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Ireland

Out of the Sandbox

By Erin McAlinney

This past year, I’ve endured the newly young-adult crises tied to the stress of working and my first year of college. Regrets have lingered throughout my life, but July would be the month that would reverse the misery I used to consider, “The year of 2018”. My father was going to send my brother, Sean, and I to visit his family in Ireland!

We resided with my father’s younger sister in Fintona. My grandmother stayed with her for the time period we would be there, just so she could see us every day. Fintona is the town my father grew up and excelled in soccer (in Ireland, known as “Gaelic football”). He was so memorable in his hometown for his sport, that even forty years after he’s left, people in town still talk about the legacy he appears to have made. I visited a bar where my father and his soccer team used to retreat after a game. I was astonished to see only two framed pictures of soccer teams. Both the pictures were taken in 1978, and my dad is featured right in the front row! It stunned me how 40 years later, his era of soccer is still remembered by many.

Restroom signs were referred to as “washrooms”. Traffic rules were opposite to the American customs of staying on the right side of the road (as well as a steering wheel on the right side of every vehicle). There were moments that my cousins would drive us and I would feel timid towards the excess roundabouts and unfamiliar traffic conditions it took to get to our destinations. The currency of British pounds instead of the American dollar had me constantly using a currency converter on my phone to ensure I was not spending more than I was estimating.

One of my cousins took us to a bar in Enniskillen. It was at this bar where author Oscar Wilde used to visit, and there was a door with carved artwork on it that was used on a tree in “Game of Thrones”. A lot of the places I got to visit were common tourist spots, especially for “Game of Thrones” fans. The Titanic Museum in Belfast was also a sight I was able to experience. Belfast is actually where the boat was built, and one of the museum’s floors exposed a life-size hologram of how the boat’s remains appeared underwater.

Another place I recall vividly during my trip to Ireland is the Giants’ Causeway. Across this, one may see the coast of Scotland. A folk story behind the shape of this causeway consists of Finn MacCool (a small, Irish Giant) and Angus (a bigger, Scottish Giant). The two were exchanging insults towards one another, and Angus began to threaten Finn. Finn, intimidated by the size of Angus, ran home to his wife. Using his size as an advantage, Finn disguised himself as a baby. Upon barging into Finn’s home, Angus sees the wife and notices how big the baby is for a giant. His mind anxiously wanders to “Well, this baby’s father must be even bigger than me!”. He scurries across the shore all the way home in fear, and the “shredded” rocks perfectly rising in rectangles above the surface are from the destruction of his quick and heavy footsteps.

Every day in Ireland consisted of a new family member embarking me towards a new destination. Not only did I get to enjoy the lovely green essence of every view, but I finally got to meet family members my father would mention for years! His last time visiting Ireland was over 20 years ago, to say goodbye to his dying great-aunt. Since returning, each passing memory of Ireland still graces me even on my worst days. I was fortunate to finally have the opportunity to travel outside of the country. However, I’m even more fortunate to understand the roots of my family I was unaware of, and that now I have a place I can always call home.

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