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Leave it to a Frenchman to finally get me to begin to understand Ireland

In one of my first days in Dublin, I signed up to get my cool yellow wristband for the gym.  Planning ahead, I already had my workout clothes on, eager to check the place out.  I looked around the gym, walking by a raging spin class, checking out the pool and the pretty girls pretending to work out on the elliptical machines.  Finally, after some searching, I looked down on what I had heard about in whispers but could not believe before seeing it with my own eyes: a full size basketball court.

            An avid amateur basketball enthusiast back in the states, I had inquired to both my CIEE friends and DCU staff about the ability to play pick-up basketball at DCU and garnered mixed responses.  Was pick-up even a thing here?  Maybe at certain times?  Must we provide our own balls?  I shivered at the thought of four months without basketball, especially with college basketball now in full swing.
            As I walked around investigating and looking lost, I was approached by three guys my age who had a little difficulty communicating.  Through broken English and a lot of exaggerated gesturing, we established that they too, were international students (from Paris) who were also looking to play basketball.  We asked the DCU staff, who informed us that we would need to rent out the court for 30 euro an hour.  We politely and definitively declined, and I parted with my French friends in favor of the weight room.  We defeated the language barrier by wishing each other best of luck for the upcoming semester.
            The next night, my friends and I definitely did not go out to a bar in Temple Bar.  Because Temple Bar is totally for tourists, not locals like we were after four days in Dublin.  But let’s just say we were in the Temple Bar District.  For simplification purposes?  Anyway, as we hung out listening to some awesome live music, I got a tap on the shoulder.  As I was facing my friends, I thought who would ever tap me on the shoulder after the four short days I spent here?  I turned to find a face that took me a second to recognize.  It was one of my new French friends!  His name was Victor.  We laughed about our failed basketball explorations, added each other on Facebook, and of course took a picture together.
            Seeing Victor at the bar (and many times at lunch, around campus, etc.) helped me begin to realize what a small city Dublin is and what a small country Ireland is, especially in comparison to the U.S.A.  When I tell my new Irish friends I have family in Galway, they ask where, because chances are they might know a neighbor or mutual friend.  It is a concept hard to grasp coming from such a large country, but I feel like it makes for a more tight-knit community and culture here.  It is one of the many cultural differences I have come across as I settle in.  And in case you were interested in joining, Victor and I now play basketball together each Tuesday night at the DCU gym.


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