Happy 2008 to the Bilerico community!!! May it be a healthy, joyful, peaceful and prosperous year for all of us and our loved ones and allies. And may it bring to the White House a president courageous and determined enough to end America’s occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and reverse the shameful erosion of democracy perpetrated by the Bush/Cheney regime.
Big changes are afoot for me in 2008 and despite my intimate acquaintance with transitions, I’m looking at the next few weeks and months with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. For I’ve decided to depart Ireland and return to the USA—a momentous decision for me.
I originally relocated to Dublin in the summer of 2004 in part for adventure and a change of scene but mostly as a tax protest against the war in Iraq. While my opposition to that debacle remains, a confluence of events in the past six months—which I can’t detail at this time—has eroded my resolve to remain in Ireland.
I originally considered relocating to France for a variety of reasons, chief among them to be closer to my daughter. But my elderly father has recently taken to saying he wishes I was closer. Considering that he has stood by me through thick and thin, I could not forgive myself if I put politics before being there for him. As a result, I plan to move back to the San Diego area in mid-January.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited in some ways about returning. I’m a third-generation Californian and the state’s geography, the Pacific Ocean, the quality of sunlight glinting on offshore wind-blown surf exert an almost mythic pull on me. I’m also going to love being closer to friends I’ve missed since I left San Diego in January, 2003. And let’s not forget, cheap, excellent Mexican food, scones from Bread & Cie on University Avenue in Hillcrest, and a huge variety of Trader Joe’s delicacies I’ve been without for three-and-a-half years!
At times, life’s significance does indeed boil down to the little things.
In a way that every expat will understand, I’m really looking forward to no longer being “the foreigner.” As a queer-identified FtM, I have reason to feel an outsider in many situations, which perhaps makes it harder that no matter how long I stay here nor how comfortable I find Irish culture, I will always remain “the Yank.”
People who have never tried to live in a foreign country don’t realize how challenging it can be. Which is another reason I have no patience for Americans who disparage migrants. Any American contemplating an unkind word against an immigrant who, say, doesn’t understand their barked command at a fast food counter should be obliged to live for a time in a foreign country. Trust me: even when the language is English, the cumulative unfamiliarity can take a toll over time. Simple tasks—making a long-distance call at a pay phone, figuring out how the hot water heater works, setting up a bank account—add up.
So what will I miss about Ireland? Well, there’s the weather. NOT! Irish weather is a trial. It’s near freezing and pissing rain right now and has been for days. Weeks even, off and on.
Seriously, though, there are so many things I’ll miss about Ireland. I hate leaving the many good friends I’ve made here: I will sorely miss you all. And I’ll miss the culture in general. Irish people are highly educated, intelligent, opinionated, and articulate as hell—all traits that I immensely enjoy. And probably because so many have traveled or lived abroad, they are remarkably well informed about the rest of the world. Your average Dublin taxi driver, for example, knows more about how the US government is organized and works than your average college-educated American—I kid you not. And he (oddly I’ve yet to see a female taxi driver) is quite ready to share his insights and viewpoints about said government.
I’ll also miss the Irish trait of cheering for the underdog—perhaps a relic of Ireland’s long history of exploitation at the hands of Britain. I’ll miss the artistic, literary and musical heritage. It’s no myth: Irish people actually do break into song in pubs. It’s amazing. The level of musical appreciation and awareness here means that the state radio stations—under the banner of Radio Telefís Éireann, or RTÉ—play an eclectic mix of Irish and world music which, thanks to the internet, I’ll not have to give up. Hopefully, RTÉ will also satisfy my fix for Ireland’s lilting accents and delightful turns of phrase.
So, what I’m going to regret about returning to the US? One big thing is the widespread acceptance on the part of the much of the electorate and elected officials that inequality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender is somehow warranted, or at the very least, too entrenched to reverse rapidly. Homophobia and transphobia definitely exist in Ireland, as does inequality due to sexual orientation and gender. What’s different, though, is the public consensus, including among most elected officials, that such discrimination and inequality are wrong and must be eradicated. Even the Taoiseach—or Irish prime minister—is not afraid to publicly commit to ending such discrimination, even if his party drags their feet to actually do so.
As well, I regret returning to the US while the war in Iraq still rages. It is wonderful to live in a nation with no history of warring against or occupying other countries. When I visited America in September, the widespread apathy about the war as well as the average person’s ignorance and indifference about world events in general and America’s role in them, were hard to stomach.
Then there are economics. Despite Dublin’s astronomical cost of living, high taxes, and the fact I’m a lowly administrative support employee, I have been able to climb my way out of considerable credit card debt during my tenure here and save more than I’ve ever saved in my life. This is in part because the Euro is very strong compared to the dollar, but also, Irish workers—who have maintained a class consciousness lost in the US since the Reagan era—fight harder to protect their rights. Consequently, though forces are conspiring to erode workers’ rights here, they remain better protected than in America. The minimum wage is livable and the social safety net relatively intact. Importantly, people continue to support taxation toward maintaining infrastructure and providing for society’s less fortunate.
On the whole, Irish people are more likely to equate quality of life to aspects other than how much money a person makes. In that vein, I can’t tell you how much I hate giving up 22 days of paid vacation a year!!!
Yep, it’s going to be an adjustment. I’ll try to keep y'all posted overtime on how it goes.