New York, a first time visitor

New York, a first time visitor

Last weekend I got to go to New York with my darling wife. The trip was planned as a gift for my 50th birthday and I had a choice of destination but New York was really my only choice as it is a city I have wanted to visit my whole life.

And guess what, New York didn’t disappoint. What a city, crowded, tons of neon, lots of places to visit, things to do, food and drink to sample and only 4 days to try pack as much in as possible. We had some things booked, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty and an evening at the US Open Tennis but other things we just went with how we were doing on time.

But of course we nearly never got to New York after Leanne was summoned for jury duty and was selected for a Superior Court case, but luckily on Thursday afternoon she was excused and we were able to pack and catch our flight out at noon on Friday.

Arriving in Newark Airport at 3pm and catching the train into New York meant I got to tick something off my to do list, arrive into Penn Station subway platform and walk out onto a packed New York city. The volume of people was just amazing but everyone managed to get where they were going without to much bother. We got to our hotel, The Millennium Broadway on 44th Street, just off Time Square. First thing that hit me in Time Square was the neon, even in daylight. And I knew it would be fantastic at night, and I wasn’t wrong, throngs of people and tons of neon.

New York has a strong Irish connection and this is quite visible through all the ‘Irish’ bars around Time Square. We decided to use the one right beside our hotel, O’Donoghues, and even though they didn’t serve full pints, more like half litres, it was nice and comfortable.

We went off to explore New York and get our bearings so we wouldn’t get lost to much. We went to the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Catherdal and looked for somewhere with a bit of New York flavour to it to have something to eat. We settled on Juniors after finding our first choice seemed to be everybody else’s first choice too. 

So after a ton of food, one dinner would have fed us both, we decided to head to the Empire State Building. This was one of those things we wanted to do but hadn’t really planned it. And are we so glad we did, and got the extra ticket to go to the very top. The views across the city at night were absolutely amazing. 

And like any good Irishman, the night was wrapped up with a beer in our new Irish bar beside the hotel. Sat was going to be a busy day as we had 9.30am tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour as well as dinner plans. Probably the main thing I wanted to see in New York was Ellis Island. As a recent immigrant to the USA, I do feel a certain affinity to those who came here before me. Their journey was a lot more precarious than mine, filled with more unknowns and much harder. But the affinity I felt has only grown after visiting Ellis Island. It’s immigrants that have helped make America the nation it is today, but unfortunately that seems to be forgotten by some.

After our tours, we done more walking, around Chinatown and through an area that was filled with lots of state and city buildings. So it was time to catch the train back to Time Square and the hotel. We managed to get on the wrong train, twice. But it meant we got to cross the river and head into Brooklyn. This wasn on our plan but it was fun. We now know we must come back to New York and see even more.

Anyway, the world really is a small place and I have friends in New York that I went to college with back in Ireland. So we arranged to meet up and have dinner and a catch up. So sitting in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy in New York were 3 graduates of Ballyfermot College, Dublin and an American from Atlanta via Michigan. 

Sunday was 9/11 Memorial and US Open tennis day. The 9/11 museum and memorial is a ‘must see’ but it is also something you have to give time to. We were there 4 hours and probably could have stayed another hour or 2. It’s definitely a ‘wow’ museum as well a very sombre place. The artifects and the stories touch your heart and soul.

And finally we have have last thing to do, US Open tennis. This was a ‘bucket list’ item for my wife but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it too. We went to the Arthur Ashe Stadium but we also got courtside on one of the outer courts. It was a fun night even if the matches were over relatively quickly.

And so my first visit to New York was over, seen lots but lots more to see, so we will definitely be making a return trip in the future.

Thank you to my darling wife for the wonderful gift of a trip to a city I had never been to and thoroughly enjoyed. Till next time New York, Slán. 

Back to the beginning

Back to the beginning

Today marks 18 months since I married my sweetheart here in Atlanta and so much has happened in that time. So maybe now is a a good time to go back to the beginning and update what has happened over the last 18 months and some plans for the future. This blog has been charting my life here in Atlanta since I moved from Ireland in November 2015 as well as just being a place for me to ramble about stuff in general. I do try to avoid politics, religions or anything that can lead to controversy but sometimes I will mention these topics. 

Anyway, let’s take a step back in time to what led me to leave the country of my birth after 48 years. Well to put it simply, the love of a great woman. A relationship that had simmered as friendship since 2001 turned romantic as we found ourselves in the same place emotionally at the same time, it was kine everything g just aligned at the correct time so we could be together. We still had a K1 Visa process to sort out and after a few months of waiting and a little help we were approved in July 2015 and out wedding date was set, December 20th 2015, 18 months ago today, happy 18 month anniversary honey! 

Married life has been fun, exciting and sometimes challenging. We had to learn how to live together, with me also learning a while new culture here in the USA. We have a great support network of friends here in Atlanta as well as family on both sides of the ocean. We have had some really good moments, Robert visiting has to be a highlight, as well as some low moments, Leanne’s grandmother passing away and my Dad passing away last July. But we got to go to Leanne’s grandmother’s funeral in Michigan, which marked the first time we traveled on a plane together, and in December 2016 we got to travel back to Ireland to be with my Mam for here first Christmas without my Dad. The visit to Ireland led to another highlight, travelling to Rome for a few days to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Our sending anniversary will be a little different, my Mam and my son, Robert, will be arriving in Atlanta to spend Christmas with us that day. 

Recently we moved into a house that we both picked and is now ‘our’ home. When I moved over here we lived in the house that Leanne had owned for nearly 14 years and even though we had no intention of moving, once we seen this house we both knew it was the house we wanted to call ‘our’ home together. 

We have some exciting plans for the remainder of 2017 and onward as soon we will be looking into adopting a young child. We both feel we can give something special and bring joy to a young child  who otherwise may not get the chance. It will bring challenges but nothing we can’t overcome together as we start to build a family. 

So just to end up for now, it has been a whirlwind 18 months of marriage, 19 months of living in the USA and life is good. I couldnt be happier and I look forward to the future and whatever it may hold for us. 

St Patrick’s Day 2017

St Patrick’s Day 2017

So tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and as I will be working till the afternoon the celebrations back in Ireland will be nearly over by the time I get to have a few beers and celebrate our national day. 

It’s funny though, I have been living g in the USA now for 16 months, and this will be my second St Patrick’s Day as a resident in the USA and I still haven’t gone to a St Patrick’s Day parade. Before I moved here I had attended and taken part in a good few parades over the years since my first one in Newport, RI back in 2000. I have taken part in parades in Worcester, South Boston, Savannah, Tybee Island, and Newport. I was in the Savannah, Worcester and Newport parades twice. 

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate being Irish, or being of Irish heritage. I am proud to be Irish, it definitely defines who I am and how I handle things. Being from Ireland and now living in Atlanta is a huge change, it’s not like Boston, New York or Chicago where there arw huge Irish communities. The Atlanta Irish community is quite small in comparison but us Irish always find one another. My next door neighbor is from Kildare and one day in the local supermarket a guy from Dundalk said Hi as he recognized my St Patrick’s Athletic jersey. 

I am looking forward to heading into MacMcGees in Decatur after work tomorrow with Leanne and celebrating everything about Ireland and home. 

Be safe, have fun and Happy St Patrick’s Day. 

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit

Life is hectic….. But fun! 

Life is hectic….. But fun! 

So where have I been for the last 3 weeks since my last post on blog. Well it has been a full and interesting 3 weeks. Let’s go back to the beginning of February when life just got a bit more full of things to do. Everyday stuff like work, walking the dogs, meeting friends etc continued. We had just watched Atlanta lose the Superbowl on heartbreaking fashion with our friends so instead of a big party it kind of just died off. 

But life goes on, sport will always give you great enjoyment, some horrible heartbreak but at the end of the day, life goes on. As an Irishman here in Atlanta I was delighted to see a city of 6 million getting behind Atlanta, now if only people back home would get behind their local team in football ot would be fantastic. But that’s a rant for a while other day. 

February consisted of 2 concerts, one theater outing and a movie night. So let’s start with concert number 1, Bon Jovi in the Philips Arena in Atlanta, well let’s just say the rockers rocked Atlanta in what was a brilliant performance. We followed that up with the Atlanta Symphony playing the tunes of my favorite artists, Simon and Garfunkel. If Bon Jovi rocked it, the Symphony absolutely nailed it with their performance and the duo singing the songs were superb. We end our month of culture tonight as we head to the Fox Theater for Phantom of the Opera. 

Why do I mention all this, well it shows how different my life is here than to back home in Ireland. I may have attended a concert every few years, but I never would have gone to the theater or symphony. These opportunities are available because I am married to a wonderful woman who loves these things and I have embraced everything from she loves and I am loving it. 

As an recent immigrant, I find that by embracing the culture that you are surrounded by certainly helps with the transition into American life. When I came here I hated ordering in restaurants as they couldn’t understand me, even though I did speak English, but now I am more comfortable even if they don’t get what I am saying for sometimes, it’s just the way it is and I am getting used to it. 

But back to the hectic life of the last 3 weeks. In January I was going through an interview process for a new job which entailed numerous tests and intercession and I made it through the selection and next Monday I will start my new job as a trainee Auto Damage Adjuster with Geico insurance. This will be a challenge involving learning a whole new skill set to add to the skills I already have. I will miss working with a great bunch of people at Hennessy Ford but the opportunity to change jobs and have a career with Geico was to good to turn down. 

And kind of finally we do have one more piece of news. The house Leanne has called home for the last 13 years and has been my home too for the last 16 months is on the market for sale as we are about to purchase our first home together. This is a huge step for both of us, Leanne leaving a home she thought she would always live in, me leaving a neighborhood that has made me so welcome and us both putting our names on the mortgage of a house together. 

So it has been hectic, it has been fun and exciting times lie ahead. It has been a journey and a half over the last 2 years and it continues to be enjoyable, some challenges and lots of laughs with huge amounts of happiness. 

Till next time, Slán agus Beannacht. 

Inauguration Day

Inauguration Day

So January 20th 2017 is here and today is the day that Donald Trump gets inaugurated as President of the USA, replacing Barack Obama. The whole election campaign was divisive and since Mr Trump got elected that division seems to have just grown bigger. I am not going to get into the political rights or wrongs of any candidate but it’s a done deal and Donald Trump will be President for at least the next 4 years, whether people like it or not. 

But back to myself and how this looks to me. I love the pomp and ceremony of state occasions and I have been lucky to have attended and photographed 2 Presidents being inaugurated back home in Ireland as well as photographing 4 Presidents of Ireland while attending state events. 

I won’t get to watch today as work gets in the way but I will try follow on social media and see some highlights tonight on TV. It’s an interesting time here in the USA and the whole political landscape could be about to go into a period of flux but more than likely the status quo will remain for a while but I will be a very interested spectator to see how it all unfolds. 

Good luck to Mr Trump as president as he has his work cut out bringing divided public opinion together and running a country that is so diverse. Will he live up to his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’, I sure hope so or at least gives it his best shot. 

Update

Update

Just a quick post to update the blog on what’s been happening recently. So I arrived back in the USA on December 30th after a wonderful 2 weeks spent with Leanne in Ireland visiting my family. So much has happened since I left Ireland in November 2015 it was great to get home and spent some time with my Mam, brother, sister and friends. 

The goal of our trip was to spend time with my Mam, especially the first Christmas since my Dad passed away last July. I got to say my farewell to my Dad and to spend the time I needed to with my Mam. There was plenty of time in our trip for quality ‘Us’ time for me and Leanne, and the highlight of that has to have been our 3 day trip to Rome. A city thst has the Wow factor around every corner and well worth the visit. 

And so our trip came to an end and a s a surprise for Leanne I managed to get us upgraded for business calls for the transatlantic flight back to America. But before we could enjoy the flight I had to go through US Customs and Immigration. Leanne, as a US citizen, is able to go through US customs and immigration really quick while as a green card holder, it takes me a little longer. But as usual the staff at customs were efficient and even though it took an hour, I was cleared and ready to join Leanne for our return trip. That bit was always going to be a bit nerve wracking but it has to be done and I am thankful it went smoothly. 

And so we are back stateside and life continues. When I look back over the last 12 months and 2016, it has been a momentous year, a 1 year wedding anniversary, my Dad passing away, Robert coming to visit, travelling with Leanne to new cities and counties, starting my career here in the USA, and generally really settling into life here. Being home did remind me of some of the things I missed most beside family and friends, a decent Irish pint of Guinness, a packet of King Crisps, a roast beef carvery dinner in the pub and most of all, proper chipper chips with yummy fried chicken! 

There could be some exciting news coming my way soon so keep an eye out on the blog for the latest as I continue my journey in America with wife. They say hone is where the heart is, and mine is firmly based here in the USA now even though I will always hold Ireland and everything Irish very close to me. Being Irish is what defines me, what made me who I am today and mixing it with my American life can only make it more interesting. 

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

So 13 months ago I stepped onto an Aer Lingus plane and headed to Orlando on my way to my new life here in Atlanta. What brought me to make that trip came from a conversation with my now wife 18 months previous. So here I am, 49, married to the most wonderful woman, working away, enjoying life and immensely happy. 

But, and seldom there are times there is a but, I have missed my family and friends back home, missed going for a pint and talking about the latest football match, miss sharing things regularly with my son, seeing my Mam on a near daily basis, having some good fun with my workmates in Dublin Airport. These are just a few things I miss but the biggest thing over the last year was my Dad’s funeral in July.  The decision not to travel home wasn’t taken lightly and it wasn’t easy to make but I know it was the right one at that particular time. 

Being an Ex-Pat living away from home comes with some distinct advantages and some other distinct disadvantages. Missing family and friends as well as family events, like funerals are hard. Learning to fit into a new society, new friends and just general life in my new country was hard at the beginning but it gets easier with time if you allow yourself embrace the new life. Getting a decent cup of tea is near impossible but it can be overcome, again by embracing a new way. And no I don’t mean coffee, but a new blend of tea even though I do love the fact I still have 450 tea bags from Ireland left. Some of the advantages are that people are genuinely interested in what life in Ireland is like, so I do get to talk about Ireland a good bit. Of course I have to remember not to talk to fast or no one will understand me. 

The flip side to missing family and friends back home and missing out on family occasions in Ireland, is that now I have a whole other extended family and circle of friends and I have been able to attend family weddings and some funerals too. Not quite 4 weddings and a funeral but more like 2 weddings and 6 funerals. 

And so onto something I am really looking forward to. On December 16th we will fly to Dublin to spend Christmas with my family. I will actually miss my American family and friends as they have taken me into their hearts and group and made me very welcome. But I will see my Mam, sister, brother and son as well as friends over our 2 week visit. I left looking forward to a whole new life with Leanne, some nervous anticipation about how that life would shape up, well let me tell you, it has worked out fantastically well.

In 13 months I have experienced 2 Thanksgiving holidays, various other USA holidays, spent Memorial Day in Florida, spent a week in Michigan, a weekend in Pittsburgh, a couple of weekends in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a few days in Charleston, a day visit to Savannah to go to the place where myself and Leanne met, drove from Atlanta to Detroit, the longest drive I have ever done in my life, seen Broadway shows in the Fox Theater, fireworks for July 4th, a US Presidential election and so many other wonderful things. 

Over the last 2 and a half years I have shared my life and experiences on social media a lot, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog. I hope people enjoy the posts and I do hope to keep it up into 2017. 

Life is good and I am going to take this opportunity to wish everyone a good Christmas and a safe 2017. I will try post before I head to Ireland and when I am there but otherwise it will be January before I get to post again. 

November 19th 2009!

November 19th 2009!

So over the last year I have had lots of firsts in my new life here in the USA. But there is one day in my past that if it hadn’t had happened my new life here would never have been able to take place. I am talking about the day my divorce got signed off and finalised.

I am no stranger to long drawn out processes because my divorce took over 5 years to finalise from the time we started the process to that day in November, 2009. I am in the middle of another process that can take up to 4, or maybe 5 years to complete. My USA visa/citizenship process has already taken nearly 18 months and the process isn’t quite half way through yet. 

But back to my divorce, I think I have mentioned in a previous post, that my first marriage in Ireland ended in the early 2000’s but in Ireland divorce isn’t easy or quick unless you have lots of money to bypass the system. So after 5 long years, a drawn out and a needlessly expensive process, the divorce was finalised but the process will continue to have an effect on things I do for another 4 or so years due to arrangements enforced within the divorce agreement. Funny title that, divorce agreement. It was more a judge made a decision which I had really no choice but to accept. 

I went through some very low times during the 5 years it took to get the divorce final and it was only because of support of family and friends that I came out stronger and better on the far side. It’s an emotional Rollercoaster, a financial black hole and just not a nice process. 

But things are so much better now. I am happily married to the most wonderful woman in the world. I learnt some great lessons from the whole divorce, first marriage and the journey I took over the years from the early 2000’s to now. Thst journey has definitely made me a better and more rounded person even if at the time I didn’t recognise it. So really what doesn’t break you, really does make you stronger. And not only that, but it has made me happier. 

There is another anniversary this weekend, on November 20th 1987, yes 29 years ago, I entered Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin and signed on the dotted line to begin my 23 year career in the Irish Defence Forces. So these 2 dates in November will always hold a special significance for me and both for reasons that helped shape who I am today. 

Veterans Day

Veterans Day

I cannot let today go by without a post to mention it’s Veterans day here in the USA. It is not only Veterans Day but today is one of the most important days in history, Armistice Day. 

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent across Europe and it was the end of World War 1. A war that cost the world a generation of young men and all in the name of the ‘war to end all wars’. I am not going to examine the rights or wrongs or the political reasons for the war but I have a military service background and have always had an interest in history so I have read a good few books about WW1, as well as WW2. 

Being Irish there was always an issue with Remembrance around this time of the year, mainly politics getting in the way of people remembering fallen family or friends. But as Ireland has grown up recently and the peace process in the North has taken hold, the act of remembering the many Irishmen that served in both World Wars is now becoming common. I lived and walked my dog daily in the Irish War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge and it was great to see the Poppy wreaths on the plinth and to see them there for a few weeks in July for the British Legion remembrance ceremony as well as the battle of the Somme ceremony. 

A few wreaths will show up around this time of year too but not as many as the July remembrance ceremonies because the Poppy and Remembrance at this time of the year still has a cloud hanging over it but slowly that cloud is moving away and times are changing. The poppy will probably never become fully accepted in Ireland due to political reasons and I understand that but people should remember. 
So leaving the Armistice and remembrance behind, today is a day in the USA for thanking all who have served in the military for their service. This morning my wife made a point of ringing her Dad to thank him for his service, and as my father in law I am proud to say he is a military veteran. My own military service back home gave me some great insights into various militaries around the world as I got to meet them in various countries that I served or visited. 

Back home veterans organizations are only starting to come into being and even though there was a couple for UN veterans and one for Ex service men and women it’s the newer organizations that are following the US and British model of recognizing and organizing events for veterans to attend. I wish them all the best of luck and keep up the good work. I follow all the events of Facebook and it is great to see so many veterans taking part in the events, remembering fallen comrades and just getting together to chat and catch up on old times. 

So to all veterans, both here in the USA and back home in Ireland, Thank you for serving your flag and country. To the countless millions who sacrificed so much in the ‘War to end all wars’, you are remembered and RIP. 

 

One year in the USA

One year in the USA

I never got a chance to post on Saturday to mark my one year anniversary of moving to the USA so here is a little post to mention some highlights from the last 12 months. 

The number one highlight has to be our wedding day last December. Surrounded by new friends and family it was a brilliant day and weekend. To finally be able to say ‘I Do’ to Leanne was a special moment that will always live in my memory. 

Getting to spend 6 weeks with Robert during the summer was another highlight. He is 18 now and the days that I will be able to spend 6 weeks with him will get less and less so this summer was special. His visit coincided with the passing of my own Dad and it was nice to have him here then so we could share it together. 

The numerous family get together have also been a highlight. My in laws have made me feel as a part of the family since ai first arrived here a year ago. From meeting my new parents in law just before Thanksgiving a year ago to spending a week in Michigan visiting them, attending 2 family wedding, one being my now sister in laws, and my mother in laws Mams funeral, we have seen a lot of each other over the last 12 months.

Some  of the things that I am now used to are Supermarkets and the wide array of choice, driving on 8 lane highways, not going to the pub just for beers, and having a busy calendar. 

Being an immigrant isn’t easy, it involves a lot of changes, some risk in settling into a new culture and a little luck in finding work. I had great support from family and friends and even though we are still in the Visa process things are moving along. There are times I think it home, my friends back in Ireland, my family, especially my Mam and miss home. It’s not homesickness but it is a little bit of just missing the familiarity of Ireland. But Atlanta is now home and I am slowly becoming more familiar with how things go here. People still sometimes don’t understand what I am saying and that’s something I am just used to now. 

Just to sum up, the last 12 months have been a wonderful time with lots of new memories made bit still time to reflect on old memories and of times spent back home. But as I said earlier, home is now Atlanta and I couldn’t be happier.