We were told my husband’s Bajan work permit would take 6-8 weeks. So, we moved the whole family kit and kaboodle back to Ireland from Jamaica, thinking it would just be an extended holiday. It took 8 months! A introduction to the Bajan speed of doing things; what I now know well as ‘island time’…
So, for a Bajan work permit you need all sorts of things. A syphilis check. Lung x-ray. Translation of your degree certificate if it’s in Latin. Affidavits backing up jobs you wished you had never mentioned on your CV from the far distant past. Proof that the job has been advertised and interviewed for locally.
None of these were so difficult to obtain. But, what was torturous, was not knowing upfront what was needed. Each time a document was submitted by fed-ex to Barbados, we’d have a 6 to 8 week wait, and then be told something else was required.
We left Jamaica just before Christmas 2016 and moved into my mother-in-law’s house in Wicklow, Ireland. Coming from the Caribbean sunshine to cold and the dark was a shock. Freezing stone floors! Socks and blankets! Darkness at 4pm! The children relentlessly carried on waking up at 6am, even though it was still dark for ages, asking me ‘is it day time yet’ even at midday. I struggled to adjust myself, and think borrowing a ‘wake-up clock’ to give me some light to wake up to made a big difference.
As the weeks turned into months, people would ask us when we were moving to Barbados. It began to sound like an increasingly far-fetched fantasy. Christmas became spring. Then it was summer. We felt like we were waiting at a bus stop for an imaginary bus that everyone else knew would never come. ‘Not gone to Barbados yet? Ah well.’ The waiting somehow devalued the joy that we all felt to be home. We were home, yet on our way off again. Happy to be there, but waiting on a better offer. Felt like traitors! It doesn’t help that Barbados doesn’t sound like a real place. Not on a Wicklow winter morning in a wet playground. It just sounds mad.
For us, the uncertainty was exhausting. For the children it was confusing. My two year old daughter actually asked a cashier in Lidl, Wicklow whether this was Barbados?! I made about 4 trips back over to England to say goodbye to my parents, thinking we’d be flying out soon, not knowing if I’d see them again in a month or not for a year.
My mother-in-law was wonderfully patient through it all, yet we would never have imposed ourselves on her if we’d known it was going to be for so long! We all had our moments. An annoyingly accurate adage applies here, ‘No two women wring a cloth the same way’. Some deep breaths were taken. Thankfully, we all just about held it together. And she got to spend loads of time with her grandchildren, loving taking them for country walks and adventures. And she managed to survive the unending germ warfare as they caught every cold that was going. Viruses. Strep throat. Chicken pox.
Then there was our ‘Shed of Things’. We’d shipped about 30 large boxes of stuff back from Jamaica, and it had all been stacked away, waiting to be shipped out again. But, as the weeks turned into months, I needed bits and pieces. I started randomly ripping into boxes, pulling stuff out, reorganising, re-packing, feeling more delusional than ever. It felt like somehow our real life was waiting in those boxes. And beginning to get damp at the edges.
Planning ahead was impossible. We had to keep telling ourselves to make the most of every week! On about 4 occasions, when we had some faint glimmer of hope to believe the work visa really was going to be issued at any minute, I did various shops. One haul from Ikea, one from Boots etc. Suitcases full of linen and china from my parents’ house in England. Then I’d get home, get more bad news, and bundle the stuff out into the shed.
We rented car after car. New one every 28 days. Nice to have a shiny clean car, but what a waste of time and money having to keep going back out to the airport to hire it. Both of us had lived out of the country to long to have any no claims bonus, which made buying and insuring a car impossible. Which is ironic, as after 5 years of driving around the crazy roads of Kingston, Jamaica I think I deserve a medal for never having had an accident!
Luckily, our five year old son got into the local National School, Nun’s Cross. He loved it. His accent became a very strange mix; like a Jamaican Rasta lost in Wicklow. I however, had the two girls at home; aged 2 and 3, which was a bit of a shock! In Jamaica, they’d both been at pre-school. Because we didn’t know how long we were staying in Ireland, I eventually gave up on the impossible task of finding them a nearby nursery with any places. I had some dark days, feeling very isolated. Frustrated by my own lack of power over the work permit. By not having any private space. Struggling to entertain the girls, keep the house straight, dry the washing in the endless rain.
But with the spring sunshine came new friendships, finally play dates for the kids and much-needed chats with other local mums for me. I managed to lose some weight, a total of 33 pounds over 8 months, finally getting on top of some bad eating habits and accumulated baby weight with the help of my health-coaching cousin and by following a diet called Bright Line Eating. And I started running again, all over the forestry trails of the little mountain just by us called Carrick. Loving the long light of the stunningly slow summer dawns. Feeling the landscape scoring into my soul. Simultaneously euphoric to be there and torn apart to be going.
Overall, the stretch at home was wonderful. In retrospect, already a kind of golden time. The chance to properly catch up with friends. To be out in the cool Irish fresh air again. Hill walks and horse-riding. Keeping chickens. Picking blue berries. Seeing lots of my own parents and family. Having my husband spend more time with the children than he ever had before.
But leaving beautiful Wicklow in mid-summer? Just heart-breaking.