It’s funny how coming home to Ireland can start to feel so “normal” after a while, I was home for a break recently and it occurred to me that though I was so looking forward to getting back, It’s not at all like it felt when I made my first trip home from abroad in October 2011.
On this occasion, I left Riyadh after work on a Wednesday night and headed straight to Riyadh airport where I caught a flight to Jeddah to connect to an overnight flight to Paris and a final connection on Thursday morning to Dublin, then jumped in a rental car, had some late breakfast and headed off down to East Clare to be home around 4pm.
The contrasts on these journeys are remarkable. On the flight to Jeddah (which is the main airport that’s serves the holy site at Mecca), I encountered many people going on the “Umrah” pilgrimage, which is similar to the Hajj pilgrimage later in the year but not as busy. Men and indeed their sons checking into their flight wearing only flip-flops and simple traditional robes/towels for their journey to Mecca, this is a sign of their equality and humbleness before God, as I am advised by my Saudi colleagues , to the more cosmopolitan Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and on to the very familiar Dublin Airport , all in the space of 13 hours.
It also occurred to me on the car journey down from Dublin how the “weight” of the economy is resting on everyone back home and though Irish people are resilient and hard working and are as always doing the very best they can, it still seeps through on radio and in everyday conversations. The recession is still very much biting in Ireland and despite of the steps taken in the past two years and our stellar report cards from IMF / EU, it’s hard to escape that things are still very challenging in Ireland….
I also had a fabulous weekend in Youghal, Co. Cork with my boys which was fantastic, we rented an apartment by the sea, cooked food, walked by the sea, played video games and watched DVD’s and also I got a guided tour of the Titanic Experience in Cobh from my sons who have been there before. I really treasured the time with them to talk about school, their friends, their stories, their feelings and everything else going on with them and to just relax and enjoy each other’s time, including playing Hip Hop music (Black Eyes Peas !) at full blast in the car on the road out of Cork City…
I also enjoyed the simple things like baking a cake with Daithí for a school project (those of you that know me know how much fear this would instill in me !), indeed, it was Daithí teaching me rather than the other way around, and also doing homework with Oisín and helping him learn his Irish poem, simple but absolutely brilliant….
I also had the pleasure of celebrating my 40th birthday on this trip home at a really nice evening in Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty. It was super to catch up with so many friends and neighbours who made such an effort to be there, thank you all so much…
I left Ireland again after that to start back on my way to Riyadh and I can’t help feeling how much my life has changed in the last few years and how I have come to know this as being ordinary, though its anything but ordinary.
Such is life at the moment for so many Irish people of all ages and many in very similar situations, and rather than get gloomy and down about it, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work every day and provide for those at home, and of course to pay a mortgage and look to making progress out of the mire so many of us found ourselves in after 2008, yes, it’s hard to be away from my children but I know this is the right thing in the long term and I feel it every time I make the journey home, It’s great to be home but right now, but from a practical point of view working over here is definitely the better option for the moment…..