Oh please, oh dear, dear God in heaven (or Bog, as Alex in a Clockwork Orange would say), if you allow my internet to work for the next twenty minutes that it will take me to complete this post, I will never again fail to appreciate just how wonderful it is when the internet is working at full speed. Seriously.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the wires running the internet service for Gort Na Coiribe had frozen, along with the rest of us living here. It is FREEZING, and has been all week… not in a chilly sort of “oh, isn’t Ireland quaint!” sort of way, but the type of bone-shatteringly cold way that makes you want to rip out your eyebrow hairs and use them for extra insulation in your jacket. After last Sunday, which was gorgeous and sunny and absolute perfect weather for our walk to Salthill, the weather took a turn for the nasty…and though it hasn’t been raining, the streets are coated with a thin layer of invisible ice. I discovered this for the first time on my way to class on Wednesday, my busiest and earliest morning, when I walked past a group of fifteen or so Irish students (all dressed impeccably and not struggling in the slightest, I might add) and had my feet slip straight out from underneath me. I tried to play it off as best I could, making stupid conversation with the Irish students around me (“so, is this weather unusual?” “No, not really.” “Right! Okay.”), but it was a lost cause. Since then, I’ve taken to toddling around like some sort of demented two year old with a brick in her underpants, but if it keeps me from slipping…so be it.
So that’s the biggest news for the week, I suppose: the frigid weather. That, and the fact that classes are officially in full swing…at least, as much so as they will ever be in Galway. Last week, when Maggie and I were heading out for a 1 p.m. class, we had to fight off our roommates’ most valiant efforts to get us to skip class and go to Scotty’s for a traditional Irish fry (read: a heap of semi-recognizable breaded things on a plate). It went something like this:
Grubb: When in Rome…!
Maggie: We’re not in Rome.
Grubb: Right. When in Rome, do like the Romans. When in Galway…eat breakfast.
And Maggie and I, being the good little American students that we are, went to class. That’s the thing: we all seem to be having a difficult time breaking the habit that has been hammered into us by our fancy-pants liberal arts schools (where classes are 14 people and the teachers know creepily personal data about your life). Here, students don’t sweat it if they miss a lecture, and either do the professors. Classes are huge, usually only fifty minutes long, and teachers provide the powerpoints online. This hasn’t stopped me from going to all of mine, because I’m lucky enough to have a few that are actually interesting… but out of the six classes I’m taking, at least two of them were made bearable last week only by the fact that my seatmate and I were playing Hangman. In my contemporary literature lecture, the only thing keeping me awake was the fact that the teacher had a gigantic piece of disgusting white spittle stuck to his lower lip THE ENTIRE TIME, and I was making silent bets with myself as to how long it would take for him to realize it. So far, for that class I’ve read A Clockwork Orange and Lady Chatterley’s Lover… and in the next few weeks will also be tackling Lolita, The Satanic Verses, The Third Policeman, and on and on. My roommates make fun of me for actually completing the assigned reading—but if they knew just how risqué the novels were, they’d probably understand why I can’t put them down.
So class is fun, but being on campus—sorry, at “college” (no one says campus here)—is the most fun. I always run into people I know. We registered for our courses this week, in the most disorganized, terrible, and yet distinctly Irish way possible: we all had to pile into rooms and essentially fight over the first-come-first-serve seminars being offered to foreign students. I forgot how nasty Americans can be…I mean, come on, who arrives at 6: 30 a.m. for a noon registration? Do you really want to read Ulysses that bad? But anyhow, I mostly avoided it, and at this point am signed up for 6 classes: Women in Irish Society, Imagining Modern Ireland, European Women’s Studies, Contemporary Literature, Genre Studies, and Irish Language for beginners. Being the nerd that I am, I’m really enjoying the scholastic aspect of my time here. It is a minor portion, comparatively, but I’m really loving it.
The other type of education, of course, is the stuff that happens outside of the classroom—yes! These Irish kids are whipping my butt at celebrating life. They move at their own pace, meaning that they employ an it’ll happen when it happens philosophy at every fork in the road… and I’m starting to catch on. I had the loveliest day yesterday, all by myself, wandering around Shop Street. I sat in Renzo café and wrote for two hours, drinking cup after cup of milky tea, and then walked to the Saturday Market by Tig Coili, a weekly gathering of vendors from all over the place. There were little old men selling fleece-lined mittens and silver Claddaugh rings, tables of dirt-covered root vegetables and homemade marmalades, a crepe booth, a lineup of buckets filled with different Mediterranean olives and hummuses and sundried tomatoes, and table after table of fresh breads, eggs, and cheese. The Saturday market is also great because the buskers come out—in one stretch of Shop street alone, I saw an accordion player, two guitarists, a standup bass player, a fiddle player, and a one-man band with a picture of Marilyn Monroe pasted onto his snare drum with the emblem “MY KIND OF WOMAN” coming out of her head. A fine sight indeed.
Now, as the sky outside the window is turning from steely gray to even darker steely gray, the roommates and I are heading to the Hole in the Wall for a night of… you’ll never believe it… American football. That’s right. The Packers vs. the Bears, then the Steelers vs. the Jets—and as Mickey puts it, the Irish lads are planning to root for whichever team has the catchiest fight song. Not a bad philosophy. From now until we leave, my master plan is to huddle under the bathroom heater…the warmest spot in the apartment… and see if I can defrost my toes.
The land is gorgeous (albeit frozen), the people are gorgeous, and I am happy as a clam. There is magic in the air here, and I don’t think I’ve even begun to touch on it yet.