23 June 2012

Irish Eyes

The crazy thing about the UK is that people speak English there.

The first weekend in May was Spanish Labor Day, so Caitlin and I hopped a plane to Dublin. I could understand every announcement on the plane and all the flight attendants getting snarky in the back. And then I could understand the people on the bus and the tour guides and the cashiers, and I tried not to say too much about it to Caitlin, because she's in love with a Welsh man and is well aware of this whole English-speaking phenomenon.

I tend to zone out when I'm surrounded by Spanish speakers; unless someone enunciates their words well in a crowd, it's all mushing together in my head as a drone. I'd love for it to not be like that, but it is like that. I am, however, good at catching certain swear words. After eleven months of letting my ears function at a low level of alertness, all this English was like candy. It makes you feel so intelligent: I just overheard two different conversations at once and understood them! I have moved to the fluency level required to order fast food! Next I'm gonna write a Master's thesis!

Of course, my foreign language default was on, so I kept telling the cashiers, "Gracias!"

It rained the entire weekend, which was not disappointing in the least because Ireland is supposed to be wet and green. And the houses! They're free-standing, not all built on top of each other like Spanish brick houses, and the bus drivers say things like, "Watch your umbrella there, love," and the tour guide at the old jail kept making sure people could understand what he was saying. In a country where customer service is not a high priority, this was all so refreshing.

The crazy thing about good stories is that they're mostly born of things gone wrong, plans come undone, and except for the drunk Dubliner who asked Caiti, "When're you gonna stop being so good-lookin'?" there wasn't a lot awry during this trip. No accidental five-mile walks to the ocean, no hostel roommates asking to borrow deodorant at 6:30am. Instead, we learned bookfuls (or at least bookletfuls--bookletsful?) about the Irish fight for independence, tested the Guinness and corned beef and cabbage, and watched the sun sink into the River Liffey.

The only thing I wish our trip had included was sheep. It was a lovely, rainy little weekend, and I remember thinking to myself as we flew back to Madrid, "How nice. How...strangely uneventful." Which, of course, is exactly what believers in Murphy's Law advise against thinking, but since I am not superstitious, I thought it anyway. Perhaps some would attribute the madness of our next UK visit to such thoughts, but here's what I think: when you go anywhere that's not home, awkward things have that much more potential to occur. And when you throw drunken sports-lovers into the mix, awkward just becomes awesome.

But that's another story.

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