Some news…

So I’ve been pretty absent over the past couple of months. I can’t believe it’s almost the end of June already!

The past few months have crawled and gone at lightning speed at the same time. Our big news is that we are expecting a new addition to our family. We are obviously delighted and it’ll make for an extra special Christmas for us.

Now, when I was pregnant with Michael I was very sick. 24/7 nausea. This time has been even worse with full blown Hyperemesis. I’ve been medicated since 7 weeks because if I’m not I’ll throw up 10+ plus a day. Which has happened lots of days even with the medication. It’s been a long road and it’s only now at 17 weeks that I have some relief from the constant nausea. Although I’m still likely to throw up at any time. More than once I’ve been sick on the side of the road.  I’ve also been suffering with headaches a lot. With Michael I was hospitalized with migraines but much later in the pregnancy so I’m hoping it’s not a bad sign of things to come.

IMG_0182My sanity has most definitely been tested over the past couple of months and it’s been difficult to look after an active toddler and to try and stay active myself when I can but fingers crossed the worst of it is now over.

In terms of prenatal care I have even shocked myself with this news. Waiting times for hospital appointments here can take all day. The minimum hospital stay for giving birth is three nights… so I’ve decided to try for a home birth. This also means that all my prenatal appointments take place at my house. This saves hours of waiting around in a waiting room. So far so good. I get a scan at every appointment, have had all my bloods and tests done and I have also had Harmony testing and everything is great. A home birth means no drugs of course for labour but I’ve started practicing gentle birthing and I’m hoping this and the birthing pool will get me through. For the actual birth I’ll have a doctor, a doula and a midwife. This is far more hands on care than I would have in a hospital setting so unless there’s an emergency situation this bump will be making its way into the world at home. Any advice for this is welcome!!

I’ve tried to work out as much as I can and have taken up yoga to help with my back. So far so good and weight gain has been minimal in comparison to my first pregnancy.

So other than all of that it’s only 10 days until we fly home to Ireland for our summer trip. It’s the first time Michael has understood the notion of going on a plane so he’s very excited. Maybe not so excited about the change in temperature!!

Im really looking forward to a month in Ireland as we will be staying in Puerto Rico for Christmas again this year with a newborn. There will be a lot of catching up with family and friends and we have a wedding too so I’ll be trying to cover the bump for that.

The Selfish Expat

Last week was St. Patricks Day and it got me slightly nostalgic for the ole Irish sod. We have a small but great Irish community here and in many ways we take more celebration in St. Patricks Day than we would at home because we are away and want to mark the day anyway.

It got me thinking about expat life in general and how we are so removed from Ireland and the goings on. Sure, I watch the Irish news and keep up to date with current affairs but on a day to day level we are away from family and friends and not living in the same world. It may be only temporary but how do you integrate back into that when it’s time to go home?

It’s not the same with family when you’re abroad. You can’t celebrate their good news, hold them when things are going wrong and support them when they need it. Most of the time you’re watching a clock as you’re in a different time zone and it’s about trying to get time to make the call.

So does this make us expats selfish? Are we not there for our families and friends in the way that we should be because we want adventure and the chance to be abroad? Is enhancing our lives and experiences at the detriment of being close to our families and being able to support them? Will our long term friendships with those in Ireland suffer in the long run simply because we struggle to stay in contact?

I’m trying my best to plan our trip to Ireland this summer to allow catch ups with all the family and friends that we need to see but it’s difficult in such a short space of time. I feel obliged to spend as much time as I can with family and feel guilty for being away to see friends.

Do all expats feel selfish at some point for not being at home?

Keeping busy

March is going to be a pretty busy month for us. I’m helping to organise a fundraiser for the orphanage here that I’ve gotten involved with and as it’s in early May we need to get a lot of the ground work for that done in the next couple of weeks.

I’m also busy trying to find time to get some study done and updating my design and web skills. Michael has pretty much been sick for a month now with one thing and another and to be honest no one is getting much sleep so I’m walking around in a haze.

St. Patricks Day will be here before we know it and party planning is in full swing – including a current search for a reggae band that will play some Irish tunes. I think we have approx 80 people coming so it should be a big one!

We are going to Vieques in May. We have booked accommodation at a private house on the grounds of the W hotel and I can’t wait. What I’m a little concerned about it actually getting there? Should we drive down and try and book boat tickets soon and take our cars? Or fly there and rent a car on the other side. There’s six of us so it may even be two cars that we need. Is there a grocery store etc there? After Culebra ideally I would like to bring our own cars and groceries from this side as choice was limited on the island.

Does anyone have any experience? Any suggestions for what to do on the island ?

 

Worlds Best 10K

So after a month of nights out and shenanigans with visitors and St Patricks Day in 2016 I decided that it was time to get back running. I had done a bit before I had Michael and had found it hard to get into a routine here in Puerto Rico for getting out for one. It is so hot it turned me off exercising outdoors.

Anyway, during a few drinks.. (of course!!), myself and one of the Irish girls decided we would give it a go and do it together for motivation. So we downloaded the couch25k app and off we went. It was amazing to see how you could push yourself each week and slowly build it up. It wasn’t exactly easy and our husbands joked about how slow we were going and how it was taking us 52 weeks instead of 10 but we got there! We did a 5k together in November in San Juan and were really happy with our time of under 30 minutes considering it was our first one post babies.

So running on adrenaline that day we decided the next step was to do a 1ok. We looked online and seen a race called the Worlds Best 1oK was in San Juan on February 26th and decided to go for it. http://www.wb10ksanjuan.org

We did not take into consideration that between Thanksgiving, Christmas and visitors that we wouldn’t have sufficient time to get out running.

5 weeks out we decided lets do it and give it a shot. I researched online and condensed the 5-10k programme from 10 to 5 weeks and we gave it our all. After a pretty comfortable 9k two weeks ago we thought we were on track and ready. The reality is that we were under trained in terms of fitness but over trained in terms of effort and had tired legs on the day.

Usually after about 15 minutes into a run I find my stride and comfort pace and can continue for another 30 minutes comfortably before the last slog is a bit of a chore but yesterday that comfort never came. I felt tired all the way. The race was organised poorly with runners and walkers going at the same time – no mile markers at the start or during the race. We were trying to pass walkers and people with buggys. We were jumping over water bottles, no idea at what point of the race we were at and the route was different on the day to what was advertised on their website. My trusty Garmin watch wouldn’t pick up a satellite signal and I couldn’t see our mile pace. We felt every step. We finished but we were exhausted and feeling like we never wanted to run again at the end.

I’m now determined to rest for a couple of weeks with some short runs and go for a 10k in a few weeks to see if we can improve on the time just for myself. My stubbornness is kicking in. Next step then is another 5k to improve on our time.

Any advice from any seasoned runners?

Lazy Sundays

 

We are really bad at getting out of the house -even for just a couple of hours to explore. Weekends are spent at swimming lessons, catching up on laundry, sleep, cleaning and usually going out with friends.

Michael had been sick and house bound last weekend so after a touch of cabin fever we decided on a whim to visit condado yesterday. I’ve been there a couple of times before for lunch at the Vanderbilt and dinner one Saturday night.

I’m so glad that we went. It was beautiful. It’s a touristy area and so be prepared for lots of people from all walks of life. We had ice cream in Ben & Jerrys (smoothie for me) and walked along the sand. It was crowded with lots of people drinking and enjoying the sunshine so not that child friendly if there for a long period of time but still beautiful. If we didn’t have Michael with us then we would have been reaching for the sangria and a lounger… life has definitely changed but it was a lovely walk along a fabulous beach front with a view that I take for granted!

Weekend escape to Paradise

This post has taken me forever to write so I’m hoping I haven’t forgotten loads already but in December, myself and the hubby and a couple of our friends here took a weekend to visit the Puerto Rican island of Culebra to celebrate Rob’s 30th birthday. He’s in the oldie group now!

It’s pretty close to the mainland but not easily accessible. There’s a ferry that runs daily from Fajardo but I’ve read so much about it being unreliable and not worth the hassle that we decided to fly. This was actually a great option. We flew with Vieques Air Link from Isla Grande which was so convenient. It was a small 8 passenger plane and scared the life out of me as a nervous flyer but it was an experience and fun too. It cost about $150 pp return and was so stress free. Except when instead of weighing our bags they weighed us individually at check in… If I had known that was happening I would have been dieting a bit more before hand!

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We rent a house called Villa Pelicano and to be honest I don’t have much good to say about it. It was over priced and just about adequate. The owner gave me a lot of grief for leaving a neutral review on trip advisor and made up random facts that never happened… for example when booking it he upped the price from the original quote and said it was due to demand. I said in my review that there was no one else staying at the villa so it couldn’t have been based on demand. He responded to the review stating that my husband had called him and upgraded us to a different apartment which is untrue! Anyway, if you come across this place maybe avoid for your own sanity. There are lots of nice accommodation options that are within walking distance to beach or the town and this villa isn’t in walking distance of anything. Think it was approximately $1,100 for two nights so much cheaper options available too.

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We rented a jeep for two days from Carlos’ Jeep Rental. Really convenient as they’re based in the airport. It’s mainly Jeep Wranglers available which is kind of cool to experience driving but if your accomodation is in the town then a golf buggy is also a good rental option to get around. The rental was $250 for two days.

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The morning we arrived we visited the highly popular Flamenco Beach. Here you will find lots of huts at the entrance with food and drink options. They only allow plastic glasses on the beach which is great and all in all it was really clean and sufficiently cared for. Lots of people swimming, enjoying themsleves and taking in the sun. It is consistently rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and I can see why.

We did some grocery shopping for supplies for the house and there is a really small store in the town and one at a petrol station just outside. Not a huge selection and priced the same as the mainland so if travelling by car on the Ferry I would recommend taking your supplies with you.

That night we dined in Zaco’s Tacos which was really nice. We then went to Dingy Dock for drinks and it was so cool seeing people arrive in their boats and dock up against the bar and go in for a drink. It’s a really small island so everything is pretty accessible.

The next morning we decided to visit Playa Brava. Slightly off the beaten track I would most definitely recommend this beach. It’s about a 20 minute hike through the woods but it’s worth it. There was a total of three other people on the beach when we arrived and they left soon afterwards so we had the entire place to ourselves. The waves were bigger here and the boys were keen to surf if equipment could have been rented on the island but it was very beautiful .

That night we ate in Dingy Dock and there was a wait for a table. The food was pretty average, drinks were good and the service was good but not worth the price tag on the food.

We really enjoyed getting off the mainland for the weekend. It’s a beautiful, scenic island and is probably close to what Puerto Rico was like 20 years ago. Rural and less spoiled. I was really taken back by the amount of Americans I met there that were working. Hearing there stories it seems like people fall in love with the island and end up staying! I can see why.

 

 

 

 

 

One year in….

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So we have been in Puerto Rico for just over a year now. I can’t comprehend just how quickly that time has gone – particularly the last seven months since we were home in Ireland. It’s been a whirlwind and an adventure at the same time.

I think it’s normal with any expat journey to have some challenging experiences when trying to settle into a new country. I’m so settled here now that I think of Puerto Rico as our home. We have a routine and have adjusted to making life work here. And it’s wonderful. I have to pinch myself at times to remind me just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country. The beaches, the weather, the friends that we have made here. We have been so lucky to have so many great friends here for support and to have so many laughs with. To be honest without those people our experience would be a lot different and Puerto Rico would be more of a stop gap rather than our home for the next two years.

When thinking back over what we have been through to get to this point of our expat journey there is a number of things that I wish I had known before we started. So here’s my top 10 notes of advice for anyone considering an expat assignment in Puerto Rico but which I’m sure apply to all countries.

  1. Relocation companies suck. Do not rely on them for support or even to know the basics of what they’re doing. Google the hell our of where you’re going and have a back up plan for what you need to do if the company doesn’t deliver on their promises.
  2. Don’t go into any assignment with a set amount of time in your head. They always change. Just be open to the time frame and then there’s no disappointment if it’s shorter or longer.
  3. Make contact where possible with someone who has done a similar move and ask all the questions in the world – forewarned is forearmed.
  4. Do come on a reki – I didn’t and I really wish I had. I just got on a plane and moved and while that added to the excitement it also added to the stress. Take a week to visit and get your bearings. Particularly as a trailing spouse – most likely your partner goes to work after a day and you’re left at home. A week before to find your way around will ease the transition into calling your new location home.
  5. Don’t rush into your long term home or accommodation. We were stressing over not being able to find anywhere to live that we liked due to the incompetent and greedy realtors. The best move we made was booking a house rather than a hotel as our temporary accommodation that we could extend if needed. It allowed us time to get to know the area, seek advice and to find the house that we loved. Best thing we did. We love our house and area.
  6. Relax – it took me a long time to get this one. I was stressed over finding somewhere to live, setting up home, buying everything we needed. Particularly here in Puerto Rico where it’s difficult to get anything done fast. Everything takes time but you’ll get there in the end and guess what? You’ll grow and learn so much about yourself in the process.
  7. Routine – this is the most important one. Short term assignment or long term expat you need to make this new strange location your home. Routine is the only way to do that. Get out there, make plans, particularly if you have kids. All those play dates and coffee dates are now your access to the community around you. For me routine involves working out and having part time childcare in the form of a nanny. Without either of these things I wouldn’t be as happy as I am here. I’m often approached by ladies in the gym looking for a chat – its a great resource for meeting people and the exercise helps with stress relief.
  8. Ship what you can. We decided to just basically come with our suitcases and I miss having our  personal belongings and all my own kitchen items. Making your house feel like your home is an important part of settling into life here.
  9. Take some time out as a couple – plan a night away or date nights after your first month. Most likely your spouse will have been adjusting to a new job and possibly new culture and language and you will have been trying to adjust your entire family and keep it all together. You’ll have been so busy that you won’t have had time to catch your breathe and take stock of where you’re at. Lean on one another for support and talk about what you can do to help the transition for the other one.
  10. Last but not least – Travel. You’re here because you wanted to see more of the world. Because you wanted your kids to experience something new, to see something different. You can’t do that if you stay in one place. Here in Puerto Rico, and especially in Dorado it’s so easy to just stay in our little gated communities where everyone speaks English. That’s a great convenience for every day life but it’s not what you came here to do. Get out, go on day trips, visit other islands. See everything that your new home has to offer. Your time will go quickly once you establish a routine and before you know where you are you’ll be planning your move home or your next assignment. Make sure that you’ll really experienced the place that you’ve been living in.

 

 

Guilt for grieving…

I’m beginning to think that maybe this blog should be titled highs and lows of being a parent rather than expat life. I feel like once you have kids you can never make your own decision again based on what you or your partner want – everything revolves around the boy. Your mindset and thinking changes completely and in so many ways you understand your own parents and their decisions better.

I’ve written about the loss of my mum before here and I don’t want to be a broken record. I don’t know if it was because I gave birth two weeks before she passed or if I would feel the same way if Michael had been older but my grieving seems to be taking longer than I expected. She will be two years gone in August and I still miss her desperately at times.

 

It will hit me out of nowhere. I will just be driving down the street or doing my grocery shopping and something will trigger it. A song, a smell, an item of food and I will struggle to catch my breath. There’s a lump at the back of my throat that I can’t swallow and my legs go weak. It seems silly – death is something that everybody experiences. I feel like I should be able to control the situation better, deal with things in a more mindful way and focus on the positives. But the truth is, I miss her. I feel like I need her more than ever now that I’m a Mom. I feel hard done by at times and envious of those that still have their parents for advice. So many times I want to pick up the phone to call her and ask about a cough or a fever, how to get him to eat, tell her his new words and the funny stories. It makes me sad to think about everything that he will miss out on by not ever having her in his life. I know I’m blessed that she hung on to life to meet him and held him as he was baptised but when I close my image that mental image doesn’t always bring me to the best place. Even telling her I was pregnant makes me swallow hard when I recall it. Her tears. The realisation that she probably wasn’t going to be around for this grandchild. Her happiness that this has happened for myself and Rob and that anxiety over our ability to have children could be put to rest for the time being. It can at times just bring a sadness to my heart and mind that makes it difficult to lift.

I’ve had to grief before. I thought I knew what it meant. It looks like this time its harder and longer because I’m now a mother myself. I love my little boy more than anything, he brings unbelievable joy to my life. I love how when I pick him up in the morning and he says “Mammy,”at the top of his lungs excitedly and leans in to hug me and blow me a kiss before escaping out of my arms to run for his toys. I’m happy. I just never realised how missing someone so much can overshadow the greatest happiness I’ve ever  experienced.

 

Being the trailing spouse….

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I had never heard the expression trailing spouse until this time last year. It’s a phrase I’ve heard over and over again. It refers to the non expat spouse – the one who trails behind with the kids while the expat is one who works. I’ve learnt that trailing means you’re the one that’s usually left to pick up the bits and pieces and organise your lives in both countries – the one you’ve left behind and the one you’re trying to make home.

In most cases and which was true in ours there isn’t really a transition period to settle in before the working spouse starts their new job. In Ireland both of us finished work on a Friday, flew out the Saturday morning, arrived in the middle of the night and Rob started his new job on the Monday. I unpacked the suitcases and boxes and looked after the child. I do understand that this is my role in this journey, to be the home maker per say – but I feel there isn’t enough consideration given to this role when people talk about expat life in general.

The working spouse usually works long hours and this has at times left me lonely with a child and missing my husband. I miss having a purpose outside the home and my own career. I do get to spend so much precious time with our son and we have been unbelievably blessed with the friends that we have made here that it is easier than if we were secluded but being the trailing spouse has also made me an irrational human being.

I read a piece on this recently where it described the trailing spouse as a character ready to blow at the minute. It was a comedy piece but it’s scarily accurate also. Consistency isn’t Puerto Rico’s strong point and at times it can be excruciatingly difficult to do simple things. The irrational trailing spouse blames the working spouse; it’s their fault as they’re the reason that you’re here in the first place. You’ve given up your friends, family and job for them and in that moment of complete despair where you’re thinking how much easier this would be at home you blame them. My poor hubby has been on the recieving end of irrational trailing spouse more than once and I’m surprised at times that he hasn’t booked me a one way ticket home just to shut me up!

I have to keep reminding myself that this is a beautiful island, that my role in our lives here is appreciated, that this is time with my son that money simply can’t buy and that eventually when I go back to work that my career will fall into place and I won’t have to start at the bottom of the ladder again. The irrational trailing spouse in me then counter offers with the fact that we don’t know how long we will be here or where we may possibly end up next and who knows when it will be possible for me to go back to work. And that whenever the move does happen that I will probably be organising it with very little help.  I’ll never regret this time.. I know that for sure…. But it’s not always fun in the sun.