I learned the other day that I am an ex-pat
No, not a former paddy – though my government would no doubt love to take those like me off the list of people they answer to – but a person living outside his own country.
Sorry, that’s white person living outside his country. And living in a less well off one (or at least one further south…)
I always thought I was an immigrant – or an emigrant. I actually thought that ex-pat meant the same as emigrant – one outside his native country, viewed from that country. I’m an Irish ex pat living in Spain; an Irish emigrant living in Spain. Not the same as an immigrant from Ireland living here in Spain.
But migrants and their prefixes only refer to non-whites, it seems. Silly me.
When I lived in the states, I knew I was an immigrant, despite my lily-whiteness. Homeland security was pretty good at getting that message across. There everyone is an immigrant. At least…. the Irish were, since they hardly counted as white back in the day.
And yet, when my former students of colour learned I was an immigrant, they laughed. And now I wonder if it wasn’t because I was not supposed to be called that, being white. I mean, it was obvious I wasn’t American. They asked if I was illegal, and lamented the fact that an illegal immigrant could be a teacher. I patiently explained. But for some, immigrant and illegal were words that were bound together like fried chicken. Can you be an immigrant if you’re not illegal? Can you have chicken if it’s not fried? Sorry, perhaps that’s an inappropriate metaphor, but I can’t think of anything else right now, and they’ll take it the right way – the way I did when I patiently explained that we don’t eat Lucky Charms in Ireland…
But I’d never thought there was anything bad in the word immigrant, despite the ignorance of a few kids. I was wrong. Silly me.
There was a stigma attached to the word, and kids who were obviously not born in America were reluctant to use it. I used to tell them I was an immigrant to how them that it was okay to be one, that immigrants could be “white,” too. But no. Now I realise they were right. Their reality is the truth.
There are those who like the fact that “immigrants” sounds like “illegal immigrants.” People who don’t want those who come to their country to have the same advantages (or luxuries in many cases) that they themselves have when they go to those persons’ countries.
These are the same guys who insist on a tight border control between the USA and UMS, yet like to take a trip to old Mexico now and then. Or the upper- and political-class Europeans who like to travel to the tropics to show how worldly they are, but let thousands drown in the Mediterranean.
They’re only migrants dying, after all.
Happy Saint Patrick’s day…
Most people will probably be looking for something green here.
But I have nothing.
I’m not at home in Ireland today. I’ve celebrating my fourteenth Saint Patrick’s day off the island.
I might have a pint in an Irish pub.
I might not.
It will be a fairly busy day and it won’t bother me either way.
I’ll have a dram of whiskey at home in the evening. I’ve a nice 12 year old Jameson I got for xmas sitting here.
Just like I’m having a dram of Black Bush right now.
Everyone here expects me to do something special, though. I tell them I never did anything special at home, bar go out on a Monday rather than a Saturday. And have to drink on the street because there’s no room in Mulligan’s. And the Gardaí let us drink on the street just this once.
Here I can drink on the street any day of the week. It’s usually sunny, ever bar has a terrace, and you can take your drink up the street and sit down on the pavement in the sun and nobody will say boo.
Every weekend would put our St. Patrick’s tolerance of street revelry at home to shame.
Trying to describe what we do at home is fairly hollow compared to what people have experienced here in the realm of festivals. My forthcoming novella under the name JD Martin’s, One Night in Pamplona will give you a hint of the mayhem…
But then I haven’t been home in a decade for the day.
And certainly won’t be wearing green.
I don’t actually have any green clothes – bar my hiking/hunting gear.
I don’t like soccer, or rugby or GAA, so I have never worn a football shirt in my life. And I don’t intend to start now.
To be honest, I’d feel like a bit of a tool if I put something on just for the day.
I’m not sure why, but I don’t go out of my way to meet up with my fellow ex-pats outside of Ireland. I mix with the locals, and other blow-ins. Hanging out with Paddies just because they’re Paddies was never my bag, baby.
I’d probably have to watch football, then.
This doesn’t mean I’m not attached to my own land. I am. I love the island. I feel more at home with my feet in the soft peat of a heather bog than on the sharp stony soil growing lavender and thyme and a thousand thorny bushes here. And when I’m home, that’s where I take myself. Up the hill, as we say.
But I always remember the words of a character in a New Zealand film called Once Were Warriors.
A pretty impacting flick. I recommend it.
The older brother asks his younger brother if he wants to get the traditional tattoo on his face (ala Mike Tyson) and the kid shakes his head and smiles, says, “I wear my colours on the inside.”
He was no less Maori for not getting painted. He was probably more so than his brother, since he’d learned traditional warrior arts and methods.
That film made me think a lot – I wrote a poem about one aspect back in the day, and have pasted it in below (it’s from my formal rhyming period of poetry writing).
So enjoy the day, as I will: another day in a life of being Irish, of having cups of tea and whiskey and worrying about the immersion (thank goodness we don’t have that here!) and thinking of the next time I’ll be up the hill. And writing.
Which reminds me – I’ll be on http://thecelticroseblog.blogspot.com/ tomorrow evening 6 Irish time/10am Pacific time…. with a little blurb of Five Days on Ballyboy Beach – if you’re looking to transport yourself to the old country for a while…
Once Were What?
The people of a now downtrodden race,
However they live under western ways,
Can remember the glory of past days;
They have their ancestors to give them grace.
But here, our warriors have long since past;
Forgotten graves under tides of good times;
Yet oft’ the bell tolls, when we think it chimes:
Do we realise what we’ve lost at last?
On whose shoulders do I stand upon then?
No others’ colours can I wear inside;
I must paint my own image of those who died,
Must live in me, maybe, they were proud men.