Cultural Identity in the Tibetan museum in Dharamshala, India

While in the Tibetan museum in Dharmsala I paused at a quote from a Tibetan boy:

‘If you take our cultural identity from us, what do we have?’

This resonated deeply with me. I feel this also. Being from Northern Ireland is a burden on owning & celebrating your cultural identity. Internally, without too much soul searching, I know exactly my cultural identity & heritage. I feel exactly where I fit into the world jigsaw & I comfortably slot in to my place. Outwardly it is a different matter. My friends on both sides of the border in Ireland come from various backgrounds & each would have an opinion on where they feel I should sit. Even voicing my own opinion with some of them could lead to an argument or sideways glance. How can my personal cultural identity be moulded by someone else. I find it incomprehensible for something so personal as someone else’s sense of true belonging to be debated & decided for amongst others. How do you know what my heart leans to? How do you know where I truly find my solace? And what right do these people have to place me in a box when it is such a unique & intimate connection I have with my sensation of being?

With the state of affairs in Northern Ireland it can be suffocating to bury your true cultural identity. Whether I hide for convenience, to escape confrontation & conflict, fear…. When I travel I feel free. I tell my friends my nationality & they seem satisfied. Why do I even acknowledge their response or approval? Some question based on geo politics but I can clearly state my stance & move on. When people label me as being british it feels entirely alien to me. I feel I don’t match their stereotypes & characteristics. It doesn’t fill my heart with the feeling of comraderie or belonging. I feel a disaffection & disassociation which I cannot evade. If my neighbour or brother feel the opposite to me about being labelled British I couldn’t care less. I am happy people have a sense of belonging & strength to be patriotic.

To have someone take your cultural identity from you is a destroying. I perceive cultural identity to be a birthright. To feel secure on your soil with your people in a place you were born &/or raised. How disorientating to have this swept away from you. How sad to have this element of you removed while others can enjoy & celebrate their own. How can you ever retrieve this in a world of judgement, control & power mania?

People born in a country of minimal conflict who can & rightfully own their cultural identity with pride without being judged or questioned – I envy you. To not always look over your shoulder for haters, to not have to justify yourself to either side of the border & the whole world, to celebrate with every person on the street, to not face controversy must be bliss. Appreciate your freedom for something you, maybe rightly so, take for granted.

St Patrick’s Day in Rishikesh, India

 

The bridge is almost green, white & gold!

I have celebrated St Patrick’s Day all around the world! I have partied, drank Guinness & ate Irish stew in Dublin, I spent 3 wonderful St Patrick’s Days in the beautiful Swiss Alps (one of which I got too drunk to host a potato party – classic Irish move), Italy, Belfast & many in Co Down where the legend is laid to rest.

St Patrick’s Day hike in Verbier, Switzerland

This is my very first St Patrick’s Day in India! My tradition of drinking, making new friends & dancing into the night was alive & I was ready to commence festivities! Then it hit me – I was in a city where alcohol is banned….

Lets give that a moment to sink in.

An Irish in Rishikesh without a drop of alcohol on St Patrick’s Day is a sorry sight. Instead of the usual shenanigans I sat on the hostel rooftop & one of the Indian men who run the hostel taught me how to play chess. If you had told me that was how I would spend St Patrick’s Day at some point of my life I would never have believed you.

This feels like an out of body experience…..

Homeland, homeland! Here I come!

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I’m on the plane back home for my bi annual visit to the homeland. I am so excited to see my wee dog & my family. Very excited to shop in familiar shops where I know my size, the fit & am accustomed to the price. Excited for the productivity & peace of mind to see to all my appointments e.g. Dr, dentist, hairdresser because my roots are RIDICULOUS. Nostalgically excited to eat in all my favourite restaurants & snack on Irish delicacies like soda bread, potato bread, Tayto crisps, Irish Cadburys chocolate. Mostly excited to relax with company I have known all my life, reconnect & maintain friendships that are lasting me my lifetime.

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There is truly nowhere like home, so why can I not stay there? Why do I feel an emptiness & unhappiness when I’m living there. Why do I feel a knowledge that there is more out there for me when this is where my mind wanders to when I’m not in Ireland.

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I hope I find what I’m looking for soon because this uncertainty & constant moving is growing tiresome…. But I love it!

I miss my wee dog

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I have a wee dog. He is beautiful & the absolute love of my life. Yes, send your pity my way! It breaks my heart when I can’t hold him close & bury my face into his fur. My medical condition – the itchy feet – ensures that there is always a lot of distance between us & we go for months without seeing each other.

I never wanted to get a dog but I was pestered into it by a bullying psychopath. I then inherited him via a horrendous break up & his soft suede caramel fur dried up my copious tears. He was my soft, warm rock.

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He comfortably resides in Ireland on the coastline, enjoying walks with his brother & pals. Even when I live in Ireland he doesn’t live with me I live in cities which he hates & I am usually out of the house all day & night with the multiple jobs I like to undertake.

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In return for his everlasting friendship & comfort, I have rewarded him with abandonment. I have spent the majority of his life living outside of Ireland & pining endlessly for him. He recognises the sound of me dragging my overweight, stuffed suitcase down my stairs & his heart grows heavy & saddened. I always save his goodbye for last. I cuddle him close to my face, apologise to him & tell him I love him. I plant kisses on his soft body & face & a trickling tear gets soaked into him.

Motherly guilt combined with catholic guilt leave me an emotional wreck.

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When I leave, I can only imagine what he goes through. The stages of grief, the denial when he vaguely recognises me via Skype, the memory when my name is mentioned in passing. Does he think I’ve died? When I come back to him does he think I have risen from the dead? Am I his mum in zombie form? What the fuck???

When I return he gets used to my company, the cuddles, the walks, endless praise, love & attention.

What do I do next? Of course. I bloody go away on some haphazard adventure, throwing him into this vicious circle of grief & abandonment.

*Sigh* I am a terrible mother.

I miss him everyday. He is the most rascal faced, cuddly, hilarious little guy I know. I love his mannerisms, his eternal relentless quest for anything remotely edible & his clever tactics to try to control his humans.

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The Interlude

How lovely it is to be home. I profoundly appreciate the time I have to spend with family & friends. I’m laughing till my stomach hurts, which I haven’t done in such a long time. Which is an absolute shame because it’s one of my favourite things to do.

It is an utter luxury to have my own room & to be able to get into bed without concussing myself incarcerated by the suffocating low ceilings.

Sweet, glorious freedom.

I can’t get enough of it.

Walking to visit a friend with a bottle of wine or even going to the cinema is such a treat to my senses. Cooking! Driving! Grocery shopping! Speaking the same language as the people surrounding me!  Striking conversation effortlessly with strangers! Oh the simple pleasures. I am on my knees begging to be engulfed with the unassuming, normal reality of life.

I do not miss the daily, relentless, soul purging cleaning & chores. On reflection I don’t know how I put up with the mindless tedious schedule. I relish the power of not feeling owned. A call from a crew recruitment agency about an upcoming position quickly affirms that it’s too soon to even contemplate going back to yachting. I am not going to relinquish this new found free rein. I badly need a break – It’s a prerequisite to my sanity and transitory bliss.

Now to catch up on a years worth of gossip with my friends, laughs, family time, appointments with my dentist, doctor, health clinic, hairdresser, vet (for my dog, not me), backdated babysitting duties….. A massive clear out of all my unsuspecting accumulated belongings is an inevitable long overdue task. Here’s to my break from work & putting some graft into organising myself and catching up on my Irish life.

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