Ireland

So. Here I am.

It’s the third day of my third stint in Ireland. I’m at that stage of a new endeavor that comes after the initial burst through a doorway and before finding a thread to follow. The first time I came over to Ireland, I was here three weeks, followed by a couple-week sojourn to the next island over, before I settled into my happy place. This time it will be different. I just don’t know how yet.

Not that I’m not happy to be here. I very, very definitely am. And I’m glad for the experience that has taught me that the first few days of something can be the hardest and are worth it for what comes after — not that it’s all that hard now (knock on wood). I’m learning how to get to the places I need to get to, how much bus transportation costs, how I fit into the new household, how the town is laid out, what kind of people are in it, how to type on weird keyboards, and how to lock the front door. I’m even sort of relishing the uncertainty, the slight nausea, the weariness, and the dimness of intensified dislocation. It’s all part of my transition. I’m well cared for and safe, like being in a cocoon. As I put it to a friend earlier today, I’m pleasantly melancholy.

The weather, fittingly, has been overcast with some rain. I didn’t have the energy to venture out today even after I realized I couldn’t register for classes online, so I took a down day to rest and acclimate. (Yesterday the fees-office lady said I could register online, but maybe she mistook me for a native . . . ? Hard to imagine.) I don’t need to rush, anyway, because the head of my program sent an email explaining that the couple of classes that have attendance caps rarely fill up — and even if they do, instructors choose not by first-come-first-serve but by individual selection. Tomorrow I’ll still probably look into registering for the two required classes, and — if I get the all-powerful student-ID card — opening an Irish bank account and registering with Immigration.

The exchange rate is terrible — the worst it’s been since early 2015. When I took out the 300 euros I’ll need to pay Immigration, it came to $393. Still, with my savings, scholarships, and student loan, I’m in good shape for a good long while. Though I’m curious about finding work, I’m resisting the urge to seek it out actively just yet, especially because the job market here, though good, appears on the surface to be full of things I have little interest in. Unless I become desperate, I’m holding out for something I can put my heart into. I have a feeling it’ll come the way all of the best jobs have: by my encountering just the right person who has just the right need at just the right time, as I go about my normal life. Anyway, I can’t legally work until I get that Immigration stamp.

This week is Ireland’s National Heritage Week, with lots of free things that are perfect for a newcomer. For my birthday yesterday, I walked the long causeway to the lighthouse (which is gated off because of industry, except by appointment), and I saw the ruins of the Hall of the Red Earl, which was the center of old Galway. I made a cool little dealybob at a modern Celtic jewelrymaking workshop there and, at the library, learned about the butterflies of County Galway and bought an old book on how to tell fortunes using playing cards (for 50 cents).

I got jeans, an orange towel, and a Katie MacAlister book at a secondhand shop that benefits seniors and survivors of domestic violence. I wandered around “the best cemetery in Galway” (according to a guy I met at a bar the day before) and got two pints of Guinness at the nearest watering hole, in a hotel. (Normally I don’t drink at hotels because I prefer holes-in-the-wall, but I’ll make an exception for proximity.)

The second pint was courtesy of the guy next to me, who hailed from County Waterford, where I stayed last year. He knew one of my friends from Dunmore East. He said Ireland is losing itself again. I said yeah, I could see that, even in the little bit of time I’ve been here. We sat there sadly for a moment, then finished our pints and parted ways.

Coming up in National Heritage Week are a couple of events about organic gardening and sustainability, so maybe there’s hope there. The other night I dreamed I was attacked by a coyote that earlier looked like a mountain lion and later had human fingers. I met it head on and was strangling it in a choke-hold when a friend came over and started skinning it before it was dead. It didn’t struggle — only seemed confused and abject, moving its fingers. I cried, but what could I do? I had to kill it if it tried to kill me, right? I said, “If we have to do this again, can’t we anesthetize it first or something?” But my friend laughed at my foolishness. Anesthetize a coyote before killing it? What kind of idea was that? I think the dream has to do with my fear of and sorrow for the nonhuman world.

Speaking of dreams, last night I cut the heels off my feet on a dare and attached someone else’s heels. They didn’t fit quite right and tingled. I couldn’t really feel them. I wondered if maybe it had been a bad idea . . . but everything is temporary, so if eventually I could no longer walk, that would just be another development in life. It turned out I could still reattach my own heels, though, so I did. I could feel them better than the other heels, but not as well as I could before cutting them off in the first place. I wonder if this means that instead of taking to my heels, I took to someone else’s heels for a while. Or maybe I was well heeled and then wasn’t and now more-or-less am again, with some extra issues.

If nothing else, at least there’s the hurling final a week from Sunday: Galway versus Waterford — my new county versus my old (and perhaps future?). Who am I supposed to cheer for? Maybe I’d better put at least a little maroon in my hair. . . .

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Inklings of Ireland: Brody, Snow, Fish, and Bull

With less than three weeks to go until I’ll have moved to Ireland (!!!!!), dreams of it are coming thick and strong. (I’ve hardly dreamed about it since I left, I think because it hardly seemed real even when I was there and I hardly dared hope that I might live there. But now that I’m getting close, its spirit-tendrils are reaching out.)

Last night, I was traveling in England or Wales, I think, and hanging out with some people who were all well and good, but I was ready to go to my host somewhere on an Irish coast. (His location felt northeast in the dream, but it wasn’t in Ireland’s actual northeast — dream landscapes being weird, as you know.) I had never met the guy before or even talked to him on the phone, but I had his number and thought to call him before I headed out. It would be at least a three-hour journey to get there and somehow it had already gotten to be 9 p.m., so I would be late and might need to find other accommodation.

His name as given wherever I’d found the listing was Brodwick. When his voicemail picked up, he sounded like a jovial old lad: “Oi, this is Brody!” He went on like that a moment and then switched to speaking Irish, saying a lot more in that language than in English. I found myself grinning and crying a little. Hearing such good cheer in so beautiful a language was food for my starving soul.

In the middle of it all, a woman picked up: “Hello?”

I explained that I was the American girl who was scheduled to stay with Brody that night.

“Oh! Right.” She sounded quiet and distracted and said some things I didn’t catch.

I inquired further. She responded with something else I didn’t understand.

This went back and forth a couple times until I heard her clearly: “He died.”

Oh, no.

All I’d heard was Brody’s voicemail, and already I’d felt him a dear friend, and lost him. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll make other arrangements, then.”

“Yes, well.”

I awoke still mourning the loss of Brody, a man of whom I’d only dreamed . . . and only heard a recording of, at that. Godspeed, Brody.

My other dreams of Ireland have been just as vivifying. In one, it snowed! Peaceful white wondrous flakes. And I got asked on a date by a car salesman at a dealership where I was getting free goldfish. (I gracefully declined.) At first I thought I couldn’t have goldfish, because I was about to move to Ire– but wait! I was in Ireland! So I took them and bought goldfish accessories, too.

And I outwitted and outmaneuvered a charging bull in a grove of trees, in part by grabbing it by one leg or horn and holding on until I could escape into the ocean. And there was a sort of mermaid on the rocks — actually a girl in a mermaid costume — and an Irish male co-narrator of the whole thing who relished the idea that she might drop something down her costume and have to retrieve it.

Anyway, back to so-called reality, for now: it’s a foggy, almost Irish morning, but for the golden hills. Grandma is quiet. I have a warming cup of tea and a bursting schedule. I’m scaling back on survey-taking and sweepstakes entries and just doing as I wish. There’ll be time enough to make more money, and my finances are more-or-less settled for now.

I’m not so much excited as contemplative and filled with peaceful anticipation. It’s all comin’ around the bend, but there are a few things for me to do here yet: passages to honor, books to distribute, and friends to see one last time.