First Week in Ireland (or: The Saga of the Spatially Challenged)
A week ago, my family and I went out separate ways: my parents and siblings to Quito, Ecuador, and I to Dublin, Ireland. It was, I think, time; I love my family dearly, but having been with them 24/7 for the past three months I wasn’t liking them so much.
A sentiment that is, of course, developmentally appropriate, which I keep reminding my parents.
I arrived in Dublin on Sunday, at 11 in the morning; after the plane landed, the pilot chirped totally non-sarcastically over the intercom that “it’s a beautiful day today, in between the wind and thunder storms!”. Which is not much of a sentence and which has held true for the past seven days.
A driver picked me up at the airport and brought me to my host family, a 20-minute drive. My host mom (mum?) bounded out of the house and hugged me, before wheeling my bag to my room and hurrying me to the kitchen for a cup of tea. This tea business is not a joke. I am, I think, offered tea and/or coffee ten to fifteen times a day. I’m pretty sure that the Irish tea obsession has little to do with caffeine or even the taste of the tea; rather, it’s just ridiculously cold all the time and people want to warm up their hands.
Mine is a slightly unusual host family set-up because the family hosts six to twelve visitors at any given time in both their own home and the house next door. This, combined with two small children and one teenage daughter, means that my host mom does several runs of the dishwasher, several loads of laundry, several floor sweeps, and at least one grocery-store run every day. She’s an awesome woman, in that she’s both awe-inspiringly busy and she’s ridiculously cool, with a nose piercing and a hilariously witty and long-suffering attitude towards her small children. Nothing like my own mother — whom, of course, I love dearly, but who cannot honestly be called cool. (At least not now. I have heard stories of alleged college-age coolness, though I haven’t seen definitive proof. But I digress.)
I had a day to recuperate from jet lag, so I started work on Tuesday. I had a bus buddy, a Brazilian girl who’s staying in the house next door and who takes English classes at Trinity college. We walked to the bus stop together, got on the bus, got off the bus, and I got to work with no problem.
Except then it was time to come home by myself.
I asked the bus driver to give me a shout when we got to my street, which he did. I did not, however, realize that there was more than one bus stop on my street. And when I got off the bus, I had not a clue in the world which way I was supposed to turn. I called my host mom to ask for directions, and although I knew she was in the middle of cooking dinner for eleven people, she immediately said she was popping into the car to come get me. A few minutes later, her husband appeared at the bus stop and I drove the ninety seconds home with him — at which point I got a text from my host mom, saying she was at the bus stop and where was I?
The next morning, I did not have a bus buddy. And that morning, I got hopelessly lost trying to find my bus stop. (I don’t think I can emphasize enough quite how simple it is to get to this bus stop. You literally go straight and then turn left at the end of the road. I turned left too early.) After wandering around suburbia for forty minutes, I called my mother in tears and asked if she would call me a cab.
She would not, the heartless woman. Instead, she murmured things like “overcoming challenges” and “making you stronger” and “it’s three AM”.
I called my host mom in tears. She got on her computer, figured out where I was, and gave me very explicit steps on how to get to the next bus stop. Which I did — and, because I had left the house absurdly early, I was only ten minutes late to work.
The next day — Thursday — I wrote out instructions for myself. Very, very detailed instructions, from “walk out the front door; turn left” to “get off bus at stop next to Starbucks with American barista”. And I got both to and from work with no tears.
When I walked in the front door, triumphant, that evening, the five-year-old smirked at me.
“You lost, Emma?” he grinned.
“No,” I said, and resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at him.
“Who’d you call for help today?” he asked.
“Nobody, thank you,” I said.
“Ooo-kay,” he replied, in a tone that conveyed his amusement and his spatial superiority.
Then I walked into the living room, and everyone gathered around clapped for me.
Which — I’m not gonna lie — felt pretty good. Yeah, I’m proud of myself. What of it? As my mother told me recently, everyone has challenges to overcome. My geographical cluelessness is just a personal challenge. As I keep insisting to everyone around me — host mom, other student-aged visitors, my boss, various bus drivers — I’m not actually an incompetent ditz. I just happen to get lost a lot.