OCEAN CITY — As my parents drove me the 100 miles from my home in Belfast, Ireland, to Dublin airport on the rainy morning of July 8, the thought that within a few hours I could be in sunny Maryland kept me awake despite the horribly early start. This idea was only partly realized.
Having always travelled with friends or family on previous trips, I found being alone on this journey a daunting prospect. With three different flights to catch and four airports involved, any number of things could go wrong. The first leg of my journey from Dublin to JFK then La Guardia by shuttle bus was plain sailing, so to speak. However, extreme weather conditions and a missing crew (seriously) delayed my connection to Philadelphia from New York and, by the time we landed, my flight on to Salisbury airport had been cancelled outright.
I secured standby on a flight the next morning and settled in for a night in the airport. I had made it to America, but it wasn’t sunny in Philadelphia.
Unlike the majority of students working in Ocean City this summer, I enjoy the advantage of having relatives in the area who kindly welcomed me when my flight eventually arrived. My first trip to America began with Fractured Prune donuts, a far cry from the poor imitations available in Ireland, and a strong cup of tea, a tasty mixture of both Irish and American influence. As my parents had both visited the states in the 80s, they were able to fill me in on what to expect on my arrival, but the reality only fully sank in on my first trip to the Boardwalk.
Although Ireland isn’t the warmest of places, there are beaches and vacation areas, and I’d been to resorts in France, Spain and Croatia in the past, but none of these come close to the Boardwalk here.
Standing at the end of Talbot Street watching the beach and Boardwalk running parallel to the crests of the Atlantic breakers and surrounded by street performers, the smell of warm, fresh popcorn, and countless shops and restaurants, it fully dawned on me that I was a long way from home. ‘Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Ireland anymore’, I thought to myself.
The family connection also afforded me the advantage of being able to secure a summer job with ease as my hosts own five stores on the Ocean City Boardwalk. So, by Monday, July 10, I was hard at work in temperatures I’d never imagined possible. The average day in a shop on the Boardwalk simply doesn’t exist.
Part of the purpose of my time here was my intention to experience a new culture, but with such a multi-cultural demographic visiting the Boardwalk, I find myself immersed in learning about cultures from all over the world. My new colleagues range from Romanian and Moldovan to Nepali and Israeli, while in previous jobs in Ireland my colleagues had always been Irish.
Learning the languages of people I meet has always been a habit so being able to learn a few phrases of Nepali, Romanian or Hebrew in exchange for teaching some Irish phrases to my colleagues has been a great experience. The Irish language is usually hard enough to understand without a thick Nepali accent, but it has helped me get to know my colleagues well and work never feels like much of a task.
Breaks from work usually comprise finding somewhere new and interesting to have lunch. The pizza slices on the Boardwalk are nothing short of excellent, while a few blocks off the Boardwalk the sandwiches in Anthony’s, with meat cut right off the bone, are phenomenal.
Such variety and the opportunity to try something new is an excellent feature of Ocean City and in my six weeks here I aim to try as many different restaurants as possible.
My first experience of Ocean City nightlife had an oddly British twist to it. On Thursday July 21, I saw the visit of “Almost Queen,” a tribute to Queen, at the Purple Moose bar. Accompanied by one of my hosts, I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with excellent music. Ocean City at night is very similar to any Irish town on most nights with students and police on the streets, but with the animosity evident between the two back home not apparent here. The atmosphere is refreshing and friendly.
Ever since I began to play guitar over 15 years ago, I was fascinated not only by the instrument itself, but by the manufacturing process as well so when the opportunity of a guided tour of the PRS factory in Stevensville was mentioned I couldn’t wait to go. Following the production process from a solid block of wood to a beautifully crafted and finished guitar lived up to all my expectations and gave me a deeper understanding of the instrument.
After the tour, the small matter of a family wedding to attend brought me into contact with relatives I didn’t know I had. The location was stunning from the church to the Boat Club reception. However, I didn’t have the camera I bought specifically for this trip with me to photograph the view of the Bay Bridge stretching out toward Annapolis.
Overall, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable first three weeks in Ocean City. Only now am I becoming more accustomed to the currency, the accents and the heat and I hope my second three weeks will be just as enjoyable.