WHEN the first lockdown hit around this time last year, for many, their thoughts immediately went to their loved ones living abroad. And for those living overseas, their thoughts were back home.
As words like lockdown, Covid-19, virus, social distancing, masks and sanitising all filtered their way into everyday use, families and loved ones were separated by thousands of miles, oceans apart as a global pandemic kept them away from each other.
People have missed out on coming home for weddings, funerals, births, Christenings, milestone birthdays, engagements and many other family occasions.
Most of all, they have missed hugging, kissing, and just being with their family and friends.
LIFE IN OZ
Ross Caplice and Róisín Dineen moved to Melbourne in December, 2019 — that was the last time they saw their family and friends.
Ross is an Accident & Emergency doctor from Mallow and Róisín is a nurse specialist from Newcastle West.
Before they left for Oz, they both worked in CUH and the Bons and when Covid hit, Róisín started working with the Department of Health in Melbourne to help with the surge, while Ross stayed within the hospital setting to combat the rising case numbers.
Deciding to move across the world is always a tough decision, being afraid of missing out on something big or not being able to get home in time in case something happens, but Covid amplified all of these fears.
“Since leaving, I have missed out on engagements, my friends becoming new moms, and not being near my mom, brother and sister is heartbreaking.
“I haven’t hugged or kissed them in over a year and I can’t help but feel a wave of sadness thinking about that.
“I had planned a trip home in August as a surprise for my Mom’s birthday, but that has been cancelled.
“Covid-19 has made things that used to be second nature to us seem like a distant memory.
“I also worry about my mom and sister, who both work in the health sector, as do Ross’ parents. It’s a constant worry that they are all safe and healthy”, said Róisín.
Both employed in the health sector, Róisín said that work over the past year has been more stressful than anything they could have ever anticipated.
There was one silver lining however, but it was not how Ross and Róisín imagined sharing such news. The young couple got engaged just after Christmas and, while they have both booked five weeks off for December this year, they are not convinced their dream wedding will go ahead in 2021. It now looks like their wedding could happen in 2022.
“The engagement happened just after Christmas. We went to a nature reserve called Merri Creek for a walk, as it was a beautiful sunny day. Ross was sweating a bit towards the end, which made me think he was afraid of the lizards along the path, but he managed to pick a beautiful spot and got down on one knee to pop the question.
“I still can’t stop smiling. We immediately Facetimed our families, who celebrated with a champagne breakfast.
“It was such a bitter-sweet moment not being able to physically be with them all. We feel like it’s impossible to plan an Irish wedding with so much uncertainty, but are happy to wait until that is possible.
“To us, it will be worth the wait to celebrate our special day with the people we love,” the bride-to-be said.
Even though this has been an extremely challenging time to be both working in the health sector and living abroad, Róisín said that their time living in Melbourne has made them certain that they would like to continue living abroad. Ross is currently working as a Registrar in A&E, in the hopes of completing his training over there.
Looking to the future, when air travel will be permitted and safe, Ross and Róisín said that once normal travel resumes, they will be on a flight back home.
“The thought of that makes me so happy. To be able to do the simple things that mean so much to me, like going for a walk with my mom.
“I miss walking down Oliver Plunkett Street hearing The Echo man outside the post office. It reminds me of my late dad William, who was from Gurranabraher. He religiously bought The Echo paper even though he lived in Limerick.
“Our local shopkeeper used to joke and tell him he was a brave man. We lost him to suicide in 2005 and I think about him every day,” Róisín said.
She added that in the current climate, with so much uncertainty, that mental health services are so important and she said the work they do cannot be underestimated.
LIFE IN CANADA
Nicola Santry, originally from Blackrock, has been living in Vancouver for almost six years and she was last home in Cork in August, 2019, when herself and her husband Padraic got married and were home for three weeks.
“We originally moved here because we had always wanted to try living abroad and we were both interested in Canada, especially when the two-year visa gave us plenty of time to try it out.
“I loved the look of the scenery in Vancouver and it has a healthy tech scene for me to find work,” said Nicola.
When Covid hit, they had been home the previous August, so they had no immediate plans to go home at the start of 2020. Nicola added that they usually come home for Christmas every second year and would have been home for it in 2020 if it had been possible and safe to do so.
“My husband and I had booked our honeymoon in Hawaii for March, 2020 — great timing. We ended up cancelling it just over a week beforehand when everything was changing on a daily basis,” Nicola said, speaking of how Covid really put the brakes on their plans.
“My mother, father and my younger brother Richard were going to come over to me in August, 2020, for a road trip we had been planning for well over a year. I was going to take them to the Canadian Rockies. It was to be their second time visiting me over here and we were all so excited about it and optimistic that we’d be able to take the trip.
“On our weekly Skype calls, my mother and I would talk about it, but we gradually realised there was no way that they could come over here and travel across provinces, so we cancelled it all,” Nicola said.
Two of Nicola’s friends at home have had babies and she said that she has really missed out on meeting them in person.
Covid has taken away the opportunity and freedom to travel and visit home while living abroad, but Nicola said they are still enjoying life in Vancouver, although it is a very different life now.
“We’re fortunate in that we can still enjoy the outdoors in Vancouver when the weather allows it, but we really miss being able to see our friends here in person. In some ways, it has made me appreciate the city and all of the outdoor spaces and the mountains and hikes that aren’t too far away, but at the same time, it does feel weird to spend most of our days at home, even if it has become normal.
“When we first moved here, we took lots of trips with friends, and sometimes it feels like we might never get to do that again.
“Normally, we would take lots of small trips and weekends away to make the most of being here, but we aren’t even planning those for any time in the near future.
“We used to make regular trips across the border to Washington and Oregon too, but that is out of the question — we can’t imagine going to the U.S anytime soon,” Nicola said, reflecting on how much things have changed over the past year.
When asked what she would do once normal travel resumes, Nicola struggled with her answer.
“I had to think long and hard about this because I actually have no idea. I had started a list of trips I want to take to places like Pender Island and Galiano when it is safe to do so again — we really miss getting the ferry to places like that and spending a weekend there.
“I would love to make a trip home or get my family to come over here, so we can finally do that Rockies road trip.
“My husband has a new niece in Australia who we would love to meet if we could make it over there some time,” she said.
Aside from being at home with family, Nicola said there are a few things she misses about being back home in Cork.
“I definitely miss having some drinks with friends in the Franciscan Well, having wine in Arthur Maynes, or just picking up a KCs and going back to a friend’s house,” Nicola said.
For those living abroad, it is not the big things that they are missing, but the friends, family and the simple walks, catch-ups and views of the Lee.
But for now, grandparents will continue to meet their new grandchildren on video call, big news will be shared on group calls with family and friends, and children will get to know their relatives across the world through a screen.