Moving to Ireland in 2008 was my escape from a Fight Club house. I left a place that had no shower head or toilet seat, but was full of cockroaches. Every time it rained, water was dripping on the floor in my room. And it rained a lot in January in Doncaster. My Latvian housemate was a single mother in her late 40s who left her 12-year old son in Latvia and moved to England for work on the factory. At night she cried and screamed at her Pakistani boyfriend and I was sticking fingers in my ears to reduce the noise. In the beginning of the 00s many Latvians started rapidly leaving the country in hope for a better life. So I left too.
Back in winter 2008 Doncaster was packed with immigrants queueing in agencies for any kind of work. I couldn’t find a job even on a factory and therefore tried contacting somebody I knew in Ireland. He was a Latvian guy I met once in Riga and hoped he could help. He was delighted to hear from me and immediately proposed to move over to his small Irish town. I had no clue how small it was.
Ireland, Nenagh 2008
I saw the capital only for a few hours. Dublin felt like a big village. After arriving to the city centre we hopped on dart and went to Bray for a day. When we came there it was already dark. And it turned out that all hostels and B&Bs were full. All what was left was a just married hotel. That night I had my first ever Guinness. I loved it. It got me drunk pretty quickly, but sleeping in one bed with a guy I met only once was still pretty awkward. He told me he moved to Ireland with his girlfriend, but one morning he woke up and she was gone, with all her stuff. He tried calling her, but she cut all ties. He was heartbroken. And there was I. As naive as I was I tried to explain him that I came for work and nothing else. We then took a bus to Nenagh.
The two months spent in Nenagh were unbearable. I was born in a small town and always wanted to escape to a bigger city. But from a small town I moved to even smaller town. Green landscapes and sheep oppressed me. I never was a country girl. When I was a child mum used to send me to a country side to help grandparents plucking weeds and collecting Colorado beetles. And all that time I felt like a futurist who needed noise and speed.
Straight to the point, my new friend turned out to be a skinhead. Our landlord was an Irish man who also hated everyone, but white. He lived in the same house as us and I remember the living room that was stained in his dog’s blood, canine estrus. We had a small shop in our house and every noon school kids would come to buy snacks. The landlord was kind to me and occasionally gave me free tuna.
Within a week’s time I found a job as a salesperson in a photography shop. On my way to work almost everyone greeted me, which at first was very unusual. Tipperary accent was really hard to understand and I avoided customers as much as I could. Occasionally my neo-nazi friend would meet me after work and we would go to a pub. We always went to the same pub, and a 100-year-old deaf grandpa would greet us and invite for a pint. The neo-nazi was my only “friend”. I was trapped and disgusted. I brought with me two books, a CD player with a few self recorded CDs, and a DVD with “Stalker” by Tarkovsky and a live gig from Atari Teenage Riot. No other entertainment media was available to me. Just a few people in town had the Internet at home. I had to go to the Internet cafe during my lunch break or ask my neo-nazi friend to use a Windows 2000 pc in his room. Calling was expensive. So I was literally cut off from my friends and relatives. This being said, I was drunk most of the nights, and my neo-nazi friend used that condition for sexual harassment.
Every day off I was devastated, because there was nothing to do. I cooked like a housewife and silently hated it. The neo-nazi introduced me to a Moldavian guy, a friend of his. He was our age, single. One day the Moldavian ‘friend’ started walking in the garden under my windows looking out for me. I was surrounded by dejected wolves. In fact all three of us were dregs of society. Miserable and sad. I would hug the skinhead in front of the Moldavian guy to avoid him hitting on me. The skinhead was paid every Friday and every Friday he’d spend all his money on alcohol and drugs. I did not participate in his Friday wanderings as I often worked on Saturdays. But my room had no lock and he often came during the night and crawled under my blanket. It was a trap of being disgusted and feeling lonely at the same time. But returning home was to accept failure. And I couldn’t fail.
One day I smashed my CD player against the ceiling. Then, I decided to move to Copenhagen. I needed a quick change. I was in touch with a Dane on last.fm, he played in a band and I decided I needed some rock’n’roll. I was 23. The skinhead was furious that I decided to leave him, and forbid me to use his pc. But at that point I was already counting days. I left Nenagh 24h before my flight to Denmark and spent 12h in the airport with a fever. Just a day before I managed to return all my emergency tax. I couldn’t be any happier. That day I promised myself to never ever come back to Ireland as it felt like escaping hell. The morning I landed in Copenhagen, the ground was symbolically covered in snow. I called my mum and told her I was in heaven.
Ireland, Dublin 2015
It wasn’t easy to come back. But I couldn’t reject Google‘s offer. Green fields, sheep, two taps and Guinness. It felt very strange and lonesome in the beginning and everything reminded me of Nenagh. Dublin still felt like a big village soaked in rain. I went for a walk, but wasn’t really interested in knowing the city. Google felt like a city inside city, I enjoyed going to work more than spending a weekend with myself. If you find yourself bored, you are a bad company. I was a bad company.
After a couple of months I finally met people I could relate to. And I remembered the words someone told me in Berlin before I left for good:“There is no city like Berlin, but the right people will always find the right people, and you’ll have fun wherever you go.” Berlin wasn’t great for friendships, people changed too quickly, they transitioned between cities. These were disposable friends for 36 frames.
All of a sudden I understood why I came back. The people I met let me see and feel the country, its history, politics, cultural values, humour, religious struggles, homelessness crisis. Southside, Northside. All of a sudden I understood that it’s impossible to love the city or country without knowing it. And Google is not Dublin for feck’s sake!
I went to an experimental three-hour long performance dedicated to I.R.A. I took a 1916 bus tour, which made me watch ‘In the name of the father’, ‘Michael Collins’, ’66 Days’, and ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’. These stories naturally led me to Kilmainham Jail and to Northern Ireland, Belfast and Derry.
During my first Dublin Fringe I went to Panti Bliss show ‘Riot’, where I saw the savage Lords of Strut and extremely talented Emmet Kirwan. Around the same time my friends also introduced me to Limerick’s guys The Rubberbandits – a satirical and political band with SPAR bags on their heads. These are all very important voices of contemporary Ireland, the voices I finally heard.
In 2016 I went to my first March for Choice to support REPEAL the 8th project. I had goose pimples seeing thousands of people of all age, gender and religious affiliation. We all came to the streets to say that women deserve the choice!
In no time I became a part of this country.
Apart from history and culture, I was also eager to discover the clubbing scene. Of course. The first club I ever went to was Hangar, located on the backstreet full of piss and trash. A few months later I ended up there again, at a drag queen show. They also had a regular Church dance night with a big white cross on stage. The crowd in Hangar is usually very young, drugged out, but harmless. It took me months to reach District 8, that reminded me of Urban Spree (Berlin venue) purely because of the warehouse type of location sprayed in graffiti. It took me ten months to reach Yamamori Tengu, which is a club hidden behind the sushi restaurant. And it’s gas. Izakaya Tengu has two floors and most of the walls are decorated with Japanese paraphernalia. Izakaya’s crowd does differ from all the other techno clubs here. In comparison to District 8 or Button Factory, where the crowd is totally zombified, Izakaya’s audience is often a bit older, more relaxed, which does not mean less drugs, just more control. Another dope place is Turk’s head. It is preposterous inside out. There is a big ugly metallic staircase in the middle of the dance floor, huge wooden DIY speakers on the ground looking like an installation and truly dedicated crowd – just deadly! The latest addition to the rave parties is Index club. The opening party was very promising, but the second time I returned there it was a ‘no-no’, the place was empty, and the staff were kicking me out. However, they are still getting big names on the list. Rødhåd is playing November 20.
Earlier this year I also ended up in an underground space called Delight Studios, that seem to have regular electronic nights and exhibitions. A truly great venue in Dublin north, very spacious and creative. In spring 2017 The Tara Building, the co-working space, also opened its doors to Dublin creatives. The Tara is Dublin’s modern hope. They seem to bring meaningful artists and actively support local scene.
There is a very special bar-venue opposite Vicar Street – The Thomas House. I have been there only a few times, but it’s wild! I came once and they had a DJ night, where a large digital clock would run for 15 minutes and then the next DJ would jump on stage with a completely different set. This is definitely a place to come back to!
Last but not least, Dublin has a solid psytrance scene. The trance family was a true discovery for me. These people create safe, but wild atmosphere. There are two psytrance events this week: Goa Forest and Magic Season, which will be a great addition to the Ayahuasca Conference on Thursday evening.
So, what’s the craic?
Without the right people, I wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with the country. In 2008 Ireland felt like the worst place, but ten years later I understood that this is the happiest I ever been. And I am delighted to say I feel like at home now. And I am sincerely thankful to my Dublin friends for all the love, support, knowledge and inspiration. I treasure you ❤
It took my a year to write this blog post.