Boarding a flight from PDX to SJC, I sat in the window seat, waiting for the plane to fill. A man buckled in and settled into the aisle seat and then I realized- I was missing something important. I felt terrible, but asked the man to let me get by. I opened the overhead compartment, unzipped my backpack, and grabbed one little green thing. I closed everything up, swung back into my row, and felt relieved. What the man thought, I’ll never know. What I grabbed was Failte.
His name is pronounced FALL-Cha. /fɔltʃə/ It means ‘welcome’ in Irish Gaelic. Many restaurants and inns in Ireland have exterior signs saying “Caed Mille Failte,” meaning One Hundred Thousand Welcomes. You may be able to tell that ‘mille’ comes from the Latin for 1,000, as seen in the English word millennium, and in the concept of a millisecond.Failte and New Grange, Ireland Failte and the King of Spain, Nerja
Failte is my bodyguard. He travels everywhere with me from weekend sleepovers to international excursions. He is a 5″ panda plushie. He was supposed to be a birthday present, but ended up arriving early as a sympathy present when I suffered for 3 days after my wisdom teeth were removed. Failte has been with me for 7 years now.Failte and the Tower Bridge Failte and the Phone Booth
The green bear was nameless for the first few months, but we must have developed a rapport because I decided to take him with me on my semester of studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Preceding the semester, I travelled with my parents to New York and Ireland to visit family, and the bear was christened as Failte somewhere in Ireland.Failte and the Eiffel Tower Failte and Versailles
I found it useful to take pictures of Failte instead of myself while travelling in Europe. I always feel so weighed down by backpacks and messy hair that I was happy to find a surrogate for obligatory landmark pictures. I still take some, but Failte does the heavy lifting.Breaking Rules Together on Anacapa Island Failte and Vancouver, BC
That bear is quite the world traveller now. His passport stamps include England, France, China, South Korea, and Peru. He’s a good companion. He’s stayed relatively clean in our time together, and he only rarely injures me with his claws. Failte will be travelling with me to England in the fall, where we will hopefully add Scotland and Germany to the photo albums.Failte and Xian, China Failte and Seoul, South Korea
Sometimes even I think it’s silly for a 25-year-old to have a panda companion, but at the end of the day, it’s nice to know that in any rickety transport or dark room, there’s always a buddy right there with you. It makes anywhere I go feel a little friendlier. I don’t think I’ll grow out of appreciating the sense of comfort and safety that’s come with travelling with this bear. Thanks, Failte. Let’s keep going.Failte and Tiny Pancakes on the Way to Peru July 29, 2011