Today was uneventful -- class, lunch, more class, brief vegetative state, reading, dinner, working on online class, second vegetative state... now -- so let's take a moment to review the events of last weekend, which were more interesting and about which I have thus far neglected to blog. (Does anybody else find the word "blog" reminiscent of the sound of a frog throwing up? No? Hmm, must just be me.)
Last Friday -- that would have been the tenth, which seems an awfully long time ago now -- two members of my cohort and I journeyed to Inis Oirr (Anglicized "Inisheer"), which is the smallest of the Aran Islands and to which I had never before been. I have been used to taking students to the big island, Inis Mor, where one has to flee the crowds and seek desolation and peace in the far corners, away from touring mini-buses and bike-riding college children. On Inis Oirr, however, there are few mini-buses -- there was one tractor pulling a trailer on which was perched a shed, intended (one presumes) to shelter wussy tourists as they putt-putt around the island (it was an incongruous sight, but I've come to expect those in Ireland) -- and the dominant mode of travel is by foot. Being lazy Americans, the three of us immediately upon arrival engaged a pony-cart for a brief tour of the six-miles-around island.
The pony-cart was driven by a young man, perhaps barely in his twenties, wearing Oakley sunglasses and a sports jersey. When one considers that the usual drivers are old gentlemen in tweed caps and Aran sweaters, one realizes just how much of an odd man out young Ronan (that's his name) was. Upon seeing him, I did have an immediate urge to veer toward one of the older drivers. What sudden fear, you might ask, rose from the depths of my subconscious at the thought of being driven around a small and rocky island by a fellow who wouldn't be old enough to drink in the USA? Was I perhaps afraid that this young man, obviously of a deviant bent, would suddenly break his constraints (and the unspoken pony-cart speed limits) and go tearing across land and ocean like the legendary (at least according to the Clancy brothers) leprechaun jarvey? No, my friends, no such trepidation assaulted me. Frankly, I just didn't want to be seen being driven around by some punk who looked vaguely like my brother. If one is going to be a tourist, one ought to be a proper tourist, with the appropriately (if falsely) quaint tour guide. Still, I am not one to deny a young man his wages, so in the end I clambered into Ronan's cart, behind the piebald pony named Paddy, who had a serious tendency toward flatulence, and enjoyed a brief tour of the island I had never seen.
We did come across a few points of interest, in between pony farts, including the remnant of a massive ship thrown up on the stony beach by a storm, years ago. The rusted hulk would have tempted the childhood adventurer in me, but fortunately the island people (and children) have more sense than to go banging around in a pile of rotting metal. We also saw the lake of Inis Oirr (90% fresh water, which I think is rather remarkable, given that the thing is all of ten feet from the sea), a few disinterested cows, and quite a bit (surprise, surprise) of rock.
After our tour concluded, Ronan dropped us off at the pub (one of three -- not bad for an island with just over 200 residents) for a warming lunch, as the brisk wind had quite chilled us, even packed as we had been into the back of the cart. The pub served solid, comfortingly uniform grub -- cheese toasties and soup with brown bread -- and, thus fortified, we felt prepared to venture out on our own feet.
Inis Oirr has (or, from another perspective, is) a central hill, at the crown of which is perched the ragged ruins of a medieval castle. Naturally (because what else does one do?) we climbed up to them. The view was stunning and the ruins, though small, were charmingly decayed. We walked paths alongside stone walls leading to other small but charming ruins, until the cold air on the hill forced us down, back to the pub for a well-earned (or so we felt) drink.
Overall, I hope you will agree, this was a pleasant day -- nothing too strenuous, but still the feel of a good adventure.
It wasn't until the ferry crossing back to the main land that things got interesting.
I have thus far mentioned, a couple of times, that there was a good, brisk breeze blowing that day -- by late afternoon, when the ferry was loading, it had accelerated into a genuine wind, and cold at that, which had stirred up the whitecaps on the sea. When we boarded the ferry -- and it was the smallest of the fleet of ferries -- we could already feel the pitch and roll beneath our feet. The sun was still out, however, so the three of us remained up "on deck" (a space behind the wheelhouse where a double-sided bench squatted between bicycle racks and life-rafts). Not long after we had pulled away from the dock, the captain stuck his head out of the wheelhouse and said "It's going to get wet up here."
Now, of the three of us, the one who had the most sense was New York J---. She decided, almost immediately, to head down below, to the snug, dry passenger cabin, and enjoy the crossing through a window. L--- and I, due firstly to the fact that L--- was feeling a little queasy and secondly to the fact that I never ever listen to people who talk sense, decided to remain above, risking the wet to stay in the sun and breeze and to stave off motion sickness (I had taken my little pink pills, so was fine, but L--- was on a dangerous brink). The ferry, before getting to the mainland, had to stop at the middle island, Inis Meain, to pick up passengers. Moving between the islands dusted us with a little spray, but most of it was dry again by the time all were aboard, so L--- and I remained, unconcerned, up top. We were joined by Deep South R---, who had hiked around the middle island that day. When he came aboard, we passed along the captain's warning of impending wet, but he resolutely stated, "if y'all are staying up here, I am staying up here." Apparently, R--- doesn't like to be out-idioted by girls.
The ferry moved away from that second dock with growing speed. As soon as we had cleared the harbor area, we discovered how much in earnest the captain had been. The first spray struck us from the side and slightly behind, and we tilted up our jacket collars and chuckled. The second spray whipped over the side of the ship and stung our exposed skin, rippling into our ears and eyes and soaking our hair. Each rise and fall repeated the soaking sprays, until jacket collars turned from protection to mere funnels through which the water could run down necks and backs (and, resulting in an interesting bib-shape on my shirt, cleavage). Though, from our angle, the distant white caps didn't look too tall, the ferry tipped and tossed over crests and into troughs at an alarming tilt. There were several moments when we, facing the side rails of the ferry, found ourselves looking down into the water instead of out over it -- in those moments, we clung to the back of the slippery bench with our arms and tried to hide our faces from the inevitable spray as the ship righted itself again.
At some point it became clear that this was the adventure we had chosen, and I laughed madly at the tilt and the salt-sting in my eyes -- I kept laughing until we reached the far harbor, and the sea beneath us settled, and the sprays stopped rising over the sides. At that point I, in my mere cotton jacket and jeans, was thoroughly soaked. I stripped off the jacket and stood in the cold wind and sun, hoping to dry a little (or at least stop dripping) before the hour-long bus ride back to town.
To paraphrase an oft-read passage, there are some things that you just can't do without becoming friends -- apparently enduring a foolishly chosen rough crossing is one of them. Since Friday, L--- and I have become quite good friends, and R--- shows a grudging respect for both of us, the "tough" ones who laughed at an angry sea.
And you thought this trip was only going to involve literary adventures. :)
Alas, the remainder of the weekend was not quite as thrilling -- though the Galway Film Fleadh (festival) was on, so I saw a couple of films, including some delightful new Irish animated shorts, and the Saturday market was in full fling, so I ate boehrwurst on a roll with chutney and mustard, hot doughnuts with cocoa and sugar, and spicy samosas from the Hari Krishna stall. I deserved it -- after all, I was the conquering hero of the Inis Oirr ferry.