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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A Week and a Day

As much as I’ve struck out into the wild yonder (of whatever color — green in this case), I still get nervous at this stage. I head out in a week and a day.

I’m a little more relaxed about it than I was before this morning, though, because I just got a big bonus, putting me barely over the official “Cost of Attendance” (CoA) for a foreign postgraduate Writing student at NUI Galway. I had a moment of panic a week or two ago when I realized that the CoA had the total at more than $36,000 because it had calculated the exchange rate at 1.20: .12 over my initial estimate according to information I had at the time. That put me way short: I’d have to charm or luck my way past border control, which only sort of worked last year — and that was for a couple months. This’ll be a year (at least!). But with this bonus, I’ll have upwards of $37,000, all things considered: my savings, the biggest loan I could get, and two scholarships. I’ll still need to be careful, and I’ll still want to find work, but at least now I can breathe easier about Immigration.

So, in a few days, I should once again be running barefoot on Irish soil. (Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!) Maybe I’ll even go for a swim in Galway Bay, before it gets too cold.

I have the traditional consternation about what to take, but even moreso than usual, because whatever I can carry will be the seeds for starting a new life. Before, I’ve traveled. This time, I’m moving. It’s a fun process, once I get going on it. It whittles everything I own down to the very most essential and precious of what I can take. Funny how I have few enough things that they fit comfortably in a treehouse, and they still seem like a lot.

When I went to Ireland last year, I thought I might stay (and desperately wanted to), but things felt unfinished on both coasts of the U.S., as well as a bit in eastern Canada. Now it’s all about as resolved as can be. I’ve spent time with all but one of the friends and family I most wanted to see (and that one is a special case). Serendipity the unicorn and Spider-Planty (the spider plant) are now fostered in Washington, and most of the last bits of my other stuff have been collected and suitably reassigned. The half-dozen boxes of keepsakes and memories that aren’t coming with me are either at my parents’ place or slated to go there in the fall. All that will remain of me in California, other than the impressions I’ve left, will be my bank account.

I’m down to just a box and half of copies of my book left to distribute, having given an entire box to a delighted goddess in Oregon (who, incidentally, was the book’s interior layout designer), and spread other copies far and wide . . . at least around northern California and middle Oregon. I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who have found them, including one that came while I’ve been writing this post. Fun!

I feel scattered and excited. Books to read, knitting to finish, people to see and things to do one last time . . . ! Hey, is anybody heading from Sonoma County to SFO next Saturday?! I could take the bus, but a friend would be more fun. Wheeeeeeeeeee!