18 months ago I was in the same building heading off to Brazil, and then to Canada to live and work, saying goodbye to family and friends. I didn’t know then, that upon arriving home only decorum, and nail strength, prevented me from ripping up the shiny tiles of T2 to kiss the turf beneath.
While I was away working and living in Toronto I missed milestone birthdays, minor surgeries, job promotions and exams. I missed nights out and weekends away. I missed random drinks in the pub, and lunch in town.
There are four tiny humans on earth who are very special to me who I’d never met. One is pending and three are very much on the scene. They are the babies of my best friends. I’d seen their fat little faces peek out at me from the pages of Facebook and I had cooed at them on Skype. But until this week I hadn’t felt their satisfying weight on my lap, or had their inquisitive little fingers poke my face and pull my necklaces.
Hitting a milestone birthday this year made me wonder where I want my roots to be. I spent several alcohol-soaked months living and working in Sydney a few years back, and have travelled to different countries and continents for days, months and now years at a time. I’ve bungee jumped in New Zealand, swam with pink dolphins in the Amazon River and survived monsoon season in India. I love to travel and it’s provided me with some of the best memories I have. But I have always felt the pull to go home.
Why? I’m not sure. I don’t have some die-hard connection where I feel the old country weave its mystical spell on my waters. It is just a love for the mixed bag of amazing friends I’ve collected, cultivated and kept over the years, and more than love for my hilarious family. One can only connect so much through Viber.
So come what may — I’m going against the tide and heading home. I have weighed up the options and, call me crazy, have found job security and long-term opportunity lacking in the face of missing my family and friends. And so I’m leaving a place where the streets are not paved with gold, but are ripe with opportunity. And where rain isn’t part of every season.
If I lived in some not-yet-written sci-fi novel and it was possible to teleport everyone I love to Canada, I would. I’d avoid immigration too. Then no one would have to worry about having sufficient funds or visas expiring. Here we could all experience what it is to actually have defined seasons. I bet some of those I love have never felt the surrealness of being able to leave the house without a coat, jumper, or umbrella secure in the knowledge the sun will continue to shine for that day or even every day that month. In fact, sometimes it’s too hot.
And then there is the snow and the minus temperatures. Which isn’t so bad when you are wrapped up like a mummy in a proper coat, hat, scarf, waterproof fur-lined snow boots and gloves combo.
I might be a fool to go home but I want to see the little people grow up. I want to meet my pals in the pub down the road on a random Tuesday for no reason. I want to be there for birthdays and baby showers.
Call me naïve, but I also want to be employed in a job that challenges and fulfils me. So fingers crossed. There is always the option to go back. But this is something I don’t want to happen.
In Toronto one cannot walk down the street anymore and not hear an Irish accent. This year the 6,350 spots on the International Experience Canada Program were snapped up in days, and next year the quota will be 10,000. There are hundreds more Irish heading over to work on the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) Program and last year 890 Irish people were granted permanent residency.
There is a huge sense of community and a plethora of ways for newcomers to feel at home in Toronto where I was based, and in many other Canadian cities. There are GAA clubs, Irish drama groups, Irish football clubs and more. Numerous Facebook pages allow new arrivals to ask advice, buy and sell furniture, post job tips and organise social gatherings.
It’s a good place to be, if you have to. But if you are planning a trip over be careful. Come over with more money than you think you’ll need. Expect to wait more than six weeks to find a house and a job. I was lucky, we walked into a downtown apartment within days, unfurnished, and a job came later.
But don’t just go to the major cities. Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre (irishcanadianimmigrationcentre.org) says new arrivals need to consider places other than Toronto and Vancouver.
“Individuals should be researching Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, and St John’s,” she says. “Our website provides a wealth of information on these places. In addition, potential new arrivals should be using our Facebook page on a regular basis and also logging onto the blog section of our webpage for info on driving in Canada, healthcare, taxes, cost of living, Canadian resumes, and more.”
And some friendly tips: Canadians call ‘chips’ ‘fries’, and ‘crisps’ ‘chips’. They say ’blow out’ for ‘blow dry’, ‘take out’ for ‘take away’ and ‘line up’ for ‘queue’. They don’t know that dear means expensive and like to slag you off for saying ‘grand’ a lot. They also will offer you directions if you look lost on the street, and give you change if you haplessly stand by a payphone with luggage (as my sister Jessie found out when she was stranded on the way to the city from Toronto’s Pearson Airport).
So I’m back where it started. I knew I made the right decision when my boyfriend James and I were greeted in the airport with a welcome home ‘expertly Photoshopped’ banner and resounding cheers. Home sweet home.