Monday, 28 March 2016

Hunger & Homesickness: Coming home


I've been hungry for a long time. Not for food but for change. Change in my living situation, my job, my relationship status, my whole life really. I've gone through stages of wishing it all away and thinking that if only I lived somewhere else, had a different upbringing, had more money, less money, lived closer to the surf, lived somewhere warm, lived anywhere but where I was, that I would be happy. Everything would suddenly be ok. It's strange now to think I thought that. I believe that deep down, I knew I was kidding myself. It's something we're all meant to go through I think. Questioning and utter confusion. I wish I had taken the time to listen to myself and my own voice and gut long ago rather than feeding into what I thought others thought of me, my life and every little conceivable decision I made about my life. I wish I had accepted my lovely flawed self sooner but then I wouldn't be writing this. I wouldn't be in this place of love for myself and my circumstances, my dreams, my values and most importantly, my imperfections. I wouldn't be so appreciative of the complexity of me and the path that led me here.


Funny thing about wanting your life to change all the time. You can travel to farthest ends of the earth, have relationships with different people and work at a variety of different jobs but until you stop to address you at your very core, you're just dragging around all that angst and regret and confusion half way around the world with you. That's what I did. For the best part of ten years. Please don't think that this post is all about how I've suddenly found myself, right in the nick of time, aged thirty. Far from it. I'm still single, I'm still stony broke and I'm still learning about myself but one thing that this last year of mayhem, upset and mental strain has taught me is that I am beautifully imperfect and I am fully willing to stand right in the present and face myself and my past. Each and every step that was pure heartache in the last ten years from being in debt to unemployed and critically heartbroken led me to where I am today. Sure, it would have been easier if the path was filled with more love and easiness but then I wouldn't have appreciated what I have now.


That is the lesson this past year and in particular, these past three months have taught me because the thing is, I followed the adventurous dream I thought I wanted so desperately all the way to an English teaching job in Vietnam and I hated every single minute of it. All the years of living in Ireland and lamenting the weather, wishing for more blue sky days, heat, cheap and delicious food, palm trees and cheap flights to Australia and New Zealand, were all in vain. I felt so privileged in my freedom, standard of living, education and life conditions compared to the vendors, families and mix of elderly and young living in Ha Noi. I spent those three weeks jaw dropped, looking at the neon green pollution in the central lake of the city, struggling to inhale through the humid smog, imagining what it might be like to sleep in silence in a house down a country lane rather than in the chaos of the city night. I got sad looking at dogs tied up, ill elderly stashed in tiny houses and families leaving their front door open to the polluted and traffic infused streets just to get some 'fresh' air into their tiny apartments. It upset me to see KFC beside a tiny street stall selling bread rolls filled with egg and chicken and realizing how those buying the local sandwiches could never dream of eating at KFC. There was nothing equal about any of this. Society was divided between the top 5% emulating the wealthy west and casting off anything that associated them or their lives with that of the other 95% who would never get a chance to change, grow or ask what they personally valued.


I realized I am so lucky. I am free to travel, to photograph, to be educated, to do whatever I like. Yes, I have suffered in the last ten years from people who didn't value me, didn't love me, didn't show me the love and respect I deserved. Still, I have it so much better than those in Vietnam. For the first time in my life, after years of solo trips away, I was homesick in Vietnam. Not just for family but amazing friends, clean air, green landscapes, wild waves, fresh rain, mucky dogs running through fields with enthusiastic abandon, welly boots, clean rivers and simple living. I vowed that if I made it back to Ireland, I would treasure my life and change things to feed the hunger I had for community, simple living and a life filled with love that was in alignment with my values because I could. Because I was privileged.



The day after my birthday, I went west, just outside Lahinch. I took a small bag packed with a few clothes that I was happy to get mucky from digging in a wet field on a farm in Moy. I decided on my birthday that I wouldn't waste time saying "I'll do that tomorrow". If things like living in a community, growing food, helping those working towards something valuable, being out in the open air were important to me, I wasn't going to waste any time talking about it. I have the privilege of being able to assume that I will live for another thirty years when so many others do not. That being the case, I plan to make the most of those thirty years. I am not going to live it wishing for a different life, different circumstances, living out my days hoping to appease others or take a job or a partner to seek approval. I write this as I start to pack up a few belongings like cookbooks to share dinners for groups of hungry workers for the farm, my surfboard for ocean respite, some jewelry supplies to make gifts for others and potting trays to donate to the local community garden. After fifteen years of moving around the world, I'm coming back to where it all began for me, the first place in Ireland I felt I belonged.


I've learnt so much from this hunger and homesickness it's the beauty of following my heart, believing in my strength, trusting my gut, surrounding myself with people I care about who love me and accept me just as I am. I've stopped being afraid to ask myself what's wrong when I get depressed, to inquire about my values and change my lifestyle and outlook accordingly. I've lost the fear of what the core of me longs for. We can travel, have relationships, live in a multitude of locations, drift in and out of friendships and family ties but we will always be homesick for ourselves, the home within, unless we take a look at why we feel so hungry for meaning and to feed that need with love, freedom and compassion. Because we can.


Coming home is also coming back to this online space to share stories and recipes. I haven't forgotten about the food. Porridge with cinnamon, mashed potato and brown bread never tasted so good since coming back to Ireland. I also didn't have a kitchen in Vietnam and am between places right now. Having said that, I'm excited about Spring, sorrel salads, the last of beetroot goodness, baking and making 2016 the year I give to markets, fermenting, wild harvesting and food bartering goodness!



Here's to fresh air and water Spring light-filled days, wild food abundance, pot luck dinners, hedgerow harvests and the beauty of wilderness and unpredictability in nature and in life! Here's to living life with this beautiful song by Ger Wolfe in mind: The Curra Road....

In the Summer we'll go walking, way down to the river, down the Curra road.
There's the blue sky we'll walk under, listen to the humming bees and on we'll go.
We won't worry about the Winter, worry 'bout it raining ,worry 'bout the snow. 
In the Summer we'll go walking, way down to the river, down the Curra road.
Past the cattle at their grazing, through the woods of hazel, holly, birch and oak. 
Past the robin on the gatepost, singing to the bluebells, sunlight is their host. We won't worry 'bout the radio, worry 'bout the traffic, worry 'bout the phone. In the Summer we'll go walking way down to the river, down the dusty road.
There is music in the river, listen to it dancing, underneath the bridge, and the wind is hardly breathing, words unto the willow branches overhead .We won't worry 'bout the government, worry 'bout the video, worry 'bout the day. In the Summer we'll go waltzing, hand in hand together, down the dusty way.

Busylittlefoodie X

7 comments:

  1. Happy you're home safe, Gracie! And I'm glad you went and had the experience, even if it wasn't as amazing as you'd hoped. An experience is still an experience. :) Here's to your next year!

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    1. Hey lovely lady! Just seeing this now! Thanks so much for the love and support x x x

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  2. Sounds like your adventure was a blessing in disguise - an eye opener and an inspiring realisation about privilege and gratitude. Love your work Grace, hope the Irish summer treats you well :) - Kat Waswo

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    1. Hey darlin! Thanks so much. It was an eye opener that was necessary. Now I feel so much more thankfuk. Hope you're getting snug for the winter over there x x x x x

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  3. In acknowledging the fact that so many people here are experiencing great hardships, it's a fact that we're surrounded by so many whingers who don't know how well off they are. You've reminded me of the value of relatively clean air, quiet nights, an abundance of food and the unquestioning helping hands readily. extended. Welcome home Grace, and revel in the familiar and wonderful place we have. Paul (Brady)

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    1. Hey Paul! Well said! It's so easy to slip into whinging but there is so much of our everyday to be thankful for! Hope to see you both again soon! X x x

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