Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Missing my ‘day one’ friends

Leaving behind the people who know you best is the hardest part of moving abroad, writes Ceire Sadlier

Tue, Aug 6, 2013, 09:57


Ceire Sadlier

There is a new radio station in Lusaka that plays either The Coors or rap songs. They play a particular Drake song called No New Friends about 30 times a day. Lyrics like, “Yeah I stay down with my day one niggas,” wouldn’t normally speak to me, but the more they play it, the more I feel myself and Drake have in common.

I remember the long goodbye on a June afternoon in Stephen’s Green with my “day one” friends. I was teary for the whole afternoon but it was, as it always was, just so easy to be with them. Because they already knew I was going to be a mess, because they already knew me. The anticipation of missing those soft hours with my friends was horrible, and the reality was even worse.

Like all great Irish friendships, ours feed off a delicate balance of insensitivity and mirth. It is the people with whom you can joke about the most embarrassing thing you have ever done that will be with you in the end. I believe that my close friendship with a Dublin friend is largely rooted in the fact that he once spent time with a woman in a Travelodge above a Lidl.  It’s not many new people here that you’d be able to carry a Travelodge joke through with. In this environment, your personality, if you have one, can easily become dulled by the heightened sense of diplomacy. “What’s funny about that? Do you think you’re better than people who stay at Travelodges?”

Within the first few months of our time here, I got woegeously drunk at a New Years Eve party, fell up a flight of stairs and woke up at home with a rice cooker and two packets of crisps. When I met someone who was at the party a week later, they asked me how my leg was and told me everyone had stopped to stare at me to see if I was going to cry. I thanked them for solving the mystery of my thigh-to-knee bruise and tried to laugh about it with them, but they were dead pan. True mortification with no humorous recompense.

God, I missed my friends who would have just said, “You’re a dick,” punch my bruise and slagged me for taking the rice cooker.  When I’d be at a party listening to a conversation about Mugabe or who works where and who does what, I desperately missed my friends in Ireland and our shallow, sarcastic and discriminatory banter. I was sad about missing the fun they’d have without me but they let me know I wasn’t forgotten by sending photos of themselves in front of Concern cardboard cut outs with captions like, “Visiting Ceire’s house”.

It has been one of the hardest parts of leaving home, being away from them. Things have changed in five years, like I worried they would. They don’t really know what I’m doing here and I don’t really know what they are doing there and sometimes a year can pass without being in touch. But it never seems to matter when I get those few hours with them once a year or so, when we share a meal in Dublin and we talk about the Travelodge and nothing is ever as easy.

As Ceire and her family enter their last few weeks in Zambia, she is highlighting some of her most memorable days over the last five years, which we will share on Generation Emigration. Read some of her previous articles for this blog about being ignorant of the property tax as an emigrant, making a life in a place that isn’t ‘home‘, Christmas in Lusaka, the very Irish way of being kind, and flying home for her father-in-law’s funeral. Her articles also appear on her own blog,