The significance of me walking to New Ross today and ending it at the Emigrant Flame in front of the Dunbrody Famine Ship was planned. Some might not know why, but last June sitting on the Quay listening to the tale of the Irish Emigrant Kennedy story leaving these shores and finding life on the other side resonated with me to my core.
You see – Emigration is a tale as long as time is there. Whether you are talking about nomadic existences, settlers, discoverers, voyagers, or people fleeing from wrongs – people have been on the move for all eternity.
Why then do we rue the day when our children have to leave or choose to emigrate. No matter what the reasons, any form of emigration is a spirit of change, adventure and a road less travelled – it’s not an easy way out.
The question to me is not whether we emigrate, it is what we do with this gift when we do. Do we sit around in a new country and look up our fellow countrymen and bitch and moan about how good it is back home? Do we sit in our new country and live in misery and squalor because we are saving every penny to send back home? Do we spend every day, and in some cases a lifetime in bitterness and regret that we left in the first place?
Or do we go into our new life with the same spirit of adventure and discovery that our ancestors did, and all those millions before them, and give it all we’ve got.
I chose the latter. The intent was never to live in Ireland, it was one of the former moans – to live here for a year, save lots of money (a joke really in itself, as those who know me knows I am incapable of saving!) and then move on to provide my son with a “better life”. The irony is not lost – because our better life is here, and has been for the past 14 years.
Now I hear you say – I told you South Africa is a terrible place. Au contraire – it is one of the most beautiful, diverse, stunning and layered places in God’s creation. I will always and foremost be a proud South African. Yes, there are problems, but where on this earth do we not have problems, and in some parts of the world far more than what most experience in SA, because at least they have the freedoms of choice.
No, without realising it at the time I needed a big change. A challenge. My core belief system is to embrace the present with all my heart, and in this case it was Ireland. And it was not all a journey of sunshine and roses – along the way there were many more downs than up, but alas, for every minute I put into my new home country selflessly, I somehow got 3 minutes in return. Minutes of camaraderie, friendships, colleagues, foreigners and the list goes on.
And before I knew it, I was proudly Irish. Not a birth right – an earned right.
So today when I walked into New Ross, and walked up to the Immigrant Flame, I kissed the plinth gently that it rests on, and thanked my lucky stars for all those that have gone before me, that showed me the way, and all those that will come after me, that will hopefully learn from us who gave it everything we got.
I can walk with my head held high, and know that albeit how small, I did something over the past 13 days for my fellow countrymen through one small charity like BodyWhys, to help them raise awareness and funds for the generations after us that have such difficulties in daily life, far less important, yet far more hurtful than a simple act of moving countries.
P.S. Please note this picture was taken before I had my awesome Irish Tan!