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A brief encounter with an Irishman

June 14, 2008

I was just reading a friend’s blog. She’s a people watcher, and I always enjoy her observations. It got me thinking for some reason of my recent trip back to Ireland, which trip assured me that I still love Ireland.

On the rainy Wednesday of our Dublin trip, I dragged Wojtek across the city (on foot and in the rain) to find the Museum of Modern art. (Wojtek is the only male in our course, and he took up conservation at the age of 58, after retiring early as a city planner. He’s used to being surrounded by women, since his family consists of him and his wife and daughter. He takes good care of us, and we’ve taken to calling him Uncle Wojtek). Anyway. We were surprised how out-of-the-way it was (and I felt bad that my umbrella kept me more dry than Wojtek’s rain coat kept him). Because of the long walk, we didn’t have enough time to look at everything, but the visit was nice. We rode the bus back to Trinity and got there before our appointment with the Trinity Library conservators.

So we found a cafe on campus and Wojtek bought me a hot chocolate. This was all just to set the scene. Now you understand that we were wet, slightly cold, and tired. It being a rainy day at a university, all the other students had the same idea of warming up with a hot drink, so there was nowhere to sit unless Wojtek and I sat with a stranger or two. We spotted a table with a gentleman close to Wojtek’s age, and asked if we could share his table.

The man was very friendly…and after a minute or two, very talkative. He was a mature student, just finished his Masters in education. “If only teachers could better understand children–but how can they, when they didn’t have the same rough kinds of experiences as the children?…I did grow up around here. I know what kinds of things they go through… We took a group of kids over to St Patrick’s Cathedral once. They’d never even been inside before. One of them–he was Catholic–lit a candle for his dad who had died. Now, none of the Cathedrals in Dublin are Catholic anymore. They’re all Anglican–but that didn’t matter to this boy. It’s just great to see how a church represents God to them–it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t a Catholic church…(I mentioned to him that I’d lived in Ireland before–and that I’d seen some of the rough times the kids can encounter). “What were you doing in Ireland?” (I tell him I was a missionary for my church) “Latter Day Saints. Mmm–is that the Mormons?” (wow–well done) “Well it’s funny you should say that. I just happen to be carrying around (he pulls out some 8-9 hour documentary on the history of Christianity…I wish I could remember what it was called; it looked interesting)…I’m a Catholic myself–and proud of it. But it’s good to learn about it all…” and on and on like this he went…and before you know it, it was time to politely excuse ourselves.

Anyway, it was pleasant company and…

The gift of the gab–my goodness! Is it possible I’d forgotten just how talkative some Irish can be? As I sat talking to (er–listening to) this man, I had a nostalgic wave of something I’d felt so many times on my mission, which is: “I’m enjoying this conversation, but I have another appointment…and this person just might keep on talking all day, and what’s the most polite but assertive way of saying it’s time to go without hurting their feelings?” But this man let us get away just fine. (Unlike some of my visits with folks on my mission, where I really did finally have to be assertive to the point of standing up while they were still talking…)

While it’s easy for me to lump all my experiences in the British Isles into one generalized experience, this trip reassured me that the English are English, Scots are Scottish, the Welsh are Welsh (and etc) and the Irish are definitely Irish. Each is good…

But Ireland–or rather the Irish–sure are great ; )

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