Life in Ireland, Pt.1 - Tender beginnings

Considering that I moved to Ireland in the summer of 2005 this blog post on my life in Ireland is realistically about six years overdue. Why now then you may ask? I decided it would be nice to take a moment to sit back and reflect on just what I have been doing since I graduated and pretty much got up and left Germany behind to try and make it on my own in another country.

I distinctively remember the time leading up to the date that I left Germany, three months after my graduation. Spring had only just turned into summer yet temperatures were soaring sky-high. With the daily routine of getting up at 7am in the morning, showering and getting dressed, grumpily sipping my morning coffee while my dad prepared my school lunch (yes, I was that spoiled!), grabbing my school bag and jumping on my bike to cycle to school over for good I felt somewhat lost. Most of my friends were preparing for university and as such busy looking for student accommodation somewhere near the university that had accepted them, others were preparing for their vocational training as auto-mobile mechanic, retail sales person or hotel clerk.

I was somewhere in-between, looking for an opportunity to do something that mainly required the use of English and just generally trying to find footing in a world that no longer required walking from classroom to classroom to recite the periodic table of elements, know the phases of mitosis, write lengthy interpretations on "Das Lied von der Glocke" (English: 'Song of the Bell') by Friedrich Schiller and sing songs such as "Mein kleiner grüner Kaktus" and "The Galway Piper". Eventually after about a month of going to bed at 6am in the morning, sleeping until 3pm and spending the rest of the afternoon at the outdoor swimming pool, followed by the odd night out, I settled on getting serious about what once had been a tentative idea - an Au Pair year abroad. Extensive reading and research followed. I was drawn in by the idea that I may possibly get an opportunity to go back to California, USA.

Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA, USA
December, 2004

California ended up on the bench and instead I thought about going to Australia for a year and that was spoiled by the option to spend a year in Oxford, England which I turned down because I couldn't understand my host family, a family with three children, originally from Inverness, Scotland. What had once been an exciting idea had turned into a nightmare with my dad on my back to go back to studying, my mother urging me to do various things and my aunt suggesting I move to London to live with my uncle, his wife and their children and grandchildren.

At this stage I was ready to pull out my hair and a nanosecond away from signing a contract to go and study at a language school for three years to become a foreign language correspondent. Then, to cut a long story short, a light at the end of the tunnel...a trip to Ireland. My suitcase was packed and I was ready to go faster than I have ever packed a suitcase since. I informed my dad about my decision to go on a holiday to Ireland, he smiled and wished me good luck. All the while he tried to convince me that nobody in Ireland spoke English because the national language was Irish, a language I'd have a hard time trying to understand. I chose not to believe my dad but still bit my nails during the entire trip to the airport. My hands were firmly clasped in my lap throughout the 2h flight to Dublin and I'm sure the stewardess kept an extra close eye on me to ensure I didn't have a panic attack or something equally horrible.

My first thought upon stepping out of the plane and onto the runway to board the bus to the terminal was 'this feels like home' and with a smile I made my way to the luggage belts to claim my suitcase. Half an hour later I stood in the arrivals area of Dublin airport, looking more than just lost. I felt out of place and scared and started berating myself for the ridiculously stupid decision to come to Ireland. My eyes were scanning the arrival's hall for the Aer Lingus desk and I was determined to book a flight back to Germany, but before I could make my way to the first floor of Dublin airport I was swept out of the building by a large group of hens from the UK, who'd arrived in Dublin for a mad weekend of drinks and dance, as well as a junior rugby team. Before long I was in the queue to get a taxi.

A comforting 'Where to, love?' brought me back to the present and while the driver stowed my luggage in the boot of his car, I managed to tell him the name of the hotel that I'd booked myself into. He opened the door for me, pushed me into the car and told me to put my seatbelt on, or at least I suppose that's what he said. He asked me for the hotel name again while he started the engine and I showed him the booking confirmation. 'Ah that's on Parnell Square,' he said, reversed and we left the airport behind. On the way the driver explained various things to me and suggested I grab the 42 bus out to Malahide when I get a chance - 'beautiful castle and park,' and according to him Portmarnock Beach was apparently also a must-see, followed by a massive list of various Dublin sights such a Ha'Penny Bridge, Stephen's Green Park, Dublin Castle, etc, etc, etc. We made it to the hotel in 25 minutes and the driver brought me to the reception. He greeted the night porter in such manner I thought they were brothers and told the guy to take good care of me. Some 15 minutes later I was sat on a large queen-sized bed in my hotel room, room card and TV remote in my hand, listening to a bunch of drunken teens talking nonsense. My head was filled with two thoughts - 'surreal' and 'I'm hungry'.

I snacked on some gummy bears and went to bed with the television on. They were showing some soap opera and I didn't understand a word of what was being said until I figured out they were speaking Gaelic so I switched channels but the show on the other channel was just as bad. Some guy, who I later found out was Pat Kenny, was interviewing some chap who seemed to speak English but then on the other hand maybe he wasn't after all. Terrified I switched over to the news and the nice weather lady informed me that tomorrow it would be mostly sunny with a few light showers. I turned the television off and went to sleep, most confused. In the morning I learned that in Ireland a 'light shower' is the same thing as a full-blown thunderstorm in Germany. Since I hate thunder and lightening I hid away in the bathroom and when I did decide to venture downstairs for breakfast I found out they'd already stopped serving. The lady at the reception was however nice enough to point me to a Londis down the road to grab some food, which I did.

I then braved the walk to Busáras bus station, with a map from the hotel, firmly clasped in my hands. Needless to say I got lost the moment I reached the top of O'Connell Street by the Gate Theatre. I spend a good 15 minutes trying to make sense of the map and where I was and when I couldn't I got more and more determination to change the date of my return flight to Germany. The reassuring sound of a female voice asking me 'Are you lost, love?' pulled me out of my thoughts and I stared at the woman with her long brunette hair and kind smile, who'd stopped on her way to work to help me out.

I nodded and she smiled, glanced at my map and dismissed it as 'a children's toy' as opposed to a proper map of Dublin. Despite that she managed to make sense of the map and taking out a blue pen, she drew the way to the bus station for me. She then explained the way to me and asked if I thought I'd find the way. She smiled when I dutifully repeated the directions. Her smile reminded me of a proud teacher and she proceeded to tell me not to venture near Busáras at night seeing since it wasn't a favourable place for young women like me. I believe I must've thanked her a million times for her time and the directions and with new-found confidence I headed off to the bus station to purchase a bus ticket to Kinsale, a sleepy town in Co. Cork.

Much to my horror I was informed that in Cork the Irish speak funny English and that most Dubliners don't understand Corkonians. My only thought, as I devoured a bar of chocolate to calm my nerves were 'I don't understand Dublin people, how the heck am I going to understand the people in Cork?'. Needless to say, I didn't want to board the bus and only did because I had a friend, fluent in German, waiting for me in Kinsale. Throughout the five hour journey to Kinsale I was a terrified, nervous wreck and kept my eyes firmly glued to the pages of my book about a young woman named Holly who'd lost her husband and soul-mate and was now trying to re-built her life with the help of a series of letters her husband had left her after his death. Most of you will know this book as P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern.

To be continued...

Yet to come:
- The depths of Galway
- Dublin - back for good?