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Saturday 20 September 2014

How Althea learned to love Ireland

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

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Author Althea Farren.

A ZIMBABWEAN woman who moved to Ireland with her husband in 2007, after conditions deteriorated in her home country, has written of her experiences adapting to her new home in Gorey.

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A ZIMBABWEAN woman who moved to Ireland with her husband in 2007, after conditions deteriorated in her home country, has written of her experiences adapting to her new home in Gorey.

Althea Farren will launch her new book 'Learning to Love Ireland: An Immigrant's Tale,' on Friday, August 8, at 6.30 p.m. at Zozimus Bookshop in The Book Café, 86 Main St, Gorey.

'In 2007, my husband and I sold our home and our business and left Zimbabwe to begin new lives in Ireland,' she explained. 'We were both in our sixties, but we had no pensions - hyperinflation had rendered the Zimbabwe dollar completely worthless.'

For her husband, Irish-born Larry Farren, it was a home-coming after 45 years in Africa. Althea on the other hand, had lived in Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe after independence in 1980, since she was three years of age.

'It was exhilarating to be able to speak freely without fear of being apprehended by President Robert Mugabe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation,' she said. 'It was wonderful to be able to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever we needed from well-stocked shelves. We no longer had to queue for the most basic of provisions such as bread, sugar and cooking oil.'

After a while, however, the novelty began to wear off. 'Adjusting to the Irish climate was the least of my problems,' she explained. 'I began to feel desolate, anxious, isolated and bereft. I couldn't find a job. I missed having my own home.'

'We had acquaintances and neighbours, but very few friends,' she continued. 'The Ireland Larry had left in 1962 was very different from the Ireland we were encountering in 2007. The recession was having a disastrous impact both nationally and internationally.'

While she was assisting a student with her Psychotherapy course, Althea came upon the phenomenon of 'culture shock.' 'Here was an explanation at last for what I'd perceived as my inability to function effectively in my new environment,' she said. 'I learned that it was normal for the loss of the familiar to cause a sense of isolation and diminished self-esteem. It was normal for the euphoric "honeymoon" phase where everything had been new and challenging to be replaced by a crisis phase where one experienced frustration, instability and hostility.'

Friends who had emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, England, and South Africa had written to her of similar experiences, but, like Althea, they'd had no idea that they'd been undergoing a process which, according to the experts, was 'remarkably predictable.'

'"Learning to Love Ireland" discusses what it is like to live in a country very different from the one I had called my own for 50 years,' explained Althea. 'The concept of culture shock is fascinating, and I believe that an understanding of the process will be extremely helpful to those who are experiencing it, and to those who haven't been able to explain their unease, unhappiness and inability to integrate satisfactorily.'

The book bears the imprint of Zozimus Books, the publishing wing of Gorey's second-hand bookshop which shares its premises with The Book Café.

'Althea Farren's work tells us things about ourselves that we never knew we knew,' said proprietor John Wyse Jackson. 'Her new book is a personal one, and a pleasant read, but if we have a genuine wish to be part of the new, multicultural Ireland, "Learning to Love Ireland" has lessons for us all. Zozimus Books is proud to be associated with it.'

Enniscorthy Guardian

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