When I arrived, I had to get dishes, and quick. There are no meal plans here, so I cook every meal for myself. I thought cooking for myself was going to be a lot more frustrating than it has been so far; we have a nice kitchen with induction burners, a fridge, a freezer, a sink, cabinets, and shelves. Grocery stores nearby (the most common ones are Centra, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Dunnes) are anywhere from 10-30 minutes away by bus, and there is small store about a ten minute walk away from my apartment. There’s also a small grocery store on campus, although it is more expensive than other stores, so I do my major shopping off campus and run to the store on campus if I need little things to get me through the week.
However, all of the grocery stores in the world do no good without dishes to cook the food with. The first few days here were a bit of a struggle in the food department. I found one tupperware container, so I made sandwiches on top of the lid of that container for the first few days. I also managed to purchase one jar of peanut butter, a plastic knife, and a few apples, so those were my breakfasts.
By the time I had figured out how to ride the bus and navigate to IKEA, I was so excited to have a real plate. I loaded my cart with a bowl, a cup, two plates, silverware, a pan, a pot, and a spatula. However, the victory was bittersweet--as anyone who knows me can attest, I’ve never been a fan of mass-produced products. I hate having the same stuff as everyone else. And truly, I had the same stuff as everyone else. Everyone in our flat has the exact same IKEA plates. And I really hate it.
So while only IKEA fit my budget and my time constraints for my kitchen needs, I couldn’t bring myself to buy a mug. A mug is something special; it’s up late with you, it helps you get through early mornings, it shares your “aha” moments or gives you the only shred of sanity you have left in life by means of the last sip of tea. I just couldn’t live with an IKEA mug staring at me from the shelf.
I waited. A mug chooses the human, not the other way around. As I visited tourist sites with friends, each gift shop boasted cheap souvenir mugs that all looked the same. Nope, not yet. The tea bags I had bought sat, cold and unused, on the shelf.
Until one day, my mug found me. I was on a school trip to visit archaeological sites around Ireland (we visited a portal tomb that is 6,000+ years old, a convent that has been a site of continual Christian worship for 1200 years, and the ruins of the castle that is considered to be the beginning of Great Britain’s colonization of Ireland! Wow!) and we stopped in a small village for lunch. I had brought a sandwich along, so I set off to explore a bit, munching as I went. I took a turn and stumbled across a tiny farmers market, and there, in the middle of the tents, was a woman selling pottery.
Within seconds of striking up a conversation with the potter, I knew I had found
my mug. I carried it home in my bag, safely nestled in my sweater. I love it dearly. It fits my hand just right, and it seems to hold the perfect amount of tea. And every time I brew myself a cup, I think of the lovely woman who made it with her own hands so that I can enjoy it for years to come. I love that it is an actual piece of Ireland, not just a souvenir that says "Ireland" on it. It is unique and made with love. My magnificent mug took its time finding me, but it was worth the wait.