January 2005 Reflection

My flight arrived into Dublin four hours ago. Within ten minutes of collecting my baggage from the turnstile, one of my Irish friends called to say welcome back. Although I wasn’t sure myself that I had been in Ireland long enough last semester or done anything prominent enough to warrant a ‘welcome back’ rather than just a ‘welcome’, it put a smile on my face to know that I was ‘back’ in the place that is my newest home.

While back in North Carolina for the holidays, I recognized the moment when I started to miss Ireland. I was visiting some friends at an annual reunion we hold just after New Years. As I do every year, I sat down with my friend’s father, the well-read doctor who has an obsession for Irish literature, for our annual talk about everything that is going on in the world. Last year I sat listening to the many reasons why he dove nightly into the text of Joyce and Beckett and Heaney, trying to develop an appreciation for his love of these often incomprehensible writers. After offering my skepticism by reciting the difficulties that my friends have had when struggling to understand these authors, I blindly copied down his suggestions for help guides when reading these works, wondering if I would ever use his advice. Yet this year as we sat down, I excitedly dove into the reasons why Joyce was fascinating me and keeping me up at night. I admitted how his plots often don’t seem to move quickly, sometimes not moving at all, yet the racy diction and the digression of the author’s mind through any and every topic has kept me enthralled. As I left the reunion the next day, I realized that I had come to love Irish literature; yet more importantly, I realized that reading these works reminded me of my own life in Dublin—that I missed my own stories of wondering around the city with friends, passing by the same streets and statues that Joyce and company passed by during their time in the city.

One of my more interesting tasks last semester was teaching a soil and groundwater laboratory to first year students here at Trinity. At first I was a bit concerned because the students were not very talkative in class. None of them would ask questions and not many would respond to any of the questions that I posed them. As I tried harder to break the ice with each new group of students, I chalked up my defeat to cultural differences in student behavior. Although Irish students are much less accustomed to classroom discussion than American students, a fellow postgraduate finally pointed out what my real problem was: I spoke a bit too fast in my cross of a southern and northern American accent for them to catch all of the words that I was saying. I guess after all the problem was cultural differences.

The end of my last semester was a busy time, highlighted by Dublin being taken over by the lights and cheerfulness of the Christmas season. I helped plan the postgraduate Christmas Party for my Engineering Department where both the students and staff unanimously agreed that my mix of country Christmas songs would never play on their island again. I had better success at my next party, where I reproduced exactly the homemade apple pie that my mom is famous for—except for the fact that it looked and tasted nothing like my mom’s. I intend to practice and be prepared for next year.

A few of the highlights of last semester included a week’s vacation in Rome; a week spent with Buckley, Kesav, and Cindy in sunny Barcelona timed perfectly to give us a hiatus from the cold winter of Ireland; and a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the Lee’s—I never thought Thanksgiving away from my family could feel so much like home. And finally, to all my friends and family back home who were disappointed that I hadn’t picked up an Irish brogue yet, I promise that I will try my hardest over the next several months so as not to disappoint upon my next journey home.

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