Wow, WoW, WOW!!! From Friday I’ve had the largest range and variety of emotions since Miranda found out her ex-husband was dressing up like an old woman to Nanny their children. – Please for the love of God I hope someone gets that Mrs. Doubtfire reference. Anywho, the Aran Islands changed my life! I woke up Saturday morning, dragging my feet after a grueling first full week on the job. Let me tell you, Ireland showed me rain last week and continues to impress me with it’s ability to rain and shine and rain and shine and then just rain and just rain some more. I planned on catching the bus early but ended up reading, eating a slow breakfast, doing laundry and cleaning which slowed my getting ready process substantially but was well worth the effort. After a long walk, 2, 1-hour-long bus rides and an hour ferry ride, I finally made it to Innismor (pronounced In-ish-more), the largest of the three Aran Islands off the coast of Galway. Now, when I say largest…yeah, not that large; between the three islands the total population barely breaks a thousand! I almost lost it when I asked the tour bus driver, a 60-something born and raised Aran Islander who had a strikingly similar face to Robert Deniro, the population and he said 750. I repeated it to him, “Seven Hundred and Fifty?” — “People, yes. Seven hundred and fifty people here. Only 320 between the other two islands.” You can imagine why spending one night on this island was quite enough to see all it had to offer.
On this tour, we drove up to a 2500-year-old fort called Dun Aengus (pronounced Dun-Ang-us). Bicycling up to this fort is very popular on this island, but I opted for the less sweaty, more guided tour as the thought of biking on this island by myself intimidated me a bit. – Though later, I walked there on my own, at the time it seemed that this was the better choice. So I sat in the car with Irish Robert DeNiro for about 15 minutes as I watched him beg from the drivers seat for people to join us for a tour of the island. The problem was that he charged 10 euro per person, but would only benefit from 30 euro – and at this time I was the only one wanting the tour, until two girls who were studying abroad in Limerick decided to join. I didn’t catch their names, I wasn’t too keen on taking the tour with them once we got there either. I was actually shocked at the conversations people were having on the walk up to the fort! I’m walking up this ridiculously steep hill trying not to cry at the beauty of this landscape and these people are gossiping their neighbors hedges!
I couldn’t have summed up the feeling I had when I reached the top better than this boy, about 15, who took the last big step up into the fort and with a huge smile and face full of relief breathed, “Awesome” as his entire body from face to feet exhaled. This landscape is just beyond words. The fort sits on the edge of a cliff which plunges into the most beautiful blue green ocean 300 feet down. The sky is ridiculously blue, but with every passing cloud it pours like never before, then returns to sunshine again within the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, because I was on a bus tour, I couldn’t spend the amount of time I wanted to up on the cliffs because we had only an hour and some of the people had to make it back in time to catch the ferry back to the main land. This was no Athenry, there were tons of people at this site and I can definitely understand why.
The rest of the bus tour was beautiful, seeing the coast was insane because I had no idea Ireland’s oceans could be so vibrantly blue like in the tropics! Let me tell you though, not as calm as the tropics. That’s for sure. On the ride over the swells were 10-15 feet high! And no joke, I thought several times we were in danger of capsizing. It felt like a big piece of ply wood with chairs going over those waves. Not to mention the menacing clouds above which brought wind and rain intermittently. Sheesh, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, the lovely Stella Capuono so thoughtfully gave me a going away present in the form of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which kept me quite entertained on these long bus and ferry rides. I know the book is already highly recommended by the New York Times and Oprah and all…but I highly recommend it too if that matters. 🙂 Thanks Stella! It is such an absolutely PERFECT book for this journey.
After the tour I spent a good hour walking around the Aran Sweater Shop aimlessly. I wanted to buy one of these real, Irish-
Made sweaters of course but they had such a variety I really couldn’t choose. I was also sort of tired, hungry and in need of a beverage at this point but felt like it was too early to give in so I walked some more. After the sweater shop and some other tourist-trappy stores, I decided to check out the common area of the hostel. So glad I did because I ended up meeting a really cool girl named Megan from Olympia, Washington. She is also traveling Ireland solo, but even more bravely than I! She is biking around the entire southern coast for the next 3 weeks! We ended up having drinks at the pub and taking yet another exploratory walk around this island. Definitely one of the coolest people I’ve met so far. We exchanged contact info so I have another contact in Ireland, YEAH!
Sunday morning, raining a lot. I woke up early and took a walk and actually ended up meditating in an empty church. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had yet and so, so very healing. I was in there for almost an hour and completely lost track of time. I didn’t take any pictures of this building as I felt this was better left in my own personal memory. Afterwards, I ended up wandering about the island. There was another boat load of tourists dropped off, most of which were American students, that I wasn’t feeling to keen on being around.
After a short walk that almost ended in being smacked into by a student biking recklessly, I found a dirt path that looked highly intriguing to me. It was like the secret garden, no joke. I think I may have been trespassing on someone’s property but it was so much land and so much shrubbery I doubted I’d get caught and felt quite compelled to continue down this maze-like path, so I did. The view of the stone wall mazes from the top of this hill was simply gorgeous. – “DeNiro” also mentioned that there are over 7, 000 stone walls on Innismor, though no one knows who counted them all. – I walked down this path-to-no-where for a good hour, until I heard a voice singing Irish folk-songs, but couldn’t find the source. That’s when I tipped my hat and turned around.
I sat at a cafe for 4 hours and wrote in my journal after this. I watched the tourists pass by on their bikes in rain gear head to toe since by this point it was raining much more heavily than it had all weekend. I wrote and wrote and wrote until my hand hurt then I wrote some more. An adorable Irish priest had been sitting there almost the entire time reading newspapers looked up and joked with me that I’d better hurry up if I had to turn this essay in tomorrow. With a feeling of genuine relief I told him I was very thankful that it was not an essay and just for fun. (Thanks Mike for the journal! It’s been really nice to free write in it while traveling. Sometimes I forget that handwriting is much more effective than typing for these purposes.) I couldn’t help but overhear when after hours of sitting there at 3 o’clock the priest ordered breakfast; 3 brown eggs scrambled hard please, 2 tomatoes cut in half and a rasher (a slice of bacon).
I did end up falling into the tourist trap and bought and bright purple Irish sweater and wore it for the entire rest of the day. 🙂 It was certainly useful as my H&M hoodie was not cutting it against the damp and very windy air.
Monday, monday, monday, monday. By far, the grossest day I’ve seen yet. It poured all through Sunday night, all of Monday and through the night until early Tuesday morning. And it wasn’t just pouring, but also reallllly windy and quite chilly. From 8 am – 1 pm, we harvested leeks, carrots and parsnips in the pouring rain. I was soaking wet and quite muddy from head to toe. Ula, the Polish girl that works here, somehow never gets dirty and this just baffle’s my mind because I know she works hard, probably harder than I do; I guess I’ve always just been one to commit whole-heartedly to the task at hand – and in this case it means a messy, messy outfit. Thankfully on this day,Una had prepared a pot of deliciously fresh, organic, homemade tomato soup for lunch so that helped warm us right up!
I didn’t escape without a ridiculous tale though, of course…it’s me. As I’m feverishly yanking veggies out of the ground left and right as fast as possible, I somehow flung a huge glob of dirt into my eye. I literally can feel the dirt stuck to my eyeball and physically cannot close that lid because there is so much of it. I look at my sleeves and gloves and they’re covered in mud. Lovely! So I look to Charlie, another Brazilian guy that started working here last week as Daniel is MIA, who is standing next to me also covered in dirt. Now I have known some really great people in my lifetime but I don’t think I know anyone, save Sharon Kegeles, that would go to these lengths to help out a friend. Charlie takes both his gloves off, unzips his jacket takes the edge of his shirt and twists it into a fine point and offers to jab it into my eye in order to pick the dirt out. Hm. I have to be honest, there were several red flags going up about this and I could only imagine the amount of dirt and germs that could have been residing on said shirt…but at this point, in the middle of this soggy field so far from a bathroom or mirror or….first aid kit, and after several persuasive arguments from Charlie, I decided to give in. Please imagine this ridiculous scene. He was right though, it worked like a charm and my eye has been fine ever since! Clearly, by lunch time my face was covered in mud because I continued to forget that my hands and arms were covered in mud and proceeded to wipe my hair off of my face and snot away from my nose. And just as clearly, Ula’s hands and boots were dirty, but nothing else. How?!?!?! I need to find out her secret.
Ula is the sweetest. She’s always intercepting my conversations with Gregor (her fiance) when I can’t understand a word he’s saying or when he’s joking with me and I have no idea and also can’t understand what he’s saying – which is most of the time. Ula always steps in to translate and/or let me know what’s going on. I don’t know if any of you have ever picked tomatoes, but it leaves the grossest greenish, yellowish film on your fingers. When I first started I neglected my gloves quite often and Ula would tell me always to put them on, well now I’m paying for it because I have dirt ingrained in the cracks in my hands I hadn’t even known were there. Today, I walked away from the shed with a pair of ill-fitting gloves to go pick some tomatoes and Ula ran up to me holding a rubber band, “Shanna, give me hand. I am Polish,” she said as she slipped the rubber band over my forearm to tighten the fit of the glove. I assume this meant that Polish people are resourceful? Hahaha but I’m still cracking up hours later, don’t know maybe you had to be there but when I replay this scene over in my head I honestly laugh out loud. Several times yesterday out in the field, Ula offered me her shirt when I clumsily rubbed mud on my face.
Gage has been really helpful in trying to figure out this whole internet issue and says that he thinks he knows what step I have to take next in order to fix the problem. Because at this point, the farms internet is working, but my computer is not picking up the signal for the life of me I can’t figure out why?!?! So hopefully sometime this week, we’ll get it working.
- The popular name brand cider is called Bulmers, but it cost 2.24 euros/can at the market! I’m now opting for the “Bankers” of cider. Half because of price and half because it’s called, “Druids Celtic Cider.” (And because the tail end of it’s tag line says that it, “captures the magic of apples harvested at the point of ripe perfection.”)
- A large group of grown men boarded the ferry on Saturday wearing shirts that said, “Peter, Peter, P**sy Eater.” Clever? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes.
- Zucchini’s are called courgette’s here.
- Arugala is called rocket.
- The supermarket bakery makes a donut called Rolo which apparently has the candy inside of it. Why?! Who, where decided that this type of pastry was needed?
- The most common phrase I’ve heard outside of a pub is, “Can I steal a fag?”
- Beechlawn Farm won an award today for best local organic farm.
- It is currently Organic Week in all of Ireland