(This post is meant to cover a lot of ground, so bear with me. If it seems like I’m rambling, feel free to direct your attention to the pretty pictures.)
Life goes on. I fall into patterns and forget to write regularly as I try to be here now. This involves a little more spending, a little less reflecting, and a little more living.
I actually travelled to Dublin this weekend and being in a large city for the first time in months was jarring. With my parents en-country I got to experience Ireland like a tourist—something I’ve been loathe to do in Galway…but anyway, touristing! What fun!
We had the good fortune of seeing many of the sights in Dublin town, including Trinity, the Book of Kells, and the unmissable Guinness Storehouse tour (product placement on steroids but an interesting dalliance nonetheless)—What took me back, after essentially slumming it like a student for a while, was how much money could go into creating one space. This “museum” comes complete with indoor waterfalls, surround sound, interactive automated art installations, a panoramic roof bar, tvs in barrels (?!)… I digress.
What I greatly appreciated were Dublin’s other—free!— museums, of which I got the chance to visit two. One focused on art and the other on Ireland’s archaeology which I have the privilege be studying at NUIG. I’m not sure if you’re a nerd like me and have heard about this, but Ireland is unique in its large collection of organic material artifacts. Because they sank into environments largely devoid of oxygen (the enemy of preservationists), things like skin, hair, clothing, books even can remain intact for over 1000 years. One particular find on view in the museum was the Faddan More manuscript which, if I discussed here I’d end up geeking out about ineloquently, so I recommend watching this video if you want some context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELmmPpQWCkk
Also on display were a few bog bodies. Now, since they take on the role of bringing history to the people, museums have a huge responsibility when it comes to framing that history. Yet they also must draw visitors to keep their doors open, and the more macabre artifacts are infinitely more popular. Recall the expression in journalism, If it bleeds it leads…? The thing is, these museums are dealing with bodies—the remains of people who actually lived and died, sometimes violently. There’s no way I can quickly explain what that means for how they should be viewed, but I feel it should give the average visitor pause. Also, in a move which was perhaps not in the best of taste, the bodies were displayed in glass cases located directly adjacent to the museum café.
Besides gawking at museums and getting lost in city streets I’ve been having a grand time in Galway over the past month. I went to a Shakespeare play and felt very good about spending my own money on theatre. I visited a stone fort on a cliff and explored some caves—my classroom has become the Irish countryside and I am very ok with it. I tried and failed to play Gaelic Football (fastest field sport in the world—google it). I watched a parade like a little kid, and I caught a rainbow just in time to get caught in a downpour.
At the risk of sounding like an undercover anthropologist, amid all of these wonderful things I’ve also been attempting to understand this place through its people. This can come in different ways, such as asking what they think about their political leaders, how they interpret dating culture here, or simply what they think of their home. I asked one of my roommates from Donegal what she thought about Ireland and without any hesitation she just said, “I love it.” An un-ironic love for the place you’re from is foreign to me coming from America; land of hypocrisy. We’ve also had some extremely interesting conversations about why so many students go home for the weekend. It might take people aback to know that student housing goes silent on Saturday. Coming from an American context [skewed by my experience of living on an isolated liberal arts campus] the idea of college kids going home every weekend is almost concerning. Here it has a lot to do with how the Irish youth (take this with a grain of salt– they obviously don’t all have the same opinion) view familial obligation and home—they don’t necessarily consider dorms here home. As a person whose object is to make a home wherever I roam, this was fascinating to finally discuss.
Still, 90% of living abroad concerns the realization that you’re part of a broader existence, and all the little things that go along with that realization. How are you going to adapt? How will you reach out and bridge the gap? How will you stay connected amid a new normal? Rather rapidly you realize that your little slice of world isn’t the only one dealing with the weight of it all. Homesickness translates into an acknowledgment that life can be happening in multiple places at once and that is OK. I’m understanding who I am here, which shouldn’t be too much different than who I am everywhere, right?
For the time being I can safely say that if all those considerations get too taxing, rejuvenation can be found in a cup of Galway hot cocao, or a good old spice bag.
 The quintessential Irish Spice Bag (alternatively served in a box) consists of crispy chicken bits, fries, sometimes pepper and onions, and a mystery blend of spices. It can be found at many a Chinese takeaway and it is a revelation. Nothing like deep fried divinity with a heart-stopping amount of salt to remind you what’s right with the world.