Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mr. Jones, Lucky Charms and "Chattell Lines"

Fellow blogger Cassie, Shannon, and I on the Airlink
By now, I'm starting to feel like a seasoned traveler. I've been to London, to Edinburgh, and on various day trips with the school and with my friends. But last weekend, four of my friends and I put ourselves to the ultimate test--planning a long weekend all on our own. It wasn't without difficulties, figuring out which hostel to stay at, how to get from the train station to the airport, from the airport in Dublin to our hostel, but we were nevertheless determined to spend an amazing weekend in Dublin, and that's exactly what we did.

It's a rush, the realization that you've managed to get yourself to an entirely different country. Stepping off that cheap Ryanair plane with it's bright yellow and blue seats (which took me back to my year in middle school as a Northwest Knight in blue and gold before I moved to Ross and "found myself" as they say) was amazing. For the first time, I felt really capable of anything, everything. I'd been to other countries before, but not like this.

Perhaps the feeling was a little bit prophetic, because my experience in Dublin was vastly different from the other trips I'd taken before. Every single trip has been fantastic in its own way, but in Dublin I really felt like it was about more than just seeing the sight and saying I'd been there. In Dublin, we really got to interact with the PEOPLE, with the CULTURE, in a way I hadn't before.

See, people in Dublin are friendly. Or at least, men in Dublin are friendly when they see a group of five pretty American girls on "holiday." The guy working reception at our hostel (which was called Mount Eccles Court and which I highly recommend, as an aside) was all too happy to give us recommendations on where to eat, and since we were tired, hungry, and ready to celebrate Lesley's 20th birthday, we were more than happy to take those suggestions. That's how we found ourselves at The Oval, where our waiter was not only attractive but also incredibly friendly, and again, all to happy to suggest what food and drinks we should get. A quick celebration involving a "birthday squid" in Lesley's seafood chowder and a slight buzz off some delicious cider later, and we were already feeling incredibly satisfied with Dublin. Who would have known the cultural experience (and the boost to our feminine egos) was only going to get better?

The soup and bread Gina and I had at the Cafe--yum!
The next day was spent walking around and getting familiar with the city--at least for Shannon, Gina, and I. We saw the National Gallery, had lunch in a cute little cafe, and spent some time looking at shops and of course having tea. We stepped into a bookshop and met yet another incredibly friendly person, who was happy to help Shannon find books about Irish history, giving customer service that definitely went above and beyond the usual. Everywhere we went, people were telling us to have a great weekend, asking us where we were from, and if we had Irish heritage or not. I even learned a little bit about my own background--apparently my ancestors were metalworkers!

The Picture, Courtesy of Irish Stranger
And then, our night out. Shannon, Lesley and I decided it was about time we had ourselves a real Irish pub experience, and we were determined to get one. I'll be honest, I don't really drink. But the idea of sitting down in a pub with some Dubliners and having a drink or two really appealed to me. I guess it just seemed like the type of thing one ought to DO when in Ireland. Anyway, after a somewhat exhausting search we found ourselves in The Celt, a cute and slightly crowded little pub that smacked of authenticity, if only because most of the people in there were NOT wearing green sweatshirts or cowboy hats and did not have American accents (believe me, that's a common thing, especially in the Temple Bar district.) We sat down, had a drink, and Shannon ended up engaged in conversation with a man we'd asked to take our picture. How often does that simple request result in learning someone's life story? Apparently, in Dublin it happens fairly often (even if we were pretty sure the thirty-something guy was trying to hit on her, it was mostly harmless).

And now to the main point in my tale of social exploration. We headed down the street to Maddigan's Pub, a place we'd seen advertising live music earlier. The bartender ushered us in off the street, telling us the music was going to start any minute. We had a seat at the bar, Shannon treated us to a round of Baileys (which is DELICIOUS, by the way) and we found ourselves yet again engaged in conversation by none other than the bartender. Maybe I just don't know how this works, seeing as how it was certainly my first time sitting a bar, but he was incredibly nice and very OPEN. He asked us where we were from, and we learned that apparently people associate Indiana with Indiana Jones, since whenever we told them that's where we were from they'd ask "How's Mr. Jones?"

The Irish conception of people from Indiana?
Anyway, long story short we went from sitting at the bar talking to the incredibly friendly bartender to sitting at a table with a group of Irish boys about our age. And that was how we ended up learning a LOT about Irish culture. One of the boys had come up to us, wanting to interview us about our holiday for his job (about which we were a little skeptical at first). One of the questions he asked was "what are some of your favorite chattel lines?" Naturally, we just sort of gave the guy a blank stare. What on EARTH was that? After a little awkward fooling around with the idea, he and his friends got us to understand that it was the equivalent of what we Americans call a "pick up line." It's amazing, the different shades of language even within English.

The American conception of the Irish?
From there, we got on the topic of stereotypes and learned that, although Americans frequently reference the Lucky Charms leprechaun, Irish guys have no idea what Lucky Charms are and will NOT understand the joke any more than we understood the chattel lines or the "How's Mr. Jones" thing at first. It was truly amazing, though, just the surreal moment of being an American in Dublin, sitting at a table with Irish boys FROM Dublin and talking about our perceptions of one another. When one of the boys asked me what my Irish stereotypes were, it was hard to come up with anything at first, but then I realized how few redheads I'd seen (one of the boys quipped that they didn't want them and shipped them all off), and how I had essentially imagined a land of Guinness and shamrocks and not much else. I was amazed at the interest they had in our culture, because I'd never really thought of my culture as anything unique before. Yet here we were, discussing leprechauns and the impossibility of finding hot dogs in Dublin and how confusing it was for them that there were so many stops for commercial breaks during the Super Bowl (they don't get the American commercials).

The Five Intrepid Explorers in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral
I've loved all the sight-seeing, and the tourist attractions, and the ease of all my previous travels. But this was the first time I felt I was starting to see life through the eyes of someone who'd been raised in a totally different world, even though they spoke the same language... more or less. It's impossible to sum up a long weekend in a single blog post, and there was plenty more where that came from, but the things I'm always going to remember about my trip to Ireland will be Mr. Jones, Lucky Charms, and chattel lines.

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