Ireland, my 43rd country. Or I mean, Northern Ireland, my 42nd country and the Republic of Ireland, my 43rd country.

This summer was a bit stressful, so I was really looking forward to this getaway. But I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to be one with the crowds and remain as a stranger. I didn’t really see anything crazy in the way I had… marvelled at the the temples of Bagan. Nothing really shook my tastebuds like… the spices in Moroccan lamb tagine, either.

Perhaps I’m saying this because of how I journaled the entire time - I used the BVOY Travel Journal as a gift from Tate. Because of the prompts, I did a lot of reflecting in Ireland vs my day to day in Toronto. I’ve never journaled so concisely before, nor have I been so constructively critical of myself either. If anything, I had fun writing anything that came to mind in an open notebook, but having some specific direction made me see my trip in a whole different light.

Don’t get me wrong, I still went around and explored Belfast, Galway and Dublin. The nature was incredible by the coast - The Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, all breathtaking to see with my very own eyes (oh yes, maybe I am downplaying it as well because I don’t watch Game of Thrones). I had experienced yet again, a healthy dose of kindness and hospitality from the Couchsurfing and BJJ community. In Belfast, my CS host Colin shared some of his brother’s vegetable curry with me. In Galway, I left my mouthguard (GUM! SHIELD!) at Point Blank Submissions but realized it hours before I was departing for Dublin. Oisin left work and dropped it off in the city center for me. In Dublin, I was hosted by Denis from Matsurfing and we trained at JSBJJ. I visited my friend Moritz and we trained at ECJJA and day tripped to Howth. I finally tried the freshest pint of Guinness one could possibly try at the Guinness Storehouse (and my goodness it was so delicious).

But the one thing that stuck with me was the high number of immigrants in the city who made the move for a better paying job, or the chance to learn English. The fact they’re willing to share rooms (not an apartment, I mean the room themselves) with multiple other people to save on rent. The fact that there’s a housing crisis in Dublin but unlike Toronto, not enough actual geographical land mass to expand. I met a couple of immigrants from Brazil, Turkey, Croatia, etc. and everyone’s working hard to build a better life for themselves and/or their families back home. But also smiling through it because for a lot of them, it’s better than what they had back home. My conversations with some of these people were more memorable than some of the tourist sights. I think just being in the environment and listening to the stories made it even more eye-opening. I mean, the immigrant story isn’t something new - my parents went through it, and so have many others. But for some reason, I don’t think I really clued into the reality of it all until recently. It was a weird realization to come to because I’m a product of immigration, yet I only understood the textbook definitions of the immigrant struggles until now.

I’m curious to see what Brexit will hold, because if the UK does part ways with the EU, then the ??? between Northern Ireland and the R.O.I will be ???!!?!!! and the R.O.I will be the only official English speaking country left in the EU. What would that mean for housing prices, population density, the job market, etc… the list goes on and on.