Battling to stay in America does not dim the bright lights of Manhattan for me


1. Keep sharp objects away from them at all times.

2. Your elbows are also classed as sharp objects.

3. Make sure you get the one-year guarantee on the blow-up bed, you’ll need it in about a month.

4. Never underestimate the popping, tearing or hissing sounds that you might hear coming from beneath you. Nine times out of ten, your bed is doing the death rattle.

5. If you can’t find your roommate in the morning, check that she does not need rescuing from within the middle of the deflated remains of the blow-up bed that may have engulfed her within mounds of plastic during the night.

In the coming weeks we battled depleting stocks of money and rejection letters from every job we applied to. Our visa status seemed to be a hindrance as a lot of companies aren’t interested in the headache of extra paperwork. Who could blame them, I suppose - going through the visa paperwork process is enough to send anyone to the madhouse. As a friend of mine likes to say, I’d rather chew my own toenails than fill out another form after that.

With 90 days to get a job, or find ourselves back in Ireland twiddling our thumbs, we were three publishing graduates and one construction management graduate with a count-down clock over our heads and the embarrassing prospect of returning home after a mere three months to the questioning faces of those who had sent us off with tears and good luck messages.

Although we were meant to be finding work in the areas that we had graduated in, time and money were not our friends, so we did what most people do and got a job in the service industry working at an Irish bar where we were free to ask everyone “What’s the craic?” without being arrested on suspicion of hoarding drugs.

Life in an Irish bar is a little bit of home away from home but it somehow never loses the horrible waft of green leprechauns and “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” vibes. Nearly every customer has a great-great-great grandaddy that came from the boglands of Ireland way back when and a sixth cousin twice removed named John that came to America in 1803.

Despite my current wariness of the question “Are you from Ireland?”, I do like the way the eyes of the American customers light up and how they sometimes talk of Ireland with a knowledge that pleasantly surprises me and at other times makes me wonder if they’re pulling my leg.

When I informed one customer that it rained a lot in Ireland and that, no, it didn’t always look like the Discover Ireland advertisement posters, I instantly felt like I should have followed up with “but we do have leprechauns and we’re always happy”, he looked so disappointed, you’d swear I just shot a puppy.

Working Saint Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub at the center of New York was a crazy experience. The staff were told to prepare for the onslaught of people dressed in green as if we were troops preparing to do battle, and battle we did, squeezing through crowds that smothered the oxygen out of us, seating people that weren’t sure what their own names were and chopping off hands that got a little too friendly. I also had my other eardrum blown apart by the band of Irish bagpipers that serenaded the pub for several tunes. Still, we hadn’t come to America to work in a pub, we’d come to get experience and no one seemed to want to give us any.

A few weeks before D-day, my sister rang me to say that she had been to a fortune teller who had informed her that she had a sister in America who wouldn’t be coming home and would find the job she needed around two weeks before she was set to return to Ireland. Sure enough, not all fortune tellers are frauds because that’s what happened. Two weeks before D-day, took pity on me. My housemates also found jobs in their required areas just in the nick of time.

Our first months in New York were about finding our feet on the slopes of the mountain that is New York, adjusting to life in a different country and falling in love with NYC but, five months on, we have graduated from the “just visiting” pass to become the people that sigh in exasperation at the lunatic tourists who stop dead in front of us to take a picture while we’re trying to get to work in a hurry.

We have learned to accept the craziness of this city and to run from or laugh at it as the case may call for. We’ve also learned that time flies all too quickly. The city that never sleeps will not remember us when we leave, but one thing’s for sure, we’ll remember it.