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Friday, March 18, 2005

Ireland

I guess yesterday would have been the day to blog about my Irish memories. But a dinner of corned beef and colcannon with Tim's friends degenerated into "when I was in Ireland" stories--and even as I participate in them, I'm annoyed with them. So I'd rather tell my favorite memories on an insignificant day.

Mornings. My classmates and I were bunkered in these rather odd apartment-like dorms off the campus of University College Galway. I think there were perhaps 4-6 bedrooms in each, with a tiny living room and kitchen. For the first week or so, my only roommate was an older, retired woman. I was shy and didn't talk to her, she got upset, and left the program. So I had the whole apartment to myself. Class didn't start until 10:30. I had a breakfast pass to a cafe next door, and I loved their heavy brown bread, but again--shy, so I stayed home. Each morning I awoke at a leisurely time, made myself a big breakfast and a pot of tea, and spent an hour or two relaxing, reading, and writing (either for assignment or in my journal). It was the first time I'd been on my own--and I acknowledged every single second as it happened, and again in my journal. And long, relaxing breakfasts fed my soul. (I'd do them now if I weren't so tired every time my alarm goes off.)

Piercings. A week or two into the program. After a late night bonding over Murphy's pints, I made a new friend. Cathy. I confessed to her that I missed my nose piercing, and we set out to find a piercing shop. I made my appointment, but needed some courage. We cut afternoon classes and went to a tiny pub for a few pints. I didn't know back then the reason you weren't supposed to be drunk for piercings or tattoos wasn't for judgment reasons, but for blood thinning reasons. The piercer agreed to do it anyway (she probably believed my surprise and naivety). Still, still, still I remember with excruciating physical memory the heightened awareness I had of the needle going through flesh in my buzzed condition. And then I subsequently bled for half an hour. I hung my face under her cold faucet until we were able to leave. We went back to the same pub and showed off my piercing. Cathy and I wiled away two or three pints there--which, I soon discovered, was the perfect amount to settle into half-past buzzed and well on the way to drunk. Our conversations were the kind made of heads huddled together, hands flashing and gesturing, laughter, and sudden friendship.

I remember it every day when I put away the dishes. I squirrelled away a pint glass from the campus pub, somehow managed to carry it across the ocean without breakage, and have been using it ever since. It's one of my most treasured souvenirs from that summer. July 3/4, a celebration in Ireland akin to our St. Patrick's Day festivities. Cathy met Michael that day (pronounce MEEEE-hall), fell in love, and I made off with a glass.

And there are more memories. Lots locked up in the vault of embarrassing, involving--of course involving--a guy and bad endings. Sometimes I wish I could forget the time and experiences that existed before I could be halfway suave about love and lust. But then I'd also have to forget what a life-changing experience Ireland was, and how I grew up and became an entirely different person when I was only 20.

Sometimes I think about going back. I ache for it. Galway felt like home (and it was. My dad's father's family came from there; his mother's from County Kerry). But it also feels like a place best left in the past. I can't imagine visiting the same streets and pubs I went to eight years earlier. I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to encounter the past like that. It's difficult at times to even look at the pictures, and, god, I can't bear to read the journal entries.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lauren said...

One thing I will always regret is not studying abroad in high school and a lot of it is because of memories like these.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Jesslyne said...

Ellie, I know EXACTLY what you mean...word for word, experience for experience...I was 18-19, but I also could feel the change in me like a switch being flicked. I also had, on St. Pat's, a reminiscent time over corned beef and cabbage, but it was with my mom, and we were both droning on and on about "When I was in Ireland..."

10:06 PM  

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