We have settled down here in Corrib (pronounced “car’b” by the Irish kids) Village. It’s still snowing during the day and freezing at night, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the walkways weren’t so frozen over and treacherous.
Listen up, America: there is a gold mine to be tapped on this island in the business of sidewalk salt.
The village is pretty empty, most of the Irish students are still at home for the break (“holiday”). But people are really friendly, and the few students who are here have taken us out a million times. We’re already on a no-knocking basis with our neighbors, and they were saviors when it came to the confusion that is grocery shopping (details to come). Oh, and the Irish obsession with potatoes? Well, they call them “spuds,” but it is indeed no myth.
One thing that will take some getting used to is the social scene here. The college students go out most week nights and go home on the weekend to study, work and sleep. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re used to at American universities.
Luckily we have “the Irish girls” (we are “the Americans,” collectively) to show us around town. The pubs are great fun but generally more expensive, so the young Irish people congregate at nightclubs. The streets are canvassed by club promoters every night. Just walking through Galway, you’ll get your hand stamped by five to ten different people, and then you can enter all those nightclubs for free or at a discount. That’s a great improvement over expensive American clubs.
The (rather unexpected) language barrier is slowly coming down. I’m getting used to saying our neighbor’s name, Mairead (rhymes with “parade”), and asking how to pronounce things before making a fool of myself. It’s almost second nature now to look under the Irish (don’t call it Gaelic, it offends them for some reason) street signs for the English translation. The university (as well as the country) has a bilingual policy so virtually everything is in both languages.
The food tastes slightly different, as well (even the American-style peanut butter). But for the most part we can get around all right. There’s been a small but definite culture shock.
Classes begin tomorrow, so students have been trickling back into the village all day. We’ve been told that traveling is a little slow because of the weather. This is funny to us. It only flurries an hour or two a day and there is absolutely no accumulation on the ground, but it is shutting down entire cities. The Irish just don’t know how to deal with this cold, icy weather (salt would be step one).
This will be the first night yet that we haven’t gone out, so it’s off to bed to get a good night’s rest for the first day of classes!