When I first arrived at Victoria Lodge I wanted to cry like a freshman who realizes the full implications of what she’s done, just as her parents pull away.
I still had Mike with me, and I wasn’t going for 4 years but 4 weeks, but my disappointment was huge. When we got a bit of track and then got redirected and Yes, that awful building with scaffolding hanging off of it, in the middle of highway with nothing around it, that was my “faculty apartment on the banks of the River Lee.”
When I entered our apartment, I realized that it was a dorm, at best, though it leaned, deeply, into a psychiatric hospital: particle wood furniture, bare and barren. I was not excited by the possibility that I could brush my teeth and pee at the same time. That has never been a goal.
We made a list of things we could get that might possibly begin to make that place a home for a month. We left and went to the store and I help out hope that somewhere there would some of the charm I had seen all over the country, but to no avail. We were directed to a Twenty-Four Hour Tesco: the Irish equivalent of a Super Walmart. The Tesco had a mini mall attached, complete with a Claire’s and a EuroGeneral (ak.a. Dollar store—they were everywhere).
I felt that all of the quaint corner stores, pubs, independent bookstores, tea houses, I had loved all over the country were never to be be found again. My Ireland experience was over. It took me about a week to realize that the four feet of stagnant water outside my window was in fact the River Lee.
I was so stubbornly optomistic that first night, that even though driving around had shown me that there was no pub , café, or coffee shop in walking distance, I could not believe it to be true. Just on the other side of this next block must be something. But my efforts were to no avail and my optimism was crushed. Later, when I met locals and they asked where I lived, they said things like, “Why would you do that?”
In the entire country, Victoria Lodge is the furthest point between bars and shops.
In time, I never learned to love the location of that place, but I did learn to embrace the small room, small amount of clothes I had with me, the simplicity of a life with less stuff.
After a few weeks, when I’d open the door on my little insane asylum boudoir, I caught myself sighing, “Home.” I felt safe and tucked in that tiny space, everything I owned in that country in a 10 x 14 rectangle, single window open to the stagnant River Lee.