by Domingos Dirceu Franco (Brazil and Jordan)
Earlier this week I received an e mail from Domi with this text. I met Domi while he was in Ireland for 3 months to learn English. He’s Brazilian but lives in Amman, Jordan. I really like what he writes because it underlines how destination experiences can be powerfully transformative when we are open to new people, new experiences, new cultures. The text is reproduced exactly as written by Domi a real tribute to how much he has progressed at English during his 3 month stay
It’s difficult to write something about my experience in Ireland because my stay here didn’t last too long. I’ve been here for three months, but I consider it as a short time. I believe that to get to know a little about any culture, you need at least a year living in the country. To be honest, I didn’t know too much about this lovely country before I came here. However, if I look back, I would say it that was better, because every single reality I found out here, it was new and fascinating. People here are very helpful and are always ready to help you whenever you need anything. When you ask for information, people smilingly try to help you. It makes you feel at home and I just appreciate it. “A cup of tea” and “a pint of beer” now are part of my background. I know what it means for Irish people. It’s one of many ways to build relationships.
As far as I know, based on my experiences in several countries I have visited, when you build a relationship with native people, I mean, a true relationship, which doesn’t have any ulterior motives, the time of getting to know a new culture is usually reduced. That’s why I can say that in these three months, I took part in the life of this country and really appreciated its people. It enabled me to build true relationships with lots of Irish.
I came here to improve my English and, it might be because I’m hardworking, I have been able to improve it a little. The more I study English, the more I realize how little I know, but I’m glad with the level I’ve reached so far. My teachers and all the staff of Kenilworth Language Institute are capable, professional, friendly, helpful and wonderful people. They not only taught me English, but their history and culture as well. The environment of family I’ve found in the school is just amazing. The relationship with my schoolmates, who are from different countries, has been great and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I managed to build a relationship with each and every one I met in the school. I could nickname myself as a “small talkative person”. It’s a good strategy to build relationships. Then, last but not least, I would mention about the time I spent with my host family and with the Focolare community, which I belong to. These are indeed unforgettable experiences of understanding, sharing and listening to each other.
Back to Jordan
In order to express what my feeling about Ireland and its people is, I have to go back to Jordan to narrate a short story, which happens to me very often there. When I take taxi in Jordan, the taxi driver usually asks me why I left Brazil and moved there. Afterwards they ask me which country is the more beautiful in my opinion, Jordan or Brazil. I always tell them that the most beautiful country in the world is the country where you live at the present moment of your life. Because the beauty of any country is not composed only of natural resources, forests, beaches, deserts, green grass or lakes, etc. These are parts of its beauty, but in my opinion, the true beauty of any country is composed, above all, of its culture, history, traditions and values. I’m used to answering them that in the present moment of my life, Jordan is the most beautiful country in the world, because I live there and love its people and culture. Then, when they realize that I really like living there, they say to me strongly struck: “You look more Jordanian than us”. I usually reply that I just try to make every effort to belong to the country that I live in, by loving its people and culture.
In the three months I spent in Ireland, I can say likewise. It is not a copy of my Jordanian experience, but a strong inward feeling. Currently, Ireland is the most beautiful country in the world, because it is the country where I’m living now. It is not a beautiful country only because of its paradisiacal and gorgeous sightseeing and endless green grassy fields. The beauty of Ireland is above all its people with their culture and traditions.
During my stay here, I have had the opportunity to explore almost the whole country and I found lots of treasures. It was very important for me to understand a little bit, something about Ireland`s history. What really struck me about Ireland is its history. I believe that you can only understand the present if you are able to step back and have a look what happened in the past. Two weeks ago, I visited the Famine Memorial located close to O’Connell St. in Dublin. It was one of the most impressive tourist visits ever. I have never felt such a strong sense of respect and honour for a place, as I felt visiting that memorial. So far, I’ve been in 18 countries, but I really could say that visiting the Famine Memorial was something special and unique for me. More than one million people died due to the famine…another one or two million emigrated… It’s part of a sad and true story which has taught me what perseverance and determination mean. I can’t analyse the history and give my own interpretation. Who am I to do that? However, what I can do is honour those determined and hardworking people who for many reasons suffered such terrible fate. History teaches us that there are two Irelands: before the Famine and afterwards. It’s totally true.
When I was visiting the Famine Memorial, I nearly had to dry some tears dropping from my eyes. It was a moment of prayer and offering. Irish people know that it’s no use crying over spilt milk, and that is why they were strong and determined to overcome the effect of that tragic and sad part of their history. Usually, suffering in a family caused by the death of one of the parents for example, makes children become mature earlier than normal time demands. This is because sacrifice and hardship, but not only, enables people realize what really matters. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Even though we have experienced hard times in our lives, we can always overcome them and carry on. When we have everything we don’t really appreciate it. In life, we are used to taking many things for granted. It’s not our fault. The things we appreciate the most are the ones we have already lost. The sense of belonging to a country, for example, is stronger than ever, when and after something very hard has affected its people, such as a war, natural disasters or whatever else. If I have a look at Ireland’s history, I can easily understand why Irish people are filled with life, courage, joy, availability, gratitude, compassion, helpfulness, responsibilities, sensitiveness, generosity and in other words, full of Love. Love, the true love, agape, which has its roots in God, enables us to overcome every difficulty, and forgive one another. In the end, it makes us proceed on our divine journey concentrating our actions on what really matters: life is beautiful and must be lived completely.
The more I get to know Ireland the more I get love this country. I wanted to stay longer, especially to have more time to improve my English, but it was not possible. I am grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to stay here. After seven years living in Jordan, a three-month break, doing different things and in a different place, just came up as a present from God’s love towards me. This experience has really enriched me. I’m not the same person as when I arrived here. I have learnt a lot from each person I met and from every reality or situation I got know.
By this time next week, I’ll be going back to Jordan to continue my mission and adventure there. Making God’s will makes me happier than ever. I’ll bring this country and its people in my heart and in my prayers. I don’t want to say “good bye”, but only “see you”. I’ll miss you.
May God bless Ireland and the Irish.