First off, I’d like to apologize to everyone who’s been reading my blog and hoping for more (I’m looking at you, Mom and Grandma!) Over the past few weeks I’ve just been so busy with everything that I haven’t had time to sit down and actually write about it. Moreover, I haven’t particularly wanted to because my mood has been so erratic. It’s fluctuated between happy and miserable – I wish I could tell you definitively which one was the predominate emotion, but I can’t.
I’m going to leave out telling everyone about Cirque de Gavarnie, a small French village I visited a few weeks ago with USAC, because words literally cannot do justice to that beautiful place. If you have a moment, look it up on Google. It is honestly the most breathtaking town I’ve ever seen, and I cannot believe there is a place on earth that actually looks like that. We were lucky to go on a sunny day, and I would do anything to have my camera’s memory card be compatible with my computer so I could share the incredible photos I took from horseback.
Yes, horseback. It could not have been more surreal.
Anyway, the main point of this blog post is about what I’ve been doing for the past week. Between the sessions, USAC gave us a week off from classes, in which most of the group went to Paris. When I was paying for the program, I was super strapped for cash, so I didn’t want to pay the extra $600. I figured I could go to Paris on my own for cheaper. I was dead wrong about that, unfortunately, but it is what it is. My plans for this week shifted around a bit – for a while, I thought I’d go to Germany, then I thought Italy, and then I realized I don’t speak either of those languages at all so travelling there alone would be an incredibly stupid idea. Where to, then?
The answer came naturally: Ireland. Dublin, once I’d read more on the various cities in Ireland (as well as the travel expenses…), would be my destination. I could not have picked a better city.
For those of you who haven’t been here, you need to come. Especially the members of my family. It is absolutely remarkable how much the Grady family looks like every other person in Ireland. I’ve seen people on the street I could easily mistake for my grandfather, cousins, uncles, aunts, father… We are truly Irish people. Take one look at the streets of Dublin and you know that for sure. The Maphet gene pool is a bit harder to come by, at least here, but I’ve seen the similar dark hair and pale eyes that characterizes the maternal side of my family.
I wish I had the words to write down everything I’ve seen and done here, but I don’t. Storytelling is an oral exercise when done properly, so give me a call when I’m back in the States and I’ll regale you with little inane memories for hours. A list, for now, will have to suffice. I’ve seen Trinity College and the Book of Kell; I’ve read The Dubliners while actually in Dublin; I’ve gone on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city; I’ve walked on the Cliffs of Moher (and nearly fallen off – you should never let someone prone to tripping so close to a devastatingly high drop); I’ve discovered that cabbage isn’t so bad with a little butter and salt; I’ve drank Guinness in the factory where it was first brewed. I’ve slept in a hostel and befriended some French people (bien sur); I’ve realized that Americans aren’t hated everywhere outside of America; I’ve found a place where I can feel slightly normal again.
That’s not to say, really, that I haven’t warmed up to France. I have. Pau is beautiful, and I’ll miss it when I leave. French comes easier to me than it did before, and my speaking has substantially improved. But I’ve also been forced to come to terms with the reality of the place I dreamed about my whole life. I’m not French. No matter what I do, French will always be my second language, and I doubt I could ever be truly bilingual. I can love and appreciate French and the French culture in all of its beautiful idiosyncrasies, but I can never live there for any extended period of time. To be frank, I stick out like a sore thumb.
I’m not Irish either, but I at least have the enormous advantage of being able to communicate. My accent has yet to offend someone, mostly because I’m not accidentally saying things I don’t mean. I love being funny again; I love making people laugh with my stupid jokes and the like. I haven’t been able to do that in France – make a stranger laugh with me, in their own language.
It’s been nice to strike up conversations with strangers again. Sometimes, I like doing that. The gentleman I sat next to on the plane was very kind. His name was Paddy, and he asked me why I was going to Ireland. I said my ancestors were from here, and I was eager to see it. We chatted a bit – he asked me about my surname, and laughed when I told him Grady, and that I’m from Boston. It was a refreshing change of pace. I quite liked it.