I landed in Shannon, Ireland, and caught the bus to Galway with a large group of friendly, fairly loud Americans. The signs for the buses were all in Irish (as gaeilge), with a few of the city names translated into English. I found the right bus easily enough. The only Irish person on the bus, to start off with anyways, naturally decided to sit next to me. Thank goodness, because she didn’t talk and I was exhausted. The bus stopped in little towns along the way, and people got on or off the bus all throughout the one and a half hour bus ride, but there were no smelly seafood incidents and the under-bus storage had plenty of room for all of our luggage.
I took a taxi from the bus station to my accomodation near NUIG which is, in a word, minimalist. Except that we do have a TV. Between five girls (myself and four Irish girls, all first-years) we have a kitchenette, mini-fridge-sized fridge, electric stovetop, pots, pans and electric kettle. All our windows open (no bug screens needed, apparently), and we are advised to keep the heaters running and the windows open to the outside so that mould doesn’t grow. Fair enough. Our water pressure in the shower, however, is the equivalent of a leaky faucet. It makes for quick showers, though, since there is zero encouragement to stand half in trickling hot water while the rest of you is freezing. It would be quicker to shower outside with the rain!
Anyhow, the first week I walked around Galway by myself (my apartment mates had introductory lectures that week, and weren’t interested in going around town). I know my way around the city pretty well now, and it takes me about half an hour to get to the city centre (how the Irish spell “center”).
On Saturday, I went to the farmer’s market held every weekend around Church Lane, not far from the bottom of Shop Street. I bought fresh veggies for the week, for the price of about 4 euro. I did a loop: bought some carrots at a stall selling vegetables and oysters, and then went back around to the same stall to get a couple onions and six or so small potatoes. I asked “How much” for the additional vegetables and was told by the vendor “Fifty cents”. “What”? His accent was really strong, so I thought I misheard him. “Fifty cents”, he insisted. Surprised, I gave him the small amount and got a “Welcome to Galway” in reply. I think I will be a regular there! Especially since it is far cheaper, fresher, and more quantity than the supermarket. Afterwards I walked around in the mall with my two bags full of vegetables feeling pretty great, and not at all weird that I was carrying around dirt-covered food for half the afternoon into Penney’s and Dunnes (roughly WalMart equivalents).
Please Note: the photo does not do justice to the veggies, as our overhead light was not working and I had to resort to the camera on my computer, hence half of the veggies are not shown.
Did I mention I also bought chorizo, and that it is cheaper than the chicken filets at Tesco? My choice of carne for the week (the rest is in the freezer for another time), part of which I made into a very deliciously turned out soup:
Day one of class (two days ago) was, in a word, brilliant. Was I jumping up and down at every word that I sometimes half-understood, if at all? I was not. I managed to understand 99% of what was said, even when being talked to at top speed. However, the modules (Irish-English for “classes”) are going to be extremely hands-on and practical, with seminar-like discussions instead of being lectured at. The first lectures, though, were more listening-packed than conversational. Each module is once a week, and although I have only had 6 of my 8 modules so far and have Wednesday “off”, apart from having a “lie in” (Hiberno-English for “sleeping in”), there is plenty of homework this week already and two end-of-semester projects.
In addition, we’ve been encouraged to attend as many cultural events as possible and, in some cases, required – which is really fortunate given the opportunities Galway has. I am the only American in the programme – the rest are Irish, and 80% of our class are girls. Age range mostly falls between mid-20s and 30, however there are a few of us younger ones and a few middle-aged students.
After our first day of class, as we did not have time to eat lunch, six of us headed out for the craic, the Irish word for something like “fun” or “a good time”: we had a very late-afternoon lunch at a creperie (no, I did not meet any French people. Hélas). The crepes were good, though.
Per the suggestion of one of our professors, the same six of us (there are 15 total in our programme) then decided to attend the launch parties for two cultural event/institutions in Galway: the Babaró Children’s Festival at 5PM, officiated by the mayor himself, we then headed to the official 34th season programme opening of the Druid Theatre. At the Druid, after the opening speeches in the theatre, everyone filed out into the bar area, where more appetizers, drinks, and – most exciting of all – networking opportunities awaited. We saw the above-mentioned professor there, and he saw us. Surprised and delighted that some of us actually attended the night’s events in Galway, he introduced us to his wife, and also anyone and everyone he could pull over to us. Yes, artsy people, but also business-savvy and who-knows-what-else people. Quite a few of the people we met were eager for help with various festivals, etc., so come spring it looks like we will all have quite a few options for helping out at events, or even finding an relevant internship for the summer. A photographer that was there came over to us girls (the guys had split off somewhere else in the room) and asked if we would group together for photos. He took our names and said we may be in the paper. I am not sure if we made it in (or if it was for the following day’s paper, either). That was our two minutes of almost-fame.
Our time at the Druid was briefly followed by a twenty-minute chat in the alley outside with our professor about the walled-in archaeological excavation across the alley, we decided to leave our appetizers, wining and networking, seeing as we had stayed all the way through until the last guests had left. Since it was still early in the evening – undergrad students were not even in town yet for their night out! – we determined it would be a good idea to go for a pint (some of us more than a pint) at Tigh Neachtain. (Typically pronounced simply as “Nocktin’s”, without the “Teag”. Slightly too chilly to sit outside, we found a place inside and, about an hour into our conversation(s), our professor showed up again. He was, of course, thrilled to see us again and, assuring us he would join our table in a few, he soon left whoever he was with (I mean, not his wife, but a group of some sort) and came over and joined our table with his own pint.
Around half eleven (how “11:30” is said here), we all headed home, some either walking together or splitting a taxi.
Today, most of our same group from last night walked to Eyre Square and had lunch in the grass there, since we had a two-hour break. It was the eighth consecutive rain-free day, nice and warm (in contrast to this morning, when I could see my breath). No one is talking about the lack of rain for fear of jinxing our luck. I give it a week.
Lastly, and rather non-excitingly, (yet informative!), Thursday I have law class and on Friday there is a research methods class with all the other masters’ students.
I wish I had a more original ending, but here is is me unceremoniously ending this blog post until the next batch of babblings from the Western edge of Ireland.