We are all exhausted. It’s quarter to nine South Bend time, which is 1.45am UK time and we have been rehearsing all day. Detail work mostly. We are tightening. The five of us undeniably have a work ethic or a death wish as we could make our own hours and we made these long hours. Now we are off to a pub to get booze and dinner and do line runs. We are in a totally new place and we just haven’t stopped to smell the roses yet. We took a bit of time in lunch break though, and it’s a beautiful day in South Bend. This time five years ago I saw my first chipmunk here on this campus. This beautiful campus.
The squirrels have moved in now, so the chipmunks are marginally more oppressed than they were this time last year, but they’re still showing up from time to time. I spotted one in my lunch break, cute little buggers.
We have decanted to O’Rourke’s. The Irish pub. There’s not much in the way of choice for food. Notre Dame are playing American football vs Louisville tonight. College football is huge in this country and Notre Dame is one of the biggest teams, so even though it’s an away day the city is banging. Everybody is in the bar glued to the many screens inside. We went and sat outside so we could think. Now we are ordering food and every option comes with a raft of extras. Kaffe orders first – the vegan option. Her immediate response is “Do you want chicken with that?”
The two teams are neck and neck. It’s tense in there. We are sitting on the terrace outside away from it all. Most of us still don’t really understand the sport so it’s just lots of big men leaping into one another.
Out here it’s a soundscape of somewhere unfamiliar. The chirr of cicadas mingles with distant music and the occasional roar of the crowd as the match twists and turns. We’re in America! This huge populous place. It’s a culture shock of sorts, with jetlag on top. Little things are different. The sausages are different. The roads are laid out and landscaped unusually. Everybody communicates in a slightly different way. Queues are unfamiliar in how they work. Social norms are subtly shifted. Bars function differently. Ambient sound is unfamiliar. We are a long way from the streets of London.
“Your accent is so cute,” says our waitress in her cute accent.
It’ll take a while to get used to being here. I feel lucky though, to have this chance. There’s world to see here, and places I’d never normally have been to. Once the show is tightened we can find the gaps. There’s a replica of the grotto to our lady in Lourdes here. I started the journey that took me here in Lourdes in September coming up to a year ago. This’ll be a great continuation point, to go to that grotto and to light a candle for those who have passed, and for those with whom I walked all that distance a year ago. Where now?