It’s one thing to get through the day-to-day in a city by yourself; it’s quite another to guide others through it.
This past weekend brought my first visitors to Dublin—well, sort of. A close friend of mine who is studying in Rome told me that his girlfriend—whom I’d met only a few times—and her friend—whom I’d never met, despite our being in the same service group—were going to be in Dublin, and he asked if he could give them my info so they could get a (relatively) local perspective on the city. No problem!
I met up with Sam and Chelsea at the Brazen Head Friday night for some Irish music, and after some small talk, they pulled out their itinerary for the next day and asked me what they had to see. Well! I looked over it, pointing out along the way all the places I’d gone and giving my review, and then telling them the places on my list that I’d heard were good. “That museum is on prettier grounds, but this one has better exhibits;” “Yes, there’s this amazing statue if you make a left on that street;” “I don’t know about for breakfast, but there’s this great café just a block over…” When the live music began, I could sing along to at least some of the words to a few songs, including “Alive, Alive Oh.” When we met for drinks after dinner on Saturday, I was able to show at least a little geographical knowledge of the city, as well as the intuition to know which bars in Temple Bar would be ‘worth it’ and which would be too packed for them.
But Sunday, I was really able to show off: the night before, Sam and Chelsea asked me about churches, and I gave them the name and street of the place I like to go. We met up at mass Sunday morning, and then I walked us to a little café for breakfast. Sam pulled out a little guidebook of Europe and flipped it to the first page of Ireland, which had a map. After pointing to where our families originated all those generations ago, Sam asked me about the dotted line dividing Ireland from Northern Ireland. “That’s the partition,” I explained, “the North is part of the UK.”
“Really?!” Sam exclaimed. I nodded and began to get into the briefest history of Ireland, which turned out to be (mostly) accurate. As we toured Dublin Castle, I was again surprised by how much I knew going in, or how many figures I could at least place on a vague timeline when the guide mentioned their connection to the Castle. It was nice to see friends, but it was also nice to get a chance to exercise my knowledge of Ireland.
This brief encounter with other Americans allowed me to gauge my relationship with Ireland. Of course, I’m no local, not by any measure. But I’m learning and growing more and more comfortable with being briefly a part of this city and country, and that’s all I can ask for.