U2 can live the dream in Grand Cayman
But be prepared for the call of home, and the inevitable question, will we stay or will we go
Lainey Broderick (second left): Being away from home doesn’t mean you can’t be an ardent Mayo supporter, and a U2 fan too
After a long and delayed day of travel from Grand Cayman, we finally reached our journey’s end in Cleveland, Ohio, at around 1am. One disadvantage of living on an island so small in the middle of the Caribbean is that almost all destinations are complicated to get to, and costly.
We were in Cleveland to see U2 – a band we had always loved, but had never had the privilege of seeing playing live. Living in recession plagued Dublin back in 2009, when the band played Croker, we could not afford even the cheapest restricted view tickets, and so this time, eight years later, we were not going to let the Joshua Tree’s branches pass us by.
We had chosen Cleveland for the show as a friend who had formerly lived in Grand Cayman had moved back there, and was celebrating his 70th birthday this year. We had been to Ohio twice previously and very much enjoyed the warm welcome of its residents; so we were happy to return, with the added bonus of experiencing U2.
Saturday morning started with donning the obligatory Mayo jerseys and heading out to watch the Derry match. Cleveland has a great connection with Mayo, with many residents historically originating from Achill and Ballycroy. The Cayman Islands Gaelic Football team had played in the North American Championships held in Cleveland back in 2013, so we knew to head to PJ McIntyre’s for the match.
Sea of green and red
As we took our seats at the bar, it was encouraging to see the sea of green and red awaiting the game, with families of all ages united over an Irish breakfast and a cup of Barrys. It was not long before we were in behind the bar to help fix the stream for the GAAGO, and soon the friendly locals were engaging in conversation.
An elderly man, a fantastic 98 years of age, sat down in front of us, in to watch the match with his son. His family had emigrated from Achill island, and his accent was still strong, all these years later. In the early 1800s many had come here to work on the building of the Erie Canal; and more than 72,000 people of Irish descent live in Cleveland today.
The Irish owner of the pub (rumoured around the bar to be a former member of the Riverdance cast), dropped in, and before long we heard him call over – “who are the visitors from the Cayman Islands?” Free pints made the rounds as a “thanks for coming back to us”, years after the football team had visited in 2013.
Mayo were causing us the usual heart attack, as we were two points behind and had kicked our 16th wide with about five minutes to go. Conor Loftus’s goal had us all on our feet, but before we were finished congratulating each other, Derry equalized. Our hero Cillian O’Connor hit the post and we were headed for extra time.
Our host for the weekend had relatives and friends call into the pub to meet us. Some had never seen Gaelic football before and we delighted in their interest. The majority of the fans in the bar were American; their parents and grandparents having emigrated, but they have not lost their sense of identity and sense of home.
It was nice to be with a crowd for the match – usually games are watched in the house in Grand Cayman, due to the early starts and a gang too small to warrant a trip to the bar. We miss the experience of going to the game; watching with extended family and catching up with friends afterwards to debrief. And once again, we miss the celebrations at home, as Mayo finally hammered ahead in extra time.
Reminded of Dublin
With a win safely tucked in our back pockets we headed out to explore Cleveland. As we walked the streets, the noise and hustle of the city reminded us of Dublin on busy summer’s day. Town halls, museums, shops, restaurants, parks, statues, even the sheer height of the buildings all caught our eye as we made our way to the stadium. “A City of Blinding Lights”; very different to our home on a beachy island.
You cannot help but notice the overwhelming sense of family and cooperative spirit in Cleveland. All the friends and relatives that welcomed us into their homes over the weekend, along with community farming projects around the city and strong support for local businesses, showed us that our Cayman friend had made the right decision to move home.
Living so far from our family is one of the biggest issues we face as expats, as we wonder every year if we should stay for another year or go home for good. Phone calls and video calls are great – but nothing replaces being able to call around to see someone in person whenever you want. Visits home once a year are are spreadsheets and time slots to be strictly adhered to; no minute left unaccounted for.
The opening bars of Sunday Bloody Sunday fill the air and as we wait for Bono to appear, it is clear that 30 years since the original Joshua Tree tour, U2 are still living the dream, and for this week at least, Mayo’s dream for Sam is still alive.
But are we still living the “expat dream”?
Suddenly, I am not so sure.