Ireland - The Emerald Isle (A Shaky Start)
No matter where you are in the world, international border crossings have the potential to be a truly unsavory experience for those who undertake them. Sometimes you end up with the worst kind of authority figure cum Napoleon Complex harbinger -- miserable sticklers who take no joy in their duties and who categorically abuse whatever laughable allowance of power they have been vested with. Of course this is just my opinion, but it continues to be substantiated through direct experience. So it has been again in the most unexpected of places: Dublin, Ireland.
Journal Entry from Arrival in Ireland, 13th October 2015 (I guess that was like three weeks ago? Shoot.)
"This pimple faced sack of sheep (...shavings...) berated us with a less than amusing line of questions, each one more gravelly and intrusive than the last. When it became clear that we had actually come to Ireland to learn about the culture and meet new people, we were in over our heads. Poor Mr. M*, the hard-nosed customs official named after a lesser-known-brand of instant noodles (I swear I've seen it in Malaysia), had heard enough. He was tired of all these jet setters coming to Ireland with their open minds and critical thinking skills -- where had all the unfriendly twats who bullied him throughout his childhood gone?
At some point in the line of questioning, I volunteered that we would be participating in a kind of work exchange at a farm. Big mistake. Huge.
Off to airport prison it was with us. We were escorted to a glass cube and locked inside to await further probing. Our passports, phones, and computers had been confiscated from us and remained in the custody of the Irish Republic, presumably so that they could all be reverse engineered and used as tools in enhanced sheep courtship rituals.
In airport jail, life comes to a grinding halt. You just kind of sit there and wait around to be summoned, like a taxi driver except without the chain smoking and blown out Arabic pop music on the airwaves. An indeterminable period of mind numbing monotony passed and our man finally came back to settle the score.
'I am prepared to grant you permission to enter Ireland on the condition that you secure paid accommodation. And under no circumstances are you to participate in any manner of work exchange. Are we clear?'
We nodded affirmatively, mustering just enough composure to save any choice words for a less consequence riddled forum. We moped out into the nation of Ireland feeling like a couple of cowboys stripped of their spurs. The whole experience was like getting roofied by someone you met through a premium dating service -- it's not supposed to happen, but that doesn't make you feel any less violated after it does." (End Journal)
As soon as we made it out of the airport, everything changed in a heartbeat -- it turns out that the people of Ireland are some of the most hospitable and charismatic of anywhere we've been in the world. Everything pulsates with an old-timey charm and festive spirit.
We sought to immediately resolve the little bit of lingering tension that remained with us. Opting for a Guinness directed therapy session over piping hot platters of fish and chips. We picked our restaurant blindly from the multitude available in the O'Connell Street area, which is where our hotel for the night was located. It took almost no time at all for the unparalleled congeniality of the Irish people to completely erase any reservations we harbored about our welcome here -- everyone had a kind word or a joke for us, including but not limited to people on the bus, fellow restaurant patrons, bartenders, and random passerby. We came to experience exceptional hospitality as a rule in Ireland, constantly being made to feel at home regardless of how many miles or time zones we were from our family and friends back in San Diego.
The verdict arrived in lopsided fashion -- Irish people good, Irish bureaucrat (small sample size) bad.
Important add-on from Becca
Upon our arrival at Mec Hostel in Dublin, we had an email from one Mr. M, our favorite immigration control officer, insisting that although he had already let us into the country, we were to forward on proof of our accommodation for the rest of our stay in Ireland. (This after he had demanded to keep copies of our passports, travel insurance, flight confirmation for our departure from the country, and bank account statements.) We ended up volleying emails back and forth with dear ol' Mr. M through our entire 3+ week stay, even overhearing a phone conversation he had with our gracious host, late on a Saturday night, to further ensure that we were not breaking any of the restrictions he had placed over us. And now, after we have left his country of Ireland, we are still in contact with he-who-shall-not-be-named, the angry Irish fellow, to guarantee that we have indeed left his country. This just goes to show that no matter who you are, or how well-traveled you may be, your access to any given country can change based on the side of the bed your randomly-picked-customs-agent wakes up on in the morning.
*Name has been changed to protect the bastard.