Privilege Abroad

Wade Suarez
November 29, 2021
Streets of dublin, unoccupied except for a bus and a bike

I had my reservations about Dublin’s city center during my first few weeks. See, the general rule of thumb is—much like any other city—don’t go out at night by yourself, and for the most part, you’re left alone. The exception to that rule ranges from three feet to no more than five feet tall.

For one reason or another, gaggles of prepubescent kids on bikes and scooters tend to be the most random aggressors in the city. Whereas other things that you bear witness to will have nothing to do with you, you, the person that has the privilege of a roof over your head in Dublin, the kiddos around here do not discriminate. We’d seen them beating the everloving petrol out of parked cars and dashing into corner stores to steal snacks. We'd learned that their brand of chaos isn’t so cute at times as projectile rock whizzed by our heads. 

Back in September, as we returned from dinner, a gang of kids had posted up outside of our dorm. I thought nothing of them, since the youngest among them couldn’t have been any older than my nephew. I did wonder why they were out so late. Suddenly, BOOM, a bottle slammed into the wall next to us, followed by incomprehensible shouts. My classmates and I paused, flabbergasted, until a rock followed suit, and we dashed inside our dorm. We fled! And to make it worse, the doors to our dorm had opened up lighting-quick, with two beefy lads that could give a good hug (or a good left hook) ushering us in. I am twenty-three years old, almost six feet tall (almost…), and have never missed a Thanksgiving dinner, yet still I had to run away from the Soprano section of a children’s choir. It was surreal.

But here’s the deal—as shocking as that incident had been, I was reminded by an instructor that I was in their neighborhood. It would take me a month or two to understand what that meant. I’m not above any other person that has the privilege to study abroad, no, but I also have been lucky enough to live from downtown Minneapolis to Cushing, Texas (population 636). I have been in a lot of neighborhoods, and each one has taught me something. I figured there was a part of me which needed to sit down, shut up, and learn from the neighborhood that has accepted me as its guest. So I did. We all did. 

Months after this gaggle had given you a trial-by-fire neighborhood welcome, you see them again, and one of them has a cool scooter. They flourish it as you walk by, and an underglow of red, green, and blue lights up in response. It’s cool, man! And so you’ve decided to tell him that.  Because why not? You’ve hopefully learned to suck up and spit out the part of you that regards an area as a ‘kip’ and you think—that’s a human, and I think the way that their scooter lights up is cool, so I’ll just tell them that. Erm, maybe it helps that you’re close enough to your apartment to hide, if need be.

You’d see this kid react by whipping his head over to you in a scowl and shouting, “WHAT?” You realize that his first inclination was to believe that, if you were speaking to him, then you were saying something mean. Their face is small and pudgier than the rest of their gaunt form, and they couldn’t possibly be older than ten, and they have somehow already learned to expect unkindness. And so when you repeat, no, like, your scooter, your scooter is cool, I like the way it lights up, they’ll pause and look at you like you’ve fried their brain. Once they reboot, they’ll tell you that they think your hair is cool, and ask where you’re from, and ride off into Parnell’s sunset with a peace-sign and a “Texas, baybee!”

It is in that moment that I really felt just how privileged of a guest that I have been in another’s neighborhood. Obviously, I knew that, but I truly felt it then. I can’t stop thinking about it! This followed a month or two of my astonishment over the threat of neighborhood children. I’d been advised to steer clear of these kids, and to treat them as a threat because—to be fair—sometimes they are. Yet still, close enough to risk it, I offered one an extremely casual kindness, and he immediately returned it to me once he’d understood. How often do people look at these kids instead of just running from them? How often have I thought somebody ‘dangerous’ when I occupy a position to be kindness to them as a direct result of my own safety, a safety perhaps they don’t get?

Being abroad has taught me to challenge my ideas of danger, because it’s showed me the ways in which I often don’t tangibly experience danger. The result of that challenge is the wiggle-room to be kind to your fellow human.

Wade Suarez

<p>Yo! My name is Wade Suarez. I'm an English Creative Writing major attending Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am attending the Dublin Writer's Program in Fall of 2021, and my current plan is to not shut up about it the entire time I'm there. My favorite thing to do is to write (shocking, I know), but my next favorite hobbies are exploring, reading, and hunting down the best nooks and crannies I can find, wherever I am. My ultimate goal while I am in Ireland is to connect with a place and people that I've never known, so check it out if you want to see how that's going. I'm pretty pumped to share with you the things I learn and the connections I make while I am adventuring abroad this Fall.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2021 Fall
Home university:
Augsburg University
Hometown:
Cushing, TX
Major:
Creative Writing
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