Friday started out strange, leveled out into a semblance of normalcy, and then broke the weirdness scales. I remember telling Abbie as we were walking down the street on our way home last night, “None of this is going to be nearly as funny tomorrow.” I fear that I was right, but I will try my best. Be prepared for excessive italics use, you know, for emphasis.
Briefly, the day started out with snow, which is very rare for Ireland. It collected on cars and on the ground for a short time. The mountains in the distance are white. I went on a fieldtrip with my Early Irish History class to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, both places I’ve been to but not to the extent that we explored them yesterday. Newgrange is a passage tomb that’s older than the Pyramids of Giza by 500 years, and I went inside of it. Yes, I stood under thousands of years and tons of stone and grass and sod that has been in the same place without mortar since they were built. It could have collapsed and we wouldn’t have stood a chance of survival, but luckily it didn’t. The tour guide turned off the lights and demonstrated how the light from the winter solstice makes it into the chamber, which was truly a feat of construction for these people, who didn’t even have tools beyond rocks or mathematical calculations. I swore I felt the spirits of the people who had been buried there thousands of years ago, but it didn’t feel threatening. It may very well have been the wind, which was bitter.
We had lunch in the Newgrange visitors center, which was built into the side of a hill. I didn’t have any close friends on the field trip, which was further cemented when I ate lunch at a table by myself. It was a high school flashback if I’ve ever had one. To be fair, I could have gone up to any table and asked to sit down and they would have said yes. I was just the first to sit down and by the time others were picking tables, I was nearly down eating and there was no point in moving. Moving on now.
The Hill of Tara was literally a just a series of hills and empty fields if you didn’t know what you were looking at. Our professor – a self-proclaimed vegan feminist who takes shit from no one and eats unhealthy amounts of cookie-butter – shuffled us around through the mud pits explaining to us the importance of the sight in Ireland’s prehistory. The field we were standing in and the rock that my classmates were hugging was where the high kings ruled from; the site is the most important one in all of Ireland. And it’s just a field with some hills. I’m not kidding. The best part of this experience was – sorry Bradley – when one of my classmates, the only one not wearing treaded boots of some kind, slipped and fell down a mud slide. Poor chap.
Later that night, I had a second field trip to go traditional Irish dancing, called Ceili (pronounced Kayley). I had to be there early as the big bad RA so I could get people to sign an attendance as we huddled from the wind under Trinity College’s main entrance. Our teacher showed up three minutes before we were scheduled to leave, and she brought us to the bus stop. It’s always embarrassing to get on a bus when you have twenty or so people with you because everyone already on-board gives you dirty looks from the windows. Glass gives them the illusion of protection from our sass capabilities. We literally filled up the bus. The man behind where I sat grumbled to himself the entire ride about it.
The dancing took place in a very large residential-looking house, which we entered through a sketchy side door. There was Irish music happening in so many different rooms, and there weren’t enough chairs in the room with the bar, so we sat in the musician’s corner and subsequently got stared at for fifteen minutes until we moved. Jess, Abbie, Jess’ friend Colette (visiting from the states), and I were skeptical to say the least.
We were then told the dancing was about to begin, and because everyone else near the door was unsure where to go, I went first. (You’re the RA, I heard so many times last night, it’s your job to go first!) We got into a giant dance hall with chairs lining the outskirts of the room so the center would be wide open for dancing. The four of us were some of the only people from our group who actually got a chair because it was a full house. We proceeded to learn different Irish dances that included side-stepping and jig-stepping and housing around and swinging and partner swapping and lots of hand holding with the high-schoolers who were crawling out of the woodwork. Abbie was my dance partner for the night. If anyone is wondering, I played the role of the gent in the partnership, mainly because I like swinging people around like rag dolls and so took the role of the lead. Abbie and I got to know each others hands, shoulders,and waists very intimately.
The host of this event was a very old man who put his mouth directly on the microphone. To start off the second half of the night, he said we were going to do an American-Irish dance, the name I can’t remember, and he asked if anyone was from America. I stupidly raised my hand, unlike most of my classmates because I still attempt to be proud of this fact. He pointed me out of the entire room of between 60 and 80 people, and that was it. I went up, wondering how these things happen to me, and proceeded to dance with the old man who smelled like coffee in front of the entire room of onlookers. Jess got the whole thing on video. He told me to pretend that I knew what I was doing and kept grabbing me closely so he could more fully lead my steps. Admittedly, he made me look like a better dancer than I am, even though I’m generally not too bad. It was the only time I’ll willingly submit to a man’s will, or at least, a girl can dream.
The next dance we did, the man tried to split Abbie and I up since our classmates Billy and Jake were partners beside us, and he thought it would be better to have mixed-gender partnerships than same-sex partnerships. I disagreed. So I grabbed Abbie around the waste and yelled “She’s mine!” maybe a little too loudly and I think I genuinely frightened him. He took a step back and said something about his hand being gone, like I’d bitten it off or something, and he left us as we were. Damn right. The four of us and some of the people next to us could not stop laughing because it was such a Sarah thing to do.
We left early to catch our bus, but by the end of it, I danced with so many fifteen year olds who had BO and one young man who I thought maybe wasn’t a boy. Regardless of gender, this person grabbed my chest, whether by intention or accident I can’t be sure, but this person was not quick to remove said offending hand. So, that happened. I kicked one of my classmates Alex in the butt while dancing and got some interesting stares from the old man hosting. Alex later told me I smelled like a dead rat and spent the rest of the night trying to take it back.
On the bus home, we crammed onto the top level once again, since all the city buses here are two levels. We indeed got more angry stares from the people already on the bus. A group of college-aged guys who looked mysteriously like trackies without track suits got on too and I can remember saying that this was going to be an interesting bus ride. I was not wrong. We’d been driving for about two minutes before they started singing Amy Winehouse’s Valerie at top volume in perfect unison. Look the song up if you can’t conjure it in your head for maximum impact. They were all drinking beers while they did so, just chilling on this city bus. Yes, this is illegal in Ireland, but people don’t really care. When that song ran out, they sang Rehab by Amy Winehouse, but they only knew the chorus, so they just sang that a few times over again. Abbie and I asked each other what the hell these Irish almost-trackies were doing singing Amy Winehouse because, just why? It made no sense!! When Rehab got old, they started singing about wanting p***y. We were in disbelief. And then as they got off just a few stops after getting on, they sang in unison still about misplacing their anal beads. I repeat: anal beads. They told us to enjoy our time in America, and with that, disappeared into the night. Turns out they were a rugby team that had just lost its match and were out of the league tournament, so they were drowning their sorrows by drinking on the city bus and singing loudly about anal beads. WTF IRELAND?
Then Abbie noticed at the same time Jess did that the guy sitting in front of us had alternating photos of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with golden halos as the home screen of his cell phone. We. Could. Not.
Attention soon turned to the actual thugs at the front of the bus, who were maybe sixteen and wearing nice Air Jordans. They pretended to get into a fight to try and incite us to join in so they had an excuse to throw punches, and kept banging on the side of the bus. I thought they might break the paneling off, honest to the Jesus and Mary on the man’s phone. When they went down to get off, the bus engines shut off and my first thought was that some ass-whooping was going down between the driver and the kids. The driver came up a few seconds later, assessed the damage to the side of the buss, and said he called the guard, but they ran off too quickly. By the way, we were in the most affluent suburb of Dublin, Ballsbridge. Which is next to Booterstown. I aspire to live on the border line between Ballsbridge and Booterstown so I can live in both of these incredibly named places at once. Yes, I am twelve years old.
On the walk home, we saw three different men pissing on walls. One of them asked us if we wanted “to look.” We ended up following behind three men who were shepherding a drunk woman through the streets; she seemed to know them but regardless I was pretty concerned about her safety. She kept singing “boom boom boom let we hear you say wayooo” to anyone who got to close to her (or just, you know, walked by). She ran across an intersection without looking at the traffic, which was coming at her. She then stopped in the intersection and acted as our traffic guard, telling us it was safe to cross, holding up her hand to the angry taxi beside of her. When the taxi honked at her, she looked right at him, but didn’t move. The taxi wasn’t stopping either. She did jump out of the way at the last moment, screaming like she had been stabbed and the three guys with her told us not to judge their country based on her behavior, but we didn’t know what country they were from. Hopefully not America.
We passed two gangs who may not actually have been gangs of men on the same street when we were almost home. I started crossing the street when I noticed the first group on the other side, and then suddenly veered back, telling everyone following me to get back on the sidewalk. The thugs thought about saying something, we could feel it, but they didn’t. We let our breath go. The next group was on our side of the sidewalk, I was leading as we passed them. Again, I’m not sure how these things happen. They didn’t say a word, even scooting over to make room for us. According to Abbie, it’s my confident walk. During the day people ask for directions and at night, people don’t screw with me. I like the theory, but am not in a hurry to test it. I also do feel guilty for assuming every group of men are trouble; you just can’t be too careful especially in a foreign place.
My dreams last night decided to add to this crazy day. I woke up this morning thinking we’d been arrested. Not for punching one of the singing rugby players or throwing Jesus and Mary Man’s phone out of the bus window. No, we got arrested for walking into someone’s house and filling our water bottles in their sink. There you have it. We’re Dublin hardcore criminals now. When you see us walking down the street with our water bottles, you better be scared.
(Sidenote, I took not a single picture today! Sorry not sorry for living in the weird moment!)