So, my home girl Abbie hooked me up today. Mondays are great for me because I only have one class and it’s not until 5:15 pm. Couple this with my Thursdays, where I’m out of class by noon, and I have a nice long weekend. The problem is that none of my friends have the same luxury, so while we do fun stuff on the weekends together, on Mondays I’m on my own. I haven’t done much with my previous Mondays, but I wanted this one to be different. This is where Abbie comes in. She went with her class to the Little Museum of Dublin last week, but the museum had double-booked tours, so the little museum just couldn’t handle all those people. Everyone in the class got two free tickets to come back to the museum, and can you guess who Abbie gave her spare ticket to?
This girl right here.
Around 2:30, I dragged my sorry self out of bed where I’d been writing in my journal and proceeded out into the crazy Dublin wind, which reached 50 mph gusts today. I nearly lost my hat, and then the rain started just as I lost my way. When I walked up the steps to the old Georgian building on St. Stephen’s Green, I was pretty soaked. And luckily, I was just in time for the next tour. I won’t bore you with details of the actual museum, but here are a few highlights.
- There were chairs everywhere – including a very unique wooden train with benches – and sitting was encouraged throughout the tour, which only spanned two rooms.
- Nothing was behind glass, unless you count the pictures framed and hanging on all the spare wall space. They really crammed as much memorabilia as they could in those two rooms. Knick-knacks, models, documents, letters, portraits, photos of old Dublin. The tour guide was an old pro, walking through the rooms and using the different items to create a history of Ireland, Dublin specifically. Not every item was talked about and not every item had plaques explaining what they were; there simply wasn’t room.
- Each of the two rooms is organized by decade, around 1900 spanning to modern times. All the memorabilia was donated by Dubliners, and the collection is quite vast and varied for the space. I was pleasantly surprised with the sheer amount of pretty and colorful things to look at, even if not all of them were easily identifiable (especially a lot of the Irish people because I’m an American after all).
- I was worried that the museum would be overly touristy, since TripAdvisor rates it as Dublin’s #1 museum (beating out all the national museums that span more than two rooms). Surprisingly, I was the only person from the US on the whole tour, and the only other non-Irish person was from New Zealand (and incredibly cute). Most of the old ladies that comprised the tour were actually from Dublin. That made me smile a bit.
- There were also three rooms upstairs and one on the main floor with self-guided exhibits. One room was dedicated to a man called Alfie, a well-known Dubliner that I’d never heard of. I didn’t spend much time in that exhibit. One room was all about the lifetime and influence of the Irish Times newspaper. Different headlines and featured photos, plus some original editions of the newspaper were displayed, along with old furniture from a newsroom. I loved this part because the furniture filled the room like an editor’s actual office and we could touch everything. I love a museum where you can touch everything. The third room upstairs was dedicated solely to U2. Bono everywhere. I actually read the entire timeline of U2, which spanned all four walls of the room so I could educate myself on Ireland’s pride and joy. Downstairs, the only exhibit was a series of cartoon illustrations of Ireland’s journey to a republic. I ended up by a copy of the cartoons in a book as a souvenir because they were fabulous and funny.
- For a little museum, I spent over two hours there and could have stayed longer. There was another small little feature I almost missed on the top floor of silhouettes of the wives of all the rebellion on 1916 leaders whom were widowed after their husbands were executed. All the intricate threading that made up their faces was done by a local college student, and it was tucked in a dark little hallway, which made it feel sort of like a dark secret. It was impossible to walk down the little hallway without brushing up against the silhouettes as I went.
My favorite little bits from the museum included:
- A photo of an Asian Elephant from the Dublin Zoo named Sarah. Before the health board shut it down, the zoo used to give kids rides on Sarah the elephant, which is cute. My roomie Jess loves elephants too, so it made me think of her.
- A painting of a naked older woman. I stood around and admired this photo with a group of three older women, which was an experience. They couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with how open the woman posing had been, standing directly in front of the camera, sagging breasts, large round stomach, and pubic hair on full display. I appreciated this painting because of the reason the artist painted it, which was out of frustration at the disproportionate amount of naked men – usually young – you find in any museum. He (I think it was a man) wanted to make a statement about the reality of aging women’s bodies. Normally hidden, the woman in the painting – a real woman I believe – was proud of her body. It was empowering.
- The U2 display was full of weird things, like a creepy statue with devil horns that I swore was going to strangle me when I turned around, or the random half of a car painted in a retro pattern sitting in the middle of the room. As I was reading the final bits of the timeline history of the band, one of the employees – I think she worked upstairs and wasn’t a guide – saw me and popped in, asking if I wanted to hear a cool story. Of course I did. She showed me a framed picture of some signatures and tracings of hands that I hadn’t noticed before. She said that U2 had visited the museum, but no one in the museum knew they were there. Somehow they slipped in, saw their exhibit, and slipped back out without notice. The only evidence they left was their doodles in the guest book. The museum got the signatures verified by professionals and it was confirmed that the real members of U2 had been there to the biggest collection of U2 memorabilia in one single place in the world. Neat.
- In the first room, taking a close look at the stuff hidden in the cabinets before heading upstairs, I found a piece of memorabilia about Kathleen. I just finished reading a book to which she contributed, a story about Magdalene Laundries and the terrible sufferings of “fallen women” at the hands of the Catholic Church and state government for decades in Ireland. Kathleen was part of a “training school” according to all paperwork that came out of the convent where she was kept locked away. To help “prove” that this was true, the nuns sent out fake report cards with scores from exams that the girls never took. In the cabinet was the same copy of Kathleen’s exam scores that I’d seen in the book I read. There was also a ledger of the different clients of the laundry, which included lots of politicians and high-profile families who would later deny knowing about the laundries. I looked at the handwriting in that ledger and couldn’t help but picture the nun that must have written it, someone capable of detaining and destroying the self-confidence of generations of young women, bringing shame onto them that they wouldn’t be able to fully shed throughout their entire lives. It was very powerful.
After the museum I headed for class. Luckily I was nearby the academic center because the wind almost stole my hat and the rain was coming in sideways. Class was uneventful (except we watched The Sopranos, which was an interesting experience). The real fun happened just after.
The Rice Saga: Final Cut
If you’ve been following my rice saga, it has been a long journey. Today was the day when I got the magical message that my rice had FINALLY come after a week of waiting for rice that wasn’t even on its way. All that bull resolved, the only problem now was that I had to transport at 55 pounds of it 30 minutes away back to my apartment (we can’t ship things to our apartment because of Obama). I was going to roll it across town in a suitcase, but do you know how heavy 55 pounds is? It’s heavier than it looks. If I tried to pull that through Dublin, across inaccessible cross walks and past those crazy egg-thrower trackies, my arm would fall off and my rice and arm would never find their way home. So I caved and got a taxi with my friend Courtney. We split the cost and laughed when we realized that the taxi driver counted the rice as a third person and charged us a euro extra. Whatever, the real challenge came when we had to get the rice up two and half floors and into our apartment. The elevator was a lifesaver and thank goodness there was two of us because 55 pounds is equivalent to Sarah’s entire body straining. Maybe I should lift bro, cause I clearly don’t.
When I dragged the rice through the apartment, making horrible heaving sounds that could be heard downstairs, I set about cutting into it. That rice was wrapped in layers of burlap and packing tape. I was impressed and also annoyed. It made a mess of our floor, which I’ve yet to clean up. My friends took funny videos of me as I finally cut through the last thread and saw my first pieces of rice in the glorious light. I was exceedingly happy, as photo evidence can prove. I put my hands through it and then sat on it like a throne, giving the bag its own chair at the dining room table. I’m thinking of giving it a face and a proper name. At some point, we’ll need to do some family portraits with our newest addition. I’m dead serious. I’ve been so excited I haven’t been able to think straight. I thought the day would never come and felt sure they’d send the wrong thing, like a 55 pound bag of beans or worse, raisins.
But all is well. Cause I have 55 pounds of rice sitting at my kitchen table. And some nice burlap sacks to use the next time I get the urge to have bag races across the living room, which knowing me will likely be tomorrow.