First Experience in a New Country (That Wasn’t Canada)

Somehow, I’ve spent a fair bit of my time so far in Armagh by myself — part by choice, part by chance. Being the only poet in the group already lends itself to a different schedule, and being the only student on the third floor adds to it — make no mistake though, I’m not complaining. Moving alone to Baltimore from Michigan has done wonders to my sense of independence — I’m used to travelling alone and exploring alone, and in some ways it’s freeing (though it does prevent you from sharing the experience with someone else, which can also be enriching. Anyhoo). The first day, after a (mostly) sleepless night on a flight from New York’s JFK to Dublin, I managed to get a quick nap in on the bus and another quick nap at the hostel before Terri woke me up and kicked me out to do some exploring. So I walked, half-zombie like,  into town to find some food. I ended up finding one of approximately two restaurants that was open on a Sunday — a place called Fat Sams, which served lunch and coffee-type fare.

I walked in, a little lost, carrying an “Armagh City Guide” under my arm, trying not to be too obvious. But then a waitress came up to me and said, “Are you all right?” I quickly said yes, I was fine and just looking for lunch, but I was inwardly suspected that I looked a lot more lost than I thought.

I had a sandwich with a strange combination of shredded chicken, cheese, and peach slices, which another waitress set down in front of me at my table after I’d asked for it to go (here, the correct phrasing is evidently “carry away” or “take away”). I figured, why make the waitress box it all up after she presented it so nicely? (With a bit of cole slaw, even, which is very much like American cole slaw). So I stayed to eat. The sandwich was actually quite delicious, but when paying my bill I had another issue: Is it appropriate to leave a tip? I dropped a dollar pound coin into a tray with some other change near the register, though I eventually realized that a one pound tip for a four-pound sandwich (I need to figure out the shortcut for the pound symbol) was rather generous. Ah well.

I also realized, after breakfast this morning and a trip to the pub with my fellow travelers tonight that “Are you all right?” is apparently the Irish way of saying “Can I help you?” Or at least, it’s the way they say “Can I help you?” to some lost-looking Americans.

Nonetheless, the city is beautiful and I can’t wait to continue exploring it — both alone and with my fellow travelers. We probably don’t even stand out as much as I think we do — at least until we talk and they hear our “accent.”