The Irish Way

I’ve spent my life to this point in a very stressed out, tough, angry part of the country. [You know I love you, Philly, but it’s true.] This is not to say the Irish never get upset or angry, of course they do. But it’s usually at the government, corruption, inequity, persecutors of people and of course the rival football or rugby club. As long as I stay outraged at wrongdoing and don’t start cheering for County Mayo, I’ll fit right in.

The village I live in is small and as a result, everyone knows one another. Even a transplant like me. For instance, the other day in taking my daily walk, I traversed a part of Main Street and as I did, I encountered the postman. I intended to wave hello and keep going but he stopped me and said, “Hiya, hold on I’ve got your post for you.” Now, mind you, I was nowhere near my house and I’ve only met the man twice in the time we’ve lived here. Granted, “the American woman” probably stands out in the small crowd, but already I’m familiar. That’s a wonderful thing. My mail carrier in Bucks County never addressed me by name and frequently mis-delivered my mail even after 14 years.

Riding the bus to and from Galway is always a pleasurable education, too. All the neighbors catch up on the news of their families and the state of the world. “Hiya, Mary. How’re ye keeping? Ah, grand, that’s grand. God bless ye.” The trip home is like being on the school bus —the driver, who everybody also knows— stops at all the old ladies’ houses so they don’t have so far to walk. “This next house on the left, Gerry, if ye don’t mind. Thanks a million.” How cool is that? It was a miracle if any of my Bucks County neighbors waved hello as I walked by. I only knew their names because their mail was so frequently mis-delivered.

And the local radio station: Galway Bay FM has its own funny charm. It’s always playing on the bus so I get to hear it often enough. They have call-in contests and the DJ always finds some connection to the caller. “Hi, we’ve got Julie from Loughrea on the line. How’re ye, Julie? Now, where do ye live in Loughrea? Northside? Say, do ye know the McGettigans? They’re two houses down? Ah, they’re great pals of mine. Went to school with Jamie, don’t ye know…” Eventually they get to the call-in contest question. It takes forever, but it’s pretty hilarious.

The radio also gives a rundown of the local death notices, the subsequent viewing location and the funeral arrangements. And on the other side of surreal they also provide the television lineup for RTE One, including plot synopses and teaser/trailers for each program. All I can say about that is, it’s no wonder everyone goes to the pub. Now, since I’m five hours or more ahead of you folks back home, I’m off to have a pint!

Drawing Adventurously (14)

The challenge this time was to draw ships or boats. My choice for the drawing is a traditional fishing boat used in Galway Bay. This singled masted boat has one main sail and two foresails. Developed to sail the strong seas off the west coast of Ireland, here is my Galway Hooker:

From Bucks County to County Galway

I’m finally settling into my new home in Ireland after spending nearly two weeks in a hotel. The sale of the home in Pennsylvania was complicated and as a result delayed the transfer of funds for us to complete the purchase of our house in County Galway. Now that it’s done, I’m putting things slowly in order. As you can imagine, things work a little bit differently here and I’m finding my way by trial and error and by not being too embarrassed to admit when I haven’t a clue. Since I haven’t had either time or inclination to write (thank you stress and worry) I thought I’d try to get back in the routine by sharing some of my experiences in settling into life in a foreign country.

Everything takes 7-10 days. Patience is the word of the day. Americans, let me tell you, we are spoiled with instant gratification. We are so used to getting immediate results that waiting a full week for satisfaction feels like an eternity. But that’s just the way it goes over here and no amount of complaining will change anything. (Not that I’m complaining, I find it rather refreshing actually.) Except for being without internet and TV for that long. And while being disconnected and quiet has an appeal, it’s difficult when you’re trying to take care of business that, these days can only be handled online! Finally we got connected yesterday.

The country is far more ecologically/environmentally responsible than I’m accustomed to. I cannot believe the stuff we are able to recycle, for instance. In the ‘traditional’ recycling bin they will take not just the numbers 1 and 2 plastic that I was restricted to in Pennsylvania, but ALL plastics including plastic bags and shrink wrap! In this bin goes all glass and metal cans, cardboard, chip board and paper, too. I get another bin for COMPOST! All food and kitchen waste goes in here along with paper towels and napkins. Then finally there is a third bin for regular trash that can’t be recycled. I can barely think of what I might throw in it.

Another way the Irish (and possibly all of Europe, I imagine) are conservation-minded is the way the household power is managed. My water heater has an off-switch. No one leaves the water heater on full time. Many homes have them on timers so that they don’t run during hours when hot water isn’t needed. The oil burner is also on a timer so that the heat shuts off over night when you can keep warm under the covers. All the appliances are super energy efficient, most cars are small and hybrids are very popular. They tax fuel very steeply to encourage efficiency and public transportation is readily accessible even out in the hinterland where I live. Thanks to that, we are going to try to get by with one car for now.

Speaking of cars, our car is a Skoda and it’s not only right-hand drive, it’s a manual transmission. Thank goodness I learned on a stick shift and drove one for several decades. I picked up the feel for it again right away.

GMO foods are banned, pesticide use is restricted and many suspicious ingredients like preservatives and dyes are not allowed in foods. The produce is beautiful and plentiful. I feel healthier already. And get this: eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. Naturally, eggs have a coating on the shell which protects against spoilage. In America, chickens are raised in such abhorrent conditions that eggs need to be pasteurized, thus destroying that protective coating and requiring them to be refrigerated for storing. My eggs are sitting on the kitchen counter. Good thing, too. Refrigerators are small!

Stores don’t stay open late. Thinking about shopping in the evening? Forget about it. Grocery and convenience stores might stay open till 11:00 pm but every other store closes at 6:00 or 7:00. I guess having a life trumps getting the extra sales. I find that really refreshing, too. Lot’s of places are closed on Sunday as well. Vacation, weekends and time to spend with family and friends are valued here, not just by workers but by the employers as well. That’s pretty cool.

And finally, my daily walk now takes me along a narrow lane that skirts the old walls of Headford Castle. My view across the road is a farm with sheep and cows. The bank, the supermarket and the pub are all within walking distance. So far everyone has been friendly, kind and helpful. The weather has been lovely but we’re prepared for the inevitable rain and chill. I will build a little peat fire in the fireplace and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Made with my electric kettle!