It’s good to talk: the pandemic has brought this Irishwoman closer to home

Distance is no longer an issue, says Lynn Rusk in Edinburgh

Lynn Rusk in Edinburgh. Photograph: Alejandro Basterrechea

Lynn Rusk in Edinburgh. Photograph: Alejandro Basterrechea

 

I once read somewhere that “it is the friends you can call up at 4am that matter”. Not that this is something I would ever inflict on someone unless I really needed to, but it’s comforting to at least have the option and there have certainly been times over the past few months I have come close. The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, what I have found is that it has brought me closer to home.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2012 to train as a primary school teacher and have been here ever since. As an Irish person, Edinburgh isn’t the most difficult of cities to settle into. It is only a 50-minute flight away from Dublin and has an abundance of Irish pubs and a large Irish community.

I do not claim to be a GAA fan, but I once watched a Monaghan v Donegal game in Malone’s pub on Forrest Road in Edinburgh and was amazed to discover there were enough people living here from those two counties alone to completely pack the place. Although many of my fellow Irish mates from my teaching course returned home to Ireland after their training, I was more than happy to stay put.

I was lucky enough to be part of a large group of friends who I have stayed in touch with over the years

I have never been much of a homebird. I was lucky enough to gain my first taste of living abroad at 21, during an Erasmus year in Sweden. However on returning home to complete my final year of undergraduate studies at University College Dublin, I found it incredibly difficult to settle back into Irish life.

After feeling quite unhappy during my final year of college, I decided to uproot myself again and move to Nagaski in Japan to teach English as part of the Japan Exchange Teaching Programme (JET). I stayed there for two years, but again on returning home after my great adventure I felt restless and unsettled and that is how I ended up in Edinburgh.

In school I was lucky enough to be part of a large group of friends who I have stayed in touch with over the years, despite life’s intervening hurdles. However until recent months my contact with them was very sporadic. I would see them at hen parties, weddings, at Christmas and on the odd occasion when I was home. However throughout the pandemic this has changed.

Since social distancing measures have been put in place all over the world our methods of communication have transformed and we have had to adapt to this new “coronavirus culture”.

Lynn Rusk is from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, but now lives in Edinburgh. Photograph: Alejandro Basterrechea
Lynn Rusk: "Before the pandemic the only people I ever really spoke to on the phone were my family and on occasion my friends from home." Photograph: Alejandro Basterrechea

Instead of meeting up with friends for a coffee or in the pub, we are turning to Zoom and WhatsApp to communicate with our loved ones. Although these restrictions have made it more difficult to see people in person in the places we now live, they have expanded our choices of who we communicate with on a daily basis, as distance is no longer an issue.

Although I have lived in Edinburgh for eight years and have developed strong relationships and bonds with many people over here, I never spoke to people on the phone. The act of ringing someone up almost felt more intimate than meeting up in real life and before the pandemic the only people I ever really spoke to on the phone were my family and on occasion my friends from home.

I am currently living alone in Edinburgh, which under normal conditions was something I really enjoyed, but during lockdown I have to admit it has felt lonely at times. Although I am aware that Edinburgh isn’t exactly Timbuktu, not having the option to travel home with ease due to quarantine restrictions has also been quite difficult.

The one positive thing, though, about everyone being stuck at home is that people are always up for a chat and as distance is no longer an issue, I have been able to take part in Zoom quizzes and drinks with my friends from home.

It has been a comfort to hear from other people who live abroad at the moment

As the months have passed, I have got into a routine of speaking to a few of my school friends on a regular basis and it has been a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. Our friendships have deepened. Two of my friends have recently had babies and videochat has been the perfect medium to stay in touch and get to know their little ones, an opportunity that I would not have had if life was racing along at its usual busy pace.

During a crisis, there is something comforting about speaking to people you have known all of your life. It has also been a comfort to hear from other people who live abroad at the moment. Those people, who are spread all over the world, have said they have felt the same.

While I am nervous about how the next few months will unfold due to the ever changing government restrictions in both Scotland and Ireland, I am grateful to have an abundance of support both here and at home.

Living under lockdown is no way to live in the long term, but when things eventually return to normal, life will be even sweeter.

Lynn Rusk is originally from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan but now lives in Edinburgh where she works as a primary school teacher and freelance journalist

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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