I am moved, even haunted, by water. For me, the sea, lakes, rivers, canals, and streams have always had a special, almost mystical, pull. I am an infrequent sailor, an abysmal paddler, and a romantic wannabe live-aboarder. My life is somehow more complete in the presence of water. And living in Dublin, I have it around me in all its many forms.
The Irish government’s soon-to-be-implemented municipal water scheme, which will have the Irish paying for the water running through their homes for the first time, got me thinking about water, where it comes from, and how we use it. But, in particular, it got me thinking about the role of water in the life of the migrant. Is it the same, or has it changed?
Many of us yearn to live by the sea. The dream of moving overseas and having a little place on the beach is a powerful fantasy. And, for centuries the ocean was the only way for migrants to relocate. It carried them away. And some were never heard from again. Either they had not the means to communicate or visit, or, on occasion tragedy struck the emigrant down even before they reached their destination. So, water, in the life of the migrant, is a motivating force, an enabling element, and often a powerful, often insurmountable, obstacle. Water, in equal measure, takes us away, delivers us safely, and punishes us for the very fantasy it inspires in us. Yet, in the life if the immigrant/emigrant there is more to it than even that.
The vast majority of modern migrants don’t move overseas to just “get by” in tiny country villages. They go for work, and the opportunities found in large cities – water cities. In times past, civilization thrived along watercourses (river cities, bays, ports, and canals) that facilitated industry and the movement of supplies and finished goods. These port towns have mostly developed into bigger cities over time, with the rivers and canals often becoming incidental as trade on motorways and through airports has taken their place. But because of what they once were, bays and confluences have long been practical destinations for migrants.
Water, now, or ancestrally, flows through the veins of emigrants, and informs many of their choices. Moving to a new city, starting again, many of us are not in a financial position to live in the nicer seaside communities. But, even as we start to unpack our treasured belongings in some inland compromise residence, our immigrant optimism casts its gaze forward, to the promise of a prosperous future, one in which we “upgrade” and move to the water. Or, in some communities, if you are new to the area and your resources are particularly limited, you may only be able to afford to live down near the water, amidst the noise and bustle of the working class port.
Dublin, as with many communities has both a working class docklands community, and wealthy waterfront enclaves. Once again the bifurcated nature of water as a goal to be sought, an enabler of work, and a form of “punishment” is all too clear.
As a result, most modern migrants are forced to think about water, and the role it will, or ought to, play in their life. How will I cross it? Will it bring me back safely someday?
And, when I arrive, will it be my punishment or my reward?
Perhaps it is simply, effortlessly, endlessly, both.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
- “Play The Skins” – Living abroad allows you to become someone “new” for a while.
- Renting Abroad, Home Maintenance and Property Management in a Foreign Country