Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Other Side of Panic

This afternoon, I panicked so much about my visa that I actually went through the panic barrier to the other side of panic, which is kind of like an insanely happy place where the grass is purple and the sky is green and I am totally insane.
As a teenager, did anyone else ever have those mammoth phone conversations which would go, like, SO late into the night (like, 11pm or MIDNIGHT) and you would get tired, but you still hadn’t solved the problems of the universe (or finished talking about the guys you liked), so you would keep talking, and then, eventually, you would get so tired you actually didn’t feel tired anymore, you actually felt perfectly normal except for the fact that absolutely everything was suddenly really, really, REALLY funny for no reason whatsoever? You’d look down and realise that you were no longer sitting in your chair, but lying on the ground with your legs up in the air and giggling at your bare toes. It was a strange, exhilarating feeling.
Well, that’s what it got like today. I was finally called up and told there was no way I was getting an extension on my Irish visa (which I expected and was already starting to plan for), when suddenly someone threw in the possibility of getting a performer’s visa for the Midsummer Festival, which, at first seemed the perfect solution, until I looked into it further and realised I was supposed to apply from my home country (yet AGAIN) and it took 6 – 8 weeks to process, oh, and, of course, they needed my passport to organise it. All of which was slightly impossible at this late stage of the game. Even though I had, before this, resigned myself to the idea that I would have to leave Ireland on Friday, I suddenly became majorly frantic attempting to fit myself into this performer’s visa. I had to physically prevent myself from pulling out my hair. Eventually, we sent off a quick inquiry to see if the visa could be arranged urgently.
In the meantime, I decided that I should get a move on with packing and cleaning, in case Friday actually was the last day I would be in Ireland and that I would either need to take everything with me, or, at least, have it all packed up so that my housemate could send it on to me once I figured out exactly where I was going next.
And it was at that point that I went to the Other Side of Panic. There was something about throwing out all the junk that I have accumulated that suddenly put my in an amazing mood (is this what people feel like when they clean things? Is that what people do it for?) Maybe it was the feeling of moving on. Maybe it was the feeling of something finally being decided (even if it wasn’t the outcome that I was hoping for). Maybe it was the feeling of adventure again – who knows what’s around the corner (or, indeed, Pocahontas, what’s around the river bend?)
Who knows. I started to feel better.
I had a fabulous indie music mix on thanks to 8 tracks (check them out – http://www.8tracks.com and for my exact, Other Side of Panic mix, check out – www.http://8tracks.com/bellh/adventure-time ) and was dancing around my room trying to decide whether or not I really needed to keep my Ireland Lonely Planet or if I could safely give it to the charity store around the corner (its going to the charity store). Then, attempting to sort through my clothes – to decide which ones were now too big (there were a couple – HOORAY), which ones fit me now, which ones may fit me in a few weeks and which ones I have always hated and will continue to hate for the rest of my/their existence and I can’t understand why I bought them in the first place – I ended up trying on all of the clothes and having some sort of demented dancing, fashion parade from my room to where the mirror is located in the bathroom. Down the corridor, down the stairs, ooh, up the stairs, the bathroom mirror is upstairs, that’s right, keep on dancing, don’t slip or trip up and land yourself in hospital (though there’s a potential way of staying in the country…. JOKES, JOKES… I’m not considering it, Irish visa official, I swear). All things considered, I was in a mad mood. I was having a great time.
There may have also been half-dressed dancing in socks.
You needn’t picture that. 
The lesson here is that no situation is so stressful and awful that it cannot be distracted from by a little musical interlude a la Risky Business:

  
I even managed to get up and stay away from my computer for whole minutes at a time. I didn’t manage this at all on Friday until it was close of business and I was absolutely certain that no email from the British Embassy could possibly be coming for me. I spent the entire hours of 9 – 5 in my pj’s, in bed, watching ‘Spooks’ on Netflix and bawling my eyes out when Adam Carter died. (Was it because he died, or was it because of the visa situation? Who knows). Oddly enough, today the good mood was reversed. I stayed maniacally happy until 4:50pm, when I then closed the computer, went downstairs and made myself dinner, refusing to let myself look at the computer screen again until 6pm and hoping against hope that some kind British embassy official had sent me an email in the last 10 minutes of their day. 
Of course they hadn’t. 
And then my mood crashed and all the panic came back.
I now have tomorrow, possibly Wednesday and maybe the morning of Thursday (depending on how brave I’m feeling) to wait for the visa outcome before I have to ‘pull the plug’, so to speak and get my passport back so I can leave the country on Friday and not get the red mark stamped inside it which says I overstayed my visa and I am therefore a terrible human being who should not be trusted with another visa and may not even be able to travel to places that I don’t need a visa for in case I should get the ‘overstaying’ urge and just go on the run in Canada or something. 
To make things worse, a friend in the UK has sent me the details for the mot amazing job, I may go so far as to say my DREAM UK job and I don’t think its a good idea to apply for it without my visa being approved (she has suggested getting the job and then getting a sponsored work visa, but I’m not sure if this would work… I have no proof of that of course, but the way my luck is going… I suspect it would be a case of… MORE BLOODY VISAS).
Its just salt in the bloody wound of the visa application process, basically. One half of me (the stupid, optimistic half) says, ‘Oh, the world wouldn’t let that job be advertised without you getting the opportunity to apply for it. You’ll definitely get the visa.’ Tra-la-la-la-la, have a lollipop and the world is just unicorns and roses. The other half (the half that curls up scowling in the corner of my brain, hiding from the light, smelling bad and spitting at things) says, ‘Well, of course that would happen. That’s what life’s like. You’ll definitely NOT get the visa now, just to prove how stupid you were for not getting all the visas organised earlier.’
Anyway, I’m trying not to think about it much. Which is clearly not working, as this is only the third post I’ve written on the subject in a week and a half.
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More Irish Slang

I’ve thought of some more.

1) Bold. Means: Naughty. Particularly important for my last little boy that I looked after. ‘I’m not being bold!’ ‘You are being bold.’ ‘I’m not being bold!’ ‘It is most definitely bold to knock your baby brother on the head with a plastic hammer.’

2) Cop on. Means: ‘get your act together’! Or, ‘stop being an idiot!’ Often said by parents to their teenage children. ‘Your mother and I have had enough of this bold behaviour, would you just cop on!’

3) Give out. Means: Got yelled at. As in, ‘Who did the teacher give out to today?’

4) ‘A ride’. Means: very attractive, and most likely good in bed. As in, ‘Oh, goodness, that George Clooney is such a ride.’ Can also be used just to describe how good a person was in bed. ‘Did you sleep with him?’ ‘Yes, he was such a ride!’

5)  Mot. Means: A girlfriend. From the Irish, ‘maith coleen’ meaning, a ‘good’ girl.

6) Culchie. Means: a person from the countryside. But, kind of deregatory. Sort of like, ‘Westie’ in Australia, in terms of the sentiment, but with a rural tinge to it. So, its more about talking slow, being unfashionable, living with the cows and being innocent to the point of stupidity.

7) Desperate. Means: terrible or awful. ‘Isn’t that dress just desperate?’

8) Stop or, ‘Oh, stop.’ Normal meaning, but usually said in an affectionate or loving way. So, if someone is going on about something that is funny or ridiculous, you might say, ‘Oh, stop’, as in, ‘I can’t handle how amusing you are currently being.’ Or, alternatively, if someone is telling you how dreadful they are as a human being, you might say, ‘Oh, stop’ and take their hand, as in, ‘You’re being so ridiculous, you’re such a wonderful person and I think I love you.’ When said right, this is probably my absolutely favourite Irish phrase. There is so much behind every ‘stop’.

9) Good man/woman yourself. I love this one too! Basically means, ‘good job!’ ‘I appreciate what you have done for me!’ But, of course, it takes that sentiment one step further by making out that your good job means that you are a superior human being. Excellence.

10) Eejit. Of course, this is just ‘idiot’ but said in a fabulous Irish accent. Fabulous.

11) Fair play! But, even better, ‘fair play to you!’ Means: Well done. No, really, really, REALLY well done. Must be said in an admiring tone.

12) Feck off. I bet you can guess…an Irish tour guide tried to convince me that ‘feck’ was not actually a swear word, but just the word that Irish people came up with when they had to learn English and were forbidden from speaking Irish. If they couldn’t think of the English word they wanted, they would say ‘feck’ instead. So, like, ‘Can you pass me the… oh, the feck… the feckin’… would you pass the feck?’ I don’t think I believe him.

13) Gas. Means: funnny. ‘Oh, that Eddie Izzard is such gas.’ ‘We went out last night and it was such gas.’ Often said after someone has completed an amusing story. ‘…and then, we turned around and realised the car was still under the tree!’ ‘Ha ha ha ha…. gas.’

14) Kip. Means: a dump. ‘Her house is a complete kip.’ Also, confusingly, to take a nap. ‘Even though her house was a complete kip, I had a little kip there.’

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The Dubliners

Yesterday, I had an amazing experience. You may remember that when I first arrived in Dublin last year, I didn’t like the place. It was always raining, it was cold, not much was happening and the things that were happening were so mind-numbingly tourist-y that I didn’t hold out much hope for the rest of the country. I knew that Ireland and Dublin were ancient places, places with many different faces, but the only face I could see when I arrived last year was the drunken leer of British stag nights and Aussie backpackers.
But, yesterday, yesterday, I got up close and personal with the Dublin of James Joyce, and I fell in love.
Every April, at least, every April for the past few years, Dublin has run a program called ‘One City, One Book’. They chose one book and everyone in Dublin is encouraged to read the same book. They run programs, events and performances surrounding the book and its author throughout April, hoping to encourage discussion amongst strangers and friends – its as if the whole city is one great big book club.
This year’s book is, rather appropriately, ‘The Dubliners’ by James Joyce, a series of short stories set amongst the streets of Dublin. When Dad visited Ireland last year, he read ‘The Dubliners’ as a kind of alternate tourist guide and he raved about the stories as well as the insights into the city they afforded. So, when I saw that one of the programs included in the ‘One City, One Book’ program was a ‘Dubliners’ audio walking tour, I got very excited. There were two options: a half-day tour (5 – 6 hours) or a full day ‘epic’ (9 – 10 hours). Of course, being the enthusiast/self-punisher that I am, I chose the 9 – 10 hour tour.
I managed to do the tour in 8 hours and by the end of it all, I was so tired and hungry that I could barely think straight. Despite this, yesterday was one of the most charming, educational and magical things I have ever done in any city anywhere in the world. The stories were read by a large cast of actors and chopped up so that you could listen to them in the exact places that they were set in. I walked many kilometres, all the way out to the mouth of the Liffey and back to the village of Chapelizod (pronunciation: Chap-uh-lizad, meaning: Isolde’s Chapel) near Phoenix Park. I saw new places and I saw old places anew. At the prompting of the earphones, I went into backstreets I would never dared to have gone down on my own (I’m still not sure if it was wise), peeked into people’s back gardens and saw gorgeous Georgian houses run down by years of neglect. I stood in front of shiny department stores and looked above them to see the still-beautiful Victorian facades that Joyce would have walked past in his time. I stood in the last patches of empty parkland that were once great fields and listened to the characters describe the sun hiding behind the clouds and then watching my contemporary clouds covering the contemporary sun in a similar way. I laughed and gasped in the streets listening to the stories of these Dubliners, all of whom are trapped (and many of whom agreed passionately that you cannot get anything done in Dublin – to grow you have to get away, to go abroad).
Highlights were the beautifully sad story of a middle-aged couple engaging in an affair in the village of Chapelizod and the paths of Phoenix Park (‘A Painful Case’). The music and the sound on the headphones changed the atmosphere of the park grounds so effectively that even though it was a beautiful, sunny day, I felt as if I was wandering the lanes in darkness, listening to the voice of the dead woman, feeling her hand on mine, her breath on the back of my neck. I sat in the same pub as the male character and watched the Liffey go by, the drinkers in Joyce’s story (‘five or six working-men in the shop… drank at intervals from their huge pint tumblers’), seemed almost to still be there. They stared at me – what was a woman doing in this pub?
Another highlight was the setting of the famous story, ‘The Dead’. The story starts in a Georgian townhouse near my neighbourhood of the Liberties. The director of the tour had set up the second floor of the ‘James Joyce House’ (where Joyce’s aunts lived) for an early 20th century evening meal. You sat at the table with candles, cutlery, and on your headphones heard the conversation of the evening meal of the story. It suddenly felt as if this other Dublin, this other era, was alive in the room with you. For a history nut like myself, this was such a thrilling experience. To pretend that you were part of this fictional, and yet deeply historical story, was a step above the usual theatre show that I go to see with its fourth wall concretely in place, and was genuinely moving.
But, in the end it was the story of Eveline that touched me the most. The sad girl who fell in love with an Irish sailor and was to run away with him to Argentina but got cold feet at the very end had me confusedly crying in the street. It wasn’t just the physical exertion that exhausted me at the end of the day, it was the emotional gymnastics, the concentration required and the education that was involved.
I wish that I could make a recommendation for this tour to continue indefinitely. It seemed like such a wonderful thing, not only for tourists, but for those people who lived in the city. I also think that its something that could work well in many other cities, the only thing that would need to be figured out would be the chosen stories that were used. Its only a small slice of Dublin’s long and varied history that I heard/saw yesterday, but the place already feels so much richer and I feel so much more apart of it because of what I’ve done.

Found at: http://eng41.wordpress.com/2008/07/18/blog-assignment-2-imagery-and-paralysis-in-joyces-dubliners/

I love the city, I love Joyce, I love The Dubliners.

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Week of Doom and Gloom

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I have been suffering from a great deal of stress regarding flaming swords.
Well, either that or visa applications, I can’t rightly remember anymore.
I was hoping that by today (well, actually, yesterday…), I would have been victoriously posting on FB, UK VISA = APPROVED or IRISH VISA A-OK or simply, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED in an appropriately obnoxious and enigmatic way.
Unfortunately, this is not to be and I have to start thinking (in, oh, the next week or so) of what I am going to be doing in the next few months and what country I will be in and what I will be able to do in said country, which is a rather daunting prospect. I do find it most… ironic (maybe? I’m never certain of the definition of that word anymore… thanks very much Alanis Morrisette) that it was always the UK and London that I wanted to go to, I got distracted and went to Ireland and maybe now I’ll never get to go to the UK after all. That’s needlessly pessimistic and melodramatic, but I keep envisioning these scenarios where I’m forced to go back to Australia because of visa issues and then I get totally distracted by things in Australia and never go to Europe again, or the UK abolishes working holiday visas because their economy is so bad, or we run out of oil and no one can fly anywhere ever again, meaning that I never actually get to live in London, the place I’ve been (inexplicably) dreaming about since I was 15 years old.
Of course, when big things seem to be going wrong, all the little things seem so much harder to deal with; as if the world is essentially spitting you in the eye as you wallow about in the stinking mud of the gutter that life has pushed you into (‘oh, Jenny, don’t you think you’re being just a tad over-the-top and self-pitying?’ ‘why, no, what on earth gave you that impression? Being pushed into a stinking hole of gutter muck is a perfectly accurate depiction of my current existence’). There are many little things that have been made so much worse from the visa stress.
Number one, the weather has been righteously miserable for the last few days and for Ireland, that is saying something. Icy-cold gusts of wind, endless rain, hail, and then these strange 7 minute patches of sunshine that are essentially a tactic used by the weather to lure you out of your house in inappropriate clothing and without your umbrella so that the sky can dump more icy-cold water on you. I have not been dealing well with this treatment. I flip between being the scarily angry woman swearing at her umbrella as it flips inside out in the wind, scowling and rudely gesturing at cars that splash her or pedestrians that get in her way; and the mournful, ‘weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders’ woman who stares hopelessly down the street as her now-snapped-in-two umbrella flies away from her, secretly kind of satisfied by the pathetic, wet and bedraggled figure she cuts amongst the crowd. The only benefit with the terrible weather was that I was so cold and wet and miserable coming home yesterday I became so focused on getting into a warm bubble bath that I actually forgot to eat lunch. Now before you start likening me to pro-anorexia websites, I’m not advocating starvation here, I’m simply commenting that things have to be pretty momentous these days for me to actually forget about food. Which brings me to number 2 tiny-thing-that-has-ruined-my-week.
I know I spent a lot of time whingeing about this last year and I honestly don’t want to start complaining about it again, but I jumped on the scales at the gym just recently (first time in a year) and… well, it wasn’t a pretty number. I’m sort of stuck between two feelings, one that I’m very proud I didn’t completely freak out when I saw this number (there have certainly been times when jumping on the scales and seeing the numbers flash by could bring on a panic attack) and another which is, ‘really? that much? THAT BLOODY MUCH?’ I haven’t been totally obsessive about my diet for the past two months, but it has improved out of sight from last year and I have been exercising regularly. My clothes suggest my body is changing a little, very gradually, but its still rather depressing to think I have a fair ways to go before being back in a healthy weight range. The stress from the visas/swords is also inducing within me a strong desire to consume large amounts of sugar, possibly encased in great lumps of fat, which would obviously not assist with the weight loss goal (nor, in fact, if I’m honest, with stress relief), but it is attractive nonetheless.
What else? One of my housemate’s friends who lives down the road from us got robbed the other night. The robbers were jumping from roof to roof (we think) and came in through an open bathroom window at 3am, whilst everyone was inside. The girl even saw the robber walking around downstairs (but thought it was her housemate….). This news has me needlessly paranoid at night at the moment, even though we have an alarm system. I keep waking up and thinking ‘Is that someone downstairs? Is that someone on the roof? OH MY GOD, is that the alarm I can hear?’ It should be pretty obvious, I would have thought, that if you have to ask yourself whether or not ‘that is the alarm’, and then stop and listen really hard and then consider it for a few moments, it is a safe bet that whatever it is is that you think you hear is NOT your security alarm, but just a beeping of the imagination. This would seem pretty obvious to most people, but I am the Queen of Convincing Myself of Anything (well, anything paranoid and bad, like the end of civilization as we know it brought about my the European Monetary Crisis or a robber hanging about my bed like some sort of creepy Spiderman). Nighttime paranoia, of course, translates to daytime tiredness, which only magnifies my feelings of stress and unhappiness.
Furthermore, I am struggling with Facebook at the moment. When in a good mood, Facebook can be delightfully diverting, when in a bad mood, Facebook fuels my paranoia, anxiety, sense of unworthiness and uselessness and many other horrible things that begin with un-. Its kind of like being back in high school, where you’re constantly paranoid; feeling like you’re being left out of all the exciting and popular things. ‘Oh, that friend has a new job,’ ‘Oh, that friend is getting married,’ ‘Oh, that friend is pregnant,’ ‘Oh, that friend is incredibly beautiful,’ ‘Oh, that friend’s status update is much funnier than mine…’ One after the other they pop up in my Newsfeed, ‘BAM! What are you doing with your life? BAM! What are you doing with your life, loser? BAM! You like that, hm? BAM!’ I keep trying to remind myself that its not one friend who is achieving absolutely everything, that everyone has to pick and choose where to put their efforts and what is most important to them, but it sometimes does feel, staring at that Newsfeed, that there is one great big amazing, attractive, cool, smart friend that is DOING and ACHIEVING and WINNING EVERYTHING which must then be compared to your own daily activity of sitting on the couch, developing wrinkles from frowning at a computer screen and balancing various food stuffs on your protruding belly.

Facebook Friend is better than you at EVERYTHING. Found at: http://acidcow.com/famous/31881-peoples-2012-worlds-most-beautiful-woman-10-pics.html

Aside from the feeling of ‘Facebook-Friend-is-better-than-me-at-pretty-much-everything’, whilst in my current fragile and stressed state of mind, I become confusingly distressed by everyone else’s behaviour on FB. ‘Why didn’t she/he message me?’ ‘Why didn’t he/she comment on my status?’ ‘Doesn’t he/she LIKE me???’ ‘Why did he/she say that about me/about that thing/about that person? What are they REALLY TRYING TO SAY?’ Or, in another example, a friend of a friend reacted badly to an online comment I made and I instantly decided that I AM THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE HISTORY OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, and that this unknown stranger is UNQUESTIONABLY RIGHT AND MORAL AND GOOD and that I should spend the rest of the afternoon SELF-FLAGELLATING for my flippant remark as the ONLY DECENT PUNISHMENT.
*Sigh*
So, in other words, instead of compartmentalising my stress and anxiety and allow it to only affect the parts of my life to which it is relevant (actually the stress and anxiety already affect a fairly large chunk of my life as it is, really), I have allowed it to seep into all bits of my life and make everything, EVERYTHING, seem much worse than it is.
Brilliant. 

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Further Adventures in Bureaucracy

For this post I will be using an extended metaphor. To fully understand my predicament you will need to imagine that I am a juggler. A juggler who juggles swords. 5 swords at the same time. Swords that are on fire. Whilst walking a tightrope. Over a pit of flesh-eating crocodiles and lava (don’t ask me how the flesh-eating crocodiles can survive the lava, they just can. Look, they’re flesh-eating crocodiles, ok?)

See? Crocodiles can totally live in lava. Found at: http://www.funnyjunk.com/comment/anonymous/content/3387212/-5/1/parent_id/20/11

Have that image in mind? Great.
As my ancestors all came to Australia in the 19th century, I don’t have the luxury of an EU passport. So, unlike many of my luckier friends (who despite growing up with the ABC and SBS and barbies in the sun and summers by the beach and koalas and kangaroos and innumerable other Australian stereotypes, were able to use Italian grandmothers or Greek grandfathers, mothers born in Cambridge or fathers born in Manchester to obtain that holy grail of the modern young traveller: a European passport) if I want to stay and work in any country in Europe, I have to obtain a visa.
So, step number one back in 2010, was to obtain a working holiday visa for Ireland. I decided to go through one of these work programs that give help you with the visa application and give you support once you’re in the country. So far, so good. Despite their rapidly disappearing economy, the Irish embassy promptly issued me a working holiday visa. Sure the visa looked like I had mocked it up on my computer and laminated it at the local Officeworks, but when I got to Ireland in February, the local Garda station registered me no problems.
When I was accepted into the Creative Connections program, I decided to find out how easy/hard it would be to switch to another visa and stay a little longer in the country. Not ever having been one to break the rules, I was not at all tempted by the possibility of overstaying my visa illegally. I inquired and was told that my work visa could be extended by another 3 months (essentially a tourist visa). That was fine. In February this year, I got this extension, no problems. Hence, I am legal in Ireland still, though not allowed to earn money (which I’m not), but only for another 2 weeks. Lets call this visa Sword No. 1.
Around November last year, when Creative Connections found out who our guest artist for the 2012 Midsummer Festival was, I became hopeful that I may be able to extend for another 2 months after this initial 3 month extension. This was because the artist (Mark) was so exciting to work with and it didn’t seem like another 2 month extension would be too hard. So, I approached a group in Cork to get some visa advice and to see if they could help me get an extension. The person I spoke to was very positive and thought there should be no problems, after all, I was Australian! It was only 2 months! I could prove I was planning to go to the UK afterwards! Why wouldn’t they approve it? Let’s call this extension or new visa or permission to stay in Ireland until July 1st Sword No. 2.
Then, we add into the mix, Sword No. 3. As I stated above, I am (and have been the entire year) planning to head to the UK next on another youth holiday work visa. Sword No. 3 has been a real bitch. If you can imagine that Sword No. 3 is not one sword, but is actually many tiny little swords that must all be thrown together at the same time, or everything will fall apart, that would give you a sense of what this application has been like. To get the UK visa, you need to apply online. Once  you have completed the application, you need to make a payment. Once you have made a payment, the application is complete and gets sent to the British Embassy. You make an appointment to drop in your documents and the application is assessed. Straight forward enough? Not so, grasshopper. To make the application you need a variety of documents, all of which shouldn’t be more than a month old (Tiny Sword No. 1). There are a list of strict requirements said documents need to adhere to, or they won’t be accepted. Tiny Sword No. 2 is attempting to get the documents from the Commonwealth Bank whilst overseas and trying to convince every single customer service operator I speak to that despite their belief that a print-out from my NetBank would be sufficient evidence of funds, the British Embassy does not share their belief and will not recognise these documents. Due to the busy nature of the British Embassy, often application appointments will be booked up to two weeks in advance, however, applications are only valid for a month after the payment has been made, meaning that a 4 week window to apply essentially becomes a 2 week window (Tiny Sword No. 3), if there are any problems with your documents and the appointment needs to be changed. Tiny Sword No. 4 is that you do not get an automatic refund if you do not get your application and application documents into the Embassy within that 2 week window, meaning that you do not want to make payment and confirm your application until you are certain of your documents. Tiny Sword No. 5 is the re-realisation that the bank documents ALSO cannot be older than 4 weeks, or they will be considered invalid, meaning you cannot order them in advance, be certain of them and then put in an application afterwards (because, by the time you get to your application appointment, the documents are already invalid). But, if you recall, all these tiny swords actually make up a bigger sword, which is the visa application itself, which needs my passport to be processed.
Sword No. 4 is that I was accepted into a playwrighting conference in Alaska and I have booked tickets to that already leaving from Dublin in June. That is a two week jaunt in the USA and as far as I know the USA tourist visa application has all been approved and its all a-ok. However, the plane tickets are a problem. 
Finally, Sword No. 5 would be the things that I am attempting to do in the UK and Ireland that make all the visa swords worthwhile (mentoring program, Cork Midsummer festival, internship etc.), but have also made the other swords difficult to obtain and all of which, let me just stress again, for the benfit of any bureaucrats reading out there, are volunteer work, not in violation of any of my visas etc. etc. etc.    
Ok, so now we get to the actual act of juggling all the swords of fire. My current visa (Sword No. 1) expires 4th of May. Not very far away. Despite having my information since last November, I was only able to get an answer about Sword No. 2 from the migrant information centre last week, which was just to approach the garda station and try for another extension. This was refused in both Dublin and Cork outright. In fact, Cork suggested that I shouldn’t have even gotten the first visa extension (which is not true – its standard practice as backed up by a variety of official sources – but its always comforting when you know more information about your visa and the rights you have to stay in the country than the people who are apparently making decisions on whether or not you are able to stay in the country….). My appointment for Sword No. 3 comes up Monday, but they may not approve it in time for me to leave the country, meaning I would have to cancel the application and lose my money in order for me to comply with the requirements of Sword No. 1. If Sword No. 3 has my passport for the entire two weeks, I may not be able to apply for Sword No. 2 and, if I don’t have a Sword No. 2, my application for Sword No. 3 may be rejected simply because I’m not legally allowed to be in Ireland for much longer after the application was submitted.
Is your head hurting yet? Believe me, I got no sleep last night.
SO. Lets say, Sword No. 2 fails, and Sword No. 1 forces me out of the country before I am approved for Sword No. 3. I am then not allowed to be in Ireland, not approved for a visa for the UK in July (and with no country of residence, aside from home, to apply for it from). You’d think this would be the worst it could get, wouldn’t you? BUT, you have forgotten Swords No. 4 and 5! Because I was operating on a belief that it would be easy to sort out my visas, I acted as if I would still be in Ireland for May and June. I have booked tickets to the USA from Dublin, which is, of course, a city I wouldn’t be allowed into if Sword No. 2 failed. Sword No. 5 includes my mentoring program in London, which will be totally useless to me if I can’t get approved for Sword No. 3! It also includes the internship and the Midsummer Festival, which I can’t be involved in if I fail to get Sword No. 2!
The final assessment is? I’m going to slice off my tightrope with a falling cascade of fiery swords, fall into the lava pit and get eaten by a bunch of flesh-eating crocodiles.
That is, I’m going to have wasted a lot of money, been prevented from completing a variety of things that were the reasons for sticking around in Ireland in the first place and possibly need to return to Australia before trying to apply for my UK visa again.    
The only thing that is giving me any joy is that I may find myself unexpectedly home again in July, after the conference in Alaska. That and the thought that if I get booted out of Ireland maybe I can go to a Greek island and sit in the sun and go swimming and sing ABBA songs with Colin Firth and Dominic Cooper.
I saw a documentary about Greece just recently and that’s what everyone does, I think.

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Crushes

I’ve written (rather extensively, really) on my lack of love life in Ireland, and further, the apparent lack of any eligible men (at all) in this country. Or, at least, the lack of eligible men in the places I’ve been going in this country.
I don’t intend to whinge about this anymore, however, I have become aware that this has had a further knock-on effect to my life and daily experience.
I have absolutely no crushes.
Not a one.
On anybody. 
You probably don’t see the significance.
One might describe me as ‘romantic’. Despite an erstwhile desire that I someday I might be called ‘cynical’ or ‘witty’ or ‘ass-kicking’, I have to admit, ‘romantic’ is probably accurate. I was a reasonably early developer in terms of my awareness of all things romantic. The stories I wrote as a young ‘un usually revolved around girls getting into some sort of sticky situation and then being rescued by male woodcutters or the like. I never read romance books, and yet, somehow, as a 7 year old my creative writing pieces read as the latest Jackie Collins novel.
Not only did I write about romances between fictional characters, but I can remember spending a great deal of time developing fictional romances between myself and real boys. The first slight to my imagined romantic fantasies I can remember receiving was as a 5 year old, when I tried to talk to a boy in my class who I liked. He was sitting on a bean bag listening to a talking book on headphones and was ignoring me. After a good 10 minutes of attempted conversation, my teacher moved me away, pointing out that I was annoying him. I was devastated. In my mind, he was my one true love, if only he would take off his headphones and acknowledge me.
I continued to have crushes on and off for the boys in my primary school for the next few years until around the age of 10, when I developed a serious crush on one very lovely boy in my class. As luck would have it, he turned out to like me a little bit too and on a school excursion to the (romance) capital of Australia, Canberra, we had the audacity to dance together at a little ‘disco’ in front of the rest of Year 6. The problem with being so far ‘advanced’ in romantic feelings was that the rest of the children saw this is an opportunity to mock and tease. I was totally mortified and quickly started ignoring the poor boy instead, despite a very sweet attempt by him to make me feel better by giving me a gigantic packet of raspberries (the lollies, not the fruit). Going into adolescence I got the message loud and clear: your emotions and feelings are embarrassing and wrong and must be hidden at all costs.
So, during high school, instead of attempting to figure out how to get into relationships and maintain them, I spent all my time perfecting my crush technique. Crushes are much easier than relationships. They’re low-risk and yet provide hours of amusement in terms of fantasies, schemes and plans, days of dealing with unrealistic hopes and, later, devastating disappointments. Particularly if you chose your crush carefully, someone, for example, that is completely unsuitable for you (a teacher, perhaps, or, the most popular boy in school who doesn’t even know your name), and is in no ways a realistic prospect for a relationship. In this way, you can ensure that you never have to confront the possibility of an actual romantic entanglement: you make certain that the person you have a crush on will never reciprocate, but also that you are never going to be interested in anybody who might actually be interested in you.
Make sense?
I was very good at crushes. For all of high school, I was in a constant state of unrequited love with someone or other. Some boys I would love for a few weeks, others for months, and one or two for years at a time. My creative energies were caught up in creating imagined hideous deaths for girlfriends or rivals; in envisioning situations where me and my crush became the LAST SURVIVING PEOPLE IN NEWCASTLE or something else similarly ridiculously dramatic; finding ways of accidentally on purpose running into them at the shopping centre or something; analyzing and re-analyzing ad nauseum the actual interactions had by myself and my crush; and finally, creating long mental lists as to why me and my crush were perfectly suited to each other and were clearly DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER FOR ALL ETERNITY. The crush’s seeming indifference to myself only added to the wonderful drama of the thing, making it somehow all the more real and true. Didn’t Anna Karenina’s great love have corresponding pain and devastation? Didn’t Romeo and Juliet have to fight against all of their society just to spend a few days together? The fact that I had to love in silence only made it seem all the more obvious that my crush and I would eventually end up looking gorgeous together in a gorgeous house with our gorgeous family and talking gorgeously to some reporter about our gorgeous love for each other (my fantasies were also heavily influenced by my grandmother’s Women’s Day magazines).
I think many people eventually graduate from crushes. Either they’re not as good at choosing and keeping crushes as I was, or the imagined drama was not as satisfying to them as an actual romance, so they move on. I was just so darn good at the crushes: the choosing, the keeping, and definitely the associated fantasies. My teenage self could have kept Mills and Boon in novels for the next hundred years. No lie. 
The other problem with my crushes, was that the scale of my love corresponded to an equivalent loss of social incompetence around said person. I would become like an animal caught in the headlights the minute my crush locked his eyes on me. I wouldn’t be able to remember my own name, let alone formulate some kind of witty sentence with which to woo my beloved. Most of my fantasies revolved around the crush stating their undying love for me (and me graciously, and mostly mutely, accepting), so were of no use in actual human conversation. I seemed to think that said declarations of love would follow if I could just managed to put together the right outfit or hairstyle, which would, without words, inspire my crush into realising his true feelings for me. Forget flirting with the crush to get him to notice me, an interaction that lasted longer than 4 sentences would have been an achievement for my 15 year old self. So, even if I might have had a chance with the most popular boy in school, my complete inability to show any sort of interest (in an appealing way) pretty much wiped any chance I would have that a crush would develop into a relationship.
I did eventually manage to fall into some relationships (not without some serious self-sabotage however), and miraculously keep them together. But the last 3 years has just been another long period of dead-end, embarrassing and increasingly frustrating crushes. I realise how pathetic I must sound if you have read this far, but its the honest truth of the matter. Believe me, I ain’t proud of it.
‘Loving’ in silence, or, at least, ‘crushing’ in silence has been so much a part of my person and my daily life as a ‘singleton’. They take up time, energy, emotional strength and self-esteem. Unrequited love may have inspired eloquence from some of the world’s greatest poets, but for me its been an endless loop of too much chocolate, ‘retail therapy’ and bursting into tears when Kristin Scott Thomas finally declares her love for Hugh Grant in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’:

So, its been kind of interesting for the past few months to have absolutely no-one that I am crushing on. Crushes need time, and at least the hope of continuity, or they just can’t develop. So, if you meet a guy at a bar one night and you have a nice conversation, but you never see him again, you can’t develop a crush on him. Even I’m not that good at crushes.
Its been kind of nice to not have to worry about all that romantic shit. Its nice to feel like my personal happiness doesn’t hinge on a particular man turning around and declaring his love for me. Its nice to think that my personal happiness lies in something that I might create myself. I feel strangely stronger and more complete than I think I ever have as an individual before. I feel oddly free.
That’s not to say that I don’t like the idea of being in a relationship. Nor is it saying that I don’t sometimes get lonely and wish I could meet someone nice, or that I don’t still cry in Richard Curtis movies. But… I feel less emotional about it.
Less emotional about love.
Now, that is a joke.

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Easter Sunday

I’m getting so bad at this blogging thing. Suddenly nothing I’ve been doing over the last few weeks seems important enough to write down and clog up the internet with. I’ve even been reluctant to make new FB status updates. Its very strange. At certain points last year, it was difficult to separate myself from my FB news feed, to the point where the thought of logging out of FB and switching off my computer was akin to telling me that all my friends and family were going to be sent to a Siberian gulag and I would never see them again. I’d get so panicked about logging out, that I used to have to just close my laptop, so that I couldn’t see the screen, but should I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and NEED to see FB, I could simply open the laptop and it would be there (I know, I know, terrible for the environment, but I was in some sort of emotional wasteland of my own creation, which was only satiated by FB). Is it a bit sad to admit that? Perhaps. But my excuse is that I was overseas and adjusting to new circumstances and am therefore exempt from the otherwise mandatory rolling of eyes and sarcastic comments associated with a FB addiction.
Anywho, the last few weeks has taken the fervour out of my internet addiction, which I feel is a very healthy thing. I certainly never felt that the virtual world could replace my real world, but for a little while there, it didn’t seem possible that I could keep going through the physical world without some sort of intravenous drip that kept me forever attached to the virtual one.
I’ve had too much wine.
The point is, there have been several subjects I have wanted to sit down and write about for a week or so now, and I just kept putting it off. But, as they say, writer’s block doesn’t exist, and your brain is a muscle that needs exercising just like your other muscles, and the only way to get through a reluctance to sit down and write is just to sit down and write, I’ve decided to do just that.
So, one of the things that I’ve done in the last week is go to an Easter Sunday commemoration. Now just to clarify, this was not a Catholic Easter service. Well, it was kind of religious, in that there was an army reverend there, but I mean it wasn’t anything to do with Jesus Christ coming back to life or anything like that. No, this was a commemoration of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.
Now, technically, as I have just checked on Wikipedia, the Easter Rising didn’t actually start until Easter Monday 1916, but apparently they commemorate it on Easter Sunday. Don’t ask me why. I assume its because…
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t know a hell of a lot about the Easter Rising. It was depicted in the movie ‘Michael Collins’ which I had to watch in Year 10 history, and I know that it was the precursor to Irish independence and saw the Irish declaration of independence and that Yeats wrote a poem about it (see it here… http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/soundings/easter.htm). 
The Irish rebels took over a lot of symbolically important places, like the GPO and St. Stephen’s Green, but, as far as I’m aware, they weren’t actually expecting to win. They just wanted to make a lot of noise and get noticed. It was a really important day in the Irish independence movement and run by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (which was connected to, but not the same as the Irish Republican Army – thanks Wikipedia). Most of the leaders were executed afterwards, except for Countess Markievicz (the born in London, but married to a Polish count and who my gym and swimming pool are named after), because she was a woman, and Eamon de Valera (who later became Taoiseach/Prime Minister of Ireland), because he was a joint Irish/American citizen.
So, I know many random things, but not much about the actual, physical uprising. There were soldiers. There were rebels. They fought in the centre of Dublin in many places. It only lasted for a few days. And then it was over. 
See, my problem with Irish history, and my problem with it when I had to study it in Year 10 is that it was so bloody confusing. There were the British who were very bad. But, then, there were the Anglo-Irish, who were originally Brits, but were sent out to be the landed gentry of Ireland many years ago, so some of them were actually not so crash hot on Britain, and then some others of them who desperately wanted to stay part of the Commonwealth. Then, of course, there were the Irish. Add on to that the religious disputes, which were related, but no necessarily overlapping. So the Protestants (who weren’t always Brit descendants, but sometimes were) wanted to stay part of the UK because they were worried about being the minority in a Catholic country. But, go back 300 years, and the Protestants wanted a republic, because they thought they would be able to more effectively and horribly dominate the Catholic majority if they were free of the Brits (who they felt were far too soft and lenient towards the Catholics – those easy Brits may have even approved Catholic emancipation!) Then there was the famine, which was, of course, horrendous, halving the Irish population through death and emigration in the space of about 10 years and adding a whole heap extremely emotional and irrational arguments on top of everything else.
And that’s only a brief rundown of the relevant things I can remember off the top of my head.
So, yes. Its terribly confounding, almost as confusing as the Arab-Israeli conflict, which I studied for a good two years in Senior History, whereas the Irish conflict we studied for about 8 weeks in Year 10. There was no way I was going to get a handle on it.
What I have managed to gather from films such as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Michael Collins’ and ‘The Wind the Shakes the Barley’ is that it is/was all very sad, with brothers and friends and families on all sides getting brutally hurt and into arguments and splitting into viciously opposed groups, each of whom believed that they were absolutely and completely in the right. The Irish-British relationship/rivalry is still extremely important, and permeates all aspects of society, from comedy to politics to folk music to theatre to arts to football. There are some people who are still passionately calling for a united Ireland (that is, break Northern Ireland away from the UK and create a complete republic), though they are now very much in the minority (and, to be honest, most of them are in Northern Ireland or who migrated away from Ireland many years ago – most Irish folk in the ROI I speak to are not particularly interested and haven’t been for a while).
Before I came here, I felt like some of the boys I knew in Australia with Irish heritage who still toasted to a ‘free and united Ireland’ were hopelessly and strangely outdated. I feel I understand the feeling a little bit more now that I’m here. Easter Sunday and the ongoing violent relationship with Britain is almost what defined the Irish. Its kind of like our Eureka or our Gallipoli. These conflicts were by no means crucial to the actual formation of Australia, but they are the stories we tell ourselves over and over that construct our national identity. (I personally feel uncomfortable pointing to those conflicts as indicative of an Australian nationalism, simply because they project a particularly white, masculine identity, concerned only with breaking away from one elitist nation state and forming another, but, I still think that a lot of Australians would identify with these conflicts and feel that it said something about themselves as an Australian citizen)
Anyway, feeling like the Easter Sunday commemoration was a very important thing to witness if I was to understand the Irish psyche, I headed to O’Connell St, which is the main Dublin thoroughfare, a wide boulevard, split down the middle to allow for statues and memorials. I needed to be past security and in place by 11:30am for the ceremony that started at 12pm. I found a spot behind the army band, underneath the statue of Jim Larkin, an Irish trade union leader, whose statue I had never fully appreciated until that weekend. Its rather inspiring, really, especially with the GPO and a giant Irish flag behind it. Here’s an image:

Found at: http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/politics/2009/06/30/have-they-all-had-charismadectomies/

Standing around, I felt very serious and important and inspiring, I looked up at the statue with a thoughtful expression on my face, and clasped my hands together in a modest way, hoping to seem impressively republican. I remember getting similar feelings at ANZAC day services at high school – putting on a performance about how reverential I could be. As if somebody would see me and think, “Ah, now there is a girl who is fully aware of the serious impact this historical event had on this country.”
I’m not entirely sure why I thought this would be a good thing for people to think about me, but I assume it was something I saw in a film once and thought it would be good to adopt. Look, in all honesty, I was all for people admiring me as a child and I tried all sorts of poses and performances in a constant attempt at getting people’s attention. The only thing I couldn’t stand was actually looking like I was working to get anyone’s attention. Oh, it was such a delicate balance. 
Despite my ‘very serious performance,’ the world wasn’t buying it this particular Easter Sunday, and as I as adjusted very best Irish nationalist face, the ‘security’ fence set up behind us to, one presumes, keep out all the dangerous IRA bombers, started moving towards us. No, it wasn’t an act of terrorism, it was simply a particularly strong gust of wind against a very poorly set-up fence. The crowd all turned as one to see a 100m fence moving towards us surprisingly quickly, with absolutely nowhere for us to go. I thought, ‘I wonder if this is what its like to be in a crowd of British football hooligans’. Luckily, though, the fence personnel stopped it blowing us right over, or knocking us out and re-adjusted it. The crowd, including myself, was in hysterics, which kind of ruined my incredibly sombre and memorious mood for the rest of the ceremony. Particularly because nothing the fence personnel did could keep the fence in place, and they eventually all had to stand in front of it and hold it down to prevent it from flattening us. It made the security check to get into see the parade seem even more ridiculous, because anyone who had wanted to do something terrible wasn’t actually that far away from us. I don’t know if I should be saying that on my blog, actually, isn’t that the sort of thing spy agencies pick up on in highly powerful internet searches and then the person disappears under mysterious circumstances? Or is that just Hollywood films? Eep.
Anyway, the ceremony itself was reasonably interesting. A soldier read the Declaration of Independence, and with all the traffic stopped down O’Connell St, standing underneath the GPO, you could almost pretend you were there on Easter Monday 1916 when Pearse read it out for the very first time. It was also the closest I have every gotten to Michael D. Higgins, the current President of Ireland and probably my most favourite politician ever. I was around for his election last year, and if I had been allowed to vote, I would have voted for him. He’s just so cute! And nice looking! And, look, let’s face it, he kind of reminds me of a leprechaun, which I know the Irish hate to be brought up in relation to themselves, but I don’t care! Just look at his election poster:

Found at: https://www.facebook.com/HigginsMichaelD

Come on! Doesn’t he look magic? He’s going to ‘do us proud’. How is he going to do it? With magic? I mean, what exactly is he doing with those hands? Casting a spell? Seriously. And I’m not the only one who thinks so:

Found at: http://tinman18.wordpress.com/tag/michael-d-higgins/

THAT’S RIGHT, THE IRISH HAVE A LEPRECHAUN WIZARD FOR A PRESIDENT.
I’ve never wanted to be Irish more in my entire life. 
Anyway, I watched the whole ceremony and felt very ‘Irish’ until I realised most of the people around me were actually tourists. I’ll never understand the appeal of taking photos of a gigantic video screen, but that’s what these Germans and Spanish were doing.
‘Look, here is a picture of something happening very close to me but that I actually couldn’t see!’
Excitement!

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