Anniversary

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.

Slàn!

— Cindy

Drombeg Stone Circle and a view of the ocean and the incomparable County Kerry landscape

Drombeg Stone Circle and a view of the ocean and the incomparable County Kerry landscape

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Heat wave

And oh mercy, has it brought them out in droves!

There are few things Irish people like more than sunshine.  As soon as that bright yellow ball shows its face, they are outside in droves.  And if they’re anywhere near the beach…

The last week of temps has been a trial for me.  I don’t tolerate the heat very well, which makes the usual climate here very hospitable.  However the heat is not something Galway is prepared to deal with in the ways in which I am accustomed.  First of all, there is no such thing as air conditioning.  It isn’t non-existent, mind you, the modern-built buildings have it.  But most of the shops and homes are not equipped with it, since it’s rarely necessary.  But the cars and buses don’t have A/C either, which makes a ride home – on the one and only bus line that takes people to the beach – absolutely miserable.  Bodies packed in on every single bus, schedules whacked because of having to stop so often and take on so many people.  Even taking a cab is no improvement because the car has no air and the traffic is bumper-to-bumper out to the bay.  I’m lucky I haven’t had a really bad reaction or a full-blown attack.  A fan has become a vital inclusion to my everyday accoutrements!

Electrical shops have sold out of fans of every sort.  Ice cream vendors are doing record-breaking business.  One cannot find a swimsuit to save one’s life.  Every clothing shop is out of shorts, light tops, sandals.

Went to the movies the other day for some time off from family visiting and for the A/C.  Guess what wasn’t working?

I started a new volunteer job a couple of weeks ago at the Oxfam charity shop in the city.  I love the people there already and know that I will enjoy this job tremendously.  The woman who runs it keeps only high quality goods out, not like the typical Goodwill store where they just throw it on a hangar and put it out for sale.  But so far I’ve been kind of a jinx!  Last week I accidentally ran the day’s tally way before we closed the shop.  Yesterday, my second-ever shift, I got robbed.  Nothing drastic like guns or threats or physical harm, but a couple of traveler women (Americans call them gypsies) came in and basically whirled through touching everything and distracting me and filling their bags with clothing.  They got away with several items.  I hadn’t been trained in how to handle such situations and I was on the floor all alone, so I just went with the usual advice that one should not confront these people.  The Garda was called and I made a report.  I suppose if they ever catch them I may hear about it.  But I felt so badly about letting them get away.  The fellow I work with was very kind and reassuring.  But I felt badly.  All this while roasting to death in that stuffy, hot little shop…

Today it has cooled somewhat.  I’m hiding inside, staying out of the sun.  A side-effect of the weather has been the largest number of sunburns I’ve seen yet.  Ha!  Silly white people.

Never thought I’d long for the rain.

— Cindy

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

Slowly emerging from the dark ages

abortion lawsSo far most, if not all, of our blog posts have been about happy things, or light-hearted observations of our experiences in the last year plus of living in Galway, Ireland.  And for the most part, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience.  But there are deeper observations to be made – I’m going to go out on a limb and make them.

As some of you readers may know, in late October of this year a young woman of Indian descent died needlessly at University Hospital Galway while miscarrying her pregnancy.  She and her husband wanted that baby, had planned for it.  Even through the extreme pain she was suffering she knew that she was not going to be able to carry to term.  With a heart that was breaking in two she begged the doctors and nurses to help her by inducing labor.  She was told “this is a Catholic country.”  In other words, the church has so hamstrung the laws of this nation that they were not legally allowed to terminate the pregnancy as long as there was a fetal heartbeat.  She suffered the pain and humiliation of this miscarriage for 5 days before the fetus’ heart stopped.  By then she was septicemic.  Before she passed away from the infection that ravaged her system, she did point out to the staff that she was neither Irish nor Catholic.

Ireland has been taken to task on many occasions by European Union rights groups for their draconian laws and generally Catholic stance on human rights, particularly in the cases of gay rights and of abortion.  (Same-sex sexual activity has only been decriminalised since 1993.)  The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to ban abortion constitutionally, backed strongly by Catholic influence.  This fact amazes and stuns me.  In 1984 a 15-year-old girl named Anne Lovett and her newborn son died alone and freezing after Anne gave birth in a church yard precisely because of the stifling attitude of her religious upbringing.  In 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case, which allowed for abortion in the case of risk to the mother’s life including risk of suicide.  The problem with the ruling is it is in direct opposition to the Eighth Amendment, and worse, to the Offences Against the Persons Act of 1861 – yes, you read that right, a law written in the 19th Century which is still in effect today – which makes it illegal to use drugs or instruments to cause an abortion.  The Irish Parliament has REFUSED to legislate on these issues for over 30 years now.

The Catholic church would have women believe that their lives are never at risk from pregnancy.  The government sees no problem if women choose to travel to another country to obtain abortion services.  Most private physicians will perform follow-up treatment for women who have done so.  So no one seems to understand why Irish women are so angry about Savita’s death.  The church has no intention of assisting women who can’t afford to travel, so they’re resorting to purchasing abortifacients over the internet – the import of which is also illegal.  The utter hypocrisy of not allowing babies who are still-born or die upon birth without being baptised to be buried in consecrated graveyards doesn’t seem to faze the church at all.

I’m not a religious person, neither Claude nor I are, really.  We have our individual views about it.  He tends toward the Buddhist way of thinking, I tend toward the agnostic.  No matter how you define it, we are definitely not advocates of the Catholic vision of the world.

At this point a number of EU rights groups are calling for sweeping change to these ancient laws.  Ireland is out of step with all of Europe in this regard and does not, in my opinion, deserve to hold the EU Presidency next year until its laws come in line with the rest of the Union.  The anti-choice groups are pulling out all the stops, pressuring their local politicians to not allow women the right to a safe, clean abortion in Ireland.  Women are once again being held hostage to their gender by the Catholics.

The Irish people have some fairly archaic attitudes when it comes to being open with one another, talking about sexuality and differences, speaking of uncomfortable subjects and history.  They use euphemisms to describe horrors of their history.  They have a similar stiff-upper-lip style to the British.  They call periods of anarchy in their history “the Troubles,”  like it’s a touch of the flu or sluggish bowels.  People die and they’re labeled as “the tragic.”  It’s all so … very.

— Cindy

Anniversary

One year ago two lunatic Americans landed in Galway with stars in their eyes and an ideal of ex-patriotism that proved to be so far off the mark that from this perspective it is utterly laughable. Yet the dream lives on and the happiness multiplies exponentially. There are far more good days than bad. Friendships are developing slowly but their worth is invaluable. We suffer a few aches and pains but overall we feel so much better here than anywhere else we have lived. Our routines have become very Irish, as have our attitudes about time and place. When the sun shines it matters not what the temperature is, only that we must get out and get that sunshine on our heads. The rain is inconsequential, an umbrella is useless here by the sea. We have chosen our sports loyalties and enjoy being informed enough to watch a match with the natives while being comforted by actually knowing what the hell they’re talking about.  Our ears have become attuned to the lilt, the accent, the colloquialisms, the cadence and rhythms of the language.  We’re even learning some Irish by ourselves.  It helps that Irish people like Americans, genuinely like America and its people.

Still miss the family tremendously. We try at every opportunity to tempt them into coming to visit us. Next year Ireland is participating in The Gathering 2013 – what a fantastic excuse to get everyone to come see us!

A blessing:

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play-
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song-
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

 
And some random photos:

— Cindy

Another beautiful day in Galway

Image

Had an early doctor appointment this morning.  When I looked outside I saw that it was soft out – that means it was just barely sprinkling rain and only slightly windy – and even though it looked cold it wasn’t even close to being chilly.  I donned my fleece and headed to the bus stop.  It was a productive visit, met with a lovely young woman doctor who said the recurring cough is likely associated with the MS, but could also be a result of sinus blockage.  She gave me a prescription for nasal spray and an inhaler and sent me on my way.  Got to love the efficiency of the health system here, if nothing else.  No mincing words, no dinking around, straight to the point.

Filled my script and by then the sun was out, the wind still blowing.  But hey, we’re right next to the bay, the North Atlantic ocean, the wind is always blowing!  So I grabbed a yummy almond & chocolate croissant at Gourmet Tart and headed to the prom for my walk home.  It’s amazing to me that I now choose to walk the 1 km home instead of waiting for the bus because 6 months ago I wouldn’t even have considered that walk!

Some people enjoy the smell of the ocean, and at times I do as well, but sometimes it has this rank seaweed and dead things odor coming off the shore that makes it a bit unpleasant.  The bay had that smell to it today.  But the walk was still quite refreshing with the brisk sea breeze and the sun just warm enough to make it comfortable.  And in the early parts of the day the prom is virtually empty, making the time spent even more enjoyable.

I’m still taken aback by the fact that walkers here don’t really acknowledge each other as they pass, even though the Irish people are generally very friendly.  But every once in a while I pass a person willing to meet my eye and smile or murmur a greeting and that makes me happy.

When I got home I decided that it has been too long since I have had fresh flowers on the mantelpiece, so I picked a few wildflowers and have them in a pretty vase cheering up the house.

Next week I’ll be back in Colorado for my son’s wedding, then returning to Galway with my mother, uncle and niece.  Then we get to adventure through Ireland some more!

— Cindy

No news is good news, right?

Sorry there hasn’t been much posted here lately.  We’re just slogging along in this everyday life we’ve established.  Claude enjoys his job – mostly – and I try not to get too depressed about this “housewife” gig.  I got two new students at the new round of classes at Age Action – one complete beginner and one who just needs to gain some skills at using the internet.  The beginner promises to have a new laptop with him at the next class.  Oh boy!

I’ve come to realize that the weather here is not as seasonal as it is in the States.  What I mean is that I expected specific weather patterns like we get in Colorado, you know… cold in winter, warm in spring, hot in summer, cooler in fall.  But here it just seems to come on a whim, some days are sunny and temperate (thank goodness not too hot yet) and some are soft and rainy.  Wind plays a huge factor but that’s mostly here by the water; once in the city it’s not bad at all.  Mostly.

Yesterday I walked a distance I never would have even thought of walking a few months ago.  It was only 1 km but that’s a lot when you can’t walk well.  Seems the treatments I’ve received and the vitamin supplements I’m taking and the fresh food diet we’re eating and the exercises I’m (mostly) doing are all beginning to work.  I do feel healthier now than I have in months.

So there’s not much to talk about lately.  The cycling season has started so I’m trying not to become a widow but it’s just so difficult to get excited about the races!  There was a huge crash at the Giro d’Italia the other day that took out the American boy we’d been rooting for, so that was kind of exciting.  I do know more about cycling than I ever thought I would.  And of course there’s the rugby, which I also know more about too.

Things promise to kick into high gear at the end of this month when I travel back to the States for my son’s wedding.  Then family arrives for a visit right afterwards.  It may seem a little boring but life is never a bore when you’re on perpetual holiday like we are!

— Cindy