Tag Archives: ireland

Pretend There’s an H

Growing up with an Irish father and an Irish-American mother comes with it’s perks.  The greatest of these being that I’ve spent a pretty solid chunk of my life in Ireland.   I always liked it a bit better.   When my aunt passed away, the priest at her funeral talked about “thin places” in his homily — thin places being those places or people where the barrier between heaven and earth isn’t quite so thick.  Even non-religious folk can identify with this feeling:  like you’re rooted to the earth but gravity doesn’t seem so heavy (metaphorically… or something). That’s how I feel when I’m there.

Plus, everyone can pronounce my name.

Taking a three month hiatus from blogging is probably not the best way to exercise my writing muscle, but listen, I’ve been really busy doing absolutely nothing.   Some things have changed in my life, one of these things being that I have a boyfriend now, which means I’ve had to pretend that I am an “adult” who doesn’t hide “feelings” behind “sarcasm.”  (Lol, I know.)

I ordered him on the internet.   Which is funny, because I kind of did.   I joined OkCupid (for the craic) and he was the first person I messaged and the only one I actually wanted to respond.  One of the stranger things about meeting someone on the internet before you meet them in person is The Introduction.  Introductions are always awkward for someone like me, who has a name that isn’t easily pronounced in the English language.  My screen name didn’t even have my first name in it.  This was in part an effort to avoid serial killers and in part because I know it’s easier to pronounce my middle name.  So, since Boyfriend’s screen name was actually his full name because apparently he is not concerned about serial killers,  I felt I should probably give him mine:
My name is Aislinn, pronounced like Ash-lynn.  I’m assuming your name is Winston Poundsley because your screen name is WinstonPoundsley.  (Disclaimer: not his real name.  When I asked him what his code blog name should be, he answered this with concerning immediacy.)
Thinking on it, it may actually be a bit easier to explain via text than in real life.  Usually, that goes something like this:
Person:  Ace….Ayz….Ice… Ms. Gavin?
Me:  It’s “Ash-lynn”!
Person: Oh, we have it spelled wrong.
Me: Oh, you don’t, actually!  It’s Irish.
Person:  Are you Irish?
Me: My dad is.
Person:  Why don’t you just spell it Ashlynn?
Me: ….. Because that’s not my name.
Or trying to explain how you spell your name to someone who has only heard it spoken:
Me: It’s A- I – S – L—
Person: Wait, I think I spelled it wrong! Where do I put the h?
Me: No h!  Pretend there’s an h.  It’s invisible, it’s like the exact opposite of a silent letter.

As you can imagine, Starbucks – which truly is a language in and of itself, for example: one time Melanie’s cup said “Melony”  as in “this punch tastes very melon-y.”  – is really fun for me.  I usually go by “Gavin” in an attempt to make things easier.  My cup generally says “Gavan,” “Devin,” or “Alicia.”  I don’t mind all the confusion, though.  It comes with the territory of the Irish name.  Just ask my friends Caoimhe (pron. Kweeva) aka “Cay-oh-me”  and Roisin (pron. Roh-sheen) aka “Raisin.”   They go by “Beth” and “Tara” at Starbucks.

As a kid, everyone knew how to pronounce my name.  One of the great things about being a child is being your very own thin place: you aren’t fully blemished by how things “should” be and accept them as they are.  I still remember the teachers in class mispronouncing my name and every kid in class in unison saying “ASH-LYNN. Jeez!”  This is, of course, omitting the month long period of my life when I refused to respond to any name other than “Dorothy.”

Ruby slippers and munchkins notwithstanding, I did always like my name.  I liked how it sounded, I liked how it was spelt, and most of all I liked what it meant.  As a derivative of the name Aisling (pron. Ash-ling or -lynn or -leen), it means vision or dream.  Talk about the right name for the little girl who loved (and still loves) all things fantastical and dream-like.  Sometimes, I wonder if my name defines me just as much as I define it.

In the meantime, I think I’ll wait for George R. R. Martin to name a character after me.  It’s bound to happen one of these days.


“How do you say ‘hangover’ in Spanish?”
“No Idea. Food and Coffee. STAT.”

This whole thing started when I decided it was a good idea to have a party a few hours before I got on a plane to Spain.

At the time, I was living in Ireland on a “study” “abroad” trip and my cousins came over for the night. Read: disaster… or as they say in Ireland, “the craic.”

We’ll just skip the particulars of that evening except to say that we drank a lot of wine. Looking back on it from The Future, it was the night that everything happened though it seemed at the time like nothing much happened at all. It was the night from which we would come to learn “we’ll never see these people again” was not a good motto. No, no, you will see people you should never see again on roof tops on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, years later in the middle of The Quays bar in Galway, and pretty much everywhere… multiple times. It was the night that some of our favorite sayings, such as “the nature times” and “just go with it, it’s funnier that way,” came into hilarious being. It was also the night before Martha and I were probably almost murdered in Madrid.

We were in bed by 9:30 p.m.

Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off at 3 a.m. and I had to get on a plane. After shoving a grand total of two outfits into my backpack, I made the one-minute trek across the lawn to Martha’s flat. I put on a kettle and prepared the breakfast of champions – tea and cookies – while she packed. I believe the conversation we had, regarding our astounding preparedness, consisted mostly of groans and grunts, but we understood.

The flight from Dublin to Madrid was a little over 2 hours. Two-plus hours of deep, deep struggle.

I had been to Spain four years earlier at the age of sixteen. On that flight the attendant was really nice to my group of friends. He gave us brownies and milk because we couldn’t sleep on the flight and, apparently, it was “shocking to meet American kids who weren’t a bunch of jerks.” I like baked goods and backhanded compliments, so I was pretty excited about Spain.

This flight was less exciting. Have you ever been hungover at 30,000 feet with TortureLights™ flickering on and off as flight attendants try to sell things to you?

RyanAir Flight Attendant (5:30 a.m.): For just forty euro, we will provide you with this mystery meat sandwich on stale bread! Are’t we great?
Me: …..
Mean Lady (5:32 a.m.): For your next flight please visit our website. It’s a miracle that you booked this flight without knowing about it! Flights as low as 2 euro 50 euro! Plastic seats may be included, we’re really not sure.
Me: I hate you.
The Devil (5:40 a.m.): Water or wine?
Me: What? WINE? First, it is not even six a.m. Second, NO. No. Wine. Ever.

My brain was screaming “Hydrate me!” at the top of it’s little brain lungs, so I wondered for a few moments what Airplane Lavatory Faucet Water tasted like. I really thought long and hard about it. Then I shelled out the ten euro for bottled water.

Upon arriving in Madrid, I stared at the signage through a thick haze of nothing as we walked two miles through the airport, aimlessly following the people in front of us. I began to panic a little.

Me: “Martha, you know what I didn’t think about when we booked this trip?”
Martha: “That the Figure-this-Airport-Out-for-Yourselves! Game would take this long?”
Me: “Nope. The fact that I DON’T SPEAK SPANISH.”

I had gotten to the point in high school where I was probably a year away from speaking fluentish. I was at that point of understanding where things started to get confusing. You know, the point where you’re ordering a sandwich somewhere and legitimately cannot remember the English word for cucumber. Two years of disuse later, I barely remembered how to say “where’s the bathroom?” (¿Dónde está el baño? BTW.) I lose language quickly. I don’t even know how to speak English that well.

Just like that, Martha became the “translator” for the trip while I stood and smiled at people (or reflexively spoke at them in English.) At that point it didn’t really matter because it was 8 a.m. and we needed sustenance. How do you say hangover in Spanish? Who knows, Food and Coffee, STAT.

The strange thing about food in Madrid when you are 20-years-old and have no money is that absolutely everything tastes like Spanish ham. Eggs? Ham. Salmon? Ham. Butter? Ham. Ham? Ham. It is really quite distressing, but we scarfed down a larger than necessary portion of food, and found our way to our hostel. It’s possible that we wandered around a private building or two before finding the hostel.

After a nap, we went out to explore the city and, more importantly, to buy Martha shoes. Because Obviously. Who remembers shoes when drunk packing? To her credit, she remembered to bring more than two outfits and underwear. When we returned to our hostel we were looking forward to spending the rest of the evening not drinking EVER and chatting with the Argentinian girls who were staying down the hall.

As we reached our floor, we noticed a man standing by the hostel door. I immediately felt uneasy and could sense Martha felt the same unease. The man by the door looked me right in the eyes – have you ever had someone look at you and the only thought in your head be “danger?” Behind us, a building resident was walking up the stairs and he must have noticed us hesitate because he took the mans attention away so that Marty could unlock the door to our part of the hostel and slam it behind us.

About an hour later, Martha had returned from her shower, and I jokingly said “I’m kind of afraid to leave our room, what if he’s here?!!” She was laughing when I opened the door and he was standing there. I slowly closed the door and turned and started laughing that uncontrollable kind of giggle that only comes when you shouldn’t be laughing. “Martha, he IS out there!”

He began banging on the doors and screaming for the “chica morena” which, I mean, was really vague seeing as every girl in that hostel had brown hair. We used our cell phones to call upstairs and try in broken Spanish to explain that there was an intruder in the hostel. Lucky for us, one of the Argentinian girls called the police after withstanding thirty minutes of the ordeal. Once the police took him away, the owners of the hostel came downstairs and yelled at all of us for calling the police. I couldn’t understand it, but I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Hostel Dude: Why would you call the police?
Argentinian Girl: Oh, butt dial. Nothing to do at all with the intruder that you were ignoring. Just kidding, sorry I’m not sorry.
Hostel Dude: We were handling it.
Martha (to me): Anddddd we’re leaving tomorrow.

So we did. And that’s the story of how we ended up running into my friend from New York in the best tapas bar in Granada drinking wine again.