This semester, I cannot say that my lack of traveling is due to classes or thesis work. All I can say is that Ireland, particularly Galway, is addicting. Once you visit, you want to return; once you live here, you don’t want to leave. However, my time in Galway is well-spent and far from being lazy. I now spend many Saturday afternoons wandering up the coast towards Salthill, rain or shine. Fortunately we have been blessed with gorgeous weather, and I don’t find myself running to the nearest coffee shop for cover as frequently. Plus I have spotted a few ethnic food shops around town that I have been meaning to browse. Now that I know the town so well, it is surprising the diversity of shops that are here, just tucked away, waiting to be discovered.
In January I visited the “tidiest town” in Ireland: Westport, County Mayo. If anyone is looking for a cute, picturesque Irish town, I highly recommend it. A classmate lives there and showed me his local spots. I climbed part way up Croagh Patrick (not enough time to climb to the summit), and filmed hermit crabs along the shoreline (I’ve never seen them in nature before). Returning home was a mini-adventure as I ended up further away from Galway than from where I had started! I had over-slept my bus stop and had to catch two extra connections. As the moral of the story, this delay gave me little stress since I am more relaxed these days than ever before (likely the Irish influence).
A good college friend (Jesse) visited me in Galway at the beginning of this month. Although I had to forego the Mitchell mid-year reunion, I had a great time showing him around the Galway area. It was really nice to catch up with an old friend that I was used to seeing every day. Again, it was like seeing Ireland with fresh eyes. He noted that I was really happy with Ireland, similar yet different than where I did my undergraduate degree, and that I had definitely picked up a few Irish traditions myself. I cooked him roast potatoes and we experienced the fresh oysters-with-Guinness tradition, a menu item that I had been meaning to try. Delicious.
I have become an Irish rugby fan ever since the Six Nations matches began this year. It was incredible to watch Ireland give a dominating performance against England at Croke Park. After learning about Croke Park, including its association with the GAA and meaning in Irish history, it was a proud day to be cheering for the Irish.
I haven’t decided if I am going to be wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day… supposedly more of an American tradition than an Irish one. But I will be cheering on the Irish rugby players with hundreds of others in a packed pub. It is not only a Six Nations final, but it is St. Paddy’s Day. Kara and Adar are visiting this month and I have promised to visit Dublin and Limerick Mitchells in the near future. Add a road trip around the Irish countryside with friends from home, potential trips to London and Stockholm, and the start of my minor thesis, you’ll have a fairly accurate description of my next few months! I cannot thank the Alliance enough for the opportunities that I have had so far in Ireland and at the university. And I know I have almost six more months of my program and Ireland left to go!