“So, you live here then?” As I handed my Irish residency permit card to the immigration officer at Dublin Airport, I was struck by this simple question. While I still stand out with my American accent, I am reminded by how it is such a rare gift that I am not just traveling around or visiting Ireland; I live here. Somehow, it just took over six months in Ireland to fully sink in.
There are the obvious things that remind me I’m no longer back in DC or North Carolina, like being five hours ahead of my friends and family, hearing Irish people say “grand” and “cheers” all the time, and riding the double-decker city buses around Dublin rather than the Metro. But, it’s the little things that make me feel like I’ve cultivated a life here beyond just visiting, and one that is markedly different from the US, despite the two countries’ similarities.
It’s the excitement of gathering with my classmates at the campus bar after our classes end at 6pm on a Friday. Or, the fact that there is a campus bar at all! It’s how my professor offered me tips for where “real Dubliners” would go on the weekend to enjoy the coast, and how my boss in the Oireachtas looked after me when I caught a cold.
It was also the sense of community I felt when attending Ukelele Tuesday at a Dublin bar, strumming and singing along with the sounds of dozens of others. As a challenge for 2019, my friends Connor, Cameron (fellow Mitchell), and I decided to try our hands at learning the ukulele. As I started practicing, I was buoyed by the comments of my roommates: “it sounds like you’re improving!” But also struck by the realization that I had been unknowingly performing for my five roommates any time I practiced, our dorm’s paper-thin walls not hiding any of my scratchy strums. While self-conscious that my roommates could hear every chord, I realized that by going to Ukelele Tuesday, I’d be playing for an audience just the same. Although this time, perhaps a more willing one.
Even the mundane things, like when I filed my 2018 taxes and had to mark myself as an American living outside of the US for part of the year, filled me with a small joy as I realized the person on that form was me – living out a dream of living abroad and exploring somewhere new. And, no matter how hard I try, I have yet to understand the Celsius temperature scale and have a comprehensible conversation with an Irish person about the weather. “Is that really hot?” one of us wonders as the other tells a story remarking on the temperature outside. While I haven’t necessarily gotten used to the Irish weather (or learned Celsius), I have built a life here. And for that, I am eternally grateful.