As we slowly drove up the gravel path to the old wrought iron gate that fenced in the farm house, I realized that I felt like I was in a dream. While this feeling would persist for the entire weekend stay, its apex was this very moment. My mind wandered back, examining the incredible feats of fate that aligned like stars in order for this to be happening. Here I was, halfway across the world from everything and everyone I ever knew, meeting an old friend for the first time. I knew his face and I knew his voice. We had shared laugh after laugh, and even a few emotional heart to heart talks, all through a screen. And now I was meeting him and his family for the first time (and hopefully not the last)!
It all started nearly ten years ago. Steve and I met randomly, by chance, on a game called Left 4 Dead. After a few laughs and inside jokes, a friendship was born. I would dare say a brotherhood of sorts. We’ve played Xbox together as much as we could over the past ten years. We swore we would meet each other someday, and we nearly did three years ago when I was in Ireland for the first time. Unfortunately, it was a more regimented school trip unlike this wonderful study abroad experience, so I was unable to meet him.
The farm Steve’s family owns goes back generations. Currently, they have six or seven dogs (I honestly lost count!), a handful of cats, and two horses. You could say I died and went to heaven. His family are wonderful, and opened up their home to me without a second thought. The first night I was there, the sky opened up and the rain poured down. So we all sat around and drank both tea and coffee. We talked about life, history, aliens, his father Jimmy’s very interesting past, my family, some juicy drama that I won’t share (sorry!) and much more. We talked for three hours, but it felt much shorter than that. His parents went out to the “local” ( their go to pub), but we three, (Steve, Shauna and I) opted to stay in. We sat back and talked some more while American Dad played in the background and the rain softly kissed the roof.
The next day, Saturday, was lovely weather. In this case, that means it only rained for the first half of the day, and the rest was sunny and beautiful. We spent the majority of the day at his in- laws house. I had also played Xbox with them and they wanted to meet me. I was quizzed on Irish names and if I had ever heard of them. Names such as Aodghan (eh-gawn) and Crónán (crow-nawn) were alien to me. But there were a few that I had heard before.
We left ravenous with hunger, and arrived at the farm to a most pleasing sight: curry and cheese chips (french fries) with sausage. I think it was one of the greatest meals of my entire life. Steve’s mother had been kind enough to make it for us, and when we asked her if both her and Jimmy had eaten already she looked at us and laughed, saying “ Of course we did! We were starving!” We may have come back a bit later than expected…
It was still sunny out, and I was dying for a walk around the property. Due to the earlier rain, the river had flooded, making it harder than expected. But we prevailed, and I got some great pictures. They took me to the abandoned mill, which was bustling until it was shut down in 1920. We made plans for the next time I visited. We plan on wading across the river and exploring the other side.
That night we decided to end our day together with what brought us together in the first place: video games. Steve and Shauna showed me a phenomenal game called SpeedRunners, in which you race around a map at high speeds trying to knock the other person out of view of the screen. You win once this is done three times. The game gets continually harder as the screen begins to shrink. After playing this late into the night, we went out to look at the stars, as there is about zero light pollution where they are. I’ve always been fascinated with the stars and the night sky, and where I’m from we definitely don’t see as many as they do.
The next morning we woke up and brought Shauna to work. Steve and his dad then dropped me off at the train station. Steve sat with me as I waited for the train, and we made plans to see each other again. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful to them for opening up their hearts and homes to me. I can’t wait for the next time.
I’m Patrick Davin. I’m from Marshfield, Massachusetts and I study professional writing, specifically editing and publishing. In my spare time I love to read science fiction and fantasy novels, play video games, explore nature, and listen to music. To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram