Further random observations

  1. The other day I was riding the bus into town and noticed the bus driver was listening to a radio broadcast with a woman speaking in a calm, soothing voice.  As I approached the front of the bus to get off at my stop, I realized that it was an obituary report!  She was naming the dead person, the time and date of their service, and the charities or families to whom one could send condolences.  Morbid!
  2. I was chatting with my new volunteer mate at the till in the Oxfam shop last week when I asked her what the difference is between cookies and biscuits.  She told me that only chocolate chips in the treat make it a cookie, otherwise it is a biscuit.  I went to the grocery store and confirmed it for myself.  Only the cookies with chocolate chips were labelled as “cookies”!
  3. Somehow I got on the subject of hoarding with my student Maire at the computer class the other day.  We talked about how she finds it very difficult to throw out things that even she has a problem justifying keeping around.  She told me she thinks that hoarding is in the DNA of Irish people.  After all the many decades of poverty and privations, a lot of Irish people find it tough to throw things out.  She said it’s the “7 Year Rule.”  An Irish person must keep something for seven years before it’s okay to let it go.  This leads me to believe that my darling mother-in-law is much more Irish than even she realizes.
  4. Google “uniquely Irish” in the images search and these photos come up in the first 12 choices:
Father Ted

Father Ted

Claddagh-Ring

Claddagh ring

stileirish

Irish stile

uniquely_irish

That whitewashed thatched cottage that every American thinks is where every Irish person lives

— Cindy

Another layer off the onion

We were at the market a couple of weeks ago during the first real spring-like Saturday of the season when we were chatting with Ron, the fellow who sells us our fruit and veg, about the weather.  He used the title colloquialism when talking about the change of weather.  I found it absolutely quaint and plan to use it in future.

The last few weeks have been busy, filled with all sorts of interesting people and things to do.  I went to a lecture at the city museum with a new friend, about the condition and maintenance of the beaches in Galway.  It was given by a professor in the archaeology department of NUI Galway.  It was quite informative; I had previously never known how beaches and dunes form.  I have met several very engaging American women – which, after over two years here, is a bit of an anomaly for me.  One is a fellow volunteer at the Age Action computer courses.  She’s been here for about 20 years with her Irish husband, who was a fisherman until the industry kind of tanked.  She’s trying to start a unique business that could really take off if she does it right.  Another is a lovely retired woman who had lived in Galway with her partner for a couple of years, then moved to Portland, Oregon with him but couldn’t get Galway out of her system.  She’s here enjoying her retirement while he is earning his PhD back in the States.  We have a lot in common and she’s fun to hang out with.  There’s also a young woman from the Philly area who accompanied her new husband while he studies at NUIG for his PhD in Irish theater.  She came because the rules for visas said she is allowed to accompany her hubby, but she still had to file for the visa with the GNIB (immigration) when she arrived.  She’s been waiting more than 8 months for them to tell her whether she’s allowed to stay or not.  To say the poor girl is stressed is putting it mildly.  One evening I was on my way to the restaurant for dinner date night with my honey but I was a bit early, so I stopped by Galway Bay Tattoo to look around and meet the artists.  Turns out Nancy, one half of the owners of the shop, is from Colorado!  We talked a blue streak and now I have yet another new friend in the city.  It is so nice to have these few new friends with cultural ties to the USA because we speak the same language – literally.

I meet a huge variety of people at the Oxfam charity shop, which keeps me smiling and keeps each shift pleasurable!  Last week I met this amazing woman who had come to Ireland from Chicago just to visit and fell immediately and totally in love with the Emerald Isle.  So much so that she hired a matchmaker to find her a husband so she can stay forever!!  I was so intrigued that I asked her to please come back to the shop if she settles anywhere near Galway.  Because the shop manager is a French woman, we tend to attract a great many French-born volunteers from whom I have learned a great deal about French sensibilities.  I work with a really sweet young Korean woman who came to Galway to study English but who also seems to be enjoying every minute of being in Europe.  She’s been to London, Belfast, Dublin, and next week she’s traveling to Holland – and she’s only been here since December.  She’s a lot of fun since I speak American English and that’s the version Koreans learn so when she hears something she doesn’t understand, she asks me.  I’m trying to get her to read more English-language books but she’s too busy having fun.

Claude’s job has been taking up entirely too much of our lives lately.  He’s been stressed out by the fact that the US office wants everyone in Galway to drop everything and go full speed when they come online.  They have nicknamed that time of day “headless chicken hour” because everyone goes bonkers when the Americans expect them to work like maniacs – as if they haven’t already put in most of a work day already.  He’s been working until past 10 PM some days.  He’s such a trooper though, doing what it takes to keep us in Ireland.

Last week I took a few pictures with my phone camera of things I found worth memorializing.  I’ll share some of them with you here.  I also got some video of a busker playing his didgeridoo on Shop Street.  There are a great number of buskers in Galway because the music culture here is very rich.  Some of these folks are not so good but most of them are incredibly talented.  Galway really is a very culturally diverse area, there’s always a cool festival or fascinating artistic gathering going on.

This little birdie was just tweeting and tweeting outside my front door.  I didn’t get much of his song, but there is some in the background.

The weather has been alternately warm and cool but the rain has been intermittent.  But the sun is more prominent every day, so the layer is most definitely off the onion.

Stephen has a spaceship for sale if you're interested

Stephen has a spaceship for sale if you’re interested

 

water gnome

Our little water gnome behind the purple hyacinth in our front garden

 

dessert

A beautiful chocolate sharing dessert – it was delicious

 

Three cornered garlic

This is Three-Cornered Garlic growing wild in the little forested area in front of our house

 

sign

Austerity is not popular in Ireland. The Irish at the bottom of the sign says “Revolution Now!”

— Cindy

Happy!

Spring is making herself seen and heard.  The days are lengthening, daffodils are beginning to bloom, the birds are singing happily.  Even though the weather has been wholly unsettled recently, on the sunny days it’s easy to forget the cold and rain and simply be happy.

I spent Valentine’s Day wandering through Dublin while Claude attended a work meeting.  My first stop was at the library at Trinity College.  I saw the Book of Kells on my way through to see what I really wanted to look at – The Long Room.  What an amazing place.  The stacks are filled floor to ceiling with old volumes and there’s a wrought iron spiral staircase that leads up to the second floor (that the public is not allowed to climb).  Afterward I went to a restaurant called Crackbird, which offers fried chicken as its main fare.  Very enjoyable!  I did a review for Trip Advisor.  Then I found the Why Go Bald sign, wandered about at Dublin Castle, and walked down to Christchurch Cathedral – however when I saw the price of entrance I chose not to go in.  I meandered back to our hotel and spent a couple of hours reading a good book, then Claude and I had a lovely meal at an Indian restaurant before we caught the train back to Galway.

While we were walking around on Saturday after our weekly shopping and a lovely lunch with a friend, we came across some people dancing in the street.  I remembered that there was going to be a film crew making a video based on Pharrell Williams’ song – and sure enough there they were!  The final product shows off our lovely little home town quite well.  They were lucky it was such a gorgeous day!

Life is good — and we are certainly happy!

— Cindy

It’s beginning to look a lot like …

Winter!  I awoke the other morning, threw open the curtains and there was snow on the ground.  Actual snow!  A few moments later it began to hail and I wondered if it actually was snow, but Claude assured me later that it really was.

The weather has taken a decidedly wintry turn since then, with howling winds and lashing rains, along with some flooding along the coastal areas.  On our weekly trek into the city to the farmer’s market we saw seaweed strewn across the road.  Quite astonishing.

With Christmas day now nearly upon us – finally, it’s almost over – it’s been interesting to find how many people we have established relationships with over the past two years.  Ron at the fruit & veg stand who always knocks a euro or two off the total because we shop there every week; Layla at the bread stand who we’ve come to know fairly well, who married the baker Jonah last year, and is a pretty, vital young woman who always has a smile on her face; Hugo and Stefania at the cheesemongers stand who always have an interesting new cheese for us to try (Chocolate cheese? You bet I’ll try it!); Vinny & Ally at the Candyland shop, purveyors of American goods – mostly sugary – whose kindness in saving aside our favorite things has lent a little touch of the familiar to our lives.  My new friend Delia whose apartment has the most wondrous view of the bay and the diving board, and whose need for someone with technical savvy gives me the opportunity to visit with her and take in that view, and to enjoy her tea, cakes and biscuits, and hear her amazing stories of a long life well lived.  All my lovely cohorts in the MS exercise class who were slow to accept me but finally treat me as one of their own.  All the wonderful people I work with at my two volunteer jobs, and the friendships I’ve been lucky to forge with a special few.  And the people who have come and gone during our time in Galway who are not forgotten and with whom we connect when they come back to the City of the Tribes.

Just this minute the sun has broken through the clouds and shines brightly, however briefly, on the water of the bay, this morning dull and gray, now a shining bright silver.  The beginning of the lengthening of the days brings hope and happiness to our little corner of Ireland.

Happy holidays to you and yours and a prosperous and healthy 2014 to you!

— Cindy

Winter in the garden

Winter in the garden

Brrr!

Brrr!

Long time no see

Hey blog, how have you been?  Lonely?  Sorry, my fault.  You see, we have been pretty busy doing our own thing, and you know, I haven’t thought much of what we’ve been doing has been exciting enough to write about, so no entries recently.

Summer is here but you wouldn’t be able to tell because we’re still wearing our winter coats some days.  However we have transitioned more often to the lighter windbreakers, so maybe it’s here…  The plants in the front garden are looking happier, and the fields of bluebells (and white and pink bells [?]) are just gorgeous.  PJ the groundskeeper has been running the lawn mowers.  I purchased a pot of shamrocks in early March which had been doing pretty well but is now living outdoors in the hopes that it perks up and starts growing again.  And here I thought I had overcome my black-thumb tendencies.

We had a few days of very disrupted weather, with lashing rain and tremendous winds.  The bay was green with all the stuff dredged up by the roiling waters.  I like the days where the sun just peeps out occasionally and the rain threatens because the Prom is practically empty of people and it makes for a nice, relaxing walk.

The farmer’s market is gearing up with more people and more vendors.  Summer fruits season is nearing.  I am looking forward to some lovely salads!  Claude and I are on a diet, of sorts, cutting out breads, white potatoes and (sob, sniffle) desserts.  While he has not returned to his bike riding since starting his new job, we do try to get out and do some walking as often as possible.  I miss baking, it’s one of my favorite activities and produces such delicious results.  Maybe after we drop a few pounds…

I have started a new volunteer job on Monday nights participating in facilitating English conversation skills with a group called Fáilte Isteach (it means incoming welcome).  My two ‘students’ are a woman from Pakistan and a woman from China.  It’s an interesting and unusual task.  I’m not sure I’m very effective at it but the woman who facilitates the volunteers is very encouraging.  It happens on Monday evenings so we go out for dinner prior to class.

I have also started going to exercise classes conducted by a very energetic and talkative young physiotherapist with MS Ireland.  Their office is way over on the other side of Galway so getting there is quite the trek, but I think eventually it will be worth it.  He has a special vibrating machine that is supposed to help MS people with motor function and strength issues that I’m looking forward to using on a regular basis.

Can’t go to class today though.  The buses are on strike!  I never realized how dependent we are on them until they became no longer available!  Claude sure can’t cab to work every day!  Bus Éireann is administered by the government and has been instructed by the Labor Court to cut €5 million from the budget.  They want to take that from the drivers in the form of holidays and sick pay.  The drivers are not pleased.  Thus, no bus service.  I sure hope they get this ironed out soon.  I need my lifeline into the city.

The abortion debate is still going strong, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Irish women aren’t going to let the government sweep this issue under the rug.  There’s a tremendous amount of support for a significant change in the law, and possibly even the constitution.  I sit on the outside looking in and hope for the best and only rational outcome of legal abortion for all women in Ireland.

This summer is going to be very special because we have so much of our family coming to visit.  We are very much looking forward to hosting them all and showing them our lovely hometown and beautiful Ireland.

I have gotten used to being pegged for American as soon as I open my mouth.  Fortunately most Irish folks don’t mind Americans, they have a certain affinity because so many of their friends and family emigrated to the US.  The Boston bombing was very close to many people’s hearts.  Galway was, in a lot of cases, the last vestige of Ireland that emigrees saw before sailing east across the Atlantic to the new country.  I also get away with murdering the Irish language; people shake their heads good-naturedly and gently correct me.  I am absolutely convinced that I will never speak or understand Irish but I can at least kind of read it and pick out certain vocabulary words.

So that’s about it for now.  I’m sure Claude would have some observations to offer but that will have to wait for another day.  Cheers!

— Cindy

bluebells

 

white flowers

Dublin in March

Earlier this week we found ourselves with the opportunity to spend a bit of an extended weekend in Dublin.  On Thursday we hopped the express bus for the city with smiles on our faces and arrived to a storm of freezing temps, blasting rain and whipping wind!  The hotel I had booked is behind the O2 stadium but the bus dropped us at least 4 blocks too far west, so there we were stuck walking through the storm to the hotel.  The wind took Claude’s hat and plopped it right into the middle of the street so we had to wait for traffic to clear in order for him to bolt out into the road and recover it.  By that time it was soaking wet – good thing I had an extra stocking cap on hand!  From there the weekend could only get better.

For this stay I chose the Gibson Hotel, themed after the guitar.  It’s ultra-modern with all the amenities I wanted including being situated at the terminus of the Luas tram line for ease of travel into the city.  While I’m not very impressed with their bar and food service – I had to deliberately make my presence known each time I went in – I did get a delicious and reasonably priced cosmo.  Otherwise it was a comfortable and fairly clean place with very helpful staff.

Friday’s weather was not much better, as a matter of fact it was colder than the evening before and still raining profusely.  I tried to purchase a Luas ticket from the machine at the stop but it broke in the middle of the process and gave my money back.  At that moment the rain got much harder and began to become hail.  I thought something I can’t repeat here and walked right over to the taxi waiting outside the hotel, jumped in and asked the driver to take me to the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History.  He didn’t know which museum I was referring to so I had to use the typical Irish method of road direction and tell him what it was near.  As we drove we had conversation about the job situation in Ireland and I found out that he had a master’s degree in public administration from a university in Poland but driving cabs in Ireland was a better paying job!  He got me as close as he could to the front of the museum and apologized for me having to walk through the rain, but I told him it was no big deal because, “I’m from Galway!”

The museum is housed in an old army barracks and is built in the shape of a large rectangle with a big courtyard in the middle.  The public part of the museum is housed on 4 floors with many different galleries holding all types of items; the exhibitions include Irish silver, coins, curator’s choice, fashion, furniture, soldiers, jewelry.  The variety of items and rooms is quite fascinating!  I took a ton of pictures and ran the camera battery down.  I put them all together in a Flickr set for your perusal.

I was going to go visit the Leprechaun Museum too but I had walked all over the first museum and the weather was so miserable that I really didn’t feel like slogging through it to stand around for much longer.  Finally managed to purchase a Luas ticket from the machine and went back to the hotel where I ordered a sandwich and a soda in the bar and finished the book I was reading (The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry), then looked up restaurants for the evening meal, went up to our room, relaxed in front of the tube and had a small nap.

Being in the capital I decided that we had to take advantage of the variety of restaurants.  Since Claude rarely gets vegetarian choices beyond the standard veggie burger, curry or pasta dish, I chose to look up the vegetarian restaurants in the city center and found three – Cornucopia, Govinda’s and Delhi O’Deli.  I just thought the name was so clever that I chose Delhi O’Deli.  We took the tram into the heart of the city and wandered around until we found the restaurant.  It’s a little hole-in-the-wall diner with a very friendly owner and absolutely delicious Indian food.  Claude’s keen eye had spotted a Parisian bakery as we passed by on the way to the restaurant so we doubled back after the meal and stopped by for a lovely dessert.  We are definitely going to visit both places again.

On Saturday Claude asked me what I wanted to do so I said I wanted to see the Old Library at Trinity College.  We managed to purchase all day tickets for the tram from those infernal machines and headed over to the college.  We walked around Parliament Square for a bit, took a few pictures.  There’s a cool spinning sculpture outside the Berkeley Library, a large golden ball with cutouts (I got a couple pictures of it) that I tried to catch on video but my camera battery gave up the ghost.  We went inside the old library building, then realized that in order to see the library itself we would have to pay the admission price of €9 each because the Book of Kells is housed in this building.   Between the place being jammed with tourists and discussion of the fact that we will be visiting the building with Claude’s parents later this year, we decided to save the money and go somewhere else.  But not before buying a cool book on forgotten Irish words.

And since we were in the area, I chose to take Claude to Cornucopia for lunch.  The food was beautiful and so delicious.  They have a fantastic selection of dishes and a queue practically out the door at lunchtime.  This place will also be on our re-visit list.

In order to explore the city further we got on the red tram line and just rode it to the end.  Dublin takes up a lot of space and the little suburbs vary widely, some scruffy looking, overrun with graffiti, some pristine and beautiful.  Along the way we noticed a young man and his friend walking along a path — I saw a boy wearing a down vest with no sleeves and naked arms; Claude saw that the young man was walking a goat!  Later on, after the tram had stopped at the terminus and the driver came out to switch to the other end of the train, he asked us, “Did ye see the lad walking the goat?”  I laughed so hard.  The menfolk saw the strange creature, the mother in me saw the boy risking exposure illness!

When we got back to the city we hopped on the other tram, the green line, and rode it out to the terminus and back.  Again we saw a wide variety of suburbs.  At one point a woman got on the tram with a baby in a gigantic pram and a little one of about 2 dragging his tiny bicycle.  The kid kept making adorable observations all the way in to the city.

By the time we finished with all our walking and riding we were pretty much set to head home.  We went back to the hotel and retrieved our bag, I grabbed a snack and a cosmo at the bar, and we managed to catch our bus home.  During the ride we swore we smelled the skunky odor of some fine weed but couldn’t figure out how someone was managing to get high on the bus without the smoke or getting busted by the driver.  It was wild.  Got home and stopped at a bar we had not yet visited which was located right by our bus stop, had some yummy burgers and watched a little rugby – Leinster beat Glasgow! – and caught the bus home.  After freezing our butts off in Dublin for 2 days Galway was practically balmy.  A nice walk by the sea before getting home was simply lovely.

Dublin is a great place to visit, for sure, but Galway is most definitely home.

— Cindy

Another Galway spring

Over the last few months we have been adjusting to a new schedule, what with Claude starting his new job – and now spring is revealing itself in all its cold, sunny glory.  The birds are singing regularly now.  One day as we were walking home from our Saturday marketing we noticed a large lump of dirt at the side of the path we take to get to and from the main road.  It looked like it was something that had been dumped from a pot.  It sat there for several weeks.  One day Claude noticed it was sprouting something, so he brought it home and plopped it down in the garden.  And now, lo and behold, it has produced some lovely blooms and promises to produce even more over the next few weeks!

I am still volunteering with Age Action but that’s simply not enough to do.  A friend asked me if I was certain that my visa means I cannot work at all, so I went down to the Citizen’s Information office to ask.  I was put on the phone with a woman at the Integration Office who told me in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to work for money at all, period.  So I’ve applied to volunteer at several different jobs including as an English language conversational tutor; that one has me excited to meet some interesting people.

The sun has been shining more than it has been raining so people are pretty happy.  There are a lot of them out and about on the Prom every day.  I have fresh daffodils on the mantelpiece all the time now, and today I purchased a little pot of shamrocks.  The spring veggies are abundant at the market.  We have been able to purchase bread again at our favorite stand; the baker had been out of commission with carpal tunnel for a while and his brother had taken over but the bread just wasn’t quite the same.  I’ve been baking a lot of treats, partly in lieu of turning on the heat and partly to have something nice for dessert in the evenings.  Today we bought Claude some new shoes because he essentially broke his last pair.  Getting him to shop is always a struggle but when he’s in need it’s a lot easier.

Somehow we managed to get three 3-day weekends in a row this month.  I love having more time with Claude!  The end of the month holds a number of fun things in store, such as the Galway Food Festival, the Woodquay Market (live animals!) and an evening out to see comedian Reginald D. Hunter.

Happy Spring everyone!

— Cindy

Chives and Shamrock

Chives and Shamrock

Flowerpot blooms

Flowerpot blooms

Peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies

Robin in the garden

Robin in the garden