Monday, December 15, 2014

I Stole The Sign: An American Political Scientist in Ireland

If you visited Ireland in the first half of 2012 you no doubt noticed the giant "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" political signs tacked to anything and everything that stood upright. At the time of my visit, Ireland was embroiled in a heated referendum to "Vote Yes" or "Vote No" on joining the European Stability Treaty--which essentially acts as a "bailout" for EU states in dire financial straits. *

One of the very first things that I saw upon landing in Ireland were those signs. Having graduated from university with a degree in political science the year before and in Ireland to study the laws of the European Union, I was incredibly excited to learn about the referendum. In addition, I'm a huge Downton Abbey fan, and this seemed right up the alley of my favorite character, the outspoken-socialist-chauffeur-turned-husband of manor-born Lady Sybil Tom Branson.  From the very first day in Ireland I had one goal, to get one of those signs for my very own.  I didn't know how I would get one (because climbing up on a light pole seemed dangerous if not slightly illegal--and arrest would get me kicked out of my program) but I was determined to get one.  I would bide my time until the vote, and then see if I could possibly find one to stuff into my suitcase.

On 31 May, 2012, Ireland voted "Yes" on the Treaty, to the chagrin of Sinn Finn. And to my delight, the signs began to be taken down. I had spent the day with a friend shopping on Grafton Street in Dublin and was in the cab back to my university when I noticed that some of the signs had been taken off the light poles and shoved behind them or against rubbish bins, likely to be picked up at a later time. 

Memorizing the route, I doubled back once the cabbie let me out at my university’s gate and headed back in that direction. There was only one problem: it was much farther (like a lot!) on foot than I’d anticipated.

As the sun sank lower and lower in the sky, I was beginning to feel a little foolhardy. But I kept walking, no one else was going to come home with an Irish political sign in her suitcase (partially because no one else was crazy enough to walk a few miles alone on the outskirts of Dublin after dark). Just as the sun had finally sunk, I saw it—a bright green “Vote Yes!” sign stuffed between a pole and a rubbish bin. Running madly across four lanes of traffic, I finally laid my hands on it.

As I walked back, I tried to pretend this, walking with a giant sign under your arm, was totally natural. Doesn’t everyone do this? Then a darker thought came to me: What if I was stopped by the Garda? Do I run? I couldn’t possibly run with the sign, the wind resistance alone would do me in, I would have to drop the sign if I chose to run—and I wasn’t dropping the sign, that wasn't an option. 

Staying in the shadows, I finally made it back onto campus and back to my dormitory building. It was nearly two hours since I’d set off in the first place. However, I now had the sign in my possession. 

Back in my dorm with my sign
Safely back in my dorm, I was triumphant, "I got it! I got it!" I yelled over and over again, even going next door to show it off to some of my other friends. 

“How are you going to get that home?” a suite-mate (ever the practical party-pooper) asked me.

I didn't know, all I knew is that when I had to go home, I’d have a little piece of the Irish political process tucked away in my suitcase. 

"You stole a sign?!" asked another friend (the moral compass of our tiny, rowdy group), incredulous.

"I didn't steal it," I protested, "It was probably just going to get thrown away!" He just shook his head. 

The sign now hangs in my bedroom, a huge reminder of such a good adventure and an amazing time in my life. I had to fold it a few times (which wasn't easy considering it's industrial strength makeup) but I managed to fit it in my suitcase and get it back to America. But fortunately it is still in great condition. 

So what's something crazy that you've done abroad? Tell me in the comments or tweet me @calleysofalley, I want to hear from you!!!

Thanks for reading!!! I hope you enjoyed! Until next time!


*For more information on the Referendum, click here

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