My drive through the Dingle peninsula was perhaps the most inspiring and unforgettable moment of my trip through Ireland. It was fantastic to be able to drive on a nearly deserted road for prolonged periods of time and having the ability to pull over and take in the breathtaking views.

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On the morning of a brisk October day, I went out in my hired car and drove towards the edge of Dingle facing the Atlantic. The drive was a few hours long and involved remote, picturesque areas and a few small towns scattered in-between. A few road signs. Mostly of the humorous sort.

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Ironically, I had to park the car on the edge of the cliff to take this picture.

Most signs are there for your own good.

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My first encounter with another person that day was with a lady who was walking on the wet, cold asphalt. She was wearing a dark woolen coat, dark hosiery, and what looked like some very uncomfortable shoes with a small square heel. I noticed she wasn’t wearing an umbrella, even though it was raining, which was odd to me. I realized soon enough that most people in Ireland don’t bother with umbrellas. Whether it be in the city or out in the countryside, people use their hoodies, hats or whatever they have on them as cover from the rain. I saw some people running, others crouching under some overhang of a building, but most of them just went about their business disregarding the rain. I also noticed that in Ireland, rain comes and goes throughout the day. It sprinkles, it floods. The clouds release the rain sometimes in areas of 100 square feet, and sometimes they have full blown storms, the size of which I’ve never seen before. All in one day.

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Cloudy. Sunlit. Cloudy.

I was surprised that as I drove closer, she flagged me down and asked me for lift. I noticed this hitchhiking culture throughout Ireland on my travels, therefore I picked her up. Once she was in the car, I thought to myself, “What a treat! A real local to talk to so she can answer all my questions about how life was out here in the remote west.” I came to Ireland with the notion that the Irish were chatty by genetics, that they all had this prodigious “gift of gab.”

As I drove down the road, I introduced myself and asked her where I could take her. It was a silly question, since there was only one road that stretched for miles. She replied in a thick Kerry accent, “Just take me up da road der. I’m going to chorch.” And that’s pretty much all she said. She sat there with her purse clenched, looking forward. I could sense that she didn’t trust me. That she didn’t want to talk to me. Yet there she was …

In his book, The Rhetoric of Empire, He states that ” Reporting begins with looking, visual observation is the essence of the reporter’s function as witness. But the gaze upon which the journalist so faithfully relies for knowledge marks an exclusion as well as a privilege: the privilege of inspecting, of examining, of looking at, by its nature excludes the journalist from the human reality constituted as the object of observation: (Spurr 13).  By being there, as a stranger to her, perhaps even a “strange” person because I was a woman traveling alone, I couldn’t say that the encounter I had was enough to validate any sort of social commentary. I was the interloper in her everyday life. I was worthy of observing as she was of being observed.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Encounter

  1. Hi Alma!

    I loved your story, and I feel like the strong point of your posting is that you reverse the othering onto yourself, instead of onto the local. Throughout our readings, we study how travel writers other and idealize the people and cultures being visited, yet you reflect on the fact that you are the strange anomaly in this person’s life. You take a moment to consider life from the perspective of the Irish woman, instead of resorting to unabated ideas of what the Irish people are and how they should be. You clearly state your ideas and notions, but you do not let them dominate the discussion. I can see less enlightened perspectives expressing extreme disappointment out of the exchange with the Irish lady because she failed to live up to the image and expectations of the Irish culture.

    I love that you included photos of your trip, but I did notice that you described yourself as traveling alone. So I have to ask, who took the photos? I feel like you can add more to your story about coming across locals who took photos of you and your car.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alma!
    What a great story! I loved your photos and your perspective of the situation with the hitchhiker. Your blog is really pretty! Great connections to “observer/observed” and cultural stereotypes.

    Liked by 1 person

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