5 Nuts and Bolts

It has been humbling and at the same time strangely rejuvenating to set up life in a new place. Humbling because I didn’t know the steps, missed the nuances, and often felt embarrassed by my ignorance; rejuvenating because I felt such a sense of accomplishment as each new thing fell into place. We signed the lease on an apartment for the year! WiFi is working! I found a place to buy fresh fish! Bank of Ireland gave us an account! WiFi is fixed! Our IKEA pieces are put together (entirely Ron’s doing)! The utilities are officially in my name! I finally figured out how to get the washerdryer to do an actual “dry” cycle! I may be an old dog, but I sure have learned some new tricks.

The apartment rental/utilities/Irish bank account dilemma was the most frustrating conundrum of our first few weeks in Dublin. You can’t get one without the other, it seems, a real chicken/egg problem. And of course, you need a working phone to make these things happen; to get a phone contract you need a residential address and an Irish bank account…. On top of that, we arrived in Ireland the day before all-new banking regulations for American depositors went into effect, byzantine rules and extensive paperwork designed to prevent us from laundering money in the wake of the Credit Suisse scandal, not that we have much to launder. Fortunately, people were nice to us and bent the rules a bit, and of course all negotiations transpired in English. I can only imagine what it would be like to navigate such bureaucracy in a language you don’t or barely understand and worried every minute that you are missing work or job-hunting or other vital activities. We had the luxury of being able to chase down all these rabbit holes fulltime until the job was done.

Ron's IKEA masterpieces at bureaucracy central

Ron’s IKEA masterpieces at bureaucracy central

In Atlanta public transportation is poor and having a car is a necessity. Here in Dublin where public transportation is excellent, we don’t have a car and are learning to adjust to that gradually. At home I can drive to work in twelve minutes and there’s always parking. Here I need to allot a minimum of thirty minutes to get to the library in the city centre or an hour for the theatre. When we first arrived and needed things for the apartment, I was overly ambitious about shopping and collecting a large number of bulky parcels to lug home—this was before I figured out the bus system or suppressed my guilt about taking a taxi. I’m sure I was quite a sight, ambling down the street and stopping every hundred yards or so to rearrange the bags and packages. Treks to and from IKEA took about five hours: walk a mile and half to the bus stop, hope that you get a seat for the fifty minute bus ride, somehow endure the insanity that is IKEA, and reverse the journey, this time with gigantic heavy blue bags on each arm). We were no good for anything after that. Of course, I am Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess compared to a mother of a large family who can’t afford a car, for example. But that’s my point—changing your circumstances as we have been able to do for this year makes you rethink the ingredients of daily life in a way that is both thought-provoking and refreshing.


Shopping for food is an entire category of puzzlement that has occupied a lot of our time in a fun way. Supermarkets of any size tend to be found only on the edges of towns and cities, so we make our way to four or five different shops and farmers’ markets each week to stock the kitchen, an inconvenience we love and can appreciate because being on sabbatical, we have the time for it. I’ve made friends with several butchers and other shopkeepers who give me tips about their best items and when to expect certain deliveries. Connecting with people during the day like this is a luxury that offsets the loneliness of writing and research. Because we don’t have a car, we invested in an adorable blue and white polka dot shopping “trolley,” basically a canvas bag on wheels to tote the heavy loads of our “big” shops. Although we endured “old people” teasing from our son Nick when he was here, I have been happy to observe several twenty-somethings dragging identical trolleys.

Food in grocery stores is really quite expensive compared to the US, especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. The range available is much narrower than at home (nothing like the Dekalb Farmer’s Market here), but the quality is very high—even workaday vegetables like turnips and carrots taste exceptionally good. A dozen strawberries from County Wexford can cost as much as €3 or almost $4.00, for example, but they are delicious strawberries. We’ve been eating wonderful softball-sized cantaloupes that are worth every cent of their high price. Tomatoes are excellent everywhere—very different from the US where tomatoes in grocery stores are rarely edible. As you might expect, potatoes are cheap and good. Queens are the most popular potato in Ireland, though here in the Republic their full name “British Queen” is abridged. Driving across the country last month we were amused to see lots of roadside stands offering “New Season Queen Potatoes Fresh Dug!” Green vegetables—especially the leafy kind like collards or kale— can be hard to track down. One day we were thrilled to find Irish-grown bok choy and changed our dinner plans to accommodate it. Today I saw green beans for $4.00 for what looked to be about one serving. I’d sell my soul for some broccoli rabe.

Irish Queens or British Queens depending on which side of the border you're digging for them.

Irish Queens or British Queens depending on which side of the border you’re digging for them.

Luckily we are only shopping for two, so the high prices and the weak dollar aren’t terrible for us. All the walking is good exercise, though I may be less enthusiastic when the rain and cold set in. And bureaucracy is bureaucracy, whether Irish or American, and I think I’m starting to “get” the Irish kind. For the first three or four weeks of living here, we spent a lot of time figuring and trying things out. I won’t say we are old hands yet, but the puzzlements are certainly fewer in number, and I even have moments of feeling competent in this new place.


  1. What an enjoyable read Dr. Cozzens! Your non-fiction class was one of the best among all classes I took at Agnes and I’m so thrilled to see you started blogging about your year in Dublin! Dedicated reader +1 for me. =)

    • Shilin how kind of you to say that! I must confess, it is really fun to “do” some nonfiction for a change. Thank you!

  2. Great post, Christine! Congratulations on having the time and the patience to navigate and conquer (maybe a bad choice of words) the Irish way of doing. What fun to reinvent yourselves! Taken out of our home waters, we are all novice sailors. Stay brave, stay safe, and enjoy the adventure.

    • Thanks Susan. Having this time is a luxury that I do appreciate. I’ll try to make it have positive results! Thanks for reading.

  3. What a fun piece! Reading your musings on Ireland really takes me back to wonderful experiences at ASC and especially in Ireland. I can’t believe it’s been nearly twelve years since Global Connections. I look forward to your reports on your adventures this year!

  4. Julie Cohen

    Great to read about the wonderful adventure you and Ron are having. I can very much relate to what you said about the newness of everything, the joy of discoveries made, and also the bureaucracy (which at times was, for me, rather frustrating). I lived in Rome for 2 years, and later in London, also for 2 years. I would not trade those years for anything. Keep writing and we’ll keep reading. My best to you and Ron!

    • Great to hear from you, Julie! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about given your experiences. Thanks for reading!

  5. Reading this, Dr. Cozzens, definitely nudges empathy, as this year and last has been a series of setting up and puzzling out the local bureaucracy. In some ways, it’s definitely easier this year (I speak better Indonesian and I have a solid group of friends to help me out), but I’m also more on my own this year, so there’s that. Love your blog so far. Glad you get to do writing like this!

  6. Sheila Anderson

    Christine: This sounds like a wonderful and excellent adventure for you both. I do like reading your posts. You’re really good at making me feel like I am there. Sounds great except for the government run around.
    Should I send you some seeds of broccoli and lettuce? Now is the time for planting your fall vegetables. Keep writing.

    • Thanks Sheila! I’ll gorge on broccoli rabe when I get home, I guess. Thanks for reading!

  7. Lee Drury

    Christine, you make me wish I were there in Dublin and not on the road (currently in Kennewick, Washington, after a sail down the Inside Passage on the ferry). How delightful to have your sabbatical AND Ron with you. I shall keep reading your entries as you grapple with life in Ireland. -Lee

    • Lee I have followed your blogging for a long time, including this trip. Your obsession is as intense as mine, apparently! Thanks for reading.

  8. Christine! We miss you! I love this post–will you be blogging some more about your culinary adventures? Even the Farmer’s Market lacks Queens, although we had broccoli raab for dinner tonight, which I’d also been craving. (Wish I could send you some.) Congratulations on getting settled in!

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