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.

1 comment:

BlueMoon said...

Hi there,
How are you? I hope the job search is going well (I know it's very tough out there, I was laid off from IT in 2000 and never got another job in IT - I work in insurance *yawn* now). I am sure the non-stressing, relaxed pace of Nice is a wonderful thing. I am learning to take things one day at a time and not stress about everything as I used to once upon another career.
Cheers!
Cheryl (aka Drake)

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