In this editorial, ACB Member Chair Gwendolyn Bailey spoke with new member Patricia O'Callaghan, who has recently returned to Belgium.
You say that you “escaped” New York just weeks before Lockdown. That sounds dramatic. How did you manage to plan to come and live in Belgium?
Well, in retrospect, I managed to conclude a long career in New York, sell my apartment, and arrive here on 27 February, just weeks before lockdown. Now, I’m enjoying a slower, calmer – and should I say - a more delicious life here in Brussels! For me, Belgium is living up to its reputation as one of the gourmet capitals of Europe.
As a dual national – Irish and American – I am grateful to qualify to live in the EU. Memories of student summers in Tournai and Paris are rekindled. I am glad to now be close to family in Ireland and the U.K.
When I lived in New York, I produced a public policy radio show for some years – how we can, and must, actively motivate good public policy still interests me – and Brussels is a good place to experience that.
How did moving to America as a college graduate come about – and how would you describe the value of living in America?
I was quite content to be living in my home town, Cork, working on a daily RTE Radio news show, when “Out of the Blue” I was offered a marketing assignment in sunny San Francisco on a 2-year H-3 visa.
I then gained permanent U.S. residence, and eventually U.S. citizenship.
“Out of the Blue” is how I describe the many opportunities that would follow.
As I was soaking up the sun in California, I thought I should go “global, global, global…”
“Out of the Blue” I was hired by Transamerica Airlines’ New York base to travel to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, during a 7-year airline career. Our charter flights transported Muslim pilgrims from Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to the Hajj in Mecca. And, whatever the global headlines said - on Newsweek or Time Magazine – we were there: transporting Cambodian and Cuban refugees to the U.S. (those were different days!!!) transporting U.S. troops globally (including General Norman Schwarzkopf) and my first trip was to Rio de Janeiro, with a seven-day layover at Carnival time; then a seven-day layover in Seoul, Korea. Away from home 21 days of the month, we certainly clocked up plenty of air miles!
So - America fulfilled its reputation for me as being the "Land of Opportunity".
What are things that you like best about Brussels?
- La politesse! People here are very helpful and courteous. Belgian family life is admirable.
- The food - I LOVE the quality of the food! Real, honest, seasonal food... I am cooking more (-:
- Eglise Saint-Joseph, Filigranes, streets filled with cyclists, the optimism of the people.
In the context of Covid 19, what is the best advice that you find helpful?
“Count your blessings” is a motto that I always keep in mind.