As someone who finds it hard to be compelled to change very easily, it is both a shock and, in a way, a welcome relief to find myself very much changed from this past. In a sense, I think I have found or understood more of who I am and what I want to be in life. This past year has been like a series of windows into my character. To try and state directly what that is like would be impossible, or if not impossible, beyond my grasp to attempt. Instead, I shall offer a glimpse of my experiences so that whoever may read this may see what possible opportunities await, and maybe then an idea of what I wish to get across will become more apparent.
In terms of music, I was beyond fortunate. From small gigs in the basements of pubs to sold out concert halls I saw more acts than I could have possibly imagined, two of which were the greatest concerts of my life. Dublin’s music scene is pretty top-notch, and because the Irish truly love their live music they send incredible amounts of energy to the bands which results in a much better performance on-stage. In order of appearance, I saw: Imogen Heap, Mystery Jets, Chuck Ragan, Gaslight Anthem, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gemma Hayes (three times), Iron & Wine, Gogol Bordello, These Charming Men (a Smiths cover band), Josh T. Pearson (who announced he learned his father died not an hour before the concert began), Drive-By Truckers, Noah & The Whale, Belle & Sebastian (in Vienna), Explosions in the Sky, The Submarines, The Mountain Goats, Harvest (a Neil Young cover band, twice), Villagers, Beach House, and Stornoway. Plus numerous little unknown bands, friend’s bands, and the like.
Had I been able to see all the theater I wanted to, this next list would be about the same length as my concerts. Still, I did see a fair share for a student. Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman (starring Alan Rickman), Shaw’s Pygmalion, Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, as well as McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmore. Trinity Dublin’s theater society, Players, put on a number of their own productions, some typical, some avant-garde, and both serious and hilarious. Some of those included the Laramie Project, Oedipus Rex, and a friend of mine’s musical that he wrote, Jurass-tastic! the Jurassic Park themed musical, set to the music of Elton John, Beastie Boys, and Lady Gaga. I was nearly in tears for most of the show. There was also the Dublin Shakespeare Festival, in which I saw a number of small performances of scenes from various Shakespeare plays put on by my friends at Trinity.
On the subject of festivals, it seems every other week there is another festival of some sort in Dublin. I experienced at least a half-dozen theater related festivals, a Fringe Fest, foreign film festivals, LGBT Pride Week, traditional music festivals, literary themed fests, and so on. What “festivals” usually means are free performances, live music, or anything else of that sort. There is also Culture Night, in which every museum, art gallery, performance space, and anything else is open free to the public, and the entire city seems to go out to enjoy it and the city’s collective spirit seems to be quite jovial. At the start of the summer there were free movies in a park on a big screen, with movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Inception, and How To Train Your Dragon. A Zombie march with thousands of participants dressed and acting as the undead. On June 16th, Dublin had its annual celebration of Bloomsday, the date that James Joyce’s Ulysses occurs, and the streets were filled with folks in Edwardian garb, recitations or performances from the novel, and countless copies of the book in hand of Dubliners and tourists alike.
I visited a half-dozen countries around Europe, such as England, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Gibraltar, and Poland. . I’ve tasted dozens of beers from probably as many countries and eaten amazing local delicacies. Visits have included gorgeous natural landmarks and scenes, and horrifying displays of human evil in the form of Nazi concentration camps. I’ve gone to the tip of Northern Ireland, I’ve seen the murals of Belfast depicting “heroes” and victims of the violence there, the southern tip of Ireland near Cork by Kinsale and eaten the seafood there, explored the Ring of Kerry and hiked through its lakes and valleys. And I’ve gone through Galway on my way to the Aran Islands and biked across Inis Mor to gaze across the Atlantic Ocean, with rainbows around me, while waves crashed against the cliffs I stood on. I’ve listened to old-timers regale tales of the revolution and civil war in Ireland, and I’ve heard songs of joy and songs of sadness.
Some of my journeys and adventures I owe directly to the Butler Program staff and many others I owe indirectly, because of the kindness and support I received from Geoff and Maria. Not only did I have an amazing flat in an incredible location. They took me around the country and where they didn’t take me, they had suggestions and ideas of where to go and what to do. They showed me the hidden spots of Dublin that only a local would know, and treated me not as an advisor would treat an advisee, but as an equal and a friend, which they surely have become. And I cannot forget my amazing flatmate Heather, who has become a trusted friend after starting off as complete strangers thrown into a flat together.
I have made friends from around the world while here on this small island nation. From the café I briefly worked at I made friends with Malaysians, Brazilians, Poles, and others. During my travels I have met people from dozens of countries and all walks of life, not to mention all of the friendships I have made and built up over my year at Trinity. Some will be remembered for the fun times had and the memories they hold, and others will be held near and dear to my heart for what they have taught me about the world, others, and myself. And, thanks to the age of Facebook, most of these friendships will be maintained for years to come.
I cannot begin to stress what this year has meant or done for me. It would not be the same for everyone that came to Ireland, but I hope that all who go abroad would have a similar experience if they were willing to give themselves to the experience, the people, the cultures, the countries you visit and the country you choose to call home for a period of time. For me, I can’t imagine having a better experience than the one I had in Dublin; one that was more suited to who I am and the journey that I am on.