I love Galway.
Well, beside the weather. Everything here looks just perfect. It has an unexplained vibe, a nice mix between interesting history and bright future, a lot of stuff and events going on around, not too big to be lost in and not too small to get bored and above all it has the nicest people in the world. I think that was the first thing that I realised when I moved to this city. How friendly everyone is. I think it is infectious. It spreads in the air. You have to be nice to be able to live in this city. People make you a nice person by their acts of kindness, even if you weren’t one. At least that was what I thought.
One day after work, I was walking around with my husband and we decided to have a quick bite at Subway. We ordered and sat on a table. I heard a hello coming from the next table. See usually I wouldn’t bother if I was some where else, specially that I was in a bad mood, but it’s Galway. I can’t be rude to Galway. I smiled and turned my face to reply the greeting. It was coming from an old lady sitting a lone and had some food spilled on her clothes. I wasn’t sure how normal she was but I just smiled and greeted her. Apparently she wanted to open a conversation as she asked: “Where are you from?”. As soon as my husband replied “Syria” the lady’s eyes widened with shock. She couldn’t hide her surprise for knowing our origins as she said “Oh My God, Syria, WOW, we have A LOT of Syrians back in Germany. They just keep on coming and coming, and no one else is accepting them. France closed the door, UK closed the door. Everyone but Germany. But we can’t keep on taking them anymore. They are just too many!”
It took me a moment to understand that I was actually in a racist conversation, in Galway, from someone not even Irish which I didn’t even know. I tried to collect my thoughts and said “But.. like.. are you here as a tourist then?”
– “My husband is Irish, he died anyway but our kids are studying here” She replied with confidence and then she started defending the Irish soil ” you don’t see a lot of Syrians refugees here in Ireland. There aren’t many, no?” I was so sick of the conversation that I couldn’t bother to answer, but my husband was in a better mood so he explained ” Actually there isn’t any asylum program here for Syrians to come. There was one for a period of time and only for certain conditions. We actually work here. We are not refugees”
– “Oh Good for you. But there are a lot of Africans refugees here. They come here dirty and uneducated. Not to mention that only men come here so they end up marrying Irish women! ”
I glimpsed a look at my husband and we both didn’t know what to reply. This lady was unstoppable. We tried to send each other a look that says “Let’s leave”, when she asked us out of the blue. “Are you Muslims?!”
-” Yes? ” My husband answered not sure what this had to do with anything.
-“Oh Muslims are doing very bad things. ISIS are killing everyone. They are evil. I see muslims sometimes here. Oh the way they dress women and how they cover their bodies and faces like criminals! Oh My God! But how do you live in this city? It’s a christian city” The German lady kept on talking and I kept on listening while fighting the urge to slap her on the face. She just covered all the racists topics! I couldn’t take it anymore and I really wanted to leave.
-“Well, actually Islam and Christians are very close.” My patient husband replied. “We believe in Jesus and Mary peace be upon them. It’s all written in Quran. and ISIS is just a crazy extremist group that has nothing to do with Islam”
-“But do you believe in the Judgment day?” The lady kept interrogating us, while my husband went on explaining.
-“Yes, we also believe that before it, Jesus will return and unite all believers and fight against the evil until he wins.”
The lady stopped talking for a minute as she didn’t expect that, but she wasn’t happy enough. “I see” she mumbled and then as if she had an idea, she said, “but you are taking the Irish jobs! I know Irish are leaving the country now to US and Australia because they can’t find jobs any more. The foreigners are taking their jobs. I was a teacher but I left my job and gave private lessons at home after the Irish told me you are taking our job!”
– “The Irish are leaving Ireland because everyone has a different reason. Some people look for better salaries, better conditions and different types of jobs. I know that companies do a market job search before hiring anyone from outside. I don’t think am taking anyone’s job” I replied trying to end this conversation. I wasn’t sure at this point if she is the offender or the victim. I guess she was a mix of both, or the latter led to the first. But she was just jumping over all my nerves.
-“But you are going back aren’t you? I mean to Syria? I know I left Germany during the war but I went back there afterwards. Are you going back? Do you know if all the Syrians are going back?” The racist lady asked. She really hates our race and can’t bother to hide it!
-” We don’t know. It’s too complicated to answer right now” My husband replied and by that time we had finished our meal so we looked at each other and stood up to leave after saying goodbye to the lady that didn’t bother to even reply.
I couldn’t keep her out of my head for the rest of the day and the days that followed. Talking about Syria, war, refugees, Islam, and ISIS were all the topics that were the hardest to talk about and somehow she managed to put them all on the table, just in front of our faces. I don’t want to think if I am ever going back to Syria, my beloved country. I can’t explain how much it hurts having to leave it and in the same time not wanting to see it now as it is. I don’t even know how it is right now. I don’t want to picture all the people who are dying under siege or drowning in the sea trying to reach Germany just to be treated with the least degree of humanity. I don’t want to think about ISIS and how it’s ruining Islam and complicating life for Muslims every where. And how does the Irish think about me working here? I never had this thought in my mind before. Although I thought I defended myself from this charge in front of her, but the idea kept growing inside my head as a ball of snow. Am I taking someone else’s job? I work at an international place with people form all nationalities. I never realized how would it be if everyone else was Irish. How would they treat me? Would they think am taking an Irish job away? But for all this time I dealt with many Irish people in different domains and they were all really super nice and friendly to foreigners. They even got Galway to be the world’s friendliest city in the world! Is it possible that I didn’t meet them all yet?
I couldn’t find answers to all of these concerns but I hope this is only a delusion of an old racist lady. I still believe in the kindness of the Irish people that I was overwhelmed with and I could never think of Ireland anything but my second home.
Galway voted world’s friendliest city : http://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/galway-voted-worlds-friendliest-city-nos-3-and-4-arent-bad-either-31486063.html
I love Galway.