Traveling is, in many ways, a set of humbling experiences. You have so much less control over your day to day life and while that’s exciting in many ways, it can also be disconcerting and tiring. As you move from one place to the next you realize how much we all depend on each other and how we need each other’s help, in small and in large ways. Over the course of our travels, I’ve realized this on an almost daily occasions. From Oceania to Bali to southeast Asia, Japan and all throughout central and eastern Europe, friends and strangers have helped us make our way.
This largess of kindness was given to us, once again, upon our arrival to Ireland through the generosity of our friend, Alena.
Our plan was to take an early flight out of Lisbon and arrive to Maynooth in the early afternoon. We knew that our house in Maynooth was not fully furnished so we wanted to get there early to set up the house.
We hadn’t, though, planned on the chaos that awaited us at the Lisbon airport. Here’s a travel warning: The Lisbon airport is a bit of a mess. We arrived to the airport a full two hours before the flight. Nearly three hours and seven lines later, we boarded the flight, exhausted, hungry and tired of standing in lines. Here is a list of the (long) lines that we waited in before we boarded the plane:
- Visa check
- Baggage Check
- Passport Check
- Security Check
- Passport Check (again!)
- Boarding line 1
- Boarding line 2
When we finally boarded the plane and buckled our seat belts the captain announced that a heavy fog had descended across the Lisbon airport, advised us to sit tight for 20 minutes and assured us we’d be on our way shortly. Nearly 90 minutes later, we took off and began the three-hour flight to Dublin. At that point, none of had eaten all day and the vegetarian fare on Ryan Air is pretty much limited to cheese, crackers and chocolate bars.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived to Maynooth, our new home for the next six months. We plopped down our bags, made a quick (and long!) list of the things we’d need just to sleep that night and then headed out on foot in search of the nearest Dunnes Store.
At this point, we were all starving and tired and more than a little irritable. We located the Dunnes Store, but realized we need to eat first so we headed over to one of the more popular pubs in Maynooth, The Roost, where we ate dinner and I had my first Guinness on Irish soil.
We left the Roost and started heading back to the Dunnes Store, a bit overwhelmed by all the things we needed to purchase and wondering how we were ever going to walk it all back to our place.
I’m only going into great detail about our day to impress upon you the joy I felt when I heard a familiar voice calling my name from across the High Street. It was Alena, my friend from the International Studies department at Maynooth. She knew we were in town but we didn’t have an Irish SIM card; she couldn’t, therefore, get ahold of us so she drove out to our house looking for us and then drove back into town thinking she might run into us there.
That’s a good friend.
Alena collected us up, took us to Dunnes, then to Tesco. You know, I’m sure, how disorienting it can be to find yourself in a large box store that you are not familiar with. Where’s the butter? What about the soap? Oh, we forgot the pillow cases and the paper towels . . . where are those? Alena patiently walked us through the stores, giving us advice on the best brands, telling us what aisle the milk was in and just being the kind, funny person that she is.
Alena dropped us off at our house at around eight pm and then the next day she came by our house with a trunk full household goods (towels, an espresso maker, bike helmets, kitchen utensils and other things) that she had scrounged up for us. Then, she and Sujata and Eleanor went off to Cellbridge and throughout Maynooth in search of dishes, trash bins and sundry other things we needed to put our house together.
As we continue our travels, I am repeatedly grateful for the kindness we have received from friends like Alena and strangers whose names I never knew.