Peaceful Goodbyes

Trip Start Aug 25, 2011
Trip End Sep 26, 2012

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Flag of Ireland  , County Limerick,
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hi Friends! This blog edition will be the last before Christmas, next comes Christmas edition, and next comes my three week holiday!  But enough of discussing the future, let's discuss the now. 

I had my vocal exam last week, Thursday.  You proud of me?  This was my first vocal exam where I didn't prefer to be hurling over the railing, or at a teacher's face (preferably one who is giving me the stink-eye).  No, not this.  Of course I had nerves.  My exam was at 10, but I got to the room nearly an hour early to warm up and piddle on the piano, calming my nerves.  At 10, my course director, voice teacher, and professor of the module my lessons were through came in, quite pleasantly, told me they know I will do well and are looking to see that I applied my music as an ethnomusicologist.  I think that meant that I took what I learned from the classroom and the field so that I could participate successfully in the field.  Colin said it didn't matter how well I sang, just that I was intelligent about it.  And so I sang.  And so they smiled.  And so they asked great questions, laughed at my stories, and shook my hand.  And so my voice teacher later told me that I impressed the module professor, a traditional singer.  And so I am happy.

The rest of the day, I felt elated.  I picked up my computer from the lab and forked over 50 euro for them to screw a bunch of things up when "fixing" it.  I took a walk through farmland, another road I haven't yet explored, and talked to donkeys and farmers.  Why do I like Ireland?  Because I can talk to strangers.  The farmers and I talked music, and they told me about a rural pub with singing out in the middle of the farmland.  I shall visit.  Who knows, maybe the pub will make good thesis material?

I also ate too many cookies.  Again.  I ended up freezing a bunch so that I (and my housemates) wouldn't be tempted to eat so many that I would run out by the time I went to my housemate's family's for Christmas. 

Friday morning I woke up, felt a bit shivery, threw open the blinds, and LO!  WHITE!!  I quickly grabbed the clothes closest to me and ran out the door, camera in hand.  I frolicked for about 15 minutes as one of my housemates stood on the balcony laughing.  Snow!  Ice!  I saw a crisp pack frozen under the ice.  Classy.  The grass crunched under my feet.  Then soon enough I realized I was cold, what with no proper winter clothes on.  Later in the day I walked to a little Italian food shop and bought a focaccia sandwich, walked back to the riverside trail, and ate my dinner on a bench.  Bliss.  The snow melted by the time evening rolled around (or whatever time it was... it gets dark early, these days).  At about 10pm, I went to a band gig that my voice teacher is in called Pervish.  This gig was called, "A Very Very Pervy Christmas."  I really had no idea what to expect.  The gig was supposed to start at 9:30, so I got there at 10, hoping I was prepped for Irish time.  Well, wouldn't you know, I was awkwardly early.  As in, the band wasn't there yet.  Then in they came, then insert many topical conversations with people I didn't know.  Finally Pervy Santa walked in with his wife (wife=my professor from the class I took voice lessons through, Santa=another prof, the big British man I believe I've talked about).  Pervy santa passed around awkwardly shaped candies and posed for awkward photos.  I can't use the word "awkward" quite enough, especially since he is a professor of mine, and especially since I really didn't have any friends around so that I could laugh it all off.  Finally the band began playing, probably around 11pm, and they were quite good.  Entertaining.  Their music was fusion Irish trad and rock.  Some music had funny words that suited their band name, but others were just good Irish tunes.  They performed a Christmas melody, too.  Despite funny costumes (and by funny I mean, well, yeah) and funny set decorations, I enjoyed them immensely.  At the end of the night, a DJ played Irish music and we all danced around (that's another thing about Ireland - doesn't matter if you know people or not, you can all dance together).  I taxied back to my apartment on my own, which was a little weird, but it was too late to catch a bus (they stop at 11pm), too late to walk 3 miles, and I didn't know where anyone else lived.  Thus is life.

And so begins my surreal, sad weekend.  Why, you may ask?  Aren't you enjoying Ireland?  Aren't you happy?  Of course I am!  Having the time of my life.  My two study abroad housemates, Oregon and Australia, packed up their bags, leaving Limerick for good.  Oregon had to catch a bus at 4am, so he was frantically packing all day.  Australia was first going to Dublin and I planned on tagging along with her, then she was flying to Italy for an Italian Christmas and New Years.  She busily packed, too.  My Irish housemate knew of a pub quiz night going on in town, so he, Aussie, and I set off for another night out, Oregon stayed behind.  We met up with one of the Irish housemate's friends (the same one we always meet up with, in case you were wondering) and commandeered a table at the Horse and Hound.  Guess what?  We didn't lose!  We got third out of four.  Not bad, eh?  Though I embarrassed America by answering several American political questions wrong.  Irish housemate got more right. He says I owe him a beer. Somehow we wound up with a plate full of free food (the friend is good at maneuvering his way into free things by making friends with other folks at the bar - this isn't the first time this has happened). We left that pub just as all the old people started dancing to "Rockin' Robin" and wound up at the Blind Pig. (Flying Pig?). We were kindly escorted in for free, thanks to my flashing smiles at the bouncer, who recognized me from when we visited the previous week. And what did we end up doing, you may ask? We danced! More rock music, more dancing. The four of us held hands in a circle, and I started twisting up the circle until we all got tangled, then our goal was to untangle ourselves. This new Carrie dance will become popular in these parts. My Irish friends loved it. We group hugged Aussie, sad this is her last night in Limerick. We went back home and sat in her room as she packed. Oregon came and joined us.  He set off to wait for the bus to the airport and the boys went out with him. I helped Aussie pack.  I wound up going to sleep at about 4:30, setting my alarm for 7 the next day.

The next few days are all a blur.  When I woke up, I went to Aussie's room to wake her up, only to find she never went to sleep.  We set off for the bus stop in order to catch a local bus to town, then a big bus to Dublin.  We waited, and waited, and waited.  We also admired frozen leaves and slid pennies across the ice.  And we waited.  Finally we tried hailing cabs, but they all shook their heads at us and drove past.  Finally one guy pulled over, told us that he was off on a call but informed us that the busses aren't running today until half eleven, so he gave us a card for his company.  My directions for where the company would pick us up "We are at the bus stop in the woods."  Amazingly our man found us.  Our trip to Dublin took about 3.5 hours and we emerged to meet a friend of mine who offered to show us around a bit.  We looked at a castle, rested, had a nice Italian meal, then went to bed.  Aussie talked to me in her sleep, quite amusing. The next morning we went to town and wandered the streets, all in a quiet, tired daze. Up, down, all around.  Coffee at a massive coffee shop, yums.  Another friend who lives in Dublin but wasn't there, was texting me things to do. My favorite suggestion - a Christmas market. So off we went to find it. In the wrong direction. Finally we found the Guinness Storehouse, said "Nope" when we saw the 14 euro admission price, accidentally walked into the men's room, and walked back to city center. We found Irish housemate's girlfriend, and Irish housemate (surprise visit!), strolled around the Christmas market, and headed to the girlfriend's home after stuffing ourselves with food. Oh yeah, food. We had a voucher for food at a pub at lunch time. I was expecting cheap stuff, but it was a full on carvery. We filled our plates and I stuffed myself silly. To get there, my directions read that the pub was just opposite the Tourist Center. We couldn't find it, so we asked the girls in the Center, to which they answered, "Take a left out here, then when you get to the first street past the bank, take another left." So apparently, in Ireland, "Just opposite" means left and left. Silly me.

But anywhoo, to bed we went.  Aussie needed to catch a cab at 3am, so I demanded that she wake me up when she leaves so I could give her a proper goodbye.  And that was it.  Off went such a wonderful, beautiful, fun housemate.  Who knows when I will see her again.

On Tuesday morning, my Irish housemate's girlfriend (man, all these going-about-names are getting confusing.  If I write a book, I'm using pseudonyms) took me to a little lake where she met up with other people from this Dublin suburb to sing Christmas carols.  It was lovely.  We strolled for about 45 minutes, singing carols, enjoying each other's company.  The local priest came, too.  We looked at ducks and swans, then walked back to city center for some Christmas shopping.  She shopped, I followed.  I had a lovely time.  My housemate met up with us a little later, we shopped around a bit more, then I left them to catch a bus back to Limerick.  And now, here in Liemrick I am.  Alone, but peaceful.

But not really alone!  Of course not!  This is Ireland.  Word got out that I'd be here sitting by my lonesome, so my friend came over and we cycled during the sunset, at 4pm.  Yes, this was the Winter Solstice!  December 21, shortest day of the year.  Winter Solstice used to be a real sort of holiday event in pagan Ireland. Henges and burial grounds were built with this day in mind.  A little bit in me got the jitters that I was here, seeing the same sun set on this day as those mysterious, mystical Neolithic peoples saw three thousand years ago.

Today the weather was so lovely that I took myself for a walk.  I ended up on a bridge that had been barred, not stopping me nor the people who set up a latter on the side, which makes it easy for people like me to hop the gate.  I sat there in the dark, dangling my feet over the river, looking out to a medieval spire in the distance, hearing nothing but wind, birds, and running water. Time stood still. I felt peaceful and am still reveling in a tranquil buzz. My eyes are droopy, but I am not tired. Just relaxed. Peace on Earth Good Will to Men.

And this is where I leave you.  Tomorrow I head down to Tralee for Christmas with my housemate's family.  I hear it will be wild.  And since I won't be updating my blog before that glorious day, I shall say these words now:

Happy Christmas!!!
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