Our children speak with English accents, their pretty vowels and quirky sayings make us smile. Every morning they stand to attention for the Emirati National Anthem and the Arabic words roll off their tongues. More familiar with camels than cows, they get excited when they see the rain and they can function quite happily in temperatures of 50 degrees. Their first steps were taken on the shores of the Arabian gulf, the desert sand runs through their blood and when the younger one arrived small and sick after a difficult birth, the gentle Omani nurse with her brightly coloured hijab whispered the words "Allah Akbar" God is great.
On a soft summers morning in June 2010 our little family left Ireland. We packed up our house in a small village in North Cork and without a huge fanfare skipped off to have a big adventure. We weren't forced to leave by banks or bonds, we simply wanted to taste the world and try it on. Yet every summer, when the sun shines hellishly down on the Gulf countries, we return to the green fields, the rain, the beauty of an Irish summer. The children know it's their home, their roots are there even if their wings are far away.
We mark our time according to the weather. As the long summer evenings start getting that tiny bit shorter, the air a bit chillier, as the blackberries ripen on the hedgerows; turning from claret red to dusty black, we know its nearly time to board that plane again. And so begin the long goodbyes, the roaming the roads between the houses of aunties and cousins and friends, the hot hugs from parents, the wet eyes and everyone trying to be brave.
Our children are children of the world. They adapt their accent according to their playmates. They have moved countries and schools, said goodbye to best friends and made new ones. Home is where mammy and daddy are right now, but it's also Ireland. It's where their grandparents and cousins are, where their bunk-beds and baby toys are. It's their talistone to return to again and again, when they ask us to tell them stories about when we were small, when we sing them the Irish songs we learned in school, when Johnny Spillane's lilting voice rings through our back garden on a lazy Saturday morning and the Toy Show is streamed so they can experience a proper Irish Christmas.
In most expatriate enclaves throughout the globe, wherever the Irish find themselves, there is the Irish club. It goes by many different names- Irish Society, Clann na hEireann, a multitude of ways of saying the same thing -- a community far from home where the Irish culture, heritage and people can come together. We play hurling and football, the little ones can learn to dance the reel, speak the language and share all that it means to be from the land of Saints and Scholars. We've always gravitated towards these communities, making true friends along the way. St. Patrick's day balls, Feis's, Rose of Tralee, family fun days, GAA tournaments, we've been very busy being Irish. Our children have played on the sidelines of matches just as they would at home, they've crunched biscuits as they've waited for their turn to dance, they've tapped their feet to Irish music and hurt our ears with the tin whistle. This April they will enjoy a huge Irish celebration right here in Dubai where the soldiers and dreamers of one hundred years ago will be celebrated with verse and song and porter.
So on the centenary of 1916, we teach our children to be proud of who they are and where they came from. As they trip into school, a school which marks St. Georges Day and Chinese New Year, French Cuisine and Emirati song, they will proudly tell their teachers about the celebrations happening in a tiny village in North Cork. They will show her their book on the great Irish men who fought for Irish freedom, they will celebrate how far we've come since that chilly Easter Monday morning one hundred years ago, when the poverty of the tenements and the sound of babies crying filled the air.
Our children speak with English accents but they will always know that they are Irish and that Ireland is their home.