28 Feb

Arriving in New Orleans

‘Y’all mind if I vape up here?’ the woman at the front of the bus hollered back at us.

The three of us left on the airport shuttle glanced at each other and mumbled something. I for one was simply too tired to care what she did. Tired and cold. It was raining.  A lot. I had been sitting beside that same woman on the flight into Louis Armstrong airport. She had warned me about the weather, explaining that that day’s ‘Fat Monday’ events had started early in an attempt to avoid the worst of it. She was right.

‘We’re arriving into some weather here, folks.’ The pilot as we came into land. I looked out at the slick runway, planes and airport buildings reflected in its shiny surface.

The woman at the front of the bus vaped, her legs crossed and resting on the seat in front. She continued her phone conversation, interrupting the driver every few minutes: ‘where we at?’, keeping her phone buddy up to date with precise updates of our slow progress through the aftermath of the day’s parades. She provided a running commentary of our trip from the airport to the guesthouse, with the promise she would be there soon to enjoy some hurricane cocktails.

The two men from Boston, who arrived preloaded with beer and beads around their necks, ready to party had also been keen to track progress to their hotel. While ‘cheering on the blue dot’ on their Google map they discussed their plans with the now vaping lady. ‘Oh my gawd. We’re having shots as soon as we get to wherever we getting to,’ said one of them.

‘They should serve alcohol cocktails through a bus straw from the sky,’ said his buddy.

‘I hope they’re having fun,’ I said, as I layered up in my pajamas and hoodie. Even the guesthouse was cold. I wondered what they were up to, feeling a little defeated. There was a time I would have arrived into a new city and headed straight out for cocktails. We wondered if we were the only ones in New Orleans not out celebrating. ‘Manana,’ I said as I curled up, secretly enjoying the new found wisdom that my mother assured me would come with age. And which lasted until exactly 3 o’clock the next day, Fat Tuesday, when we celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans with far too many hurricane cocktails.

23 Nov

Never Lonely in Iran

As per my previous post, the following is an adapted extract from the story I wrote for A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring true tales from solo women travellers.  

Never Lonely in Iran
Always pack a spare top when heading out for the day in Iran. Today’s lesson, I thought, as I danced at the party. I was baked. My heavy beige long sleeved knee length shirt thing and five euro baggy Tesco trousers were not made for an occasion like this one. I looked at the brightly coloured tunics and the elegant dancing of the women around me, a rainbow of discarded headscarves on the rug. I felt decidedly frumpy. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Clothes to wear to a party hadn’t been on the list of items to squeeze into my rucksack.  Not for a solo trip through Iran and Central Asia. Torch – yes, medication – yes, toilet roll – yes. Nothing about packing for a party.

If they could see me now. With better clothes on, of course. They had reacted in pretty much the same way when I told them what I had planned:

‘Iran? Why?’
‘Huh?’
‘Where?!’
‘But, Iran? Alone?’
‘Ah jaysis.’ (My dad).

As I danced I wondered how I would be able to describe my experiences in Iran to everyone at home. How to tell them about party I was at. Do it justice. The food, the dancing, the laughing. How to put it into words. Words that wouldn’t sound hollow and meaningless. Words that would bring it as alive as I felt then, being part of that evening.  The way I had felt
so often in Iran. The people were oh so kind. So generous. Really lovely. Fascinating. So many stories. A sound bunch of lads. Great banter. Lots of laughs. The craic was mighty. You just had to be there. I knew that with every attempt at description, a part of it would be lost to me. The magic would be chiselled away.

‘Do Irish men dance like that?’ the woman beside me asked, bringing my mind back to the party.

I watched the men move gracefully and thought about parties at home. I pictured my male friends doing the ‘pointy finger dance,’ the ‘air guitar dance,’ or the ‘lepping about like an eejit dance.’

‘Em. Not really. I don’t think Irish men like dancing,’ I said.

‘Iranian men are emotional,’ she said, laughing. ‘I think that is why they like dancing like this.’

I showed her how Irish men dance. She laughed. I smiled. So what if this moment, gossiping about men with a new friend in Iran, couldn’t be captured. It didn’t matter. The moment was mine.

18 Nov

True Travel Tales by Women

I was asked to submit a piece to the pGuide to Travelublication A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring true tales from solo women travellers.

Editor Gemma Thompson was struck by the fact that so many of the books she packed, the travel narratives that accompanied her on the road, were written by men.  Feeling that she herself would have loved a female perspective she went ahead and put together this collection.   With stories by both professional and amateur writers, this on-the-road companion includes witty, inspiring, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable travel tales that have been written by women of all ages, nationalities, backgrounds and experiences.

I chose to write about visiting Iran.  I felt compelled to share a story of my experience in a country that was so at odds with so many of the perceptions people have.  The kindness of the people was never ending and the welcome I received was extraordinary.  The fashion stakes were high – I even received lessons in eye liner application from some young ladies on the train.  I was assured on a number of occasions ‘we are not like our government.’  Along with the fun, the make up and the parties, many of the women I met were very open about the difficulties they face, from the headscarves they have to wear to the difficulties of being anyway independent or living alone.  The story I chose to tell was of being at a party in Iran.  I enjoyed an evening of chatting, dancing and eating in a roomful of friendly people and hope to go back and do it all again some day.

Stay posted – I will include an extract from the story in a later post.