Cork and my Texas home are so similar in outlook

Bri Ollre, a student at UCC who lives in Cork city, says there are many similarities between Cork and her home place back in the USA — in the ‘Lone Star’ American state of Texas
Cork and my Texas home are so similar in outlook

CONVERT: Bri Ollre at Blackrock Observatory in her beloved Cork, where she is studying at UCC

IN Washington Street in Cork city, there’s a red box outside St Augustine’s Church that reads ‘End Dublin Rule in Cork’.

I walk by it and expect a rowdy white Ford F-150 King Ranch truck to come barreling down the street with a Texas flag attached to the passenger side door and a Secede sticker planted on the back window.

Of course, in Cork one would never see a truck that garish — it wouldn’t fit — but the image is still there. That reckless freedom is still in the air.

That feeling sticks with me while I walk into my local pub and am met by a friendly greeting from the bartender, who recognises me from my last visit. A Six Nations match is playing on every TV. The pub is full. There’s a balding man in the corner shouting obscenities at the players as though he was their coach and they would listen to every call he made.

I can imagine my father sitting next to him, pint in hand, Texan twang rocketing above the thick Cork brogue. Nothing like the passion for sport to bring two strangers together.

By the end of the match, that man and my father would be trading stories about the familiarity of country roads that lead to nowhere and arguing over who produces the best beef: Cork or Texas. That’s just how Texas Cork is — or how Cork Texas is. Southern hospitality isn’t just from the United States.

That hospitality has been felt the most in the Irish women (the gold-hearted mammies) that are my classmates in my Creative Writing Masters program at UCC. They’re warm in a way that reminds me of nights spent sitting around a firepit in Summerville, Texas, toasting marshmallows with my aunts and cousins.

All Cork needs is lightning bugs and unbearable summers and it could be just like Texas.

That good-natured hospitality is the same with most strangers I’ve met in Cork. In December, a cab driver gave me a Cadbury bar to bring home to Texas for my mom as soon as he found out she was born in Ireland too. When I did give the candy bar to my mom later that day, she was put out that she couldn’t return the favour. My dad wanted to send the man a thank-you card decorated in Texas’ finest: bluebonnets. The urge to return kindness is something Texans and Corkonians share in their temperament.

I was in the English Market buying pancakes for Shrove Tuesday when a man with a suitcase barreled into a woman, which caused her to drop her pack of eggs. The sellers from Alternative Bread Company were out in a flash, helping her up and offering to replace her eggs with a pack of their own.

During my undergraduate studies at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas, my backpack once fell apart while I was running across campus to make it to one of my classes and a whole handful of people gathered around to help me catch the papers flying everywhere. One person even ran inside to the nearest store and bought me a bag to put my things in.

Cork may not physically look and feel like Texas, but the people are the same.

One thing that I could do without in both Texas and Cork is the several times throughout the year when college students destroy the town in the name of a good time. For CIT and UCC students, it’s in the name of Fresher’s week, Christmas Day, Rag Week, etc. For the college students back in Texas it’s rush, tailgates, frat parties, and the odd victory over a rival university. That love for a good time is shared by both communities — sometimes to their detriment. As my friend, Tyler, who is also from Texas and has visited Cork, said: “The Irish are just like Texans when it comes to drinking. They’re like European rednecks. A rowdier breed of people.”

The pride Corkonians have for their county is what really solidifies that feeling of Texas for me. There are few places in the world that love their history and their rebel nature like Cork — and Texas is one of them.

Anyone from Texas is happy to tell you how the Texas flag is the only state flag allowed by the U.S. government to fly at the same height as the U.S flag. While that sounds like something that wouldn’t matter, it does. It means to the other states that Texas holds a place they never could. Texas is the ‘Lone Star State’ after all.

Cork is the ‘True Republic’, the ‘True Capital’, and the ‘Rebel City’. According to my dad and his Texas born and raised family, Texas is the “best republic in the world”. Both Texas’ and Cork’s histories are rooted in the battle for freedom. For Cork, it was the fight for independence from British rule, and for Texas, it was the fight for independence from Mexico.

Bloodshed and violence are in the roots of both Texas and Cork. For Texas, the most infamous day was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald, and for County Cork it was the ambush and resulting death of Michael Collins in 1922.

These blood-drenched roots have also allowed the blossoming of communities that strive to take care of their own — most of the time. On the late-night city streets of both Cork and Texas you’re just as likely to make a new best friend as you are an enemy — to be helped up by a stranger when you stumble into a puddle, or get shoved into a wall for accidentally brushing up against the wrong drunkard. It’s that blood-rooted pride that brings out the best and the worst in people.

Since moving to Cork in September last year, I’ve noticed how easily my ‘hellos’ have changed to “hiyas”, and my “ya’lls” blend right into the Irish slang I’ve picked up from my Cork-raised roommates.

I may have moved over 4,498 miles from Texas to Cork, but there’s just so much that reminds me of Texas in Cork that I feel like I’ve really just moved down the road.

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