So, our internet is basically down. I’m sitting in the office now connected to the ethernet cable, how old school, hahaha. Well the following post is a long and little scattered as I wrote most of it while traveling by bus and train and sitting in the coffee shops. So please forgive! 🙂
Athenry Castle (Athen – Rye)
Today I woke up knowing I was going to do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted and see whatever I wanted. I wanted to start the journey and end the journey. I wanted to find out how to get there and do it on my own. And I did. As I write these words I feel absolutely ridiculous. Isn’t this something we all do everyday? Isn’t this one of those things that goes without saying? The truth is, it’s not. You’d think that freedom is easy to come by and that it’s one of those overlooked
advantages of being a human. But to be honest, most often we are led through life by our loved ones, usually having to do what the next loudest person wants or come to some sort of compromise on what to do, eat, play, watch, etc. *I’d like to clarify that I find nothing wrong with this and I wholly believe and understand that human interaction is how we all survive; but to know what it’s like to be on your own without a person to lean on is quite eye opening in this regard. It wasn’t until I met little Alex at the train station in Galway City that I realized just how on my own I am here.
Four year old Alex proved to be a much better journalist than I, asking me all sorts of questions. “Do you sleep here? Where is your house? Do your cousins live here? What’s your name? Do you have a watch?” I don’t even think I can come up with those kinds of varied questions in a 5 minute time span! He was just THE cutest little boy ever. Red hair and big blue eyes and the best little giggle that was quite continuous throughout our conversation. He sat on a bench with his mom, Katleen, and older brother, Rueben, who found it hilarious to blow up his balloon and let the air out in my direction. This little serendipitous moment led to a wonderful conversation with Katleen who is from Belgium originally but has lived in Ireland for 18 years. She started
asking me what brought me here and so on which led to me finding out that she started a blog for foreigners moving to Ireland to find work. I learned that the town that she lives in, Petersville (or something like that) has a huge Brazilian population. Apparently back in the day, the meat shop/farm was in need of workers and a Brazilian guy started working there and was good and so they had more come over or something like that as well…regardless, there is a big population there now. Which consequently makes sense to me because Daniel who I met at the farm is from Brazil and is in a band with 3 other Brazilians that he didn’t know until coming to Ireland. I did found this quite odd when he told me seeing as Brazil is so very far away.
Katleen gave me her business card and told me to email her if I need a new face. I just may take her up on that. She also runs a business from her home which sells fair trade and organically made things, some that she mentioned were baby slings and pregnant chimes. Pregnant women where these around their neck and the baby can hear it when their hearing develops within the womb. I should have to look that up to see exactly what that means or what it is good for. Apparently before the recession, Katleen was selling/distributing to 36 shops around Ireland, but now it’s less than half! Poor thing! I hope business begins to pick up soon. People can buy the products online as well, she ships them right from home. Such a tiny country! So cool and so awesome to meet a friendly face who knows exactly what it’s like to walk around here without a friend. She said, “It’s hard, but not impossible. You have to be anally persistent – excuse my words.” Ha ha ha I loved that! Such an endearing woman.
When I got off the train at Athenry it was so empty and I didn’t see or hear a bustling town so I walked. LOTS of walking in Athenry. I also couldn’t see a castle anywhere, so I went into a convenience store to ask if there were any tours. The girl told me wait just a minute, “I’ll pop down to the lad’s house who gives the tours.” Yes, that small apparently. The town was built within the walls of the castle, the walls that were once meant to guard the castle from intruders. Built in 1235, and renovated twice in 1250, then again in 1800-something, originally used as a home for the de Birmingham family and their servants, it is believed that because of the alterations, adding a basement and ground entry with large doorways, it was later used for soldiers quarters and dangerous weapon storage. The coolest part about this small town castle visit was that I was completely alone! I thought for sure there would be tons and tons of people there, but I guess combined with the fact that the population is so small here and that it’s kind of a random place to be it does make a bit of sense. Walking around there alone though was something special to me. I felt no need to comment on how the air smelled different in there or how interesting the windows were. I felt no rush when reading the signs because no one was behind me waiting. I could take it all in on my own and in my own time. There were only 2 other sets of people. A couple I believed to have been from Russia went in before me, and two American women, sisters I think, taking video’s of each other in front of the castle walls. I was most fascinated by the windows, the roof – the way it was built and ladies bathroom, which I’m forgetting the name of at the moment. The hall and door to get into that bathroom was ungodly tiny, I can only imagine how it felt to go through there with those large dresses. At the same time, it did have an eerie air to it and being alone in there would have scared the life out of me at night time.
From the castle I went to the Franciscan Priury and cemetery. I saw some stones from the 18th and 19th centuries! There is a playground built just outside the castle and across the street from the cemetery as well, it’s surrounded by these 600 year old stone walls and lots of green grass. How feckin cool is that?! I learned that feckin means freakin, you know the nicer way of saying the f-bomb.
When I left that morning I stopped a bought a sandwich because it was actually closer to lunch time. I expected I’d have eaten it within the hour or so, but it ended up being my dinner and I found a lovely spot next to Galway Bay to sit and enjoy. It was very peaceful and nice and shady. It was cold, dreary and rainy when I left the cabin but the weather had become quite sunny and hot as the day progressed so all that walking in Athenry really had me hot and tired. Once I ate I went back to the center of town and sat in a cafe, drank coffee and wrote for a good long while then caught the bus back to Ballinasloe.
The infamous first Saturday night on the town. My apologies for the texts, you know who you are. I only have about 8 numbers in my phone and two of them are cab numbers, one is to call to “Top Up” on minutes as they call it here, so it was very limited pickings for the drunk texts of the evening. So again, I’m very sorry to use up texts for such stupidness and if I alarmed you. I also just was loving the fact that it was 3 am here and only 10 there!
So the story goes like this, I was standing at the bus stop in Galway City. Some stupid guy kept trying to talk to me, asking me if he could know me and I was ignoring him and finally I told him I don’t want to know him bluntly. Meanwhile, a girl stood next to us witnessing this ridiculousness. Once he left I caught her eye and gave her the thank-God-that’s-over-with-look. Grace from County Clare was on her way to Ballinasloe for a birthday party of a girl she went to college with. Grace graduated after 2 years of college for working with horses, I wish I knew a better name for that. She’s only 19 though and has a full time job at a horse stable. She hadn’t spent much time in the area, so I was actually able to help someone get to where they were going in Ireland! I’m really starting to get the swing of things, within Ballinasloe at least and somewhat Galway. Turned out she was getting off the same stop as I, so throughout the hour long ride, she invited me to this party which was at bar in town and clearly since I know no one, I took her up on it. I’m not sure if she truly expected me to, but she seemed quite sincere in the invitation. By this time it was raining hard. I still had a huge back pack with me from traveling that day so I had to run to the farm first to drop it and get freshened up. I walked home in the rain but I didn’t get too soaked.
Thank God I finally learned the short cut from town to Beechlawn, or else it’d have taken me a lot longer and I may not have gone back out! But, I suppose you could say I was determined. I wanted to let loose in the worst way. After all the stress of traveling and then working on the farm all week I needed young energy. Not gonna lie, a pretty awkward start. I called a cab to come pick me up, that guy was the nicest, he worked in Boston for 6 years before returning back to his home town in B’Sloe. (I saw a poster for auditions for Cinderella with the B’Sloe Panto’s – panto stands for pantomime which here is considered a more satirical version of musical theater.) He helped me pronounce the name of the bar correctly and advised me not to walk on certain streets alone, which of course was very, very helpful. When I got to the bar, I couldn’t find Grace so I got a cider, which she suggested to me on the bus when I said I didn’t like beer. After a while I spotted her and she introduced me to her friend Emma. I had to be a loner for quite a bit because they were catching up with their old friends, so that wasn’t great, but I was taking in the scenery I suppose. Not long after, they caught up with me and many people were pretty drunk by this time so it was much easier to start conversations. You’d think that we were in L.A. the way the ladies were dressed up! Short dresses, heels and up-does! I felt very under dressed and out of place, very short too. Somehow I thought I wouldn’t feel short in Ireland but all the girls were wearing 3 inch heels!!! No joke. They were all very nice though. The girl who’s birthday it was gave me a free pass to get into the night club after the bar without even knowing my name! I met a million people last night and can only remember about 3 names. One guy, whose last name was O’Neill, told me that his descendants used to be the kings/royal
family of Co. Galway. Who knows if that’s true….hahaha…but pretty cool if it is! I can barely understand anyone in this scene. All night: really drunk + accent + slang + talking faster than I’m used to = excuse me? what? i’m sorry? Funnily enough, as much as I thought I stuck out like a sore thumb, people generally didn’t know I was American until I spoke, at least that’s how it seemed to me based on their reactions.
There is a Shannon Tin Foil in the super market and a Shannon Laundromat in Galway City.
There is also Regina Toilet Paper.
There is a store called TK Maxx, it looks just the same as our TJ Maxx.
There are Aldi’s, Texaco’s, McDonald’s and Subway’s here.
On all the food products under nutritional information there is a number listed next to Energy.
And Finally….I have again mispronounced Padraig. When they say it here, it sounds more like Pour-Rick. It makes no sense to me, the spelling and the translations of Irish names and words. But I’m learning everyday!