Part of the Mosaic

I used to joke that living in Wyoming had ruined cities for me–four years of small towns and empty plains make it hard to adjust to a concrete jungle. I had never been to Dublin before this year, and approached the change with apprehension–would I be able to keep up with the frenetic pace of a global capital? Or would I be lost in the chaos? During my time here, Ireland has surprised and delighted me, perhaps most powerfully in its ability to shape itself around the needs of each of us. A living mosaic, Dublin can be taken as its impressive whole or seen up close for the distinct, small spaces that compose it. I am glad to say that I have found my eye in the middle of the city’s living storm; far from being lost, I feel very much in place.

There are many elements that make up homesickness, not least of which is your native language. Growing up in Mozambique, I took for granted the particular musicality of Portuguese. After moving to the U.S., I missed those familiar sounds painfully. I had no expectation that this particular aspect of homesickness would disappear in my new Irish life, and was therefore astonished to discover a vibrant Brazilian community across Dublin. Without seeking it out, I had found in Dublin what I had missed so much for so many years–voices that sounded like home. This has struck me as a defining characteristic of Dublin: alongside a strong Irish identity, there is a welcome diversity of experiences and origins. I have no anxiety that I am out of place, because there is no firm standard for what in place even looks like–there is room to be colorful while still belonging in the mosaic.

In my postcolonial studies I was always struck by the way that colonization scars a country: while the details of occupation may differ, trauma marks the population. I have been struck by the foundation of cultural understanding that I have found with other postcolonial students: our fierce patriotism exists alongside both a grim recognition of enduring challenges and a lingering resentment for the abuse that enabled them. In my studies, the world has been presented as a dichotomy: colonized vs. colonizer becomes interchangeable with developed vs. undeveloped. Ireland defies that pattern. Although it is an economic powerhouse with a strong influence in global politics, its own historical trauma remains a part of the national psyche. When classroom conversations turn to oppression and occupation, students lean forward, engaged by the recognition that these are not curses suffered by strangers, but a reality. In my life, I have fought to break down the layer of insulation that exists in wealthy nations to separate them from global crises. In Ireland, I have found that I don’t have to fight as hard: there is empathy for those who suffer at the hands of imperialism and respect for those who overcome it. This recognition that we are not so different has made me feel deeply at home in a new country.

Many Mitchell scholars can point to Irish ancestors whose influence lives on in their last names, in their hair color, in their national pride. Several others, like me, have no genetic ties to the island. And yet, I feel at home. Ireland’s complicated past and diverse present resonate within me and provide a sense of belonging. I am so proud to be a part of this living mosaic, and I am so grateful to have found where I am in place.

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