I met an Irish man in his mid-50’s perhaps, who lives in the area around Letterkenny when I stayed at his house for a weekend. His soon to be daughter-in-law was taught Latin in high school by one of my flatmates and we were invited to stay at their house if we wanted to see more of Ireland.
The Cathedral of St. Eunan and St. Columba in Letterkenny and the sunset from the front door with Benbulben in the skyline
He was born in Ireland, but raised in London, and him and his wife moved back to Ireland when their sons had moved out. He pays close attention to American politics and spoke disparagingly of the current administration to say the least, but generally he loves the US. Before moving back to Ireland, him and his wife spent six months traveling around the continental US. He loved the national parks and specifically said that South Dakota was his favorite place in the US. On behalf of the state of Minnesota, I was deeply insulted, but he explained that he spent very little time in Minnesota, just a bus ride from St. Paul to Sioux Falls, SD. After getting off the Greyhound in Sioux Falls, he spent time in town, then visited Little Bighorn, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and several reservations. He spoke about the abject poverty he witnessed while driving through the reservations and we talked about the United States’ treatment of indigenous peoples. We later talked about England’s treatment of the Irish, both in Ireland and in London, and I believe that these two topics influenced each other in his life. Moving west, he liked Yellowstone and the natural beauty of Montana and the Grand Canyon. He was very surprised by how little Americans traveled inside and outside of the US. Having spent time in the Southeast and the Southwest, he was surprised by how little overlap or shared knowledge there was between those two regions in particular. Since he was making a trip of traveling as widely as possible, I understand where he was coming from in that observation. Personally, I can’t imagine commuting between countries every day, but in that area of the Republic of Ireland, the border with Northern Ireland is so close that it makes complete sense and is very normal. I also believe that since the country of Ireland is so compact, as compared to the United States, that the Irish are in a different state of mind when it comes to driving places. My roommate and I were able to drive from Cork, in very southern Ireland, and drive north of Letterkenny, in very northern Ireland, in a leisurely seven hours. I’m about to drive ten hours to Notre Dame this weekend (and then for fall break, and for Thanksgiving, and for winter break) and that’s four states. So I’m not as surprised that some, maybe even most, Americans don’t often leave their region, but that was just my internal reaction to his surprise.
A fellow student of mine is a professor of philosophy at a university in India and she has never been to America, so she had a different perspective from the last person I spoke to. The first thing that she said about the United States was that she hates Trump, which is a sentiment shared by a lot of people that I’ve met, such as taxi drivers when they could hear that I was an American. But she quickly changed topics to what she enjoys about America. She has a particular love of pop music, specifically music from the 30’s and 40’s, even the 50’s. This was possibly as far from what I consider to be pop music as possible, but her interaction with American pop culture is very different from my own. She added that she also really enjoys film noir and books from this time period, as well as jazz, swing, and big band music. “There is nothing better than bebop,” is a direct quote that she wanted me to include and when I asked why bebop she said that it makes her happy.
The weather in Cork was pretty consistent, with not too many days like the first, but these pictures were taken nine hours apart
She shared the story of the time she spent a month in London when it rained and she listened to Leonard Cohen songs constantly and how that steered her music taste towards music that makes feel the opposite of that month. I thought that was an interesting decision, mostly because I usually pick music that fits a situation, whether it’s my mood, the weather, or events like a road trip or a run. But I’m now considering choosing music based on the situation I want, rather than the one I have.
Some flowers next to the bridge I crossed to get to campus, and the sign for the O’Rahilly Building, where we learned Ancient Greek
Another classmate of mine is a graduate student from Canada and when I asked about her opinion on America, she made a joke that we were a “curséd” country. She had some legitimate complaints about the United States that I hadn’t experienced as an American. She mentioned that she avoids flying with connections in the United States because of the manner in which non-American citizens are treated at customs. She specified that it wasn’t just Canadians that are treated horribly but anyone who is not carrying an American passport. She spoke about American relations with Mexico and with Canada, the ways in which they’re similar and the distinctions. Then we had spoken previously about multinational corporations, like Nestle and their baby formulas, and our shared hatred of them, so she talked about her opinion on American business’s roles in other countries. She had taken a course in critical theory and post-colonialism thought which shaped most of her opinions on that topic and the topic of capitalism in general. This interview, along with other conversations that we had, was the most interesting for me in collecting info for this prompt.