July 4, 2017: A ‘Merrican in Ireland

Happy Treason Day!

It’s midterms here at the NUIG International Summer School, meaning I don’t have class today. Because I’m taking Creative Writing and Lit, my midterms are papers rather than tests, and my paper isn’t due until later this week. I had no classes today and no tests, meaning it was a fairly chill day for me.

Casey asked me to meet her after her 9 a.m. at the Galway Baking Company for breakfast and to help edit her essay. I read through her paper, but while I was working on it, the manager of GBC came over to ask us if we wanted anything else. We had been sitting there for a while, and I had finished eating but was still nursing the last dregs of my coffee. We politely declined, thinking he was just being nice, but he walked away with a loud, “It’s getting really busy in here,” a signal to us that he wanted us to buy something else or get out. I finished Casey’s paper and my coffee and we packed up and left, a little ruffled by the whole thing.

We went back to campus for a little while and spent some time before everyone had to go in for exams. I had a chance to work on this blog, which was great as I fear I’m constantly going to be a little behind on it. I was joined eventually by Katie, a friend from UMSL and Creative Writing class. We spent a little time together and then walked over to Sult, the college bar, for the Fourth of July barbecue.

We were among the first there, so we all just grabbed a table together and sat talking. I got a free Orchard Thieves with my voucher, which has easily become my drink of choice while I’m here.

I guess I never got the memo to go home and change, because I was still dressed in my everyday wear while it seemed the rest of my group got dressed to the nines to celebrate Independence Day. I felt a little self-conscious and out of place, and I certainly looked it too. But that was okay.

The food was incredible. Seriously, they went all out and it was all free. I had a burger and a sausage and a baked potato, and it was absolutely wonderful. Whoever said the food in the UK was bad clearly has a more sophisticated palate than I do, because everything was fresh and delicious. I stayed with my creative writing friends and made some new friends too, like Liz and Lily.

Things were a little awkward when I went to see my group later on in the evening with my second drink. Maybe it was just my perception, but I definitely felt like I was missing out on some massive inside joke, something just in the last 24 hours, especially when they began taking photos without me. I brushed it off and decided to go out with them like usual. We had originally planned on hosting a karaoke night in our apartment with desserts, but everyone decided at the last minute that they wanted to spend the holiday out on the town.

I obviously was the only one under-dressed for it, so I went home to change and took a half-priced taxi to the Quays. They were all seated and already through one drink by the time I made it, but I went and got another and sat down. Again, things seemed somewhat off, but I couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong, so I ignored it and tried to have a good time anyway. We listened to the traditional music and I finished my drink while a few girls went to get a second one.

They decided to move on to the nightclub next, and I tagged along. I didn’t really want anything else to drink but water–I don’t really like partying hard or getting drunk, and I know my limit is two (and by this point I’d had three). Marathon drinking and bar hopping never appealed to me before, and certainly didn’t appeal to me here. The best part of Ireland’s drinking culture is that it’s a social activity. You gather at a pub and have a drink over a few hours of conversation. You don’t drink excessively or party the way you do in the States, and there’s no pressure to go hard. I didn’t mind taking part in that, having one over the course of a few hours and accompanied by rousing conversation.

That, unfortunately, was not what’s been happening while I’ve been here. At least, not with any group of American students. Most everyone I’m with seems to like to push their limit, at least from my perspective.

Anyway, there was a great band playing tonight night at the Front Door, Matt and Philip. Their vocals were heavenly, Philip in particular. They played a lot of oldies, actually, which surprised me. They did “Dancing in the Dark” while all the American tourists chanted, “BRUUUUUUUUCE” like a horde of cattle. I ended up getting a video of that and sending it to my father while playing an amusing game of “Spot the American” (Spoiler alert: 95% of the people in that place were American).

After a little while, I could really tell something was off, either with me, my group, or both. I didn’t feel drunk, but I was close to tears. I wanted to go home, as I had a 9 a.m. the following morning, and I wasn’t having a great time. The music was nice, but the crowd was getting unbearable and closing in on me. I ended up going to sit by myself for a while at an empty table.

I was mercifully joined by Rae, one of the Service Learning girls and a good friend of mine from MSU. She sat with me for a little bit, sipping her water, telling me about how she wasn’t into crowds, the nightclub scene, or hard drinking either. We ended up splitting a cab to go home together and she told me about her service experience. I was beyond grateful she happened to find me and get me out of there.

It was overall a happy Fourth of July, though I must say, I was a little bummed to have missed the fireworks and barbecues of home. It’s something we absolutely take for granted, these goofy summer holidays where families come together to cook out and laugh. This was the second major pang of homesickness I’ve had, and it’s showing no signs of calming down yet.

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