Ireland- part 5

I am determined to finish writing about my trip to Ireland today. I doubt it can be as much fun to read as it is to write because it is I who get to relive all of the memories. And with time, the bad memories fade–the exhaustion from a missed night of sleep, the grimy cottage, and so on. (Although, for the record, there aren’t many “so on”s.) It is the good memories that grow and blossom and put a little burn in my heart: that marriage of pure happiness and incredulity.

So, where did I leave off?

Saturday. I will skip over the morning escapade with the washer and the dryer and our hostess because I already wrote enough about our experience. We arrived downtown during a morning drizzle. My friend stopped to ask directions from a group of jolly men sipping their foaming Guinness outside of a bar. She did it for the experience, I think. For the kicks and giggles. It turns out the men weren’t Dubliners and couldn’t help us despite their trying. But they fit well into the friendly Irish stereotype we had already formed in our minds.

We managed to find a market after studying a map and then trailing someone with a market cart. We paused at one of the stalls for some mouth-watering paprika almonds and a free sample of creamy mozzarella balls. The drippy weather and the live music made the tiny market charming, although we probably couldn’t find the place again if we tried.

wooden buckets with savory market goodies

We meandered to the Chester Beatty Library, but when we stepped inside, we both decided we’d rather not do the tour. We may never know what we missed, but it was nice to decide to miss it together. We caught a bus to Phoenix Park, where we picked up free tickets to tour the President’s house and then crossed the sunny lawn–yes, the sun was beaming by then!– to a picnic bench under a tree. It was there in that slice of heavenly greenness and almost-warmth that I was able to say a prayer for our Airbnb hostess and my own attitude toward her. The residual irritation of the morning faded and stopped marring the day. We ate our picnic lunch. Without trying, we had planned the perfect amount of time to eat a relaxed lunch and then meander down to the tour bus.

sun shining on green park

We were about 15. A very small tour. Our guide was amazing, explaining the obvious points of interest in the house as well as the lesser noticed nuggets that mortalize history somehow. Some of the other people on the tour added a layer of excitement, like the elderly gentleman who decided he was thirsty and went over to help himself to the bottled water on the president’s desk. And his wife, as composed and sweet as a queen, continued to look composed and sweet in her darling hat even as her husband raided the president’s personal stash. We admired the ceilings–I especially enjoyed the Aesop’s fables one–, the artwork, and the vast back lawn.

After the tour, we refilled our water bottles and headed back downtown. For the first time, I managed to nab a seat in the front of the upper level double decker bus.

James Joyce bridge
dublin street
street with colorful doors

Our next stop was a Luke Kelly impersonation concert on the lawn of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. We had thought we’d like to tour the cathedral as well, but nope. That was another tour that we both decided wasn’t something we wanted to add to our afternoon. (Is it any wonder I came home with a stash of travel money still in my wallet?) So we sat on a concrete lip of the edge of the sidewalk and watched the concert and grew chillier.

concert in lawn of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Then, at my friend’s insistence, we decided to use the free hot drink vouchers we had been given upon entering the concert. We stomped into an elegant hotel restaurant in our winter gear and backpack… maybe looking a little homeless at this point. And we almost lost our nerve, but my friend wanted a cuppa badly enough that she summoned her courage and soon we both had steaming to-go cups of milky Irish tea. We meandered down the street and then stopped to sit on the pedestal of a statue just across the street from the Christ Church Cathedral. We talked about life. People may have looked at us oddly, sitting there on a statue at a busy intersection with our cups of tea, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t notice.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin

After our tea, we were hungry. We walked to Lundy Foot’s, a restaurant that offered a traditional beef stew. In retrospect, it may have been more of a tourist attraction than a real Irish pub. And the musician was playing Jonny Cash. But the men at the bar (my sneaky and blurry photo below) seemed Irish enough and animated the atmosphere, especially after a couple of “jars” and a goal or two in the soccer game.

soccer game in irish pub

The beef stew was amazing. So was dessert. We left, flushed from the warmth of the place, and wandered home, happy.

I have very few pictures of Sunday. We had decided to take one day of the week where we would not plan anything. Originally, it had been our “curl up in front of a fireplace” day, but since that was no longer an option, we walked down to the bay. We spread our rain gear on the grass and held a mini church service, ending our time by praying for each other. It was a special time, minus the dog poo on the bottom of my friend’s shoe. We ate our picnic lunch and then strolled up to Insomnia, a coffee shop, and picked out some comfortable chairs. I ordered tea with tea brack, which didn’t end up being my favorite, most likely because it was packed with raisins which I don’t especially like.

We read and journaled in perfect together-solitude. I even crocheted. Then we returned to our Hairy Haven to pack up. We said our goodbyes before bed and I left the house by 5 the next morning.

The bus app directed me to a stop. When the airport coach came, I held out my public transit card hopefully. The driver asked if I had a ticket. Instead, I asked for directions to a Dublin airport bus that would accept my card, but he didn’t know. I finally nodded and decided to pay the extra money to save myself the hassle of finding the right stop. I pulled out my wallet.

Then he asked, “Is this your last day in Ireland?”

I nodded. “I’m going back to Spain today.”

He pushed my money away, patted my shoulder, and quietly said, “Get on board and make yourself comfortable.”

And with that, beautiful, wonderful Ireland sent me back to Spain.

From a family of writers

It was 2:30 a.m. and I was wide awake, when suddenly it struck me: I’m from a family of writers!

My mom, my siblings, and I all enjoy writing. Of course, we’ve had our share of mishaps. Like the time my mom sent a cheerful email to her siblings proclaiming “Hell to you all!” (she’d forgotten an “o”). Or the time when I was a child making a birthday card for my aunt. The card contained a hidden message cleverly concealed under a square of paper on which I had inscribed “Open the flab.”

Despite these unfortunate skeletons, we continued writing and continue to this day.

Mom comes from a family of unusual vocabulary, a vocabulary which still seeps into her everyday speech and writing. Before having children, she used to write poetry and keep a journal. Since children, she exchanged writing time for reading aloud: tales of Ira, Francis, Ichiro, and a little later, Narnia. Now her main writing occupation is optimistic emails to missing family members.

My older sister and I have stacks of journals. Hers go way back, to when she recorded observations from our childhood such as “Tricia eats like a horse and looks like a string bean.” Even now, she writes captivating emails recording events and people that waltz through her married life.

My older brother is the nerdy, theological writer of the family. When he asked me to help edit his Bible school thesis, I read a bit then stuck to editing grammar, not content. Instead of “This deep point of doctrine would be more indisputable if…” I was penciling in things like, “Maybe this sentence structure needs help???” Of late, most of his writing seems to be going out from the mailbox to a certain Ohio address.

My younger brother kept a journal of our family trip out West. The several pages, which gave a snapshot of the vacation in that moment, also gave some humorous insight to the workings of a 12-year-old mind. It was delightful to find his journal in my stash of papers years later… and give a copy to his wife to read! Now he gets to write sermons rather than record who is eating candy and what music we are listening to.

It was on another vacation long ago that my little sister, wrote an adorable note: “Dad, why do you let your whiskers grow?” Her thoughts have run down deeper lines since then. She maintains her own blog now and is more dedicated to her writing than any of us other family members.

At 14-months, even my nephew scripts his feelings quite clearly (see photo above).

Why do we write? Maybe it was due to those years when our parents instilled in us a love of reading. Those evenings that Mom would take us to the library and we would walk out with 40+ books that we started to read on the way home. The librarian told Mom that we were “good for circulation.”

Regardless of the reason, I’m thankful to be from a family who expresses through writing. For one, it makes living overseas more possible.

Living memories

People
Are living memories of all you’ve
Seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt
With them.
You wake up one morning
And find you married
The reality you love.
And before you go
You must have that
Last walk to school
Last taxi ride
Last cup of tea.
Then you close the door behind you,
Taking only lifeless photos
And stale words in worn journals.