The Letter Home: Jonathan In Taiwan
A couple of years ago I wrote a letter to the Irish Independent. I vented my supposed frustration at the way the Government has forced thousands of young Irish men and women to emigrate. It was printed. Family and friends congratulated me and said they didn’t know I had it in me, etc. I didn’t.
I was angry that the Government has caused unknown damage to the Irish economy and psyche but on a personal level, I didn’t really care. I was leaving anyway, by choice. I am well read on the financial crisis both at home and globally and the problems that every country faces when it comes to financial security and market confidence (the recent debacle at Barclays is another example). However, I was not overly heartbroken about the rise in emigration; I was on the verge of emigrating myself.
I am a 26 year old male from Galway. I have a degree in Film and Television from GMIT Galway. I didn’t emigrate because I could not find work, I didn’t emigrate because I was in financial ruin; I emigrated because I wanted to. I wanted to travel, experience something different, to be honest I pity anyone who wants to stay in Ireland for the duration of their lives. Why?
Don’t get me wrong, this IS a great, great country. The people (most of them) are amazing. You really don’t realise how special the country is until to leave it for a reasonable length of time (2 weeks in Spain doesn’t count). Obviously it’s not perfect, some of the people are idiots, the weather sucks, it is expensive, but these things can be said for most countries. I just disagree that emigration is all bad. What is wrong with seeing the world and learning from it? Maybe that is one of the problems, we love our country so much that we don’t want to leave it. We refuse to learn about the world and how it operates. When it comes to global matters and how we fit in, we are redundant.
I have been lucky enough to see a bit of the world. I am currently teaching English in Taiwan. People have an impression that teaching English abroad is noble and something to be proud of, and to a certain extent it is. I’m not curing cancer or exploring space (not that I’d have a job due to cuts) but nor am I working in Xtra-Vision anymore. I teach five days a week to kids that would get bullied in every school in Ireland. They go to school at 7am, they leave English school at 9pm and they have school on Saturdays. I earn good money and the weather is tropical. I have many friends from all over the world, friends that I can learn from. My view of the world and Ireland’s place in it changes every day.
I guess what I am saying is that when I hear people complaining about leaving a barely functioning village in a barely functioning country I start to look down on Ireland a little more. Make the most of emigration, learn something, change a little, don’t go to the bloody Irish bar and socialise with only Irish people. A lot of my friends have emigrated but they chose to leave (I’m living with two of them) and they have not regretted it. Asia is incomparable to Ireland so I won’t even try (not better or worse, just completely different). I miss my family and friends just like everyone else – I have a great family – but I am living my life and I am enjoying it. I have no doubt that when the country stabilises, people will return and I feel that these people will be able to add to, if not change Ireland for the better because of their experiences abroad
Eventually I will return to Ireland but not for a long time and maybe not for good. Will it have changed that much? I doubt it, but I will have.
Jonathan Donnellan is an English language teacher from Galway