Talk to a Dubliner: Three memorable conversations


A three day Travel Blogger conference in Dublin, and ironically I'd only seen this city from inside the airport, the airport shuttle, my hostel, several taxis and the conference hotel. Without experiencing the city myself yet, the people I met in transit were my only connections to Dublin. They reminded me of the great potential that waited after the conference, through their very pleasant company for a few minutes' drive (or few hours' flight), and maybe a dart of their eyes in the rearview mirror or a sideways glance between movies. And, that brogue. That brogue.

One. Austerity Politics.

All over town politicos placed placards urging voters to cast a Yes or a No. I asked a cab driver about the referendum.

An Irish government campaign poster urges passing motorists and pedestrians to support the abolition of the country’s Senate in Dublin, Ireland. (Shawn Pogatchnik/Associated Press)

My driver said it was concerning the abolition of half of the legislative body of the Republic of Ireland, the upper house of Parliament, the Seanad, to save costs. 20 million Euro is not small potatoes. We're still in crisis recovery, you know.

I asked him his opinion.

He said, "Crisis or not, we need leaders. We need lawmakers."

I replied, "Democracy is expensive, I guess. Dictators are financially efficient, but..." He laughed.

"My father always told me it's very important to vote. Just about everyone in Ireland has at least one relative, a grandfather, an uncle, a father -- who has died for that right to vote."

The driver, I'm sure, was happy the following morning when the Seanad was maintained by a narrow margin, but likely disappointed that only 39% of the electorate went out that day.

Two. Marriage Austerity.

We slowed to approach a T intersection. I hunched forward to take a better look from the back seat, elbows on knees, craning my neck between the seats. They drive on the left side of the road in Ireland, the drivers sit on the right side of the car, and we were making a left turn. I had no idea which way to look. I followed the driver's eyes in the rearview mirror.

As we waited for an opening, the driver said, "Look out to the right, you'll see some trees. It's a square. Walk across it diagonally, and you'll see the main shopping area if you get some time after the conference."

"Oh, that's really nice of you to point out," I said, "but actually I didn't come here to shop."

"Oh my God, I married the wrong woman!"

Speaking Gaelic. Well, trying to.

Almost a week before the first two conversations, I already knew before I even stepped foot on Irish soil that it was going to be an amazing time.

On the plane in to Dublin (my transiting airport to Paris, my first stop in Europe), I sat next to a nice man - let's call him Kevin. I asked him a lot of questions about Ireland, and he was also kind enough to teach me a little Gaelic. I traded him my Tagalog knowledge of basic phrases, which he enjoyed, he said, because of the few months' stint he spent in Manila ages ago as a software consultant. After he'd heard me say a few Tagalog phrases, he told me that the rise and fall or slight musicality in that language would help me sound better in Irish Gaelic. Cool.

I wrote down how to say Hello, which in Irish Gaelic is Dia dhuit or 'I offer God to you.' The respondent will bump up the intensity of warmth by adding Mary (mother of God by Roman Catholic standards) into the mix, Dia agus Mhuire yit or 'God and Mary with you as well.'

notebook gaelic

Of course I couldn't verify at that point if Kevin was full of hooey (he was telling the truth!), and unfortunately I think I used the word craic far more in my few days in Dublin (among other choice phrases). Shows you what kind of language learner I am: Fun words first, practical/polite later.

We sat down at the airport, and he reviewed our lesson from the plane ride. Here's a little bit of Kevin teaching me to say 'see you later' or Slán go fóill. His pronunciation tip: Like a small horse.