Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Don't Forget Yer Sea Legs (1)

Three words: I’m finally dry.
This past weekend, a class trip to the west of Ireland, met us with breaking-news rain and floods, sick-inducing boat rides, and lots of rugged Irish countryside.

On Friday morning, forty six students and staff loaded a coach bus set for a journey to the west of the country. (Can you believe it?! We could cross the entire country in three hours!) It was a sunny morning in Dublin, the day breaking over the River Liffey, as we were told of the weather to be. Rain in the west, and apparently lots of it. Within the hour, light drops drizzled over the front windows and gradually turned into what would be a monsoon.

Friday was a day of travel: we first stopped at an abbey, told by our program director that the Irish are more laid back when it comes to stepping on graves. Nonetheless, I scurried off one as soon as I realized what it was.

From there, we looped our way through the Burren, from the Irish Boireann, or "great rock". On either side are rolling hills of rocky terrain that criss-crosses and as a result has formed cracks in the limestone. We had one stop in the Burren, at an ancient dolmen (burial tomb). A small valley had formed just past the dolmen, indicating the existence of a glacier at some point. 

Our second to last stop was in Lisdoonvarna, a small village ten minutes from the Cliffs of Moher that hosts a matchmaking festival, which we were lucky to see. No, I didn’t meet my match; but a few of us stepped into a couple of pegged dancing locations to find halls filled with elders cozied up together, shuffling along the floor. The last half hour of our stop was spent in the back corner of a pub quiet with the late afternoon, some nursing drinks of Guinness or tea. Then, we jumped back in the bus and were on our way to what would be the talk of the country.

The rain picked up speed as we, too, sped along towards the towering Cliffs of Moher; and once the bus was parked, I glanced out the window and laughed out a groan. Here we go, guys.

The program director gave us a brief lowdown on where we would find the toilets and the visitor center—built into the side of a hill across from the cliffs—and said he would see us back there in an hour and fifteen minutes. As we all stepped out, lifting our hoods, we received a souvenir ticket and were sent on our way. Most of us made a beeline for the restroom. On our way up the inclined gravel path to the railing, we passed other students who had checked out the misty view and were quickly becoming soaked. A few of us traipsed up the path towards a small castle balanced on the edge of a past life; and as soon as we were there, our pants were cold and damp and clung to us, and the sleeves of my sweater, peeking out from beneath my rain coat (which did not keep my back or shoulders safe) hung heavily at my wrists. But we carried on, and crossed to the other side, towards a pathway that stopped us in our tracks at its being deemed dangerous. At that point, dripping from head to calf—my feet were the only things that stayed dry—we hustled into the visitor center and proceeded cautiously to ring out our coats and shake the droplets of water from our hair.

After settling in at our accommodation for the night in Doolin, a small town in County Clare, and changing into warmer clothes, we made our way to dinner at one of Doolin’s four pubs. “Twenty houses and four pubs”, we were told. My every fiber was warmed with the Irish stew, followed by a slice of white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Four of us, craving a session of traditional music, followed the advice of our head resident and headed to the pub closest to our hostel, set on a rounded street opposite the raging ocean.

For that matter, every body of water in Doolin was raging that night. Changing my clothes had been futile; five minutes into our walk and we were all sopping. Through the blur of night and the hood concealing my view, I tried to absorb the beauty of the Ireland of everyone’s dreams. Dirt roads encased in stone walls; small houses on either side, dimly lit from the light of a restaurant nearby. Rushing water, and what we knew to be fairytale green grasses.

But in this world, the dirt ran slick with mud; the houses provided a warmth that we couldn’t experience just yet; the rivers were flooding and racing below us. Fairytale green grasses remained, though.
Towards the end of our walk, we had to cross a dip in the road which was filling rapidly with rainwater. My feet had succumbed to the cruel water, and the four of us sloshed through, splashing like kids and not feeling anything anymore. Nothing was left to be wet.

We arrived at the pub, the only soaked ones in the place, and tried to find a place to sit under the scrutiny of everyone. I kid you not when I say everyone in the place was looking at us as we passed. And most everyone asked in a joking manner, “It raining out?”

We squished into a corner of the pub, near the bathroom, where I ran to ring out the socks squelching in my boots and to wipe the mascara that was running across my cheek. My boots were teeming with water life, and continued to squish with it for the rest of the night. But the lovely company and the trad session gave no sense in even dwelling on it.

Pub life is the way to live, I think. People gather from anywhere and everywhere to sit with a drink and friends or family, to let time pass slowly and to savor each second. Then the musicians take their place—and at this pub, they have a table reserved for them—with a beer in tow, and begin to play. It starts out quietly, as the place is teeming with chatter, but grows louder as the conversation dims and the music’s presence is hard to ignore. It is one piece of the soul of Ireland that I have grown rather attached to in the short time that I’ve been here. The small problems with being a wet dog and tired from a day’s travels disappear, and all that remains is the music, the social drink, the company, and the present.

The status of being wet was really crappy, but the circumstances more than made it worth it.

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.” - Herman Melville

Just a taste of the rainbow after the rain

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