Ah yes, the Land of Eire, the Big Green, The Land of Rain and Bog. All miserable nicknames aside, I’ve been having the absolute best time of my young life living here for the past seven months. I only hope that more Santa Barbarians decide to step out of their sun-shiny comfort zone and take a chance on this place.
[media-credit id=20105 align=”alignleft” width=”114″][/media-credit]I came to Ireland like all Americans with fair skin-coloring and a valid passport: to get in touch with my roots, to live where my ancestors lived, to experience idyllic Ireland, and so on and so forth. Like almost all Americans, I can claim some uncle on my mother’s side twice removed to have lived somewhere in County Clare or something, so Ireland was the only place in the world I could see myself living abroad. On a more serious note, my mom lived in Ireland 30 years ago when she was a young-one like I was, and I was eager to share in her experience.
I had considered myself superior to all those girls my age who decided to study abroad to relive their own personal version of the movie “P.S. I Love You.” I wasn’t going to Ireland to find a charming Irish lad that looked like Gerard Butler (who is Scottish, by the way), who shows an uptight American girl to just relax and have fun. I didn’t know what to expect, or what stereotypes would be true or not. I wanted to see it all.
My first month in Dublin wasn’t really any sort of Irish epiphany. I spent most of that time swearing at the different outlet plugs, the different toilets, and the different food. I didn’t know why I had come to Ireland, I just assumed that once I got there I would have some sort of clarity that living in the United States could not provide. I was now actively searching for an Irish lad who could find me the right power adapters and who would tell me where in Dublin I could find a beer for less than 4 euro.
Although I don’t have to face the added unpleasantry of learning a new language, the only thing that gives me away from blending in totally from the Irish (I’m of the redheaded, freckly persuasion), is my accent. And not just an American accent, the valley girl/nerd-speak accent. I’ve never been aware of how much I sounded like Cher from “Clueless!” The things that I’ve noticed I say a lot: “Dude,” and “That’s smell is so grody” make me sound like Keanu Reeves by comparison. In addition, I noticed that it’s only really animated speakers from the States or excited teenage girls who exaggerate the vowels in their words such as “Reeeeeeeeeeeally?” and “Wooooooooooow!” It just doesn’t fly over here. They speak swiftly, lightly and clearly. By comparison, this paints me as some sort of Forrest Gump/Ted from San Dimas hybrid. When asked at lunch if I liked the steamed potatoes I was eating, I felt like I said, “I sure do like these french-fried potaters. Mmmhmm.”
I still didn’t know what I wanted to get out of this experience. I had all of the touristy things under my belt: drank a pint (or two) of Guinness, toured Dublin Castle, wandered the streets of Temple Bar, attempted to sing Irish drinking songs, but it didn’t make me feel more Irish, only like an impostor who didn’t belong. Americans aren’t exotic novelties in Ireland either, particularly Dublin. For every native Dubliner, there are three American tourists who are searching for the same thing I am. Dublin seems to be full of people who are trying to find this “authentic Irish experience,” but instead have turned the city into a cosmopolitan jumble of Guinness, Tikka Masala, head shops, Kate Moss, Nigerian taxi drivers and American flags. In the words of Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan, “everyone wants to be Irish, but no one feckin’ knows what it means!”
I’m now into month seven, and I think I’ve managed pretty well to just not have any expectations at all, and I’ve never been happier. The “real” Ireland may lie somewhere out west in the rainy city of Galway, or in the Gaeltecht areas of Donegal, or maybe in the six counties of Northern Ireland. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. Just as there’s no part of the United States that is the most American, I’m convinced there is no “real Ireland.” All of it is. Dublin has taught me to be my own fancy-free Gerard Butler (or whoever the other guy Hilary Swank slept with in that movie), even though my California accent and flip flops will never disappear, I’ve made my life motto: “Ah, it’ll be grand.”