FASHION blogger Ladi Bidinga came to Ireland eight months ago from Belgium, where she had been living since she moved with her family from the Congo at the age of four.
“We left the Congo when my father was studying. He wanted to do a PhD in Belgium, so we moved. Then there was trouble back home, things like poverty, so we decided to stay in Belgium,” Ladi, aged 42, explained.
A former actress, Ladi is still involved in the arts and is working on her first novel, a children’s tale, in her native French.
She is also a member of the Rebel City Drama Club. “When I was younger, I did professional acting in theatre and in movies,” she said.
“I acted everything from tragedy to comedy, thriller, and romance, all sorts. Here in Cork, I find drama a great way to get involved in the local community, learn English in new ways, and get more confident speaking English while meeting Irish people.”
Ladi works in the French department of a customer service company, as well as running her own fashion blog, ethno-vintage.com, which showcases vintage and chic fashion that Ladi finds and creates from mixing cultures, eras, and styles with small treasures and unique pieces.
“I like the work I am doing here,” she said.
“My job is good, the people are cool, and that is the most important thing.”
The mother of two said: “Living in the city centre, I go to pubs more now in Ireland. It is the social scene, it is where I meet my friends. In Belgium, I didn’t go to the pub often.
“The pubs here are very cosy and comfortable. It is very normal to go to the pub in Ireland. The Bodega is my favourite bar.”
Ladi also enjoys walking and in her eight months in Cork, has already established her favourite places to visit.
“I love to walk. I often visit places like Cobh, Kinsale, Bandon, and Passage West. I find them very nice. I enjoy photography,” she added.
“The west coast is also spectacular. The first time I went to Kinsale, I could see the expanse of nature; it is very impressive.”
Ladi hopes to visit Belfast soon. “I hear the North of Ireland is very pretty,” she said.
“I enjoy the wild landscape. I have never been to Dublin and I don’t have much interest in visiting; it is just another city.”
Speaking about why she moved to Cork, Ladi said she heard lovely things about Cork and Ireland, which she found to be true.
“I was working in Belgium and thinking of moving to an English- speaking country; heard Ireland was very welcoming; my work officer suggested I take a job in Ireland. They were right, I have found Ireland very welcoming. I don’t feel like a foreigner. I love little things about Ireland, like the way everyone says thanks to the bus driver.
“There is a different mentality in Ireland, people are very polite, not stressed, there is a slower pace here.”
Despite being happy here, Ladi misses home a lot, in particular, her parents, siblings, and her two children. She laments the weather.
“The weather is very damp. Belgium is the same but we have a real winter and summer, cold and hot. I do miss home a lot. I have two children, 14 and 12, they stay with their grandparents. I miss them and my parents and friends.
“I’m the oldest of six, I have two sisters and three brothers, they all live in Belgium. My kids miss me, we call often and WhatsApp.
“I keep in touch by phone calls and social media and I have been home three times since I moved over eight months ago and this year friends and family are planning to visit.”
Ladi said she hoped to bring her children to Cork this summer to live with her. “I would like them to visit me this spring and I would like them to move over with me in July.”
She said when she first arrived, the rental market was too precarious to bring her children with her.
“I couldn’t find a place for me and my children; it is very expensive to rent here and hard to find a place,” she said. “When I go home it is mixed feelings, happy and sad. I am only there for a short time, but I came to Cork by choice, I am choosing to be here.”
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