March 2008 Reflection

Considering that I’ve managed to avoid any semblance of ill health since August, I suppose that it’s my deserved time to get a cold. And the health advice that I’ve received from everyone and their little brother about the best high-octane, 900-proof “cough elixir” has been enough for a journal entry of its own. I’m not really sure if the goal of these brews is to actually make the cough go away, or to slay the patient enough that he forgets he ever had the cough to begin with (or indeed, lungs, or a name, etc.). Intoxicating witch-doctor potions aside, it’s nice just to chill out in my room for a few days, anyway.

I talked to my family back home, and there was recently a snowfall that put 22 inches on the ground in the lower Midwest-Bluegrass region. I’m going through a daily debate with myself about which type of cold is more palatable; the crisp, snowy, way-below-freezing winters that were fairly common in the countryside where I lived until I was thirteen, or the above-freezing, hell-spawned three-month-long gale that personifies Winter 2008 in Maynooth. I thought that giving up ice cream shakes would keep me from getting ice cream headaches, but no! I need but to walk outside in the opposite direction of the wind for a few seconds, and the sensation smites anything a chocolate malt could ever do. I’m told that June here is beautiful, though, and the idea of eighteen hours of daylight sounds really, really appealing right now.

There’s something kind of quaint about this dank weather, too. The roaring fires in the pubs really just accentuate that people here try to make the best of the harsh conditions outside. Or maybe it just really amuses the pub people that my ale of choice is the one that only elderly Irish men drink (which leads me to think: was I born like this?). Whatever the case, it seems that the lesson that I’m learning over and over again is that a person can get through anything when the right people are there with him. And what the past couple of months have lacked in uplifting weather, have been more than made up with unforgettable people with whom to shiver through the demonic wind-gusts.

Case-in-point: I gave a piano lesson this evening to the daughter of this wonderful Singaporean family from my church here. The lesson had lasted fifteen minutes (I was planning for about forty-five) before the parents came in and swept me into the kitchen to this incredible buffet of international food. They told me that they know what it’s like for an international student to live alone in a different country, and now we feast together after the lessons (and I get a take-home bag!). And now I’m not sure if I’m not the one reaping the greater long-term benefit from teaching the piano lessons, when the people are so hospitable. But we’ll see. I wonder if they’ve ever had cornbread?

This evening is the beginning of my Easter Break. I’m using the travel stipend that comes with my scholarship to go to Geneva, Switzerland and Santiago de Compostela, Spain, each for four nights. I’m also traveling up to Northern Ireland with a good friend from my music program to stay on his farm and hang out with his family for a few days. Although I grew up raising llamas for a few years, I’ve never actually stood within an arm’s distance of a sheep, and lo, this languished yearning shall soon come to pass. Not to mention seeing the Giant’s Causeway, the Mourne Mountains and other rational reasons to go up north. School has been great, and my M.A. thesis research has become an absolute dream-come-true, but the break is also more than welcome.

Anyway, the Belfast Marathon training was going better than expected until this lung-bug attacked me. I haven’t endured any running injuries so far, and this may actually be a good rest, if only just to scare away the very thought of shin splints. A canal stretches from Dublin to somewhere in the middle of the country, and there’s a makeshift mixture of footpaths, gravel, asphalt and mud that lasts the entire length of the canal. It’s excellent for running. From my dorm to the canal to the Intel plant and back is almost exactly eight miles, and I need but to run closer to Dublin to go even further. I was pleased to find out that the discontinued (and thus, scandalously inexpensive compared to others) model of the GPS watch that I ordered from the Internet actually works, and tells me how far I run and at what speed. The watch, combined with the GPS receiver I have to wear to get a signal and the Camelback that holds all my water, makes me look more like Darth Vader after taxes than someone training for a race. It certainly seems strange that even in the Silicon Valley of Ireland (Leixlip, with its two major technology plants), people look at me like I’ve grown two heads when I brandish this dorky, high-tech gadget during a run. I thought they would have been envious; two heads would double the amount of computer programming output, after all. Still, I have little to worry about when I run. I’ve learned not to heed the puzzled gazes, and if I do end up with a running injury, I’ll just ask someone for his cough elixir recipe.

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