I ate rice with butter in bed this morning and now my room smells like rice, butter, and sleep. No regrets. This is the first morning I’ve spent in bed essentially since I got here. I haven’t been able to sleep in much here even on days with no early commitments. I think it’s the little kid on Christmas voice in the back of my head that’s scared of missing out on anything. It helped that I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s latest (can I just say that I appreciate her inventiveness? I mean sex robots that are modeled after real people? A+).
But no matter how good the book is or how comfy my bed is, I can never stay there all day. I’m of the opinion that this is a good thing, because I had a lot of fun today, most of which happened only after I left the apartment.
The roomies and I headed out around noon, planning nothing other than stops at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Science Gallery at Trinity College. Both museums are on the other side of Dublin from where we live, closer to where we have our classes. We took the scenic route through Dublin along Dame Street and then cut through George’s Street Arcade, which is a stretch of semi-permanent vendor shops in an old, skinny warehouse-type room. We found tarrot card reading for 40 euro, or around 45 dollars. We didn’t stay too long, continuing on past the supposed best burger joint in all of Dublin.
We’d gone this route just yesterday with one of our classes, at which time we noticed an adult boutique that our professor seemed quite interested in. So, passing back through this time, I asked my friends if they wanted to go in. Hesitant looks around, but we agreed. For the experience, right? I was the first one in with Jess bringing up the rear. You have to be 18 to go into such a store here just as in the US. To her dismay, Jess was the only one who was asked her age because “she looked young.” She passed the test luckily, or she would have been stuck outside while we browsed. This was the first sex shop I’ve ever been into, and I wasn’t disappointed. I won’t go into too much detail – surely you can use your imagination – but there was something for every (consenting) adult. This included a men’s baby costume as well as lots of chains, whips, chastity belts, videos, and (ahem) toys. Oh, and lingerie. We made a new friend in “Luscious Linda” the life-size and life-like sex doll. We were the only ones in the place until right as we were leaving, when a young couple came in. It was a liberating experience, but also emphasized just how shamed and condemned pleasure is in our society. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something very wrong just being there.
When we walked back out onto the street, we attracted a few looks. There was a couple of middle-aged guys on a bench across the street and their eyebrows went up, heads turning to look at each other and then back to us. It was a little uncomfortable, but also sort of fun.
Up the street we continued until we came to one of Grafton’s side streets. Courtney took us into Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre since Abbie, Jess, and I had never been. We figured it was just another mall – they’re everywhere here. But we were wrong. This place was gorgeous and it had nothing to do with the stores. We didn’t go in a single shop, instead spending all our time riding escalators up and then back down. I love how you can pop into just about anywhere here in Dublin and be surprised by what you find.
From there, the rain began and did not end for the rest of the day. We let Abbie lead, since she was the only one of us who knew where the Royal Hibernian Academy was. She’s in this awesome art class that goes to museums nearly every class. Very jealous over here. She led us the long way (on accident) around St. Stephen’s Green, but we were quickly at the museum. It was on a dead-end street, very nondescript. But it was free, and besides the commotion in the front hall – where new exhibition submissions were being submitted – it was quite empty. To be fair, the museum was only three rooms, one that was tiny and two that were quite large. We first went into a room with charcoal drawings. They were quite stunning. One neat thing about this museum was that all the work in each of the three rooms, respectively, was done by only one artist. Three artists have their work on display at a time, and from what I gathered, it was all for sale. A single charcoal drawing went for 2,200 euro, and all but two had been sold when we came by.
Next, we went upstairs into the huge wide open gallery space, which housed this amazing cardboard interpretation of the Uprising of 1916 in Irish history. There were cardboard men suspended from the sky, which represent death always hanging over us. A large and angry-looking creature on the other side of the space represented the British and how much of a force they were in Ireland at the time before independence. A few paintings on the wall completed the exhibit, which filled the space without cluttering it as some museums do. The Royal Hibernian Academy took a different approach to exhibits than many other galleries in that all of its rooms were sparsely filled, but filled all the same. Not too much for the eye to see. There were also very few placards that explained any of the work, so much of the interpretation was on the viewer. I pointed out to Abbie that I wished I knew what more of the pieces meant, but she reminded me that without knowing for sure, we have room to make up the story for ourselves. I liked that.
On the other side of the museum was a room full of photography. The collection was widely varied, featuring photos of crosses, fields with cows, blurred snapshots of life on the streets, and some that weren’t easily identifiable. By the time we finished with this room, I was ready to see more. But Abbie informed us that we’d seen the whole thing already; it was the smallest museum I’ve ever seen. Also possibly the most charming.
Next, Courtney headed home so she could go to the Guinness Factory while Jess, Abbie, and I went on to the Science Gallery at Trinity College. But first, we took a small detour to Merrion Square Park, which we’ve passed several times and never gone into. It was bigger than expected with a fantastic playground that I would have died for as a kid. We liked the name of the kid’s section, which was called “The Giant’s Garden.” It plays off Oscar Wilde’s short story, “The Selfish Giant” which we just read for our Dublin Lit class. Merrion Square is the area that Oscar grew up in, even featuring a ridiculous statue of him that makes him look sort of drunk and with lips swollen from kissing. The rest of the park contained a few strange statues and some wide-open grassy areas, plus paths that made absolutely no sense. Benches were plentiful and at one point, as we were walking through a part of the park with recent tree cutting, Jess said she liked the smell. To which I said, “You mean the smell of deforestation?” It was funny to me, anyway.
We left the park with the intention of going to the Science Gallery for real. Jess and Abbie had accidentally gone in there one morning when they were lost and looking for where their class was meeting. This time they wanted to go on purpose. The place was packed with school groups and other people like us who were out and about on a rainy Friday. The exhibit on show was about trauma, not just physical, but also mental and emotional. The different pieces of the exhibit were surprisingly varied and very interactive. We might have enjoyed it more if we didn’t have to squeeze around groups of people.
One of the cool things we saw right when we came in was a bank of lockers. On the counter in front of them were notepads that you were supposed to write a recent good and bad memory on. Then they were locked in the lockers, a key given to us. At the end of our trip, we were to come back and retrieve our memories, which were going to be somehow changed. It was supposed to represent how our memories can change over time, especially those of traumatic events. When we retrieved them at the end, I could see where someone had erased my writing in spots and changed words subtly. For one of the changes, I couldn’t remember what word I’d used before…Touche.
Other neat parts were the knitted skulls and spinal cord, which were done by a girl who had injured those parts of her body. Her goal had been to knit herself whole. – Photos of a man in surgery after being injured on the battlefield. His foot was split open on the bottom and his calf was sliced open from knee to ankle. Abbie almost threw up. – A harp meant to recreate the experience of tinnitus, or a constant ringing in your ears. – A photography collection that represents one girl’s experience with being stalked; she took photos of the different objects he would emphasize or repeat in his letters to her so she could try and understand what was going on in his head. – A video/audio exhibit about professional mourners in China, whom are hired to cry at funerals. Their expressions of grief are raw and powerful, but they’re not real. – A collection of four self-portraits done by a man as he slipped further into Alzheimer’s, and further from himself. The change in the portraits was really stunning, from detailed and grounded to smudged and undefined. – A visual and moving map that shows how the movement of refugees out of Syria and into all other countries throughout the middle east and Europe. Each dot was to represent one refugee. The map resembled scenes from Star Wars when the ships go into hyper-speed, the stars bleeding away in front of them. – A visual and color-coded graph that showed how the time of one prisoner in Guantanamo Bay is spent. Any time of constructive and peaceful activity was reflected by small lines while time spent being tortured in some way were in giant block chunks. It was a look into just how much we can treat other people like they are not human, no matter what they’ve been accused of doing.
It was fascinating, how many meanings the word “trauma” can have. How prolific and deep it is for so many of us. The exhibit was small but good. By the time we went back downstairs to browse the gift shop, the rain had picked up. We tried to wait it out, but it wasn’t stopping any time soon. So we walked with our heads down through the busy Dublin streets. My right boot was soggy within minutes, my toes swimming in street water. My feet were sore from standing so long and I was hungry (having earlier watched Jess drink a fruit smoothie and Abbie eat a bagel with cream cheese). Let’s just say I haven’t been quite so happy to see the dull insides of apartment 29 possibly ever. But man am I thankful for these small adventures with my friends. We’re making the most of our time here; no one can tell us differently.