Next year we will be celebrating 20 years of living in Ireland, our adopted country. So I thought I’ll make a list of my favourite things of Ireland. Things I’ve really come to love about this country.
Because I’m always standing with one foot in another country and will never be fully one or the other, I might as well make another list with my favourite things about South Africa, the country I left behind.
Starting with my favourite things about Ireland:
- Beautiful characterful Ireland steeped in history. Cathedrals and castles, ruins and stone walls wherever you go, it does take your breath away.
- Unspoilt nature and places where you see nobody. We’ve been to so many beautiful places in Ireland, but most recently to Enniscrone in County Sligo.
- The peaceful way of life in rural Ireland. It is really quiet where we live, but I realise that is not the same when living in the city centres.
- The stove burning during cold winter days and evenings, making it very cosy inside and with a book and a glass of wine (for those evenings) just perfect.
- The new green leaves on the trees starting to bud in spring. It suggests so much hope for new seasons to come. Also, the (almost) always green grass and fields combined with the unspoilt nature makes Ireland just magnificent, a feast for the eyes.
- The long summer evenings when it only gets dark after 10pm. It makes the days so much longer. If the weather is warm for sitting outside, it is bliss.
- Making Elderflower cordial with my son at the end of May. This is such a treat and always a special outing for the two of us.
Things I really like about South Africa:
- The winter in Ireland is very long and when we just arrived here that was one of the toughest things. The weather is something I will always miss from South Africa. Warm dry days would definitely be at the top of my list.
- Hiking routes with overnight huts en route. You walk a distance through beautiful landscapes every day and in the evening you stay in a hut which serves your basic needs. The amount of days you walk and stay in different huts depends on the length of the trail. We hiked the Tsitsikamma Hiking trail last year, see my blog about this, which included five huts. South Africa has many of these types of hiking trails.
- The vibrant creative mood you find in many parts of South Africa, although I have to say that this has really changed in Ireland. When we were in Ireland only a few years I could never find any craft markets, but they have sprung up over the last years.
- The game reserves in South Africa where you drive for days to see animals. Just magnificent.
- South Africa also has magnificent scenery, beaches and mountains. Something to behold when you visit.
- My mother and siblings, I do miss them more than I can say.
I read a book some years ago about an American journalist/author/food expert, Susan Hermann Loomis, who moved to France. Rue on Tatin was the introduction to life in France where she wrote about her toils and troubles of being so non-French, no matter what she did or how she tried to become more French, she was always the outsider. In the book she tells how she was constantly surprised about the differences between the two cultures which she sometimes just couldn’t figure out, even though she had been living in France for about ten years by then. Twenty years on and she is still in France and has definitely immersed herself in the lifestyle over there.
I have to admit that I also feel like that from time to time, the outsider, the blow-in. Over the years this has become easier and I have learnt to adapt with regards to pronouncing certain words more ‘Irish’ just to be understood, because my South African accent is pronounced. And we also had to adapt when it comes to certain cultural ways, but I admit I still struggle with the finer nuances.
I think when it became easier for people from all over Europe to settle in Ireland, making their lives here, it started making Ireland more cosmopolitan and accepting of others. This helped me as well. I agree it is still so important for a country to have its culture and identity and in this case to be Irish and to hold on to that, but it is the integration into society that is sometimes elusive for the non-Irish. It works both ways, respect the culture of your adoptive country, but stay true to your own roots.