Sunday, 16 September 2012

Week Four: County Girls Forever

Closest I'll be to
home until December!
This weekend we took a fieldtrip with our Folklore class to one of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr (pronounced Inisheer). These are three islands off the coast of Galway that remain very sparsely populated and, in my opinion, capture Ireland’s beauty perfectly. The island that we were on is the smallest of the three: it has a population of about two hundred people. Multiple people that we met on the island told us “We have three churches, three pubs, one store, one soccer field, no police, and no hospital.” Clearly they have their priorities straight. After we took a look in the “museum,” which was actually a one room house that has been filled with objects from the island’s history, a group of us rented bikes for the day and biked around the island. We made it almost entirely around the island in only one afternoon, and the views were breathtaking. We also stood at the furthest point of the island, which is the closest we will be to America this semester! We took a ton of pictures of the landscape, the lighthouse, the ocean, the farmhouses, the cows, the castle, and everything else we could find. There was one house, though, that really stood out in my mind. It was a thatched-roof house just a minute’s walk from the ferry. The house itself was nothing too out of the ordinary for Ireland: a quaint thatched-roof house with whitewashed stone walls. But in front of this house was a yard containing a child’s sized soccer goal, with soccer balls scattered around the yard. The yard was enclosed in a stone wall, also expected in an Irish country home, but there were little flowers peeking out from the spaces in between. I’m not sure if it was the calmness of the island, the sight of a house so far away from home that had a yard resembling my own New Jersey backyard so much, or a combination of the two, but I could not stop looking at this house.  Whenever I think about Ireland, that house is what I think of: something so different from my own home, but so similar in many ways. I was also able to somehow get a hand-knit Irish sweater that originally cost €80 for €35. The man at the store, who looked old enough to be my grandpa’s grandpa, refused to take any more money from me. I thanked the man about fifty times, but I am not sure he knows how appreciative I am of his totally unnecessary kind gesture. That night Erin, Claire, and I went on a walk along the water, and had one of those conversations that only be described as an extended realization that there are people in this world who know exactly what you mean, even when you can’t find the right words to say. Everyone in our class ended up at one of the three pubs together later that night, and Claire, Erin, and I stayed late into the night, listening to the live music, and making friends with the people who inhabited this tiny island. “Hi, I’m Kerry!” I would say. “Oh, wonderful! You know  that’s a county here, right?” they would respond. Before I could say anything, Claire would jump in, “I’m Claire!” and this would really get them going – Claire is another county in Ireland. At this point, we would really throw them off, because Erin would introduce herself, and seeing as Erin is basically the Irish word for Ireland, we earned ourselves the nickname “the county girls.” One of the locals even jumped between Claire and me and said “And I’m Limerick!” If that joke is lost on you, take a look at a map of Ireland. The guys playing music dedicated their last song to “our American friends – the county girls,” and I can honestly say that my experience on the Inis Oirr is one that I will never forget. 

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