Category Archives: Ireland

Thoughts on Ireland and Irishness

Oh for ruck’s sake….

Brace yourselves, I’ve just seen the sorry excuse for a ‘women in rugby’ feature in today’s Sunday Independent (Irish Sunday ‘broadsheet’) and you know what that means…rant time!

In a week where Ireland’s women’s rugby team deservedly took over the front pages as well as the back pages of the newspapers, one might have expected a half decent attempt at a feature article. In the days after Fiona Coghlan, Niamh Briggs and their tough-as-nails teammates unceremoniously dumped the mighty Black Ferns from their ‘undefeated at a World Cup’ pedestal, there might have been incentive to focus on the enormity of the feat. When you consider that the New Zealand women’s team have one of the best win percentages in the women’s game and access to the same impeccable facilities and backroom support that their male counterparts do, then it puts what our team (formed from a senior player pool of just under 3700 women) achieved this week into mighty perspective.

But the most widely read Irish paper couldn’t focus on resources, grassroots development or female involvement at provincial level. Or even delve into the effect that the Irish 2013 Grand Slam win had on the numbers of girls and women taking an interest in the game. Nope.

Instead the women’s game was reduced to a cheap, tacky ‘Fifty Rucks of Grey’-style innuendo fest. Lowest common denominator journalism. To add insult to injury, the paper sent someone along who hadn’t even a basic grasp of the rules. I’m not saying they had to send someone who plays tag or sevens or full contract rugby but would a vague notion of what a lineout or a scrum entailed have been too much to ask? Obviously it was.

By reducing an entire sport to a couple of hundred words of lewd musings that could be set to the Benny Hill theme tune, the women who play the game at any level in Ireland have been done a massive disservice. Nice one, Irish Indo. Well done.

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Life as an emigrant isn’t one big barbie on Bondi all the time. And that’s OK.

Ever since becoming an emigrant, I have studiously avoided the Generation Emigration section of the Irish Times site. Having previously consumed the articles with a heady mixture of curiosity and mild envy from my home in Donegal, I‘ve gone cold turkey for the last four months. The Irish Times hasn’t mortally offended me, I just felt like a bit of fraud. I left Ireland at the end of March for a twelve month contract with an international nonprofit based in their Budapest office. But the smiling faces of the hundreds of Generation Emigration contributors made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

Natural progression

While nobody can be delighted with the fact that your friends are leaving home at a rate of knots as part of the almost 90,000 who emigrated between April 2012 and April 2013, I always envisaged myself travelling for work at some stage. In the summers of 2009 and 2010, I had been based in DC with the Washington Ireland Program and had soaked up every minute of the experience. Plus, as someone with an interest in nonprofits and armed with a human rights degree, it seemed only natural that I would be looking for employment outside Ireland. So when this position in Hungary presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Budapest is stunning – anyone reading this who hasn’t visited yet needs to hotfoot it to the website of either of our national carriers as soon as you finish reading this. Despite the visually engaging architecture and contagious, energetic buzz of a new city that I had just made home, there was a whisper at the back of my mind that I just couldn’t shake.
I said for years that I was happy with the idea of travelling for work. No bother, I said. It’ll be grand. Wee buns. So why am I missing home? I allowed myself to feel like this occasionally for the first few weeks, but after that I was berating myself any time I thought about home. Like most other 20-somethings who were raised on the internet, my knee jerk reaction was to run into the arms of a search engine and trawl through websites for validation. There is little solace to be found on Facebook, that’s for sure. You can’t move on social media for heavily-Instagrammed beach selfies, collages of tropical cocktail parties and tweets containing photos of every famous cityscape illuminated at night. I slunk away with happy hashtags superimposed in my mind. Why hadn’t I settled in as quickly as them? What was wrong with me?
Just OK’

Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people reading this will roll their eyes and squeal ‘first world problems’ at their laptop. But I’m not writing this for you, so once you have filled up the comments section with a nice cathartic rant about how whiney and/or pretentious you think I sound, on your bike. Anyone else who is still hanging around, perhaps feeling the same way as me – don’t worry. You are not alone. Sometimes, it’s OK to feel ‘just OK’ about your new situation.
Not that the people who have taken to their new abodes like the proverbial ducks to water love Ireland any less, I’m certainly not saying that. What I am saying is that it’s OK to just be OK some days. You don’t have to be constantly raving about the plethora of cool eateries around your new gaff that you frequent, remembering how mad we all though Mickey McDowell was when he spoke of fostering a cafe culture in Ireland. You don’t have to gloat about amazing weather 24/7 (sometimes you just want a nice soft day or a bit of breeze!). And you definitely don’t have to start asking all your friends still in Ireland ‘are you not bored at home?’. Life as an emigrant isn’t one big barbie on Bondi all the time.

It can be very easy to read a wee bit too much into those photos from another fabulous international night out. People tend not to tweet about the days that they struggle with a language barrier or feel tired, emotional and just want a chicken fillet roll, a bag of Hunky Dorys and a hug. Or a decent cup of tea. Only this week, I had a conversation with my best friend who emigrated over twelve months ago. For the first time, she told me about how she really felt about her first few months away.

People don’t tell you about the hard days

In my mind, she had hopped on the trans-Atlantic plane and never looked back. However, she confirmed that, for months, she had actually felt exactly the same as me. I had been beating myself up for being a mope, for being the only young Irish emigrant who seemingly was rubbish at this emigrating business. I had even been comparing myself to her, asking why I was incapable of acting more like my peers. If I had just copped on and been honest with her, she would have shared her experience with me. She summed it up perfectly in a succinct Whatsapp message: “People only say ‘ah, it’s the best decision you’ll ever make ’.They don’t tell you about the hard days.”

That simple text message exchange made me feel so much calmer. Undoubtedly, leaving home is hard. It was hard being away from home when our family dog died suddenly. Anyone who knows me well will know how I seriously considered hopping on a plane home at that point but the thoughts of my new colleagues faces when I’d have to tell them why put a damper on that plan. It’s hard but it’s worth it. It was worth moving to Hungary to wake up every day in an apartment a few feet from a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was worth moving to take part in a Pride parade and have a Budapest teenager thank me, a straight non-Hungarian, for standing alongside the LGBTI community there. He was marching without his boyfriend who was too frightened of the possible repercussions if he was seen at Pride. It was also worth it when the same teenager broke that slightly emotional shared moment by gushing about Enya and bursting into a few bars of “Orinoco Flow” when he found out exactly where I was from!

If you are a emigrant of any age reading this, with a pang of homesickness swaying in your stomach, then think of the feeling in this way. By feeling nostalgic the odd time, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you are overly emotional. It simply means you have the best of both worlds. You have taken an exhilarating leap into the unknown and have found a whole new town or city to experience. You also love to go back to a place that is warmly familiar and filled with friends, family and great wheaten bread. Missing Ireland isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Every day’s a school day

So, Easter weekend is over and that can only mean one thing. Cassidy has to arm herself with a glass of wine and the remains of a very tasty Butlers chocolate bar, stick on some Leonard Cohen and tell you all about what I’ve been up to. During the past week, I have learnt the following things:

  • a lot of sporting clichés are cheesy as quattro formaggio pizza (“they say a week is a long time in sport; you’re only as good as your last match etc etc.”) but a lot of them are also true.  I had travelled home to watch Ulster put 8 tries past a battling Connacht side on April 11, had a wee on-pitch chat with man of the match Andrew Trimble and dashed across the Ravenhill turf to shake hands with Ulster captain Johann Muller (a man who is as ridiculously humble as he is ridiculously tall).

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That night Ulster looked focused, a team who had come out to right the wrongs done unto them in the Heineken Cup. However, the performance turned in against Glasgow on Friday was pretty abysmal when compared to the previous week, plus we had to suffer another refereeing/TMO decision that I can only describe as a howler. I hope the team can recover some of the grit we all know they have, cut out the silly errors and make a real statement in their last few matches of the 2014 Pro12 season.

  • what they say about public transport ticket validation in Budapest is true. It is all too easy to dismiss the sometimes hysterical sounding online descriptions of the inspector’s activities as bitter grumbling by ill-prepared tourists who got bitten. But it is true. When I hopped on a tram one evening during the week, I took out my ticket and stamped it using one of the little red punching machines inside the carriage. I knew to do this because I had googled it, read travel guides before moving here and heard instructions from co-workers. If I was depending on some friendly language free signage featuring universally recognised stick men doing a bit of ticket validation to alert me to what I needed to do, however, fuggedaboutit! The buzzer signifying that the tram was about to leave sounded and I held onto a pole as we moved off. As soon as the tram doors folded themselves closed, two girls who had been standing near me leapt into action. Whipping out ID cards from under their coats and jumpers, they went from being plain clothes commuters to full on inspection mode. They were shouting  aggressively in Hungarian and moved quickly about the carriage, demanding to see everyone’s tickets. They were both a good 6 inches shorter than me, so they would have had a fair job on their hands trying to intimidate me when I towered over them displaying my validated ticket. But I’ll admit they were quite off-putting and I wondered how I’d feel if it had perhaps been two well-built fellas doing the ticket rounds. Also it wasn’t long before the inspectors has their first victim. One girl seated across from me appeared to not have a travel pass or ticket at all, judging by the hand signalling that was going on. The two inspectors both stood over her and continued to admonish her for a good minute or two. Things quietened down when we got to the next tram stop and I thought maybe a compromise had been reached. Nope. Both inspectors escorted the girl off the tram, her eyes shining. In my opinion, the commuters’ expression wasn’t the scarlet shame of being caught out, I thought she genuinely looked rattled. As the tram moved off, I could see the party of three crossing the road and stopping at an ATM. A lesson well learned, don’t chance it when it comes to the Budapest public transport system.

 

  • On a lighter note, my achy back and this statue in the City Park reminded me today that I really need to find a English language yoga class!

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– I learnt that a langos (a Hungarian deep fried flatbread, usually served with sour cream and cheese) is bloody impossible to finish but kürtőskalács (a sugary, pastry cake) are far too easy to polish off. I was defeated by the cheesy bread yoke while trekking around Margaret Island and finished my first “chimney cake” outside the Opera House while taking shelter from my first proper Budapest rain shower.

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  • After which I gave (hopefully accurate) directions to a group of Irish ladies on Andrassy utca. There was something so cosy and familiar about their accents, floating over to me as they huddled around a map. When they found out that I wasn’t just heading home like them after the Easter weekend and was instead here for work, their reaction was a collective, unanimous, “Well, fair play to ya!

 

  • And while I’m on the subject of cakes – I discovered some amazing houses of cake and confectionery that I will be frequenting. Fell in love with the display of treats and very friendly staff in the aptly named Cake Shop. Also discovered the diabetic coma waiting to happen that is Sugar. Of course I’ll be back there on a day when I’m hit by a craving for pick n mix. Even if their choice of gift items are quite questionable…..

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  • ….But the most important thing I’ve learnt over the past few days – why it’s better to travel alone. The answer to this travel conundrum came to me in a moment of clarity when seated near to a couple eating dessert. Why is it better to travel alone? Two words: one. spoon.

Who’s yer one and why is she blogging?

Budapest 2014

Basically, this blog is primarily motivated by my move to Hungary. The idea of starting a blog had been bubbling away at the back of mind for a while … but I was crippled by the fear of the blank page – what did I have to say that was so important that it deserved its own wee section of the internet? Now the Budapest relocation gives me the perfect excuse to dip my toe in the blogosphere and let everyone at home know what I’m getting up to at the same time!

My pet hates and guilty obsessions may become painfully obvious when emmacassidyblogs gets up and running in earnest, but at the outset here is a brief snapshot of my personal and professional background

I’m a graduate in human rights law with work experience in the non-profit, communications and legal research sectors. I’ve moved from Ireland to take up a job which combines all of these elements– a bit of dream scenario really.

I am a massive rugby fan. Any of my Twitter followers can attest to this and certainly anyone who has sat in my vicinity at a match will remember the experience. My fascination with the game also convinced the team at RTE 2FM’s nightly sports programme Game On to let me co-host the show from my hometown. Aren’t they lovely chaps?

When it comes to music, I’m a slightly old soul disguised as a 20 something. I was born in the 80s but wish I’d been old enough to appreciate Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen , Simon and Garfunkel, Queen the first time around.

I don’t like the term ‘only child’. It sounds hurtful. (Who is it? Oh it’s only Cassidy… hmmph). Much prefer the French version: enfant unique. I suppose I do have a bit of an independent streak, I can be happy in my own company and contented if I have to travel alone so hopefully moving abroad solo will work well with my personality type.

Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to mention food… I’m a gastronomic fiend, no point in hiding it! The prospect of a good dinner can make my day, nay my week. Plus I’m one of those irritating meal Instagramers, guilty as charged! If you don’t like filtered shots of wine glasses, look away now.

And every now and again my political nerd tendencies will slip out – I lived and worked in the politics hub of Washington DC and loved it. Yes, I’m West Wing fanatic, and yes I seriously need to catch up on the whole House of Cards bonanza (another typical Cassidy tendency, always behind on the ‘must watch’ series).

So my blog could cover all or none of these topics depending on my mood. Thank you for calling in.