Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strange Sounds

This is a story from a few years ago that I remembered. I haven't been able to tell anyone about it until now, because blogger has so many lovely features that let you include photos and videos.
It's a long story, but if you've got a few minutes you might enjoy it.
(Note: you need audio for this post. So grab some headphones if you don't have speakers).

It's 2003. I'm in London. I've just finished a term abroad studying art history with a group from my university. I decided that I wanted to go to Ireland by myself for three weeks before returning to the states. So while I was in London I re-arranged all of my flight plans and got sketchy details on how to get to the Stansted airport from a man at my hotel.

I have to wake up at 4:30 am so I can take the tube (subway) to the train to the airport for my morning flight. The tube was okay, the train was more confusing, but I finally made it to the airport. But I couldn't find the desk where they checked bags. After looking for awhile, I realized that it was only 45 minutes until my flight left, so I hustled and found the baggage check desk around a corner that I didn't see. I showed my ticket to the lady and she looked alarmed and said, "They're already boarding. I don't know if they'll let you in to the gates." That freaked me out, but she hurried me through and I ran to the gate security checkpoint. The men there looked at my pass and looked at each other and said, "I don't think we can let her through. It's really late." I was terrified, but I pled a little and they let me through, and I ran to the gate.

While waiting at the gate I noticed that I wasn't holding my passport. I looked through my bag and a whole new wave of alarm went through me. I couldn't find it at all. When had I had it last? At the hotel? They didn't check it when I got my boarding pass. I bet it was in my checked bag. It had to be there, because it wasn't in my carry-on. So I headed for the gate hoping that they didn't check before I got on the plane.

They didn't. I made it safely on the plane and headed for Dublin. The plane ride was okay except for the landing. We have a theory going that the airline I chose was the one they trained new pilots on. Needless to say, I did a little death-bed repentance during the slide across the tarmac.

I stepped off of the plane and went rigid with panic as I saw a giant sign hanging in the air above me, "PASSPORT CONTROL." The passengers were all filing past me and walking up to a counter where a man was sitting and checking each of their passports as they went by. The line was moving steadily, and passport control guy wasn't taking anyone's passport, just looking at them as they held them up going by. So I decided to try being tricky.

I hopped in the line of people moving towards him, and waited until the last possible second, until I was the person he was looking at. Then I played dumb and went, "Oh!" as if to say, "Oh! You want to see my passport! Whoops, better find it." Then I rummaged through my money belt, pulled the papers out, went through them one-by-one, then opened my carry on and started rummaging through that. The line was building up behind me. Control guy got really annoyed and said, "Just go ahead." Because he knew that I had it, I just hadn't bothered to pull it out in time. I said a quick, "Thanks!" as if to say, "thanks for helping me with my stupidity today," and then I ran like hell.

I got my checked bags and went through them one by one looking for my passport and couldn't find it anywhere. That meant a trip to the U.S. Embassy for me.

I had prepared a lot for my trip to Ireland. I remember my mom being concerned that I hadn't thought everything through, and I remember telling her on the phone the exact number of the bus that I took from the airport to the city center. She sounded impressed and I was real proud of myself. But finding the bus was one thing, and then once I got on the bus and we started to reach the city center, I realized I had no idea how to get to my B&B once I got off of the bus.

Great. Well, I had the address of the B&B. As the bus pulled up to the city center stop, I saw about 7 taxis waiting there. Apparently they just lay in wait for young tourists who have no idea where their hotels are. I had hardly any money, but I didn't have any other choice. I hopped in a cab and gave the driver the address, and we set off!... For less than 3 minutes. The B&B was about 3 or so blocks away.

Ok, finally I'm there and I can't wait to change my clothes and take a nap. I had spoken with the B&B owner on the phone two days ago, and she made sure to ask me what time I was coming in so that she could be there to unlock the door for me (1:00pm). So I knocked. No answer.

I checked my watch. It was 1:20pm. She should definitely be here. I knocked again. No answer. I knocked for about 5 minutes before I gave up.

So, now I'm alone in a foreign country, I'm exhausted because I woke up at 4:30am, the train, the airport, passport control, the bus scare, I hadn't eaten anything all day, and now I couldn't get in.

Then it started to rain.

I gave up. I sat down on her front step, I was too tired to cry. I just stared straight ahead of me and wondered how many hours I would sit here in the rain before she came. That's when I heard this:

(If you turn it down low you'll hear it almost exactly as I did)

It was literally coming out of the sky above me. I'm not kidding. It echoed off of the buildings around me. I started to wonder if I was delusional, but then it happened again:

I knew this music from somewhere. It kept repeating, and I had no idea where it was coming from. The rain lightened up to a sprinkle and then the sun came out. The music wasn't coming from a direction, like a neighbor's window, it was just coming down from the sky.

So you have to imagine yourself sitting there in the sunlight listening to this music and feeling completely exhausted but completely exhilarated at the same time. I noticed for the first time that her front garden was filled with roses. Here's a photo:

I was pretty shocked by the contrast of how I felt and what I was hearing. I decided to pull out the Belgian chocolates that I had bought for my mom (in Belgium, no less) and ate one. Then the rain actually stopped. And then behind me the B&B owner opened up the door and asked me, "Why didn't you knock?"

Apparently you can't hear the door well from the back rooms.
I went straight up to my room and slept for the next six hours.

Did you know that Dublin hosted the Special Olympics? In 2003. The opening ceremony was the day after I flew in. Did you also know that they do sound checks the day before to make sure everything sounds okay? Guess where the stadium was. Practically across the street from my B&B. The music you heard (and I heard) was performers from Riverdance doing their sound checks for the next day. As a young girl I watched Riverdance on TV with my Dad and I remembered that song. At the time I thought it was one of the most beautiful, haunting things I had ever heard.

The next day all of the athletes from different countries paraded through the streets outside of my B&B as they made their way to the stadium. I took some pictures, and in this one you can see the top of the stadium in the upper-right:

I really don't know what to say in conclusion. I'm sorry I had to list all of the boring and whiny details from that morning, but it was pretty important to understand how dejected and awful I felt when that happened. It was completely surreal and wonderful.

I have some other good stories from Ireland that I may post in the future. Let me know what you thought of this one.

No comments: