Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A (Most Likely Too Elaborate) Caricature Of My Recent Vacation

A week after my college graduation, my mother and I flew south to Marco Island, Florida, a beautiful place that my parents have owned time-share in since 1990. For two weeks a year, we have the opportunity to relax, while I hiss at the sun that my skin is not used to being exposed to. Our resort, The Surf Club, lines the private beach on the west side of the island along with other condos and hotels. It has 54 units total, a hot tub and pool, some shuffle board and tennis courts, a boardwalk across the extensive vegetation to the beach, and most importantly: is painted a sweet, powdery pink. Every year when we park our rental car and sweat while pulling out our suitcases from the too-small trunk, I feel like I am taking a delightful trip back into the 90s, complete with a weekly horse shoe tournament and hilarious posters advertising the Surf Club sponsored "Beach Family Portraits", featuring a frightening family of four in all white smiling dead-eyed at the camera while the sun melts into a watercolor sky behind them. I do not think that they have changed these posters for at least ten years.

For the past three years, my mom and I have just made the trip because it has become more difficult for my dad to leave work, or my little sister to miss high school classes. For the most part, the same people have owned the same weeks as us for as long as I can remember, so we can expect to see the same families each May. My mom and I will chat with these people in the pool, on the beach, or in the small gym located by the lobby, for we all form a strange week-long sense of community and understanding of what it means to be at the tiny Surf Club on Marco Island. I do not always remember the names of these groups of people, but instead have developed a series of coded nicknames that my mother and myself solely understand.

The Surf Club Community:

Timon and Pumba: Timon and Pumba are the names of two older men that are inseparable best friends. We never see one without the other. The taller man is thin with grey hair, and often wears a speedo (he can be referred to individually as Speedo when the occasion calls for it). His shorter friend is very round with similar grey hair and expensive sport sunglasses that he never takes off, even at night. The two can often be seen playing cards by the pool, standing in the shallow end talking, or taking walks together along the beach. Their wives are often left behind, but they are all four very close and stay in the same unit together.

Let It Go: Although the resort is primarily filled with older people, there are sometimes young grandchildren that come along. A particularly cute little girl has been spotted the past couple of years by loudly singing Frozen's "Let It Go" at the top of her lungs while walking around the pool in her floaties. She exclusively wears Disney princess bathing suits, and likes to swim up and talk to me while I am reading my dirty smut novels on the pool steps.

New Jersey: A very friendly blonde woman from New Jersey comes yearly with her husband. She works at a doctor's office as a secretary, and spends most of the day on her beach chair that she rents from the hotel, or floating in the pool on one of the noodles from the public pool toy box. We tend to talk to her about which restaurants are "happening" that week (Marco only has select places to eat), or listen to her tell us about really private, tragic things that have happened in her life. She can often be seen with her brandy (she ships it to the resort prior to flying) in the hot tub around 8pm, where she alternately sits in the jets and then gets up to walk to the pool, and repeats.

Laps: This older woman was completely new to our knowledge this year, but wins the award for the most irritating. The pool's prime time is around 3pm, when most people tire from the beach and are trying to still catch some sun before they have to get ready for dinner. This is also the most popular time for the few children to be in the pool, for they have mostly woken up from their afternoon naps. Like clockwork, Laps would come down to the pool, put on her goggles, and slowly make her way to the middle of the pool to unhook the rope that separated the shallow end from the deep end. She would then swim back and forth recreationally, forcing everyone else in the pool to get out of the way and shuffle to one side. We think that perhaps she did this for show, because the morning or evening would have been more considerate, and her freestyle form was absolutely terrible, like she decided that this week was the week she was going to start swimming for exercise.

Small Talkers: A group of three women that are all work friends make themselves known each week by forming a triangle in the ocean or pool and loudly talking about the most pointless things I have ever heard in my life. They discuss their friend Susie's furniture arrangement, or who went to what restaurant on the island the night before and what they thought about it. These women are all very nice despite their boring nature, and will hang on every single word that you say to them in passing, no matter how irrelevant. We also eventually deemed them "The Trivolous Ones", a neat word that my mom created combining trivial with frivolous. The worst part is, by the end of the week, I was interested in Susie's furniture.

Ducky: Perhaps the worst of the bunch, Ducky is an old man with large lips and thick, plastic glasses that works the front desk. He is a stickler for the rules, and often very unpleasant. Ducky thinks he IS the Surf Club. My mother, never afraid to speak her mind, has gotten into it with him after he treated us rudely during previous years. To me, he looks like a cartoon duck wearing maroon and emerald colored suspenders and large glasses. This year, he was so nice that is was suspicious. He casually asked us, "Is this your first time here?" when we have owned for 25 years. I will probably never forget this man. Each year when I sign the waiver to work out in the facility, he asks "Are you over 18? You look like you could be 16." when in reality I literally just graduated from college. He also makes sly sexist comments when we have questions, like "I am a man, I don't do the grocery shopping." I am convinced that he decided to act like he didn't know who we were this year, figuring that we would pity his poor memory and think he was a swell guy after all. I didn't buy it for a second, Ducky.

Fort Lauderdale: There is always a Floridian native that decides to rent or buy an owner's week and spend a few days on the island. This person is interchangeable, for they can come from Miami or Key Largo, but this year, we met a man from Fort Lauderdale. He made his first and only appearance one morning while my mom and I were working out, when he came into the rec area with an awkward "Sorry I am interrupting you ladies", when in fact we were clearly lifting little five pound weights in the middle of the 20x20 foot work out room, so I am not sure what he thought he was intruding on? We gave the usual polite "Oh, you're fine, no problem", and he continued to ask the basic questions, like where we were from, if we owned, etc. The topic of the weather came up, and he enlightened us that if Florida does not get a frost, then the invasive species of two feet long iguanas won't die out and will continue eating the vegetation and being a general nuisance, although not aggressive. Intrigued by this problem, I continued thinking about these large lizards while he told my mom that a lot of the immigrants that have moved to Florida will catch and eat the iguanas, which slightly helps with the population control. I picked this opportune moment to ask, "Do they eat any native birds or upset the eco-system in any way?", referring to the iguanas that I was currently taken with. The man scrunched his face, jutting his neck forward slightly, responding with: "Uh..who? The immigrants?" "Oh god no!" I said, probably too defensively, "The iguanas!". I panicked, unintentionally sounding racist and ignorant "Oh those immigrants, they'll eat anything!" *studio audience laughs*.
Turns out the iguanas pretty much only eat plants and bugs.

When we aren't interacting with other visitors, my mom and I spend a lot of time walking on the beach or reading by the pool. At night, we usually watch movies or reruns from canceled sitcoms. I have always had a good relationship with my mother, but we have our differences which can be exhausting. My mom also goes into a "Vacation Mode", where her usually personality traits spike.

Things My Mother Does While On Vacation:

While I stay on the beach reading, my mom will often take her book and wander into the ocean, flipping pages while the waves lap at her lower thighs. After about ten minutes of being separated from her, I will hear a faint "Jordan!", and look out to see my mom waving her arms and miming to me what she wants me to bring her. I don't understand why she can't verbally tell me, because she did just yell my name after all, but these "Guess What My Mom Wants" sessions usually result in her pointing at me and hitting herself, trying to describe what she needs. One of my favorites was when he repeatedly pointed to her bag and hit her left hip over and over again, forcefully. It turned out that she wanted her pedometer to count her steps--while in the ocean.

My mom likes to stay up late, as do I, but also likes to wake up really early while in Marco. At home, she does not sleep in terribly late, but never wakes up around sunrise. She tells me "Oh Jordan, we are on vacation, you can stay up late and watch E News with me" but then comes and wakes me up passive aggressively at an early time the next morning, when I usually wake up by myself around 9:30. I can't do the staying up late and waking up early thing, but somehow managed it all week begrudgingly while my mom delegated my precious sleep schedule.

Out of an excuse to engage in friendly small talk, my mom will ask strangers questions that she already knows the answers to. Furthermore, once she has received an answer, she will wander over to another group of people and ask the same question to see what they say. If we drive close to the bridge to get off the island, there is a small fishing town called Goodland. Goodland has a restaurant called The Olde Marco Inn that serves a delicious Grouper Sandwich. We have had this sandwich previously, and know exactly where to find it, yet for the first couple of days my mom insisted on asking everyone what they thought of Goodland and where could we find good grouper. I followed her around, smiling at everyone's responses, fighting my natural response to answer her question myself. This is just one example.

All in all, I have a great time with my mom. She likes to shop and run errands (even on vacation) more than I do, but we always end up having a stronger relationship when we leave. This year, we even endured a seven hour flight delay on the way down from Delta Airlines, and U.S. Airways losing our luggage on our way back to Columbus. Next year I might walk, I don't know. Marco also has the most gorgeous sunset that I have and will probably ever see, that brings out hordes of people to the beach every night facing the water in silence, like a strange religious experience. Half of the time, I expect Cthulu to show up. I often hope that he does. Maybe he could eat Ducky.

Other highlights are: I got to hold a two year old and a five year old baby alligator that were both super adorable and had cute, chubby little bellies like puppies. I saw a shark in the ocean, while I was in it, but wasn't afraid because I was too in shock to think of anything else other than SHARK. I no longer look like a latex glove, but am now sort of a nice pancake color.

I actually never got that grouper sandwich,

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dublin, 12:00 a.m.

Dublin, 12:00 a.m.
            Looking out from behind the dusty beige curtains in our hotel room, I could see that the streets of Dublin were increasingly becoming more crowded with people as the sky became grayer. I moved the curtain back and forth between my finger tips, a small smile playing on my lips as I felt the fabric and looked at the wet pavement below the cold window. My hotel roommate Christina and I giggled together as we planned our outfits for celebrating New Years Eve in Dublin, Ireland. We were brimming with excitement at the possibility of drunkenly stumbling along the uneven sidewalks amidst the hub of cheering locals and tourists helping us celebrate the holiday. Ever since we found out that we would be touring Ireland with our choir, Christina and I had been theoretically planning a crazy New Year’s Eve that we knew we would never forget.
            Before the real fun started, we first were scheduled to perform during the “Torch-Lit Ceremonial Parade” at Dublin Castle. We had given an afternoon concert at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral the day before, and had gotten most of the singing-abroad jitters out of our system. Our current problem was determining what to wear for our big night. Would Irish people be dressed scandalously? Conservatively? After practically emptying my suitcase of every clothing item that I packed, I decided on a modest pink dress with thin black stripes to wear for the evening. Christina leaned into the bathroom mirror; applying lipstick as I pulled on my tights under my dress, realizing that the rain outside was beginning to hit the building with a greater force. According to Irwin, our charming middle-aged tour guide, we would have a fifteen minute walk to Dublin Castle. I also knew that we would be performing outside, but did not want the burden of carrying an umbrella. My winter coat was water repellant and had a hood, so I put my faith in its capabilities and headed down to the lobby with Christina, ready to brave through the weather that would hopefully not last through the night. We were about to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Ireland, and circumstances would not be as cruel as to rain through the whole evening.
While making our way to the Dublin Castle in a long line, I imagined that we would soon experience a completely dry night running through the streets with pints of Guinness and cider sloshing over the sides of our glasses, while various Europeans cheered and danced around us wearing party hats. We would be laughing and spinning, our faces illuminated by the streetlights, a swirl of color surrounding our party. My visions all seemed very cinematic, and perhaps would make a fine scene in a chick-flick about college girls going abroad, but I had the highest hopes that they would happen, nonetheless. I thought of myself jumping up in down on the sidewalks in slow motion with Christina while Irish college students clapped along, chuckling at our outgoing American nature. I pulled my wet hood tighter to my face and continued our walk feeling cool and confident. Things were going to be perfect.
            Once we arrived at the celebration, I stepped onto the black platforms outside of Dublin Castle with the rest of the choir, squinting through the massive amounts of water that were now blurring my eyes. The hood was hardly doing the trick, in fact, with the front parts of my hair dripping onto the bridge of my nose and running down to my lips. I had carefully applied my make-up for the evening and could feel it washing away. I smiled tightly at the public, who were anticipating our joyous hymns, my face now looking like a damn Monet painting.
            We awkwardly began our set, struggling to watch our conductor in the rain and hear one another over the continuous patter of water on the cobblestone and platform. We quickly finished, with the crowd’s excited and appreciative response of hollers and claps almost making getting soaked in the rain while singing Angels We Have Heard on High worth it. My new dress was wet and pressed to my skin under my coat, and I could feel the water that had been stagnantly in my boots for too long hotly pushing through the spaces in between my toes every time I took a step. We were then ushered off of the platforms by an overly nervous woman with a clipboard, pushing us off to the side while telling us repeatedly that “The parade is coming!”
            I looked at my friends’ faces in confusion, suddenly alarmed at what type of parade could induce such panic and haste. Suddenly, the courtyard was filled with an array of cirque de soleil styled performers. Men and women in colorful costumes rode tall, oversized bikes or flexibly danced with streamers. A contraption that looked like two thirds of a circle was being pushed on wheels while a woman in a bright leotard hung upside down from the top, flipping and contorting her body. Men followed behind her juggling fire, with a band playing enchanting circus music with a sensual flare marched towards the back.
            It was all breathtaking, and I suddenly felt like I was in an animated Tim Burton film. The whimsical spectacle was unlike anything I had ever seen before, however, it was still raining, and I could feel my spirits sinking. The night was young, and I was very, very wet. Christina whispered to me that her stomach suddenly hurt badly, scrunching her face. She wanted to try to tough it out, but also wished to go back to the hotel to see if she would feel better after some rest. I sighed, also wanting to go back to the hotel, my patience for the night thinning. We decided to trek through the streets all the way back to our room, and then reconvene with two other girls later to find a pub. Concerned about all of the pubs closing early, I approached our tour guide before we made any final decisions.
            “Irwin? How late do you think the pubs will be open tonight?” I started, trying not to sound like an alcoholic. It was only 8:00 p.m., and most of our group was expected to start drinking very soon. “Christina doesn’t feel well, so we were going to go back to the hotel and then go out later.” I defended myself.
            “The pubs will mostly be open until midnight,” Irwin answered, “with some staying open until 1:30 in the morning”.
            “Perfect!” I exclaimed, grinning with Christina and then turning to see one of our chaperone’s worried face.
            She walked towards us quickly, apparently overhearing our little inquiry. “Jordan, Christina?” she began, “Seriously. If you are going to be out after midnight, you need a male guide. You will look like easy Americans, and anyone out after midnight is going to be very, very drunk” she concluded.
            I drew my lips into a line and nodded before walking away. Christina and I had both been to Europe before, and did not planning on doing anything unsafe. Plus, her warning definitely stunk of victim-blaming, and I was insulted. She seemed to be insinuating that if we chose to walk the streets drunk at a late hour, then we would deserve anything that happened to us because we knew the consequences and were choosing to be unsafe by walking without a “male guide”. I thought of all the times that I had been out with my friends at school until 4:00 in the morning, and laughed. Yes, anyone out after midnight would be very drunk—and I would be joining them. Dublin also seemed quite harmless, although I suppose that some of it could have been the European charm. Admittedly, a few of the buildings were run down, with some not so welcoming alley ways, but being in another country made me feel invincible. The novelty of the place made it all seem flawless and magical. I could not fathom anything unfortunate happening to us in the Irish streets. I knew that Dublin was entirely different from our quaint college town in Ohio, which mostly consisted of cookie cutter families and elderly people. Our campus police also kept themselves busy by surveying the area at night, so I was not used to feeling threatened while returning from a bar. Furthermore, I was not going to be frightened by a concerned warning implying that I give off an ignorant, happy-go-lucky vibe. I would put on a hard shell. My New Year’s Eve Game Face. Besides, the unrelenting rain had been enough of a downer. The night was going to be wonderful…as soon as it got started.
            Once we made it back to the hotel, I hastily threw open our room door and peeled off my clothes to hear them thump on the carpet, heavy from the wetness. I rummaged my already messy suitcase for leggings and a large sweater (far less fancy than my previous outfit) and pulled on my rain boots. It was still pouring, I was irritated, and things were going to be comfortable from here on out. I flopped backwards on the floral bed comforter, letting out an exaggerated sigh. After Christina rested for a bit, we decided to leave the hotel room again. I grabbed my umbrella, still annoyed, but was officially armed and ready for the rest of the evening.
            Christina and I met our two other friends, Lexi and Kayleigh, in the lobby. We decided to walk towards Temple Bar to begin our night. The Temple Bar area was well known, and also a busy place for locals, tourists, and students alike. We figured it would be exciting, and made our way through the streets with a small amount of optimism. I made sure to step in every puddle, merely for the satisfaction of knowing that my feet would stay dry.
            Halfway through our walk, we spotted a pub that hardly seemed crowded and figured that we could have a couple of drinks before going to Temple Bar. We entered, walked towards the back, and threw our wet coats and umbrellas on the floor by a few stools. I ordered a pint of cider, and we began chatting and laughing. My hopes were rising in my chest, warm from the alcohol. Perhaps tonight could be salvaged, after all. How could spending New Years in Ireland not be? I was losing perspective. I had to realize how lucky I was to be abroad, what I was getting to experience.
            After my second pint of cider, the bartender looked at me skeptically as I approached the bar for a third drink. I was completely fine, and assumed that he was not used to seeing a small woman want multiple drinks. I remembered that I had previously read online under a Yahoo Answers tab for “Irish pub etiquette” that women in Ireland did not drink that much in public. In fact, hardly anyone did. I mentally prepared myself for the bartender to question me, deciding that I would say “Please, I am an American with Irish blood. I can definitely drink.” (Only a few days afterwards upon some reflection did I realize how embarrassing that would have been for me. What does that even mean?) He handed me my third drink with a shrug, and I was saved from having to say anything suave.
            After leaving the pub and eventually making it towards the general area of the Temple Bar, our luck hardly improved. It was still raining heavily, and most of the pubs were completely closing themselves off to new company because they were overly crowded. Large men in suits were standing outside of the doors, not letting anyone new in. It was bizarre, and also kept us from finding anywhere else to hang out. By this time, I desperately had to use the restroom.
            We checked our phones, wiping the rain from our screens, realizing that it was almost midnight. We knew that we would not find another pub by the time the New Year struck, and decided to wait out in the streets and see what would happen. We were easily surrounded by a few hundred people, all drunk and swaying back and forth. It was like I had previously imagined—except it was still raining and I was not having that much fun. If I was moving in slow motion now, it was because I felt like I was going to pee myself if I walked too quickly.
            Regardless, we huddled together in anticipation in the final minutes before midnight hit. A street-wide countdown began with ten seconds left as we became more excited despite the situation.
            “3…2…1!” We all yelled in unison. “Happy New Year!” I lifted my face to the black sky, still spitting rain. The crowd jumped and laughed, creating an overall cheeriness that couldn’t be ignored. I smiled anyway and hugged all of my friends, cheering loudly, until I decided that I needed to find a bathroom as soon as possible.
            We continued to walk towards the Temple Bar area, but were suddenly blocked by the emergence of a group of about fifteen young adult men, dressed in rugby uniforms. They formed a circle that took up most of the street, arms around each other’s shoulders, rocking from side to side. They began to chant loudly in unison.
            “They are chanting U.S.A.! Do you hear them?” Christina laughed in confusion.
            Surely enough, the group of Irish men were indeed repeatedly chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” over and over again in thick accents while rocking back and forth. It was odd, slightly flattering I suppose, but mostly odd.
            “Why are they doing that?” I asked, completely weirded out. “They know that means United States of America, right? I guess they must be big fans.” I shrugged.
            We spotted a McDonalds ahead, and forcefully navigated our way around the rugby men, leaving their chanting echoing behind us. We entered the McDonald’s, figuring that we would be able to use the toilets quickly. Naturally, a similar suited man stood in front of the bathrooms, telling us that we had to buy something before being allowed to use the facilities.
            “Please sir,” I begged, “I really have to go. It’s practically an emergency”. The man shook his head and we left, hoping to find an open pub with a usable restroom. We walked up and down the street through crowds of intoxicated screaming people (thankfully the rugby team had since left), the pain in my bladder worsening. We looped back around and ended outside of the McDonald’s yet again, its golden arches beckoning. I was going to wet myself. My destiny is here, I thought, laying in the middle of the Dublin streets, peeing my pants in the rain. My friends could leave me, I would have found peace. It was what I was meant to do.
            “Ugh, whatever!” I huffed, opening the doors of the McDonald’s and making my way to the line of twenty people. I crossed my legs, my rain boots squeaking on the white tiled floor. I moved back and forth, clenching my teeth, as I waited my turn. I was finally able to order a small fry and walked away from the cashier, painfully waddling up to the suited man.
            I held up the fries triumphantly, a trophy of my persistence, as the man nodded and stepped aside. I miraculously made it to the bathroom, shivering when the cold toilet touched my skin. Tears formed in my eyes with relief, Thank you God, I cried while swinging my feet. I stared at the stall door in front of me while shoving the limp fries into my mouth. I had overcome all adversity in that moment.
            After I reemerged, my group concluded that it was nearly impossible to find a pub, and decided to walk back to the hotel, discouraged. We made our way in silence, the taste of fries still in my mouth, wondering what we had done wrong. This was supposed to be the best night of our lives. I had anticipated spending the New Year in Dublin for months, all for it to come down to us not being able to enjoy ourselves. Perhaps I was not trying hard enough, or I actually should have peed in the street because it would have made a better story than giving into the suited McDonald’s man that guarded the restroom.
            We made it back to the hotel and decided to try The Bleeding Horse pub that was attached to our building as a last resort. We walked Lexi to the front lobby door, and made our way into the dark bar. Happily enough, there was an open table that we were able to occupy while having a couple more drinks and socializing. The atmosphere was friendly, so we decided, once again, to give the evening another try. I grabbed a cider and joined our friend Kayleigh at a corner table. Christina walked over a few minutes later, completely irritated at her gin and tonic that had cost seven Euros.
“This would literally be four dollars in the states. I just practically paid nine dollars for a freaking gin and tonic” she rolled her eyes. I winced, the price of the drinks not aiding our defeated mood.
            We began talking and quickly drinking to make up for time lost, and eventually started to joke and reflect on the absurdity of the evening with a sense of humor. We knew that we would have other nights to go out, and other places to see, so we could just pretend and re-do New Years another day. The positivity was forced and not completely sincere, but our attempts to cheer ourselves up were somewhat working, regardless. We would probably never get another New Year’s in Dublin, Ireland, but we couldn’t let it ruin the rest of our tour.
Our musings were quickly interrupted by an intoxicated, gruff middle-aged man to our right. He wore a stylish grey coat and a dark cap, his face outlined by greasy curly hair and rough stubble. Next to him was a younger man in similar attire, quietly sipping his beer.
            “Hey, I want to tell you something,” he started, sloppily pointing at Kayleigh. “In this life, you only get one set of legs.”
            Kayleigh abruptly laughed, “What?” she yelled back.
            “You aren’t even listening to me!” the man threw up his hands, getting somewhat angry. “In this life, you only get one set of legs.”
            The three of us looked at each other, slightly cocking our heads. Either I had drunk more than I thought, I wasn’t picking up on some deep Irish philosophy, or this man was loony and we were trapped with him in a crowded corner of the bar.
            “I don’t know what you are saying. You aren’t making any sense.” Kayleigh tried again, giggling.
            “Come over here.” He called to us, patting empty seats beside him. “Come on now.” He grossly smiled. His friend laughed to himself, looking into the foam of his drink and shaking his head slowly. Wasn’t he going to say anything or help us out?
            I too, shook my head, in an attempt to get Kayleigh to stop talking to the weirdo. “Just ignore him.” I whispered, our chaperone’s warnings going through my head like a scroll at the bottom of a news screen. What if he came over to us? Or waited until we left and followed us out? Yes, our hotel was ten feet away—but a lot can happen in ten feet.
            “No.” Kayleigh continued. “We are fine over here, thanks”.
            “Then you are stupid! So stupid!” The man yelled, pounding his beer glass on the table.
            “Stupid because I don’t want to sit by you? Okay.” Kayleigh laughed harder. “Dude, I am drunk, just stop talking to us.” Christina and I began laughing too, at her honesty, and ignored the man’s continued attempts at waving his arm in a beckoning way and patting the seats around his table until he finally left a while later. There was power in numbers, and no one was going to take advantage of my friends and me after the obstacles we had already overcome in a few short hours. We continued talking and eventually had a great time, determining that despite a string of disappointments, the night ended on a somewhat positive note. We were together, in a calm setting, celebrating the New Year among locals, like we originally wanted. The optimism was no longer totally forced.
            We had high expectations for the holiday, imagining pub hopping and celebrating in Dublin to be far grander than anything that we had experienced before. Instead, we walked about three miles in total, in the rain, and purchased fast food in order to relieve ourselves in a public restroom. I had better New Years Eve celebrations in high school watching movies at home, or the one time I went to a bowling alley with an overzealous church youth group that my best friend was a part of.

            Our expectations of the place had hyped up the holiday so much that I had forgotten what I enjoy the most—spending time laughing with my friends. Being in Ireland, no matter how romantic, should not have changed that. We ended up at a less crowded pub where we were able to talk and joke, while discussing our hopes for the New Year and our futures. Sure, we could have stayed home and had a similar type of New Year, but being in a beautiful city sharing music with people that I cared about made it that much better. The parties, bars, and copious amounts of alcohol really had nothing to do with the spirit of possibility that the New Year brought. We ended up celebrating the holiday, and each other, correctly. It just took us some rain, multiple closed pubs, an America-loving rugby team, a McDonald’s bathroom, and an unruly drunk man to figure it out.

Cheers to next year,