A Memory from the Emerald Isle

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which stirred up a particular memory from Dublin, Ireland — a brief moment, an interaction with a complete stranger — that stuck with me all these years.

In the summer of 1999, I was among a group of Ohio State English majors studying British and Irish literature at Bath Spa University College in Bath, England. Near the end of the program, we took a weekend trip to Dublin. We stayed at Avalon House, a cheap hostel, where I shared a room with 10 other women and used a unisex bathroom that multiple people could occupy at any given time. In other words, no privacy to speak of.

Avalon House had a cafe, and it’s here where I met this stranger. I wrote about our interaction in the journal I had with me. Here’s an excerpt, unedited (though it was tempting to edit it as I typed).

Saturday, August 7, 1999

I didn’t get much sleep last night since our hostel faces a busy street and is right across from a pub. It was noisy outside all night. But I woke up bright & early this morning, ready to face another day.

I took a shower (I’m still trying to adjust to unisex toilets & showers) and I went downstairs for breakfast: yogurt, a muffin, and juice. I ate alone, watching life go by outside the window. As I left the cafe to go someplace quiet and read, an old Irish man stopped me to chat. He said something profound, something about how you have to live your life making the most of everyday. He was really nice to talk to.

You know, I’m amazed I didn’t write down the one specific thing I remember him saying. He asked me how I was doing that morning and I said, “I’m doing well.” And he said, “Of course you are, you woke up in Ireland!”

I was more used to writing on a computer keyboard than handwriting lengthy and descriptive journal entries. I wonder how much more detailed I would have been if I had typed out my experiences instead. Many of those details are now lost to time, sadly.

I just hope I get to wake up in Ireland again someday. It is so lovely — the people, the culture, and the landscape — and I didn’t get to see much of it.

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