January 2010 Reflection

I expected that making friends … real friends … in Ireland would take time. That it would be a delicate process, and subject to awkward exchanges and uncertain social cues. During my first few weeks in Galway, I fearfully imagined leaving Ireland feeling like I had made no real friends whatsoever. The strange events of a single day have led me to believe, though, that those fears were completely foolish.

This is the story of how what should have been my worst day in Ireland turned out to be one of the best.

It was 1 pm on Saturday, January 16. I was sitting in my pajamas (I know, 1 pm and still in my pajamas?!), hoping to gain some inspiration for this Mitchell reflection by reading some of the past scholars’ writing, when a knock came at the door. I sheepishly shuffled over to answer the door. Two of my Irish classmates, Avril and Laura, were waiting outside. They both looked alarmed.

Immediately, Avril asked, “Are you ok?”

Ok? Why would she ask that? I thought. Sure, Jon was back in the US, leaving me all by myself and a little lonely, but hopefully I didn’t give off such a fragile flower vibe. “Of course I’m ok. Why?” We moved inside to the living room and sat down.

Avril explained. She had received 6 blank text messages from me throughout the morning. When she called me back to see if something was wrong, an unfamiliar, incoherent man’s voice picked up the phone. Avril panicked. A million terrible thoughts went through her head. She called up Laura and they marched over to my place, half expecting to find me held hostage. During the walk over, they (seriously) devised a number of attack plans for my rescue.

Tickled that they took my personal safety so seriously, I went about the business of figuring out what I had done with my phone. The last time I had seen it was the night before as Michael and I headed to the corner Spar to pick up the ingredients for chocolate soufflés. I thought it was in my purse… but then where did I put my purse? I searched the house. It was in none of its usual spots. The notion that my entire purse was not lost but…stolen…started creeping into my consciousness. I logged onto my credit card account online and sure enough, found a brand new $86 charge to Vodaphone that I did not make.

Throughout the next couple hours, Laura, Avril and I became the best Private Investigators we could. We swapped theories, brainstormed methods of tracking “our man” down, and watched a couple of youtube videos for a laugh when we got sick of the serious stuff. Laura made grilled cheese sandwiches, Avril put the kettle on for tea, and I Skyped banks and credit card companies. We finally came to the conclusion that the thief snatched my bag from my unlocked apartment’s entryway while Michael and I were focused on the soufflé baking in the room next door. Despite my frequent reminders that they did not have to stay with me, Laura and Avril didn’t leave. Instead, they kept me company all day long.

After we had visited the Garda station a couple of times, searched through the foliage in front of my apartment, and eaten some cookies, we called off the investigation for the evening. Avril invited us to walk along the Promenade towards Salthill, a ritual that she performs every single day. Laura and I agreed, threw on a couple of extra layers, and we were off.

As we reached the bay, the salt in the air was thick. The tide was in, and the waves were crashing against the rocks menacingly. The wind picked up, and suddenly we were in the middle of what felt like a hurricane. Laura and I struggled against the wind, and tiny, cold pellets of rain assaulted us from the sky. Avril pushed forward. “THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE ALIVE!” She shouted, skipping onward. Laura and I, half laughing and half terrified that we were about to be swallowed by the sea, followed along until we noticed a sprightly old woman coming straight for us.

“Grab on to me, girls!” She cried. “I’m going to be blown into the sea!” Laura grabbed the small woman (“She must’ve weighed 4 stone!” Laura later remarked) by the arm, and the four of us turned around and walked back towards town. After the wind died down, our older friend insisted we let her continue on her own. Laura and Avril then realized that they had “rescued” not one, but two people in one day. Not bad for a random Saturday in January.

While Laura and Avril certainly rescued me that day, they weren’t the only ones worried about my wellbeing. After the walk through the hurricane, I was home drying off and foraging for dinner, when there was another knock at my door. Jada, another classmate, a peppy, talkative American, was standing outside. “How are you doing!? What happened? Are you ok?” Jada bounced into the apartment. I told her my ordeal, she sympathized, and we moved on to a more important topic: her date with a very eligible Irish lad.

Some time later, after Jada had left, another knock on my door. It was Michael, who had given up a fun night out with his class to come to provide me with a little extra security. He threw down his overnight bag in the guest bedroom and joined me in the living room.

It was at about this moment that I realized: I have somehow managed to acquire this incredible support network. In a new city, a new country. In a matter of months. Irish friends, American friends, and of course, my reliable Mitchell crew. All ready to lend me money until my new laser card arrives, sit with me while I deal with banks over a lousy Skype connection, and just spend time with me so the house feels less empty. Avril and Laura were ready to literally save me from an evil kidnapper if they needed to. (I found out later that Avril had quickly devoured a bowl of cereal just before leaving her house to rescue me. Just in case she was going to be in a hostage situation without food for a long time. You know.)

And that’s just the kind of realization that can turn a bad day into a brilliant one.

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