Monday, June 7, 2010

Northern Ireland - Part 1

Context: This was in May of 2002.

After the closing of my previous employer, we packed our bags and flew to Ireland to see if I might be able to get work there.

After going on over a dozen interviews during the course of three months, the reality of our situation in Ireland sinks in – everyone is intrigued about an American techie trying to get work he is over-qualified for, but they are going to end up giving the job to a local.

There is no guarantee that we will ever get back to Ireland so Wife and I make an agreement: we each choose one last place to see before we go back. I decide on the Aran Islands (which is a whole other story) and she chooses the city and surroundings of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Two days later we are on a train to Northern Ireland. The excitement of seeing something totally new is tempered with a melancholy of knowing that we are soon leaving and may never see the emerald isle again.

Our tour bus picks us up at our hotel and is packed with people (all with cameras at the ready). It’s our first taste of “group tourism” (where you are confined to ride with about thirty strangers) and we decide quickly that it’s not our cup of tea. I find myself really rubbed the wrong way with certain behavior and hated being lumped in with that group.

For example, one lady would be talking loudly about her pets (or job, or new purse) while the driver was describing a landmark we were passing. After he was finished, she would notice the landmark, scream, “Excuse me! What’s that?!”

He would repeat himself from the beginning. After about the fifth time doing this, he would simply respond, “I don’t know.”

She noted she was very disappointed in his lack of knowledge. (In hindsight, I find the whole scene hilarious, but at the time it was torturous.)

Our first stop was Carrick a Rede, the main feature being a rope bridge over a massive gap where fishermen catch salmon. In pictures it doesn’t look like much, but in person it can be quite daunting. The churning waves crashing against the rocks underneath you invoke the stereotypical feeling of danger.

Our tour group slowly crosses the bridge and, as we approach the midway point,  the woman in front of me stops walking and starts screaming.

“I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” she yells. I don’t know what to do, so I ask “Do you want to go back?” and look behind me strategizing on how to get the woman out of there.

“No!” she yells and I am confused. “Ok, well, you’re almost across, just take it one step at a time.”

“No!” she yells again, and the man behind me says “Come on man, get her moving!”

I realize that, for some reason, I have become responsible for this woman’s panic attack. A young boy starts bouncing up and down and the panicked woman screams louder. I lose patience and scream at her “Hey! You can’t just stay here, you have to go forward or go back! Make up your mind!”

She turns and stares daggers at me, she purses her lips and starts moving forward again. Reaching the other side she marches off in a fury. I let Wife know that we are going to cross the bridge before that woman on the way back since I don’t want to get stuck behind her again.

The initial drama over with, I look around and realize it’s gorgeous.

The rolling waves crashing into rock all around us, random shades of green covering the rock and the inland scenery.

Arriving back at the bus without much incident, we set aim to our next destination : the Bushmills Distillery. It’s a good thing because, although it’s only mid-morning, I know I am going to need some whiskey to deal with the group dynamics.

1 comment:

Beth said...

After looking at the pics of the bridge, I wouldn't have been able to cross that!I however, would have looked at it and known not to even try! Brian would have seen the panicked lady and then be that kid jumping up and down to bounce her off!
Good times! You 2 have had some great adventures!