I’ve been in Ireland for 61 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 36 seconds. In that time I’ve become familiar with the streets of Dublin, hiked the cliffs of Howth, taken a ferry ride to Inis Mór, walked the rocky beaches of Galway, explored the strange and fascinating landscape of The Burren, and climbed the famous Shandon Bell Tower to catch a breathtaking view of Cork. I’ve gone from feeling like a lost and confused tourist to just another student living and studying in Dublin (although, I do still feel lost and confused more often than I’d like to admit). This shift from tourist to, well, average human was especially evident last week when some friends from home visited for the weekend.
Having only two days to show them my favorite places in Dublin proved to be a difficult task. Trying to fit in all of the wonderful and fascinating things in the city center that I had seen in the past two months was impossible to squeeze into a weekend, but I did my best to provide as extensive of a tour as I could. Belen and I planned a route for our first afternoon that included St. Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedral, a stroll along the Liffey, a walk across the O’Connell Street Bridge and finally, onto Grafton Street (with a stop at Gio’s Gelato Shop, of course). With the help of our Irish Life and Culture class, we were able to describe the historical significance of buildings we passed along the way, explain the politics behind the ‘water charge’ protest signs, teach them some Irish phrases, and even give a mini (and probably a little too enthusiastic) lecture on the Catholic/Protestant divide on the island of Ireland. While my knowledge of these topics is definitely limited, it wasn’t until I shared what I had learned with someone who wasn’t on our program that I realized how much we have actually gained from living, studying, and breathing Ireland.
Irish history is dense, rich, and evolving as I type. The study of it is simultaneously ancient and contemporary – there are structures still standing today that are thousands of years old, while the Republic of Ireland was only established 93 years ago and the political implications remain in contemporary Irish politics. It’s impossible to learn everything there is to know about the culture, people, and history of Ireland, but I think we’ve made a decent dent!
Touring the National Museum of Ireland and seeing artifacts that date back to the 7th century reminded me how old human civilization is. And I’m sure that this weekend in Belfast, I will be reminded that history is never over. Standing on the cliffs of Inis Mór overlooking the vast Atlantic Ocean, I was reminded of how big the world is. And walking through Dublin with one of my closest friends from Portland reminded me how small it can be.
I have another 50 days, 12 hours, and 33 seconds left in this country, and I don’t think I’ll be completely satisfied by the time I hop on that flight back to Seattle. But I will be able to leave Ireland knowing that I sucked as much history, tradition, and culture as I possibly could in the time I had to work with.