Category Archives: Ireland

The People I Know: Hannah

Hannah

Hannah engagement photo

Here is the second installment of my People I Know project. My friend Hannah Marcotte (aka my Cork wife) is a natural fit for this series.

 

HOW WE MET

I had two classes with Hannah (we’re both English majors) but we didn’t become friends until we went to Ireland this summer with UNO’s study abroad program. I think we officially met when we both went to the higher ed protest at the state capitol last semester, but we didn’t start conversing outside of social media until we both boarded planes for Ireland this past June. She was also the first UNO person that I ran into when I landed in Cork.

WHAT SHE DOES

Hannah is graduating in December from UNO and is applying to grad schools. She works in student housing and just got engaged to Steve, a UNO film major. I was thrilled when Hannah entrusted me to take their engagement photos last week.

WHO SHE IS TO ME

I heart Hannah.

I’ll admit, I was surprised when we became fast friends. She’s more than 10 years my junior, initially comes across as a bit of a goodie goodie, and she’s in a sorority. But our friendship is a classic example of that old adage to never judge a book by its cover. We have more in common than I ever thought and we were kind of inseparable in Cork. Hannah is hilarious, smart, and just a great friend when you need her. We frequented Monday night karaoke together, went grocery shopping together at “the big Tesco,” and once you’ve taken a creative nonfiction writing workshop with someone it’s hard not to feel a bond with that person. I started to call her my “Cork wife” fairly early into the program, and when I flirted with the idea of breaking into an old asylum Hannah jokingly asked me, “So when you get arrested are you going to call me or Thomas first?” I ended up not going, but I probably would have called her first.

Photos: Hannah at Jackie Lennox Chip Shop, the first official meal we had in Cork. | Engagement photoshoot with Steve.

 

 

Back in New Orleans

Cork, Ireland Photo

 

I’ve been back in New Orleans for two weeks now and adjusting to the heat and humidity as I pack up the sweaters I wore while I was in Ireland. I won’t need anything other than the wispiest cotton or linen until mid to late October, and that’s if we are lucky. I had such a rich experience in Cork, one that I will hopefully be able to share more of in the upcoming weeks.

It’s good to be home. I missed my dogs, the cats, and being away from my husband for a month made me realize how much we rely on each other. It’s also been great catching up with friends that I don’t get time to hang out with during the school year. But in the two weeks that I’ve been back my bike was stolen, there was a two day boil water advisory, my tenant’s water heater broke, and my husband’s car was in the shop. To top it off I left all of my camera equipment on a bus in Ireland. I reported my loss to the bus company not even 10 minutes after the bus left the airport, but it seems like my camera is gone forever.

 

Someone.please.give.me.a.break.

 

But as much as I’d like to sit around and throw a pity party for one, I realize how incredibly lucky I am. At least I wasn’t in that Lafayette movie theater. At least I wasn’t one of the 109 people (and counting) that have been murdered in New Orleans so far this year. At least I wasn’t one of the five cyclists that have died this year. Yes, at least I am still alive.

I took the photo seen above on a Cork Photo Fest tour during my last weekend in Ireland. People in New Orleans leave painted white bicycles as memorials in places where cyclists were killed in an accident. This pair was behind a fence in Ireland, tucked away on a side street that not many tourists venture down.  I’m not sure of the intended meaning of the bikes, but I couldn’t help but wonder why they were there.

Make no mistake, I don’t walk around New Orleans in fear for my life, but the days I find myself getting all “woe is me” I need to sit back, reassess, and really be thankful for the good stuff.

I’m In Ireland: Part Four

Ring of Kerry

 

I’m in Ireland for a few more days, but my program officially ended today. One of the classes I took this summer was scriptwriting. One of my assignments was to write a monologue, so I opted to write about my experience of being on this trip. My monologue “Have You Ever?” was performed at our last night of plays and film screenings.  Several people thought I wrote the piece about their experiences (one of the program participants thought I scrolled through her Facebook posts for material!), so I’m happy that my work resonated with my peers. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

Have you ever thought about what it means to be from a place? Is it even important to you? For the last three weeks I’ve been in Ireland, a place I’ve never been before. There are enough similarities to home to make me feel comfortable, yet there are enough differences to make me feel out of my element.

Whenever an Irish person asks me where I’m from, I have to replace my default response of “New Orleans” with “The United States,” “The U.S.,” or “America.” It feels clunky on my tongue, so I blurt out “New Orleans” afterwards, which is more for my benefit than theirs.

It’s my first time out of the country, save for a trip to Mexico, and I hardly think a bargain cruise even counts as international travel. I think about what would happen if I lost my passport. My U.S. citizen status is tied up in that one document. If a Leprechaun decides to pocket it, how would if prove who I am? And what if my wallet is stolen, with my Louisiana driver’s license, my bank cards, student I.D., then what? Will I be stuck in Ireland, unable to go home? Will I get fed to the witch of Blarney? Will she make black pudding out of me?

I define myself as part of the “born and raised” set from New Orleans. We’re a proud bunch, sometimes unfairly so, as if the involuntary act of being born in the 504 area code makes us superior to others that weren’t. So introducing myself as anything besides a New Orleanian is weird. I’m proud of where I’m from, but maybe that pride is unwarranted.

Or is it?
In Ireland, I’d like to think I blend in with the locals. I observe what they’re wearing, their posture, how they interact with each other in the bar, at the grocery store. I guess I’m trying to assimilate, but I always manage to screw it up. I open my mouth and America falls out. Or, I make eye contact and they see stars and stripes in my eyes. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe nobody cares where I’m from. Maybe I care too much.

I notice it’s about to rain one afternoon, just when I’m about to walk into city center. I turn around and catch the resident assistant. She holds the elevator so I can get on. “Looks like I’ll need my rain jacket,” I say. “Yes, it seems like it’s about to break cloud,” she responds. Break cloud? How lovely! I say to myself. In America, I might be inclined to spew out something along the lines of “Wow, it’s about to dump out there.” How vulgar of me. How American of me.

Can a person embody where they’re from?
Do I smell like swamp water? Is my skin like an armadillo’s shell? Or is it soft, like a dragonfly landing on a banana tree leaf? Maybe I just smell like Bourbon Street— soured beer with zero trace of dignity.

The problem is I used to think I had a decent grasp on who I am, and how others might perceive me. But now I’m not so sure if I can put my thumb on that in this space.

And the locals are so damn friendly. They’re not going to insult me, they’re not going to tell me I’m a big, dumb American. And maybe they’re not thinking that, but I’m thinking that they’re thinking that.

So I’m at this old man bar, the type of place where no one is under the age of 60 and it’s all dark wood, horse races on the tele, and it’s quiet enough for the patrons to read their newspapers with a pint. I’m in love. I sit with a local beer, I write, and I observe. Then a gaggle of women come barreling in, disrupting my peace with accents not unlike mine. “Please stop being so damn American,” I think to myself as they snap photos of each other and ask where the bathroom is. “Where are you from?” asks the bartender. He’s rakishly cute and the ladies coo at his accent as if they’re buttering a piece of toast with it. “We’re from Canada!” they exclaim, yelling loud enough for me to hear them from across the empty bar. Hold up. What? They’re from Canada? I could have sworn they were American.

You know what, forget it. Maybe I should just stop. Maybe I should just try to stop trying to pinpoint when I think the locals are judging me because of where I’m from. Maybe I should stop judging others because of where they’re from. Maybe I should just grab another pint.

 

photo: Ring of Kerry

I’m in Ireland: Part Three

Blarney CastleMusselsDublin, IrelandIreland is so greenRing of Kerry

I have nine days left before I fly back from Ireland to the United States. Nine! A nine day vacation is plenty, so being here for a month has been downright luxurious. Here are some more highlights:

  • I walk for miles every day. I have a 15 minute walk to class, and most everything I want to do is a 20-30 minute walk from my apartment. I’m going to Arizona in less than a month to hike, so this somewhat prepares me for that. Somewhat.
  • Chips (french fries) are served with everything. They’re thick cut, served scalding hot, and delicious, especially with a side of malt vinegar. Every restaurant serves chips, from the traditional fish & chip shops, the late night kebab spot, and the Chinese restaurant next to campus housing.
  • Dublin was okay. I’m not a big city person, but I’m glad I went. My favorite part of Dublin was when I broke away from my group and explored it on my own. I was content with sitting in a coffee shop and rereading Dubliners, which I picked up at a street market for €3. And the best meal I’ve had so far in Ireland was in Dublin at Kathmandu, so that counts for something.
  • There are lots of tour buses in Ireland, which makes it easy to access many parts of the country without a car. They’re relatively inexpensive (€39 for an all day tour) and my drivers have all been entertaining. I booked a tour of the Ring of Kerry with Paddywagon Tours, and I’m planning another one to see the Cliffs of Moher. Yes, it’s touristy and yes, I wish I had more time at each place we stopped, but for the price and convenience I was okay with this.
  • Coffee is different here. It’s not as strong and it has too much milk for my taste. I learned to just order regular black coffee.
  • No mosquitos! No cockroaches! I’ve been blissfully aware of the lack of bugs here. I’m in for a rude awakening when I’m back in New Orleans.
  • The locals are friendly. I feel safe walking the streets but I still make a point to be aware of my surroundings.
  • Pizza is everywhere here.
  • It hasn’t rained nearly as much as I thought it would.

photos: Blarney Castle. My favorite part was the gardens. |Mussels at Kitty O’ Ses in Kinsale. One of the best I’ve had in Ireland. |Street scene in Dublin.| Ireland is unbelievably green, and the colors deepen to an even more unbelievable green after it rains. | Waterville, a little village on the Ring of Kerry. 

I’m in Ireland: Part Two

Cork, Ireland wild flowersUNO Writing AbroadCharles Fort Kinsdale, Ireland

My first week of classes in Ireland is over. Everything is happening at a lightening fast pace. It’s intense, in the best way possible. I enrolled in two classes (scriptwriting and creative non-fiction workshop) and we’re packing an entire semester’s worth of material into four weeks.  I’m making new connections that will hopefully extend past my time here, and I interact with the locals as much as I can. (I’m looking at you, Monday night karaoke at Old Oak.)

While in Ireland I’ve noticed several differences from our culture in the United States. Some are subtle, some are noteworthy, and the longer I’m here the more I become attuned to. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up on so far.

  • Euros are somewhat cumbersome. There is paper money, but denominations of €2 and less are coins. I feel silly counting out a meal in coins, but it’s the norm here. Ireland is about to get rid of their one cent piece (1/100 of a euro), which, according to a wine shop owner I conversed with, really won’t affect the locals, except for charity boxes. There are boxes everywhere for people to drop change in, including bars, restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. He thought the elimination of the one cent piece might put charities at a disadvantage.
  • In general, everything is a little bit cheaper here. Some things are remarkably cheaper, whereas other items (like grapes) I find more expensive. Even the most touristy of places charge much less than what I’m accustomed to paying in the US.
  • Don’t bother buying an electrical adapter in the U.S. if you can help it. Electrical adapters are readily available for under €4 and work just as well as ones that cost $20 in the states.
  • My American Southern roots are showing. People are friendly but don’t make eye contact with each other on the street. I’m used to telling everyone hello, opening doors for people, and waving at strangers when passing by their house on my bike.  I asked someone on the street for directions and she seemed startled that I approached her.
  • It’s refreshing to see not everyone is glued to their phones here. Except for a solo diner, I haven’t noticed people sitting around at bars and restaurants on their phones. I’m digging it.
  • I love the nuance of language. Irish phrases are just more pleasant than some of the vernacular we use back home. I was chatting with a warden (resident assistant) at campus housing about the weather. “Yes, it looks like it’s about to break cloud,” she said. My American inclination was to say something far less eloquent, such as, “looks like it’s about to dump out there,” or, “It’s getting nasty out there.”

 

photos: wildflowers grow in the cracks on the stone wall that runs down the street I take to campus, group shot in front of Blarney Castle, Charles Fort in Kinsdale, Ireland

 

 

I’m in Ireland!

Jackie Lennox IrelandVictoria Mills IrelandIrelandGuinness

I just arrived in Ireland and am so. flipping. excited. I will be here for a month (!!!) in Cork with UNO’s Writing Workshop. My first thought upon landing- I can’t get over how green it is here. I mean, way to live up to your reputation, Ireland. I flew from New Orleans to New Jersey, then touched down in Shannon and hopped on a bus to Cork. The bus ride was pleasant, with lush, idyllic landscapes straight out of a fairytale. The weather is perfect, especially coming from humidity laden New Orleans. I regret not bringing more sweaters, but I can live with that #firstworldproblem.

I’ve only been here for one full day and have so much to process. The city center (what I would call downtown) is walking distance from campus. There are enough recognizable names (H&M, Subway ) for the place to feel familiar, but there are also enough differences to encourage exploration. My mission is to only eat and drink food and beverages that I can’t consume at home. So far I’ve been somewhat successful, although I did buy a bottle of Jameson for a little nightcap.

Classes start on Monday, and I’m grateful we have some time to orient ourselves before diving into coursework. The University College Cork campus is stunningly beautiful. UCC, established in 1845, is one of three Queen’s colleges, which opened its doors under the reign of Queen Victoria. Limestone buildings are draped with ivy, and the earliest structure dates back to 1810.

I will be documenting my trip here, but you can also follow me on Instagram for more pictures.

Firsts: fish & chips from Jackie Lennox Chip Shop, first night’s view at Victoria Mills Lodge, first view of Ireland from the plane,  first Guinness in Cork at Edison. All photos taken on my iPhone.