Friday, July 31, 2009

53°16'N 09°03' W

Using the slogan the real mccoys is big here. It works for chips as well as car rentals.

Hot chocolate served with pink marshmallows makes Erica very happy.

I'll miss you, Galway city.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Excuse Me, Your Fleadh is Showing

The film fleadh was here!

Fleadh is the Irish word for festival, prounced fest uh vul.

Oh, you already know English? Pardonnez moi.

Pronounce it flahd.

Hey, yankee, take it easy on the "d". It's not an adjective meaning characterized by flaws or having imperfections, it's Irish.

Don't worry. I pronounced it "fleed" in front of the program director and he was all *shiver* before he corrected me. It was one of those "ignorant American" moments that are bound to befall the traveler one day. Just roll with it. No one will hold it against you.

Did you notice Anjelica Huston on the official fleadh poster?

Okay then, how about now?

She was here, in Galway, for an interview before a screening of "The Dead", the short story by James Joyce. And yes, the magazine photo spread was tacked up wonky, that's why poor Anjelica looks like that. Trust me, she is not missing a large chunk out of the right side of her head at all.

For the benefit of my husband who, when I told him I was going to see a live interview with Anjelica Huston, asked, "Who's Anjelica Huston?"

The fact that one day I will depend on this man to wipe the drool from my chin is what keeps me from making (too much) fun of his ignorance of the entertainment world.

Cribbed from the internets:
"The actress spent much of her childhood in County Galway where her father, filmmaker John Huston had a home in Craughwell. She also attended Kylemore Abbey girls' schools in the '60s.

Fleadh spokesman Felim MacDermott said: "It is very fitting that Angelica is our guest of honour in our 21st year, as in our very first Fleadh, in 1989, she featured with her father John in a documentary about the local Galway Blazers hunt.

"Angelica will also introduce some of her films, such as James Joyce's 'The Dead', which was directed by her father, during a mini-retrospective of her work at the Fleadh."

Huston, aged 58, will also take part in a public interview in the Town Hall Theatre on July 12 where audience members can ask her questions. I was there! I was there!

Huston received the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Maerose Prizzi in the black comedy 'Prizzi's Honor' in which she starred opposite Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner. In 2005, she received a Golden Globe Award for her role in 'Iron Jawed Angels', which co-starred Hilary Swank .

Huston currently serves on the board of directors at NUI Galway's John Huston School of Film and Digital Media. She is also a campaigner for animal rights group, PETA, and the US Campaign for Burma.

Previous guests of honour at the Film Fleadh, which is funded by the Arts Council, have included Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Irons and Donal McCann."

My view from the balcony was not that great because it was up high and my camera is not capable of that kind of zoomage.

But still....the woman who played Morticia Addams...

...and Maerose Prizzi was in the same room at the SAME TIME as myself.

Remember when you gave that interview in Galway and you were being asked questions and then answering them, and there was an audience and a woman in the balcony with an old camera that couldn't zoom very close and she had a blog and decided to post the picture anyway because it made her feel good to tell people she was like in the same building with Anjelica Huston?

That was awesome.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trad Music 7 Nights

Galway city is full of pubs. Here are just a few.

"Taaffes is one of Galway City’s best known bars. Located right in the Heart of the City on Shop Street, Taaffes has been operating as a pub for over 150 years."

"The building itself has been here for much longer dating back at least 400 years. Architectural evidence on its upper floors and rear smoking area make it as old as the nearby Kings Head."

"Taaffes is also well known as a GAA pub and you will see pictures of the victorious 1998 Galway Football team among the photos that line the walls. Today Taaffes is run by the Lally family who have strong connections with both the GAA and Traditional Irish music in Galway."


"The Pub itself is divided into four distinct rooms but they each have an emphasis on comfort with comfortable leather seats and a large wood burning stove in one of the rooms.

The Cottage Bar is part of a new wave of pubs offering an extensive drinks menu with beers, wines and ciders from around the World. There is also a large emphasis on food here with a brilliantly exotic salad and tapas menu served throughout the day."

Heard a storyteller here. AWESOME. Stories are not just for kids.


"Roisin Dubh is a Gaelic term meaning Black Rose in English. It was the symbol of Ancient Druids from the area and also a famous political song in Irish History. Pronounced Row sheen Dove, the list of people to have played in this intimate venue is astounding. Greats such as Ray Manzarek, John Paul Jones and Steve Earle have all played here as well as Irish legends such as Christy Moore, The Frames, The Saw Doctors and Andy Irvine."

Not to mention Go Panda Go. You heard it here first.


"Live music is played here seven nights a week. Monroe's has a solid reputation as a home for traditional Irish music. Every Tuesday night they have Traditional Irish set dancing which you can join in on if you are confident enough."

Also, fantastic pizza. Have a Smithwick's with a Guinness head.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I couldn't help but think about being in Ireland before, with my family. That was fun.

OC was five and quite the fantastic traveling companion.

How cute is she??? I can hardly stand it.

"Would mummy fancy a pint o' Guinness?"

When I get home, those cheeks are going to be kissed and squeezed LIKE YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Campus

The National University of Ireland, Galway was established in 1845 as Queen's College. It bills itself as "one of Ireland's foremost centres of academic excellence. With over 15,000 students, it has a long established reputation of teaching and research excellence in each of its seven faculties - Arts, Science, Commerce, Engineering, Celtic Studies, Medicine & Health Sciences, and Law."

If you attended college and NUI Galway, you would inevitably come across the old quad, and be duly impressed by the high, grey stone walls. The Gothic tone of architecture (I think?) creates a medieval air.

Then you would look up, and be blown away by the grandeur that so often characterized Gothic (I think) architecture.

It feels like this building has always been here.

What does it looks like inside? Let's walk through the gate.

All four sides are surrounded by rows of windows. There is perfectly manicured green grass with sidewalks to take you any which way. You can see the scale by noticing the door. The walls are quite tall.

The quad may be seen in full, although not in detail, from this aerial view of campus taken in 2004. It's in the lower left corner.

The unnaturally blue water is the River Corrib, where many rowing crews practice nearly every day. They're fantastic to watch in action.

If you majored in business and economics, you might have a class held in this room.

The building is called the Friary, because it was an old church, or I don't know what. It is far from the old part of campus, so it would seem that as the college grew larger, it incorporated the church and turned it into a campus building. There are stained-glass windows, as you can see. The room is quite high-tech, although you are sitting in a room which must be more than 200 years old. It's the same in the Friary computer lab, where I am now.

I think it's highly interesting to see for one's self where ancient meets modern. It does so all over this island in dramatic fashion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity. I am so grateful for the ability to be here, and for the support and sacrifice on the part of friends and family.

The prospect of leaving home for five weeks was very difficult. Not just leaving home, but a husband and daughter. This is a corporeal severing that worsens with time.

Also, I miss my old kitties. Silly, I know, with as much complaining about them as I have done.

Living with other people is not the easiest in the best of times, but when they leave piles of hair in the shower drain and dirty dishes in the sink, the tension it creates is frustrating to say the least. This is not the place I want to deal with problems and have an altercation.

My classes have required viewing some films which are not the lightest of subjects. In "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", a film I have seen before, a boy is beaten and killed for not speaking his name in English, a man's fingernails are pulled out for not revealing the names of others in the Irish resistance to the Black and Tans. There are executions, of a young Irish boy be fellow Irishmen, and of a landlord. It is wrenching, but also an important film that portrays the complicated split within Irish society when it came to accepting the Treaty of 1921. It's well-written and well-acted, and it does a fantastic job of contrasting the difficulties and the struggles of the time.

The next week was lighter fare, with "Into the West", about two boys leaving the slums of Dublin for the west, where there mother is buried and their father doesn't want to face his past. It's moving, and wonderfully not violent.

Then there was last week. "Hunger" is an award-winning film portraying the imprisonment and hunger strike of Bobby Sands, the young Belfast man who died after 66 days of hunger strike in prison in Northern Ireland. His objective was to be given political status, which he was not given. Instead, he was labeled a criminal. Again, an important but nonetheless wrenching topic. The film is vivid in its portrayal of the beatings, filth, and brutality of life in prison. It goes on to show Bobby's body breaking down from the strike. It was at this point that I physically could not watch anymore. I saw the actor's face, and I saw my brother in the hospital, suffering from leukemia. No one questioned why I was crying, sitting there silently looking down. The film would make anyone cry. You should see it. But it's hard to watch.

And then there was Yahoo. Every time I logged into my email, I first had to face several pieces of bad news. A toddler died while locked in an overheated car; a puppy barely survived torture and being set on fire by cruel kids, and the story goes on that this follows a kitten being tortured in previous weeks.

It easily got to be overwhelming.

"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness." ----- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Southern Mail, 1929. (Translated from French by Curtis Cate.)

I yielded to sadness, and felt better after.

This week is better. The puppy lived, now receiving care and doting. I think the kitten lived, too. I choose to believe that it did, anyway. The weather has cooled, so hopefully negligent parents will escape accidental murder for the time being.

The history of Ireland is violent and harsh, but so is much of history. It's also a beautiful place, and there are so many encounters with friendly people that have gone a long way to soothe an abraded soul.

There was the nice man in Ballina who told me about his family, about fishing, and how he had spent 40 years living in Spain and helping tourists. We spent a few pleasant minutes chatting beside the river Moy during a bit of a shower. There are the students here who I am slowly getting to know, but have been very nice and keep asking me to go places with them, even though I often turn them down. (I need more sleep than they do, and more time to study and write.) There is this lively city full of art, films, and performances to attend. Creativity abounds. The professors with the program are fantastic, and interested in their students lives outside of class.

For these, I am grateful. But there is another facet to this story.

I would like you to meet Irish Kitty:

She/he is enjoying her/his perch on the roof of her/his house, which is located on campus, strangely. I met Irish Kitty when she/he came to be pet as I was walking by. (For the sake of argument, let's call her a "her".) I gladly acquiesced because, kitty-love! I also met her people, who told me Irish Kitty is crazy. I think Irish Kitty is not crazy, but is merely misunderstood. Anyway, she likes me to pet her and that's good enough for me. Me and Irish Kitty, we are tight.

I would be ecstatic if the shower was clean and the dishes were done, but as the saying goes: you can't have everything. I have a cat to pet. Good 'nough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Connemara: Chorr na Móna

In the province of Connacht and the western part of County Galway is a region known as Connemara. It is supposedly the largest of the Gaeltacht, an area where Irish is the every day language. Other Gaeltacht areas include Dhún na nGall (Donegal), Mhaigh Eo (Mayo), Chiarraí (Kerry), and the Oileán Árann (Aran Islands).

Monday, July 6. First stop: Kylemore Abbey. Originally built in the 1860's and called Kylemore Castle, it was the home of wealthy Englishman Mitchell Henry and his wife. The Benedictine Order of Nuns. I bought a jar of rhubarb-lemon jam.

Go, nuns.

Killary Harbor is Ireland's only fjord, the u-shaped valley carved out by a glacier.

It is also the location of a famine road. This was a road built by starving peasants during the Great Potato Famine (1840s) in exchange for a little money to buy food.

The road served no purpose. It doesn't go anywhere, and it never carried any traffic.

The English in charge of the ridiculously meager relief, thought the Irish peasants needed to work for their food, devastating potato blight and or not. Can you imagine expending what little energy you have by building a useless road? How demoralizing would that be?

Across the fjord you can see the vertical rows of the abandoned potato beds, derogatorily referred to as "lazy beds". These were actually ingenius in design, as they allowed the water to run off freely. The plants thrived in these beds all over Ireland, until the blight.

Meet Phytophthora infestans, the fungus responsible for destroying one third of Ireland's potato crop in 1845 and again in 1848. These losses were at the extremes of previous European experience. Even more disastrously, three-quarters of the crop failed in 1846.

"The potato blight struck the whole of Europe in the late 1840s. The blight seems to have arrived from the United States in 1844 with a shipment of seed potatoes offloaded at Ostende in Belgium. No serious damage was caused that year but the disease spread rapidly throughout the continent in the latter half of 1845 and again in 1846. Although yields everywhere were adversely affected there was no potato famine in Europe, certainly nothing on the same scale as the Irish catastrophe..."

----- Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary, by Alice M. DeJarnett

In fact, the blight is back, and this time, it's personal.

We stopped at Cong, a town in the center of the setting for the movie, "The Quiet Man".

In this town were the ruins of an abbey. tells us that Cong Abbey is "situated on the site of an earlier monastery founded in the 7th century, this is an Augustinian Abbey founded possibly in the 12th century."

There is also a house built over the water, which looks cool:

There. Evidence that I am still alive, yet woefully behind posting updates.

Friday, July 10, 2009

HUBRIS: From Ancient Greek ὕβρις, Overweening Pride, Superciliousness, or Arrogance.

I didn't realize I was tempting the retribution of the fates when I exclaimed to my husband, "College is easy!"

I referred to the fact that I had very little responsibility outside of taking care of myself and doing homework. There was no house to clean, no geriatric cats getting sick, no child to raise, and no relationship to navigate. I don't have to clean a toilet for five weeks. There is the fact that I have to buy water and haul the heavy packages to my dorm, but it shouldn't be too hard with all that time on my hands.


Last Tuesday night, a black hole opened up in my world and sucked all available time through it. I needed a few groceries, clean clothes, and a computer with printer, all at the same time. The nearest computer lab was closed by 8 pm despite the posted time which clearly said the closing time was 10 pm. The shuttle to the grocery store had stopped running for the day. I could walk, but it would take at least an hour and a half. I had a paper that was due the following morning and needed editing. All that was left to accomplish was laundry, but the question was, would there be any open machines? There are six machines - SIX - in place that houses hundreds of students. That isn't one machine per group of three housing units. Each group of three can have 38 people in residence. 38 times at least 15 groups equals hundreds of people who can't do their laundry because there are six machines available until 11 pm.

I had exactly just enough time to do one load. I had jeans that I had worn so many times they walked themselves to the laundry room. One load was all I needed.

And here is where I acknowledge that this was a trying day, but it is also the problems of a person studying in Ireland for more than a month. I have to buy water, but to put it into perspective, at least I have access to clean water.

Going to sleep at night is when I miss my family the most.

OC's nighttime routine include a bath. I want to smell her freshly washed (or accidentally-on-purpose, not washed) hair and snuggle with that warm body.
Classes are challenging, but I am lucky for every minute I get to spend doing this. I'm glad it's only the one time, though, because I couldn't take another long separation from OC and OH. OC will just have to get used to the fact that we're going to live together forever.

FATES: The three Greek Goddesses of Birth, Destiny, and Death.

Otherwise known as the Moirae, these timeless old hags weave the threads of destiny that control your life.

They are: CLOTHO who spins the Thread of Life, LACHESIS who allots the length of the yarn, and ATROPOS who does the snip (the final one).

All the good and evil that befalls you is woven into your destiny and cannot be altered even one jot. You may find this a little unfair, but it's the stuff great Greek tragedies are made of.

The ladies are having fun with my life's tapestry.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park

William Butler Yeats lived in this tower with his wife and children between 1918 and 1929.

Frenchclass: can you decipher this? Do not cheat with a translator! I could get the gist of it, except for certain vocabulary that we haven't covered, possibly from the "Norman castle of Thoor Ballylee" chapter, which is probably a second year topic. Perhaps Madame Professeur will decipher it in class next year. *

There are four levels, sort of, in the tower. This bridge was blown up during the civil war in Ireland, which began after the Easter Rising of 1916.

The civil war brought action to this part of County Galway. Look how close the bridge is to the house...

This is the first floor, with fireplace and living area.

The tower's origins are not known, but are said to be of Norman origin, built in the 16th century. It certainly looks like it was built for defense, with tiny windows all over the place just large enough to shoot arrows from.

The snug bedroom, again, with fireplace.

Adorable castle-y door.

This would have been a child's dream playhouse, with all of the miniature spaces and corridors that lead to windows and hiding places. It would not have been a dream for the parents of small children. Here is the spiralling stone staircase of dizzying, serious head injury potential:

I would hate to have been the one to haul firewood to each room, but I would have been first to volunteer to clean the roof. Check out the view:

These are my adorable friends. They are sweet and impossibly youthful.

What is Coole Park? It is the homesite of Lady Gregory, Yeats' patron and friend. It's just a few kilometers (and miles) from Thoor Ballylee. The home was torn down as a result of backlash against large landholders, but the site is still there. There is a giftshop and teashop in the old stables, and gardens to wander.

This is the autograph tree, where Lady Gregory encouraged her visitors to carve their initials in the bark of a Copper Beech, behind us.

Can you make out W...B...Y?

Yeah, me neither, from this photograph.

This is George Bernard Shaw's, and you can definitely see a large "G" and a "B" and kind of the "S". Luckily, he made these letters large.

The group of writers which passed in and through Lady Gregory's life read like a list of the greatest writers of the era: J.M. Synge, Sean O'Casey, George Moore, Shaw, Yeats, Tennyson, and the like. What an incredible gathering.

The experience of visiting the land where Yeats walked, where he wrote, was difficult to describe. Inspiring? Yes, but that is not even close.

Yeats came from a family that was Anglo-Irish, meaning Protestant. He established the Abbey Theater with Lady Gregory.

There is so much to read, so much to learn!

The Wild Swans at Coole

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still

----- Yeats

* The text reads as follows: "En Irlande, nombre histoires sont cachées dans les ruines conquises par le lierre, dans les châteaux effondrés, dans les tours décapitees, gris vestiges d'une grandeur passée parmi lesquels errent des chouettes inquiètes et des fontomes inapaisés. Thoor Ballylee résiste à la'assaut du temps, fière et orgueilleuse, préservant dans ses murs des souvenirs envoûtants. C'est au-delà d'un vieux pont traversant la rivière que le poete William Butler Yeats a connu etre 1918 et 1928 les moments les plus heureux de sa vie sentimentale et artistique. Thoor Ballylee devient pour le poète un lieu d'epanouissement, mais aussi le symbole puissant de son enracinement, de son amour irrévocable pour son..."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Baile na Coiribe

Student housing is located in a place called Corrib Village (Baile na Coiribe in Irish) on the edge of campus. There are dozens of buildings like this one, each group with a courtyard and painted in its very own pastel shade. These are available for self-catering over the summer. I've heard so many different languages while walking around through the village.

The walk up to the back gate is bordered by dense forest. You can see why the gates are closed at 11 pm and why you might not want to find yourself here alone at dark.

La Cuisine:

When I take a shower, this is what I see. I can look at the River Corrib and whoever happens to be walking by on the river path.

My room is small so I decided I could store my giganto suitcase here:

The river path heads north about a mile before it ends at a game field. Along the way there are put-in points for boats. I've gone for runs along this course and usually there are rowing teams out along with some people in a motorboat following behind, screaming at them with a bullhorn.

Tomorrow is the first field trip, to Coole Park, once the home of William Butler Yeats, and Thoor Ballylee, the tower home that Yeats bought and restored in order to live there from 1919 - 1929.

Under my window ledge the waters race,
Otters below and moor-hens on the top,
Run for a mile undimmed in Heaven's face,
Then darkening through 'dark' Raftery's 'cellar' drop,
Run underground, rise in a rocky place
In Coole demesne, and there to finish up
Spread to a lake and drop into a hole.
What's water but the generated soul?'

----- W.B. Yeats 'Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931'