This week I’ve probably introduced myself over a few dozen times. “Hello,” I keep saying, “I’m Kaylie. It’s nice to meet you.”
Mostly, I keep introducing myself to Dublin. I’ve been in Ireland for over a week, which feels simultaneously like the longest and shortest stretch of time. The days have been full of introduction and exploration and information, of handshakes and names and well-practiced biographical summaries (Kaylie, California, Knox College, creative writing…) and now finally, hopefully, settling.
Most things are overwhelming, but in good ways. My first walk through Saint Stephen’s Green felt revelatory, borderline holy. I stood by the gates on the southwest entrance and stared, entranced, at the green and the trees and the people and the dogs, walking and chatting and being perched on by pigeons. I’ve walked through the green three times since and each time found something new to be astounded at.
I have learned so much in the past week and a half, some of it intentionally and most it by trial and error, so below, a short, compiled list:
- Coins are important. Everything under five euro is a coin in Ireland, and these coins are valuable and should be treated as such. Make sure you have a coin pouch. Do not haphazardly throw them in the bottom of your bag or in a coat pocket to clumsily fall out later.
- Even though you would suspect that some actions are inherent, you will find yourself second guessing everything you do for the first few days in a foreign country. I’ve stood in line at a grocery store hundreds of times in my life, and yet I spent the entire four-minute adventure of buying breakfast at Aldi fretting.
- Euros do not equal dollars, value or slang wise.
- Pedestrians are both brilliant at time management and reckless with their lives. The walking lights are treated, usually, as merely suggestions. Walk at your own risk.
- Everyone in Dublin has a ‘blanket scarf’, or a very large, warm scarf, that doubles as both an accessory and an actual blanket that you can whip out in times of cold. Find one and cherish it.
- Dublin is so much bigger than it seems.
The routine of classes and volunteering and life are beginning to form. I attended my first training session for Fighting Words, a nonprofit that gives creative writing opportunities to students, on Saturday morning, and on the walk there I discovered a new side of Dublin. As O’Connell street turned and I walked towards Croke Park, I saw a side of Dublin less shiny, less commercialized, but still vibrant. In orientation, we touched briefly on the North/South divide in the city, but as I walked from lower Rathmines, through the city center, towards Russell street, I saw it for myself.
Every walk through the city is a tiny adventure. I’m both exploring and finding a new home. There is a new zip of excitement every time I go down a street I’ve never been to before, pass a mural or interesting shop or particularly nicely painted door, but there is already a familiarity forming every time I turn onto Rathmines road. I see the large dome of St. Mary’s Church and the curve of the canal and think yes, cool, seven minutes till home.
I’ve walked somewhere over fifty miles in my time here and have at times felt like I’ve seen so much, but I know it’s really just the beginning.
Here’s to hello, more walks, and exploration.