25 October 2013 marks the 2nd anniversary of our arrival in Galway. When Claude first told me of the job opportunity that brought us here, I had to confront a lot of demons. I was afraid of everything — including the new MS diagnosis, but that one is the most understandable — and wrap my head around moving to Europe. The move was a huge deal. It was a lot of work, sorting and donating and giving away and packing and shipping and… Oh my goodness.
But here we are, two years later. And yes, we’re still getting asked where we are from, and whether we like Galway, but you know what? It’s okay. It gives us a chance to reassure the person asking as well as ourselves that we love it here and the decision we made was a good one. Besides, I get to hear people tell me wonderful things, like the woman who told me I “talk like the telly.”
I’ve discovered that crunchy leaves arrive in August. But this year they have lasted well into October because the weather has been unusually warm. I like it, after the hot summer we had. Hot being a relative term, as most of our family members thought it was almost chilly, even in the dead of August. But for me and my overheating issues, 25 C (77 F) is HOT. Especially when the sun is reflecting off the bay.
We had a number of summer visitors; fun was had by all. Reid & Katielee in June, Skyler & Josh (AKA “the boyfriend”) in July, Claude’s entire immediate family in August. We were supposed to have a family “gathering” incorporating the McNulty relatives from up north with the Warren family from the USA but, alas, it didn’t pan out. Never mind, we had a fantastic visit with everyone anyway. We rented a car and took an amazing drive around Co Cork, Co Kerry and Co Galway with Reid & Katielee, taking in some incredible sights including, but not limited to, the Rock of Cashel, Mizen Head, Drombeg Stone Circle and the Cliffs of Moher. The kids and I spent a couple of days in Dublin taking in the Dublin Zoo (for Katielee) and the Guinness Storehouse (for Reid). They took the luck of the Irish home with them and got pregnant! Skyler’s visit was a little bit rocky but we know she loves Ireland. We stayed close to home for most of their visit however the kids did explore some pubs, we had a nice day at a gardening festival in Claregalway, and everyone had fun on the beach.
Claude began a new job in January with a company based out of New Jersey. The funding was running out at the university so it was very lucky that he was able to find this new position. In December 2014 he can get a new visa that allows him to work at-will, which means no more sponsorship fees. Yay! Maybe I can even find a job at that point – but I still have to deal with sponsorship fees. Booo. In the meantime I am still volunteering with Age Action Ireland teaching computer skills to older people, and as a clerk at an Oxfam Ireland charity shop – a thrift store in American parlance. I meet all kinds of interesting people at both jobs! I am also regularly participating in an MS physiotherapy exercise class offered by MS Ireland every Monday, where I have met some more interesting people, plus get a tough workout to boot.
Claude’s commute to the new job is quite lengthy, so we mulled long and hard over the possibility of moving to another part of the city. But in the end we agreed that the location of our little townhome is just too wonderful to give up. We’re getting to know our neighbors, the estate is quiet and green and beautifully kept, the ocean is mere meters away. Even though I hate our infant refrigerator with a passion, I love everything else enough to make do with the damn thing. Our landlord offered the services of a gardener earlier in the summer so we asked him to come into our front garden and clean up the bushes, then lay down some clean fill dirt so we can start planting herbs and food plants. Claude built a cool little rock wall area for the herbs, and I’ve planted a mint and a citronnelle so far. I started some basil and parsley from seed but they’re going to live indoors until next spring. He also found an abandoned pot with some cacti in it — can you imagine, cactus in Galway? — so to save the plants he planted them in the garden. They’re still alive so we’re hoping they make it through the winter and begin to really grow this coming spring.
One thing we never anticipated about life in Galway is the sheer number of festivals this city holds. They are numerous and incredibly varied. It’s almost impossible to enumerate them all! Right now it’s the Comedy Festival which draws some amazing talent. The next one coming up is Galway Aboo!, the Halloween festival. I got my first Irish tattoo at the first annual international Galway Tattoo Festival in September. It’s simply mind-boggling how many festivals there are! During the summer a big cruise ship called The World docked in the bay and drew a huge amount of attention; it also created a great deal of conversation about that sort of lifestyle, the conclusion to which was generally held that it would be too limiting and entirely “too posh” for us simple Galwegians. Oh yes, the Galway Cathedral hosted the relics of St. Anthony last Tuesday, the popularity of which had traffic snarled all over town all day long.
We have made some friends, chosen some favorite places to eat and drink, discovered the beauty of the Merlin Woods, found a movie theater that plays the occasional arthouse film. I have learned to do without or replaced many of the American products I once thought I couldn’t live without. We know the city fairly well — truth be told, actually better than some natives — and have established a routine that makes us happy. People ask me if we’ll be going back to the States any time soon and I answer, “Only to visit.” Have no doubt we miss our family and friends tremendously. But this new life here, this adventure…well, we’re not done enjoying it just yet.