February 2011 was Ireland’s last General Election, coming on the back of the Financial Crisis, IMF and our Government’s meltdown, and in this election, we saw the collapse of Ireland’s dominant political party, the Soldiers of Destiny were blitzed in a sweep of National anger in that election, Ireland was at a very low ebb.
For me personally, it marks a point in time also, where I faced my own crisis like so many Irish people at the time, a business brought to its knees with all the financial and personal strain that that brings, I faced the reality of having to look abroad for work and an income, and so a few months later, I boarded a plane at Shannon, Dubai bound, via Manchester and on to Kandahar, Afghanistan to 53 degree heat in the weeks after Osama Bin Laden had been taken out by the US. Was this going to work?
Well, I sit here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania today five years on from that last General Election In Ireland, heading into my final week of the ex-patriate life, yes, I’m going home next week and it feels damn good.
That journey has taken me from dusty Kandahar to mountains of Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province, on to Helmand for a short few months, to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia in 2012, where I lived until October 2014, with all its oddities and peculiarities, and had the opportunity to visit the wider Middle East region, to places like modern Dubai, the oasis of Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah by the Red Sea, Doha, Abha, Dammam, Bahrain, Amman and Petra in Jordan, and Istanbul. The last stage of this period spent in Accra, Ghana and finally here by the Indian Ocean in Dar es Salaam.
I can already feel the excitement and emotion of taking that last flight next Friday from Dar to Abu Dhabi and arriving in Dublin on my birthday, and in time to vote again just like five years ago.
In that period, there has been tough times, sad times, lonely times, times when I missed my loved ones and watched my sons grow at a distance, missed birthdays, nights out, work colleagues, friends and neighbours, even a missed Christmas Day spent in Riyadh. There has also been some good days, days when you discover you had reserves of strength, days when you rediscover lost confidence and get excited and passionate about your work again, a particular day when I stood at Dubai airport misty eyed and emotional to welcome my two young sons who had flown on their own for hours from Dublin to spend a week the old man in the UAE.
I have met and made new friends and colleagues, many of them Irish like myself, who took to the airport in the same way to work abroad in this remarkable period in Ireland’s history, we have even lost some of them too sadly.
Thankfully, I return with the financial issues now resolved, I did not get into property, or lose money on shares, I simply had a small business connected to the Construction Industry that got caught in a perfect storm, like so many others. I also return to a different life, and know that it will take time to adjust back to Ireland, to a new life again and a new job. I look forward so much to Sunday lunches, walks on the beach, Friday nights with the Late Late, open fires, cycling with the lads, the odd gig, a decent pint of Guinness and even the mundanity of making breakfast for hungry young men while discussing the latest U-Tube hit or video game villain ! It’s all Good and I can’t wait to get back……..