Goodbye... and thanks!
Gayle and Marty Golden from California will soon return home after more than a year living in North Wexford. Here, Gayle reflects on what they loved about it.
MY husband and I came to live in Ireland for one year back in March of 2012. We're still here. We love it here. Yet all good things must come to an end and we are heading back to California in a couple of weeks.
As we prepare to leave, we would like to send a big thank you to the folks of Courtown and Gorey for the most wonderful year and a half ever. If I had a euro for every time someone asked me, 'Why in the world would you trade living in California for living in Ireland?!?', I would have enough to pay my TV tax.
The clear answer is, of course, it's because of the people. There are none like the Irish in the world. Always friendly, always caring, always ready to go out of their way to help. Ask for directions and they will take you there. Ask for a recipe and they will cook it for you. Ask someone to save your seat in the pub and there will be a pint waiting for you when you get back.
The countryside, the coastline and the mountains are amazingly beautiful, and of course the history of Ireland with its castles, monuments, tombs and stones, are especially fascinating. But it always comes back to how the Irish make you feel so welcome and so at home.
We visited Ireland in 2004, spending two weeks traveling the country never staying more than one night in any one town. We fell in love with it and vowed to return one day for a much longer stay.
Finally, in the spring of 2012, all our stars lined up correctly and after renting out the house, putting all belongings including the kids and the dog in storage (metaphoricaly speaking), packing four huge suitcases and paying way more than we should have for the four huge suitcases, we began our adventure to live a full year in Ireland.
Coming from a non-EU country like America, we had found out before we left that we didn't have the absolute right to stay for an unlimited time. We were only guaranteed 90 days in Ireland and really didn't know if we would be allowed to stay longer. Since we had rented out our own house and would have nowhere to go, it was pretty scary not knowing what to expect when we got here.
Our Immigration Officer was amazing, the perfect mix of personable and professional. She reviewed all our paperwork and gave us our GNIB cards, which immediately became our most prized possessions. We didn't know then that when we re-applied a year later, she would take our beloved cards away only to give us new ones. Even though the fees had more than doubled, these cards became a symbol that we had actually been able to live our dream.
As we all know, the weather during the summer of 2012 was a challenge, but we didn't know any difference at the time. Sure it rained for a full third of every month, but someone told us that if you let the rain stop you, you'll never get out. Somehow we put over 10,000 miles on the car and visited nearly every county.
The winter was another experience altogether. They say it was one of the coldest and wettest on record, but again, we took it in stride. We found that it cost almost as much to stay warm as the rent itself.
We promised ourselves that if we made it through, we would reward ourselves with another summer, and we are so glad we did. Spring and summer of 2013 has been absolutely beautiful, and we have put another 10,000 miles on the car. The wonderful weather has shown us just how lovely Ireland is and has made it all the more difficult to leave.
We have giggled at the community's reaction to paying for water and property taxes. At home, our average water bill is about $150 US each month and property taxes every year are a minimum of 1 per cent of the original purchase price of the house. We stopped giggling when we found out about the motor tax, the NCT and the TV licence, none of which do we have the privilege of paying back home.
We also thought it adorable that the country declares a drought after 15 days of no rain. In California we have gone 15 months without rain. That's a drought.
I may have finally perfected my recipe for soda bread while my husband is still working on this bodhran technique. But his ability to drive on the left is next to none. And we now drink our tea with milk, not lemon.
So we want to say thank you and issue an open invitation to visit us in California. Allow us the opportunity to return the favors which you have modeled for us; kindness; hospitality and warmth. The Irish are the best, and we will never forget you.
- Gayle and Marty Golden