Going native

Posted on: 5th October, 2017

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

Back in the days of Empires, and jolly hockey sticks, one of the dangers of living abroad was the risk of ‘going native’. Going native is defined as: ‘to adopt the lifestyle or outlook of the local inhabitants’. It implies becoming less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive social environment. In the colonial (and post-colonial) days it was not on to ‘go native’. Not only might one be tainted by the locals, it disrupted the edifying mission of empire building. When I was a child, we visited Kenya shortly after independence. I remember a British colonial explaining proudly how he had never learnt the local language as it was far better for his domestic staff to learn English. My grandmother, who left Spain for the Philippines in 1927, felt similarly. In the fifty years she lived in her adopted country, she never learnt the language, preferring to speak to everyone in Spanish. (She also believed that God only spoke Spanish, so maybe she was looking out for their immortal souls.) Diplomats and news correspondents would never be left long in one post, lest they go native. Local knowledge is important, but you don’t want to understand the locals too well. Famous examples of people who ‘went native’ are Lawrence of Arabia and Captain Kurz, and neither had a happy ending.

These days the term is used more humorously. To go native means to take on some (or all) of the cultural traits of an  adopted country, like dress, language, accent, or etiquette. Blow-ins like myself, are often guilty of enthusiastically embracing the local culture. In fact, for most of us ‘going native’ was the whole point of moving to West Cork. Think Aran jumpers, tweed caps and wellies at the Continental Ceilli. I remember being at a terrific trad session, complete with a Seanachaí in a collarless shirt and cap, in a pub out west many years ago. It turned out that they were all German, British and French blow-ins.   

Going native isn’t just about putting on a Kinsale smock, nor is it as easily shucked off as taking off a tweed jacket. It goes far deeper. It’s a slippery slope. I remember thinking that eating oysters with stout sounded disgusting the first time I came across it. Now, white wine with oysters (or salmon!) pales in comparison with a pint of the black stuff. But changes in tastes, dress and music don’t even start to reveal how deep it really goes.

Unless you live in splendid isolation, you slowly absorb local attributes that are so subtle, you may not even notice them. Going native changes you in fundamental ways. It changes the way your brain is wired. Last summer marked 25 years that I immigrated to Ireland, but I never noticed how much I had taken on the cultural norms of West Cork until I found myself on a lift with a stranger in NYC.

As I walked in I nodded. He barely nodded back and just stood in perfectly calm silence. I was standing in close proximity to another human being, as we were vertically transported together, and yet we were acting as if were alone. It was unbearable. I had to talk. The West Cork in me could not remain silent. Worse yet it wanted – no needed – to talk about the weather. I couldn’t help myself.

“It’s gotten very cold tonight.” I blurted out. My companion looked surprised.

“Yes” he conceded. That’s it. He does not engage any further.

“It was really mild a few days ago, but they’re predicting a cold snap,” I continued, expecting to spark an exchange. Nothing. He doesn’t get the cues. Now I’m desperate.

“They say it might snow tonight” I try. Surely he’ll want to talk about snow? Who doesn’t want to discuss the possibility of snow?

“Maybe,” he answers. And that’s it. Not another word. He was perfectly at ease, staring at the shiny chrome door as the lift beeped its way from floor to floor. I was fit to burst. I was both frustrated and homesick. I missed the casual congeniality of chatting with a stranger at a bus stop. Thankfully, we got to my floor and I can escape, throwing platitudes over my shoulder, still desperately trying to connect. That’s when I realised that I have truly gone native.

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This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

Check out this new upbeat indie-folk track Edges, released today from Inni-K with a video by Myles O'Reilly. Inni-K will be performing at Levis’, Ballydehob on Saturday 24th February, with support from Sam Clague.

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16th February, 2018  ·  

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