I’m sitting in the Cork airport writing this. I haven’t really slept in over twenty-four hours, but I don’t regret it one bit. I’m pretty sure I look kind of like a bum. It’s okay, there are distinctly bum-like backpackers waiting for a flight too, so I don’t feel too conspicuous.
The days leading up to my departure to Bath were pretty crazy. Ciara started school again, so I spent my last few days working largely alone. The night before I left the O’Regans I asked Ciara if I could use their printer to print out documents. I needed to prove to the British border patrol that I’m not coming into their country to steal their jobs and their men. First I had to take screen shots of bank account deposits, family ties in America, and e-mails from the workaway people showing I had a place to stay and was welcome. Then I tried using the O’Regan’s printer, but the thing was broken. I had to fix it, but then we realized that the ink had mostly dried up from lack of use. The O’Regans had another printer, so I installed that for them, but the ink wouldn’t run again. Aoife said that it had full ink cartridges because it was only used once. I asked when that was. She said two years ago. Oh. Right.
Somebody up there really wants to give me severe border-crossing stress.
We couldn’t go into town to buy ink, so we went to a neighbors’ house and they kindly let me use their printer. I was really nervous leading up to that point because of my terrible experience coming into England a few weeks prior. Thankfully everything worked out and I got my documents printed using Debbie and Jack’s printer.
When I was finished I went into the kitchen to join Debbie, Jack, Aoife, Aine, Dowy (11), and Tara’s baby. I was offered a cup of tea (of course) and started listening to the conversation. What I heard shocked me. Debbie was talking about a friend of hers that really needed to go into the hospital. She had a wound in her back that she hadn’t told anyone about, and she was in severe pain. The woman had called Debbie and told her how there was a lot of blood . . . well, it’s gross, and I know that some of you readers will be fascinated with the details while some of you will be completely grossed out. So I’ll skip it and if you want to know the whole story you can e-mail me.
Anyway, about mid-way through her symptoms I blurted out, “That sounds like Clostridium perfringens”.
They all just looked at me. After a second I said, “Oh. Gangrene. It sounds like gangrene. But I haven’t heard of severe gangrene occurring from a wound like that in a developed country. It sounds like it’s entered into her blood stream”
Debbie told me that that was what the doctor had said when her friend had gone in to see him yesterday. I officially used my degree. Boo-ya.
Anyway, we talked about how the woman really needed to go to a hospital, but was refusing because of familial obligations. I don’t know how she’s even still walking around. I tried to stress on them that if she didn’t go into the doctor, there was a good likelihood that she’d go into septic shock. They nodded and agreed, but I never heard what happened to the woman. I really hope she’s okay. I wish I could have talked to her personally.
Aoife and I went back to her place shortly thereafter to wait for my ride. Mike picked me up and I said my goodbyes to Aoife and Teddy. I received big hugs and was sternly told to keep in touch and e-mail when I arrived in Bath safe and sound. I’m going to miss them a lot.
Mike drove me to Leap and I joined up with Jenny and her friend Collette. He transferred me over and the three of us went off to Cork. We had a lovely dinner before running around town and trying to find some flats and a hand bag for me. After a few hours of shopping and goofing off, we went and checked me into the Bru Bar and Hostel.
I glimpsed the real kind of hostel life at that point. I checked in and left my electronics with the auditor to be locked up in a safe. I took my bag up to the room, but when I went in the smell of sweat hit me like a Mack truck. NASTY! The room seriously looked to be the size of a closet, and it had three pairs of bunk beds squeezed into it. There were five other girls in there, and they were speaking French and giggling and looking at me. I set my bag on my appointed bunk and exited as quickly as I could. Sweaty French chicks? Now I know how I lucked out when I came into Ireland that first night. That room was rank.
I joined the ladies again and we left to start my last night in Cork. It was pretty freaking awesome. The Irish know how to party, and they know how to party hard. Thankfully these Irish knew how to party hard and party safe. We stuck together the entire night and looked out for each other. We made a plan that we stuck with.
One point in particular was very memorable for me. We joined and split off from other people multiple times throughout the night, but at one bar in particular it was just the three of us. There was a band playing, and the bar wasn’t particularly crowded, but it was surprisingly nice and clean. Collette and I were sitting at the bar facing the dance floor when a guy came up to me. He was older, bigger, and nearly falling-over drunk. He got really close to me and tried talking to me. I gently told him that I was with someone and that I didn’t want to talk to him. I tried to be as nice as possible. He pressed closer instead of going away. I stood up and told him more forcefully to leave me alone. At this point I was looking behind the bar at the girls working there and trying to signal them to call security. They were too busy to notice me. The bitchier of my two friends noticed and came over to try and make him go away, but he was to the point of belligerent drunkenness. I was starting to get scared. I honest-to-God took off my high heel and waited for him to grab me so I could shove it on him and cause a scene. Who's ready for a bar fight at an instant's notice? This girl.
Out of nowhere this tall blond guy shows up. He’s wearing a tasteful leather jacket, sweater, jeans, and is about six feet of lean muscle. He walked up behind me with a few of his friends and reached around me to touch the guy’s arm. Politely, he said in heavily accented English, “Sir, you are bothering my girlfriend.”
Belligerent drunk says, “She your girlfriend? Why did you leave her alone then?”
I took that opportunity to slip away, grab Jenny, and go retrieve a hammered Collette from the dance floor. I told Collette what was going on and we watched the altercation at the bar. Blondie was taller than Drunkard, and he was up in his face talking at him. There were a couple of larger guys behind Blondie standing there and generally looking muscular. Eventually Drunkard got the idea and left the bar. Blondie turned around, saw me, and came straight for me. I took Collette's hand and waited, trying to think what I should do if this guy decides I owe him something for saving me. However he just came up and asked in broken English if I was okay. He sounded Russian.
I said thanks and oh-my-gosh you're wonderful, etc. The four guys offered to buy us drinks. Blondie tried talking to me, but we couldn't hear anything in the bar. He asked if I wanted to join him outside for a smoke. There was a security guy at the door, so I figured it'd be okay if I talked for a bit.
When I told my father this story later, he said I should have told Blondie, “I only smoke Cubans”. I would have, but Blondie might have thought I was serious. Poor guy has enough problems understanding English already without trying to filter out sarcasm.
So we walked out the front door and I caught the security guy's eye and joked, "I bet you see loads of stuff" to get his attention. The poor guy nodded and looked positively aggrieved. I can only imagine what he sees on a nightly basis. Dirty hookers. Ahem.
I was wary because I expected Viking-man to try to lead me off around a corner or something, but he only led me a few steps away from the security guy and asked my name. We swapped information. His name is Ivan, and he’s a 22 year old Ukrainian sailor who docked with his fellow crew members for a few days of break. They had last been working off the coast of Africa. He was leaving the country the day after next, so he and his friends had decided to go out and have a good time.
I thought Riiiight. I guess I looked skeptical because he busted out his passport and showed me his visas listing his occupation for tons of different countries. This was a serious modern-day Viking-like sailor.
I told him my name and that I’m American and leaving the next day for England. I was wearing a dress, so I was instantly cold. Mid-way through my spiel I crossed my arms, and he immediately took off his jacket and put it around me. Smooth operator. He offered me a cigarette and I told him I didn’t smoke. He said, “Good. Smoking is bad.” Smokers tell me this all the time. It’s like they don’t realize that I know smoking is bad, which is why I don’t smoke.
I honestly expected this guy to start putting the moves on me, and I was all ready to give him the shove off speech. Amazingly he didn’t try to touch me or take liberties. He just wanted to talk. He even seemed earnest and interested and was distressed when he couldn’t communicate as well as he wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised. Despite finding me in a bar, he was trying to treat me like a lady.
We alternated between wandering back inside to join the others and retreating to talk a couple of times. He was very courteous and attentive the entire time, and didn’t try to touch me or push me or anything. It was lovely. Eventually my friends got tired of that bar and wanted to join up with some other friends. Ivan’s buddies were hitting on them and they weren’t looking for romantic company. They came outside to fetch me. I told Ivan I had to go. He asked if I would come back. I said, “Yes.”, though I didn’t really expect to. I gave him a kiss and his jacket. At least I left him with a smile.
We went to another bar and ran into some people Jenny knew. They were part of a band that had just finished playing. Collette was super drunk by this point, so I was keeping close to her. Some hippie band member type came up and asked me to dance. I said, “Sure.” I was still in mind of Ivan’s courtesy. Fool. This guy instantly told me I was gorgeous and moved in to put his hands on me. I told him thanks, but that I had a boyfriend and was just out having a good time with my girls. Then I went back to Collette.
Anyway, one of the guys was really into Jenny, but she’s married so we ran off to the bathroom for a bit. Good thing, because Collette proceeded to worship the porcelain god. Poor thing. We left after that.
So there we are, walking the streets to another place that Jenny knows of, when we pass by a bunch of guys leaning into a car with a bunch of girls in it. I recognize the Viking hair of one of the guys, and drunkenly call out, “Ivan!” Did I mention we were a little sloshed?
Ivan turns around, ditches the chicks without an explanation, and walks over to me with a big smile. Now that’s a nice feeling.
The next few hours were spent walking around with Ivan to a couple of other pubs. Eventually we all had to go to our respective places for the night, though. Jenny’s husband Mike picked us up because Jenny and Collette were in no shape to drive. We dropped Ivan off at his hotel. He asked for my information, so I gave him my name, my Ireland phone number, and my e-mail. I expected him to go off and never contact me. I thought it was nice of him to ask though.
Mike, Jenny, and Collette dropped me off at the Bru. I went in and met Jeff, the nice bartender from the first time I had entered Ireland. I decided to stay up talking to him instead of going up to that smelly hole to sleep. At this point I only had a few hours before I had to get up for my flight anyway, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Jeff had completed his duties already, so we hung out for a little while and chatted away the next few hours. I ended up falling asleep on the couch for thirty minutes while he went off to set up breakfast.
I woke, got my stuff, changed into sensible clothes, and brushed my hair and teeth in the bathroom. Jeff and I parted ways with a hug and a promise to continue this tradition of communication upon me entering the country again on October 1st. It’s a good feeling knowing I have friends in Ireland.
So now I’m at the airport, looking like a college bum in my Texas A&M University t-shirt and post-party exhaustion and thinking about how I now have a foreign romance story under my belt. I’ll probably never see Ivan again, but I’m glad I met him. He made me feel exceptional. I feel like my time in Ireland was full of amazing experiences and lessons, and I’m thankful that I’ve gained a sort of family and a few really good friends. I know that when I come back to Ireland I have lots of people to visit and several places I can stay if anything goes wrong. It’s pleasant to have that feeling of security and affection.
I can’t wait to see what happens in England!