By Casey Purcella
Casey recently moved 5,000 miles across the globe from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is his story.
I imagine for a lot of people, and certainly for me, moving to another country is one of the most enticing and aspirational goals on one’s list of things to accomplish at some point during a lifetime. It’s also one of the most challenging things to actually pull off. A few weeks ago, I landed in the United Kingdom with a visa giving me a full year and five months of permission to live in Killowen, a tiny town about an hour outside Belfast, whilst I pursue a master’s degree in animation.
I’ve been in Ireland for about two weeks now, which is barely enough time to unpack my suitcase, let alone get a true feel for the new system I have to live within now. Most of the things I’ve had to adjust to so far involve normal, day-to-day parts of life: talking to the neighbors, shopping for groceries, taking out the trash, doing housework and normal things like that.
“I’ll often find myself staring blankly at someone, not realizing they’ve asked me to do something or go somewhere, until it’s pointed out to me.”
The accent in the north of Ireland is thick enough that when people speak it, it sounds nearly impenetrable. Before moving here, I never would have considered how important the interjections (asides and turns of phrase that we use as shorthand to interact) are. I’ll often find myself staring blankly at someone, not realizing they’ve asked me to do something or go somewhere, until it’s pointed out to me. The way I have thought about it so far is that everything is the same, but slightly different. Sometimes it’s for a reason I can understand, and sometimes it’s for no reason at all.
Everything is functionally the same for the most part, yet altered by a few details from what I am used to. For example, the light switches flip the opposite way. Orange juice with pulp is called orange juice with “juicy bits.” As most people probably already know, the driver’s seat in a car is on the right, yet cars drive on the left side of the road (by the way, it’s taken me only a few weeks of driving to pick up on this, and even though I am still mindful it doesn’t take so much concentration to make sure I stay on the correct side of the road). In general, people are living largely the same ways as I am used to in Albuquerque, but it’s easy to tell that Albuquerque and Ireland are both unique in their own ways.
Because of this, I could easily say that moving to Ireland has been a massive change, and I could also say that it’s hardly been a change at all, depending on how I want to spin it. Of course everyone understands that people in other parts of the world like different sports, watch different TV shows, live in different climates, eat different food, and all of those other things we understand make each place different from every other place. Everything is similar in general, in that it is easy enough to function, and things are understandable in this new place.
Since I’ve arrived, the high temperature each day has been in the mid-to-low 60s-Fahrenheit, with a lot of mist or light rain. That’s different from the 100 degree temperatures I’m used to in Albuquerque, but not so different that I’m unable to comprehend it. But the fact that the temperatures are measured in Celsius on the weather forecast, on signs and in conversation, makes temp. conversation a daily exercise. Add the new accent, the different money, the way “street parking” means drivers leave their cars parked partly on the sidewalk and, a few other social differences can make this place seem totally unfamiliar. You wouldn’t think that this is the case is a fundamentally Western country where people speak English, watch television and shop at H&M start to seem totally, unfamiliar.
“The world is full of things to do and experience, and I know I will only get to experience a fraction of what’s out there to do.”
Many people I know in Albuquerque that knew I was moving to Ireland told me that now, at age 26, is the time to do something like move to another country. That it was something that they always wished they had done. Now that I actually moved to another country, I’m happy to know that I wont have any regrets. It’s too early for me to say whether living in another country is truly essential for a “full life.” The world is full of things to do and experience, and I know I will only get to experience a fraction of what’s out there to do.
Iv’e grown to love and appreciate Albuquerque, especially after returning from a steady bout at Mizzou. I really do think Albuquerque is the best place in the world. It has the biggest sky and the most soul. The best advice I can think to give people living there now, as someone who has had to say goodbye, is to find out what your friends and family love about Albuquerque and try to share in that joy. It was hard to leave Albuquerque, and I know from the amount of work it took to get here (Killowen) and settle in that it will take a lot of work again if I ever want to return to ABQ for more than just a visit.
Casey Purcella is a graphic designer, journalist and Grey Wolf contributor. He can be reach at email@example.com.