Islamic terror ... Lanta style

Islamic terror ... Lanta style
My neighbour Hutyee Boat
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Showers of introspection in Salthill

It's cold, it's wet, it's grey in the month of August . . . Oh my God, I must be back home in Galway.
After five months in South East Asia and two fabulous months in Spain, it's been good to get home and see friends and family even if a couple of dark, dank days have reminded me of why I felt a need to get out of Ireland in 2010 in the first place.
I'm home to have a medical check-up, sort out vaccines for Central America, review my finances, and organise my pending return to work in January (sob, sob), but especially to catch up with the people who are so important in my life.
My faith in humanity and planet earth has been hugely enhanced by all the new friends I've made in Koh Lanta and San Sebastian this year, but there is nothing quite like hooking up with the people who I have shared joys and tears with for so many years.
This November is the 20th anniversary of the death of my good friend, Joe Seale, in an accident in India, less than a year after my sister Cliona had lost her life to cancer. A second sad waste in the space of 11 months, another tragedy which took me years to get over, and a terrible loss for his parents, siblings, and buddies.
But with age has come a great awareness of the richness of the friendships I've kept with the old buddies I've managed to stay friends with through thick and thin over the intervening two decades.
At the time, I could see only dark clouds. Life was unfair, and offered no sense of adventure. When I listened to bands like Killing Joke and The Sisters of Mercy in the early 1990s I really felt that this was a black, black planet, which took good young people away too young.
And I lost my sense of adventure, my desire to live on a tropical island or scuba dive with sharks and manta rays, for too long.
Now I see that my friend Joe at least lived to fulfil his dream (he lived in India for 12 months before he died) and not too many people can say that even if they live to be 90 in this crazy, messed up world.
Since January, I've become a Divemaster on my favourite tropical island and lived in my favourite city, in Spain. At 42, I finally found the light to follow some of my own dreams, thanks to an opportunity given to me due to Ireland's financial woes.
Joe's brother, Hugo, has been in touch. He's organising a 'tribute night' to mark Joe's 20th anniversary and he's put it off by three weeks so that I will be home from Central America.
What a lovely way that will be for me to mark the end of my own 12 month break from 'reality', meeting a host of good friends from the old days in a Galway bar a week before Christmas. And a fitting tribute to Joe, too.
It's strange to be home for two weeks and not to have a job to go to. Strange, but good too. It means I can spend three hours playing a manic and silly game with my little niece, Sofia, on a drizzly Wednesday afternoon . . . the kind of activity I'd never have time for if I was working full-time in Galway.
In the space of a week, I've met a couple of people who have lost their jobs this year, some in very unfair or unfortunate circumstances, a proud new dad or two, and people who've been coming to terms with long-term unemployment after being laid off a year or two ago. Life never stands still.
Yes, Ireland is in depression, or recession. Those who have jobs are counting their blessings and those who don't are worried about mortgages and where the future might take them. And there's silly old selfish me, complaining about the weather when I walk the prom!
Spain is in recession, too, with 20% unemployment compared to Ireland's 13%, but somehow I think it's easier to deal with when it's gloriously sunny every day at this time of year.
But, as I plan the last quarter of my year, I'm suddenly filled with appreciation for what I have.
Nobody close to me is dying of a terminal illness, nobody I know in Galway has to go without food every day, and few people anywhere have a chance to enjoy the rich variety of life I've experienced this year . . . with the 'safety net' of a job to go back to in Galway, for all its faults, at the end of the year.
In Nicaragua, I won't be surrounded by close friends and family. I will meet people every day who are struggling to eat, or to put clothes on their backs, and they won't be worrying about a few clouds in the sky or a bit of 'bitchiness' in their offices.
In Ireland, we had it very good for many years, and greed swept through the land like a virus, from the bankers, politicians, and property developers, to the ordinary people who suddenly felt that they needed two houses, holiday apartments, or brand new cars.
Perhaps, for our country right now, a bit of introspection is a good thing after so many years of blatant greed.
And, perhaps, for me too, this 12 month break from my career and my home town is offering me a great opportunity to reflect on all the good things in my life.


  1. Nice one Ciaran! I didn't know Joe but I'll be there as a friend of yours and Hugo's.

    As someone who has lived all over the shop, i've come to realise that my friends are really a separate family, equally as important as my blood one. Fortunately I've had the same great bunch of human beings in my life since I was 13, and we're all still friends today. I've known most of my friends in Ireland for nearly 20 years, but they still feel like my 'new' friends, which is no reflection on how wonderful and important they are to my happiness.

    It's funny, 'cos when I read your blog i feel that I know exactly where you're at. Your words, attitude and observations remind me of when i was on the road (although i still am, I suppose!). Away from the routines of work and bills, we see things differently, in a better perspective, which in turn makes us better human beings.

    When my wife and i sit and work out how we're doing financially, now that we are both on the dole, she can become very blue. I look around me at my splendid home, and think back to what somebody told me years back:

    "If you can sleep warm and safe with a full belly, without fearing that someone you love will be taken in the night, then you have no worries."

    I look over at her, all fearful there, and think of some of the things I have seen around the world. Spreading my arms wide, I exclaim:

    "Babe, we are doing sooo well! We are living it large!"
    (well, I am a Londoner at ve hend hov da day!).

    Love to meet you for a coffee if you're in town, or come over to the house.

  2. Thanks Charlie,

    The reaction I've been getting to this blog has been phenomenal, and I even feel that my two weeks at home this year are similar to my travels through SE Asia, Spain, and Central America, because I'm at home in Galway almost as an outsider, without my familiar job, car, bank balance, roles, etc.

    Coming from a close family, and feeling that I missed out on the chance to travel by getting a 'permanent' job relatively young, the thing that's surprised me most has been how much I have missed people at home, family and friends at any rate.

    Then I get home and it's pissing rain and I realise that I've just been romanticising the place ... and it's time to get back on the road again.

    I think that seeing people live in poverty or being in dangerous situations (such as travelling around Phnom Penh at 4 a.m. for me!) does give you a perspective on how lucky we are in this part of the world in terms of security, food on the table, etc.

    I guess it's all about learning and appreciating. The 'down days' have taught me an awful lot about myself, proving to me that I always had a romanticised view of travel through the years.

    A little bit of introspection is no harm at all in these post-Celtic Tiger years.

  3. One thing travel gives you is plenty of time, and introspection is a natural by-product. I'm not surprised that you feel like you're a traveller in Galway - you're in the mode, in that space between your old life and this new one.

    I always missed people when I was on the road, but usually i just wanted one great night out to see all my top people, have a laugh and then wake up back where I was traveling. As you found out, the hardest thing is coming back and seeing things through fresh eyes.

  4. The best of the old Irish legends is about Oisin, who goes to Tir na nOg, where everything is perfect and everyone is beautiful and never grows old. And yet he longs to go home ... only to discover, when he does finally return, that everything has changed and all his old friends and family have long gone. I love that story!

    As a Galwegian who loves the sun and scuba diving, I've always wondered why you settled here after all your travels, Charlie. Maybe now I can see things a bit differently and a little less negatively about my home place. Even the fact that I learned that constant sun doesn't always make you happy shows that I'm on a learning curve this year.
    Mind you, the thought of returning to work in January ...!

  5. Maybe my Galway is your ...London, somewhere else. I wasn't raised here, so the gentle compassion and Irish respect for time were the first things I noticed. Very possibly things which you, as a native, never noticed because they were a way of life.

    It's a great place, is Galway, loved as much for its worst as its best.

    Oh, and it's where i finally ran out of money. But that's a reason you've heard given by a thousand blow-ins in Galway.

    Oh, and just after i arrived, I met ye lot in an Tobar, young Staxski et al, and now my knee hurts.

  6. Charlie,

    How does meeting 'us lot' in An Tobar relate to your hurt knee? Thanks for the memories ... An Tobar in the early 1990s ... now there was a reason not to leave Galway.

    Look forward to swapping tales of travels (and other matters) with you at Joe's bash on the Friday before Xmas. I've always admired your intrepid approach to travelling and the unconventional life, be it a slum in the third world or a grotty hotel with plastic sheets in Clifden!

    As Twain might put it, I've managed to 'sail away from the safe harbour' this year (long after you toured the planet) and it is a good thing that I'm appreciating the safe harbour from afar after taking it for granted, or even despising it, for so long!

  7. Nice one mate! If I don't see you before you head off again, bon voyage, i admire you for what you are doing! (oh and the reference to my knee hurting was an obscure nod to the ageing process).