work here and the other one is offered some somewhere else..?

On a totally unrelated matter I would like to mention here that Robert Sheehan was on the Late Late last Friday. For all the unfortunate ones amongst you who missed it (just like myself), you can watch a repeat on the link provided. Thankfully, he is even the first guest on the show. Just listen carefully to the tune he walks on to and remember my post on sharp dressed Irish men. Do you think we're kindred spirits perhaps ;-)?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sharp Dressed Irish Men - a Celtic Legend?

I am surprised none of the blogs that I'm following at the moment has picked up on this topic yet. So therefore I am more than pleased to write about something that really matters and that I know a lot about: Irish men and their looks!

In the past Ireland has proven me wrong in many respects. Whether it be the amount of annual rainfall or the density of it's ginger-haired population. (It actually doesn't rain as much as a German would think it does and you do not constantly run into redheads.) 

However, what about the Irish male? Why do they all dress so badly and is there such thing as a sharp dressed Irish man?

The stereotypical Irishman has a reputation of being a down to earth bloke, who's mad about sports and loves to slip into something way more casual after a hard day's work at the office than a tie and a shirt - the famous tracksuit bottoms! 
You literally see them everywhere in Ireland and not without reason the Irish are often named alongside the British when it comes to the worst dressed European Nation.
Even my own partner prefers to wear his dad's old tramp jacket accompanied by trackies over a brand new decent looking coat that his Mum got him for Christmas! As you can see, the stubbornness of the Irish doesn't make this search any easier!

And it's not just me who's looking for them - sharp dressed Irish men. In his one part documentary, John McGuire tries to explore "the psychology of Irish men and their attitude to fashion and overall appearance". By the time McGuire appears on screen in his pinstriped suit you start wondering though whether he should have chosen a sharper outfit himself to present the show. However, everyone who saw the program last December will probably agree that it was entertaining to see how he transformed an unemployed man by peeling him out of his tracksuit, flying over to Paris, getting a custom-made suit and shirt and even creating his own fragrance. Well, what do you think? Did that fellow get the job he applied for? Of course he did!

And now on to some other Irish blokes that got a job (probably) due to their good looks. Just below that post I put up a few photos that show four of my favourite Irish male celebs. I would be delighted if you all got involved and take a guess who is who. You can win a FREE subscription to this blog and the chance to become a co-author of Girls in Green ;-).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Everywan should have a Gok!

Yesterday evening I happened to watch the Late Late Show again for the first time in ages. I bet you wonder why - and I can't blame you. But here it is:

As I flicked from Take Me Out to RTÈ 1 during the break, I saw the old Tubs announcing GOK WAN to be on the show and an unusually excited audience was cheering in the background. There was no way I could have missed out on that - even if it meant that I had to spend the first hour and a half watching the Late Late.
If you are a female between the ages of 15 and 65 (roughly speaking) you will certainly understand the hype. Especially, if one of your main concerns is how to look good naked (or with your clothes on), camp fashion stylist Gok Wan is your man! The whole idea of his television program is to make women and men feel comfortable in their own skin by giving them a makeover and telling them they're beautiful no matter what size and body shape they are. At the end of the show they'd usually be confident enough to appear naked in front of the camera. I really don't get why there's no new season of How to look good naked out yet! Well, I guess it was replaced by Gok's Fashion Road Show that touches more than only one topic.

But now back to Gok's appearance on the Late Late Show.
Tubridy correctly introduced him as the man women would leave their husbands for, and he obviously wasn't talking about the way they would dump their blokes for a stud.
With half-Chinese, half-British Gok being on stage, the show almost seemed less old-fashioned and Ireland almost cosmopolitan. Our stiff Tubs even dared to joke about the downstairs department, which he obviously regretted instantly by flushing like a little schoolgirl. 

Talking about his one-part documentary Made in China, where Gok tries to trace back his roots, Tubridy finally asks him to pick the best dressed woman and man in the audience to win a shopping voucher.
I have absolutely no idea what hit Gok when he went for a ninety-year-old man wearing a grey suit with pink tie, and even the poor old fellow was visibly confused when he wouldn't let go of Gok's hand and kept calling him beautiful.

Anyway, it was great fun altogether! I can't wait to see another illustrious guest on the Late Late, whenever that might be...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Co-authors wanted!

Hi folks :-D!

If you are a fan of my blog and always wanted to contribute something, but just didn't know what, here it is:

I have basically tested every non-commercial toddler group in my local area (Sandycove and Glasthule) and written down my impressions in that blog. (If you know of any other groups that I haven't been to yet, please let me know.)

Now I am looking for Co-bloggers 
who would fancy to rate toddler groups in their area 
(and obviously spread the word about this blog ;-). 

It doesn't matter whereabout in Dublin you live, as long as you want to share your thoughts and give new Moms an idea as of where to go (and of where not to go).

Wouldn't it be great if this blog became the Michelin Guide of the Dublin toddler group world ;-)???

P.S. I will obviously still try and keep you up to date on, well, anything that comes into my mind.

# 5 Squeals on Wheels, toddler group at Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church

Location:     Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church
                  Lower Glenageary Road
Times:        Tuesdays from 10.30 to 12
Prices:       € 2 per session (voluntary contribution)
PROs:        caring staff and volunteers, supervised play
CONs:        Can't think of anything negative really...
Overall:     ****

On Tuesday we went to check out Squeals on Wheels at Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church, a toddler group that unlike the ones we've been to before, is run by the church itself (and of course a number of volunteers).

The church is based at Lower Glenageary Road, not far from the People's Park and the centre of Dun Laoghaire. 
To my relief, they finally have taken off that terrible banner claiming that "There is hope...Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church". 
I guess, in a country full of Catholics it can easily be taken the wrong way (or perhaps the right one?!?). Anyway, thankfully it's gone now!

As I arrived (too early again), I received a warm welcome by Sally, the lady that runs the group, and her two volunteers Myrtle and 90-year-old (!) June who's in charge of tea and biscuits.  

On that note I should mention that if you are planning to go there, you better give them a ring prior to your visit. Apparently, they don't always have enough space for everyone. Taken, that they put a lot of effort into getting to know everyone and supervising the children, it certainly sounds plausible. I also prefer small groups to completely crammed ones. My feeling, however, was that this can't be the only reason and perhaps they want to inspect their new arrivals before they decide, whether you can come regularly or not. I can be completely wrong though! And saying that, I don't want to put anyone off either. 

Both of us were really comfortable and well looked after. On my previous visits to toddler groups, I sometimes felt that as a new girl it was quite hard to get talking to other parents. But this time, I didn't get that feeling at all and I don't think it was only due to the fact that I got talking to another newcomer.

The fact that this group is a religiously motivated one can seem strange at first when you aren't used to that sort of thing (i.e. the children's sing-along that mentions God). Thanks to their Christian motivation though, no one had to feel left out and I would definitely recommend Squeals on Wheels to you.

Aviva and I have definitely found the two toddler groups we feel most comfortable with :-).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Love or to Hate? The IFTAs and Irish TV series

As I have noticed in the past, the Irish are a completely sportsmad nation. Not only have they invented sports that are solely played by themselves (Gaelic games), with almost every second Irish man wearing tracksuit bottoms for almost every occassion, this sporty fashion choice has taken pole position over the famous racing hat.

With all of this in mind, it is no wonder that although not particularly interested in sports, I spent last Saturday socializing with a few friends over a rugby match between France and Ireland.

Thankfully though the match had been called off and pretending to be slightly disappointed, I was more than delighted to see that the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) were on. With the IFTAs being yet another guilty pleasure of mine, I was surprised to see that they actually weren't as bad as last year. Saying that, it was still pretty hard to watch and dragged on forever.

The IFTA is a young Irish rip-off version of the British BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Televison Arts), which awards anyone who is Irish or has Irish roots and works in the film and television industry with an IFTA at least at one point in their career.
Don't get me wrong though! There are fabulous Irish actresses and actors out there and usually one of them would even show up at the event. This year it was the turn of Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender who got an award for his portrayal of an urban sex addict in Shame. It was certainly one of the show's highlights when his c*** was being referred to as the Irish half and the way Fassbender threw a towel over his seat to reserve it as the German one.
Another great Irish talent that had been awarded an IFTA for her role as Shirley Bassey is Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga who seemed genuinely touched by this gesture. (Just shows you how difficult it must be for women in the film industry).

The big winner of the 2012 IFTAs however is RTÉs gangland drama series Love/Hate, which got seven awards in total! Having a look at it's cast I am not entirely surprised.
With charismatic The Wire actor Aiden Gillen playing merciless drug boss John Boy and handsome rising star Robert Sheehan in the role of the angelic good-baddy-type-of-drug dealer Darren, the series was expected to be a success.
I do not quite understand why they had to expand Tom Vaughan-Lawlor's part as Nidge in season two and upgrade him from pathetic doormat-type-of-gangster to a decent one. He simply wasn't believable enough in series two and certainly doesn't deserve an IFTA for best supporting actor over Robert Sheehan in Misfits. A great addition to Love/Hate however was the introduction of Peter Coonan as John Boy's antagonist and new baddy of the show and I'm almost certain he'll be considered for the rising star award in 2013.

Another watchable Irish series, unmentioned by this year's IFTAs, yet very popular with it's audience, is the RTÉ drama Raw focussing on the staff at a Dublin restaurant and I'd definitely recommend to watch it over rugby for example ;-).

Pictures: Irish men: Now...and then

Friday, February 10, 2012

# 4 Dalkey Library Parent and Toddler Group

Location:     Dalkey Library
Times:        Fridays from 10.30 to 12.00
Prices:        FREE
PROs:         cosy atmosphere
CONs:        not an ideal location for a toddler group
Overall:      **

Hi folks! I'm sorry I kept you waiting for so long. It's so tough to get back into writing after a short break! However, the good news is that now I'm back with the latest toddler group review for you :-).

Today we skipped Barnardos to see what the Dalkey Library toddler group is like. As someone who isn't religious, libraries have always been the real places of refuge to me, open to everyone and providing shelter until closing time (as long as you have a library card). Just as in churches you have to be quiet, but unlike those, I always feel welcome and never intimidated.
I have been to Dalkey Library a number of times, whether I needed to study or just to rent a DVD, and was never disappointed in their services (They have quite an impressive selection of independent films for a local library).

The toddler group is on every Friday from 10.30 to 12.00 at the Young Children's Library section, which is done up very nicely. Dalkey Library also offers "Story Time" for older children from three years on. Both services are free of charge.

Trying not to sound too disappointed, I'd tend to describe the group as an open playroom rather than a toddler group. It is not run by anyone, the library simply provides the facilities including books and a few toys. I can imagine the library as a great location for older children to listen to stories. For toddlers, however, I don't think it's the best place to go to. Just like me, other parents seem to think the same and just didn't show up (and were possibly at Barnardos). I don't know if it's something to do with female intuition, but I was pretty lucky to have asked a friend to drop in. Or else, Aviva and I would have spent the first twenty minutes by ourselves. By the end there were four children in total and it just felt as if a couple of parents had randomly and independently from each other decided to bring their toddlers out for a walk to their local library.

In terms of literacy, I greatly approve of the idea of storytime  and would definitely take Aviva there when she is older. For the moment, however, I better stick with what I know and won't skip another session at our regular toddler group.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My troublesome bus journeys

Now, the title of this post may be misleading as I thankfully haven't had to travel much by bus so far. But, wait till we see.

Generally speaking, I am very happy with the public transport system in Dublin. I just love the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and living only a few minutes away from the nearest station it would be my public transport # 1.

The LUAS (apparently standing for "speed" in Irish), Dublin's light rail tram system, is also a great invention and always got me safe into town when I first came to Ireland and lived in Dundrum. If I missed one, I sometimes only had to wait five more minutes for the next one (That's even better than in Germany!).

But what about those mysterious estates that are not covered by DART or LUAS lines? They will probably remain secretive to me, as long as I haven't overcome my fear of Dublin Bus!
I know, if you're an Irish person reading this post you will probably wonder what this confusion is all about. I know that, because everytime I actually had to take the bus, lots of indifferent faces would stare back at my desperation and wrongly identify me as a Dublin novice, or even worse, a tourist!

How come people consider it the most normal thing that minor bus stops don't have a time table, let alone a sign that tells them which buses actually leave from there or even the slightest information on the name of this very bus stop? So, just for my many German readers out there, who have problems picturing that: Just imagine you want to take a bus to a certain place and come to a bus stop. So far, so good. The only problem is, that this stop won't tell you where you are, which buses stop there, what times they leave at or which direction they go.

If you finally made it and got on the bus, you will face another problem. No, I don't mean that nothing in the bus tells you which stop is next (needless to mention that actually). You have to pay the exact fare and if you don't, well, you just won't see any change. Now, here the good news though: You can ask the bus driver for a receipt and claim your change with the next tax return (How ridiculous is that?).

So, what about these mysterious estates only covered by Dublin Bus ? I guess, I'm gonna handle it the way its' residents do and just take the car ;-). I had my second driving lesson today and can't quite see myself on the road yet, but my fear of the bus will get me there in the end...

Dublin Bus: What more information could you ask for?

That's me for the moment. I'm going for a short quality break over the weekend but will be back next Wednesday and keep you up to date on latest toddler group developments and other random thoughts of mine :-).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

# 3 St. Patrick's Parent and Toddler Group, Dalkey

Location:    Church of Ireland Hall, Dalkey
Times:       Tuesdays from 10.30 to 12.00
Prices:       € 2 per session (no other fees apply)
PROs:        cheap, very commited volunteers
CONs:        (Not sure..felt that I didn't belong perhaps)
Overall:     *** and 1/2*

St. Patrick's Church in Dalkey belongs to the Church of Ireland, which by only 3 per cent is the second largest denomination after Catholicism in the Republic of Ireland according to the 2006 census.
So much for civics lessons though! Because that has nothing to do with the toddler group whatsoever.

The Church is located on an elevated site overlooking Dublin bay and because I don't have a car, I walked along the scenic route passing Bullock harbour. And although we've been living here for quite a while now, for a moment it felt like I was on holidays. Walking up the hill, we passed a number of builders, which Aviva correctly identified as "Bobs". First struggling to find the Church Hall, I soon realized that they are sharing the same building with St. Patrick's National School.

The toddler group itself is run by committed parents only and one session costs € 2 with no further charges applying. Included are also tea and biscuits. At the start we all sat in a circle singing nursery rhymes (including an introductory song) to get warmed up, which has a very nice touch to it. It also gives the toddler group a bit of structure.
Having introduced Aviva by collective singing "Aviva's wearing beige today, beige today, beige today. Aviva's wearing beige today, on a Tuesday morning", I felt a bit bad, as she was the only child misbehaving and not taking part. However, the free biscuits certainly made up for that ;-).

So, while Aviva obsessed over a changing mat instead of playing with toys, I got talking to another young Mom. Or at least I thought she was! It turned out she was a Swiss au pair and henceforward our conversation continued in German. With the Swiss being very accurate and into standards, I wasn't surprised when she told me that she's mainly here to get an internationally recognized CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) and would soon go home.

Anyway, the toddler group! Overall it was a good experience and because it's so cheap and cheerful, I'm going to give it three and a half stars and a another go at some point. The only thing I felt was a bit of a letdown, is the fact that I didn't really get to talk to anyone and despite good efforts the athmosphere was kind of cold (But that's just me!).

You should definitely go and judge it for yourself :-).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

If you're feelin nothin, hit that button!

Having confessed my secret acceptance of Ryan Tubridy to you, I feel there's no shame in coming out with yet another questionable interest of mine.

The Irish version of Take Me Out is back on TV3 and while two of my Irish friends find it too cringeworthy to watch, I way prefer it to it's big English brother. 

Here it is: Show host Ray Foley wants to find the perfect match for thirty single ladies who stand behind a lit podium. Then, a poor fellow walks on to a tune he had picked himself accompanied by silly dance moves. Following that, a lot of the girls would press a buzzer to turn off their lights, indicating that they have no interest in a country pumpkin with dyed blond hair wearing tracksuit bottoms on national television.
The humiliation doesn't end here though! After that, poor Malachy from Athlone has two more chances to impress the ladies. Then usually, a video clip comes on showing his family, telling the audience what a cute baby he was and some of the lads going on about what a boozer he is. If Malachy didn't get a total blackout already, he can show off an embarrassing talent (like playing backpipes or impressing them with a card trick).
If he's very lucky, some of the girls will have kept their lights on and he has to whittle it down to only two of them. Before he can make his final decision, he has to ask them a token question, like what sort of a sandwich they would like to be and why.
Finally, he picks a girl, they walk off together and one week later it turns out, that unfortunately his Mullingar date Karen can't see him again because of the great distance between them.

My friends would say that the English version is way more professional and upbeat and I guess they're right. However, I prefer to watch real people on television. And if that means to pick unimpressed Irish girls over English chicks on speed and chubby country fellows over steroid-addicted hulks, I can well live with that :-).

So, don't forget to switch on Irish Take Me Out and if you think he's a clown, shut him down (even Foleys catch phrases are better than the English ones)!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

# 2 Barnardos Parent & Toddler Group,Dun Laoghaire

Location:    Barnardos Branch in Dun Laoghaire,
                 14 Tivoli Terrace South
Times:        Fridays from 10.00 to 12.00
Prices:        € 2 per session (€ 5 enrollment fee)
PROs:         friendly staff, partly structured play, outdoor play area,
                 separate baby play area, reasonable price
CONs:        crammed and chaotic
Overall:      ****

A very warm welcome to my first official follower :-)! It's great to see that people are looking at my blog. You are aware though, that by doing so you make me feel EVEN MORE committed to it, don't you ;-)?

I'm trying not to be biassed as I have only been to two different toddler groups so far. But at a very reasonable € 2 per two-hour session I can tell you straight away that there probably isn't any better toddler group in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (in terms of price/performance ratio). You have to pay a € 5 enrollment fee at your first visit but that's no big deal (Remember I had to pay € 7 at Cuidiu for only one session?).

The toddler group is run by a local branch of Barnardos, which is Ireland's leading children's charity. And they just have loads on! It really would go beyond the scope of this blog, so you should definitely check out their website.

At Dun Laoghaire's Barnardos branch they have different play areas, such as a water and sand area, a painting corner, an outdoor play area and also a separate baby play section. That's basically due to the fact that they also participate in the free pre-school scheme (ECCE), so they are used to accomodating for children.

Overall, they are a bit more structured than toddler groups run by volunteers. From 10 to 11 it's "Choice time", which just means that the toddlers choose activities by themselves. At eleven, small tooth-friendly snacks and drinks are provided by Barnardos ("Snack time"). From 11.15 it's "Outside time" and at ten to twelve before it's time to go home they sing together.
These are suggestions only and you do not have to comply with them. Your child is making the decisions for you anyway ;-).

To make a long story short, I am very happy with that toddler group. The staff are very friendly and committed and I'm already going there on a regular basis.
The only thing that I don't like is that it's always really crammed and chaotic (I know, that's a pretty big BUT). Yesterday, I tried to count the amount of infants running about. But it simply wasn't possible. And it's not just them. You also have to count in their parents and the members of staff... That doesn't leave you with much space.

However, given that it's so cheap I'm not surprised that many parents choose to go there and I would definitely recommend it to you.

As announced two days ago, tommorow I'm gonna tell you about Fun Fitness in Sandyford. So, stay tuned ;-)!


Friday, January 27, 2012

The old Tubs...

I know I'm not speaking for all of you by saying that I like Ryan Tubridy.

Now, don't be misguided by his utterly stiff presentation of the Late Late Show. After all, the show's old-fashioned concept is as ancient as the bible (and the majority of it's audience). While hosting the Late Late poor Tubs probably has to face many RTE restrictions that cramp his style.
The weekend newspapers usually slag the tall fellow for either not being sharp enough and avoiding any controversy, or on the contrary, of not intervening if his guests go too far (Like last april, when one of his guests kept calling Kate Middleton a "ride").

His weekday morning show on RTE 2fm from 9 to 11 on the other hand is really listenable. With Tubs being given the chance to speak his mind, he turns out to be pretty funny and entertaining.
The range of topics talked about is almost endless. You could end up listening to a professional rugby player talking about how his eyeball burst in a freak accident, a woman about talking someone out of jumping off a bridge, or simply discuss what to do with your wedding ring after your marriage went pear-shaped. And all of that in one morning!

I know,that's a lot to take in. However, most listeners calling the show would be mothers (Who else would have time in the mornings apart from civil servants obviously). So, a lot of the time parenting issues would also be discussed.

Having read that article you should definitely give him a chance, the old Tubs... Don't you think?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

# 1 Cuidiu Toddler Group Glenageary

Location:  St. Paul's Church Hall Glenageary, Adelaide Road
Times:     Wednesdays from 10.00 - 12.00
Prices:     € 7 for Non-Members / € 4 for Cuidiu Members (€ 25 annual fee)
PROs:      coffee or tea and biscuits included; spacious facilities,
              separate baby play area
CONs:     no structured play, no professional staff, quite expensive
Overall:   ***

St. Paul's Church Hall, a lovely modern building with glass facade, is located at the corner of Adelaide road/Silchester road in Glenageary (just off the DART station).
The toddler group is run by Cuidiu (Irish for parenthood), which is a parent-to-parent support group run by volunteer parents and apparently a very conservative one (very into breastfeeding and that sort of thing). Nevermind.

As usual I arrived very early and must remember not to do so the next time as I had to help setting up the play area. At € 7 per session for Non-Cuidiu-Members the toddler group is quite dear, especially given the fact that there is no professional staff or structured play. Cuidiu, however, seems to be relatively popular as the place was soon filled with a good two dozens of toddlers and babies in all shapes and colours.
I like the idea of a separate baby play area and am also very fond of the tea /coffee and biscuits that are included in the price ;-).

Surprisingly enough I didn't see anyone I had met before, even though I thought I knew most new mothers in the local area. Just another evidence of Ireland's baby boom, I guess.
I got to talk to a very nice young mom at the same age as me and noticed once again that there are very few "young" mothers in my area. With the south of Dublin being a rather priviliged area, most first time mothers I met are in their midthirties, careerwise and financially sorted (and would soon be second time mothers).

Back to the toddlergroup though. Overall I enjoyed the experience and didn't feel that my money went to waste. Two hours is more than enough for a toddler to "socialize" (= fighting over toys) and with that in mind I will definitely give Cuidiu toddler group another go at some stage.

Tomorrow I'm gonna go to Barnardos toy library in Dun Laoghaire and will also share my thoughts on Fun Fitness Sandyford that I went to see today.

So, stay tuned ;-)!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Toddler Group Rating System

Hi folks :D,
I know you're all dying to find out how I got on at Cuidiu parent and toddler group in Glenageary today. But it's pretty late already and One Born every minute is on in 15 minutes ;-).

To keep the tension, let me first introduce you to my "toddler group rating system". As you will notice it's very straight forward.

*          Would not recommend it at all

**        Probably would not go a second time

***      Will definitely give it one more go

****    Could see myself coming here on a regular basis

*****  Why on earth haven't I found out about this miraculous place earlier?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Toddler Group Alarm!

So, here I am: Tackling the challenge of finding a toddler group for Aviva. If we lived in Germany she'd almost certainly go to creche even if I was unemployed.

But, I don't think I'm telling you a secret if I say that childcare in Ireland is just ridiculously expensive. As far as I know prices for fulltime childcare start at € 800 a month. That's almost one parent's wages! In terms of childcare you either have to be very flexible and creative or simply better off than most people.

However, being a (temporary) stay at home mum in Ireland doesn't leave me much of a choice and I'm going to find a place where Aviva can meet other children. Plus, having lived here for a year and a half, I have met loads of lovely people, but I cannot say I have made friends or simply meet others on a regular basis.

So here it is: Tomorrow I am going to test Cuidiu parent and toddler group at St. Paul's Church Hall in Glenageary. At € 7 per two-hour session it's quite expensive. Let's see if it's worth it!

Welcome to my world :-)

Job done! I just created my first blog and would like to tell you about my life as a German mother who has come to live and work (?)in Ireland.

My name is Julia and in August 2010 my then 4 month old daughter Aviva, my partner Sam and I swapped life in Germany for a more promising future in the South of Dublin.(More promising because Sam had to get his qualification as a key to any job that is).

We soon found that life in a recession-ridden country is even tougher than expected (and I'm a pretty realistic person) and we don't know how long we're going to be able to afford life over here. For the time being though, I would like to share my thoughts on bringing up a child in Ireland. With the Irish being such warm and lovely people, yet it's hard to make friends with them and Irish Society being so different to Germany, I hopefully will have plenty to write about.

Originally I aimed at keeping this blog bilingual. However, for some reason I find it easier to express my thoughts in English. Isn't that weird?