Brynn Craffey

Happy new year...!

Filed By Brynn Craffey | January 03, 2008 4:58 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: European LGBT rights, immigration, Iraq war

Happy 2008 to the Bilerico community!!! May it be a healthy, joyful, peaceful and prosperous year for all of us and our loved ones and allies. And may it bring to the White House a president courageous and determined enough to end America’s occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and reverse the shameful erosion of democracy perpetrated by the Bush/Cheney regime.

Big changes are afoot for me in 2008 and despite my intimate acquaintance with transitions, I’m looking at the next few weeks and months with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. For I’ve decided to depart Ireland and return to the USA—a momentous decision for me.

I originally relocated to Dublin in the summer of 2004 in part for adventure and a change of scene but mostly as a tax protest against the war in Iraq. While my opposition to that debacle remains, a confluence of events in the past six months—which I can’t detail at this time—has eroded my resolve to remain in Ireland.

I originally considered relocating to France for a variety of reasons, chief among them to be closer to my daughter. But my elderly father has recently taken to saying he wishes I was closer. Considering that he has stood by me through thick and thin, I could not forgive myself if I put politics before being there for him. As a result, I plan to move back to the San Diego area in mid-January.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited in some ways about returning. I’m a third-generation Californian and the state’s geography, the Pacific Ocean, the quality of sunlight glinting on offshore wind-blown surf exert an almost mythic pull on me. I’m also going to love being closer to friends I’ve missed since I left San Diego in January, 2003. And let’s not forget, cheap, excellent Mexican food, scones from Bread & Cie on University Avenue in Hillcrest, and a huge variety of Trader Joe’s delicacies I’ve been without for three-and-a-half years!

At times, life’s significance does indeed boil down to the little things.

In a way that every expat will understand, I’m really looking forward to no longer being “the foreigner.” As a queer-identified FtM, I have reason to feel an outsider in many situations, which perhaps makes it harder that no matter how long I stay here nor how comfortable I find Irish culture, I will always remain “the Yank.”

People who have never tried to live in a foreign country don’t realize how challenging it can be. Which is another reason I have no patience for Americans who disparage migrants. Any American contemplating an unkind word against an immigrant who, say, doesn’t understand their barked command at a fast food counter should be obliged to live for a time in a foreign country. Trust me: even when the language is English, the cumulative unfamiliarity can take a toll over time. Simple tasks—making a long-distance call at a pay phone, figuring out how the hot water heater works, setting up a bank account—add up.

So what will I miss about Ireland? Well, there’s the weather. NOT! Irish weather is a trial. It’s near freezing and pissing rain right now and has been for days. Weeks even, off and on.

Seriously, though, there are so many things I’ll miss about Ireland. I hate leaving the many good friends I’ve made here: I will sorely miss you all. And I’ll miss the culture in general. Irish people are highly educated, intelligent, opinionated, and articulate as hell—all traits that I immensely enjoy. And probably because so many have traveled or lived abroad, they are remarkably well informed about the rest of the world. Your average Dublin taxi driver, for example, knows more about how the US government is organized and works than your average college-educated American—I kid you not. And he (oddly I’ve yet to see a female taxi driver) is quite ready to share his insights and viewpoints about said government.

I’ll also miss the Irish trait of cheering for the underdog—perhaps a relic of Ireland’s long history of exploitation at the hands of Britain. I’ll miss the artistic, literary and musical heritage. It’s no myth: Irish people actually do break into song in pubs. It’s amazing. The level of musical appreciation and awareness here means that the state radio stations—under the banner of Radio Telefís Éireann, or RTÉ—play an eclectic mix of Irish and world music which, thanks to the internet, I’ll not have to give up. Hopefully, RTÉ will also satisfy my fix for Ireland’s lilting accents and delightful turns of phrase.

So, what I’m going to regret about returning to the US? One big thing is the widespread acceptance on the part of the much of the electorate and elected officials that inequality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender is somehow warranted, or at the very least, too entrenched to reverse rapidly. Homophobia and transphobia definitely exist in Ireland, as does inequality due to sexual orientation and gender. What’s different, though, is the public consensus, including among most elected officials, that such discrimination and inequality are wrong and must be eradicated. Even the Taoiseach—or Irish prime minister—is not afraid to publicly commit to ending such discrimination, even if his party drags their feet to actually do so.

As well, I regret returning to the US while the war in Iraq still rages. It is wonderful to live in a nation with no history of warring against or occupying other countries. When I visited America in September, the widespread apathy about the war as well as the average person’s ignorance and indifference about world events in general and America’s role in them, were hard to stomach.

Then there are economics. Despite Dublin’s astronomical cost of living, high taxes, and the fact I’m a lowly administrative support employee, I have been able to climb my way out of considerable credit card debt during my tenure here and save more than I’ve ever saved in my life. This is in part because the Euro is very strong compared to the dollar, but also, Irish workers—who have maintained a class consciousness lost in the US since the Reagan era—fight harder to protect their rights. Consequently, though forces are conspiring to erode workers’ rights here, they remain better protected than in America. The minimum wage is livable and the social safety net relatively intact. Importantly, people continue to support taxation toward maintaining infrastructure and providing for society’s less fortunate.

On the whole, Irish people are more likely to equate quality of life to aspects other than how much money a person makes. In that vein, I can’t tell you how much I hate giving up 22 days of paid vacation a year!!!

Yep, it’s going to be an adjustment. I’ll try to keep y'all posted overtime on how it goes.


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Brynn, as someone who lived overseas for 2 1/2 years and also visited Ireland this past September, I enjoyed your post. Yes, living abroad is difficult. We lived in Italy and even though we had the U.S. Navy behind us (my husband was an officer in the Navy) there were still challenges. The crime rate was very high, and we were always worried whenever we traveled that our household belongings would be there when we returned. But the good (food, travel, history, the Amalfi Coast) always outweighted the bad. However, it was good to get back home when the time had come to leave.

Our trip to Ireland was one of the high points of my life! We started out in the west, and made our way east towards Dublin. I was amazed at the large population of immigrants in Dublin and heard many different accents on the street. I loved the people and the history and of course the music! And where else in the world can you get two different types of potato dishes at one meal? I am itching to go back! I'm sure you'll miss Dublin. But you can always go back. I applaud you for coming back to take care of your father.

I wish you an easy transition and a Happy and Healthy 2008!

People who have never tried to live in a foreign country don’t realize how challenging it can be. Which is another reason I have no patience for Americans who disparage migrants. Any American contemplating an unkind word against an immigrant who, say, doesn’t understand their barked command at a fast food counter should be obliged to live for a time in a foreign country.

I felt the same way the first time I lived in France. It was like, "I'm tryin', folks, I really am!" But living in a foreign country is hard, making friends when you don't know their language well is hard, going to the bank to set up an account is hard, no one wanting to give you time to read anything before signing contracts (which you can't even scan if they're not in English!) is hard, etc. etc.

Although I would also say that anyone offended by someone at a fast-food counter barking at them or those who go to lengths to get back at those folks should also be obliged to work fast-food for a time. That's not easy work either.

So am I the only contributor here living outside the US now? Oh, Brynn!

Couple questions for you, Brynn...

What made you choose Ireland to flee to? What was the lure of that particular country?

And didn't Ireland war with Britain? And Scotland? And the Romans?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 4, 2008 3:20 AM

Where else in the world can you get two different types of potato dishes at one meal?

Indeed!! I've been here long enough now to have forgotten my initial surprise at that. And you're right, Annette, I will miss Dublin and I can come back.

Alex, sorry to abandon you, dude!!! But it is only temporary.

Bil, I chose Ireland because the country held this deep fascination for me because it's the land my dad's mother and father came from. I never had the chance to meet my Irish grandparents as they both died long before I was born. Nor did I grow up in an Irish-American enclave. But my dad has been the most influential person in my life and he is SO Irish, despite being born and raised in the US. Somehow that made me always want to live here and I was fortunate that, because Ireland lost so many people to emigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, they grant citizenship to anyone who has at least one grandparent born here.

War with Britain and Scotland? And the Romans?! ;-) Ummm, yeah, it's true that the Irish have fought against those peoples when they invaded Ireland. (Although the Roman conflict is speculation, as it has been lost in the mists of time.) To my knowledge, though, Ireland has never invaded nor colonized another country, although the Irish have for centuries fought as British subjects, citizens and soldiers. Those conflicts, however, were instigated by the British crown, which had violently conquered Ireland.

Bill Perdue | January 4, 2008 1:43 PM

Brynn, I'd consider taking you place but if there are no Trader Joes than forget it.

Bil, the Irish have been victims of English invasion and colonization for several hundred years. The worst effects of colonization occurred in the 1840’s when the potato crop succumbed to disease. The 1841 census showed a population of just over 8 million. During the 1840’s and 1850’s about one fourth of the Irish died of starvation while the English owners of plantations in Ireland exported food for profit. The Irish called it The Great Hunger, in Gaelic An Gorta Mór or The Bad life, in Gaelic An Drochshaol.

The English are still in occupied northern Ireland and still killing the Irish. Rent the film BLOODY SUNDAY, made in 2002 about the 1972 English Army attack on Irish civilians in Derry, occupied northern Ireland. It was directed by Paul Greengrass. Equally good films are THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY and MICHAEL COLLINS.

Referring to the English depredations some Irish politely say that they'll forgive them but never forget. In the occupied north they just say "Go Home, Fuckin Brits" and for a while they said it explosively.

The Minutemen expressed the same sentiments while ambushing Redcoats in retaliation for their murderous actions in Lexington on April 19, 1775. The Minuteman chased the English from Concord – “the shot heard round the world” – back to Boston inflicting heavy causalities.

Yes, Bill, I agree with you. The Irish fought because they had to. They have never been invaders themselves. The English thought of them as less than dogs, tried to obliterate their language and culture, and at one time occupied most of the eastern part of the country, relegating the Irish to the uninhabitable west.

I believe Julius Ceasar had thoughts of conquering Ireland, but somehow he never made it over there. He turned around and went home.

I'm so glad to see that the "Troubles" have mostly disappeared and Ireland is a healthy, thriving country. They deserve it after all the centuries of suffering.