Blogversary

WordPress wished me happy birthday today, making this terrible toddler three years old now.

I remember I started this blog as a New Year’s resolution in 2016 when I was nearing graduation from my undergrad and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my adult life, but figured I might as well document the way there.

Three years later, I am back in the same place, but without even having a job offer or not on the Spring horizon to give me a hint. Or, as in 2017’s case, a place in a masters course or not. I got the job; I’m currently getting the masters (in (marketable) literature), but Spring 2018 has no answers in sight. I’ll have to wait until right up until the end of this course in the summer to know what my next steps are. Where I’m going. What country I’ll live in. What I’ll be doing. Who I’ll know. If I’m—for once—staying put.

It is that time of year spent reflecting on the past, and I’m curious how a deeply strange 2017 will inform a 2018 and beyond.

I started 2017 in Paris, but was living in the small French town Pézenas near Montpellier teaching English as a foreign language.

Then I moved back to Flagstaff for three weeks of training to mentor youth on environmental work with the Arizona Conservation Corps, ending up eventually assigned to a full summer in the hellishly hot Verde Valley.

Then I moved to Dublin, started my masters, lived in a hostel, lived in a six-person two-bedroom apartment in Temple Bar, lived in an adorable cottage next to the biggest metropolitan park in Europe, Tindered way too hard for a little too long, started seeing someone, started tutoring writing online, started barista-ing at Starbucks, joined a community choir, also joined a chapel choir. In short, 2017 ended overbooked, and so 2018 starts.

Working on this fancy MPhil in literature and all (it comes with a lace border hand-stitched by Long Room elves, whereas MAs normally only get a lace-it-yourself kit, and BAs, of course, get a slap in the face), I accidentally confuse real life for literature all the time. Right now, light deprived in Northern Europe, I can’t help but feel like I’m in some kind of nighttime limbo between 2017’s day (France and Arizona were so sunny) and 2018’s. I may not be able to see what’s coming in the dark, but it is a sleep full of vivid dreams. Hopefully, at least one of them will turn out a premonition for tomorrow.

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The Libraries at Trinity

I’ve always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

 

It’s not every day you live in a country whose list of main tourist attractions include a library. It’s not every day you attend the university in possession of that library. It is everyday, though, if you are a student at that school, that you can go to said library for free.

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It is never the day that you need to go to said library for any useful book-purposes. That day was built for the Berkley, the Ussher, the Lecky. Cement. Computers. Colorful rows of books whose smell is still bound between their covers rather than leaking into the atmosphere of heavy-handed old wood.

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Librarians who think their profession is to earn the library its ethos through making you feel inferior. Don’t ask them for help. Whisper, dammit. Memorize the Dewey Decimal System. Their spines don’t smell like old leather, but, rest assured, they are trying.

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Every day, they go to the tanning salons along the Liffey that most tourists look at and wonder, “Really? In Dublin? Who is sustaining this?” The tourists swim their way upstream through a river of fish-bellied Irishmen, and the librarians slip, quietly, always quietly, into sustaining this out-of-place practice.

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They want the Long Room. They want to bind themselves in leather. Stamp their faces in golden Latin. Climb a ladder nearer to Paradise. They stare at students with computers and phones and magnetized student identification cards, and cast out their days to sand melted into cement walls. They harden, every day, into cement themselves: sculpted busts like they knew they were always meant to be. Cold furniture along the edge of a living bookshelf.

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You go to school. You read. You wander into the Long Room. You do not look to the busts for anything.

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Black and White and Gray All Over

I got a roll of black and white film.

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I fell in love with a roll of black and white film.

And at first, I was caught up in a deep internal conflict, thinking to myself, “but, black and white film and I have only known each other for so long. This is too fast. Lizzy, you’re not in love; this is only a strong, fleeting crush.”

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But then they sat me down one evening– in a room filled with a thousand candles (I was worried about the fire hazard, but when I voiced my concerns they told me to quiet down. Ireland had plenty of rain, and they had something important and Romantic to tell me, and that I was ruining it, as I do with these sorts of things) and rose petals and such–and took me by the hands and told me they were in love with me.

And I told them I loved them back before I knew what words were coming out of my mouth.

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We got married last weekend.

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In a very tasteful ceremony attended by our closest friends and relatives, except for Aunt Sarah, of course, because you know how militant she feels about the patriarchal institution of marriage and how she wouldn’t be caught dead in a room with people construing “oppressive law for love.”

We bought a cottage in the countryside, because it was too difficult to find a place for a young married couple in Dublin. We’ve adopted a basset hound mix from the local pound. His name is Rupert.

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The First Couple Weeks Back in Europe

…have been really fucking intense. Like, Jesus Christ, has it always been this bad? No cheeky tongue-in-said-cheek artsy-ass way to convolute it: the past few weeks have just been an adventure.

My original plan coming back to Europe before starting school in Dublin on September 11 was to go and WWOOF (organic farm labor in exchange for food and housing) near Paris for about a week and a half, move to Dublin, get a phone/housing/bank account/etc etc, and start school. I found an orchard just a train ride out of Paris that looked quite lovely, and the host and I set up the ten-day arrangement for mid-August.

Starting at the Chicago Airport on my way to Paris, things already went awry when I had paid for two checked bags that somehow didn’t show up on my ticket (calling Kiwi did nothing, by the way), and I dealt with it simply by weeping at the check-in lady until she let both on the plane.

Then, at the orchard, I was (somehow) surprised to find that the host was a single old man retired from a career as a lawyer. Without thinking, I had just assumed it would be like the last three times I had WWOOFed where it had always been a family with at least one other WWOOFer. A little nervous about this set-up, I went along with it for four days that, I found, just got creepier and creepier. The man complimented me consistently on everything from my French to my personality to (especially) my looks. One night, I couldn’t get away from him to go to sleep because he wanted to talk to me about how a smile like mine was a gift to the world for fifteen minutes straight. I had read his reviews on the WWOOFing website and they had all been very positive, so I stayed thinking that it was probably just me being overly sensitive. However, one day, he took me with him to the grocery store, and, when he asked me if there was anything French I particularly missed, and I said the Trésor cereal, he bought it and said I could maybe thank him with a kiss. When I recoiled a little, not sure what to say, he said “no, maybe not here” and then gave me a big speech in the car ride home about how it was more important to give than to receive. Upon talking to the boy I had dated in France this past year—who now lives in Brussels—about it, he told me I needed to leave, and that I was welcome at his for the next seven days before I left for Dublin.

I booked the bus. Unsure of what to tell my WWOOFing host, I said I was going to Brussels for the weekend and just needed to take all of my things with me because I owed my friend a lot of books and instruments. He believed me for a few hours, but then got suspicious and demanded over and over that I tell him the truth. When eventually I said I was going to Brussels for good, he yelled at me that I was a coward and a liar all the way from packing up my things to carrying them all the way across his gravel driveway in the pouring rain to the gate out of his property. It was insane. If you are thinking of WWOOFing, it is absolutely wonderful (usually), but BE CAREFUL and make sure you will not be alone!

This past week in Brussels was nice, but certainly intense in its own way due to spending more time with my ex-boyfriend than we probably ever did while we were actually dating. I had nothing to do (why I had wanted to use this time for WWOOFing in the first place) and picked fights. Alcohol is cheap in Belgium, and we probably drank a little too much. Then, two days ago, the Fella got in a bike accident that sent him over the handles of his bike and into the street. Although he did not go to the doctor and says he’s getting better, he’s been in pain and unable to move his right arm since.

I almost fell for a housing scam in Dublin yesterday.

Currently, I am sitting in the Paris Beauvais Airport for the next nine hours after having already been travelling for eleven hours straight because, due to a string of unfortunate events, I missed my flight to Dublin by fourteen minutes.

I hate to believe in luck and, if there is such a thing, I know that I have an obnoxious amount of it. But I still can’t help but wonder if I am momentarily cursed, and when it will lift (I had just gotten in a car accident and, separately, a flat-tire on the freeway the week before coming to Europe).

I keep beating myself up for being here, and, as always, reading about what’s crumbling to pieces at home.

I hope these weeks have not been a reflection of what this year is to hold. I am incredibly, beyond excited to live in one of my favorite cities in the world, but, after all this, I am honestly feeling discouraged and a little out of my depth.

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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