As I walked down Dame Street with Chris, Katie, and KC the day after the Mitchell graduation ceremony, my taste buds ecstatic after ingesting Queen of Tarts’ phenomenal strawberry and rhubarb crumble, I realized what I would miss most about Ireland: the other Mitchell Scholars.
As we passed the Olympia Theatre, Chris, rather poignantly, pointed out the difficulties of explaining this yearlong Irish blip on our resume to people outside of the Mitchell community. Very few people can relate to such a travel-filled, incredibly pampered and (relatively) responsibility-free experience. Lucky for me, I’ll always have the other Mitchells with which to reminisce as I consider many of them to be some of my closest, quirkiest, and most extraordinary friends.
For my final reflection, inspired by a high school writing exercise I did based on a column in the Washington Post, I wrote 11 100-word haikus. In no particular order, each haiku paints a portrait of each scholar, allowing the reader to hopefully glean some insight into why I appreciate these people so much.
(Rome in April)
Feeling like mannequins in an upscale department store showcase, Lara and I dine in the outdoor glass enclosure of Café de Paris. Our collective stomach delights in the chocolate soaked profiteroles. In the corner, a duet croons Elton John, creating an ambiance conducive to our passion: people-watching. Lara and I try to decipher the family tree of the party the next table over, make use of Wikipedia to answer burning questions, and giggle at the audacity of the rose vendors. Sipping glasses of red wine served by our tuxedo-clad waiter, we toast to our next romantic dinner being a date!
Chris and KC
(Belfast in February)
Our fingers glisten with grease as we savor the best fish and chips in Belfast. Sitting in Chris and KC’s bedroom/living room/dining room, we discuss faith and Chris’ love of v-neck sweaters. I laugh as Chris and KC’s jokes complement one another in the same way the fresh, thick chips balance the fried cod. Following the meal, I model the gown KC and I discovered that morning. Chris smiles, wipes oil off his fingers, and says he feels like a proud father seeing me dressed up. I giddily thank him as we walk to the city centre to find matching shoes.
(Glasgow in December)
While I pretend to pilot a tugboat in the Glasgow Science Museum, Tyler pulls me aside and asks me, in his southern manner, how to tie a bowline. After delivering his standard apologies, he looks on quizzically as I demonstrate step-by-step how to tie the knot. With his yellow Armani sweater (which he always refers to by brand name) draped over his shoulders, he copies my motions and shares childhood memories of fishing off a boat near his plantation in Alabama. Exhilarated when he quickly masters the bowline, he eagerly dashes off to hold a cockroach in the next exhibit.
(Dublin in May)
Clad in shirts showcasing smiling Kenyan and Indian children, Ryan and I stuff grocery bags full of rashers and Tayto chips in Dunnes. Coins clank in our plastic buckets as we explain Suas’ ambition of “education for all” and my upcoming trip to Kenya. During lulls in the check out, we chat with Spanish cashiers about the amount of sausage Irish people consume. A customer remarks that Ryan is a remarkable friend for dedicating his weekend to helping me raise money. Ryan, unassuming, just continues in his routine. At 7pm, slightly sore but smiling, we leave to catch the 46a.
(Dublin in May)
Travis strolls into Gruel wrapped in his trademark Kermit-the-Frog-colored fleece. Complete with his bike helmet accessory, he orders the lunch roll, which, to properly fill him, should feed a family of four. As he sits and tosses his distinctive golden locks, he informs me of the latest twist of events in the UCD Crew soap opera. I talk to him about home. Always in favor of nerding out, we then decide to take a tour of the Four Courts. We walk along the Liffey, remarking on how much the tide has changed over the course of the year.
(Oxford in May)
It’s like he hasn’t seen me in years as I greet him at the door. Despite the overnight bus ride from Dublin to Oxford, Jose looks fashionably European in his thigh-hugging trousers. He so enthusiastically rushes to give me a hug that his fingernail accidentally scrapes my cheek. Always willing to help a good cause, Jose “plays Oxford” with me as we sip Pimms at Christchurch for Wounded Warriors. He introduces himself to others as “West Side Story meets Hairspray.” We then strut to the organic kabob van where Jose’s enthusiastic “mmm!” signifies his palate’s approval of the lamb burger.
(Bray in May)
We sit around the table at our “local,” the GMB. Knocking back glasses of Erin’s selection of Bulls’ Blood Hungarian wine, we sing her “Happy Birthday” the Rhoda way: as loud as possible and completely off key. It’s unique and fitting, just as the whole day has been in commemorating Erin. After absorbing the distinctive messaging and melodies of an African cartoon showcase and picnicking in Bray literally on the rocks (much to the chagrin of my wine-soaked boots), I tell Erin, in my best Maine accent, “Happy Birthday!” as we dig into her birthday crumble.
(Dublin in April)
“Was there seriously no dialogue for the second half of that movie?” I wonder to Catherine following a viewing of an Earth Day documentary. Snacking on the best brown bread in Dublin, Catherine says, bluntly, “Yeah, that blue tinted, slow food movie took itself a little too literally.” I smile, recalling that I never fail to be surprised by the directness of Catherine’s words. During dinner, we talk about New Year’s plans, life on a boat, and how things will change when she stops sampling in Ireland and starts researching at Yale. Certainly fewer trips to O’Neil’s, we both gloomily agree.
(Dublin in April)
Following a pilgrimage to Joyce Tower in Sandy Cove, Andrea, Catherine, Ryan and I gather for Ryan’s birthday dinner. As the waiter serves us fresh mozzarella, Andrea recaps her recent trip to visit Kurdish refugees in Carrick-on-Shannon. Her passion is palpable as she shares the story of a young girl who will be the first in her family to graduate secondary school. Later, as she thoughtfully and precisely argues the benefits and challenges of coding data in the social sciences, I move onto my ravioli and think to myself, “This girl is meant to be a lawyer.”
(Prague in May)
Thanks to Katie, the ultimate bargain shopper, we lay in the king size bed of an $18 5-star hotel room in Prague after the marathon.
Full of red wine, Pilsner, chocolate fondue, and a recently nibbled sausage roll, the glamorous, bleached blonde old soul/part-time philosopher and I talk girl talk, prescription drugs, and plans for next year. Like three people-in-one and consistently full of surprises (Where in the world is Katie this week?), Katie reveals a different layer of Vicki—the one that ditches schoolwork for fun and eats chocolate first thing in the morning.
(Howth in May)
Preemptive laughter erupts from my mouth. While hiking Howth, Adam decides to turn his convertible pants into shorts and leave his pants legs around his ankles. I giggle. In his deadpan, monotonous voice, he tells me to keep walking and that he’ll show me something really funny. A magic trick perhaps? I eventually turn around. There he is with pants legs still around his ankles, no shirt, and a ninja mask on his face. This guy is the smartest guy I know? Tears of laughter stream down my face as I try to compose myself, fail, and just kept laughing.
It’s been a real privilege becoming close with such an incredible group of people. Whether racking up frequent flyer miles throughout Europe, dining on Korean food, or simply chatting over a pint, it’s been a ton of fun. Thanks for the memories and I’m looking forward to our New Year’s reunion in San Diego!