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Raquel, Portugal/Northern Ireland

I’m Raquel, and I’m thirty years of age, and I’m originally from Portugal – Lisbon. In my home country I used to work as a journalist for a number of years until I got disenchanted with the job (laughs) and decided to change. So I decided to go away for a year and do volunteering. So I did a European Voluntary Service program in Luxembourg, where I met Connor, and Connor is originally from Northern Ireland. So we became good friends, and then boyfriend and girlfriend, and then I decided – I went back to Portugal, and we realized the relationship was a bit more serious than we thought, and I decided to make then, the move to Northern Ireland, and just give it a go, really. As I said, my job wasn’t very interesting at the time, the pay was very low, and I thought, Why not – I’ll give it a chance.

So I’m now in Northern Ireland since 2008, so five years, five years and a half, nearly, and I’m now married to Connor, so I guess it worked, coming here! It was successful. And I’m enjoying living here in Northern Ireland, it’s completely different from home, complete opposite. I live in a small town called Warrenpoint, by the sea, which is great, because that’s the main link for me – to be able to be close to the sea, and I really need that relationship with the sea. So I was adamant that wherever I lived in Ireland, it would have to be by the water. Connor is originally from that area, so it was easy enough. So, we live there, small town, everybody knows everybody, and says hello to people in the street, so I really like that, it’s very very different from Portugal, from Lisbon, the capital city where you don’t look people in the eyes. So I suppose that’s what attracts me to Ireland, is how friendly people are, how welcoming and helpful, how curious and – initially I thought they were nosy, but I’ve realized it’s curiosity (laughs). How curious they are about you, and the world in general. I love my job – in the meantime I’ve changed my work area, and now I work in the community sector, and I support organizations that are voluntary-led. I work with Volunteer Now and I promote volunteering, so that’s very interesting, because I really believe in it.

I suppose I left on my own, but I’ve acquired a new family since I’m in Ireland, through Connor and his family, and friends – I’ve made lots of new friends here as well. Funnily enough, made Portuguese friends here as well, not intentionally, but ended up meeting a couple who live in the same town as us, and we had friends in common in Portugal and we didn’t know about it. So it’s funny how things work.

I suppose I didn’t choose Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland chose me (laughs). But I always had a fascination around Celtic music, and Celtic legends and folklore, and myths and legends, and fairytales and all of that. It was always very much in my interests, so I suppose the attraction to Ireland and Connor naturally came from that, from my original interest.

The object that I brought today is a shell – I brought two objects. I brought a shell, I got it from home, and it’s essentially something that I can touch and connects me back to

Portugal. I got it at the beach down South where I would go every summer with my family, and also the shell gives you that moment of peace... you can put it up to your ear and hear the sea, supposedly...

And then I brought a book which is from one of my favorite writers in Portugal, and it’s also a story about a migrant, a lady who had to emigrate because she became pregnant in the fifties, and at the time she wasn’t married, so she was seen as an outcast, and she had to just get away from her wee village and emigrate to France. And it tells this story which is quite different from my own story, but nevertheless, the feelings of a migrant person are the same, which is: you feel always split between two worlds and two countries, and if you’re there you want to be here, and if you’re here you want to be there. That’s very much in the book, and I relate to that.