March 2006 Reflection

A few days ago, I was talking to my research advisor about my project, and I said “dodgy” without really thinking about it. Yes, the Chinese-American has definitely added some Irish into her identity. That was the point at which I realized just how much Ireland has influenced me. There haven’t been lots of big things that have stood out as being overtly Irish; in fact, when I first arrived in September, it almost felt like I was still in the States – I watched American television shows, heard English (and some Chinese!) all around me, and ate a lot of foods I can find in the States. The longer I live here, though, the more I continue to learn about the country and its people and its culture, and the more I’ve started to pick up on the subtle things that are very much Irish. People here are much more direct and much less concerned about being politically correct, and they’ll slag (or pick on) you for ages. But deep down, it’s all just good craic and they really love hanging out with you.

One of my friends counted how long I’ve been gone from the States, and as of March 7, I’d been in Ireland for 172 days and had another 172 days left to go. I’m officially halfway through my time here in Ireland. Time has absolutely flown by, and there’s still so much left to do! I finished my last week of class for the year earlier this month, which was a pretty nice feeling. Something that can be checked off my list of “to do’s.” Not to worry though, I’ll still have plenty of academic work for the next few months: several assignments, four exams, and my research project.

I’ve also managed to check a few more places off my list of places to see: the Netherlands and Budapest. Both places were quite cold compared to the weather in Ireland – it snowed half the time I was in Budapest and hailed/sleeted/snowed most of the time I was in the Netherlands. At one point, my friend and I were on an hour-long bus ride to Kinderdijk, a big field with 19 windmills. When we finally arrived and got off the bus, a mini blizzard was in full force. Visibility was nil, and the thought that crossed my mind was, “Oh, no, we’re walking through that?” Amazingly, the weather cleared up 10 minutes later, and we got gorgeous blue skies that rivaled the fabulous weather from the Mitchell trip to the Aran Islands. Sadly, I missed the unofficial Mitchell Super Bowl get-together, but I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again in Belfast next week. I’m also looking forward to my first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Ireland and to visiting Cork and the Cliffs of Moher later this month.

During my free time, I’ve picked up a new hobby – teaching myself how to knit. I decided that since I’m in a country famed for its wool, I wanted to take advantage of my access to said wool. I’ve also added my own little touch. Instead of going out and buying knitting needles, I’m using plastic chopsticks that I already had around the apartment, and they’ve actually worked out relatively well. The first few tries were less than great and involved a lot of attempting to knit and even more unraveling of the yarn that was supposedly knitted. With time and practice, I’ve gotten better, and I’ve actually managed to knit a scarf and a matching hat, both of which came in handy in the cold weather in Budapest and the Netherlands.

Even though I still have another 50% of my time here to go, I already know that I’m going to miss Ireland when I leave. Good thing I’ll be moving to Boston next year. It’ll be a nice gradual transition between being here and being back in the States, and I’ll still be able to get my Irish experience when I miss it.

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