Prior to the implementation of the full lock, my mother asked me if I wanted to go home. This concept of “home” is something slightly different when you live abroad. Ireland will always be my home, but I also have a second home in Bordeaux, France.
I had no doubt that I wanted to stay in Bordeaux for the isolation, but try to explain that to people who have only one house is difficult.
I have moved to Bordeaux in September, when I knew absolutely no one. I live in France since a few years, interrupted by a two-year stay in Dublin, but this area was completely new to me.
I can understand where came from my mother who wanted me to return to Ireland. I have friends here and I live with a roommate, who are all very nice people and friendly with whom I get along very well, but this contrasts strongly with Dublin. It is in Dublin that I was born, I attended primary and secondary schools and a university and worked for a few years.
The version of the house that I have in Bordeaux is my house every day. I have my food in the fridge, my cups and boxes of tea, my books, my computer, my pictures and my burner oil elephant who came with me everywhere. I have my independence and my routine (though not exactly the same as usual).
In Dublin, I have so many things; my parents, my sister, my friends, my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my ex-colleagues. I have places that I know like the back of my hand and more memories that I would never have been able to appreciate. We can say that the things that I have in Dublin are the important things. So why not go home?
This is, I believe, the dilemma of ultimate for expatriates. I love Ireland more than I could ever say, and every time I go home, it makes me so happy to be in this wonderful country. I love walking in Grafton Street, enter in Dubray Books have a preview (one of the things on my list of things to do for when I get home), go to Co Donegal where my grandmother was born and see all my friends and family. But I also love France. I want to live in France since my first visit to Paris in second year of school. I have always felt at home in this country. I like a lot here.
I love the French language and I have been doing this since I started to learn it in first year. I also like how in France they take the time to slow down and appreciate the simple things, including the food and the wine, of which I am a big fan. I’m not a big drinker, so the culture of alcohol in Ireland is not something of which I am a fan. I’m much more into the food, as well as French.
A year after having finished my studies, I went to live in Nice for two years, and then I returned to Dublin. I returned because, although I have liked to live in Nice, it was not for me. However, about three weeks after my return to Dublin, I realized that Dublin was not not more. Not to live. Everyone asked me why I wanted to return to France, and although there are a number of practical factors and concrete that I could cite, they are not the real reason. The reason is much more difficult to articulate, it is a feeling. That is all. I feel comfortable, happy and at home in France. Now, when I’m back in Ireland, I feel as comfortable, happy and at home, so I feel these things in two places, for which I am very grateful.
The current situation has, however, put a genuine key in hand. Normally, I have my life in France that I love, and I can go back in Ireland when I want to or that I feel the need. For the moment, I can’t. This made these feel harmonious with the “home” less harmonious.
I feel anxious, stressed, and sad, and this is in large part related to the fact that I don’t know when I can go home as I would normally do. When can I meet my father in the arrivals, make a big hug and go back home to gurgling (as I tend to do it every time I return to Dublin, by excitement to be back)? When can I meet my friends in Dublin and talk about work, life, dates, disastrous? When can I see my sister, force her to give me a hug (she doesn’t like hugs, even if she is better)? When can I see my mum, go for a walk along the sea, walking and chatting until the sun sets?
As the weeks of lockdown proceeded and that the possibility of being able to return to Ireland for a visit seemed more and more distant, I saw the idea of going back to quarantine, and work from there until this is predictable. The problem is that it goes against the whole dynamic of these two meanings of the house; they are both wonderful, but they are definitely different.
I don’t live in Dublin, I don’t want to live in Dublin. If I went back to Dublin for a longer stay and work from there, it would jam these distinctions. I need these two houses, and I need it in both their forms and their functions very separate and very distinct. For the time being, I’ll enjoy my house in bordeaux, enjoy the “déconfinement”, as we say in France. I’m going to meet friends, go to the beach, go for a walk and be patient and wait until I can again visit my house in Dublin.