I have always loved Ireland.
Even way before I had the good fortune of visiting the lovely country, I had an affinity for the lushness always displayed in the photos.
When I was 20, I backpacked around Europe- by myself.
I loved it. Except for the part where my backpack was stolen and the part where some creepy guy followed my around Lucerne offering me Bazooka bubblegum- but that story is for another day!
Part of my trip included taking a ferry from France to Ireland.
It was a long boat ride, but to my benefit.
I found a friend on that boat... and she was Irish!
I learned that her name was Suin and that she was headed home.
She took me home with her. I met her sweet mother and her dear father who I adored on spot.
Her mother did all my dirty backpacking laundry- a kindness I will never forget-and then I slept in the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. It was Suin's bed. She slept on the floor and as much as I argued with her, she told me that there was no way a guest would sleep on the floor. I must have the bed. The sheets were white and fresh and must have been hung on a line to dry. It was divine. We chatted into the night and discussed religion and politics and education. She was brilliant, frank and funny.
I learned what hospitality really looks like.
I woke to her singing voice and they fed me a traditional Irish breakfast of bacon, pudding and eggs.
Suin had to get back to school. You see, she was not much older than me, but was already a lawyer and a professor in Limerick. I wanted to see Cork so after sweet goodbye's to her father, she took me to the edge of a highway and said- you can hitchhike from here. After seeing the look on my face, her mother said- It really is safe here. Nice people are just looking for some company on their ride to work.
I stood on the side of the road and stuck out my thumb.
A car stopped and I waved goodbye. Suin and I had made plans to meet up later in the week.
It was a man in his late twenties, dressed in a nice shirt and pants. He was jolly and friendly and kind. He chatted about his wife and their baby and sang. The Irish LOVE to sing.
He then said gesturing to a large, bulky phone in his car- would you like to call home?
Umm.. thanks... but.. no... my mother will reach across the ocean and strangle me herself if I call her and tell her that I am hitchhiking in Europe and I am alone with a man in a car. That is very kind of you to offer!
I sat in pub in Cork and drank a Guinness. I took a bus tour and translated the Irish English the tour guide was speaking to American English for a Japanese man sitting next to me.
Suin and I met in Limerick a few days later. We went out to a pub with her friends. She showed me her country- the Cliffs of Mohar, The Burren, the beauty of her company.
We still exchange Christmas cards and a few weeks ago I received an announcement of the the birth of her fourth child.
I hope to see Ireland again someday.
I hope to see Suin again someday.
Happy St. Patrick's Day my friends.