It has been a tough year for Irish people living abroad so we found ways to feel close to home

Finding a little burst of Irish energy has kept this Wexford woman going in Perth

Sonya Redmond in Perth

Sonya Redmond in Perth

 

Sonya Redmond is from Wexford. She left Ireland in April 2012 and moved to Sydney, but has been living in Perth since 2014 and is chief of staff at The University of Western Australia

I am sure that most immigrants have felt a strong draw back to their home country, but more so in this Covid world. It may be because we are imagining what people in our homeland are going through, putting ourselves in their shoes, wishing we were there to help drop nieces or nephews to school given that granny or grandad may not have been able to. Maybe it is just because we can’t get back there. Either way, the effect this has had on me is to magnify my love and appreciation of all things Irish; the Irish sense of humour, our sayings and our way of “carrying on”.

Black swans in Western Australia. Photograph: Sonya Redmond
Black swans in Western Australia. Photograph: Sonya Redmond

Don’t get me wrong, I have always felt kinship on discovering the person you have happened on is a fellow native. I can be picking up the office phone and hear that the person at the end of an anonymous extension has an Irish twang. I can be driving down a freeway and see a sticker on a car or be jogging past someone in a green jersey. There is a real warmth in this familiarity, followed by a mutual knowing nod, wink or smile.

It might be that in this new uncertain world there is a childlike comfort in all things that relate to home. At the start of the pandemic, a podcast of three people sitting in a hen shed at the bottom of a garden in the west of Ireland was an absolute godsend. The THL (Tommy, Hector and Laurita)podcast was the best part of the week, who would have thought in this day and age that we would besitting around the wireless for entertainment, but we were. A few episodes in it became apparent that it had the same effect on a lot of Irish immigrants, Irish scattered in exotic locations all over the world laughing their heads off for a good solid hour at Tommy Tiernan, Hector Ó hEochagáin and Mayo woman Laurita Blewitt just being themselves.

Thankfully I have a cúpla focal still with me. I even used an Irish saying Dad in a recent interview in Perth

I’ve become roused to know more about our rich culture. I had a good base as the primary school I went to in Wexford hammered Irish into us. We had aimsir - or tenses of Irish verbs - all over the walls, flash cards saying “fuinneoige” on the window and I still remember our teacher, Mrs Joyce, crying while reading Under the Hawthorn Tree to us. At the time, I don’t think we fully appreciated our culture, at that age you are more interested in being cool, but now I am very grateful for being immersed in it at a young age. Thankfully I have a cúpla focal still with me. I even used an Irish saying from my Dad in a recent interview in Perth, Australia. In response to a tricky behavioural question, I said is fear rith maith na droch seasamh, which is loosely translated as sometimes a good retreat is better than a bad stand. I even surprised myself with that one.

The beach in Perth during the winter. Photograph: Sonya Redmond
The beach in Perth during the winter. Photograph: Sonya Redmond

When you don’t hear them as often, you realise how epic Irish sayings are. Sayings such as “Well that shook you”, “That will soften your cough”, “Don’t be gone before you’re back” are all very difficult to explain to someone who didn’t grow up in Ireland, but your eyes light up with devilment when you hear them abroad. They almost as give you an extra kick of strength, a little burst of Irish energy to keep pushing on.

I have no doubt that there are many of us who will run home at the first opportunity

They almost as give you an extra kick of strength, a little burst of Irish energy to keep pushing on.

At a time when those in Australia are in hoodies, fluffy socks and facemasks as Covid cases are starting to rise again, it does my heart good to see Ireland basking in the sun and people getting a chance to enjoy themselves again. Those in Ireland have had a tough “oul slog”. I have no doubt that there are many of us who will run home at the first opportunity; to see loved ones, meet new family members, bring home a second generation and cocoon ourselves wholly in what Ireland is.

If you live overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do

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