Ireland wasn’t even on my radar this soon. A colleague, Mme Len Senthufhe mentioned to me two and a half years ago that she had a daughter who was studying in Ireland who would be graduating in the late part of 2019. My travel ears started itching. So I asked if she would be attending the graduation and she wasn’t certain. I promised to accompany her if she decided to go, and that actually, she MUST go since this is her only child. 😉 She said OK, but I think she didn’t believe I would really follow through. I mean what kind of stranger promises to accompany you across the world for such? Crazy moi. Every so often for 18 months leading up to November 2019, she would peek into my office and ask if we were still set on going to Ireland and I would assure her we were.
A few months before our departure, her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and it was a rough couple of weeks. Two weeks before we were due to travel, Mr Senthufhe was really up and down and Mme Len wasn’t sure if she should still travel given that she had taken sole responsibility of her dad since he became ill.
We left everything in the hands of the Lord and departed Botswana on 11 November 2019. South Africans and Batswana do not require Visas to enter Ireland but we had asked Mothei (Mme Len’s daughter) to provide us with copies of the graduation invitation letters, just in case. We also carried with us copies of our accommodation bookings, also just in case.
Everything was ok when we got to OR Tambo until one of the agents noticed I had a Schengen visa in my passport. Remember I was going to Austria, Hungary and Portugal after my Ireland trip? So, all of a sudden we were asked to provide proof of accommodation and funds. We provided these for Ireland. Noooo. They wanted proof of all those for the rest of my trip. I guess I should have guessed they would require these, but this wasn’t the first I had travelled to Europe and I have never been this interrogated before so I hadn’t printed most of them (I know!). I figured I would have time in Ireland to do so.
When we asked why all these were needed when we didn’t require any Visas to enter Ireland, we were informed that Ireland has been listed as one of the high-risk areas for illegal transit. That is, people go to Ireland since they do not require a visa, then when they get there, they find a way to get into Northern Ireland which is part of the UK. So in essence, they would have managed to get into the UK with no documentation and as such, there is a lot of scrutiny on passengers going into Ireland. It was such a stressor having to figure everything out, do a lot of explaining and open my banking App to prove confirmation of funds and that I would be in a position to take care of myself during the trip. I am not sure how much they expect to see. The fact that I do not have a credit card can make things a little difficult too.
We were the last passengers to board because of all that verification processing. Never mind the fact that we had planned to use the transit 2 hours for some coffee and to get a few things for Mothei – oh well.
It was my first time flying on Qatar Airways and I must say I really loved the service. I had the whole three-seat row to myself for both trips so that was cool, even though I still didn’t get to sleep. I really struggle to sleep on airplanes. Both flights were uneventful and we arrived in Dublin in the early morning of Tuesday, 12 November 2019, to a very nippy 4 degrees Celsius. Mothei welcomed us just outside the arrivals hall and what a beautiful moment it was to see mother and daughter reunite after a number of years. We bought return bus tickets (€27) and got onto a 2.5-hour trip to Mothei’s hood – Galway. Here are some of the things the three girls got up to.
Welcome Mommy! Yes, she still adorably calls her MOMMY! ***Heart***
Our hotel rooms.
Food had to be part of the equation as always.
Graduation eve dinner celebration with Mothei’s friends. Four countries are represented on this table; Botswana, DRC, South Africa and the USA.
Mothei Senthufhe proudly accepts her BSc Financial Mathematics and Economics Degree from the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway. Watch the video here…
Congratulations Mothei! You have made your family and your country (Botswana) proud. All the best for the future. After enduring such hardships during your studies, may your hard work be handsomely rewarded.
Final pics before returning the grad regalia…
This blog is also in memory of Mothei’s grandfather, Mr Senthufhe who sadly passed away during our celebratory dinner on 13 November 2019, the eve of her graduation.
Part 2 of my Irish escapade and what I got up to by myself exploring what Galway and Dublin had to offer is here…