Stamped into my passport by the Immigration Officer at Dublin Airport is the date 4 February 2006 that is the date I entered the country on what was to be a one year working holiday visa. It didn’t quite turn out that way, this is my story.
Fresh from spending just over a month in Africa where I met some girls who used to live in Dublin they gladly arranged for me to stay with a friend of their’s still living in Dublin. The boom was happening in Ireland and jobs were easy to come by but accommodation not so, I secured work at NTL the country’s biggest cable tv provider within my first week of arriving and in which I stayed for the whole year.
It took me a month to secure some accommodation, I found a room in Killester sharing a three bedroom home with 2 Irish girls. I didn’t know this at the time but the two girls being from the country they would go home to their parents on the weekends leaving me by myself in the big double storey house. Being new to the country and not knowing a lot of people I didn’t find this very fun as living in Ireland I wanted to explore the city and go sample a few pubs. We didn’t really gel together either, I came home one afternoon to find one of the girls celebrating her 30th birthday with balloons and afternoon tea, I can think of a better way to celebrate a 30th! After three months thankfully a bed became available where I was staying before and I moved back in, things got a whole lot better from then.
I was living in the Bachelor’s Walk apartments right in the centre of town across the road from the Liffey River with a Polish girl and two Kiwis. Life became a lot more social and being in the city with walking distance to everything a lot of pubs, meant a lot more drinking. Back in those days I could go out for a night of drinking arriving home around 2am and still wake up the next day and be in work by 9am and look alive. I’d walk to Tara St Dart station and catch the Dart (train) to work out in the Eastpoint Business Park and in the afternoons I would walk home, it would take maybe 40 minutes or so.
It really took me about 6 months of living in Dublin before I started liking it, settling into the lifestyle, making friends and seeing great things around Dublin. It really is a city that grows on you and the more people you know the more fun it becomes as most people know one of the big attractions to Dublin is the amazing pubs from the traditional with the small snugs to the big and modern, no other country really does come close to Dublin with its pub culture.
Dublin has a lot more going for it then just the pubs, it has a great sporting culture and I grew to love the GAA and spent many a weekend cheering on the Boys in Blue at Croke Park on Hill 16, before I moved to Dublin this game was completely foreign to me “What are they doing running with a soccer ball in their hands!.” And the Rugby, I got to experience one game at the old Landsdowne Rd stadium before it was torn down to rebuild a modern stadium which i visited many times to watch the clash of Leinster and Munster the two great rugby teams in Ireland. I got to see a few football (soccer) matches including a great road trip to Limerick to watch Australia take on Ireland and we won, I even got my mug on the telly, lucky I didn’t take a sickie that day because it was my boss who spotted me.
Dublin is built on the Bay and on a lovely summer day, those rare days when it doesn’t rain, many people are out to enjoy the sunshine in the suburbs along the water. There is great walking trails from Greystones to Bray finishing at the beach or along the cliff top at Howth finishing at the Marina with fish n’ chips for lunch. There is also many parks from Phoenix Park on the outskirts of the city, one of the biggest parks in Europe or St Stephens Green in the city to eat your lunch or along the canals to feed the ducks. It is a beautiful city!
With my visa expiring after 12 months on 1 February 2007 I had to make a decision on what to do and it wasn’t too hard to make a decision to move to Canada on a working holiday visa. Some of my friends were heading to New York City for St Paddy’s day that year and I was invited to go along, problem was my visa expired 6 weeks before Paddy’s Day what do I do in between? Well a drunken night with my work colleagues one evening and a conversation with my boss turned into extending my work contract for a month, it had to be kept on the down low (with only 3 people knowing about it) as it was a bit on the illegal side overstaying visas and all that. I took myself off to Morocco for the first two weeks of March and arrived back in Dublin with immigration not even batting an eyelid to my overstay then it was onto NYC and Canada.
I’ve met a lot of people whilst travelling and said a lot of goodbyes but sitting on the plane leaving Dublin for the last time, I did something I have never done before, I started crying, not just a little trickle of water down the cheek but full on crying and I couldn’t stop. I had fallen in love with Ireland and didn’t want to leave. With the working holiday visa being a once in a lifetime opportunity I didn’t know if I could ever come back.
After a few months living in Canada I still couldn’t settle and wanted to go back to Dublin so I devised a plan which had the potential to work. My Australian passport was nearly full and I decided to apply for a new one. With my new passport and more importantly no evidence in it I had lived in Ireland I sent my passport and application for a Irish working holiday visa to the consulate in Canberra. You see there are two Irish Consulates in Australia one in Sydney and the other in Canberra, my first application I had sent to Sydney so I was hoping the consulates didn’t have a combined system to check these things and happy days my passport arrived back with an approved Irish working visa in it 🙂 Step 1 over.
After spending 6 months in Canada I arrived back in Dublin on 15 September 2007 and handed my passport to Immigration, the officer started asking questions “Have you been here before?” “Yes” I replied, “Were you working?” “Yes” I replied, “What type of work were you doing?,” “I was working in an office doing administration,” I was sweating is he going to let me in, he sat there for a few minutes thinking away, it seemed like a lot longer but eventually he stamped my passport and welcomed me back to Ireland. Step 2 over.
I had a month to rock up to the Garda Immigration office to make my visa application complete. I waited a week and went in. During my interview I was asked all the same questions as at the airport, I knew full well they knew I had been here before working so there was no point in lying. After he finished with the questions he got up and went out the back, I thought this was it, he is going to speak to his boss and I’ll be kicked out. He came back with a smile on his face and took my picture for the Garda Immigration card, phew Step 3 over.
Things were still going well in Ireland the tiger was still roaring and I picked up various temping roles which took me around Dublin during the year from work in the Marketing Department of L’Oreal on a temping assignment for a few months on Fitzwilliam Street, I had acquired a box load of freebies during my time there from perfumes to lotions, creams, juicy tubes and make up (my housemates loved me). Working for Enterprise Ireland in Glasnevin as an Administrator including working a week in the corporate suites of Croke Park for a conference, the most exciting thing to happen that week was watching the groundsmen mow the lawn in different directions everyday making shapes in the grass, i think they were as bored as me! I worked as a Legal Secretary for William Fry one of the big 4 law firms in Ireland, working there confirmed I will never work in legal again, they were scary. I was a Medical Secretary too and worked in both St Patricks Hospital in the city and caught the bus to the outskirts of Dublin to work at St Edmundsbury Psychiatric Hospital where we had free roast lunches every day.
Finding accommodation was still hard to come by, not knowing how long it will take me to find somewhere to live, I didn’t want to put my mates out so I found temporary accommodation through an agency, it was sharing, the pictures looked nice on the internet and it wasn’t until I paid my money at the agency and picked up the key that I knew I was sharing a two bedroom apartment with 8 people! My assigned bed was in the small room, it was just big enough to fit two double bunks next to each other and we had to walk sideways to get in and out. Thankfully the people I was staying with were all young backpackers like myself so we got along alright and I found accommodation in a aussie/kiwi sharehouse in Fairview after a week and moved out to my own bedroom!
Before I knew it, another year had come and gone, they really go quick when having a good time. It was time yet again for decision making. The choice of what to do this time wasn’t so hard as I had received some pretty good news a few months before my visa expiring…read on to part 2.