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Sarita writes....

My name is Sarita Berges and I have lived in Limerick since September 1998. My Canadian husband John and I moved here after his retirement from the Ontario Board of Education. When we married in 1982 his Canadian education credentials did not allow him employment in the United States where I was working in the Silicon Valley office of the company my father had created - so it was me that had to relocate.

As most of you know, I am a keen gardener and had especially thrived in the benign Californian climate. It was a shock when I finally realised that winter in Ontario lasts for 5 months.... the ground literally frozen to a depth of 3 feet. So when John’s retirement loomed ahead of us, I was keen to go some place where I could ‘dig’ all year round! Over the years we had come over to Ireland regularly because John’s son was at Queens University in Belfast and my son was living here with an Irish girlfriend.

We both liked the friendly Irish people and the green countryside, and were amused by the traffic jams on the roads caused by roaming sheep or horse drawn, so different to the freeways into Toronto or Niagara with the fast-paced hurtling traffic. It took some time but eventually we found a place that ticked our respective desires- mine a large unkempt old garden crying out to be transformed {right alongside the Shannon River } and for John easy access to a good sized town and a local golf club. The immediate snag was that the only way we could join a golf club was by proposal of a club member. We knew absolutely no one! Each year we went back to Canada to see friends and relatives so our only golfing was on those visits- so for exercise, John used to make do with his ride on mower and chain saw!! whilst I dug! { Pleased to brag that after just a few years our garden won 3rd place in an All Ireland Competition- we’d have preferred 1st place but it was ALL IRELAND – North and South.

I picked up the Limerick Leader one day and running across the bottom of one page was an article about the International Women’s Organization giving an outline of what they were about and a phone number to call. I duly called and was invited to a Thursday morning **Coffee and Crafts get together. The welcome was friendly and I thought: well why not join and see if I like it. I have searched, without success, through my giant sized scrap book trying to find that article and the name of the hostess.

What I did find were three photographs taken early in 2000 of a Plant Swap organized by Marie Morris and held at my home. Marie, Val, Sue Thomas, Maureen, Dorina and others bending down over plant pots and boxes. So I obviously got stuck right in! Eventually being secretary a couple of times. The warmth and support of the various women I have got to know over the years has been priceless. Other than our resident Irish members, we have all come here leaving family and old friends a long way behind and that can be tough.....hurrah for emails and Skype keeping us in ‘long distance contact’....AND our temporary replacement family: the amazing women in the Limerick branch of the IWO.

There is a downside, in that members come and members go. Some are able to come back

to Ireland on occasion and the hashing over of old times and the swapping of memories is great fun. Sadly, there are those that we lose to ill health and that is really hard because they had become our replacement family.

** At that time it was customary for each person to bring along knitting, or embroidery or crafts of some description- along the way that sort of fizzled out and was replaced with an occasional special morning of learning something entirely new: crochet, beading, origami, weaving, cake or butter making etc. etc. but always with coffee or tea and goodies on offer

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