In Dublin’s Fair City…

Yes, the girls are so pretty, but also the boys, but also everybody, and the buildings too and the countryside and this is just a post of me gushing about having found another one of those places I consider “my kind of place.” (Past members have included, exclusively, Flagstaff, ArizonaAalborg, Denmark, London, and summer camps). Because I am working in France, I have a ridiculous amount of vacation time, and for the fall vacation–after a longstanding childhood obsession with Ireland (i.e. hours spent listening to Irish folk music and just Google Imaging pictures of Ireland)–I got to go to Dublin.

Arriving

I got up at 6:30am October 26th to go Dublin. I arrived around 5pm, after a train along the coast between Montpellier and Nice (would recommend) and then the actual flight itself (which was also quite nice. An elderly Irish woman next to me told me where the MeGees, my Irish relatives, would have come from in Ireland and kept telling me she really hoped I liked my visit. Unlike hers and her husband’s in Nice, because what is wrong with French men? Why are they so obnoxious? I had no answer).

I was a little shocked at first in Ireland because I’ve gotten so used to not really understanding what people are saying around me: humor, especially, is completely lost on me. But the first two people with whom I interacted, the man who stamped my passport and the bus driver, joked with me IN ENGLISH, and I cannot stress the gravity of an experience like that after a month of just smiling and nodding at most things strangers say to you. I almost cried on the bus into town.

When I actually got to my hostel, though, things just got better from there. A woman from Argentina made me a quesadilla, my first in Europe, and then a local who was looking for a new apartment took me to a pub from 1649 (!!!)  and read me Keats because, in his opinion, “he’s the closest thing Ireland with ever have to a Marvel Superhero.” I got to laugh. I got to make jokes that were appreciated linguistically and culturally.

I have never had such an instant connection with a place.

img_1149Guinness, By the Way…

tastes like dirty water.

Did you know that Ireland is in Europe and Europe has a Danish beer called Carlsberg? Wow. What fortune. You should do yourself a favor and drink Carlsberg at all those Irish pubs.

Trinity College, the Long Room, and the Book of Kells

img_1134As advised by my Keats Superhero friend, I paid the ridiculous nine euro entrance fee to go to Trinity College’s Long Room and Book of Kells for one of my first stops. Jesus Christ the Book of Kells was underwhelming with a whole two rooms of information leading up to it to, clearly, try to manage traffic and assure people that they were seeing something worth their money, only to then peek at it for approximately three seconds before the tourist who is bigger than you and has heavier breath than you and is better at politely shoving people than you politely shoves your small American self out of the way to check out for himself the history digz, man.

But The Long Room makes up for it completely. It smelled like old wood and books and just had a weight of the importance of reading hanging off of it. While everybody around me tried to tie down the effect of the place into pictures (okay, I did that too, but gave up), I just sat and did nothing, smelling it and letting it affect me for approximately fifteen minutes.

Merrion Square

is a cute lil’ park with a strange statue of Oscar Wilde. I came here for lunch the first day because my Keats friend served coffee at a donut food cart there. I got a lemon meringue donut while talking to the guy from the grilled cheese cart–again, getting to make jokes in English!!!–who then gave me a discount for “being a friend” (which would never happen in the US or France for me) on his goat cheese, rosemary, and walnut grilled cheese. Both were delicious, and I wish I’d just gone ahead and gone there for every subsequent lunch thereafter because nothing else was ever as good.

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The Museums

During my time in Dublin, I ended up wandering into the Gallery of Photographythe National Photographic Archive, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (if it’s not obvious, I just really wanted a fucking art museum that wasn’t Jesus in his blond, ginger, and European incarnations). Paul Gaffney’s Perigee at the Gallery of Photography, a series of moonlit forest scenes displayed in a nearly pitch-black room, was breath-taking. The Irish Museum of Modern Art’s In Two Minds by Kevin Atherton, a recorded conversation between the artist and himself in 1978 and again in 2014, was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. While all three’s content was good, though, I would argue that they are surprisingly small for the only ones of their type in the capital city of a major country.

The Abbey Theatre

On Thursday, October 27th, driven by a Brian Friel obsession (my second-ever blog post was a poem about his death) and the never-ending hand that a Dr. Robert Canfield has on the decisions I make in this life, I went to see the play on at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, which, arbitrarily for me at the time, was The Remains of Maisie Duggan by Carmel Winters. This actually turned out to be one of the most significant things I ended up doing in Dublin, if not possibly in my life.

*spoilers*

Maybe it’s just because this was the first fully-professional theatre production I’ve ever been to (I say this to hedge what I am about to say with “plz dont take lil ole me as any kind of theatre critic”), but I was absolutely blown away. Going from layer to layer it’s a play that just gets thicker and thicker and better and better. At what you might consider the “surface,” the set was incredible in a dark, heavy, imposing kind of way, accompanied by a sound and lighting techniques to match (they changed scenes by blinding the audience with stage lights). The actors were incredible (I guess people use the word “captivating” for these things), especially Rachel O’Byrne who palyed Kathleen. The script was about family and the perpetuation of abuse from parent to child. Kathleen (Kitty), the daughter who has come home for her mother’s funeral (even though the mother only thinks she’s (and, really, wants to be) dead) has ran away from her abusive father to London, where she now abuses her female partner in an attempt to assert her own ability to possess and exercise power. She tells Maisie that the abuse in London is her fault because Kitty and her brother didn’t ask to be born. At the end of the play, though, the mother kills the father, telling her daughter that she’s free now: both from his physical abuse as well as the precedent he set for what she would grow to become herself. I think the spaces of Cork, Ireland and London cannot be ignored here, nor the characters’ genders, and I would argue that Maisie Duggan is a warning about the perpetuation of general systems of oppression. Whether through sexism–like Kitty experienced throughout her childhood– or colonialism or racism, these frustrations should not reenact themselves with any power that is regained. Ireland, for example, is free from England (where Kitty chooses to enact her abuse), but should not, for example, turn around and oppress its gay population (which Kitty, too, is apart of).  Instead, freedom, like that gained from the father in the play, is a space to write a new narrative for oneself.

Lit crit aside, experiencing The Remains of Maisie Duggan is honestly the biggest factor in why I am looking at going to graduate school in Dublin starting now. I need to connect with this city on an academic level not offered to passing tourists.

Killiney Hill

img_1168I didn’t spend all those hours Google Imaging the Irish countryside to sit in Dublin for four straight days!

The Cliffs of Moher were obvious, but they would have eaten up an entire day to get there. The Keats man tried to get me to go to Glendalough, but I couldn’t find any public transportation there. Trip Advisor pointed me to Killiney Hill instead, and it was perfect. About half an hour south of Dublin, it reeked of honey for whatever reason and had views of Dublin from above, the surrounding villages, the countryside, and the ocean. It was grand.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Evensong

img_1143If you ever want to go into a beautiful church and don’t want to pay for a tour, why not go for what they were built for! I always like to go to Anglican evensongs to see churches because they’re basically just a free choir concert in a beautiful music hall (also, Jesus is my boyfriend of course)*. I tried to go to Christchurch Cathedral, because I am Episcopal, but their choir was on vacation, so I ended up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, whose evensong I have to admit was not my favorite. It was an all male group who picked more chanting-style, unison choral pieces instead of those with some slightly more complex chords that I personally prefer. It was still beautiful, though.

*You cannot take pictures during services.

Temple Bar

A couple of lovely Australian girls from my hostel went out with me. I got drunk. I threw up.

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Next City Tours

If you want to do a walking tour of Dublin, take the Next City Tour. Take it with Keith. His name means wood in Irish. Keith is hilarious and knowledgeable and passionate and the type of Irishman that your Irish grandma probably wants you to marry. Befriend a wonderful hipster Australian girl on the tour moving to London because that’s just what you’re supposed to do when you’re twenty-three and in the fashion industry like her. Have three hours of history fun, so you can walk around the city and sound super smart and educated to your friends and, wow gee, are you an attractive, cultured human.

Conclusion

I’m sorry this post came out being so long, but I have so many good things to say about this wonderful city. Beyond all the tourist-y things and events and sights and, yes, even the theatre, what really made Dublin the experience that it was for me were the people. Although I have traveled and even moved to new countries alone, I’ve never had a solo vacation before, and I was worried I would just end up lonely and bored with no home or Netflix to retreat to. Despite being a generally quiet and reserved person, this city got me to make friends with somebody absolutely everywhere I went. The people were not only open and welcoming like those that (really, honestly) populate Southern France, but were the kind that have a sense of humor that welcomes you in, gives you a drink, wraps you in a blanket, and assures you you were always meant to be there laughing with them.

What I will remember from Dublin most of all is the man who read me Keats in a bar fresh off the plane, the old Norwegian woman who talked to me about what it means to be human through studying the Bronze Age (she kissed me on the cheek when I said good bye), the man who gave me a discount on his grilled cheese, the (in total) five Australian girls who welcomed me into their circle for a few days like I was one of their own, the fellas who gave me the best Tinder conversations I’ve had outside of America, the Norwegian guys who bought me those ill-fated Temple Bar beers, the Ginger who gave me my first kiss in this year abroad (complete asshole), the old man in the pub who told me it’s okay to like to be alone in public spaces sometimes, and the countless bus drivers, bar tenders, baristas, and food-service people I talked to for less than five minutes who still managed to make me laugh, joke back, talk, belong.

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Today I was Clumsy, so a Poem Happened

For whatever reason, I could not seem to stop spilling things today, and I hope my Venezuelan roommate enjoyed his English lesson for the day on how to swear (loudly, thoroughly, consistently). For whatever reason, after my dinner ended up on the floor, I sat down to write a poem about it instead of the lesson plan that I should have been working on. I haven’t been very good about keeping in practice with poetry since my band is (I think) no more, so it was nice to start to get back into it.

The first thing to spill today was the morning’s coffee:
unraveled from the sheets that fill the nooks and crannies
of this new double bed,
it fell from the mold of a mug’s grasp
to the flatness
pressed between gravity and open space.

To sleep on your stomach is healthier, I hear,
to lift your spine to cold night air on the offering
of your lungs’ insistence that they are alive.
A lifelong side-sleeper,
I am letting my limbs crawl into the corners
that this square mattress offers.
Twin rectangle dimensions
have always asked me to fill them
with the lumps of my flesh;
I find myself falling flat into this new life now where

I spilled the milk from my cereal onto the floor
quickly after the coffee incident.
This goddamn breakfast is in my bed,
it is on the floor,
in the grout,
in the pores of a sponge,
(later) kissing the cold spoon against my lips,
it is in my stomach.

To French kiss is to fill
cavities,
to let the heavy muscle of your speech crawl outside
of its own cave into
the stalactites and mites of waiting teeth. This French bed
has but one visitor, small and lost in its space.
Why, I wonder, have I crawled away from America
into these jaws of abroad,
but to fill air
with the bragging undertones of past experience
(perhaps while pressing spine into the warmth of a stomach,
my lungs keeping tempo with life
stacked one on top of the other, like always)?

I bookended today with a dinner of spilled rice
all across the kitchen floor,
newly cleaned. Packed so close together just a moment ago,
they look so small when they are unraveled
as a collection of ones
across the nooks and crannies of this space.

Pézenas, La Belle Ville

I’ve been cranky about being assigned a town of 8,000 people and no train station since I heard the name Pézenas back in July. Honestly, though, I don’t think I could have imagined a better town for myself. I was wrong, readily admitted.

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img_1015J’avais été grincheuse à cause de la ville que j’ai reçu avec TAPIF qui avait 8000 personnes, mais pas une gare, depuis j’ai entendu le nom Pézenas en juillet. Honnêtement, je ne crois pas que je pouvais imaginé une meilleure ville pour moi-même. J’avais tort, volontiers reconnu.

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Apartment Vibes

img_1024I moved into an apartment in Pézenas, France this week. Finding a French apartment has been one of my biggest stresses/excitements since I was accepted into TAPIF, and it turns out that none of that (for months and months and months) was actually necessary: my school had an apartment for me on campus, free of charge, furnished, with a roommate who (for the first time in my roommating-life) is even tidier than I am. He also doesn’t speak English, so my life is officially French-speaking tout le temps. It’s all a little bit of a dream, and I just keep waiting for something to go wrong over my dinners of wine and cheese and chocolate.

Right now, though, I’m just trying to savor this moment of starting, with the apartment and with this country as a whole. I’ve set things up to reflect the life that I hope to come in my time here, nest myself in a way that will be conducive to the person I hope to grow into with this space. By my bed there is a stack of poetry with my film camera on it–an aesthetic choice that also prompts hobbies away from the internet. My closet’s usual dresses are also accompanied by my running shoes, and I just so happen to live across the street from Pézenas’s track. My bedside table has a few hundred Chinese flashcards in it.

img_1025I think that the desire to dream up new lives for ourselves is one that is intrinsic to space. I’m reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (in French, so I’m sure plenty of it is lost on me) right now, and it’s all about the different images we project onto cities when we are merely their visitors. I’ve never been able to go somewhere new without imagining which house I would want to make mine, which coffee shop I would frequent the most, which bench under which tree I would read on in the spring when the weather is nice. It simplifies the comprehension of a place when done through the process of experiencing it ourselves, real or imagined.

img_1026The whole reason that I’m here right now is because of the imagined life I gave myself from the pages of my French textbook in high school when I was disillusioned with the reality of life in Phoenix, Arizona, and now I find myself here as more than a visitor, ready to try on the costume of resident for a bit. With only twelve hours of work a week, my goals for this life right now are lofty–in pretty much every discipline I could pursue–but the mixture of that imagined life in this tangible space right now is rare and exciting and fleeting. My time here has not yet entered the realm of reality, but I’m enjoying the approach in this beautiful town, imagining what the plunge is going to be like.

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P.S. I’m paranoid I have bed bugs.