From my first journal entry in Ireland:
“I could have talked about going to Ireland, dreamed about it, even planned it and backed out. But I didn’t just think about it or talk about it. I’m there (here), right now, and it’s scary and unbelievable and exhilarating and I’m doing it, and that’s the best part.”
My first week in Ireland was filled with tiny inconveniences, minor confusions, physical orientation, physical exhaustion, and luckily, no doubt or regrets about what I’m doing here. Nathaniel and I arrived late Saturday afternoon, September 12 and Sunday was for rehabilitation and relaxation, though we went with our roommate Zach to a shopping centre (of which there are many) to buy a few things like towels, for the apartment. We learned a few things on our short trip. We started to learn how to use the city bus transit with lots of help from the Dublin Bus app and realised just how necessary coin purses may be here since European currency involves a lot of coins. There are 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, as well as 1 and 2 euro coins. So far, 2, 5, 10 and 20 cents all seem fairly useless, much like our U.S. penny. Malls seem very much the same as in the U.S. and nothing there struck me as overtly unusual or unique.
We did find an American 50’s style diner that we ate at (not very exotic for our first foreign meal I realise). There we heard only American music, and we came to find over the next week that American music is pretty much what you hear no matter where you go, mall, restaurant, pub, taxi, etc. Also, this diner, Eddie Rockets, is also not a single unique restaurant as I first suspected. They are everywhere, I’ve seen probably twenty in Dublin since.
We also got our first lesson in tipping in Ireland, which we hadn’t thought about yet, though I knew tipping practices varied in Europe. We left on our table what we’d consider at home to be a reasonable tip, but were surprised when the staff seemed so shocked by it and wondered whether we meant to leave so much money behind. We later looked up tip etiquette in Ireland online to see what was said about restaurant and taxi tipping. Neither is common, but rounding up taxi fare a euro or two will not usually be met with any argument.
Tipping instigated my first real cultural reflection about the U.S. and how it’s sad and strange that we have so many jobs where people rely on tips because their pay is not sufficient for their work. It’s just one of the many factors that result from “poverty-wages” in the U.S.
On Monday we toured Dublin with our program coordinator, John, and the other ten or so people studying at DCU from the U.S. through CIS abroad. He pointed out many of the good areas for shopping and dining, which bus stops we’ll use often, which areas are “sketchy” or “dodgy” at night and where we should “taxi in, taxi out,” (of which there are many, being a large city), and of course, all the neat places we should check out, the more touristy sites. This included The Guinness Storehouse (which we already, or rather Nathaniel already planned for us to visit), Trinity college, St. Stephens Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and more.
After our tour, which got me excited for exploring the city, we had our introduction at Dublin City University. Throughout the week they held some events to, much like New Student Week at WOU, get us acquainted with the campus, each other, and student life at DCU. Orientation was not rigorous and I didn’t end up meeting anyone new during the week, but I did start to get used to the campus, which is small and even more condensed than Westerns, but very modern, and it is only a five minute walk from our apartments, very handy.
During the week Nathaniel and I explored a bit, found some shopping centres, went to our first pub The Back Page and had our first pints of Guinness, watched The Visit at a movie theater close by, saw our first play “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre–the Irish/Texan accents were quite amusing– toured the Guinness storehouse and had our pints in the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin and it was beautiful.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do or see as much as we might have liked that first week, partly because we slept for most of it. It was difficult to get our bodies used to the time difference and caught up on the sleep we’d lost. Every day we’d plan to get up by a decent hour, maybe by 8 or 9am, but found it almost physically impossible to wake up earlier than 11. This is an aspect of traveling I’d considered before, but one that I never thought could be such a interference. Besides that, our power went off every night in our apartment which meant important navigational devices would not get charged and we’d have no hot water for showers, I waited to do laundry and then the laundry room was out of commission for the better part of a week, and then we learned that buses don’t always come when they are supposed to. Luckily those were the biggest issues we faced here, but at the same time we were dealing with some difficult news from home we got the day after we arrived, which I won’t discuss, but definitely made the start of our adventure more psychologically challenging.
Some things I learned from this first week were: making friends will be difficult and I’ll have to learn how to put myself out there more, I have to use the crosswalk signals because I don’t trust myself to look in the right direction for cars when crossing, there is no root beer in this country so I’ll have to do without for three months, Dublin is a city I think I could really like, despite not really liking cities ever, and classes and schoolwork are going to be hard to do because I only want to explore.
Ireland is new and different, but I’m fairly comfortable already and I’m so excited for my time here.
Streets of Dublin
The Spire on O’Connell street
First pint at The Back Page
The set of “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre
On DCU campus
At the Guinness storehouse, Nathaniel’s favorite place
In the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin from the Guinness storehouse