Archive for May, 2010

Friendly Skies? If you land in Dublin, yes.

I really can’t get Dublin off my mind. What a trip. What a people. I had a ridiculously good time there. Probably the highlight of my travels — and given I was there just 24 hours, that’s an impressive accomplishment for this big small town.

Perhaps the most striking part of my experience, however, was the friendliness of the airport staff. When’s the last time you encountered friendly airport staff? Anywhere? Certainly not New York. And UK Border Control always leaves me nervous, even though I’m here utterly and completely legally.

But Ireland? Oh, Ireland. A couple vignettes:

Passport Control

  • Friendly Immigration Official: How long are you staying in Ireland?
  • Overeager American music fan (that’s me): Just 24 hours.
  • Immigration: Why so short?
  • Me: I’m hoping to see a concert.
  • Immigration (genuinely interested): Ah, who?
  • Me: Glen Hansard, of the Frames.
  • Immigration (pride his country’s music shining through): Ah, Glen! Where’s he playing?
  • Me: The Odessa Club, but it’s sold out. It’s a small charity gig. I’m hoping to charm my way in.
  • Immigration: Well, Jennifer, you’ve charmed me. (Stamps passport. With green ink.)

RyanAir Check-in Counter

The desk agent saw me waiting in the queue with what was obviously just hand luggage. (As a non-EEA national, I have to present my passport to be issued a special boarding pass). She took my pre-printed boarding pass and passport, walked behind the counter to do what I needed, and delivered it back to me. All with a huge smile. This process took 25 minutes at Gatwick. And there were only 10 people queuing.

Security

“Ladies and Gents, please make sure your liquids are out of your hand luggage. Any liquids: shampoo, toothpaste, makeup … Guinness.” The security agent flashes a wink my way, that can only be described as Irish eyes smiling. “This is Ireland after all.” It was 9AM.

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An Adventure Manifesto

I found out at 10PM last Monday that my favorite musician, Glen Hansard, was playing a solo gig in Dublin on Wednesday evening. By 11PM, I had booked plane tickets and a hostel. Adventure.

At 10AM the next morning, I found out the show was sold out.

I wrote the following from a Dublin pub, around the corner from the concert venue, waiting to find out if I’d make it into the show.

My Adventure Manifesto, 28 April 2010, 19.45. Dublin.

  • I will live in the moment.
  • I will ROAR, speaking powerfully and gracefully with a red-hot passion and purpose on the inside of me that oozes to the outside.
  • I will stoke the fires of that passion and purpose by engaging with art, new people, and new challenges.
  • I will choose to laugh at the unexpected.
  • I will welcome changed plans, thwarted strategies, and potential disappointments, believing they bring a better outcome than I could have devised on my own.
  • I will abolish fear with joy.
  • I will shatter self-pity with gratitude.
  • I will believe anything is possible, hope for bigger and better—beyond what my eyes have seen and my ears are capable of hearing.
  • I will step outside my comfort zone. DAILY. (Even as I return to it, geographically, next week.)
  • I will not let sticks and stones break my bones. Let people say what they will. I am confident in who I am.
  • I will not whine about my circumstances. I may reserve the right to change them, however.
  • I will be open: to people, situations, possibilities, in every context. I’ll keep checking in with myself to make sure I stay that way. I will not be a jaded New Yorker.
  • I will live with the bubbly-anything-goes joy I experienced yesterday; with a giggle on the inside and a glow on the outside, inviting people to ask the reason for the hope that I have.
  • I will take as many relational risks as I do professional risks.
  • I will (try to) spend less time on my BlackBerry and more time talking to people, to God, to myself, and writing.
  • I will reread this manifesto anytime I start to settle for less.

Terry

Garden of Remembrance

I met Terry while standing to take this photo, at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance. My Lonely Planet guide touted the friendliness of the Irish, saying you’d be greeted by a helpful local anytime you took out a map.

Terry, with his broken yellow teeth, faint smell of alcohol, and endearing smile, indeed offered his help as I checked my map en route to the Hugh Lane Gallery. I had my iPod in one ear, so misheard him when he told me he was “one of Ireland’s sons.” I thought he said “songs,” and loved the poetry of calling oneself music, particularly in a country that has produced so much music I love.

Once I’d assured Terry that I knew where I was going, he gestured at the Garden of Remembrance, telling me its story. I confessed to him that I’d known very little about Ireland’s history, how recently the country had struggled for its independence. The IRA battles, of course, were part of the background noise of news reports of my childhood, but I’d honestly not known that this lovely country had only been fully independent for just 60 years.

“Pray for the IRA,” Terry asked me. “They are misunderstood. They fought for Ireland. They fought so she could be free. Please,” he asked me, this New York girl he’d just met. “Pray for the IRA.”

“I’ll pray for peace, for everyone in Ireland,” I said. My knowledge of the current political situation is insufficient (and my awareness past violence adequate) to allow me to commit my allegiance to one side with this man on the street.

“That’s good,” Terry said. “Pray for peace, please pray for Ireland. And I will pray for your country, I will pray that God blesses your country.”

I wonder at Terry’s story. What has happened to him, what led him to the place where he is imploring strangers, with incredible sincerity, to pray for the IRA?

I was touched by the earnest, heartfelt plea for divine intervention from this slightly drunk Irish man in the street; by his love for his country and people, his cry for peace, and his generosity toward my own nation.

Terry completely challenged my perspective of the homeless man approaching me on the street. I’m glad I met this son of Ireland. He may have lost his way a little, but overall, I think she did a pretty good job raising him with what she had at the time.

Joy

I woke up the other day overcome by joy.

7:40 a.m. and a great big smile on my face. Laughter in my heart. Really, a giggle. A giddy, girly little laugh simmering on the inside of me to start my day.

There were circumstantial contributions to my condition: It was my birthday, and I’d just booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Dublin to see my favorite musician. (More on that to come.) But there were also circumstantial detractors: I shortly found discovered said concert was sold out, and there is that overriding condition of “unemployment” which can have its moments.

But this went above and beyond circumstance. Joy, joy, joy, joy. Like champagne bubbles dancing inside, nearly rising to the surface in my own little dance on the outside. Deep, abiding joy. Joy that gives me strength and a hope that cannot be shaken.

This joy moved me through the next couple of days. The strength that joy gave me allowed me to make choices to stay in joy. “Aha, problems. Nice try. I have experienced joy, and I will choose to stay there. I am not listening to your discouraging blathering.”

And the thing I’m finding is that when I’m vigilant about a continual choice toward joy on the inside, the circumstances just keep turning my way. Or I care a whole lot less when they don’t. It’s a choice, not a condition resulting from a lucky turn of events. I’m choosing to live empowered in a state of joy. There’s no turning back.


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