The second week of classes we're getting into a routine. We're trying to stick with our homework during the week, and plan on exploring on the weekends, with some exceptions for special events. Most of our jet lag is gone and it's just a matter of getting used to the sun coming up at around 4:30AM and setting at close to 11PM. Our day usually consists of at least a short nap somewhere. We can't seem to help ourselves.
This week we had talks and readings by Dermot Healy and Kerry Hardie. They were both delightful in their own way. I bought Kerry's book of fiction called The Bird Woman and she signed it. I also bought Louie de Paor's book of poetry called Clapping in the Cemetery and Mary O'Donoghue's book of fiction called Before the House Burns.
The folks at NUIG put on an Independence Day celebration for us with a bar-b-que. They had hamburgers, cole slaw, etc. (and of course the obligatory baked potato) and showed fireworks on the television sets and gave us poppers for party favors. The college bar was decorated in red, white and blue balloons. This time I had 2 wine coolers. Those of us who had bought Louie de Paor's book hit him up at the party to get his signature. We're shameless that way!
On Thursday, I went to the post office to mail off an urgent package and found out that their post offices don't offer nearly as many services as ours do. I guess they don't have as much competition or something. Anyway, in preparation for sending boxes home in the future, I went to Eason's book store (which has stationary in the upstairs) and bought some shipping boxes and packing tape. I need to investigate if the airlines will ship something back home because there appears to be a 5 kilogram weight limit. A kilogram is 2.2 lbs, so I can ship roughly 12 lbs. If I have more, I guess I'll send multiple boxes, but the airline might be cheaper. We'll see.
On Friday, I booked the Connemara tour with O'Neachtain Tours and had a blast. It was an all-day affair. These guys only charge students $15 ea (not $20) and they pick you up at your door in the morning and drop you off in the evening so that you don't have to walk or worry about a taxi. There were only seven of us on the tour that day and so they took the smaller bus, which was much more maneuverable. He stopped several times to let us out for photo opportunities, taking pictures of the Connemara ponies, waterfalls, etc.
Our tour guide and bus driver Stephen soon started referring to me as his #1 photographer because I was always the first to jump out and take pictures. He painstakingly explained to us how the farmers of Connemara dry out turf from the bogs to use for fuel. He pulled over and encouraged us to take pictures, which none of us did. He said, "What? My number 1 photographer is not interested in the number one fuel choice of Ireland?" I said, "No, maybe if you had some cute sheep I would, but not for just the turf." So we drove on and he found me some cute sheep!
As Stephen was giving us information about the Connemara region, he said, "The Connemara region is filled with eligible bachelor farmers and they're many times seen walking the roads. If you ladies are also looking for a man, this could be your lucky day. If you see one you like, we can pull over and invite him on the bus. Oh, look there's one now! Ladies, what do you say? Shall I pull over and invite him on with us? Is he a keeper?" It was an old grizzled farmer smoking a cigarette. We declined.
When we pulled over, Stephen would say, "We're stopping for 10 Irish minutes. That means I'll let you out now and I'll be back to pick you up on Tuesday!"
Stephen also kept saying that at 4PM that we'd have bus karaoke. At 4PM, he stayed true to his word and even sang us 2 Irish folk ballads to get us going. And yet still, no one would take him up on it. Ah, well.
When Stephen dropped us off at Kylemore Abbey he said that we were to meet him back at the bus at half 3 (3:30). He said that if we weren't there that he would assume that the sisters had convinced us to join the Benedictine order and were staying. We were ALL on time.
We spent 2 1/2 hours at Kylemore Abbey. Lunch was first on the agenda. I had goat cheese and sundried tomato quiche and a seafood chowder that was generously chock full of salmon and other seafood. It was among the best I've ever had.
Then it was off to tour the castle, the cathedral, I skipped the mausoleum, but I spent a lot of time in the gardens. The food raised in the gardens feeds the sisters and guests, and is also used in the restaurants. I had just enough time to breeze through the main gift shop but I had no time to really find anything before I had to be off to the bus. Aftera all, I was not about to join the Benedictine nuns!