Friday, February 18, 2005

Exile in paradise

In Exile. It's a term I used to hear a lot when I was a teenager. In the 1980's in Ireland the economy was not what it is today. Every family seemed to be touched by the age old disease of emmigration. Young Irish men and women headed off daily, to London, New York, Boston, and even Sydney. Nothing new in that. Irish people have been leaving for centuries, either for economic reasons, or through harsh laws imposed by a colonising government. Strange how many of them choose to go and make a living in the very seat of power that had caused many of their ancestors to leave the land of their fore fathers.
Now in this new century the story is somewhat different. Yes Irish people still leave home, but what is new is many other nationalities and races choose to come to Ireland for the same reasons people have left.
Now I am an Exile, something I never thought that would happen. I remember thinking to myself while in school, that I was Irish, I was born there, lived my whole life there and therefore I had a right to make a living there. I did so for many years till my now ex, got homesick and so, I find myself tapping on my keyboard in the Cote D'Azur.
I often ask myself what the hell I am doing here. It's hard to describe this place. It has the Monaco Grand Prix, the Cannes film festival, and while there are certainly groups of unemployed, uneducated, underprivledged, and the ordinary people who struggle, it is without doubt the playground of the rich and famous.
Talking to a Dutch woman yesterday I was struck by the pattern of those more 'normal' of us who come to live here. It seems to be standard that to get by here, is a major struggle. Firstly there is a language barrier, then there is a huge amount of red tape, paper work, administration. You can't do anything without an ID card, a bank account, a proof of residence, it's just a surprise they haven't thought of blood testing, finger printing, retinal imaging etc.
Many ex pats from the Northern part of Europe find this over burdened system hard. Many are full of the usual fears entailed in not just learning a new language, but actually speaking it. They are frustrated that the local civil servants don't speak english (actually they do but why should they), they feel afraid and stupid when the speak their fisrt mumblings in french and then complain when the aforementioned civil servant, tries a bit of english. "Stop" they say " I want to speak french". It seems neither the Anglophones nor the Francophones can win this one.
But why do people come here and why do they stay? I know why they leave. They get homesick, the miss friends and the high energy cultures that they have left behind. They are not used to going to bed at 10pm and rising at 6 and then sleeping from 2-4 in the afternoon. The don't drink enough water, the beer is too expensive and there is no real fun to be had.
Of course this isn't true, there is a lot to do but it is done differently than say Dublin, London or even Amsterdamn.
Many come down buy a rack of new furniture only to turn around the next six months and sell it all cheaply on the local information internet site.
What intrigues me, and it was a comment the Dutch lady said yesterday, is that the first five years are the hardest. I haven't yet been here two, so three more like this and I think I will take a long walk off a very short pier.
Personally I stay to be close to my son. That is the main reason. There are others though. What would I do now in Ireland? At the age of 37 I am probably considered past it by many employers as the population is still very young. Where as here on the Blue Coast I am probably considered young, given that this area is also a retirement town.
The economy is terrible and jobs are hard to come by. For my scheduled seven and half hours of teaching this week, I have managed just three. This is mainly due the students having other things to do. So at the moment, and it's only at the moment, finances are a nightmare. I am waiting for the very good social system to kick in and give me the allowances that I am entitled to, to help pay the rent for next month.
That is the major downside the finances. The up side, It's doesn't rain too much, when it does it comes down in buckets but it is rare in comparison to back home.
So the climate is one reason, the second for me is that while I am stressed out of my head trying to organise myself and get "life" sorted, there is some, probably perverse, pleasure in the challange. There is also a great pleaure in the difference. Does someone looking at you here mean the same as at home? Well probably not. But I have met Italians, Americans, Algerians, Spaniards, Russians, Dutch, English, Irish (finally) and a scattering from almost everywhere else in the world. I have been introduced to views and cultures that I may not have had the chance to meet back home, or certainly not in the same manner.
I have kind of backed myself into a corner and tell myself I have no choice. I must stay, I must make it. I am on the hunt again daily for a new job, sending CV's everywhere I can think of on the internet as it's cheaper than post. However given that one of my teaching jobs happened last November from a CV I had sent the previous April, well let's just say I won't hold my breath.
I wonder how many others have backed themselves into a similar corner, believing that it will all come good given time. Time there is plenty of it here, no matter where you look. Perhaps it is the great lesson I have to learn. Patience, take the time to regard the sunset. Maybe it is this relaxed attitude, rather than the diet, that allows the people from middle earth to live longer than elsewhere.
Another good reason for staying.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How times have changed

Well would you believe it. Obviously the day of the loving saint was a washout. Nothing not even an email.
Yesterday the town of Nice had the walls up again, people were charged silly prices and everyone had a flower battle. Actually the battle was with confetti, and silly string. The flowers were more or less handed to you as you stood with other spectators watching some spectacular ballons, and even more spectacular costumes. It was chilly so I felt for the girls in the g strings with the Brazilian samba band. Yes it occured to me it would be nicer to feel them than to feel for them but it was not to be. I didn't even try. ..... well not really...well I did make eye contact with one of them....oops this is public right?
We didn't pay in. I have something inherent that prevents me paying for things that towns and cities used to put on for free once upon a time. How times have changed. I have spent many a cold and wet and windy day, standing by the side of street enjoy the St Patricks day parade at no cost. I have even come across festivals in other countries, no cost. So why the town of Nice need to make a profit, by making near naked ladies dance beside the sea on a very cold night is really beyond me. They fact they are trying to install a tram way in the town kinda hampers things a little too. It's now a bit like normal traffic in Dublin but still a ways to go.
Any way back to the battaille des fleurs (correct my spelling if you can). 10 mins from the end of the night, it was impossible to buy a ticket as all the stalls had shut. People were still being refused entry even though the stand the town had erected on the promenade was half empty.
We strolled around found an ungarded gate and in we went. I ended up with the biggest bouquet of Mimosa and my boy insisted we give them to his mother. I kinda had other ideas and I am still wondering. However at the moment they sit in a vase on my bookcase brightening the place up a bit. Something is changing in the old bloodstream and I feel more upbeat and confident than I have in a long time.
I wonder where this blog will take me. :-)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Something else worth reading
This is a worthwhile blog and really points out some of the frustration people experience in todays political world.

What is love anyway?

Perhaps my experiences colour my responses to this question. What is love anyway? Well the first thing that comes to mind is a respect and passion entertwined with a deep desire to be open to another, closed with another, intertwined with another. It's like that Jack Nickelson Line (the name of the movie escapes me) "You make me want to be a better man". This is I believe, a huge part of love. Letting down the boundaries and opening up the Chakra's, for want of a better word, to allow someones energy connect with your own. To paraphrase an old christian martyr, Love is patience, kindness, the absence of arrogance, and rudeness. It is not decietful or boastful or jealous but rejoices in a type of truth that exists but that we don't always acknowledge. It is giving and allowing yourself to recieve. Touching and being touched in the deepest area's of our being. Seeing with the inner eyes the true beauty of that which we behold.
Yes there are different types of love, but I believe they are in fact all the same thing to a greater or lesser degree. It is loosing yourself willingly but with awareness. Not loosing yourself totally to the detriment of your well being. Love is a strong, positive, healing, forgiving emotion. It is a good thing but often, the human finds it easier to love than to be loved. Until we do both we cannot say we are truly experiencing love. Obviously it is deeper than affection, lust, or the desire to belong. It is active not passive. It takes thought, decision, and courage. True love is not something that blinds but rather the thing that teaches us to see the wonder of ourselves and another. Love is not a feeling it's a choice. Living in Nice is my choice because I love my son and I love myself. Both of us grow together and compliment each other due to this choice. Life on the CDA is not a simple thing. I used to admire people who left Ireland. Little did I know the struggles people who emigrate go through as they try to integrate into a new culture and a new way of life. Somehow we tear ourselves away from a love that exists in the ether in each of our nations, (a kind of national consciousness) and go somewhere we are not yet loved. You know you have arrived when the love comes in spades. I am still on the journey.
So there you go. My two cents worth, open for disscussion, comment, ridicule, praise and correction.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A day of games

I cannot believe how mean spiritedly I veiw the city council of Nice this fine day in Febuary. Today was the carnival parade. A small section of town was blocked off and people who wanted to see the parade were forced to pay to get into a small area to view it. Someone had erected hording to prevent the general passer by getting a view. I was stunned at the miserliness of it. Back home our equivalent is St Patricks day and basically it's a free for all. A huge parade goes through town eveyone looks and then goes home. Mostly for the kids.
Today people had fun but many didn't bother because of the cost. I followed up my dissapointment by watching the Irish rugby team (still and upper class sport, but yet an Irish team) beat the crap out of the Scottish. So so far so good. Next match is against the English and won't my heart sing if we win that one. :-) Onwards for six nations glory. But hey if we loose there is always the world cup soccer qualifers to look forward to. So anyway today's was a good game.
In disscussion with a friend today, we noted how people play games with each other. It's something I have never understood. The need to play games with one another is something that drives me nuts. If you like someone tell them. If you don't like someone tell them. If you need something say so, if you don't, say so. What the hell is all the playing about, hard to get, "I am not interested" crap about when all you really want to do is jump on the person? IF you want someone, tell them, with respect. Heck what have you got to loose. Cut the bullshit and get down to brass tacks. That way you have more energy to enjoy what you like. If you are made for each other it will work. If not it won't. But you sure as hell won't find out if you are playing the "how much are you interested game " all the time. In fact I should call it the HOW MUCH game. It seems to be based on How much money, How much time, how much energy, how much meat you have got between your legs. Now maybe I am being cynical and maybe these questions are valid, but surely not to the expense of a loving caring relationship. What the hell are you afraid of. I am not your past, I am your future baby, come get me.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Passing of Arthur Miller
Just to mark his passing. Maybe someday as Frank Allen once said, "IF I could die having written an Arthur Miller,...... "

Learning to get on with it.

"Our dreams are the stars by which we charter the course of our lives.
Happy the man who follows his dreams."
This was handed to me by Brother Dominick many years ago in Donegal. I am sure he has long since past away. He was a man of small stature, respected little by his peers, but in that one wordless moment when he handed me the piece of paper with the above words written on it, he changed the way I think.
My only issue now after the break-up of my marriage is that I don't seem to be able to wake up from the dream to follow the star.
Writing and telling stories is all I have ever really wanted to do. I have tons of time to do it. I can't however say I experiencing writers block, but definitely writers stuck. You know, the procrastination game. Finally you stop procrastinating and you forget how to type, or write, or think even.
I guess I should be patient with myself. Success has waited this long it can wait a bit longer. Perhaps the only reason I can't kick myself up the backside is becuase I am neither agile or supple enough.
I am preoccupied with loving and being loved which is silly. As I should be preoccupied with putting bread on the table, paying bills and being able to get myself and my son home once a year.
Oh well I ask the question I have asked many times before. Who said "It is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all." ?
Did this person really know what the hell they were talking about?
Don't worry I will think up of other titles soon, and start spell checking too.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Learning to open up

So what happens in your town when OTAN comes to town?
Well around these here parts, people take a day off a work due to closed roads. (what a lousy excuse)
The road to Monaco was so much quieter today than before. I was able to cruise and watch the frigate out in the bay undergoing manouvers. Security is high. Town is not deserted but there is definitely less people around. Even friends cancel meeting up and prefer not to leave their homes.
Perhaps everyone is a little nervous with all the cops around. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. With a 50cc scooter the inconvienience of a closed road is more than surmountable. I wonder about people here a lot. Funnily enough in this paradise, people fall into two catagories. Firstly the locals and then the anglophones. The locals have a reputation (even among themselves) of being closed and hard to get know. So making french friends is not perhaps as easy as it would be to make friends elsewhere. I understand it somewhat. If you constantly have visitors who come and go, you might end up feeling a little taken for granted and used. However the french in this part of the world do keep their friends it seems from childhood to the grave.
The anglophones are not however adverse to being open and in fact, sometimes, they are way too open. Many people hide out here from problems. Others are faced with the problems once they get here. People seem to pretty screwed up and going through tough times. Many, not all, but many anglophones can't speak french, then they can't find a job, then they can't deal with administration and so and on it goes. A vicious circle of stress that turns people into moaning whinnying children. It drives me nuts. If I encounter another person who is having severe emotional problems I'll start charging for my time.
On the up side and falling out of the groups outlined, there are plenty of Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Arab people here and they are certainly adding the spice to my life experiences. I don't expect it all to be easy and perhaps that's how I cope. But the sun is shining, attractive people are everywhere, and the flowers are starting to appear. The cultural and social diversity is rich and enriching I find. Carnival is coming. Life is good.
I tried to get a haircut today and had to make an appointment. The appearance needs some work. That in turn well help the confidence and the career search. Oh well if its raining where you are just remember the sun is shining somewherea and spring is on the way.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Learning the language of the police

Getting home from Monaco today was not the normal 25mins but more like two hours.
NATO defense ministers gathered in Nice, today for two days of talks on training Iraqi security forces. The number of cops knocking around the place was nuts. I stopped beside a guy with riot shield, a gun, and baton to ask him what was going on. I told him I had never seen the like of that back home in Ireland. He was surprised that Ireland was not in Nato. I explained to him the constitutional stituation of neutrality that somehow allowed US army planes to land in Shannon and refuel on their way to Iraq. He didn't understand it either. We chatted for a while and I sped off on my scooter, laughing at the thought of having a similar conversation anywhere else in the world with the local police.
Apparently there was a protest too, but due to road works and the lay out of the city it got no where near the ministers meeting.
Local police and CRS are everywhere and the average nicois doesn't seem to know why. Oh well I guess it's just part of the mediterranian laid back attitude.
Ireland play Portugal tonight in Dublin I will head out to the bar to see if I can catch it on the big screen.
I have to laugh, everytime I say I am working in various banks in Monaco people are far more impressed than when I tell them I am a teacher of English. (I just don't tell them I am teaching English in various banks in Monaco, only for a laugh mind you).
Life is still tough, but good. I'll write soon and let you know what happens re protests, cops, and teaching next week.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Learning the Language

While loving the difference in diet available on the Cote d'Azur I can't help but hankering after some of the old unhealty dietary suppliments I used to indulge in Ireland. You just can't get good fish and chips, or a decent Irish stew and I have given to thinking as to how culinary differences came about. However, I know why French people don’t eat frys. Given that the eat all their food outdoors and frys are very greasy, and there fore reflect all light shone upon them with great intensity, I discovered one morning that the net effect of eating a fry on the terrace at 1130 am in the morning is severe but temporary blindness. Once in a while this may do no harm but perhaps every day would result in a nation of white sticked Labrador lovers instead of the poodle pinching prats that seem to inhabit a lot of this area. My French is progressing somewhat but still a long way to go. To give an example of why you should learn the language of the country before you go there……get this. I remember the weekend I spent humping tiles and cement all over the place with my ex father in law, who then gets on to the roof ( le toit) to fix the holes. He stands on a beam ( a tasso) with a bunch of tiles( les tuiles) in his hand, and, as earlier we had been talking about the piping (tuiot ) for the septic tank, my brain was beginning to get a bit numb. Anyway the beam cracks in the middle so I shout up "Hey watch out for the rotten beam"………"It’s nothing he says" …..I say “no the roof is rotten"……..he says "I know……".I say "Hey" ………..he says ………What?
" Oh S*@t" he says That’s a beam Colm not a tile. Apparently I had told him to watch out for rotten tubing, tiles, doors, trees, cups of tea, and apples at the end of the barrow, practically everything except the thing which was rotten.
Luckily it didn’t break right through, but actually I think it was only the other tiles he was standing on that kept him there till he spotted the problem. So the moral of the story is unless you are dead set on bumping off the inlaws, learn the lingo before you get here.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Learning When To Kick

When things are not easy you know it might be time to kick oneself up the ass, or it might not.
I think the wisdom comes in knowing the difference.
Having lived in this part of world for almost two years now, I never imagined how vast the differences in the level of living could seem.
Doubtless the Cote D'Azur is the playground of the Rich and Famous. We have tax havens, Casinos, Marina's, uncountable hotels that don't figure on the Back-trackers guide to anywhere. However, I can't help noticing the haves, and the have-nots. Now maybe some of this is to do with my own edge around money. I am an inverted snob. No time for rich people, uncomfortable around wealth, I am convinced it was never made legally and always off someones back, yet I am open to persuasion. It's the insecurity of a jealousy of the well off, that comes from being broke all the time. Are they really happy? Damn right they are.
The other day walking home, I saw a group of "eastern europeans". (small case is intentional). They were lobbying plastic sacks up into an olive tree near the main thourough fare. I assumed they were trying to hide their worldly possessions. They would then go and find a place, a doorway to bed down for the night. I thought of offering them floor space and then thought the better of it. Then I thought but what happens if they make it rich and I did help wow! I know I was being naieve but what the heck, that's what goes on in my mind when I have nothing better to think of. I walked off and saw two police officers apporaching the group silently on bicycles. I whistled in the Hope of being heard and I wasn't. I don't know if they were arrested. I didn't stop to watch what happened eager to get home again as it was a chilly night.
I couldn't help wondering about the police. Didn't they have anything better to do? I have seen people driving like lunatics here but no one ever stops them to see are they drunk. Perhaps I too could be in the same situation if I don't sort myself out and that was a real fear. So I thought I'd better kick myself in the ass and get myself sorted out. I should have a real career instead of all this part-time running around like a lunatic.
I thought it, but somehow, I still haven't manged to do it. Hmmmm. When does one give oneself a real kick up the backside?

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