Angel of Dublin

September 14, 2010

I met Angel at Slattery's, a local pub frequented by the young, tech folks working for Google and Facebook. Angel's a Chinese immigrant and Slattery's is one of three jobs she's working while putting herself through school to get the European equivalent of an MBA. It was clear that she's a hard worker and ambitious, eventually wanting to start her own business. But for a lot of immigrants, the opportunities (especially in Dublin these days) are limited.

"Angel" (whose real name is Hui Fang) was amused that the more I drank, the more my eyes closed to a squint. Must be a function of old age because it's been commented on more and more. She was intrigued that I was from New York and I would drop in and visit her for a pint now and again to visit with her. She always knew I wanted a Guinness and somehow always had the correct change waiting for me before I even payed her.

The Chinese are incredibly hospitable, she said, even giving up their own beds for guests and she insisted on showing me a good time in Dublin. That I was her American "guest." I couldn't argue and we made plans to go see a movie and then perhaps go dancing later.

Dublin has a lot of immigrants. In fact, most of the people I've met weren't Irish at all. They were Spanish and Romanian, Chinese, French, Moroccan, Mexican, Slovakian. They also tend to get paid less than the comparable Irish worker, but certainly more than they'd be making at home, so there's some understandable hostility and resentment toward the hand that's feeding them.

A lot of immigrants, like Hui Fang, come over to learn English which means they end up with some hybrid of an Irish brogue superimposed over their original accent. In Hui Fang's case, it was rather cute, but I must admit that I struggled to understand her here and there. Since she's only learned English in the last few years, she also struggles a bit to understand English and goes to the movies regularly, which I imagine is good practice. Though in hindsight, perhaps it wasn't terribly wise to take her to see Inception of all movies. Difficult enough for an English-speaker to follow, much less someone already struggling with comprehension.

We took the bus into town and went to a Chinese grocery store so we could sneak snacks into the theatre. I was pretty lost in there and we ended up with some round textured crunchy nuts that were a bit too sweet, some dried chewy strands of salty yellow fish fiber, some sweet creamy gelatin to be slurped out of plastic shot cups, and some green tea drinks. As we covertly opened our snacks under the cover of darkness and the dried fish rose to meet me, it occurred to me that we were likely the only people in the theatre eating some kind of contraband fish gut. There's something special in that.

We went to a pub after and exchanged stories and relationship history. Was this a date, I started to wonder? Hard to be sure. But Angel was refreshingly forward about asking me questions and forthright about answering. I admired her for striving so hard to better herself and told her I'd be happy to show her around New York if she ever visited. After we went to a disco and met her friends, a couple of lovely young Brazilian girls. The club was playing songs like Kool and the Gang's Celebration and Let's Hear It for the Boy, but based on the crowds overwhelming approval, I'm pretty sure they weren't doing it ironically like in some New York borough's. Angel ran to get me drinks regularly (against my protests) and I talked with her friends. One of them, a lovely blonde started making out with a young punter who she apparently kind of knew and I talked to the other about Dublin and places to travel in Europe. When Angel returned, after a short consultation, she insisted her friend liked me and tried her best to get me to pay attention to her. If this is hospitality in China, I certainly can't complain.

After a stop at Burger King for the girls, we ended the night ridiculously late and not a little tipsy, despite the fact that I was meeting Carolyn in Edinburgh the next day for the Fringe Festival. I promised to help Angel with her resume when I got back and that we'd watch another movie together, perhaps Gone with the Wind, which she had downloaded online.

"Gone with the Wind, huh? Is there a Chinese translation for the title?"

"Mmmmm... something like... Girl Who... Girl Who Have Very Long History."

I made a comment about how the movie represented such breakthroughs in technology for its time. Angel didn't believe me.

"Why? When do you think the movie came out?"

"Oh, like very soon. Within last ten years."

Globalization meets pirated media. Certainly the Chinese can't expect we're all walking around with waxed Rhett Butler mustaches... although lately I've been seeing some hipsters that might confirm that very image.