i once read a quote from an intercultural writer who had grown up in the U.K. and later moved to the U.S. he made the point that, going from america to britain, one generally assumes that things are going to be more or less the same. the cultures aren’t that different, and … after all, we came from britain. this man, though, found it exceedingly hard to adjust to life in the states for one reason: everything almost the same, nothing exactly the same.
ireland is such for me. i’m not sure how people can argue that we speak the same language when, to an irish person, a cash register is a “till”, a trash barrel is a “willybean”, the trunk is the “boot”, coffee is tea, sneakers are “trainers”, liquor stores are “off-licenses” and just about EVERYTHING is grand.
the prime minister of ireland is known as the taoiseach (pronounced like tee-shock) because that’s the word in gaeilge (irish). bertie ahern has been the tee-shock since 1997 and, as it were, the prime minister doesn’t actually live in a fancy, gated mansion like the US president. in fact, he lives in his own home and goes to work everyday just like any other bloke.
bertie ahern’s home happens to be here in drumcondra, not too far from where i live. i’d heard rumours that he often frequented fagan’s, the pub round the corner. nonetheless, i was still completely tee-shocked to see him standing at the bar in fagan’s on friday night, drinking a pint of guinness and chatting to some friends. no security, no men in black suits with buds in their ears. no limos with patriotic flags on the front bumper. no motorcade escort. i had a group of DCU pals with me, so we all very annoyingly approached him, shook his hand, and took a photo.
can you imagine this? this is the PRIME MINISTER OF THE COUNTRY! i can’t even fathom seeing my state governer… fuck, even the MAYOR just standing round in a pub like a regular person. can’t you just see ole marty chavez (or, for god’s sake, bill richardson) standing around enjoying a fat tire at kelly’s?
i have a couple of friends in the various germanic countries who have been bugging me since before i arrived in ireland to come and visit. i have a free reading week on the first of november. so, i finally gave in and found some expensive tickets (read: .01 cent plus tax). i’ll fly to london and then to salzburg, austria. C lives in a teeny town smack in the middle between salzburg and vienna, which will give me a chance to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams: to go to the spanish riding school in vienna. that alone will make the entire trip worthwhile! after that, i’ll hope to spend the greater part of the week in germany – visiting the OTHER C in munich, and possibly other friends north of there near wurzburg.
the SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL! oh man. oh man. oh man. exciting!!!!!!!!
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