This is the story of 42 strangers who chose to live on a bus and have their lives integrated. Find out what happened when these people stopped being polite and started drinking Guinness. If I were employed by an international tour company, this is how I would promote my Irish Adventure trip to the masses. Aside from the obvious ode to MTV’s Real World, it captures the essence of a vacation around the Irish countryside– American tourists and beer. (And part of the reason I opted for an escorted tour.)
While I initially hesitated to embark on an escorted tour, I also recognized that Ireland was a country where I had few established contacts. If I wanted to experience the wonders of the isle, I would have to rely on the locals to guide me. And so– with Mama B and 40 strangers in tow– I began a 9 day trip around the Irish coastline.
Aside from the vegetarian struggles I faced (pasta be damned!), I enjoyed the little rendezvous from reality. While I embraced Dublin like it was my own city, I surprised myself by embracing the rural landscapes as well. Normally I flee from greenery like it’s some kind of decaffeinated coffee, but in Ireland I just had to engage with it. From the Cliffs of Moher to the Giant’s Causeway, my mind was repeatedly blown by the beauty of the coastal landscapes:
As much as I hated to admit it to Mama B, I favored these natural landscapes to the pub-ridden city settings that colored the remainder of our trip. Which is not to say I didn’t wholeheartedly embrace Dublin. After all, it’s a city that encourages artwork and creativity by granting tax breaks to any artist or writer who should pursue his/her craft in the city. It’s the city where you can buy the exact same lemon soap in the same exact pharmacy that Leopold Bloom did in Joyce’s Ulysses. And it’s a city where humor is dark and sarcasm is rich– as evidenced by the lovely little show I previewed at the Abbey Theater entitled “Shush!”
And while I could prattle on about the happy moments, there was one stop that stood out for me: The Death of Innocence mural in (London)Derry. As few Americans know, Northern Ireland was ravaged by three decades of “Troubles,” where Catholics and Protestants fought for control of the region. Annette McGavigan, a 14 old year Catholic girl, was one such victim of the violence– shot by a British officer while en route to school in 1971. The mural, painted in her memory and placed in the Bogside– the site of much of the violence– stands there today as a testament to a bloody history.
Annette’s father never recovered from the loss of his daughter, and according to locals he visited the mural every day– sitting quietly in front of it and talking to it on occasion. No one ever dared to engage him in conversation, but all watched in sadness as a father struggled to deal with the loss of his baby girl.
Though I am likely several years from parenthood, I teared up as this site. Viking violence in the 800s was one thing, but bloodshed in 1971 was an entirely different matter. Somehow, in an age of civilized society it seemed more barbaric; more intolerable; and perhaps most significantly, more real. Any one of us could have been Annette, walking to school that morning; and any one of us could have been her grief-stricken father.
It was one of those moments when I realized that as terrifying as the future may seem, I have a future. So here’s to Annette McGavigan– the 14 year old who taught me about the gift of tomorrow.