Slán: The Final Day

In the span of a breath, I found myself waking up to the bright sunshine of my last day in Ireland. People warned me I’d be homesick. It would be difficult to get used to a normal routine in Ireland. I would feel foreign, out of place. Eventually I would warm up to the country and feel comfortable. I was anticipating some homesickness. It never really happened. From the moment I walked off the plane, I felt comfortable. It was easy to form routines and feel like I belonged. And as the final day arrived, I struggled to hold back tears as I rolled out of bed. I wished I had been able to stay and study in Ireland for a year. Even though I had already done and seen so much during my five weeks, there was still so much I wanted to experience.

Over the last weeks I spent so much time heading out of the city, doing classwork, and heading to museums and all-day events. For my last day, I wanted to head to one last museum exhibit and walk along the Liffey on a photo-walk. Before I boarded the plane, I wanted to soak up every last moment of my final day to imprint this beautiful and welcoming country into my bones.

My first spot of the day was the General Post Office, the scene of the historic 1916 Easter Rising. It’s a beautiful building with six large columns on O’Connell Street. O’Connell is the main street of Dublin, named after Daniel O’Connell, known as “The Liberator”.  His statue sits in the middle stretch of the road.

It’s beautiful inside of the GPO and I enjoyed snapping a few shots inside, but my interests that day were visiting the memorial to the 1916 Rising. I took a few shots on my cellphone of the exhibit. It featured artifacts, touchscreen interactive videos and quizzes, dress sets and uniforms as they would have appeared, but my favorite part was a long video giving a timeline of the events as seen through the eyes of the participants in the Rising, as well as bystanders/civilians, and the British. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this museum exhibit. It’s a must-see.

I have a fondness for old photographs of women, especially if they come from a. time when women were expected to neither be seen nor heard.

I spent a considerable amount of time walking through the exhibit and once I finished, I headed back out to O’Connell Street to take pictures of the statues and monuments on the street. I headed into a few local shops, checking out a bookstore and Pennys, a local clothing store, which had fantastic Dublin Pride shirts in their window.

The back of O'Connell's statue

The front of O'Connell's statue

Taken from inside the bookstore.

With some shopping bags in hand, I headed to the closest Luas Stop and took the tram a handful of streets over. Back when we had toured Dublin with the program’s directors, we passed a beautiful bridge in the shape of a harp lying on its side. I’d wanted to photograph it since I first saw it and today presented the best (and last) opportunity to do so.

When I hopped off the tram, something caught my eye before I got to the bridge. Children and teens in wetsuits were jumping into a large pool of water. I thought it was funny to see them playing in a not-swimming pool and making do in the heat. As I approached the bridge, not far from the first batch of kids, I saw more wetsuit clad teens backflipping off the stone walls around the harp bridge and into the Liffey below. I was momentarily distracted from my original desire to shoot the harp bridge and hung around for about forty minutes watching them leap and flip into the river like acrobats. A small crowd of people gathered around them, watching them and filming them on their phones.

Eventually, the crowd dispersed, and I did too. I photographed the bridge on both sides of the river. On the other side, I saw more kids swimming and diving into the river. I really don’t blame them. The temperature was nearly unbearable. The sky remained cloudless all day, the sun beating down its full fury. To escape it myself, I headed to the sidewalk on the other side of the street, sticking to the shadows to shield me from the worst of the day.

I continued down the street photographing until I arrived at the beautiful Custom House.

Seán O'Casey Bridge

The Custom House

I proceeded down the street stopping for anything that caught my eye, which a lot of the time was street art.

The theatre where I saw Ulysses.

Irish history is everywhere even outside of pubs.

The rest of my day consisted of a bar crawl, drinking, laughing, and having fun with other travelers and locals. I walked the streets, my eyes scanning madly around trying to set every image into stone in my mind. I didn’t want to forget a single moment.

Days flipped through my mind, all the moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. These moments I would try to explain to all of my loved ones. I would try to explain the briny air of Howth the moment you step off the train or the way the air fills your lungs with its freshness on the hiking path. Would my pictures be able to convey the feelings I felt staring into the horizon on top of the Cliffs of Moher, the waves meeting the rocks below? When I talked about the art on the streets, hanging in museums, in the music, would they be able to imagine it, see the power of those images, hear those songs?

I won’t forget all of the amazing people who treated me with kindness, shared a pint with me, or made me laugh as I navigated life in Ireland. It was so easy for it to become my routine, my comfortable. Now I was faced with the uncomfortable, saying goodbye, leaving Ireland for the States.

I finished my day watching the sunset around the Ha'penny Bridge. And just like the sun, my time in Dublin was setting too.

For all those I met in Dublin and all those who helped make this study abroad trip the most incredible experience, thank you. For those who helped me in preparation for Dublin, to the scholarship committee of the nationality rooms, thank you. I had the time of my life.

And I leave Ireland, with a lifetime of memories.

Slán, Ireland! I promise I’ll be back.