Arriving!Written by Sadhbh Quinn,
Sea Synergy summer intern 2016
The rare Irish sun beamed off the sleek green finish of the Paddywagon tour bus as it trundled, black-eyed and beetle-like, along the coastal road of the Iveragh Peninsula.
We were steadily approaching the little sea-side haven of Waterville town and a collective ‘ooooooh’-ing erupted from within the bus every few minutes or so as it periodically ambled into view of the heaving Atlantic ocean, draped in a finery of billowing cerulean robes and crowned in the magnificent dark jewels of the storm-sculpted Skelligs.
The gleaming emerald cuticle of the tour bus blended well with the myriad of fresh green and blue hues which swathed the countryside. But inside sat an even more colorful bunch, an eclectic gaggle of friendly Am
erican and German tourists, and one slightly misplaced Dublin girl.
I had rather brilliantly decided to arrive for my new job on a Bank holiday , and with the only local bus invariably out of action, I instead turned to the reliable and increasingly thriving tourism sector of South Kerry for salvation. I booked myself onto a Ring of Kerry tour with the aim of hopping off at my stop halfway through. The Paddywagon operat
ors were amazingly nice about my customized trip – even for ‘down the country’ as we insular Dubliners tend to label the rest of Ireland - they even agreed to stash my bike for free!
Invariably while trying to manoeuvre the unwieldy thing beneath the bus (my bike was temporarily serving as a packhorse strapped with what looked like enough supplies to last an expedition through the Arctic) I was forced to ask for help from the jovial, mischievous-looking bus
driver, Paul. The result was the immediate detection of my Dublin accent and my appointment as the honourary mascot for the trip.
I was welcomed with open arms and twinkling eye onto the bus as Paul made a show of getting me to sit in the fold-out front seat beside him at the very front. He also insisted on referring to me as his ‘co-pilot’ and made a point of asking me every 10 minutes to sing a song ‘as Gaeilge’ through the crackling microphone-
headset into which he was giving his spiel. I strategically declined by informing him that the only tune I knew in Irish was the national anthem (and not well at that) to which he responded by throwing his eyes to heaven in blustered disappointment and hastily withdrawing the mouthpiece from my side of the bus. Paul turned out to be mighty craic all together and the 2 hour trip flew by in various bouts of hilarity and uproar!
Attending IT Tralee and doing a course in Wildlife Biology, which emphasises field work and the outdoors, I felt I had some grasp of the beauty of the Kerry landscape from my various expeditions north of the county. I soon realised, while I ogled, open-mouthed, right along with my far-flung companions, that I was sorely mistaken. I had no idea, even after two years living in the Kingdom, not the slightest inkling, of what lay a mere skip, hop and one somewhat ludicrous Paddwag
on down the road from my front door.
I got the job with Marine Biologist Lucy Hunt at Sea Synergy Marine Awareness Centre through my uncle, who met Lucy queuing for lunch at a business conference in Dublin, and evidently did a good job of talking me up! The more I heard about the project in Waterville, the more excited and inspired I became by the prospect of spending the summer not only gaining invaluable experience in a field I am passionate about, but also to be a part of a project that contributes something positive to the world. In these times, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of the numbing violence, audacious self-interest and political apathy to the plight of fellow humans, wildlife and the environment we all call home.
Finally, here was something I could DO! Something good, something tangible and something that was encouraging and facilitating the type of sorely-needed respect for our finite natural resources and rich natural heritage that will be what sustains us into the next generations.
Nothing was going to stop me getting there on time - it's not advisable to show up late on the very first day of a dream job after all!
And so I arrived in Waterville (bank holiday or no bank holiday), wheeling the handlebars of my pack-horse in one hand and wielding a tent in the other - butterflies threatening to burst from my stomach in the familiar aching excitement and anticipation of a new journey - I entered the pretty white-washed shop front with the blue whale-tail sticking out above the door and the quirky window boxes of daftly nodding sea pink waving me inside and began a new chapter in my story. The one about connection, compassion a
nd giving back!
Little did I know the inspiring people I would meet and the awesome adventures that awaited me – both on land and the high seas!
And it's still only just begun!