I strode through the streets of Dublin as the rain pattered and echoed from every direction. I had thought about my umbrella, assuming that I’d forgot it back at my apartment, but I dismissed the thought as I found myself in the mirage of pedestrians swiftly passing by like blurred colors through the rain. Everyone was galloping through sidewalk puddles, standing at the ends of crosswalks with scarves (those soggy shields growing damper on their heads), umbrellas flipping inverted from the wind. A beautiful mess, really. Suddenly I remembered that I hadn’t forgotten my umbrella. I remembered that it had been sitting idly in my backpack right behind me. I still had quite a long walk ahead of me, but I decided to leave the umbrella in my bag. I thought, “alright, this is Ireland. Just take it all in. Be a sponge.” I got home drenched in Ireland’s finest, but also with a strange contentment of perspective and attitude.
As I sat reading on the floor of Trinity College Dublin the next day, a group of Irish students made their way to the open space next to me and I noticed that they’d begun discussing American politics. As an American, I felt a slight urge to intervene and assert my political stance (even though 100% of the conversation was 0% my business). But as they continued their conversation, I remembered how I felt when I got home the evening before– dripping in rain, but content with my choice to accept the weather without thinking about whether or not I enjoy walking in the rain. I thought about how I might feel if I’d adopted the same attitude while listening to the group of students talk about the very social issues that affect my life at home. So, instead of pulling out my political umbrella, I reminded myself to be a sponge– to listen to the dialogue for the purpose of understanding, rather than for the purpose of arguing; to ditch my biases and to absorb the conversation with a clean slate.
A few days later, as I sat on the patio of Trinity College Dublin’s on-campus pub and restaurant, three university employees sat at the other half of the picnic table on which I was sitting. Almost immediately, I’d found myself as a fly on the wall (again) listening to another political debate with its focus on the U.S. This time, however, I had no initial desire to pull out the political umbrella. I didn’t necessarily change my perspective on political discourse because I decided to walk through the rain; walking through the rain taught me how to develop a better attitude in response to the inevitable. I learned that, despite who has which political stance and why, you can’t learn much about a culture if you’re constantly shielding all of the learning opportunities it throws at you– that umbrellas never let you really feel the rain.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.