“I have every right to deport you right here, right now. And I will if you don’t keep your smart mouth shut. Now wait here while I call the British immigration services to see what they have to say about you.”
Welcome to the Republic of Ireland.
Yes, it’s true. I met the biggest asshole of my life entering Ireland. It wasn’t even 5:30 am and I hadn’t had any sleep. I knew I was waiting in the wrong queue when the large bald man scowled down the long line. The entire time I was considering moving to the cute boy’s line next to him but reckoned I looked too awful so I stayed where I was. Big mistake.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said to anger this turd of a man so much. It started off that I had no concrete dates of where I would be, but instead a long list of places I was intending to visit, like any other backpacker. He told me to stand back and wait for everyone else in the room to be done before he intended to deal with me. I might have scowled a bit but only because I knew my friend Dee was awaiting my arrival on the other side and she didn’t have much time before she had to leave for work. When the impotent bastard finally called me forward (ok, I’m not sure if he was impotent but I think it’s a fairly accurate assumption based on his foul demeanor) he asked a series of questions, none of which he like my answers to. He proceeded to write down some information: names, dates, places I’ve met people, where I’m going each month. With every other answer he tells me to “keep my smart mouth shut” and didn’t like it when I didn’t answer him because I was told to do this. I knew at this point I wasn’t going to win.
From the very beginning he was threatening to deport me and while I knew this was extremely unlikely (they can only really make you buy an expensive ticket home on the spot) I decided to humor him and let the stupid prick fulfill his power trip. I could tell he didn’t believe a word I was saying to him and was certain I was in Ireland to steal jobs from the locals. By the way, Ireland was hit extremely hard by the economic recession and I’m not sure I could even pay someone to hire me here. He didn’t even believe I had a legitimate friend on the other side whom had come to collect me; I couldn’t pronounce her name correctly (Deirdre, not De-dra…like I would know, I’ve only called her ‘Dee’) and we met playing with monkeys in Bolivia. How could that possibly be true?
He went to prove me wrong only to discover everything I said matched up. How unfortunate for him, he really wanted to send me home. He then went to call the British Immigration sure that they would insist I was sent home as well. In between this he proceeded to lecture my lifestyle choices calling me “ridiculous” and that “this was no way to live a life” and “I’ve made some serious poor life decisions”. I assume this bitterness developed from envy being that he was stuck in a god-awful booth for hours on end while I am young and free to do whatever I please. At least this is what I continue to tell myself.
Two hours later my spirit was broken, I had dramatically cried every tear out of my system, and I was starting to believe this pitiful man could actually send me home. When he finally went to stamp my passport I stupidly told him I had been to Ireland before, and no, there was no stamp in or out. He then started calling me illegal and was ready to tear into a whole new speech on how absurd my life is when a massive swarm of people showed up needing to be filed. He rolled his eyes and knew this battle was lost, but I knew he was still hungry to deport someone else. He begrudgingly gave me a stamp but not the traditional 90 day tourist visa as I deserved, but a 2 week “get the fuck out of Ireland or we will deport you” stamp. I was informed that once in Northern Ireland I would have to (willingly) go to a police station to get them to stamp some entry thing into my passport so I wouldn’t have any future troubles with the Republic of Ireland. The problem is this stamp itself is trouble; it will serve a red flag to every immigration officer I ever encounter from here on out. Thanks asshole.
So once cleared for entry I literally ran past the gate, up and down several flights of stairs, grabbed my backpack and eagerly searched for Dee on the other side. Dublin has a surprisingly small airport and she was nowhere to be found. It was also after the predetermined time Dee said she would have to leave by if my flight came in late. I was so disoriented and broken spirited at this point I simply got on a bus headed toward the center of town. Plus, I couldn’t stand being in that airport for one more minute.
After I missed several decent bus stops in the center of town, I got off only to walk aimlessly searching for something open with wifi so I could look up Dee’s address. I found a shopping mall boasting free wifi yet nothing inside was open. So naturally I threw myself on the ground and opened my netbook I was thanking myself for buying before I left. Right when I got the address the security guard sternly told me I had to leave. To be fair, I looked pretty haggard and homeless at this point. I sweetly asked his help for directions and when he realized I was merely a hippie, not a hobo (often confused), he pointed to where I needed to go and I set off for the long and tiresome walk.
While it was cold outside, I was dressed in layers and carrying way too much stuff. The entire walk I was cursing the immigration officer and planning various anti-Irish facebook status updates. It then occurred to me that maybe this happened for a reason; maybe the Universe needed to push me out of Ireland for whatever reason I couldn’t foresee. While this was probably true it was simply easier to curse constantly in my head. Either way, I was in the middle of an adventure and happy to prove to myself that traveling is never as easy as it seems.
I showed up at Dee’s apartment a sweaty wreck and was surprised to find her there. She had actually been waiting for me the entire time at the airport; she couldn’t go to work thinking I had a good chance of being deported. The officer promised to call her when I was released and so she settled into a café with coffee and a newspaper. She was not looking for me. And I was not looking for someone not looking for me. Damn. She only came home because I had posted on her facebook wall earlier that I was on foot heading to her apartment. She was now several hours late for work and the officer managed to ruin not only my day, but hers as well. He knew exactly when she had to leave for work and released me merely 10 minutes past that time. Conniving bastard.
Don’t worry though, the story only gets better from here. Dee and her boyfriend had already set up a comfortable bed in the living room. I was given tea and a spliff to calm down and slowly I was beginning to appreciate being in Ireland. After a long and much needed nap, Dee returned form work as did her roommate, Yvonne, and three of us girls just sat around chatting for awhile. Eventually Dee and I set out for wine, take away dinner, and a couple of groceries for me. The evening was calm but exactly what I needed. It was also similar to what most of my nights in Ireland would turn out to be.
The following day was March 17. In case you don’t have this day permanently marked in your calendar like myself, it is St. Patrick’s Day. We started it off with a proper Irish breakfast: Guinness. I argued I needed food and Dee came back with “Guinness is food. It’s got barley and iron in it. Plus pregnant women drink it. Well, not loads of it, but still.” I will never understand Irish logic but I sure do like it.
The early afternoon was spent standing on my tippy toes being well-squished trying to watch the parade. I didn’t catch everything but the bit I did watch was fascinating. The “floats” weren’t terribly large but intricate in concept and execution. The theme apparently changes every year and while I never found out the official one, my best guess was children’s stories. I could point out Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, and a Bug’s Life. It all seemed so random but fun to watch as the people danced down the street with swirling floats and DJs blasting techno. I couldn’t find one thing that said ‘green’ or ‘St. Patty’s day’ but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Afterwards Dee and I quickly headed into a bar in the infamous Temple Bar area before the crowds swarmed in. We got out pints right before the masses flooded into the room but we managed to get ourselves a standing spot next a table right in front of the lad on stage playing guitar and singing. It was a genuinely good moment because the drunken crowd was singing along to some great classics. After our one pint we headed back to Dee’s apartment to prep for the party she was having that night. By prep I mean there were already guests there drinking so we joined in.
Hours later more guests arrived until we reached near capacity for their apartment. It was all good fun though as there were two groups: smoking and non-smoking. I stayed in the strictly alcoholic section with Dee until later in the evening when I wandered over to the group that never stopped rolling. Ok, time for personal commentary. There is a vast cultural difference in smoking habits between Irish and Americans. First of all, California was blessed with fantastic greenery and laws supporting it, hence smoking it in its pure form is the only acceptable habit. “Spliffs” do not exist. Plus we hate tobacco in general. In Ireland, the price is absurd and the quality terrible. So the habit of rolling their own spliffs have taken off and it is not uncommon to find up to four people rolling at a time in one room. Personally, I’d rather one good one but hey, this is about learning other’s culture. Another interesting difference is the fact that you smoke as much as you want while leaving some according to the number of people in the room. We were raised to “puff, puff, pass” and one would be made fun of if they babysat or bogarted the joint. Here, you have your share and then pass never planning on seeing it again. While I was very appreciative of everyone taking good care of me I can’t help but maintain California has better traditions in this matter, hands down.
Now back to St. Patty’s. By this point in the evening I was well inebriated and still totally fucked from lack of sleep and jet lag. Of course I was the first to ass out but after laying in the dark for a few minutes everything swirled around me and I had to expel everything from my system. Being the courteous houseguest, I held it in until the bathroom was available and made my mess into the toilet. Yes, this seems obvious but I can’t say the same for the other houseguests. I later found out there were two others that got sick that evening. A couple no less, and while one vomited in and around a trash bucket in the Yvonne’s room, the other got sick in the hall….and on Yvonne’s iphone. Lucky Yvonne.
The next day I learned just how common it was for the Irish to “get sick’, particularly on St. Patty’s. There was sick in the hall and covering much of the streets in Dublin. So in fairness, I fit right in. I really wasn’t that hungover but still needed to rest. Of course in the evening when Dee returned from work I was back on the bottle. She insisted “you’re only in Dublin for a week. You’ll either be drunk or asleep. It’s the rule.” No argument here.
First some quick background on the history of Dee and me. We met in Bolivia at an animal sanctuary we worked at in the jungle. Our love for monkeys, red wine, and late night dance parties with gossip is what bonded us. I knew coming here that instead of buying bottles, we should have just gone for cases of wine. If only there were a Costco here. But alas, we made due and also made dinner. I had insisted on showing her true guacamole seven months ago in the jungle and now I was finally capable of making it. We gorged ourselves rotten on quesadillas and I eventually fell asleep in a food, wine, and spliff coma. Actually I did this every night in Dublin. (Side note in case Dee can be incriminated: She does not smoke spliffs. Ever. But those in her company tend to. That’s all.)
I wish I could say I spent the days strolling the streets, soaking in the atmosphere, and visiting fascinating spots all over town. But this wasn’t my first visit here and I was more keen on sleeping in being that I hadn’t adjusted to the time zone. I did manage to make it to the gym with trainer Dee a couple of times and very much appreciated her kicking my ass a bit there. The following few evenings were variations of the evenings before, every one filled with good conversation and great atmosphere. A great highlight was the brewhouse pub we went to Saturday afternoon to watch the rugby match. Irish rugby is a big deal and this game with Scotland was supposed to be good. And it was, but would have been better if their kicker didn’t suck and they won in the end. Their comeback was impressive though, yet the highlight to me was simply the spirit in the room.
Sunday was my favorite day because we managed to get out of the city and went for a drive through the country to Glendalough. Luckily, it was a sunny day but that also meant swarms of people interrupting my nature time. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed walking in nature through the trees, near the lake, and up a rocky mountain. There was even an old tower I swear Rapunzel lived in. On the steepest, most open, and most difficult part of our walk it started to sprinkle rain. The sun remained out when the sprinkle turned to legitimate rain and I wasn’t sure what to make of myself while I was sweating (hence wearing only a tank top) but getting very wet in the process. Eventually we decided to make our way back down but then I noticed some holes in the path. Since St. Patrick had chased out all the snakes many years ago I was certain these were the homes of leprechauns. I insisted they come out and give me a pot of gold or at least tell me where the rainbow would end, but alas, the only response I got was Dee saying I had lost the plot, she was completely embarrassed , and I should keep my yank accent to myself. I then shouted something about ‘eggplant’ and ‘freedom’ but eventually we made it back to her car where much needed snacks were awaiting us.
We took the long drive back to Dublin and I thoroughly enjoyed all the scenery while Dee answered every one of my endless questions regarding politics, history, and general culture. The evening was spent in town imbibing pints with her good friend and his Greek visitor. We were eventually forced to leave being the last people in the bar and were drunk enough to eat falafel and curry chips. Some douchey Scotsman yelled at me for my “North American accent” and I had to wonder if this was really fair to Canada.
It was way past time to go home as Dee had work early in the morning, but I was able to sleep in and meet her at the gym in the afternoon. We attempted to make it to the Guinness factory that evening but failed. So since Irish culture was shot for the night we went to eat at a place called ‘Captain Amerca’s’. Nice. We went for the irony, photos, and beer tower. We did pretty well for ourselves and were yet again the last to leave.
The following day I attempted to sort out my immigration disaster from the week before but it seemed pretty obvious this was going to be as difficult as getting a compliment out of the officer I originally dealt with. Thanks to a strike in the passport office and an already overwhelmed office filled with determined Nigerians seeking refuge, I didn’t stand a chance to get a ticket to even be seen. The good news is Dee and I made it to the Guinness factory that afternoon.
A self guided tour filled with way too much reading lead us up to the Gravity Bar that sits atop the entire city of Dublin. The end of the tour included a free pint of the most perfectly poured Guinness. Truly, it is a marriage of both art and science to pour a pint correctly and I finally acquired the appreciation for all 119.5 seconds it takes to pour. Unfortunately, some other people didn’t share this appreciation when they got their free pint. These fools simply took a sip for the photo and then fucked off. I’m not liable to explain what happened to said pints but at least I have some respect for Irish culture.
Being our final evening together, Dee and I opted for wine and tapas at home. We went to town at the grocery store covering all ethnicities including Mexican, Italian, and Arabic. We even stopped first for the best chips (french fries) in all of Dublin at Burdock’s. While Dee firmly believed in the tradition of unadulterated salt and malt vinegar, I couldn’t help my Americaness and insisted on ketchup. I think at the end of this night I needed to be rolled into bed. The Irish do not fuck around when it comes to eating, drinking, or smoking and I could use a good body detox right about now. But alas, I was due in Galway the following day.
My final morning in Dublin was spent (finally) being a true tourist. Dee and I boarded the Viking Splash tour which is an amphibious WWII vehicle (DUKWs) which basically means this odd looking bus/boat thing can be driven into the water. We were shown around the city, given interesting trivia, and shouted at the pedestrians aka “Celts” on the streets. I spent the afternoon packing and waiting for my next adventure to begin.
My lovely friend Laura, whom I met long ago in a land far away known as Malta, was kind enough to pick me up and drive me to her home in Galway on the other side of the island. She had conveniently been in Dublin competing for an internship and the timing was perfect. I arrived last night and am happy to report that was my first sober day in Ireland. Not sure how long it will last.
Today I spent in pajamas writing this bullocks and am waiting for Laura to be done with work. I am not sure what my time in Galway holds for me. I have visited here before so the tourist kitschy bit doesn’t interest me and luckily her roommates all said “you’ve been here before, right?” when they saw me. I’m aware I leave an impression everywhere I go but haven’t decided yet if this is a good or bad thing. I suppose it depends on what sort of day I’m having. And other than the first shitty morning I arrived, the days in Ireland, although grey, were certainly filled with pure enjoyment. Let’s hope my second impression is better than the first, whatever that was.