The last of the passengers were boarding the shuttle bus that would take us from the visitor center to the Newgrange passage mound. They were an American family I would later discover had just arrived in Ireland that morning. The son, I guessed age eleven, settled into a seat across the aisle from us and next to a young Irish girl. I didn’t pay much attention to their introductory conversation until I, and everyone on the bus, heard him ask her in a loud voice, “So how long does it take you to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road?” In the awkward silence that followed came her quiet reply that for the Irish it’s not the wrong side of the road.
I cringed, reminded of why I avoid heavily touristed sites like Newgrange – and the tourists that visit them. Holding fast to their cultural conditioning and perspectives they so often arrive in Ireland like novice archeologists to observe this ancient island and offer their objective and objectifying commentary on the sites, people, and customs. Later on the guided tour at Newgrange an American man waited impatiently for the heritage guide to finish her site introduction and then interjected, “But don’t you think that the real reason they built these places was…” And he went on to assert his totally uninformed and spontaneously constructed theory of these 5,000 year old megaliths.
We’ve been told all our lives that the US is the best country in the world with the most advanced culture and intellect. And some have drunk the koolaid.