Unluck of the Irish

By the

March 29, 2001

Georgetown students place a lot of pressure on one another to enjoy a year studying abroad with more passion than a great lover, with more joy than a first-born child and with more pride than a successful bid for the presidency. The study abroad cult starts recruiting members at a young age, when prospective students hear about Georgetown’s wonderful opportunities to attend school while immersed in a foreign culture, progresses as returning seniors vomit up platitudes such as “Last year was the best year of my life!” and continues even while one is abroad, as fellow tourists-for-eight-months constantly grill each other asking, “Isn’t this FUN?”

Overall, my study abroad experience at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland was rewarding. It was not, however, always enjoyable. Being back in America where productivity is overvalued, banks open on time and grocery stores stock tofu is nice. But I don’t intend for this column to provide a complete picture of my study abroad experience. This column is about a trip to Cork to see the annual Jazz Festival there.

The festival took place three weeks after my arrival in Ireland. About 17 hours before the festival began, Kate, an American whom I had met at Trinity, suggested that we journey to Cork. Everyone that we shared our itinerary with unanimously agreed that 21 straight days of drinking had sown the seeds of idiocy in our alcohol-drenched brains. They informed us that, “People plan for months to attend this festival! All the hostels will be booked!” None of their exclamatory remarks, however, could thwart Kate and me.

We spent our first afternoon in Cork providing amusement for those in the accommodation industry, wandering from hostel to hostel, only to be mocked for arriving without reservations. Ignoring our shelter problem, we decided to go to one of the many pubs that was literally overflowing with people. At the pub, Kate and I met three Irish lads who decided that taking two dirty, homeless, backpack-wearing Americans to a club wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a night. Talking to them gave me the glorious opportunity to refine my technique of smiling, nodding and giggling at hopefully appropriate moments, as their accents were notoriously difficult to decipher. But they were generous enough to shelter our twosome at one of their homes for the night. These boys vacated the premises at 7 a.m. the next day to go to work, leaving us alone in the house. We passed up the opportunity to steal dirty utensils and the mattress that covered the living room floor, instead focusing our energies on showering as though we would never have the opportunity to do so again.

Kate and I decided not to rely on others’ “hospitality” for the second night. Our plan was to sleep at the train station instead.

The day progressed smoothly enough, and by night we were at a club where we (gasp!) saw a live band play. Both of us were intoxicated, and, after several shots of tequila, Kate crossed the line into the “uncontrollably drunk” zone. She decided that sleeping in the train station was not a good idea. She began hitting on an old man. This man told us how great we were, but that he loved his wife.

After giving up on Pops, Kate realized that, instead of finding a sugar daddy, we needed to become groupies for the talent-free cover band at the pub. She proceeded to writhe away at the foot of the stage, making good, strong eye contact with the band. She learned the location of the venue that the band was playing at later that night. And had we known the name of any of Cork’s streets, we might have successfully followed them. As it were, our days as groupies had been numbered.

After leaving the club, my threats to throw myself into the nearby river for hydration if I did not procure water right away landed us at a gas station. I bought and drank four liters of water; Kate bought two ice-cream popsicles. The physical and emotional trial of consuming the second one proved too great though, and Kate fell on her head. Having narrowly avoided death by dehydration and concussion, we headed to the train station. On our way, we encountered my American Trinity flatmate wandering the streets of Cork, drunk and ill.

“So, you two heading to sleep at the train station?” my flatmate boomed.

“My bus to the B&B I’m staying in leaves at 1 a.m.,” she added, before vomiting in the street.

When we arrived at the train station, we found it unforgivingly and insurmountably locked. Kate tried to climb the high, wrought iron fence, but fell.

“I could’ve done it, but I would’ve busted my pelvis,” she assured me.

We then endured a torturous three hours of trying to stay conscious at a pizza parlor until it closed at 4 a.m. At that point, we could legitimately call ourselves “street people.” Kate and I found a canopied area outside the rank bathroom of some sort of mechanic shop. We bedded down for the night.

This lasted until I woke up to pee and couldn’t get back to sleep on the cold, hard, smelly ground. I forced Kate to get up and walk with me.

Like a glistening penny among a handful of pocket lint, I saw it: an all-night bowling alley?a place where we could sit indoors! I thought I had known happiness before, but all my prior joys paled in comparison to the neon pins glistening from above.

Kate did not share in my glee, however.

“All-night bowling alleys are sketchy, Lynn.”

“We’re sketchy, Kate.”

We passed away the few remaining hours before we could catch a train out of Cork being prevented from sleeping by a sadistic bowling-alley security guard. We met a group of other, equally idiotic Americans who too had tried to bask in the glory of local jazz without first securing accommodations. If we could have seen straight, Kate and I might have indulged in a sense of solidarity with our fellow travelers. As it was, we could only curse the security guard, each other, and?most of all?stupid, Godforsaken Cork.

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