By Ashley Hufnagle /// Staff Writer
Mark Twain once wrote, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these account. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I wanted to start my journey to Ireland off right by establishing a goal of being open-minded and receptive to new people, perspectives and experiences. This quote perfectly encapsulated the rationale behind that aim. And so I proceeded fearlessly. Joyfully.
After close to 24 full hours of traveling and three flights, I finally made it to Dublin. I met up with a friend and we booked a hostel in Dublin 1, a section of the northern part of the city. We settled in for the night and walked to the nearest pub, a short 30 paces from our front door in search of well-deserved Guinness (while it is a novelty in the states, I quickly learned that it is the PBR of Ireland but with an extra dose of pride). The next morning we woke up early, eager to see where we would be living for the next few months and formally begin our experience in Dublin. We hopped in a cab and got our first taste of the city, watching the hustle and bustle of the city traffic out the window to the soundtrack of a taxi driver with a mouth on him only a mother could love! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that I could not drive in Dublin (as if our driver’s expletives weren’t enough of an indication).
After a rather disorienting jaunt around town, we quickly learned that the Irish and Americans have vastly different ideas of what is considered “walking distance” (anywhere within an hour on foot). However, I’ve absolutely loved walking everywhere — I’ve certainly been breaking in my Europe-tromping boots! Upon first arrival, I couldn’t help but feel self-assured and directionless simultaneously.
After reflecting back on those first few days, I can honestly say that Ireland has far exceeded my expectations (and I had high hopes). However, I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what makes this place mean so much to me. While touring the country, I’ve encountered the breath-taking landscapes and raw beauty of the west, the historical and cultural legacy of the north, small towns that ask you to check your inhibitions at the door, and I have witnessed what a truly international hub Dublin has become. I’ve taken photos at all the major landmarks, found a favorite late-night chipper, and my days now start and end with a cup of tea (and a scone if I’m lucky). However, despite all this, it’s been the people here that have made all the difference.
There is an unprecedented warmth and an unparalleled willingness to lend a helping hand or share a story. This city is definitely home to some of the most good-hearted and humorous people that I’ve ever had the chance to interact with. My favorite part of the Irish sense of humor is that people who have it mastered can deliver a deadly punch line or quick quip completely straight-faced and continue the conversation like it is absolutely nothing (with maybe the exception of a devilish smile). It certainly leaves me in stitches though. It is key to remember that this playful banter is infused in everything from casual encounters to coursework is all good “craic.”
Craic (Pronounced Crack), a term with great cultural currency in Ireland, used to define enjoyable conversation infused with gossip, poking fun at yourself/others, as well as current events, news, and entertainment.So be sure to seek out some good craic while you’re in Dublin. (I promise you won’t receive an unexpected visit from the narcotics unit.)
I swear a sense of humor must be genetic, or at least necessary for survival here — evolutionary psychologists can wrestle with that one. You will have conversations with your local butcher (His name is probably Eamon) and the man, Khifa, who sells yoghurt at the local Halal market on the corner. Your coworkers will mercilessly slag on each other (and you) but only because they care.
After being here for almost a semester, I cannot help but consider this beautiful city a second home. While I believe that a sense of belonging is something that has to be cultivated, Dublin certainly has a way of welcoming you in with open arms. In fact, I’m already scheming ways to get back.
I am American by birth, Irish by descent (and perhaps a stroke of luck), and a temporary Dubliner.