Personal Insights: Irish and stuck in the Australian lockdown … What I’ve learned

Corkonian, Aoife McGreal, writes from Australia and reveals how the Covid-19 lockdown has given her a whole new appreciation of her Irishness.
Personal Insights: Irish and stuck in the Australian lockdown … What I’ve learned

Corkonian, Aoife McGreal, writes from Australia and reveals how the Covid-19 lockdown has given her a whole new appreciation of her Irishness.

Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.
Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.

I’ve lived in regional Western Australia for eight years now with my husband. We came initially for two years, with one toddler at the time.

We had our fourth baby five months ago just before things started to ramp up with the pandemic. All was rosy in our life as we enjoyed the final addition to our family here in Oz.

Being an expat has been an interesting experience for us. We’ve always felt as if we have one leg in Ireland and one leg here in Oz.

Three of our kids were born here and we are Australian citizens. But your Irishness never leaves you and you know now that even if you did end up moving back home, it would never be like it was before because you’d miss all the things you love about your life in Australia; like the guaranteed sunshine or being able to afford to stay home with my kids while they’re small.

Yet, I’ll never feel fully Australian either. There are some things that I will never understand about living here, that culturally just fly over my head completely. Like seeing copious numbers of people walking barefoot around town, in supermarkets, petrol stations; beef sausages or how Aussies just innately seem to know how to catch fish.

Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.
Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.

In my world, it meant that if my Mother had become ill -and she did coincidentally become sick with pneumonia but not covid….we think- during all of this, I could not board a flight to go home and be with her. It also means I have a five month old baby she has never met and I have no idea when she is ever likely to meet her last grandchild.

Those two things have really solidified in my mind how far away we are from Ireland and the people we love. It has made me feel more isolated than ever. And while I’m glad that the borders are closed here in Western Australia and we feel very safe, I also have a feeling of claustrophobia and of being hemmed in because I can’t travel outside the state or country.

Obviously I know there are people fighting bigger fires right now but for me personally, I can say I have gained some perspective on what matters. The time at home with our kids was stressful but also a simpler time when we didn’t need to be rushing to school in the mornings and then to after school activities.

Everything just slowed down. And it was nice. We walked the beach a lot and just watched the ocean and breathed it in. Life has ramped up again here and school is open, activities are back on and I can feel the daily hamster wheel stress creeping in again. And in many ways, it’s like a runaway train; I’m not sure how to slow it down again or stop it.

So what have I learned?

I guess that we shouldn’t need a pandemic to force us to slow down and smell the roses sometimes. I feel like I should probably take stock more often and be appreciative of all that I have and also, spend less time giving out to my kids and instead just throw caution to the wind a bit more. Who actually cares if the house is messy or there’s a laundry mountain?

Fifty games of UNO is time much better spent. And I suppose if you ask most adults what they remember about being a kid; most will remember the day you played UNO over and over with them instead of “well we always had clean underwear because Mum got the laundry done”.

I also have never appreciated more my little country of Ireland. When you don’t live there I think you become that bit extra patriotic. I’m hopeful that we will see Irish shores again someday soon; that I will stand at the top of Dunquin Pier and take some deep, meaningful breaths or walk down Oliver Plunkett Street on a busy Saturday just soaking in the melodic Cork accents all around me.

Those are the little things that make my heart sing when I am home from Australia for a few weeks (that and my Mother’s soda bread).

And I hope it will sing again soon…”Oh how oft’ do my thoughts, in their fancy take flight….”

Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.
Aoife McGreal and family. Pictures supplied by family.

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