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Only 3,207.4 Miles Away

I went on my second international adventure this year. I traveled to Greece in February and now I was off to Ireland. When I went to Greece, I had my ex boyfriend.. who we will call Bob.. with me. It was my first experience traveling so far from home and he had walked me through it. I, however, paid no attention to the actual steps of the process. I smiled and observed strangers in my bubbleheaded way as he tried to teach me about customs and check in procedures.  This time, I was off to Ireland all alone and I had no idea how I was going to get there. Bob came over the night before I left to walk me through it. I paid attention to every single detail, but I was still riddled with anxiety. What if I missed my flight? What if I got on the wrong plane? What if they wouldn’t let me into Ireland? What if they took my lighters and I wouldn’t be able to smoke? I was terrified.

I manned up and got driven to the airport by my mother and sister. I had weighed my suitcase before I left the house and the scale had said 42 pounds. I should be fine when it came to luggage requirements. My palms were sweating as I approached the security gates. To my knowledge, I didn’t pack any weapons or toxic materials, but when it comes to those guards… who knows what they will confiscate. As the very large man in uniform checked out my passport, I heard my sister Katie yelling my name. I casually looked over and saw her waving her arms in urgency. She then proceeded to scream across the security floor “WOULDNT IT BE FUNNY IF SOMEONE HIJACKED YOUR PLANE? THE PILOT WOULD BE LIKE… NOT TODAY BITCH”. Did I forget to mention I was flying out on September 11th? Yeah. I felt how hot my face got as the security guard examined my face. Do I seriously LOOK like a terrorist? Come on! I rolled my eyes and silently vowed to stick a grenade in Katie’s suitcase the next time she goes anywhere.

I made sure to choose an aisle seat when booking my flight. Mostly because I pee a lot, but also because I was flying alone. I chose a seat where the window seat was already booked. What weirdo flying alone as well would book the middle seat? I thought there would be an empty seat between me and window stranger for sure. Well, I was wrong. I made my way to my seat and noticed someone DID in fact book that seat. And that someone was a sneezy, sweaty man in his mid thirties. Needless to say… I couldn’t wait to get off this plane. I put my earplugs in, started my 6 hour travel playlist and texted the people I love most to say Id see them soon before turning my phone off for the next 8 and a half days.

My time in Ireland was exactly what I needed. I hadn’t realized how badly I needed to get away from home until I actually left. And it’s not like I was all alone over there. My second family lives right in Belfast. Marie, Nicola and Kris. I’ve known them for almost 15 years now and seeing their faces when I got off the plane almost brought me to tears. I’ve missed them.

I met Nicola through a program called Project Children that takes place every summer. Every June, Ireland ships their kids over to America because summertime in Ireland is a little… hostile. It’s when all the riots and marches are. For those of you who don’t watch the news, the Protestants and Catholics are still fighting over there. When Nicola first came over, I was 13. She was 9. Ever since then, her family has been coming over here for summers, christmas, thanksgiving. Any time they could. They are now family to me. This was my first time in Ireland. It was long overdue.

Nicolas mother, Marie, took me sightseeing. We went to The Giants Causeway… Dublin… She introduced me to everyone I’ve been hearing about for years now. Nicola took me shopping.. out to bars.. to a McDonald’s at 1am. I had a “Fry” for breakfast. It consists of ham, bacon, sausage, Irish Soda Bread, Potato Bread and eggs. Its my new favorite breakfast. Hands down. Soda bread and Potato bread are totally different in Ireland than they are at home. So much better. Same goes for Irish boys. Totally different, but so much better. Maybe it was the accents. A few of the days, we also met up with Gemma. She was another kid we used to have visit us from Ireland, but she only came for two years. She not a little kid anymore. Shes a beautiful woman with an apartment and a baby. How times have changed. It was lovely to see her.   

My most favorite place that we went to was the Peace Wall. It’s a wall that divides Belfast into two sections. Catholics and Protestants. It’s a thick, concrete wall with barbed wire lining the top. Everyone who visits Belfast writes words of wisdom and love on it. Artists have come in and painted some of the most beautiful pictures. People have written poetry, song lyrics, their hopes for a country in permanent marker. For something so tragic and sad… it was beautiful. As I walked along the street and Nicola told me all about the history of this wall, I felt the tears well up inside my eyes. It was like the Berlin Wall. It was a country divided. Neither of us had a pen or marker on us, but when Nicola saw a tour van pull up, she walked right over to them and asked them for a spare marker. She skipped back over to me and placed the marker in my hand. I left my mark on the Peace Wall. Some people wish that beautiful artistry survives forever. This wall is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but the day it comes down… I will cry tears of happiness. One of my favorite sections of the wall was where someone spray painted “Peace by Piece”. It’s a play on words, but no words have ever rang so true. One step at a time… you’ll get there one day Ireland. I have hope.

Bars in Ireland are nothing like they are back here. Huge nightclubs often only have one or two small bars open, so you find yourself waiting in live forever. The good side is that you can order more than one drink at a time. The bad side is that when you order a vodka and sprite, they literally hand you a glass half full with vodka and a glass bottle of sprite. You make the drinks yourself. Imagine me going up to the bar and ordering 3 vodka sprites so I don’t have to wait on this line again… carrying 3 glasses and 3 bottles across a crowded bar to my table. I looked like an alcoholic. When in Rome… right?

On one of my last nights in Ireland, we went to a bar and I saw the most ridiculous bar fight of my life. Fighting and pushing and shoving… Then a girl got a big glass bottle of beer smashed in her face. There was blood everywhere. A man returned fire by stabbing the other guy in the neck. The bouncers came over and in America.. that usually means the fights over. Not in Ireland. The bouncers came and these men started fighting the bouncers. On of the bouncers grabbed the man and slammed him to the ground and then proceeded to stomp on his face like in American History X. It was brutal and it was all happening 5ft away from me. I was shaking. I was so scared. The second the bouncers cleared out the trouble makers, the busboys (who are polish in Ireland.. not mexican) came out and started to clean up all the blood. The live band started back up again with some Bon Jovi and it was like nothing had happened at all. The show must go on? Only in Ireland.  

I never really had an opportunity to get homesick. Every night before bed, I would sign onto Nicolas Facebook and see what was going on back in America… and every night there would be a private inbox from Cricket. Before I had left, I sent the handwritten letters to Cricket. I worked so hard on them.. and I wanted him to have them. Every night I was away, he replied to my letters on Facebook. Some nights we even got the chance to talk… even though there was a 5 hour time difference. I couldn’t be homesick. He never gave me the chance. I’m not sure I ever said thank you for that…

During my time in Ireland, I got to see some of the most beautiful places, eat some of the most delicious food, meet some of the most wonderful people and kiss some of the cutest Irish boys. I fell in love with their music, their roasted potatoes, their 1000 shades of green. I learned what an Irish gypsy really looks like and how to avoid them in the bars. I also learned that cows only sit down when its going to rain… so needless to say, cows are always sitting in Ireland.I’ve learned that driving on the left side of the road makes me nauseous and I will ALWAYS squeal when Nicola goes to make a left hand turn and I think someone is going to hit us. I learned that their Coke soda is still made with cocaine leaves…

I’ve started saying things like “right ok” and “wee girl”. Ive caught myself addressing people as “lovely”. I fell in love with some of the things they said over there and I fully plan on using my new lingo back home. I will get stares for a while, but people will get used to it.  They’ll have to.

On the morning  I was scheduled to leave, I couldn’t light a fire under my bum (hows that new word?!) I was moping around the house getting my things together. I wanted to go home. I missed my family and friends.. but I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place. These wonderful people. I wasnt ready to go back to real life yet. I wanted to stay just a bit longer. They carted me off to the airport and as I hugged them goodbye, I had to choke back the tears. I thanked them for letting me stay in their home and told them I would visit again soon. I knew I would see Nicola in March, but that’s still so far away. Nicola handed me a card to read while I was on the plane… FINALLY. A birthday letter. I smiled so big that my cheeks hurt. I waved to them from the security gate and disappeared into another room. I was smiling and crying. People were looking at me like I was crazy.

I boarded the plane and found my seat easily. This time, no one booked the middle seat, but the window seat was being occupied by an Irish blonde Angel. For the entire 7 hour flight back to America, he smiled at me as I blushed in my hoodie. It was a great flight.

The BEST holidays

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