I Went To Winter

Just 12 hours after I left not-so-sunny Singapore, I had my first brush with snow.

We arrived in Paris at around 5 a.m., and the pilot told us that the temperature would be -3°C and there would be snow. I swear I don’t know who screamed in the cabin.

Once off the huge metal canister, the cold hit. It bit through every layer of clothing I had on (hold on, I only had one), but I was too excited to think anything negative of it. Toddlers were fishing winter hats out of their parents’ bags and I was bumbling around the airport in a T-shirt and the thinnest jacket I own, chuckling to myself (oh how that would change in two days).

Long story short, we spent too much time sitting about and got half lost in the huge multi-terminal airport, so by 7 a.m., I was half in tears over a missed flight. Most of the French officers were helpful, but they didn’t really know how to handle a panicking 18-year-old who missed her first “adultless” flight. I was directed to help counters with no personnel behind them and all I could do was wait and see my flight leave. Some of them were bloody unhelpful and rude, to make matters worse. There was this guy whom I approached when I realized that I was queuing up at the wrong gate and all he said was “gate closed” and strolled away as if I didn’t even exist. The other lady was an airport staff. She told us she couldn’t help us at all, which was fine, but the way she put it, she made us seem like children asking for more candies when trick-o-treating.

We did manage to get another flight out after a 4-hour plus wait, with the help of a very nice ticketing counter staff who didn’t charge us a cent for the new boarding pass. May she be blessed with good luck all her life.

This flight was a whole new experience. We had to take a shuttle bus out in the snow to a far-flung place that didn’t even look like it belonged to the airport (even more so with the snow-covered landscape). After that, we had to get out of that bus, into the snow and board the aircraft like President Obama does, up the stairs. Yes, I still only had my T-shirt and thinnest jacket on and one of my looser pairs of jeans. Even though I threw on another jacket earlier on, the cold still took me by surprise. I was laughing like a mad tropical Asian when I first set foot on French ground, but within the next 30 seconds, I was cursing and shaking and begging to enter the aircraft. The French guy behind chuckled. I had a weird feeling it was directed at me.

One hour and a really nice salmon sandwich (plus a really nice air steward) later, We clambered out of the jet plane and onto Irish ground. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally touch down. There was just too much drama for one day.

And so began my Irish journey. The first few days were a blur, really, because we were trying to settle in. All I remembered was the cold. I was just shivering violently every single time I stepped out of the car, and Irish colleagues told us that the weekend we arrived was the coldest day of the year. That explained a lot. The simple business of peeing proves much agony for my butt. Strangely, all the toilets here have windows behind the bowl, so your butt just bears the brunt of the chill. I avoid showering when I can, but sometimes, my hair just clumps up and I know it’s time to go shivering in the bathroom again. I did make some progress, however. I’m quite proud to say that my butt doesn’t shiver that much when I plop down on the toilet anymore.

I'm frozen too...

I’m frozen too…

The quarters that we live in now have less than perfect living conditions. Man, I’ll take my hats off to the staff here who could bear with using dirty pots and pans and cutlery. Someone should include dishwashing liquid in the budget before anyone dies of food poisoning here. Within 3 days, I’ve learnt to be more appreciative of what we have back home. I can’t say I won’t eat as much when I get back, but I definitely won’t ever complain anymore.

The part I can’t get used to the most is supermarket shopping. I’ve never had any issues with that back home, but here, they don’t give you plastic bags, so either you pay for them or you go home with your food under your armpits. If you happened to be walking down the street in Ireland a few days ago and you see this Asian girl with a knitted hat and mismatched clothes eating a baguette (€1.90 from Dunnes; I recommend the spicy potato wedges flavour, it’s just perfect for a frigid day), with stuff under her armpits, it was probably me.

I haven’t taken many photos of Ireland yet because my hands get numb the second I take them out of my gloves or pocket and the camera apparently can’t withstand low temperatures. I do have some cow portraits (yes, I know how weird that sounds), but my laptop can’t read the SD card, so I can’t show them to you too. It’s a pity, really. Ireland is so beautiful.

I can’t begin to say how much I love the Irish people too, especially the taxi drivers and some bus drivers. They’re really awesome people, with a really great sense of humour. We ran after a bus today, and when we tried to look for enough change, the driver shook his head and waved us in. “Walk in! Walk in!” he said. I was so grateful after the previous buses we took charged us the full adult fare.

When we were returning, the bus took a winding route through housing estates. After what seemed like ages and after we couldn’t recognize anymore landmarks (sorry, I still think all Irish houses look the same in the dark), we decided to ask the driver how to get to the hospital. He looked at us a bit wearily, then said, “What bus d’ye think yer on?” “Err… 123?” I replied. “Naw, 125.” he said, shrugging and driving on. Now, my friend and I were shocked out of our wits. I took a glance behind and noticed that another bus, a 123 was behind. If only we could get down and catch the next bus…… Then Mr. Bus Driver laughed. He looked genuinely amused. “The hospital, yeah?” He stopped the bus. “We’re behind the hospital. Ye just take a turn around the corner and you’ll see the entrance.” Mr. Bus Driver, I salute you for fine acting skills. You might just appear in the next blockbuster film.

There was a nice woman passenger who directed us to the entrance too. She was so patient and kind. I felt so warm despite the wind blowing sharply at me. The other lady deserving a commendable mention is the lady I bought the baguette at Dunnes from. I was looking horribly like a lost child that day, being my first ever solo outing to a mall. She made me a nice baguette then got out of her counter and led me to the cashier. She was really motherly and I knew she understood how I felt that day. I’m really thankful to all these nice people. Being a foreigner is difficult and if the locals don’t like people of your ethnicity (I’m looking at you, Lady-Sitting-Behind-Us-In-The-Bus), life can be quite tough.

Thankfully, I’ve had more good experiences than bad ones this first week, so I hope the subsequent weeks will prove enjoyable too. I’ll be back soon.

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