Monday, February 20, 2006

The boy done good

Den Tenksomme Vraslosken

The difference between the tourist and the traveller is that while the tourist wants to move his home to a different location, the traveller seeks to understand his surroundings. At least that`s what a wise man told me once.

Having spent a lot of time traveling, I know where many people want to go is somewhere off the main road. The side road is usually the most interesting direction; this is where you are likely to find the kind of experiences you gain memories and perspectives from.

That is what I‘ve been telling myself. By meeting a fellow traveller at The City of Wolverhampton College, I might have changed my mind.

Anthony Pyne came all the way from Balbriggan, a coast town inside the Dublin area, to study Journalism and Editorial Design in the Midlands. We meet over a cup of coffee for a talk over nothing less than who we are and where we‘re coming from. “Balbriggan is a dead end town”, the 21-year old tells me. “Had I stayed there I really don‘t know what course my life might have taken.”

Anthony is quiet but well spoken. When talking about his Irish roots he becomes serious and subtle, seeking eye contact and understanding. I ask him what future he could see for himself in his home town, what he would have made for himself had he stayed behind in Balbriggan.

It‘s a question that would take the breath out of anyone, I know. Anthony leans back in his chair and adjusts his baseball cap, choosing his words with care. “I would have tried to find a job”, he says. “I would have tried to find work in a newspaper or at a radio station, but these days you need a University degree to do that, and that‘s the reason I came here.” We should be glad you‘re here then, I‘m thinking, drinking my coffee.

So you are telling me Balbriggan is not the place to be when pursuing a career in the media world, then? Anthony laughs. “No, it most definitely is not. It is a typical Dublin area town, expanding every month through new housing projects, supermarkets and pubs. The people living there commute to Dublin, those who actually have jobs, that is.” Anthony becomes quiet, swirling his spoon in his coffee. I have always thought people either love the town they are from or they absolutely hate the place. There is no in between. Or is there? Looking at Anthony I really don‘t know.

I put my theory to the test by telling him my experience, that lack of work goes hand in hand with social problems, and he nods. “Yes, that is the case. Balbriggan is pestered by drug dealing and alcohol related problems.” Anthony leans back and folds his arms, thinking through what he just told me. “But make no mistake, the majority of the people living there are decent and hard working, it‘s not all crime, problems and poverty.” He suddenly leans forward, eager to get his point across: “You see, fact of the matter is the Irish history is one of oppression and hurt, and the English don‘t understand this”, he says while looking into the depth of his cup of coffee. “Don‘t get me wrong, there is no hatred, but there definitely is a feeling of resentment.”

He pauses, considering his words carefully. “This feeling won‘t go away, but the wound is mending. The Irish economy is booming, and my Irish generation has the same opportunities as anybody else within the UK. I am going to do my very best to achieve my goals. There are no excuses not to make anything of myself, if there ever were any.”

Anthony becomes aware of his own voice, raises his eyebrows and leans back into his chair again. The speech is over, and I am left nodding slowly.

I`m thinking it is time to change the subject. Do you recycle, Anthony? He looks surprised, and asks me to repeat the question. “Recycle? No. I live in a shared house in Walsall; we have two wheeled bins, all the rubbish ends up there.” I tell him the Japanese store their rubbish underneath the sea, and that in Belgium forty percent of the rubbish gets recycled.

He looks unimpressed, folding his arms again. “I don‘t think a lot about recycling, to be honest. I have stopped thinking about saving the world. I have to save myself first!” We laugh, and I tell him I agree with that chain of priorities. “In China they eat dogs”, Anthony says, and gets up from his chair. By doing so, he is telling me the interview is over. He left me thinking, Anthony. I wonder whether Balbriggan will be in the back of my mind when I eventually get to see those green Irish hills. Somehow I don‘t think so.


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