A girl sidles up to me and motions at me to lean closer so I can hear her over the noise of the crowded bar: Are you the one with the badges?
I feel like a very weird sort of drug dealer. It turned out that I had some badges left over from school, so I brought them with me to the local “Ex-Pats St. Pat’s” party. As my friends arrive, I give them a badge each. Everyone is very happy. It is amazing how excited a group of adults can be about colourful badges, green glitter, face paint and Silly Hats.
Word soon spreads, and soon everyone in the place is desperate for a badge, having heard that there’s a limited supply. I obligingly hand over a “Happy St. Pat’s!” one to the latest girl, and she looks pleadingly at me. Um… I was just wondering… you have any of the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” left?
The “Kiss me, I’m Irish” badge is apparently the most popular badge in the range that I carry. Demand has been high, and unfortunately supply has not been able to keep up. I shake my head regretfully. I’m sorry, I’m all out. And you’re not getting mine, I add sternly as I see her gaze fall on it. She looks truly devastated, as if her entire night is a disaster because she missed out on the party’s must-have accessory. People who got in there early and managed to claim one are now swanning around with ear-to-ear grins on their faces, sticking their chests out to draw attention to the badges and occasionally pointing smugly at them. Ha ha, I have one! crows Irish Friend One to my dejected customer, as he dances over in time to see me trying to console her with an “Irish for the day” badge.
It’s one of the most surreal evenings I’ve ever had. You can’t imagine how weird it feels to be singing Irish drinking songs, surrounded by a sea of people dressed in green, and hearing Irish accents, when just outside is this whole other world where no one has ever eaten Irish stew. The Santa Claus bar is, for tonight, Ireland in a room.
It turns out that there are 6 Irish people known to be living in Daejeon – and for the first time, we are all together in the same place. And honestly, I feel a bit like a celebrity. People are actually putting the 6 of us together and taking photos of us. Irish Friend One puts on a leprechaun hat and is promptly mobbed, to his great delight.
St. Patrick’s Day was never a big deal to me when I was at home. But now, away on the other side of the world? It feels as festive and exciting as Christmas – and it’s the most fun I’ve had for a very, very long time.
I think I’m finally me again.