Comin’ around the Bend

I’ve been thinking about posting here for a while. I’ve hesitated in part because, in my pursuit of this degree, I’ve wanted to reserve my writing energy for things required for class. But I want to be more free-form just now.

Galway has been a trip so far. My accommodation situation went bonkers about three weeks back, to the point that I wondered one night if I should fear for my safety, but the result is that I’ve ended up at an amazing place that I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise because it’s so far out. Few buses come here, and some of the commutes are long. Sometimes it’s a three-mile walk to and/or from the bus stop (depending on the timing), but it’s beautiful countryside and often a kind soul offers me a lift. It’s a safe place. Also I like the exercise, and I’ve befriended a dog and three ponies along the way. I have class only three days a week, anyway, and I like public transportation, so that’s all good.

The distance from Galway city does mean that it’s a lot harder for me to engage in extracurricular activities, but they are not my focus right now, as much as I would like to learn Irish dancing and the language (and perhaps something in the way of music . . . ?). I came here to sink into something like this aspect of Ireland: small-town rural, preferably coastal life. Right or wrong, I think of this as “the real Ireland” more than I do the urban, built-up parts, no matter how old they are. The landscape speaks: the breeze in the tree by my window, the hills of the Burren to the left, and the bay off to the right. I can walk to the beach. The fresh air is soul-sustenance — and I was starving.

I don’t know how it’s all going to work once I start looking for employment, but I’m not concerned about that until after the winter break. Finances are holding up, and anyway it’s all I can do to keep up on schoolwork (with a healthy balance of the craic). I’ll have one fewer class next semester, and then all summer to organize my time as I wish (or can afford).

For the break — only a month away! — I’ll stay in the cottage on the coast of County Waterford where I stayed last year. It’ll be good to see those guys — the people I met in the little village before, the cliffs, the wildlife, that face of the sea — and absorb it all from my newish perspective. Will it be the same? Certainly at least a little different, but maybe just as good. I imagine I’ll get some good writing in.

Speaking of writing, I pulled my book from CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing arm) and am working on pulling the e-versions from BookBaby. It’s strange not to have it out there but feels good. The niggling desire to tweak the text and to find an eco-friendly means of production (paper and printing processes) suddenly feels like an imperative. The book likely won’t see print again at least until next year, as a second edition. At some point it will be joined by a sequel, which is coming along.

I’ve been “hermiting” a fair amount, but that feels good, too. Just holing up in this wonderfully odd-perfect room and waiting on the spirit to move me.

Oh, I dyed my hair a deep violet yesterday, the first drastic color-change in a few months. It feels like a perfect fit for the lifescape opening out before me as I round this latest bend.



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. . . .