“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”
– Sean O’Casey (Irish Dramatist)
I can’t remember where I first saw this quotation written out but I remember loving it immediately. Such a great Irish play on the brilliant Shakespeare. Here’s the thing though, as much as I love this quote I should probably explain what it says to me before some of you begin to think I have slipped into some strange form of Irish melancholy because believe you-me that has yet to happen. I may be a little homesick but I am still the perpetually happy-go-lucky Erin you all know (and hopefully still love – if not I will work on rekindling that when I get home).
Yes, I do think Mr. O’Casey here is right when he says we are, most of us, desperately unrehearsed for this rather long performance we call life. But hear me out – I didn’t say this is a bad thing. There’s another saying that goes something along the lines of “the best things in life happen when you least expect it” or, “the best moments occur when you’re not thinking.” The latter expression is especially great for students who are hoping for an amazing summer sans use of the overworked brains that may or may not have quit on them as early as April when things still needed to get done…Yeah I’m talking to you grey-matter in my head that somehow thought it a good plan to write 2 final essays in 10 days…
Anyway – that’s between me and my brain. We’ll be fine don’t worry.
So now that you think I’m sufficiently crazy, and if you do you wouldn’t be wrong, here’s the thing: girl guides taught me to be prepared (apparently for anything and everything – I have not yet had to use my butter-making skills but I have a badge that proclaims my dairy-skills if you don’t believe me so there) and they’re not wrong to do so: you can rehearse for some aspects of life, sure.
You can study for a test until you’ve memorized the inordinately large pile of material you were supposed to absorb; yet you can still end up staring at 100 multiple choice questions for a ridiculous amount of time before filling them in so that the picture created out of filled in circles resembles a cat.
You can practice cooking till you’re out of groceries and have accumulated a mile-high pile of dishes; yet when that one ingredient in a recipe doesn’t seem right you switch it up in a heartbeat, and hope for the best. OR you bravely throw an unseemly amount of nastiness into a blender and it turns out tasting pretty good, best exemplified by the ever-knowledgeable Freaks and Geeks (also known as the most adorable John Francis Daly role to date).
You can plan a trip for months and months, attempting to set every detail of every minute in stone so that your family and friends (and more importantly – MA supervisors) can see you have a plan, you’ll be all right; yet when you actually arrive that plan goes out the window the moment the airport bus doesn’t leave at the time you were expecting (I would argue that’s where the fun begins).
See what these situations have in common? You can spend your whole life planning things out and yet you can never really PLAN for life. Life just happens and, honestly, sometimes you have to just let go of your instincts to control everything and go with the flow (OK so maybe the hostel life is rubbing off on me a bit – you can’t help it when you’re surrounded by people just drifting wherever the wind takes them, and a mighty strong wind it must be, those backpacks are HUGE – but I swear some semblance of this argument existed in my mind before this trip).
All right, enough philosophising. This brings me to the point of this post: my experience of travelling completely alone. My last post was numbered for easy perusal (and an easy way for you to quit reading when you get sick of my writing – you’re welcome) so let’s do that again shall we? Erin’s observations of Eire, Part Deux.
1. It is impossible not to imitate the Irish accent. No seriously, you think I’m just trying to make up an excuse for why my speech sounds like some weird hybrid Canadian/Irish. It’s not on purpose! They just sound so lovely when they talk, so effortless. I met an American last night who mentioned that I seemed to be slipping slowly into an Irish accent, I certainly don’t sound home-grown Canadian, eh! He’s studying acting in London and as such has to learn all kinds of accents, which makes his opinion all the more valid when he tells me I seem to have a natural knack for them, at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself, don’t burst my bubble. So I didn’t inherit my father’s linguistic skills, like my sister, but at least I can pull off an accent! Here’s to hoping I can bring it back for show-and-tell on my return. And if you don’t let me have my turn at show-and-tell, I will simply pack up my stuff and leave, like I did in Kindergarten (but that’s a story for another time).
2. You may be wondering: aren’t you lonely travelling all alone, Erin? If you’re truly wondering that I’m beginning to question how well you know me but hey – maybe you know me better than I do myself as I have begun to miss the company of my crazy friends back home. So what’s the best way to meet people while travelling solo? Here’s my technique: Order a drink from the hostel bar (no it certainly doesn’t have to be alcoholic for all you tee-totalling troupers out there) and then just wait. Chances are either the person who ordered in front of you and is waiting for their Guinness to be perfectly poured (it’s serious business over here) or the person waiting to order behind you is bound to strike up some kind of conversation. In my case it was the young man waiting for his Guinness, and he turned out to be of a lovely sort. More on that later but there you have it: aching loneliness that blind-sided you, immediately cured – serve shaken-not-stirred…
3. There are people who actually speak with the Borat accent. Honestly. Although, it’s arguably not acceptable to laugh at them when they strike up a conversation. And THAT, my friends, is really hard to do. Sacha Baron Cohen has done them no favours, though I did manage to hide my grin until this lovely gentleman left the building. It did NOT help that when I commented on the nice weather and he answered “It is very nice.” Yes, it sounded exactly as you think it might. I have no idea how I managed not to burst into obnoxious laughter but I am very glad I didn’t.
4. Guinness tastes better in Ireland. It just does. As does Smithwicks, Bulmers and Harp. If you don’t believe me, get over here!
5. Another lesson (I know those are your favourites!): do not travel with items which are nearing the end of their usefulness. I know, you’re probably just as stubborn and independent as me, and you’re going to anyway but just a warning: you end up with split jeans and bags that can only hold your laptop and nothing else for fear of completely falling apart. Lesson learnt – where learning my lesson gets me except down a pair of jeans and soon-to-be-down a necessary laptop bag I have no idea but I don’t think I get to choose when or where I learn new things – am I too old to throw a temper tantrum to get my way? Voting on this dilemma begins now.
6. There’s a persistent rumour out there that Americans are obnoxious travellers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is patently untrue! Sure, there are your loud know-it-all Americans but that’s not a trait they monopolize as a people. Since being here I have met both wonderful Americans and truly annoying people from many other countries. Case in point: the American I hung out with last night, from Detroit. Great company, thoroughly entertaining and a writer to boot. If you have any faith in my writing ability whatsoever (and if you don’t – you are very brave for still slogging through this incredibly long post) you can probably tell we hit it off immediately.
7. If a pub says it was founded in 1198, run-don’t-walk to check it out. The Brazen Head (right near my hostel!) was one of the coolest pubs I have ever set foot in and, considering my reputation for constantly ditching the aforementioned set-in-stone plan in favour of hitting up intriguing pubs to enjoy a good pint, that’s saying something. We didn’t stick around long enough for the live Irish music but we did watch a game of hurling. Ok, watch is a strong term. I gazed glassy-eyed at a TV screen while large men ran around a pitch hitting each other with sticks in a game that somehow ended in a tie that involved the number 117. I felt like a muggle watching Quidditch. Yeah that’s right I went there. Interesting side-note. the word “muggle” is actually Traveller’s cant for an apple – who knew!? This blog was supposed to be about my thesis so there you have the necessitated reference to what I am actually studying over here. And now back to what I am sure are the extraordinarily-fascinating-observations of a 23-year-old Canadian who may or may not be currently writing a thesis.
8. Although I struggled with the concept of hurling (please note, I do mean the sport, not what happens when you drink too much which I definitely did not do last night) a nice Irishman sitting beside us did attempt to explain the concept to me. I apologize to all the men back home who have had to explain hockey to a girl before – sidenote, what self-respecting Canadian girl DOESN’T at least somewhat understand hockey… just saying – but I was definitely listening to him with furrowed brow trying to understand what he was telling me.
Another side-note, because I can’t get enough of those, how does furrowing your brow help you think? Interesting fact: I’m doing it right now while I write this sentence, unintentionally – oh the simple mysteries of life.
Back to my point. Hurling seems to be similar to lacrosse but the sticks have no nets, which presumably makes it much harder to hold the ball. There’s something about being able to carry the ball in your hand for 4 steps and then you have to hit it or put it back on the stick… and there’s a football-like goal post you are aiming for. Oh and the number one rule: stay alive. So in logical terms, Hurling is a mixture of lacrosse, rugby, basketball and football. In my mind (not always the most logical), Hurling = The Hunger Games. Needless to say I will never be trying my hand at this sport.
9. If a park is big enough to have a lawn set out exclusively for deer-fawning, it’s a big park and it WILL take you hours to get out of it. I learn this (further) lesson the hard way resulting in a fairly decent sunburn and some sore feet but it was completely worth it. I spent the better part of an hour strolling through the dazzlingly bright green groves of the lower park, eventually making my way up to the central pathways lined with flowers and day-drinkers (yes, drinking in public places is legal here and is enthusiastically practised) which led me to the Wellington Monument and subsequent attempts at artsy-photographs. The fact that the Monument (or, more accurately, “testament”) is in the shape of an obelisk only puzzled me for a moment. Now that I have seen obelisks in Paris, London, Dublin and Washington DC of all places I have come to terms with the fact that nearly everyone has now tried to claim their piece of Egyptian history and out of this historical inaccuracy we get really cool landmarks that make it super easy to find your way no matter where you happen to get yourself lost, take it from someone who has successfully gotten lost in at least 10 different countries on 2 continents.
10. I should probably shut up at this point but I almost forgot to share the most relevant story of all: I have actually completed some research over here! The walk to the archive took me 1 1/2 hours but I believe it was absolutely worth it. After about 30 minutes I had extricated myself from the impressively over-crowded tourist portions of Dublin (most of the city-centre) and made my way down a wide and rather unattractive main lane-way to a southern neighbourhood called Donnybrook.
On the way I met an interesting older gentleman who tried to convince me to bet on some horses (12 out of the 14 he had been given by some lad had won the day before which are apparently incredible odds… I know nothing of such things) which I declined. He then warned me of an area of the city where men lie down on the side of the road and when you walk by suddenly jump up and try and rob you. I don’t know about you but this seems like a TERRIBLE tactic to me. If I see random men lying on the side of the road, I am most likely NOT going to walk directly past them – but maybe my survival instincts are simply more intact than some. I will admit, the story was enough to make me bus home from campus but I think I shall be walking from now on… I will be walking right in the middle of rush hour, so don’t worry your lovely little heads about me 🙂
ANY WAY, God I get sidetracked easily. I made it to campus and the archivist was absolutely darling. He had already pulled out a few surprisingly heavy tomes of bound typed manuscripts for
me, full of information I can use for that mythical thing called a Thesis which will hopefully write itself while I blog instead. As it stands right now I’m just happy to be reading transcripts of interviews conducted with Travellers between 1935 and 1955. Suffice it to say they did not have the same transcription codes when it comes to interviews as we do today – very few quotations included source names or even a description of the person talking. Most interesting sentence to date? (After only 1 afternoon spent in the archive): “Some people don’t want us in the place at all, but sure we are every bit as entitled to be roamin as what people who live in houses have a right to do so.” (unknown travelling gentleman interviewed by Sean MacGrath). Personally, I think the man has a point but then again I’m not Irish (well, not recently and I have no first-hand experience of the relationship between the two cultures). I can’t wait to dig further into these sources.
All right, I’ll quit there. To those who sat through this post – good on yeh. I know it was a long one. I’ll shoot for much shorter on the next one.
As always, remember, life is beautiful. Even when you’re homesick and desperately trying your luck at going with the flow and living out an unrehearsed performance.