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Why where

Approximate reasons for going various places during 11 years in the European Union.


Amsterdam Seville Dublin , Galway , Kilkenny Nijmegen K Nijmegen Kilkenny Cork Kilkenny U.S.



I left my native United States in May of 2000 with a 90-day round-trip ticket and without any purpose. I was gone for 11 years and one week.


AmsterdamMay, 2000

The Dutch speak English, I could smoke in the Netherlands, and the culture is unique.

But I wasn't on a personal mission or anything like it. I met a friend there, but she was busy with some boyfriend. After seven months, I was running out of money, and couldn't easily work. I wasn't going to return home having seen only the Netherlands. I had to go somewhere else.

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Seville — December 24, 2000

In an arbitrary decision, I limited the options of my next move to Barcelona and Seville. They were not so much ideas as just names of cities, words that had gotten stuck into my head from earlier. Something that somebody had said, bits that I'd heard from different people — something added up to an impression, a sketch of a notion. Either was as good as any, as far as I knew, and each was as good as the other.

I decided to go to Seville, for a simple reason — I did not want to go to Barcelona after Amsterdam. Barcelona, notoriously hip, didn't seem like enough of a change. Seville, of which I knew nothing, seemed preferable. Again, I don't know what had put Seville on that short list with Barcelona, but there it was; and with Barcelona out, there I went.

I found work in a restaurant, worked there for a while, then lost my job. I taught a bit of English, but very little. In June of 2001 I had moved out of my apartment and was staying with a former housemate.

I was living on slight funds and running out of money. The weather was getting hot.

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Ireland — June 17, 2001

The former housemate in Seville had a housemate who also had a guest, an Irish guy named Calvin.

Calvin and I were both impoverished. We talked a lot, with little else to do.

One afternoon we went for a cup of coffee and spent several hours over a single cup each. We'd brought our books, newspapers, and notebooks; and we read, wrote, and talked.

Calvin spoke enthusiastically about Ireland — culture, the language, the people. He drew maps and diagrams. He told me that there were jobs in Dublin.

Calvin probably knew that he didn't need to suggest I go to Ireland. I'd gone places for less reason.

I spent most of the rest of my money on a flight ticket to Dublin.

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Dublin — June 2001

I lived in Dublin for 2 ½ months. During this time I stayed for a while in a hostel, lived in two apartments, and had two jobs. I wasn't mad about Dublin — though I like it better now that I don't live there.

In a hostel, some French girls talked about Kilkenny. I think that that recommendation stuck in my head.

Early September, I went out of town to find work. I missed the bus to Kilkenny, and went to Galway. I stayed there for a week and a half. Then I went to Kilkenny.

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Kilkenny — September, 2001

Somehow, Kilkenny just became home for a while, about 7 of the 8½ years I lived in Ireland.

I got a bed in a hostel and on my third day a job, doing washup at a restaurant. Some of us went out afterwards. I met friends that evening who would become important to me and whom I would like to see again.

A friend of a friend knew of an apartment available.

I became part of a community. I had other jobs, lived in another apartment. I was in Kilkenny for about two years when I made a fateful vacation journey to County Kerry.

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Nijmegen, The Netherlands — August 15, 2003

I met a Dutch girl in County Kerry.

Six weeks later, I moved to Nijmegen, near the eastern border of the Netherlands.

I lived with Kim in a tiny room for six months, and I worked for a few hours each week in a bakery, and, later, also in a restaurant.

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Kilkenny — March 2, 2004

I returned to Kilkenny from Nijmegen for six weeks in the Spring of 2004. K_ had fallen into depression that winter.

We'd been living together from August to March in a student-housing room of nine square meters (100 square feet.)

When I lost my job at the restaurant and only worked at the bakery, my income was meager.

I wasn't able to work legally — was not legal. I had to do something; and K_ agreed (though she would later ask me why I left her.)

I went to Kilkenny. I stayed with a friend, got my old job back at a cleaning company, and then, by surprise, got my old room back as well.

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Nijmegen — April 11, 2004

But Kim needed me. I returned to her in mid-April.

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Kilkenny — January 17, 2005

Kim and I had "broken up" in the summer of 2004.

At Christmastime, a friend called me. As we talked, he interrupted and said "Steve. You're single? Come to Kilkenny."

In Kilkenny I stayed with a friend and started looking for work. As part of my search I went to FÁS, the national employment agency. They told me that I'd need to register at the office of Social and Family Services — social welfare. I did so.

To my surprise, and against all expectation, the social welfare office put me on the dole.

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Cork — August 2009

I moved to Cork city in August of 2009 because I liked the place. I'd been there most recently the previous December for a TEFL class, and felt good visiting.

I had grown to dislike Kilkenny, and while I had some friends there I was dissatisfied. Local kids had been taunting me with filthy language for a couple of years, and the landlord in the place where I'd lived for years was harrassing me regularly.

And I liked Cork. So when I returned from a vacation in Romania, I went to Cork with a backpack, and got a place to stay in a hostel.

I found some short-term housing that lasted too long, moved into a bedsit nearby and then another on the southside, closer to a job that I found at about the same time.

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Kilkenny — August, 2010

In January of 2010 I'd gotten that job in Cork and had signed off the dole. Friends later told me that this was a big mistake.

Soon after I started working at the bakery it became clear that there were problems at the business. The health department had various concerns about the suitability of the premises to handle the volume that it was producing. There was a history of health issues, I was to learn....

The bakery closed. I went to the dole office, and for the first time since 2005 somebody noticed that I'm American. (Any Irish person can hear the U.S. accent; it was a paradox of my time in Ireland....)

Friends in Kilkenny encouraged me to return there. I didn't want to do that, and I stayed in Cork for as long as I could; but eventually I conceded and returned.

A couple of friends and I began to talk about getting a place to live together. I didn't want to do that, either, but I didn't have much choice.

It didn't work out well. Then in October, after a bit of paperwork, I got re-instated on the dole. The social welfare office declared me "habitually resident." After that, I think my patience ran out with the drunken ravings of the one of my housemates and I probably stopped making concessions in our arguments. In any case, the trouble was escalating at every drunken occasion. I had to move out.

After a month or so of discussion with the landlady of a one-bedroom apartment in the middle of town, she made me an offer. She said she'd rent the place to me for the same 200 euros I was paying to live where I was. The catch was that she wanted me to apply for rent allowance. She assumed, as most anyone would, that since I was on the dole then I could get rental assistance. That's how it works -- in every case but mine.

It's a long story, a bureaucratic one, and one that really has no explanation.

If I wanted rent allowance I'd have to prove that I was legally resident in the European Union. Why not for social welfare? There's no explanation. My case was unique. But, anyhow, on the application form pertinent to rent allowance there is a check-box that was on none of the paperwork that I did for social welfare -- a check-box that I could not fill in a satisfactory way.

Then there was Breda Dermody. The scourge of the Kilkenny non-working class. Don't mention her name if you don't want to upset anybody. She was my community welfare officer by dint of the new address. She was pretty adamant about not helping me; and I suspect she also put word in with the social welfare office.

It took a few months, being the Christmas season, and this being Ireland. In April, I got a call from the Social Welfare office. They asked if I had a "stamp 4" immigration status. I didn't.

And that was it. I could no longer receive the dole. I didn't have enough work to pay the rent; and in spring of 2011 there was little work available.

I started to make plans for my return to the United States. I'd been thinking for a while about going home. Now it was time.

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