June 19, 2017: Irish Boot Camp

Today was the day we would meet our new friends and our group leaders from the ISA program. Cameron and I woke up early to get packed up and ready to check out of the hotel, hopping on the shuttle and getting to the airport close to 10 in the morning. There, we met the rest of the ISA Galway gang: Casey, Hallie, Joanna, Marisa, Alexis, Kate, Meaghan, Olivia, Caitlyn, Kaylin, and Ellie (sans Mary, who we would not meet until later), along with our fearless leaders, Kayte O’Malley and Aisling McDermott. We had a bit of awkwardness, coupled with everyone’s near exhaustion from a long night of travel, but I did manage to meet most of them and introduce myself.

By this point, I was wondering what the hell I had been thinking going on this trip and was seriously considering jumping back on the next plane home, terrified out of my mind and feeling more homesick than I ever thought I would. My mom had to talk me down and remind me that it was only the first day and of course it was scary, but that I would be all right.

We took a bus from the airport to the Abbey Court hostel, our home for the night. I personally had never been in a hostel before. And truthfully, I never want to do that again (but more on that later). It had really incredible murals slapped all over it, of Disney characters and historical characters. We tossed our bags into the 12 bed dormitory we would be staying in, that had a caricature of Bill Clinton on the door, and headed out to take on Dublin.

We started at Trinity College, walking right over the body of the founder and president of the university, who once said that women would attend his university over his dead body. We got to see the Book of Kells on display, along with the restored long room of the Trinity College library.

Trinity College, Dublin

We then went on a tour of the Guinness storehouse, an excursion I was not actually signed up for. However, upon paying the extra bit for the tour, I got to experience it alongside the group. It was not the most spectacular thing, but some of the exhibits were fantastic, including the advertising floor and the 360º bar displaying a panoramic, overhead view of Dublin.

The gate outside the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.

We walked 45 minutes to a nice restaurant called The Farm, everyone dead exhausted by this point, and had a fabulous meal. I ate something called Cottage Pie, which was excellent, with fresh vegetables and gooseberry crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

We all crashed at dinner, and after a short walk (after which we clocked in at over 17,000 steps for the day), were back at the hostel. Sweaty and warm from a long, hot, sunny day (and for many, extensive travel on top of that), many of us tried to shower. I ended up having to use what was called a shower room, a room on one of the taller floors of the hostel with a shower head and a sink in it. I tried not to think about germs while I was holding down the button to keep the water running (as the faucet was like an elementary school sink in that you push the button and it runs for like 30 seconds and then abruptly stops) with one hand and trying to wash off the day as quickly as possible with the other. At least the water was warm and I had thought to bring flip flops.

I had to use a hand dryer in the bathroom to de-steam my glasses and dry my hair, something I’m both immensely proud and not at all proud of all at once.

I finally got the chance to talk to my mom for a few minutes too, which was more than wonderful. Though WhatsApp kept crapping out, I got to hear her voice and tell her I love her and hear her tell me how proud she was of me. After shedding a few tears, I felt instantly better about the whole situation.

I forgot to check for bed bugs, but the beds were fairly comfortable. I refused to sleep on the pillow, though, and had my towel over it the whole night in fear of what might have been on it. Despite the lack of ventilation in the room and the loud neighbors, I slept like the dead.

This day in Dublin made me yearn for quieter places. The city did not hold my interest or my heart the way I thought it should, and I felt like we were being forced to run through it to the point that I couldn’t stop and take anything in for even the shortest moment. Still, I survived Dublin bootcamp and my first time in a hostel, so I’ll admit I was feeling fairly proud of myself. More than that, I was excited. Galway was coming, and I could not wait to be at my new home.

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