Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First days in Keelinga

I’ll take this opportunity to introduce the cast of characters for this leg of my trip.

  • Aoife O’Regan – pronounced “Eee-fa”, mother of the family. Very cheerful lady.
  • Teddy O’Regan – father of the family and a “real West Cork man”, meaning he sounds a lot like Brad Pitt in Snatch, so even though he’s speaking English I need a translator whenever I talk to him.
  • Ciara O’Regan – 16-year old daughter and primary trainer of the horses. Her name is pronounced like our “Keira”, which is very odd. I’m used to it being the equivalent of our “Sierra”.
  • Aine O’Regan – 11-year old daughter. Her name is pronounced “Ahn-ya”, like the famous Russian princess.
  • Shannon Huequeen – another 16-year old and Ciara’s best friend. She’s staying with the family too for a bit.
  • Tara Something-or-other – unrelated 18-year old that comes around to ride the horses. She has a baby.

I got off the bus in Leap yesterday and was met by a cheerful Aoife and Aine. I think I was still a little dazed, because they mentioned how tired I looked and I had trouble understanding their fast speech. They took me back to the farmhouse and showed me the grounds. The farmhouse is very charming. I’ll have to post pictures. They have about three cement and wood stables with six to nine stalls each and lots of rolling hillside for pastures. My residence is actually a separate little house altogether. It’s surprisingly large, and has its own bathroom and kitchen area. Jealous? I know.

After walking the grounds and meeting the 30 chickens, 20 horses, two pomeranians, two german shepherds, two kittens, one cat, one cavalier terrier, and one turkey, I sat down to dinner. We ate a very hearty meal of chicken with gravy, roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes, stuffing (like we normally eat at Thanksgiving), and veggies. They’re pretty big on potatoes here.

Shortly after that I settled in to my new place. I got on Facebook for a bit and chatted with Alicia and my family. For a while there was a goat trying to break in through the back wall. I kind of ignored it. It was pretty cold by that time, so I figured it would eventually curl up. Note: goats are tenacious. It never got through my back wall, but that's only because I banged on the wall from the other side and scared it off. Bastard animal. Of course it's named "Millie". I don't think that could have been any more of a stereotypical goat situation.

It was freezing cold when I got out of bed this morning. The roof apparently has no insulation, so even though it starts warming up during the daytime it stays pretty cool in my place. However, according to Ciara it’s been “positively boiling” the last few days. Meaning it’s been 70 degrees Fahrenheit and absolutely perfect for me. Around 9 PM you have to start layering up again because the temperature plummets.

We didn’t get to work until late in the morning because the girls stayed up all night (as teenage girls are wont to do when they travel in packs). It’s pretty relaxed here. Teddy set me to painting the stable doors. I wore Aine’s castoffs for that job because the mix I was using was really smelly. I got all the stable doors finished in a few hours, but my arms were worn out by that point. Tara came through in the middle of it and took Tommy out for a ride. Her little brother (name unknown, but sports a mohawk) and Aine pushed the baby pram around the yard during that time. Teddy was busy chopping wood. Every once in a while I would look up and watch him cross the yard with the turkey trailing along behind him. Apparently the turkey has decided it really likes Teddy, because it freaks out whenever he walks off. It’s even started riding the tractor next to him.

After I finished the stables we sat down to lunch. I had tea and a sub sandwich, which they call a “roll” here. They drink hot tea all the time. It’s pretty common to see them adding sugar and milk to it. The entire family thinks I’m a little odd because I like my tea “black” (read: unadulterated). Anyway, we sat around the table after lunch and I told them stories about Texas. They were really fascinated by the Renaissance Festival. I found that ironic. Teddy is also very captivated by cowboys. He asked me if there were a lot of them in Texas, and if I rode horses everywhere.

The afternoon was filled mostly by mucking out the stables and changing the bedding. All the stables were pretty freaking gross; Ciara broke her wrist a few months ago and the stables had suffered for it. We changed out all the bedding and laid down fresh shavings. Then we cleaned up the stable yard. There was music in the background and a lot of people working so it went by relatively fast. I convinced Teddy I’m a hard worker. Score.

That evening we took a black and white gelding named George into the arena and I practiced my posting. It was weird being in an English saddle again. My feet felt too far forward and I felt like I was holding the reins way too short, but Ciara said I had a pretty good position. I finally got into the swing of posting the trot. It was amazing! Everything sort of clicked into place, and suddenly I was moving in perfect time with the horse! That was probably the highlight of my day.

Dinner consisted of a huge plate of pasta. I’m probably going to get fat just by the huge quantities of food they try to feed me. I also somehow got pulled into making enchiladas for dinner sometime in the future. They had never heard of cilantro! I think that’s pretty much a crime. The only Mexican food they’ve ever had is some kind of crappy frozen “El Paso” brand. Ick.

There’s a detailed account of my day. As I’ve told some of you over Facebook, the internet here is put out over long distances by a phone tower, so I have a good connection but it isn’t good enough to upload pictures with any reliability. I’ll have to upload a ton when I get into Bath in a few weeks. If I'm not swept up in the rioting that is. Harharhar.

My days from now on will most likely consist of getting up in the morning, mucking out the stables, feeding, and then doing groundwork with the horses. They want me to work on this big brute of a horse named Rocky for their hunting season. Yes, hunting. Like with a pack of dogs. And yes, this big brute of a horse is nearly twice as tall as me. We’ll see how that goes.

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