The first evening I visited Dublin, I went to a small local pub and asked for a pint of Guinness. Having never asked for one before, I foolishly took the pint away before the requisite second pour. When I sat down with my drink the bartender came to my table and abruptly took the glass away from me. He took it back to the bar, topped it up, and gave it back to me. I was embarrassed having committed a seeming faux pas but also struck by admiration. This guy was determined not to let me leave with a bad pint of Guinness. I had found throughout the rest of my trip that there were many people in Ireland who were just as committed to their work, and it felt like such a passion for the land of Ireland was pervasive among everyone.
When I returned to Dublin this last September I knew of a few things to expect. The weather would be cold, wet, and windy, the landscape would be green and gorgeous, and that when offered a biscuit I would be asked to “go on, go on, go on” (admittedly many of my expectations came from watching Father Ted). Most of all, I expected to find the same sort of motivated and passionate people I had met during my last visit.
While my expectations haven’t failed me, what I didn’t expect is that very few things can be expected. For instance, I have had a running feud with the weather. It has often left me soaking wet and has eaten one of my umbrellas. I would at first plan to run in Phoenix Park while the weather was still sunny but by the time I’d get there the weather had taken a turn for the apocalyptic. Since being here I’ve come to terms with never being able to predict what can happen next and what things I will do and become interested in.
I have, in particular, become interested in Irish traditional music, theatre, and the Irish language. I’ve purchased a tin whistle with the hope that by the end of my time here I will be able to busk for a day on Grafton street playing jigs. I’ve also had a fantastic time seeing many interesting plays and other performance pieces which I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. I’ve become more appreciative of the ways in which my interest in science situates itself withing the context of the humanities and how the ways of thinking encouraged by the arts can aid science. Since Ireland is a small country it seems that making these connections and learning from other people of various disciplines is easier, and that many other people here share an enthusiasm for learning from and teaching others.
The most important aspect of my time in Ireland is without a doubt the time I have spent enjoying the beauty of the landscape. I’ve visited rural County Kerry and while there I toured the Ring of Kerry, visited the Gaeltachta of the Dingle Peninsula, and have biked around Killarney National Park. When I say that people are deeply passionate about the land of Ireland, I think that the beauty of the land and what it inspires in both the arts and the sciences is a critical part of that passion. I don’t yet know enough about Ireland to say that’s true for everyone, but I certainly know that in my short time here I’ve become even more motivated and inspired.