Locking in

After what has felt like a lifetime of waiting (summarised by the equation: bureaucracy + Covid19 = delay + delay), we’ve got the documentation required and have FINALLY been able to book our flights so we’ll be heading out (negative PCR tests dependent) close to the end of the month. The bumbling out-pour of words in that lengthy sentence might give some indication as to just how excited we are about this. We could never have predicted that we would still be in Ireland in March 2021, but we know we’re not alone in seeing some unusual goings-on this last year.

Moving is always complicated and stressful. Moving with a child is more complicated and stressful still. Moving internationally has added complications and stress. And finally, moving internationally during a pandemic is yet more of the above. So we’re chipping away at the ever-present to-do lists (plural), trying to take it one day at a time and attempting to stay focussed on the things that are within our control. Now that flights are booked, we have a deadline and we can be reassured that, one way or another, we will be getting on a plane. Everything that needs to be done will get done by then, because it has to! That is all of the advice that I could give to anyone moving abroad: it’ll all get done because it has to. I hope I don’t come to regret saying that.

We’ll get on that metal tube and 13 hours later we should arrive on the island that is to be our new home. Whether or not those 13 hours are hell for us and our fellow passengers (as we attempt to explain to a toddler with the new-found ability to walk that leaving your seat is not really permitted) remains to be seen but the time and miles should still continue to pass in spite of what happens throughout.

Here’s to getting moving; avante!

Thank you, Clinton

I’m British-born*. My wife is Irish-born*. After some back-and-forth with Her Majesty’s Passport Office (complicated by my father’s pre-WWII Burmese birth), our child now carries citizenship for both countries. Our little family, it turns out, is an ongoing reflection of the geopolitical relationship between these two islands. I look forward to recounting the story to our offspring one day.

We can start with Irish partition/Home Rule then head through to the Troubles (where my father served a very active British Army tour in bomb disposal). We’ll look at how the Good Friday Agreement ensured dual citizenship rights that pass on the benefit of two passports and then on to Brexit and the reasons why one British passport in our family is a different colour and layout to another. We might even, if I dare, discuss the Protestant/Catholic divisions in Ireland and how, even now, the administrative complexities in our ‘mixed marriage’ were avoided by our Humanist ceremony (/my atheism).

Oh yes, my poor child can look forward to a lifetime of in-depth explanations tying the present to the past. And that’s just how it should be, said the History Teacher.

*I say “-born” as I don’t know the extent to which the places of our birth truly reflect either of our senses of belonging at this stage of our lives. I, for one, find it hard to look at the consequences of the last UK election (or, for that matter, some of those that preceded it) and feel “yes, that’s my nation”. Particularly today, as the UK hits the tragic milestone of topping 100,000 Covid19 deaths: one of the worst in the world (at this point in time) and the Prime Minister responsible announces that “we truly did everything we could”. Disillusionment, I guess you would call it. Perhaps it goes some way to explaining why we’ve spent the last 5 years hanging out with a million and a half penguins 8,000 miles from our home countries. Yet another discussion for another day, that.

Moving on

NOTE: Despite the date of publishing, this piece is/was written (for posterity) in late January 2021. This blog, and its sister site (www.pengoingsouth.com) are intended primarily as our own record of our adventures, while also hopefully providing some news, education and entertainment to friends, family and anyone else who stumbles across it. So I’ve written this to record our situation as of 26/01/2021 and it will join our archive, to be read back over sometime many years from now when we have come through the other side of whatever lies ahead. B: ever the historian. Now, to business:

As the popular historian Dan Snow comments: anniversaries and key dates cause us to “pause to reflect on the passing of time, even though there is nothing different about that day to any others”. He’s right, of course, and the end of the calendar year 2020 was a prime example of that. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is a large social occasion to say a fond farewell to the year just gone and to welcome in the year ahead. This year, Covid19 (well, I made it 5 lines before it came up!) removed much that we could consider normal for the New Year (as it has with so many aspects of our life). Still, we pause and reflect nonetheless.

We, like most people, haven’t had the 2020 that we might have come to expect. Having a baby in late 2019 wasn’t a smooth and straightforward journey for us (I won’t go into it here) and so we began 2020 as we ended it: unexpectedly stranded in Ireland when we should have been at our home in the Falkland Islands. After a prolonged 5 months away, we did manage to return to our charming little house in the Falkland Islands, but the remote island medical care (among other factors) meant that we weren’t able to stay. We had a few months to pack up our belongings, say our difficult goodbyes and bid a fond farewell to the islands and people that we have grown to adore. It was during our months in the Falkland Islands that the global situation declined and it became increasingly clear that Covid19 wasn’t going to make life smooth.

What should (and what could) we do once we were in a position to travel? How do two people with a new baby follow 5 years in the Falkland Islands? These were the questions that we faced while navigating the myriad other problems that 2020 was presenting society with.

Unable to meet up with family, unable to travel around the country and unable to see the many friends that we have missed after spending so long away, we concluded that we may as well be in a different country again. So that’s just what we concluded! We knew we liked small island life, but it was also time for something a little different. We were also keen to see some sun after spending three winters in a row (as a result of the poor timing of our trans-hemispherical migration). Most importantly, if I was to re-enter the classroom after two years out of it, I was keen to find the right professional fit.

After a thorough search, I was fortunate enough to find and secure a post in another Commonwealth archipelago! This time, a little further North and with far fewer penguins: we are bound for the Seychelles!
We set about completing the familiar (from the Falklands) paperwork and medicals needed (all relatively straightforward: no typhus, syphilis or tuberculosis here thank you very much)! And now, we wait…

Thus far, our knowledge and experience of the Seychelles is limited to what we can glean from conversations, books and this here internet. There are some fairly striking contrasts with the Falklands, but it seems there is also a lot of overlap. We have experience of former-colonial small island nations and the way things work on them and so we have been pleased to already find some familiarity: the ever-friendly population, limited internet and a more relaxed attitude to that which you might find in our former homes in, say, London and the Home Counties.

There’s not too much more to say at this juncture as we have yet to receive a final flight date. We have to wait for the mixture of government permits and Covid19 travel restrictions to be navigated, all while the Seychelles undergo the first major change of government that they have had in several decades. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be addressing some history in glorious detail soon enough! Patience, my fellow historians!
At the time that I was recruited, the islands had managed to remain Covid-free and society was continuing to function in an enviably normal way. Since then, even their strict quarantine measures have not been able to fully control such a contagious virus and some community transmission has occurred. As a result, the islands are in lockdown while the vaccination programme attempts to contain the virus as quickly as possible. In all fairness, with a population of just over 90,000, they’re reporting that 18,000+ of the most at-risk have been vaccinated already so they’re doing better than most countries right now! Still, without full coverage, travel remains tricky and it hasn’t been made any easier by our own unfortunate brush with Covid19 (we are fine, thank you; fully recovered). We’ll all need a negative PCR test to get on a plane, for a start, and that can take some time after recovery so that’s yet another waiting game. We remain resilient, adaptable and excited to begin the next chapter of our lives in a new and, perhaps, unusual location.

As before with Pengoing South, we would like to maintain this blog during our time and it truly helps us to stay motivated to know that people are logging on, reading, enjoying and participating in it so please do comment (on here or through other media) and feed back with your thoughts, suggestions and ideas to help keep us working on it. When I figure out the new layout, I’ll add an email subscribe box for you to automatically stay up to date with all of our posts. Until then, thank you for logging on, reading this far and welcoming Pen Going East to the World Wide Web.

B, H & J