I know I keep starting every blog post with “It is hard to believe I’ve been here (insert amount of time)…” but it still seems so relevant! I feel like I just got off the plane in Shannon a few days ago, when really is has been three weeks since that time. I think that time is flying by so quickly because just about everyday and every weekend I have something exciting planned. Luckily we have had various long bus rides which have given me a large amount of time to reflect on my experiences in Ireland thus far.
When I read last weeks prompt about going for a walk I didn’t really make a set plan for when I would go out and complete the task. It so just happened that last Saturday night after a long day on a trip to West Cork, I headed out with no real destination. I had been relaxing in my bed, but got so fed up that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working so I decided that I needed to go for a walk to de-stress. My first stop was to Fitzgerald Park. This park is really close to our apartment and everyone had mentioned how quaint it was. The first thing I noticed was a brand new playground that had a large ship resembling Noah’s Ark in the middle. Reading the sign “For Ages 5-12 only”, I was quite bummed—I really wanted to go on the swings. I ventured further into the park towards the edge of the river that flows beside it and sat down on a bench to take a few pictures. It was nearly dark by the time I had gotten to the park so it was fairly empty and quiet. As I wandered around the park, with no real sense of where I was going, a park ranger approached me to tell me that the park was closing and all the gates were being locked. I was taken back by this! At home, I have never encountered a park that ‘actually’ closes. There are always signs that read, “closes at dusk” but typically people remain in parks till the late hours of the night anyway, disregarding the signs.
After leaving the park, I headed down a side street parallel to Western Road, the main road into the city center, towards a coffee shop. Much to my despair, the coffee shop was closed. One thing that I have learned being here so far is that shops close a lot earlier than they do in the U.S. Oddly enough their late nights open are typically Thursday and Friday and that usually only means they’re open until 8 pm for most shops. After this, I started to head back towards my apartment Victoria Lodge. On the way I stopped at another UCC accommodation to use their Wi-Fi and see if anyone had tried to reach out to me. One of my friends, Wesley from the University of Denver, had said that she was down to get some food; I met her outside and the two of us headed into town.
Without a real plan we took a random right turn off Western Road and started walking. Both of us had never been this way before and we figured we should explore new parts of the city. Where we ended up was actually a quite familiar part of the city near a cathedral, we had just never taken this route before. We then decided we should try and find the train station. Using just a screenshot of the directions we started walking towards the station but quickly found ourselves lost; we went into a bowling alley to ask for help and ending up playing some arcade games. When we finally made it to the train station, we turned around and headed back home satisfied that we were able to find it without asking for too much help. While I didn’t smell anything too peculiar or witness anything too interesting, this walk was still very insightful to me. It showed me that I need to not spend so much time worrying about when the WiFi will reconnect and instead take my free hours at night to explore new places within Cork. As Slimbach mentions ‘wandering about’ is best way to discover a new place and truly learn about all that it has to offer. He quotes Glazebook in his book saying, “When you have submitted to looking about you discreetly and to observing with us as little prejudice as possible, then you are in the proper state of mind to walk about… and learn from what you see” (Slimbach 182). Not only did i learn from what I saw, but it also taught me that I have little reason to be worried when walking around at night in the city. Even though I know I still need to be mindful, I feel extremely comfortable with my surroundings here, which is important to me.
The travelogue that I read is titled “Ireland Unhinged” and it was not what I expected at all. Essentially it is about a family from Connecticut that moves to Cork City. The author talks about his families’ struggle to become acclimated in Ireland. After being here for a few years and talking about his kids being settled in, the author still wasn’t satisfied. He reflects a lot on his disillusionment with the modern Irish culture and how it just wasn’t like what he had experienced when he studied here in the 70s. So in search of Ireland’s more down to earth roots he buys a cottage in Ballyduff, a small fishing town in West Cork. He goes on to discuss his laments and experiences with living in the ever-changing Irish culture. I wasn’t expecting him to have so much trouble transitioning in Ireland, but then again I don’t know what Ireland was like before the economic boom that he refers to in his book. I think that this memoir shows that anyone can have trouble during the “liminal phase”, even those who are here to live for a longer time than myself. I think that as a younger person, I will not experience some of the same struggles he did when transitioning to life in Ireland, but it is still valuable for me to recognize that it will take time for me to truly feel incorporated into Irish society, if that will even be possible in the few shorts months I am here.
This picture below I took on Wednesday when I visited the Cliffs of Moher. This describes how I feel about my experience in Ireland so far, more specifically my mindset of trying to “live on the edge.” I want to take healthy risks while here and not shy away from new experiences, food and people. The next risk that I plan to take is joining a new club here once the fall semester begins. As I conclude this blog post, I am delighted to say that I am sitting on a farm in Brahalish, excited to have my first ‘real’ Irish experience.