Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I am not a germaphobe..

I was beginning to think that I was a germaphobe, so I did a google search, found a quiz and completed it honestly and found that I was 47% germaphobic. Take the quiz here.

Unfortunately some of the questions didn't contain what my answer would have been, so I had to pick the next best. For instance question 4.

My response would be 'Sure, you can have it because I am finished with it' (and if they insisted on returning it to me I would throw it away. My second choice answer would actually be very specific - 'only if the sipper is my husband'. There were also other questions where my answer wasn't on the list, so I am guessing that I probably do tip over the 50% a little.

Germaphobes, according to this website are suffering from OCD

What got me going on this train of thought was seeing a colleague coming out of the bathroom with a paper towel in his hand, he balled it up and threw it in the waste bin by the water fountain. I realized why he did that when someone in the ladies bathroom dried her hands before turning off the tap, and then turned the tap off using the paper towel she had dried her hands with.

I think if I were a full blown germaphobe, I would already be doing all of these things and more, but clearly, at my age, I am still able to learn and might just aspire to being one. Because as soon as I gave the matter some thought I became much more aware of what I was touching in the bathroom. Yes! I always wash my hands thoroughly after I use the toilet - my grandfather taught me how to wash my hands when I was about 4 years old. I remember it vividly and think of him every time I wash my hands since. I am appalled by the number of people who use the toilet and walk straight out without even a token splash of water on their hands. I have even seen these same people head from the bathroom to the kitchen and handle food. We are talking here about in the office, so touching food that the rest of their colleagues will probably also touch, or have already touched, and possibly eat.

The idea grosses me out so much that I don't eat any of the masses of food supplied to us free at work; except perhaps the fruit which can be washed and peeled.

But come back to the bathroom with me for a moment. The more I thought about it the more I realized that washing your hands is not enough. Let us take one example: Person One enters the bathroom and goes into the cubicle, uses the toilet, at the very least wipes her private parts though other more gross, but necessary, activities are also possible, and I would rather not think about the possible unnecessary activities. She then flushes, whether she uses her hand or her foot to flush, the result is that at least some germs have been transferred to the handle, and existing germs on the handle from a previous users have now joined her own germs on her hand, should she use that method. Next she unlocks the door, more germs switch between lock and hand. If we are lucky, she will wash her hands. Germs again do the switch between tap and hand, assuming the tap is not motion activated (I am beginning to love them). Our soap dispenser is motion activated, as is the paper towel dispenser, the tap is not. So, we will assume she does a decent job washing her hands and many germs are removed, unless she scrubs like a surgeon, not all of them. Then alas, she touches the tap again to turn it off - ahhh germs return to the hand. then she will dry her hands with a disposable paper towel, good because those cloth towels are surely crawling with germs! Then she firmly grabs the handle of the door to exit. All those germs from the girls who didn't wash are sitting on the handle along with a few from those of us who did wash but can't remove everything, besides we touched the tap.

So what to do about this?  I have now started dispensing paper towels before washing my hands so I have them ready, drying with the paper towels and using them to turn off the tap. I wave at the paper towel dispenser one more time and use that final piece to cover my hand while exiting and then ball it up and throw it in the waste bin.

OK, maybe I am a germaphobe but at least I am not a very good one, as all of this just occurred to me recently. What else am I missing?

Monday, June 23, 2014

France is nuts

.. and I say that from a position of being at least 25% French.  My mother was born in France of a French mother and a father who was half Irish and half English.

But since my daughter moved to France when she was less than twenty years old, I have suffered secondhand from the extremely weird laws they have there. I used to imagine retiring to France, let me tell you now, the only reason I visit that country is to spend time with my daughter and her children.

Why you ask? I could spill out a whole lot of bile from past experiences. But I won't because that bile is mostly a result of personalities and luckily I have met some wonderful people in France and had some unforgettable experiences so I will not spoil that with the bitterness that could be overpowering. (Thank you Sonia and the Ponsich family, and Karl, for saving France for me).

So, where was I? Yes, when my first grandchild was born I promised my daughter that he would get to spend summers in the US with me ( his granny ) and as soon as he turned eleven I came and got him. He spent 6 weeks with me, and thankfully my (relatively) new husband supported this visit and accepted my grandson as his own. Two years later, once again he visited, this time with his younger brother, sadly they could only spend a month with us as their parents were then separated and their father was not prepared to sacrifice any of his time with them to allow them to stay longer - and who could blame him? .. I did feel resentful on their behalf, but I did understand. OK, at least I try to.

So, this year I was so looking forward to my two grandsons visiting again. I booked my flights to go pick them up, booked flights for them to return with me, only two and half weeks for many reasons, but two and half weeks with my grandsons was so much more than I usually get, living 5K miles away from them.

The last time they visited, their passports were about to expire, so I started reminding my daughter in lots of time, before Christmas about renewing their passports. In Feb she filed to renew, being France they are nuts and she did that at her local town hall. They gave her an appointment in April to pick up the passports.They assured her she could NOT pick up the passports without an appointment. She dutifully arrived on the appointed day and the machines were out of order so they gave her another appointment in late May, when she arrived that day she was told that they couldn't give her the passports as she didn't have the boys with her, it was their father's turn to have them. So, another appointment was set for 2nd July, just 11 days before they were due to leave for the US with me.

Then, the last week of June she got a call from the Town Hall to tell her that as she had not picked up the passports within 3 months of their issue date, they were now expired and she would need to reapply. Two days before I headed to Ireland to see my new baby granddaughter, then to France to pick up my two grandsons 'sans' passports.

She called the central passport office and they were less than helpful until she was finally transferred to someone who knew (or appeared to  know) what she was talking about. She was given the address of a location close to her where she did NOT have to make an appointment to collect passports. She was told that if she could submit the application before that Wednesday it 'might' be ready in time. But she was out of cash. She called me in a panic because she needed to get new photos, pay a second renewal fee and there was just not enough time. I sent her the cash to cover the immediate costs and started to panic silently. Where the hell is the silver lining I ask myself?

Bear in mind, at NO time did anyone ever tell her that she had to pick up the passports within 3 months, and the Town Hall made an appointment which was effectively after the expiry date of the passports. Has your brain expolded yet? Mine is about to!

Then I took a deep breath and thought about the Universe. How much I preach to my daughter to trust the Universe. So, what will be will be. I will carry on as though my two boy are returning with me, and if they can't I will try to explain to them that perhaps the Universe knew something we didn't, perhaps it was better for them they didn't at that time.

Oh I do hope that the Universe wants them to come to TX with their doting grandmother. And if not, I hope it has the decency to let me know why quickly! before I give up on the whole idea. I am currently working very hard at trusting the universe. I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Celebrating 20 years in America

I arrived at work at 4.25 a.m. Not because I am expected to. All that is expected of me is that I work 8 hours per day, though in my line of work an 8 hour day is almost unheard of, it is all that is expected. I am lucky enough to work for one of the many companies in Austin TX, where flexi time is part of the package, and as the company I work for is a 24 x 7 business, my personal choice to arrive so early is appreciated. The theory is that I can leave after 8 hours, which would, according to that theory, be 12.30.

Ha! that has never happened without me logging in from home and working at least another 3 hours. But I do usually get out of the office by 2.30.

Today, the 20th anniversary of my arrival in this country where the streets used to be paved with gold (apparently) I didn't get out of the office until 3.40 p.m. ahhhhhhhhh.. the whole purpose of getting there early is to miss the worst of the traffic, the afternoon rush starts at about 3 p.m. and I was in it. My commute is just short of 30 miles and on this my anniversary, it took me all of 50 minutes to get home. That is taking "freeway" all the way (well, 25 miles of the way), for my non-American readers, that means NO traffic lights, stop signs or yield signs. I might add the gold that once paved these strees is now being reaped by someone in the form of tolls.

Anyway.. where was I? oh, arriving home late, tired and frazzled, I had to log in to work and finish off a few things, effectively bringing my working day to 12 hours. My wonderful husband had done all the chores and was preparing dinner - ok, it was what used to be referred to as a TV dinner - but today is much healthier, and as mine was an Atkins frozen dinner, I am hoping it was ok.. probably full of salt, but believe me by that time I didn't care. I didn't have to do anything but sit and eat - oh and pour myself a decent glass of wine.

And that my friends is why life is good in America. My American husband is prepared to do as much of the household chores as I do, he doesn't just cook TV dinners, he grills regularly (barbecues for my European readers - in Texas Barbecue is something you can't imagine and I am sorry for you because it is amazing). He does the laundry, he does it all.

I am not saying that Irish men don't do that - what do I know? I left 20 years ago and I do know that both of my sons do as much - but I believe they are better than most (but I would believe that anyway). But, back to life in America. I not only have a job that I love, that is challenging and pays well - I am appreciated and valued - but I actually have a job. Yet 20 years ago when I left Ireland, I couldn't even get an interview, let alone a decent job.

Whatever America's faults, I am prepared to believe that the virtues far outweigh the faults. Sometimes even I need to stand back and look at the silver lining.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Who has heard this?

"Think of the starving children in Africa!"

I think I was about four years old when I first became aware of this ridiculous statement. Even at four, I questioned it. How on earth did me eating food I neither wanted nor (in my mind) needed, help to save the poor children in Africa from starving to death.

All it did was give me nightmares as I worried about those poor hungry children, and also made me worry that the adults in my life were not as intelligent as I really needed them to be. We, adults, need to be very aware of what we say to children. Children are people, just a bit smaller, but they think, they feel (sometimes apparently, more than adults do) and they reason. And they start to do that way sooner than most adults realize.

I guess I was one of those children who over thought things. Or, maybe it was because even then, as now, I thought in pictures.

Everything anyone says to me causes a video to play in my mind. Frequently resulting in a highly amusing slide show. But more often than not resulting in something much more emotionally disturbing, such as starving children in Africa - particularly as every news program or magazine, particularly when I was growing up, were filled with photographs of unfortunate bloated starving babies. Even as a tiny child my heart was broken by the suffering depicted. I wanted so much to solve the problems of the world, starting with every unfortunate beggar and vagabond who approached me in Dublin for as long as I lived there. As an elderly adult I now tend to avoid watching the news. Thank goodness for the Good News Network on Facebook. How I love that!

I once watched a TV 'demand' (can't think what else to call it) shortly after I arrived in Texas, it was Operation Smile - delivered by Roma Downey and I staggered to my computer in tears, desperate to give them my money. As far as I know, the only result of that was a massive amount of spam demanding money.

Ever since I was a small child I realized that some people do and some people don't. That is, some people can walk in your shoes, and some can't. Is it a matter of compassion or imagination? I prefer to think it is imagination, or lack thereof.

Maybe some can but choose not to, but there are some who have no choice and I was always one of them. I will feel your pain, and have nightmares on your behalf, so you don't have to say much to get me fighting on your side - always assuming I believe in your cause, because if I do not I will train myself to NOT be on your side. That is another skill the unthinking adults in my life gave me.

A perfect example is when I was about 6 years old.. I was still sucking my thumb and my parents despaired of ever stopping me, in fact I vividly remember my mother telling me I would walk down the aisle sucking my thumb. Well, stories of teeth sticking out and stomach full of worms were beginning to bother me - these seemed, in my logical mind, to be believable results and I considered them to be undesirable. Then, enter the asshole who was responsible, perhaps not single handedly, for making me feel totally inadequate. The Professor of Spanish and Italian at University College Dublin, a colleague and friend of both of my parents, and my mother's future boss. He told me that if I continued to suck my thumb I would grow a thumb down the back of my throat.

Well, I wasn't stupid (OK, I thought I was .. but I was not) and that made me decide that adults told lies and none of what they said could be believed. I continued to suck my thumb till I was well into my forties. No, I didn't walk down the aisle with my thumb in my mouth, and I never sucked it in public, but when I was tired or upset, my thumb was my comfort. Probably my defiance.

The moral of this story is be very careful what you say to kids. Never assume that they can't figure it out. And always be prepared for the fact that they just might be smarter than you are, but they need to believe that you are at least of average intelligence, for their own safety.

20 years ago

On the 17th June, having spent a few days with my daughter in Toulouse, France - I took a train to Paris and from there another train to Frankfurt in Germany. Early the next morning I flew from Frankfurt to London, and made a tight connection to the United States of America.
Collage I made during Arts & Crafts class at Summer Camp July 1994

the travel documents that took  me from Ireland to the
US  via France, Germany and England 20 years ago
On the 18th June 1994 I set foot on United States soil for the very first time in my life. My port of entry was Dulles Washington DC. My intention was to build myself a new life. I had won a green card in the lottery and I was on a mission to design my own dream. (see more here about the lottery).

My book devotes a few chapters to my transition from misery to America in a number of not so easy steps. But I got here. And I did succeed in designing my own dream. I do admit that I was very lucky, but I do also believe we make our one luck. We are in charge of our own destiny.

mementos from camp, and some awards I treasure
From 18th June 1994 to 18th August 1994 I lived like I was in a dream world, or a '70s movie. I worked in a Summer Camp in Northern Michigan, Camp Maplehurst, sadly the property is now up for sale, see their Facebook page here.

I taught horseback riding and Arts & Crafts and I learnt how to shoot, had some swimming lessons, I got an insight into what it was like to be an American kid (albeit a privileged one - summer camp is not cheap) and made some lasting friendships, plus I got a ride all the way from Northern Michigan to Austin Texas at the end of that summer.

Moving to the United States was one of the hardest, bravest, luckiest and most unexpected things I have ever done in my life. But it gave me a new life and the dream I designed came true. I continue to live it 20 years later. Despite the difficulties I have written about in various blog entries and in my book, I feel very privileged and proud to be here and to be a US citizen. Despite the economic, political and civil disputes, I have confidence it will remain a great place to live. While the streets are not paved with gold as the Irish used to believe, there is a good life to be had here if you are prepared to work for it.

If you read my book, you will know the bumpy, sometimes scary, path that brought me here and believe me that every word in that book is true. I had a lot of help along the way, I need to mention that my three children all supported me one hundred percent, though I am certain they had some doubts about my sanity.

I could not have made the move without the help of my good friend Paul O'B, who gave me moral and financial assistance when it was most needed, he also gave me the name and address of a friend of his in the US - essential as I needed to have an address to which my permanent green card would be mailed. Then I had the amazing good fortune to be introduced to Paul N (Paul appears to be a good name) who helped me to land safely in Texas, with a 5 month house sit and a temporary job that carried me through till I found full time employment.

Last, but by no means least, my dream would not have been complete without my amazing husband, Larry.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

13 Years ago

... on June 13th 2001 I met my husband.

You will find some more information about that in my book, We met online, on MatchMaker.com. Given our differing backgrounds I doubt we would ever have crossed paths in any other way. And even then, we almost missed each other.

I had been attempting to meet my soul mate online for more than two years and had given up on ever meeting someone who could present themselves honestly. All of the people I had met up to then had posted profiles they considered would attract, and photographs that were anything up to 20 years old.

After two years of meeting up with some complete nut cases, I logged in to delete my account and call it a day (well, call it two years actually). I will never call any time wasted, just so long as I get the lesson, it is time well spent.

Something, wishful thinking perhaps, or the luck that followed me ever since I decided to take a chance on the Green Card Lottery (also in my book) whatever it was, I decided to do one more scan of the latest profiles. I found my now husband's profile. So new I think he had just finished typing and hit submit as I read it. Statistics showed me that he had not yet sent nor received any hits, so I fired off a contact email to him and signed off. Later that night I checked and found a response. We messaged for a short while, then he sent me his phone number and, contrary to all my rules, I called him and we talked for hours on the phone.

I have to tell you that is quite amazing as I absolutely hate speaking on the telephone. The next day we met and the rest is history. We married 4 months after we met.

13 years later, we are still together, happier than ever.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Too many dates to remember

I used to think that my dentist's habit of calling me the day before to confirm an appointment was a lot of extra work, but now I appreciate it.

The older I get the more grandchildren I gather and I absolutely love each and every one of them, but the older I get the less reliable my memory becomes, and you cram 8 different birth dates into an old brain and something has to fall out. I write things down, I make lists, and I still forget, I don't totally forget of course, mainly I mix up the dates or forget to mail the card on time. Or I get the day wrong and the month right, or vice versa.

So, I have come up with an idea. Borrowed loosely from my hair stylist who, when I visit her in December, gets out her new appointment book for the following year and sets my appointments, every five weeks, for the next 12 months. Of course, I then have to plug these into my calendar or the exercise is futile.

Thank goodness for Facebook, I can now wish Happy Birthday to nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends in a timely manner, without resorting to cards and stamps and USPS. But, for the children and grandchildren in my life, more is necessary and I think I have it figured out.

At the end of each year I am going to buy every birthday card I need for the coming year, then I am going to address them and put them in a file - I can't stamp them as the cost of stamps changes as frequently as the phases of the moon, but at least I will have them ready to stamp and send. And, yes, I know that there is a risk of address changes before the allotted date, but if this happens I will over label them. And thank goodness also, for Google, I will set reminders in my google calendar to get those cards out of the file and into the mail in good time.

All this reminded me of an advertisement I once saw for a business which undertook, for a price, to continue to send greeting cards to specified recipients after death, that is you, the person who expects to be dead (and you know you will be sometime) pays in advance for a company to send greeting cards to nominated unfortunates for as long as you are prepared to pay in advance. You actually signed the cards and they did the rest, allegedly.

Of course, there were a number of major flaws in the premise and, as I can no longer find any reference to this company, one has to assume they are no longer in business, so I guess those who paid have been cheated out of their service. The main flaw being that you would have no recourse if the cards were never send. Being dead precludes you from taking any sort of action, legal or otherwise against anyone breaking a contract of any sort (of course it also means you would be unaware of the default, in fact unaware of everything). It was also not apparent how the company could be aware of your demise and their subsequent responsibility.

Possibly even more detrimental to the business idea is the effect on someone receiving a greeting card from the grave, even once, but every year would, in my opinion, make birthdays a time to dread even more and probably encourage me to move - and there is another problem, no one is going to send a change of address to have these creepy cards redirected, even if they wanted to, they wouldn't know how to.

Small wonder that business model didn't survive. But I do wonder how much money they made before people realized there was absolutely no reason to believe they would fulfill their side of the deal.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Foot Finale

Drum roll please!

If you have been following the saga of my right foot, and I have no idea why you would be - it is probably only of interest to me, but if you have, I had a pedicure today, 11 weeks and one day after third surgery on my right foot.  The first was to fix a bunion and hammer toe (photos of before and after here), that was in early March 2013. Some months after that I had a second surgery, very minor that time, to remove the screw that had been inserted to hold the bone together while it healed.  The screw could have stayed where it was but it was causing me discomfort so out it came.

Then in March 2014 I had the third surgery, to fix two more hammer toes. Eight weeks later the pins were removed (see here) and finally another three weeks later I can get that longed for pedicure.

Now all that is left is the 'pinky' on that foot and while it too is hammered, it is so small and insignificant it will probably stay in that state, unless it starts to bother me. I am very happy to report that so far the left foot remains sober - that is it is not hammered.

As you can see from this photo, there is still some redness and swelling, but that will go away very quickly, the important thing is that the toes are straight, less painful now than before the operation, and the pain will continue to subside as they heal, but most of all I was finally able to get a pedicure.

That is it, that, I hope, is all I have to say about my feet.

Almost normal
before the third operation

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Inlaws and Outlaws

Who among us has experienced relationship breakdown? Everyone. It would be so nice to think that marriages could last till death do us part, but those that do are few and far between.

Why is it that the extended family has to 'take sides'? In fact, why does anyone think this is a battle? If two people establish that they really cannot make the relationship work, no matter what the reason, just move on. Shake hands, agree to part and leave it at that. Or, if children are involved, agree to remain civil at the very least. It is not hard - I know, I have done it. All it takes is a bit of effort from EVERYONE.

In my life I have met people who cannot get their heads around this concept, people who have no idea of how to be forgiving, understanding or just plain reasonable. And a few who have been what we call 'holier than thou' - normally totally hypocritical. But, I have been lucky enough to have met many more who never even consider bitterness as an option.

When my first husband and I split up, it took us a while to get to a point where we could be civil, but we worked at it and we got there. My hat is off to my ex-husband's wife who made the first move to contact me and find a common ground we could also move forward from. I am very proud of the fact that we have remained friends ever since and whenever I return to Ireland, all other things falling into place I will have dinner with my ex-husband and his wife and their children, and I am very happy to say that I am also friends with all of them on Facebook. I am also very proud that my ex-husband's nieces and nephews are still mine - after all I was divorced from my husband, not his family.

I am also friends with my current/second/last husband's ex-wife on Facebook. She too was immediately open to being at least civil, and we became good friends. I will say that she was the main reason I survived stepmotherhood. It was a very rewarding, but very demanding experience and I don't think I could have managed it without her support. Of course, it helped that I was stepping her son, it also helped that he was a hell of a good kid and has grown into a good man.

Two of my three children were unfortunate enough to have also had relationships that failed to survive - they both worked hard for 16+ years, but there is a point beyond which you have got to decide between stupidity and common sense. So far, their ex-partners have not managed to show any signs of getting past the bitterness and finding a way to be civil. I do hope that doesn't reflect badly on that generation. I console myself that it is probably just personalities and not generations as my own parents separated and never again spoke to each other.

What started me on this train of thought was the wonderful friendship my mother in law has developed with her ex-daughter in law, ex for over 22+ years. It is such a pleasure to me to see how well they get along. Of course they share in descendants but, happily, they share. The way it should be. It gives me faith in human nature.

So, thank you to Debbie, Evie, Jana, Anna, Dan, Rob, Nicola, Jamie, Mel, Paul & of course Travis for giving me that boost in faith in human nature. Thank you all for being above the herd.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I didn't grow up here...

Most Americans - that is those who were born in the US and grew up here - have a very hard time understanding what it is really like to be a 'Non' American, living in America; possibly more so living in the South. It tends to be an almost disparaging joke in Europe, and maybe elsewhere, that Americans are so chauvinistic that they believe that if other nations are not exactly like they are, then they are wrong.

That is probably a slightly unreasonable thing to say, but there are so many people in this country, and so many of them have never been outside their home state, let alone their country, that it is rare to meet an American who actually realizes that life in other countries is quite a bit different, and that doesn't make it wrong.

After almost twenty years here, I still find people looking at me with confusion because I don't share the same experiences, remember the same TV shows from childhood, maybe the 1950s. Hello? I was born in Ireland, in 1946 and I don't ever remember seeing a television set until I was about 11 years old, and that was through the window of a rich neighbor's house ( and I might add, back then I spelt it neighbour). Plus, they only got two channels and both of them were British. Yes, BBC did show a few of the US shows even in those early days, mainly because they hadn't yet had time to grow enough at home.

I had a friend whose family got a TV and it was fascinating. We loved to watch Bill & Ben The Flower Pot Men on Watch with Mother on BBC. To be able to receive the British shows, it was necessary to have a outside arial or antenna.

By the time we got a TV in my house, there was finally an Irish television station, and we got a whole lot of black and white shows which were mainly news in Irish and a whole lot of 'Test Card'. We didn't have an antenna.

We did eventually get color in 1969.

I learnt to speak, or at least understand, 'American' watching my hero, John Wayne, and other cowboy movies, and later canned TV shows from th US. However, we got very few of them. We got shows like Dragnet, Highway Patrol and I Love Lucy, Gun Smoke, Bonanza and a few others, we did not get those US shows that were cloned from BBC shows and we never did get the very early shows.

Take for instance, Till Death Do Us Part, one of BBC top comedy series. Later to be copied by CBS under the title All In The Family.  I have yet to meet an America who will not deny point blank that their hero Archie Bunker was based on a BBC show. Then there was Steptoe & Son which became Sanford & Son when imported into the US. The UK did have a lot of shows which they copied from the US, but they were mainly game shows, and shows like Late Show. If you have an interest, here is a list of UK shows copied in the US. And to keep things fair, here is a list of US shows copied in the UK.

Don't get me wrong. I love America, I love Americans, I am happily married to one. But if they could just understand how difficult it is to be a foreigner in America it would make life easier (for said foreigner). By that I mean, just little things that are so very different between America and just about any other country, but trying to get information on how to navigate the ordinary is not easy. You ask most Americans how to do something and they have a very hard time figuring out what it is you need to know or why you don't already know it. And it would be nice if different was not always wrong, and ignorance was not necessarily stupidity.

Before I came here I attended a series of seminars specifically for Green Card winners (of which I was one) where we were schooled in all the differences we could expect. We were told that we absolutely had to get a Social Security Card / Number and we were given details on how to do that. We also learned how to get a driver's licence and all the other mundane things that were so different and so necessary. Some things they forgot to tell us.

Take a for instance, a very simple example. Filling a car with gas  (1994). I had never, ever seen a gas pump with a handle to start the pump. In Ireland we lifted the pump, stuck it in the car tank, pulled the trigger and that was it, I had never seen those old pumps with the handle. First time I tried I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to make the gas flow (which incidentally we call petrol). I guess I looked like a moron and I might never have done so if my passenger had not been an American girl (we were both counselors at summer camp on a day off - see my book for more on that). On the same subject, I had never seen an air pressure pump in a gas (petrol) station that didn't have a gauge attached to it! And I stopped trying to air up my tires because all I manged to do was let more air out.

Then there is the accent, mine not theirs (I have met a number of Americans who do not believe they have an accent at all). Most people don't have a problem understanding me now, except perhaps when I forget to use the American terminology (see here for some of the differences ) but at least I can quickly correct that.

When I first arrived my accent was much stronger. The Irish have a much softer accent that the British which often makes us harder to understand, we tend to soften, or sometimes eliminate the trailing 't' sound, and more often if there is a 'th' or where one word ends with 't' and the next also starts with 't'.

I had only been here a few months when I had my accent corrected very harshly by a totally obnoxious guy. I was volunteering at a Haunted House construction (read about that house here ) and had been sent to the supplies department to fetch a roll of duct tape. I asked for it, in my Irish accent I guess it sounded something like 'I need some duc' tape please'. The aforementioned obnoxious guy assumed a disgusted look and, despite being seated, managed to look down his nose at me and at first pretended (I am sure - he couldn't have been that stupid?) not to understand what I wanted, and then said 'We call it duct tape here' as he gave me a roll.

Very few people have been that rude but many do laugh or get exasperated if I display ignorance, and they still tease me about the way I speak, and some of the sayings I use. An example of something I said recently that caused some strange and confused looks was 'a spanner in the works' . See here for definition. I did quickly correct myself and replaced the spanner for the American wrench.

So, coming up to 20 years here, I am beginning to think that I never will be totally assimilated; but perhaps that is a good thing, at least I maintain my own identity.