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I’m Coming Home!

Traveling Solo Quote

The past year has been quite an amazing adventure. It has always been a dream of mine to live in the United States and this year I got to fulfill that dream. A friend recently asked me was I glad I did the graduate visa, without hesitation I responded ‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat’.

It is the pity the graduate visa is only 12 months (14 months if you include the 2 months you’re not eligible to work). I would have loved to do another stent in a different State, perhaps New York or take a trip back to Chicago. While my bags may be packed and I get ready to go to the airport I am not ready to leave, there is still so much left for me to discover.

As all my friends know I am obsessed with quotes and sayings. It is amazing how a small phrase can motivate or cause the reader to reflect. With this in mind I have picked out three sayings that pretty much sum up my year and how I am feeling about returning home.

When I told a childhood friend I was going away he gave me smirk as if to say ‘Are you serious?’. As you can imagine this was not well received. He followed up with, ‘I’ve known you forever, there is no way you will last in a hostel never mind alone’. Now I’m the type of person if you tell me I can’t achieve something I will do damn sure to prove you wrong. A week in I had found myself an apartment and had assembled my bed (granted it was IKEA).

One thing that I have discovered this year is that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Although there was times throughout the year that I wished I was a home curled up in front of the fire or sitting down to one of my Dad’s Irish breakfasts, I remained determined to make the most of my year!

Traveling solo makes you step out of your comfort zone, try to do things you would not normally do. During my first couple of days in SF I was invited to a house party with another Irish girl, I suspected that there might be some awkward lingering until everyone had a couple of drinks. How I was wrong! As people arrived at the party they said hello to people they were familiar with and introduced themselves to people they did not know. As the weeks went on I found that I had no problem introducing myself to people with a handshake and a ‘nice to meet you’.

While growing up my gran would often tell me to always trust my gut instinct. I don’t think I understood quite what she meant until this year! Having ignored my gut and finding myself in a pretty shitty situation I have learnt what she meant the hard way.

I have learnt so much about myself (as cliché as it sounds). I have learnt what I want to achieve in my career over the next few years, where my strengths and weaknesses lie and finally, I have learnt to do things for myself without seeking approval from others.

I no longer fear being seen alone in a coffee shop and would gladly go for a drink alone if I found myself with time to spare. This is something I use to overwhelm me. I do not find myself getting embarrassed as easily as I use to by fear of what others may think.

A Year in San Francisco

Returning home is a bitter-sweet! I am looking forward to a nice healthy home cooked meal, no longer living out of a suitcase and of course seeing my family and friends. Although I know more of me wishes that it was just for a visit and not for ‘the foreseeable future’.

I will miss the pace of life in San Francisco, the work hard play hard attitude with everyone working on ‘the next best thing’. Yet at the same time people remain ‘chilled out’. I was engrossed by the tech industry, using mobile apps for practically everything. I will miss all the different cultural norms that the United States has to offer. Those are only the touch of the iceberg.

Is there anything I would change about the past year? No! Everything that happened over the past year, both good and bad has been a learning experience and I am better off for it. So yes, I would like to go back to page one and do it all again! I have met a great group of friends, inspirational people and fantastic mentors.

I leave with the resounding thought that… What is meant to be will be! Hopefully, that means I’ll be back some day 😉

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Adapting to the New Normal

While Ireland is the place I will inevitably return to and a place I will forever call home, it was always known I would spend my first few years after graduation abroad. Leaving not because I had to, but because I wanted to, something not all of my generation and generations before me are lucky enough to say.

Since leaving Ireland, I have exchanged birthday and Christmas wishes via Skype, been kept updated through plenty of whatsapps, Facebook posts and many Snapchat’s. I have watched my youngest sister complete her leaving cert, finish secondary school and start Art College. My other sister has turned twenty-one, spent five months in Finland, and passed her driving test and these are only the major milestones I’ve missed.

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I come from a very close-knit family. Growing up I would always know where my siblings were and through the years this didn’t waiver. There is very little we don’t share with each other, which unfortunately, includes my entire wardrobe. This is why it has come as such a shock how quickly I have adapted to the new normal.

The new normal I am referring to is celebrating all these events from afar, yet feeling like it was only yesterday when I was there in person. On a recent phone call my youngest sister, I commented on how it didn’t feel like that long since I’d left and I regretfully admitted that I was no longer missing home.

Connemara

Don’t get me wrong, like everything the bad comes along with the good and on these occasions I find myself longing for home. Varying from the cravings for a decent bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, to a good ole chat with a friend I’ve known longer than the stamp on my passport. The moment that made me realize all the life events big and small I was missing out on, occurred during one of our frequent family skype calls. My mum mentioned an event that occurred three months previous to which I had no knowledge of. Looks of disbelief crossed their faces, they couldn’t believe that this was something I didn’t already know. With a quick summary I was brought up to speed, however, it wasn’t the same. Moments like these have been the toughest part of being away from home; these are also the moments people back home don’t get to see.

As the time approaches for me to return home I do so looking ahead to my next adventure. My gran recently expressed a sigh of relief to hear that I would be coming home, ‘well hopefully that’ll be traveling out of her system for a while’. To this my dad smiled, ‘I don’t think she’s done quite yet’.

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Curing a dose of homesickness

Over the last couple of months I begun to have a real bad case of homesickness. While a flight home was out of the question, a flight to NYC was more within my reach. Everyone I know in San Francisco I  only know as long as I have been here myself, however, in New York there are a lot more ties to home. I am very lucky that the company I work for has an office in NYC and was very accommodating in letting me work from their NY offices to facilitate my 12 day trip.

Highline, NYC

I stayed with Maria, one of my very good friends from secondary school. We must have only been with each other a little over an hour when I noticed her ‘tunnel’ ear piercing. Without thinking I said in disgust ‘what is that?’, she immediately turned around and laughed, followed by an ‘I’ve missed you’. Similar to me she moved to NY without knowing anyone. We have both become so accustom to people filtering the truth or being too polite to say what they really think.

During my first week I met up with an old friend from Irish college. At one point in the evening he started to roll a cigarette, a habit he has had on and off for years. Me being me, not so discretely said, ‘you’re not at that again’. He quickly told me off. It was so refreshing to spend time with people who told you exactly what they were thinking without it being put through a filter.

Friends Abroad

The day before I left NY the question was asked ‘do you still feel homesick?’. My answer at the time was of course as sarcastic as ever, but truthfully on reflection those 12 days away spent with friends and family was exactly what I needed. One of my biggest fears when moving abroad was that I would lose touch with those at home. This trip amongst other things has taught me how blest I am to have some really great friendships, that no matter the length of time between when we see each other, things always fall right back into place.

Today I am 9 months in the US of A, something I cannot believe. Time has flown by and continues to do so. One of my closest friends is coming to visit in just 5 weeks!! When she originally booked her flights it felt like it was forever away (fabulous use of the english language there) and now it is just around the corner.  That looming visit will be an adventure of its own…

Taking some time out

Learning to slow down & speak a little slower

A little about life

Growing up performing in front of large groups of people never seemed to phase me. Music was one of the subjects I chose for my leaving cert for which I sung. In preparation for our practical the school organized a mini concert for younger years and the odd family members to attend. I remember loving the rush before stepping out on the stage and the relief after singing the last note. I often get the same rush when giving a presentation or making a speech.

I vividly remember a couple of weeks before starting my final year in college I was asked to give a presentation to incoming first years about the society I was involved with. For anyone who knows DCU it was in T101, a large lecture hall with tiered seating. The lecturer politely made an introduction followed by one of my peers kicking off the presentation. A few moments later he turned to me signaling that I was to take over. I stood there for a very painful 30 seconds before looking blankly at him to continue. I walked out of the lecture hall swearing that I would never let that happen again.

In the summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to get a one on one coaching session from Barbara Moynihan, MD of On Your Feet. By the end of the summer I was able to confidently give a 17 minute speech to a professional judging panel with 4 other society members.

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I believe in my line of work it is important to be able to confidently present in front of your peers, colleagues, clients and strangers. I have found the more passionate or excited I am about something the quicker I talk, even my parents have difficulty understanding me at times. I am working on a really exciting project in work at the moment and get quite excited when bringing the team up to date. One member of the team tends to smile and nod, then if I ask a follow up question his reply without fail is ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t understand you’. For this reason I recently enrolled in Toastmasters. This is a global public speaking organization. The club I joined is small, with the recent attendance being between eight and twelve people.

The club runs for one hour every Tuesday night. There was a once off membership fee of $20 and then to enroll until September it was $30. The structure remains the same weekly, however, the roles change round depending on who volunteers. You have the toastmaster who leads the session, a person presenting the word of the day and another presenting the joke of the day. There is an opportunity for two people to present their prepared speeches and an opportunity for short 2 minute unprepared speeches. During the second half of the session we hear feedback on the prepared speeches, members vote on the best unprepared speech and we also hear from grammarian about how many filler words the speakers used.

I have volunteered to do a prepared presentation the first week in June. I am looking forward to that feeling I use to be so familiar with, the rush of excitement, that sigh of relief when it is all over and the sense of accomplishment. I hope this is the start of many more (hopefully successful) presentations, improving throughout the process and maybe in not so long that certain team member will be able to understand me, even through my excitement.

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#BeMyYes

On Saturday the 9th of May, members of the Irish community in San Francisco gathered together to encourage those back home to use their vote in the upcoming referendum. It is estimated that there are over 1 million Irish citizens living abroad. That is 1 million Irish people that can not vote in the upcoming marriage referendum. The #BeMyYes campaign was launched at the start of May encouraging people in Ireland to ‘be the voice of those who cannot be heard’.

#BeMyYes

With this in mind, on Saturday a group of us gathered together beside the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge to take a photograph encouraging our loved ones at home to get out and vote. The turn out was fantastic and we even managed to convince some Scottish/Australian tourists to hold some letters for us. As mentioned on Saturday, ‘it doesn’t take a lot to show up’, the real credit goes to Adel for organizing such a successful event and putting together the short video below.

Be My Yes

After the main photo a handful of us made our way to The Castro, one of the first gay districts in the United States. This is where we took one of my favorite photographs of the day, at the rainbow flag cross roads. We waited for the lights and then in order of height quickly ran halfway across the road and posed for a quick photograph. I have to say this Saturday was one of my best days in San Francisco to date.

It has been difficult watching all the campaigning being done in Ireland from abroad. It has been inspiring seeing people of all generations stand together in the hope that their voice is heard. One of the best stories I read online is to do with a secondary close to my home in Dublin. ‘No’ posters were placed outside the school grounds and students responded by painting a rainbow on the ground at the school gates. Now bare in mind the voting age in Ireland is 18 years old which means over 80% of the students are unable to vote, however, they are aware of what is happening and want their voices to be heard.

Mount Temple

I was also delighted to see Dublin City University revised their exam timetable so students can be at home to vote. They are also proudly flying the Rainbow LGBT Flag on the main campus building. Another reason why all students past and present should be proud to be associated with a university standing strong and leading the way once again.

Here is a short video that pretty much sums up our day on Saturday. Please go to your local polling station on the 22nd of May and be our yes! ❤

From the dance studio to the GAA pitch

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I remember the day I walked into my very first ballet class, excited and hopeful that this would be the same class my neighbor and childhood best friend attended. Our teacher Marie Cole walked around the room with her remote gently tapping our knees when our first position was over turned. I remember drawing an imaginary line on the floor, pretending it was a tightrope, and playfully fell over, as I prepared for our performance in the National Concert Hall.

I remember the day I arrived to class upset over homework, Ms Cole took my hand, thinking I was upset due to my friend missing our weekly class and lead me to my place. I remained with the ‘Irish Ballet School’ throughout primary school, secondary school and during my first couple of years in university.  Weekly classes became bi-weekly and increased further before the occasional performances.

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I contemplated joining a dance class when I first moved over, while also looking for other opportunities. To my father’s delighted I found a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club to join, Clan Na Gael. My friends back home find this concept hilarious… and tbh so do I!

Growing up sports were just not my thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people that dance and take part in competitive sports, I was just never that girl! However, in my opinion there is no better time than now to change that. So much has changed over the last year so why not give this a shot!

I have to admit I have not been as dedicated as I would like to be, but I plan on changing that. We train twice a week and have the odd match on the weekend against the only other ladies team in SF.

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I love the feeling of accomplishment after training, the fitness aspect of it and the community the club offers. The only thing that has been holding me back is the feeling I get during training… It reminds me of when I returned to dancing after being out with a knee injury. Everyone had learnt a new dance for an upcoming performance. I had sat in on some of the rehearsals to avoid falling behind, but watching and actually dancing are two very different things. My first class back I messed up the steps and found myself getting extremely frustrated. At training I feel like I am reliving that dance class, over and over again. I know with time and practice I will improve (I really can’t get any worse) and I am determined not to give up! Sure I’ve already been told I have the ‘spin’ defense move down 😉

The Age of Adaline

Adaline

Last Thursday I went to see ‘The Age of Adaline’ a story of a women born in 1908, who was in a car accident in 1935, and as a result cannot age. Adaline played by the beautiful Blake Lively is a movie a would highly recommend going to see.

Having only previously seen Blake star in popular the television series ‘Gossip Girl’ this was a much welcomed change of scenery. The one and only similarity between ‘The Age of Adaline’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ was Blake’s stylish outfits and ever changing hairstyles.

A big bonus was that some scenes are set in San Francisco showing new and old footage of the city and how things have changed over the years. It is always nice to watch a movie/television show and be able to relate to the setting.

‘The Age of Adaline’ is currently out in cinema’s in the U.S. and is hitting cinema’s in Ireland on the 8th of May.

Hopwater Distribution

Hopwater Distribution

For the past 7 months I have been in search of ‘proper’ fries. Up until yesterday all fries fell short of meeting my criteria of chunky, real potatoes cooked to perfection. You’d think a city with so many Irish bars they’d at least be serving some proper fries with a good dose of malt vinegar. Anyone looking for a new business venture? I’m telling you there is a market here for some decent Irish food. Now that the beef import ban has been lifted there might be hope of getting a decent Irish fry!

Anyway… Hopwater Distribution is located a short walk from Union Square. Here you will find 31 ‘All-California Beers’ on tap. Don’t worry this list is often rotated so there will always be something new to try! I have been here on two occasions and have enjoyed various light blonde beers. The beers are reasonable prices between $6-$8.

Beerlist

What to order:

Now for the main event… the food! Last night I ordered the Angus Ground Chuck/Brisket Burger. It was served with scallion aioli, arugula, acme bun and steak fries. While the burger was delicious the main event was the steak cut fries. The fries were fresh and thick cut. Next time I go back I will be arriving equipped with Heniz malt vinegar… it truly was the only thing that was missing. Other members of our group ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich and really enjoyed that.

Price: 

Angus Ground Chuck/Brisket Burger with steak fries  – $10

Beer – $6

Atmosphere: 

Hopwater Distribution is pleasantly bright and open. There is a variation of both high-tops and regular tables. Although only 3 blocks away from the tenderloin Hopwater Distribution draws a good crowd. While both times I have gone it has been with a large group the bar is also suitable for smaller groups! There is also setting upstairs for parties of two.

Overall:

Without a doubt I am giving Hopwater Distribution 5/5 stars. There is only one thing I would change which would be to provide malt vinegar, but to be honest I think that is more of an Irish thing. The bar tenders are on hand to give advice when selecting your beer and do not rush you to make a decision no matter how busy they are.

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Roam Burger

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Anyone who knows me from San Francisco will not be surprised that this restaurant is my first food post… I rave about this place and insist on taking everyone there! Roam Burger, is where the best burgers in the Bay can be found.

They have two locations in the bay one on Union St. and the other on  Fillmore St.. Myself and my roommate actually stumbled upon these delicious burgers by accident. We had been invited to a house party on Fillmore and knew we had to have a bite to eat beforehand. Coming from Ireland I have been blessed to grow up with grass fed meat, a luxury I completely took for granted. When buying meat here there isn’t always the option of ‘grass-fed’ and if there is it is rarely within budget.

What to order:

I always order ‘The Classic‘ which comes with tomato, lettuce, onion and pickles. I personally hate tomatoes and pickles, so I ask for them to be left out. There is beef, turkey, vegetarian and bison to choose from, I always opt for the beef which is grass fed. You then have the option of a lettuce wrap instead of the regular bun for those who are a little more health conscious. I have opted for the lettuce wrap on a few occasions and have found it can be very hit or miss. If it is not ‘wrapped’ properly in the kitchen the whole burger can fall apart in your hands. If you want fries you have to order them separately, I always get the ‘sweet potato fries’ which never disappoint.

Roam Burger

Price:

The Classic – $7.99

Sweet Potato fries – $3.99

Atmosphere:

The set up for Roam Burger is very standard by San Francisco standard. You go in, order your food, pay for your food, take a number and find a seat. I personally prefer the layout of the Fillmore branch, there is more seating and a nicer atmosphere. I find this set up works if you want to eat and go, not exactly the place you can sit and chat after finishing your food as there is a demand for seating.

Overall: 

I am giving Roam Burger 4/5 stars. I attended the Union St. branch when they were very busy and found there was very poor management when it came to customers finding seats before their food was ready. People that ordered after us took seats ahead of people that were previously waiting. Also on the odd occasion I have received fries that were ‘warm’ but not ‘hot’. But overall the food is fab and the staff are friendly, the loss of one star will not stop me from continuously returning 🙂

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Brunching & Munching

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As my life pretty much revolves around food I thought it was only appropriate that I start to document some of those experience. I started with an excel sheet (very organized I know) of places that have been recommended to me and also places I have tried myself. As friends and family begin to visit San Francisco they will be looking for recommendations and I find whenever I am asked on the spot I blank, so hopefully this will kill two birds with one stone. Besides if anyone ever comments on my eating habits (which I hope will never be the case) I can say it’s research…. 🙂

As previous mentioned in another blog post weekend brunch is extremely popular here in California. The price range of food varies as much as the lines you find yourself standing in. In each post I will try give a price estimate, if they take reservations and maybe even a rating. It will be trial and error for the first while but hopefully I’ll get there eventually!