Wandering Éireann

My dad and twin brother visited two Saturdays ago. I took the 6:30AM train to meet them. I drank more alcohol with them than I normally do in two weeks (because we went for a pint every day), and naturally our very first stop was the Guinness factory. We were there before it even opened for the day, after we figured out how to not get ticketed in the car park (or “parking lot”, for the Americans reading). Anyhow, at the factory (my second time in two years!) I did learn that I can safely drink 14 pints a week, per a trivia game backed by Guinness’ own research. Nowhere near that target currently. Men, you can have 21 pints or so.

Apart from the scenery, my most favourite part was visiting family in County Clare and Leitrim. We met some of the cousins that we hadn’t met before, had tea, sandwiches and biscuits, and lots of craic. (You know what I mean, there). I was invited to stay with a few, which I hope to be able to do soon. Also – we went to the *quickest* mass I’ve ever attended in my life. I couldn’t even keep up with how fast the priest was saying everything, and the first and second readings were said one after the other, practically in the same breath. There was no music and certainly no fluff, but then neither was there much *apparent* significance because of the haste (although it seems that’s not speedy according to some ;) ), so we were at mass for maybe half an hour. The chat outside afterwards with the family lasted longer than the mass itself!

We also went to the Cliffs of Moher/Mohr/Mohair (pick your spelling) on a day that was clear enough to see the Aran islands, with only about ten other people around and a deserted car park.

My favorite part of our trip was the drive south, including Kerry, Dingle, Tralee, and middles-of-nowhere:

Tralee city centre, Co. Kerry (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


We also hiked (for about 45 minutes):


Once we got to Galway (the night before they left to head home via Dublin), Dad, the twin, myself and the LAL’s (minus A., who was sick), went out to Cava Bodega, an insanely delicious tapas restaurant. L&L really liked meeting two of my American family, so – even though we invited Dad to join our “pub crawl” (no, really, it’s too crowded to NOT crawl through the pub) – the rest of us went out.

My twin also met some of my friends’ friends, too (other Brazilians, not the same as previously mentioned), and stopped by the grungy movie-set looking but amazing Pizza Napoli, run by a Romanian. I secured a Fanta (no H2O available) by yelling for one in Italian, after I realized that while the owner was Romanian, the three guys behind the counter were repeating customers’ orders in Italian. It’s the kind of place where there is no queue (“line”), so you crash the counter in a frenzy.

Then – of course – we ran into the one French guy that works there, who was there for some reason on his night off. A couple of nights before, as I was with the LALs and we thought we were being discreet chatting loudly in French, he replied to our pizza orders in French. He looks like he walked off of Plus Belle la Vie, a very cheesy (no pun intended!!) yet successful French soap opera set in the south of France, complete with too-small T-shirts and laughably macho men who wink a lot and have one too many girlfriends.

Oops – I should have prefaced my ode to Pizza Napoli by stating that I only learned all of this (with the exception of yer man mentioned above) because I went there during the -*shock*- daytime in broad daylight with one of my friends and it was very empty. So, naturally, we decided to guess what country all the workers were from. Also, we met an Italian who works at the University (not an employee of Pizza Napoli, however), who talked at me in Italian about his job and asked if we worked at the University as we waited on our pizza.

Anyways, after Pizza Napoli (we made sure my twin found the hotel on the way back), one of the L.’s and I walked the usual 30-minute-plus (albeit completely flat and no hills in sight) trek home.

Unrelated to the above: per Dad, my twin and my friends, I apparently have a bit of an Irish accent. To be fair, I’d say it comes and goes in waves depending on who I’m with. Taxi drivers, shop owners, and 100% of everyone I meet think I’m either French, Irish, Franco-Irish, Italian or Not American. (Ah yes, Not American is apparently a new nationality I was not aware of).

One day, I realized while staring at poster in pubs all of a sudden that I knew more Irish than I thought. Aside from a couple classmates, I know a few others who “have Irish” (meaning they know Irish), and one of the LAL’s (the friends next door) started learning it this semester. Some of the words I’ve learnt since being here, from English phrases to Irish, are surprising.

“____, love”.  – You could be in a shop checking out, in a pub being handed a pint, or a classmate could be saying ‘bye. Followed by “love”. It’s kind of like “hun” in the South (of the U.S.), and does not mean anything in particular.

“yoke” – usually means “thing” when the speaker forgot what they were saying or looking for. As in, “Where’s the yoke”? could mean “Where’s the tea towel”?

Tea towel – dishcloth used exclusively for drying dishes. Before we bough kitchen rags for cleaning, I mistakenly used them to clean our who-knows-what-that-was-encrusted-on-the-stove-and-everywhere in the kitchen.

Hoover – vacuum cleaner

to give out – let’s just say, not at at all what I thought it meant when I first came to Ireland and one of my classmates said (after leaving a pub) “She just gave out to me. Do you think I should to her?” and my look of stunned confusion. “S/he gave out to me” means that someone got really angry at you/blew a metaphorical fuse for something or told you off for something you did or didn’t do.

jumper – sweater

aul/auwl – old. Sounds kind of like “owl”, but not quite.

trad/trad music/trad sesh/trad session = traditional music and/or traditional session: generally means a gathering of people in a pub playing traditional tunes. Although my friends trad session at the pub also included a Greek bouzouki, which vaguely recalls an American banjo.

In fact, I was sitting in on my first trad session a couple of weeks ago, as one of my classmates and a spectacularly gifted violinist friend of hers regularly do trad sessions. Although instrument-less, I was keeping the time with my equally non-instrument-playing Brazilian friend (whose wife is the already-mentioned spectacularly gifted violinist) when a man came up to us, kneeled down on both knees and whispered his question apologetically: could he could take a picture? I think he thought we were the managers. I assumed that role, then he asked me “What nights do ye play on”? To which I elegantly replied “Emmm”. We did eventually find out this info and passed it on to the delight of said man. In the meantime, there was also a soccer game on, once my eyes became dizzy from watching ten people do a variety of musical acrobatics between the tin whistles, bodhrans, violins, guitars and the one bouzouki.

As we were leaving the pub after midnight, one of the crowd in the bar stopped my trad sesh. classmate and said, in an unmistakable French accent “I juice wanted to tsell you zat your seenging waz byooteefuuul” (she had sang a song earlier). To which my Irish friend replied “thank you” and promptly demanded that I speak to the Frenchman in French. After glaring daggers at her, I did. He was with a guy friend (who stood in the background) in Galway visiting for the week. All the while, my Irish friend and Brazilian violinist who were behind me began making very suggestive gestures and started singing something suspiciously like a Marvin Gaye song, wiggling their eyebrows and completely enjoying it (the Brazilian speaks some French).

Eventually I was able to leave and met the two troublemakers outside, where I gave out to them half-heartedly, because by Murphy’s law that *would* just happen. I love Galway.

As for learning any Irish? Little by very little, I’ve learned some. Don’t ask me how, I wouldn’t quite be able to tell ye. (Yes, “ye”). Or I could, in fact, but I’m being contrary for the craic of it.

As gaelige? (Ahs gwail-guh): Literally ‘Do you have Irish?’, meaning ‘Do you speak Irish?’

Conas atá tu? (Kunnus ataw too): How are you?

Tá mé go maith (Ta may guh ma): I’m good/fine.

Go raibh math agat (Grr ama gutt): Thank you. (I know, so romantic-sounding, right?)

leabhar ceoil (lower keyole, like “keyhole” w/o the ‘h’): music book

bodhran (bow, as in “to bow down”, + ran): a type of drum particular to Ireland that you hold against your side, (the drum facing in towards you) and beat a type of stick against (I don’t know if this is called a drumstick or not). I was lucky to get to attempt playing the bodhran because I was with my trad session friends at the time.

slán (slahn): Goodbye/’bye

a stóírín (a store-een): usually a term of endearment for grannies towards their grandkids or your SO, according to my classmates. It always depends on the region and the person(s) though. The ‘ín’ or ‘een’ means ‘little’ and can be affectionate or patronizing depending on the word it is attached to. In other words, it depends on the context. Ah, ambiguity! Just when you thought it didn’t exist anymore.

In other news, what about the Irish? I’ve met some Irish (guys in particular) who do not speak nor seem to move or have any emotions at all – which is curious and exasperating – but then, conversely, between daily life and “chance” encounters (even though I don’t believe in coincidences), I’ve met very lovely people, too. My classmates told me this range is normal, because according to them (and my roommates), an Irish guy needs several pints before he is remotely comfortable talking about feelings or any non-GAA subject. Otherwise he’ll be slagged for not being ‘manly enough’. When they get talking though, it’s all I can do to keep up with the pace and their banter, so then it’s brilliant. Of course, not all Irish men are like this – remember the grain of salt with this blog so!

Anyways, between the above, my classmates and the Irish plays we read for class, my English/Irish vocabulary/”accent” is expanding quicker than I though it would.

Lastly, some Galway musicians have released a song protesting the Irish water charges, as you can read per the Irish Times here. Whatever side of the issue you are on (or not), it is entertaining and worth a read and a listen! A big protest march was held in Dublin today and there were quite a few buses mobilized to go from Galway to Dublin. Some of my favorite Irish musicians even made an appearance at today’s Dublin protest: Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard. From summer 2014, here’s a brilliant article on ‘Damo’, (i.e., Damien Dempsey). I’d go to a concert of his!

That’s all for now, folks! and an early Merry Christmas/Nollaig Shona in case I don’t write beforehand!



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