Most of the time, Ireland is a magical wonderland. You can sit on the top floor of double-decker buses and watch as they almost run over old ladies. You can buy a champagne-sized bottle of cider for 4 euro. They put milk and sugar in their tea. So I thought that maybe, just maybe, going to the Immigration Office would defy the American stereotype of public offices. Maybe there wouldn’t be a huge line that moved at glacial speed. Maybe everyone in line wouldn’t look like they wanted to kill the people behind the desk and/or themselves. Maybe the slow hands of justice wouldn’t be so agonizingly slow here!
Public offices are as beige and monotonous in Ireland as they are in the States. But when I walked into the Garda office in Cork at 9 on a Friday morning, I was excited. I was also sleep-deprived and hungry, maybe more so than I was excited.
Before Hannah went to Spain she had to get a Spanish student visa. She woke up one weekday morning before 7 am, drove to Boston, and waited at the Spanish Embassy for her name to be called so she could present her paperwork. When she told me where she was going, I cringed at the words “Spanish Embassy” and wished her luck like she was walking into battle.
So when I found out that I didn’t need a visa to study in Ireland, I almost high-fived myself. Yes! One less thing I have to worry about. Eventually I found out that there is another entire set of hoops that you have to jump through in order to be legal to live in Ireland for five months. The procedure includes trudging down to the Immigration Office and presenting your passport and an array of other documents to someone behind a desk, taking a mugshot-style picture, and forking over 300 euro.
Before that day, I believed I was pretty invincible. I have a pretty good immune system and managed to come away from a mono scare unscathed. Much like Hannah, I assumed that fainting only happened to other weaklings and not me, obviously. But after an hour and a half of waiting, just before it was my turn to present my documents, I started to feel dizzy. My hands tingled. Then all my limbs tingled. I felt warm, and the edges of my vision blurred and turned black. My roommates maintain that my face was a beautiful combination of pale/green. They immediately sat me down, fed me water and gum (which was sugar free and probably didn’t do anything to help me, but hey, it’ the thought that counts), and even asked a man behind the “general queries” counter if he had a granola bar I could eat to get my blood sugar up. He laughed at them, but technically it was a general query. I felt pretty lucky that morning that I had found such good people here.
So I didn’t end up actually fainting, but I had fun for the rest of the day wondering what would have happened if I did. Would they have turned me away? Maybe Ireland would have deemed me unworthy; clearly I couldn’t handle it. But I fooled them and walked away with my brand new ID card and a feeling of accomplishment. So, as of this week I am an official student immigrant, legal to live here until the end of May. I was issued an Irish Immigration Card with a photo that makes me look like a very serious ghost.
I feel more legitimate already. Maybe soon people will stop pointing out that I’m American as I walk down the street.
Probably not, though.
We stole our friend Tobin’s idea, (shout out to Tobin,) and are now collecting badly-placed leaning/pinching pictures. We’re determined to have no actual decent pictures of us by the time we leave Ireland.
We also have Photoshop-gifted friends who are planning an album of us walking away from buildings that poorly-photoshopped-exploding.
And for old time’s sake, here’s a Julie-Doing-Yoga-In-Weird-Places. Wish you had been there to photograph it, Hann. #hannahandjulieabroad