November 2004 Reflection

“There was green alligators and long necked geese. Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees. Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born. The loveliest of them all was the Unicorn.”

It only seems fitting that I begin my first journal from Ireland with the refrain of the first Irish pub song that I ever learned. Who knows when I first committed these genius lyrics to memory, but I feel that they have always been part of my musical repertoire. In fact, I wouldn’t bet that this song wasn’t playing on the car stereo the first time that my parents took me home from the hospital. Along with every other Irish pub song, it seemed to be playing during every car ride throughout my childhood. Partly due to this unique musical welcome into the world, it has always seemed destined that I would someday find myself living with the Irish. I can tell you that the first six weeks of my fulfilled dream have been nothing short of spectacular.

It has not been hard adjusting to life in Dublin. In fact, I doubt that any other group of young people has been spoiled as much as the Mitchell Scholars when arriving to a foreign country. Our orientation weekend consisted of four days packed with Irish culture, beautiful scenery, and of course, our share of Guinness. After settling into my apartment a few days later inside the walls of Trinity College, I knew that I was going to have no trouble loving every second of life here. If the center of Dublin is what you seek, then there is hardly a better place to live than Trinity. Yet, as my Irish roommate quickly showed me, there are certainly more places in Dublin to explore than just Temple Bar. In fact, he even threatened to stop being my roommate if I ever went to that tourist trap again.

Trinity’s central location more than assures a fair amount of visiting friends. All of the Mitchell’s have made it down for at least a weekend, reaffirming the fact that we are quickly becoming a close-knit group of friends. Despite the groans of our Irish friends here, I think that they are enjoying the influx of Americans that are constantly invading their lives. I am sure that they enjoy picking our brains just as much as we do theirs. It is certainly an interesting time to be an American abroad considering the importance of this presidential election on all of Europe as well as the rest of the world. You cannot rule out the possibility a long conversation about US foreign policy no matter where you go, whether sharing a cup of tea with friends or a making a quick stop at the barber’s shop. It would be tough to decide whether I have spoken more with my professors about my area of research or the value of the Latino vote in Florida. Being in the limelight about these topics is an amazing opportunity to let the Irish see what everyday US citizens think about our government’s policies, hopefully erasing some of the ill will that lies between our culture and the rest of the world. I am sure that any American abroad cherishes this opportunity.

Finding a social outlet in Dublin is not a very tough chore. For our first month in the city Dublin was alive with an artistic influence because of the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Theatre Festival. Between plays and musical artists at the larger concert halls to the smaller independent theatre productions in venues as humble as converted garages, taking advantage of Dublin’s artistic culture was a pleasure. Also, I have found myself joining nearly every club at Trinity that has even vaguely interested me. Just to mention a few: Trinity Boxing, Intramural Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, the Film Society, the Debating Society and the Pharmaceutical Society (I’m not sure how I got roped into that one). I decided that graduate school was a great time to try all the clubs that I never had any time for during college. I doubt that I will last in most of them, but nonetheless it has been fun.

Although it was a slow transition at first, my research in the conservation of historic buildings has recently taken off. Specifically, I am working with several properties of naturally hydraulic lime mortars, a topic that much to my surprise is not the most popular for dinner conversation. Therefore, I will spare you all from the details and only mention the more exciting parts. Basically, I am getting my hands dirty in the mud, occasionally culminating in the cutting of holes in historic buildings. Indeed, shortly I will visit my first 16th century castle in Ireland where I will make a few holes of my own. On the professional side, I am also looking forward to an internship in the near future with the Electricity Supply Board, one of Ireland’s largest energy companies.

Travelling around Ireland will continue to be one of the highlights of my two years in Ireland. Although I have spent most of my time exploring Dublin, I did visit Belfast and Derry in Northern Ireland last weekend. Derry is famous for the most extravagant Halloween celebration in Ireland, and after attending I stress that if you are in Ireland during the celebration then you must visit. Belfast, in line with its recently acquired reputation as a beautiful and modern city progressing out of a long age of violence, was also a great destination for the weekend.

I will leave you with a well known fact, but one that I am ecstatic to verify myself…that Guinness is magnificently better on this side of the pond! Plus, the people are as friendly and caring as any place I have ever lived. Hopefully, these truths will entice my friends and family from home to make the trip over to visit.

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