the pandemic brought this Irish woman closer to her home


I once read somewhere that “it’s the friends you can call at 4 in the morning that count.” Not that this is something I would inflict on someone unless I really need to, but it’s heartwarming to at least have the opportunity and there have certainly been times over the past few months. where I got closer. The pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, what I discovered was that it brought me closer to home.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2012 to train as a primary teacher and have been here ever since. As an Irishman, Edinburgh is not the most difficult city to settle in. It is only a 50 minute flight from Dublin and is full of Irish pubs and a large Irish community.

I don’t claim to be a GAA fan, but I have watched a Monaghan vs Donegal match in Malone’s pub on Forrest Road in Edinburgh before and was amazed to find that there were enough people living here from these two counties to completely pack the place. Although many of my Irish comrades from my teaching class returned home to Ireland after their training, I was more than happy to stay put.

I have been fortunate enough to be part of a great group of friends who I have stayed in touch with over the years

I have never really been a domestic bird. I had the chance to experience living abroad for the first time at the age of 21, during an Erasmus year in Sweden. However, upon returning home to complete my final year of undergraduate studies at University College Dublin, I found it extremely difficult to re-establish myself in Irish life.

After being quite unhappy during my last year of college, I decided to uproot myself again and move to Nagaski, Japan to teach English through the Japan Exchange Teaching Program (JET). I stayed there for two years, but once again on my way home from my big adventure, I felt restless and unstable and that’s how I ended up in Edinburgh.

At school, I was fortunate to be part of a great group of friends with whom I have stayed in touch over the years, despite life’s obstacles. However, until the last few months my contact with them was very sporadic. I saw them at bachelorette parties, weddings, at Christmas and occasionally when I was home. However, throughout the pandemic that has changed.

Since social distancing measures have been put in place around the world, our modes of communication have changed and we have had to adapt to this new “coronavirus culture”.

Lynn Rusk: “Before the pandemic, the only people I really spoke to on the phone were my family and sometimes my friends back home.” Photography: Alejandro Basterrechea

Instead of meeting up with friends over a coffee or at the pub, we turn to Zoom and WhatsApp to communicate with our loved ones. While these restrictions have made it more difficult to see people in person in the places we now live, they have widened our choices about who we communicate with on a daily basis, as distance is no longer an issue.

Although I have lived in Edinburgh for eight years and have developed strong relationships and bonds with many people here, I have never spoken to people on the phone. Calling someone seemed almost more intimate than meeting in real life and before the pandemic the only people I ever really spoke to on the phone were my family and sometimes my friends back home.

I currently live alone in Edinburgh which under normal conditions was something I really enjoyed but during the lockdown I have to admit I felt lonely at times. While I am aware that Edinburgh is not exactly Timbuktu, not being able to get home easily due to the quarantine restrictions was also quite difficult.

The only good thing, however, about everyone stuck at home is that people are always up for a chat and since distance is no longer an issue I was able to take Zoom and Quiz have a drink with my friends back home.

It has been a comfort to hear from other people living overseas at the moment

Over the months, I have developed a habit of talking to a few of my school friends on a regular basis and it has been a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. Our friendships have deepened. Two of my friends recently had babies and video chatting was the perfect way to stay in touch and get to know their little ones, an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if life had gone at its usual pace.

During a crisis, there is something comforting about talking to people you have known all your life. It was also a comfort to hear from other people who are living overseas at the moment. These people, who are spread all over the world, said they felt the same.

While I’m nervous about how the next few months will unfold due to the ever-changing government restrictions in Scotland and Ireland, I’m grateful to have an abundance of support both here and at home.

Living in lockdown isn’t a long-term way of life, but when things do eventually get back to normal, life will be even sweeter.

Lynn Rusk is originally from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, but now lives in Edinburgh where she works as a primary school teacher and freelance journalist.

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