Looking back it was all just a tipsy blur of green. A happy mistake. People plan this trip months and years in advance. It’s on a multitude of Bucket Lists, and by sheer coincidence I ended up in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day. Two months before, at the end of January, I was sitting staring at a blank computer screen nervously answering questions as I struggled through my first Skype interview. A friend told me about this program and how there was an intern position available in Granada– I pounced. After I got the spot I was informed I had to go on one of the tours with Andy Steve’s Weekend Student Adventures. I get a 50% discount, you say? I have to book it soon, you say? There were only two options available– Dublin and Switzerland. Dublin, please. My expectations weren’t high. Ireland wasn’t originally a place I wanted to visit while abroad. If it wasn’t for my internship I most likely wouldn’t have gone. Yet as the days before my trip to Dublin came and passed I found a genuine excitement beginning to rise up. It started to steep in– I’m going to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day.
Fast forward by two months and I was standing in line with two friends from Granada who were going as well. A huge line trailed at the passport check-point and as we were running late and were confused, we jumped into the shorter line. Suddenly a group of angry older Brits started yelling at my friend Chelsea, telling her to get to the back of the line as they proceed to cut themselves. They yelled, they distracted, they cut. Genius. Later we were commenting on the event as Chelsea said, ” I didn’t know what to do they were just yelling at me!” I made the recommendation of “You should’ve reminded them of who won.” And with that the stress began to dissolve as the plane descended.
As a non-EU passport holder we were forced to stand in line to get stamped into the country. As the line inched I realized that I was surrounded by English speakers and that this would be the first English-speaking country in ten months that I’d be in. A mini culture-shock began to dominate as I realized that I understood everything being said around me without having to calculate anything, which revealed a small preview of what I’ll be feeling in three months time when I return back to the states. A short bus ride later and I was checking into the hostel eager to make friends and get the weekend on a move-on. And oh, how the weekend moved: the next three days flew by in meeting countless friendly new faces, drinking countless pints, laughing at countless jokes– it all passed by too quickly.
I’ve said this many times before, but with Ireland I mean it when I saw that I could see myself living there and easily being happy. Ireland was able to show me, on it’s busiest weekend of the year, why people become so obsessed with it. In in the states I’ve met many Irish-Americans who cling onto their Irish heritage, even if it’s 16% or less, getting tattooed, screaming and going crazy on St. Patrick’s Day, for what I thought was no-good reason. Now I understand. Dim light and mahogany wood absorb the sounds of laughter and chatter as the hours carelessly slip away. Deep brown pints line the bar top, patiently waiting to be topped off. Sarcasm is King and rules the friendly banter between two strangers who are quickly becoming friends. A subtle wink, a pat on the knee, a witty response. “The Irish have to have a good sense of humor to make up for the extremely shitty weather.” Truer words were never spoken.
Later that day as I walked back to the hostel with a Kilkenny blush on my cheeks; wandering through the red brick buildings framing the river, through the bustling streets where English flowed as freely as the Guinness, I couldn’t help but wonder how this Emerald Isle has been able to bewitch all of the English-speaking world and claim one day out of 365 as it’s own. How has Irish identity ensnared this power of unifying millions of people from different countries and let them be Irish, a nationality not their own, for one day. How has Ireland been able to break down the wall between the perception of self and nation and change our orientation of self for one glorious day? What does it mean to be Irish? What’s in a name that makes it so desirable? Back in the states I used to think it was ridiculous how excited people got for St. Patrick’s Day, but after experiencing it in Ireland my perception has turned 180 degrees. It’s truly a genuine and confident celebration of identity stating that this is my name, my country, my culture and it’s worthy of a global holiday, and if you don’t agree or wear green– I just may have to pinch you.