Wow. Where to begin.
So I’m sure I’m a’goin’ to forget much of what has happened, but I’ll share some highlights! And some lowlights, as well!
Well, Saturday turned out to be just a lil’ different than planned. We got a call from Sinead in the morning saying that she couldn’t meet up with us anymore as her 7-year-old was sick. So Ruble and I just decided to head into town. We walked around a bit…didn’t do a whole lot. But that was all right…I’m not goin’ to lie, though, I was up for stayin’ in the city…but Rubes wasn’t feelin’ it. So for our last night together, he bought some tacos, and we headed home.
We had a great Mexican meal…and spent a few hours talkin’ with Anna and Lena. Turned out to be a great night…a lot of fun…
Well, we go to bed around 12:30 or 1:00, I think…anyway, we’re supposed to wake up at 7:00. Next thing I know Ruble jumps to the far end of the bed. Actually kind of funny! But he’s freakin’ out! It’s 7:30! We’ve got to go! And we haven’t even packed yet!
We pack quickly, I laugh at him the whole time, and we head for the train. A 25-minute ride into town, then we head for the buses…the bus left 30 minutes ago, and the next one doesn’t come for another 45. Rubes is freakin’ out. He’s got a plane to catch!
We end up findin' a bus…about six times as much money, too…so I give Rubes what’s left of my Euros…and our "airport goodbye" turns into a mainstreet Abbey Road goodbye. And like that, he’s gone, and I’m back on my own in Dublin! As quick as it was, though, it was absolutely delightful to have a friend for awhile!
The one nice thing about Ruble leavin' early?! I can go to church! I walk around downtown Dublin askin' where I can find a Protestant church, and I'm pointed to a Presbyterian church down the way. Services don't start until 11:00, so I just kill an hour and a half on the street people-watchin'. When Rubes and I first left the house today, the town was pretty dead. The train had a few people, but the streets weren't very packed. Sunday morning, I thought. Well, it turned out I was wrong. This was the first time that I had been to town before noon, and I guess it just takes people awhile to forget their Guiness night. In an hour or so, thousands of people are out again...tourin', takin' pictures, shoppin'...actually, it looks just like any other day in Dublin. I thought that was pretty interesting.
Well, 10:45 rolls around, and I head for the church, huge backpack and all. I'm greeted at the front door by a delightful old man...seemingly surprised that I was there for the service!!! I think he thought I wanted to take pictures...lookin' like a tourist and all.
The service was...well...boring. The songs were very "high"...meaning old and archaic...they resonated right with the architecture of the church. There was a guest speaker that morning, and frankly, he had a delightful talk about workin' with the down and out in Dublin...the homeless, the poor, etc. A very purposeful and dynamic talker...there is just need everywhere..."the poor will always be with you..." I think I've heard that somewhere before...and Dublin is no different. The nice part about the church?! As diverse as you can imagine! People from Africa, other parts of Europe, Ireland, and, of course, America! We probably had around 40-50 people that morning, and I would guess at least 10 countries represented! And the Africans brought their kids!!!
Another nice thing? The nice old couple in front of me who offered me their couch when I am in the southern part of the island! They actually offered me a bed, and you better believe I'll take 'em up on it! Oh, and we had tea and coffee afterwards...that was neat-o, too...
Well, after church, I went shoppin’ in Dublin…I had brought over a duffle bag and small backpack with me, and frankly, it just wasn’t cuttin' it. It just hurts too much. So I head over to a sports shop and buy an actual backpacker's bag...66 litres. I have to drop 49 Euro for it, but I think it's goin' to pay off in the long run...I head over to a park and switch all of my items from my duffle bag to my new backpack. It's a move that I wasn't overly thrilled about, but it needed to happen.
And now I have a decision to make...I have no idea where I am sleeping tonight. And what is more, there is a big game goin' on in Dublin. People are linin' the streets with sports apparel for sale...there are two futbol games at the stadium Rubes and I were at a couple of days ago...and I want to go soooo bad! That is one of my goals while over here...to go to a local game...I hear they are crazy!
The tickets are 40 Euro...and I am more than happy to chalk that up as a much-needed expense. But here is the other part of me talkin'..."There is so much more of the island to see..." Hmm...futbol game in Dublin or the countryside...
I am torn.
40 Euro. Futbol. Sittin' in the end of the field with the crazies...comparable only to the bleachers in Wrigley Field...cheaper tickets, wilder fans. But with all the love and respect to my Cubbies, I think these fans would put even my bleacher bums to shame.
Turns out I headed for the bus station. I bought a ticket to the west coast. Supposed to be beautiful cliffs and even more beautiful people. An ocean and some more memories...not a bad cup o' tea, if you will.
I slept much of the ride through the countryside, but Ireland is simply beautiful. Green everywhere...it's been the worst summer for the locals...just about every day it rains....28 days in June alone I hear. But it sure makes for some luscious mountains and hills. Very easy on the eyes...
Well, a few hours later I find myself in Galway. I have yet to meet a local Irish who doesn't recommend the city. What could go wrong, right?!
I roll into town, head for the park, and hit my first priority...a couch for the night. I ask numerous people, and of course, most are not up for the adventure. I might kill them, I suppose. And I understand that. An hour goes by. Maybe another....I don't really remember...
But then I find a taker. I ask someone outside of a pub (who in Galway is not outside of a pub?! Well, ok, only those who are INSIDE the pub...), and he excitedly points me in the direction of one of his friends. And, sure enough, he says I can sleep on his couch. It turns out that he himself was already in the pub, and so I stick with him...and his many friends. Drunk friends, I might add.
It's about 9 o'clock at night by now...I sit there and watch these lads and lasses drink and drink and drink. Authentic Irish music is bein' played live, and they are more than happy to sing at the top of their lungs!!! It's really a different feel than back home...almost surreal, really....they are so passionate about their Irish heritage! Guinness helps, too, of course, but even then...
I sit and talk with several of his friends. One is incredibly excited to have me, another takes me under his wing...just sits and talks. He has a broken back from a motorcycle accident, blah blah blah. A couple of girls are there, and it's small talk. Kinda fun...but I don't think the night is a'goin' to end anytime soon...and I would be up for sleep sometime, ya know?
Then we move on. To Pub #2. More drinking. More smoking (everyone smokes on the island), but no music. And that is simply unacceptable for these lads. They need music.
So we move on. To Pub #3. Or should I say Nightclub #1. Ok, let me just back up a bit. I'm 25 years old...I feel like I've seen quite a bit of the world. 8 countries, 48 states...I don't really feel like I've missed a whole lot in life, ya know? Was I ever wrong. It turns out that there is a lot that I haven't seen...ok, let me back up even more...two hours earlier I had watched two guys kiss...they were playin' chicken...first one to flinch loses and has to drink or somethin'...they didn't flinch. Then some girls played it. I didn't really have words for it...more appalled than anything, I think. I really couldn't believe what I was seein'...
"Sodom, is that you???"
Well, the nightclub was...well, a nightclub. I walk in, it's pretty dead. It's midnight. I guess it doesn't start happenin' until one o'clock. And sure enough, the people came in mass droves. Girls wearin' just about as little as you can imagine. Guys out for the kill. And lots and lots of alcohol. Loud music, dark lights...bumpin', grindin', sex with clothes on, makin' out, the whole bit...I just sat and watched.
I talked to an absolutely beautiful girl for a while...Karen from Northern Ireland...she and her friends had driven down three hours just for this...they only get to come every once in awhile, but they love it. She looked so innocent...so...I don't know. I almost feel like a dad...it's so incredibly hard to enjoy somethin' like that when all you can think about is how empty they must feel...
Except for one thing. I don't think anyone felt empty.
For what seems the first time in my life, I actually watched people absolutely enjoy what they were doing. Usually, I see people get drunk, get high, laugh, blah blah blah...but when you sit them down and talk with them later on, they don't like what they are doing. They just don't know what else to put in its place...
But here, I don't know. It really is hard to describe adequately. These people were loving what they were doing. No remorse. No regrets. No pain. Nothin', really. "Everyone did as he saw fit." And to think it was Sunday night!!! The lads I were with had to work at half past six...and it's half past one already! Crazy drunk, they are, too...
Um, about that couch...oh, well, as long as I can just stay with them...
Karen leaves...one of the guys I was with ruins it all with a comment, and I just sit and watch again...two guys I'm with are overly drunk...they end up swimmin' on the floor, then repeatedly hit on this girl who slaps them away. They come back for more, the bouncers step in, and just like that, we're outside.
I just want a couch. Which brings me to ask myself at that point..."Just how far would I go for a couch?" I had no idea they would be like this...but this is ridiculous. Too bad it's 2:00 in the morning, or I would be askin' others. But they are all drunk.
We head to the local "eat and lose some of your drunk feeling" restaurant...SuperMac's. The place is packed. People just keep comin'...from this pub, from that one, from this nightclub, from that one. My "friends" get into an icecream fight...then we're out of the restaurant. And I'm seemingly forgotten. Seriously, by this time, it's hopeless. Half of the friends jump in one cab and are gone, then the crazy drunk guy falls into another, and I'm out there in the rain. No couch. No one.
They were too drunk even to remember a guy who had been with them for the past five hours.
It's raining by this time. Stupid Ireland.
I ask people as they come into SuperMac's for a place to stay. Nothin'. One guy asks if a car would be fine, and that sounds delightful. Then he has girl problems, and that falls through...no couch. No car.
I walk back into SuperMac's and ask people there. I see Karen walk in...she has found a guy. It's almost heart-breaking. I didn't want to do anything with her, ya know...she is gorgeous, but I wasn't wantin' to have sex...although I will admit that it is always a temptation...even with my Christian background and upbringing, findin' myself in a place with all of this "skin show," it is rough.
But by this time, I was sick of it all. It was almost too much. Girls gettin' drunk and laid all over. It was even demoralizing. I wouldn't even want to know the past (or current!) lives of these people. Really, I think I might cry. Or lose hope. Grace even seems to have been banned from the city. I don't know...I can't put it all in words. It's just the worst of the worst in my eyes...but in theirs, they think it's the greatest thing on earth. How to mesh with that? How does grace meet sin? How does morals meet debauchery?
It was never more apparent than when talking to a young lad who was there...he said, "Isn't this place great?! You can do whatever you want!"
Yes, yes, you can.
How have these people been raised?! I feel for them so much (my heart wants them to experience a much richer life!), but even I began to wonder how you feel guilty if you've never been told what to feel guilty of! How do you know that you sin if you do not know the law? It's so weird...even I was am writing this, I feel like I am going back and forth from normal conversation to church conversation...sin, law, debauchery...would these Irish even have a place for those words?! I have been raised with them, but I don't know...I don't think they would even know how to use them. hmm...
They love what they are doing. I hate it. I think that they can have a richer life. They wonder what's richer than Guinness and girls.
Where do these two meet?
Well, I was kicked out of SuperMac's at 4:00. Restaurant closes.
I walk around, ask a few more people for a couch, then realize my good fortune has run out. So I walk around the city. I refuse to sleep on the street. Not safe. I head out to the pier...I just walk. The town is very quiet now. Under 10 people are out.
I just have to keep moving.
I come up to a bus stop, and there are a few people.
A beautiful girl in a skin-tight dress. She comes up and hugs me. Closely.
She is drunk. A guy comes over to seemingly whish her away to a cab...I think he is her boyfriend. Maybe just for the night, though. The way he acted, though...he may have been her brother.
Another hug. A longer one.
It is so weird. I didn't want any of it. I had even avoided it for seven hours! But in my more honest moments, it feels good to have a cute girl hug you! The drunk part of course nullifies anything behind it, but there is a part of me that understands a little bit more. It's the "live for the moment" idea...if it feels good, do it.
And if I didn't have God, I would do it. In a heartbeat, I think. In Galway. Every night. Hmm...kind of weird words to say, but without God, why not do it, right? Just to be moral? Bah. I'm so thankful to have found hope at such an early age. Truly.
Well, I end up staying awake all night. I am cold. I am wet. I am tired. All I want to do is get out of town. Seriously. I have this horrible taste in my mouth, and it's not from not brushin' my teeth (I did that in the park about 5:00 o'clock). Galway is Vegas. Galway is Sodom. Galway is Ireland??? And I hate it!
Bus station is closed. When it opens at 7:00, I buy a bus ticket back to Dublin...a great part of me wants to visit somewhere else on the island, but my heart is in Dublin. So I head back there. Scotland needs to happen soon, I think!
I arrive in Dublin...I need a couch. It's crazy. I started out with the best possible circumstances. A 1300 Euro/month place. Keys and password given to me. Six nights. Wonderful girl. Good food. Hot shower. A comfortable bed!
And now I have nothing. Cold. Wet. Tired. And not sure where I am staying that night, either.
But I need a couch. And bad. I cannot go another night like this. I am quickly losing hope. I'm only eight days into my trip, but this is by far the lowest I've been so far. Thoughts of going home come up...really, I do not want to, but I just needed something simpler! And I can't lie...those thoughts arose.
I don't want to do it, but I make a sign. I buy posterboard and a marker. Dublin is expensive. Five dollars for a permanent marker, two for posterboard. But I need a couch.
I make a simple sign on the sidewalk. "ATTENTION LOCALS and Fellow Couch Surfers...COUCH NEEDED! www.couchsurfing.com"
Easy enough. I went to the busiest part of town, and...
I couldn't do it! I was too embarrassed to even use my sign! At that point, I really felt like a homeless person! A real-life street bum! I had nothing! And I couldn't bring myself to sit there with a sign. So I didn't even use it...but I did keep it (I had paid 5 Euro for it!).
I only have one other option...couches are in peoples' houses. I must find houses. So I walk to a neighborhood. I ask several people along the street, and they are obviously not keen on the idea. They say they don't have a couch (lie), that their couch is already being used (maybe not a lie), or some other excuse.
I meet a girl along the street, and we end up walking for about 20 minutes. It was just nice to have someone to hang with for awhile! I help her find a college, and we just enjoy each other's company! But after we find the college, I tell her I must go find a couch!
So I walk up and down this neighborhood...I'm told to stay away from one part of Dublin...it's "dodgy" as they call it. Shady, if you will.
I ask people along the street. Mostly older people...it's old Ireland, obviously. Kind ol' people spendin' their last days together...a tight community, I later find out. I ask a guy about 30 years old, and he gives me the run-down of the area. Not many students, mostly older folk, so I probably won't have much luck. He would put me up if he could, but his girl wouldn't be up for it, he knew. I understood.
Well, I walk down a bit, hear someone cough out of a window, so I knock on the door. No answer. Hmm...must be because I have this HUGE backpack on me. Understandable.
I walk across the street.
I hear movement. The door makes noise.
And I am prepared to meet some 87-year-old woman...how to present myself.
The door opens.
My only thought is..."WHOA!"
"Hi...I have an interesting question for you...you wouldn't happen to have a couch I could sleep on for the night, would you?"
The girl is about 25 years old...blonde...gorgeous! Not at all what I was expectin'! She smiles...laughs...I smile...then she asks if I am joking. When I tell her no, she runs back to the back room, leaving me at the door!
I hear other girls, then she come back...
"Come on in!"
Wow, that was way too easy. I am so relieved.
I walk into a living room of six girls. All young...college-age. I couldn't have picked a better house in all of Dublin!
I sit down, and all of a sudden, I am in the hotseat! They are all eager to hear about who I am, this whole couch-surfing thing...and they ask me over and over again if I am telling the truth! They can't believe it. "Well, why did you pick this house?" "You're the first one!" Second, I guess, but I had forgotten about the failed first attempt. Plus there had been no answer!
The girls are a fun crew...some workin', some in college. All excited to have me. They would no longer have a boring night, they said!
They offer me tea (everyone always does!), and then they tell me they are cooking an authentic Irish meal! They still can't get over the fact that I picked them! "How did you know?" haha...I didn't! And then they joke about the bacon being cooked...of course, as soon as they cook bacon, an American knocks on the door! No surprise!
I enjoy an absolutely delightful Irish meal of radishes, potatoes, and bacon. Thick bacon. But it was more than just easy on the tummy...the meal represented a home! It was so nice to just sit and enjoy people again...and to know that I had a couch!
After a couple of hours, I went over to a friend's house with a couple of the girls...we watched two episodes of "Prison Break," talked for a bit...then came back home.
And then we spent at least an hour talkin' 'bout God. It came up after I told them that I worked with kids at a church...I had told them earlier, but now I had three very eager girls askin' me about God. It was late at night...but they were hungry for truth. They asked me point-blank questions...and I boldly responded with answers...sometimes to my surprise! Not the answers, but the boldness. It is difficult to stand up against people sometimes.
"Well, you can't tell me that good people aren't goin' to heaven..."
Then I would strategically tell a story (this time about my grandpa), then work Scripture in there. And I was honest the entire time. I told them I would love for all people to go to heaven, for everything to be ok, for kids always to be born healthy (one of the girls is a nurse who works with births everyday, and she had a hard time believing in a good God when she sees moms with stillborns). I shared with them my saga of 2006...how I questioned God, doubted God, hated God...how I used to think that obedience equaled blessing. How good things equaled God, how bad things equaled Satan. But then I went back to Scripture...that's never a promise.
The topic would change abruptly...maybe to the silly show on TV, but inevitably, it came back to God. They thought long and hard on the fact that I was in their house...that I could have knocked one house before or one hour after...I myself don't dwell too much on that, but for whatever it is worth, I was there with them. In God's plan? Sure. Would the other houses have been, too? I think so, too.
"What about other religions?"
"What about death?"
I honestly can't even remember the last time I had had a talk like this. Even working in youth ministry, this talk was more real, more necessary. Well, don't take that the wrong way...I'm just sayin' I work in a church...I'm supposed to teach Sunday School, I'm supposed to teach the Bible. I, of course, take advantage of other opportunities outside of the church building...
But here, in Ireland...three girls with a hunger to know something deeper. And at one point, I think I confirmed to myself what I have been strugglin' with for some time...I was talkin' boldly, and I wasn't afraid to butt heads with them. One of the girls made a comment, and I said...
"Well, that is how much I believe it. I can't not talk about it. Even if it causes problems for me, I must still stick with it, because I believe it to be true."
And I think I convinced myself that night. 2006 was rough. Life is rough. And then again, it's not, ya know. But I had had my doubts about God, about religion, in general. If you have asked it, I have probably thought it. But even through all of the pain, the guilt, the questions...I still come back to what I believed years ago.
And I told the girls that. I couldn't answer every question, but I reminded them that their "religion" (whatever that may have been...even the "absence" of one) couldn't either. Everyone has faith...whether it is in the big-bang or in the spoken word, whether in evolution or in creation, whether in life after death or worm food, we have faith in what we believe. And I said that they can't seek to know every answer...
"It's not what I don't understand in Scripture that scares me. It is what I do understand."
If there is a God, they would have to ask, "Then what?" But they must first ask that question. "Then what?" And just take it one step at a time from there.
I had a delightful sleep on the couch...a full 11 hours. (And it actually folded out into a bed!). I found nearly 5 Euro, four lighters, and a corkscrew for them, so they should have me over more often!
After a bowl of Rice Krispies, I left there, then bought a ticket for the south part of Ireland. I was headin' to Cork!
And here I am now. And, yes, another story. I asked people on the 4 1/2 hour bus ride if they had a couch. And one girl took me up on the offer...until it came to crunch-time. We arrived in Cork, I walked with her for a bit, and then she said she better not. But if I couldn't find a couch, then stop by and she would give me one...she gave me her address. Well, I spent an hour and a half askin' on the street! No takers...haha...three guys couldn't believe it...so I told them about www.couchsurfing.com...well, I saw them about 20 minutes later, and one of the guys said that he had a website for me, too...it was www.iwanttosleeponyourcouchbutihaveamacheteandyouwontwakeupinthemorning.com. Or something to that effect. I laughed. And understood yet again!
Well, it was nearin' half past eleven, so I started to head to that girl's apartment...but I figured I would ask on my way there. And outside of a pub (I didn't learn my lesson), I asked yet again. And I had a taker. She and her husband would put me up for the night.
After a couple of drinks with them (I still haven't bought one since I've been here!), we headed to her house. She had a couple of friends comin' over, and when we arrived, they pulled out the weed. Wow. For the next hour, I watched five people light up couple of blunts.
Within the first 10 minutes of bein' inside, one of the guys had made a joke about Jesus...one that I shall never repeat, and then he said that born-again Christians are <bleep> everywhere...he even met a bouncer that was one! He couldn't believe it. There is a time for everything under heaven...a time to talk (as in the night before), and a time to shut up (here in this moment).
Oh, couch-surfing. But all that to say, they are great hosts! Cork is a beautiful city...I'm gettin' ready to go explore it! It's a much slower pace here...not as many people. Kind of crazy without all of the noise, but I am enjoying it so far. I went and shopped with the husband this mornin', the wife made me breakfast, and we'll see what the rest of the day brings!
That was ridiculously long. I don't know when I'll get the internet again, so until then!
2007-08-22 12:58:44 GMT