Top o' the mornin to ye all! And welcome to the main event of my humble journey, where I bring ye tales of a distant land. After months of conjured images, at last my eyes have seen the Land of Saints and Scholars. And I am here to tell you...It's really wet.
While I have encountered a few "shocks" in the cultural acclimation process, in most ways Ireland is exactly as I expected. Chiefly, it is green. When the clouds broke as we descended into Shannon, I took in what looked like a patchwork quilt rolled out as far as the eye can see, with squares in every shade of emerald.
Every unpaved space in every city is carpeted with a grass so fine that when the wind picks up it's as if the land has green fur. The air is so perpetually humid that a fuzzy sort of moss flourishes in every crack of every sidewalk and building, giving the many stone structures an ancient mystical appeal. It truly is the Emerald Isle.
The sheer age of the country can be felt in every corner of the town. The narrow streets, the dated building style, and the general rhythm of the city all speak of a simpler time. Of course, some of these charming nuances have taken some getting used to on my part. For example, many Americans take for granted that any whim ever known to come over a man can be satisfied at any hour on the clock (save, of course, beer after midnight). Here, the working class does not live to sate the late night cravings of inebriated college students. Any place that doesn't serve dinner or liquor closes by six, even the coffee shops. If you plan to become deathly ill, schedule it for Monday morning as the Pharmacies stay closed on Sundays. This early closing culture also applies to the amenities in my apartment complex (or "village"), which put me at quite an inconvenience when I had my clothes locked in the laundry room at eleven. But oddly enough, one can still obtain some decent Chinese food as late as midnight at the lovely little money laundering front just down the street from my flat.
|Window shot from my|
house in Limerick
Now this flat I speak of is more like a house. It has eight separate bedrooms, all of which are occupied by the aforementioned Americans from my study abroad program. I must say I panicked a little upon learning of my housing placement, as this made for an unsettling (and you guessed it, loud) first couple of nights. But at least the shenanigans were entertaining. One night a week ago, some friends and I encountered a drunken pack of students hauling several large traffic cones from a construction site nearby. We inquired as to what on earth they were doing, to which one boy responded in an Irish slur, "We pay our taxes!" Some of the girls giggled and they continued dragging the city property in the direction of my village. The next morning I awoke to find an orange cone in my living room.
But alas, as classes commenced we've settled into a daily rhythm. The noise has subsided, along with the number of beer cans I find in my kitchen each morning. A few of us have fallen into a semi-nightly routine of returning from whatever party, putting on sweats and laughing at the names of the horses in televised races. Some of the top names have been "She's So Mean" and "How Big's the Hole."
While I could crank out several paragraphs on the joys of living with seven females and no microwave or dishwasher, I have been eager to recount what little exploring I've managed so far.
Two weeks into my stay here, I feel like I've already seen so much of the culture Ireland has to offer. And it cost no more than a bus fair and a couple of afternoons! I'd encourage anyone reading to act like a tourist in your own city for a while. Visit the museums, hit that coffee shop you keep driving by, find out what famous figures lived and died there. For just one week, don't go to the same place twice. You'd be amazed what you can find in your own backyard.
To making it count, friends.
|If you can think of a cheese, they'll have it at the Milk Market's Flying Cheese|
|Impressive graffiti across the street from King John's Castle|
|This frog is cut off!|
|Pano of Arthur's Quay, overlooking the Shannon|