Expectation differs from reality but those expectations have to come from somewhere, right? Countless people, from friends and family, to former Mitchells and Irish accented strangers in New York, defined those expectations of my first few months in Dublin. Here are my reflections on how those expectations fared:
For a ‘warm and dry’ fall, Dublin saw a lot of rain. I learned my lesson that umbrellas break against the typical gale of wind, water manages to find itself where you do not want it, it will rain when you have a big day planned, and the sun will conveniently shine when you are in the library.
The rain has become a quintessential part of my time in Ireland. Once I accepted it may rain at any given moment, the power of the brackish drizzle takes over. Running in the rain makes the slowest of trots feel like a Balboa power workout. The first few drops are the worst but the momentum to keep going is empowering.
Rain also brings people together in different ways. I gulped warm cups of tea in Bray with Sam and Swati after a soaked cliff walk. I savored a pint of success after getting into a Camden street bar on Halloween dressed as a (wet) Wordle with Max, Fares, and Sam. I savored traveling five hours to the Cliffs of Moher to see them in their glory for five minutes.
Music is everywhere! And no, I’m not talking about the same Spotify playlist looping across the city (cough cough Ithaca). I am talking about Debussy playing on the top floor of UCD’s Science Building, Sam and Dolapo’s improv soundtrack serving late nights in the GMB, Afrobeats at Tramline, and of course, live traditional Irish music any time of day in Temple Bar.
Music has always been a constant in my life. I’ve played the clarinet since I was 7, I jammed to Queen with my Dad in middle school, I strummed on the ukulele in high school, and my headphones are usually delivering the soundtrack to life. This year, I moved music from the background to the foreground.
I joined UCD’s DJ society after adopting the approach of ‘just say yes’. Do you want to play at the joint techno event with the Sustainability Society? Yes. Do you want to jump in for the first 30 minutes of my residency set Thursday night? Yes. Do you want to mix in the student center on Halloween night? Yes.
And oh, have I failed. Speakers have been blown out, USBs have corrupted, and the silence of a packed dance floor when one track ends but the other is nowhere to be found are seared in my memory. But through each of those failures, I grew scar tissue and confidence. While I am seeing gradual growth now, that growth will surely compound over the course of the year.
Yes, lots of drinks. Guinness does taste really good here. A pint replaced coffee as the activity for meeting new people. To be fair, a Guinness chat does sound much better than a coffee chat…
Drinking has come to take a new meaning here. Each Wednesday evening I steep in the glory of Sam’s whiskey knowledge. And no, it is not the pompous discussion of notes and aromas, but rather starts with the grains, distillation, and the chemical and biological processes that make the foundations of these beverages. Different parts of the process can be swapped to add character and dimensions to the final product: the spice of rye, the smoke of peat, the burn of cask strength.
On a larger scale, I realized I can find joy in learning about everything. And to go a step further, I can choose where I find that joy. The freedom to be curious is a huge privilege to have.
I’m indulging in a class on Irish history, indulging in the struggle to code in Python, and indulging in learning to match beats only using my ears. There is something intrinsically rewarding about the process of doing and not worrying about any outcomes. I am relearning that.
Okay, hear me out on this one.
Food is the perfect vehicle to bring people together. That can be great food but that can also be not so great food.
Luckily, Dublin is home to an incredible range of food and Ireland (and EU regulations) create some of the best tasting ingredients I have ever tried. Cooking has become a huge part of making friends, learning about other cultures, and discovering Dublin.
My suitemates and I bonded over trying each other’s food. Hancy, Taki and Bruce are from different corners of China and each bring a skilled slate of dishes from home. Bruce’s Henan style spiced lamb, Taki’s Sichuan stews, or Hancy’s WeChat inspired Coca-Cola chicken wings send an incredible aroma through the suite. My mix of dishes from Kerala Shrimp curry to Puerto Rican pernil to spaghetti Bolognese spurs a guessing game of where in the world this dish is from.
Sam and I have taken pleasure in cheffing up meals for the Dublin Mitchells. Experimenting with new dishes like ‘Irish Ceviche’ and vegan risotto keeps even the harshest critics on their toes. Fares’ (pictured) dinner (also pictured), consisting of family recipes from home, was definitely my personal highlight.
Trudging seven miles through Dublin to satiate a friend’s chicken and waffles craving, or a Korean BBQ dinner with other Social Data Analytics masters are how I have found some of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. In Dublin, think with your stomach, it will treat you well.