As I took a walk through the back roads, twists and turns of Cork, one familiar theme I found is to always expect the unexpected here. A back road could turn into a park or even be a shortcut to class and the twists, turns and hilly roads could lead to the most beautiful and remote places. Even though Mary, our residential advisor here, had given us a folder full of maps upon arrival a few weeks ago, I still managed to grab some from the travel agency in Cork City.
As I’m walking around, I started to realize that at first I was only walking on streets that felt familiar to me and it actually took a lot of self-encouragement to wander alone where I hadn’t been before. After getting over this initial obstacle and ensuring myself that I was in one of the safest cities in the world on top of it being broad daylight, I relaxed and started my wandering adventure. I could tell when I was getting close to the English Market because of the amazing aromas arising from inside: a mixture of baked, pastry items with fresh produce. From any point in the city, you can almost always hear the Éireann bus engines, the main source of public transportation in Cork, zooming around the streets. I could hear the beeping of the crosswalk indicators as well as people of all different nationalities speaking to each other. Cork City is always crowded during this time of the day, around noon, but I have noticed that it has been considerably busier as it gets closer to the start of school. I was able to locate the main headquarters of Garda, the police, and the immigration office from a different way than I had gone before. At one point, I ended up at St. Anne’s Church Shandon where you can pay to climb to the bell and ring it at the top while having a 360 view of Cork. Unfortunately, I missed the timing and I had told my friend that we would climb it together when we got out of class the following day. I was also capable of finding a few cafés and restaurants that I have added to my list of places to try.
I stopped at one of them, The Bookshelf Café, and grabbed a roast beef sandwich with a café mocha, my new favorite caffeinated beverage since being in Cork. Sitting inside this adorable café, I noticed an older woman trying to find an open seat to drink her coffee and read her newspaper so I invited her over to sit with me and she was delighted to. Listening to her speak English with a slight Irish
accent, I began to wonder why it was that I heard such a lack of the Irish language and why it was predominantly English speaking. I politely asked her this and she said that even though English is their second language, it’s spoken more due to the tourism but if I were to travel to the more remote country of Ireland, there are some places that require a fluency of Irish in order to buy a house. I found this extremely interesting and imagined how many issues that would arise if that were the case in America right now with the immigration policies being made- absolute insanity.
What stood out to me the most on this walk was how pleasant every place and everyone is. There is hardly any trash or waste on the sidewalks and the city is really big in recycling. I noticed that a lot of people in Ireland are smokers but I, surprisingly, didn’t see any cigarette ends crumbled on the sidewalks or in the roads. Overall, this experience has taught me to let my guard down every once in awhile and to experience things by myself. At this point in my study abroad experience, I think that I am in the mid-Liminality stage: I am starting to explore around more and ask the locals questions in order to let my guard down and in order to gain knowledge of the city.
“McCarthy’s Bar” by Pete McCarthy was extremely helpful to me while I was making my adjustment in another country. He added humor and was definitely not afraid to experience the country for everything it has to offer all while not taking anything for granted. What I liked the most about my travelogue was that he would wander places that most tourists would not even think of going to and I plan on trying to visit some of those same places as well as possibly finding my own way of getting “creatively lost.” He would also identify the good experiences he had as well as the bad. McCarthy teaches many valuable lessons throughout his book, some of which are closely related to this course. Because he was originally from England and spent his summers in West Cork growing up, he felt as though he always belonged in Ireland but was barely Irish. He felt a sense of belonging whenever he visited here. In the beginning of the book, McCarthy states: “Is it possible to have some kind of genetic memory of a place where you’ve never visited, but your ancestors have? Or am I just a sentimental fool, my judgement fuddled by nostalgia, Guinness, and the romance of the diaspora?” (McCarthy 10). Sometimes when I am walking around by myself, and even though I am not an ounce Irish, I honestly feel a sense of belonging because my liminality phase has been going so smoothly when I didn’t think it would be. Overall, I really did enjoy this book and highly recommend it to anyone studying abroad in any country.
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