Thursday, September 1, 2011

Aug 23rd - 29th, Part 2

Sometime last week (I don’t remember the day), Donal took me on a walk to the top of one of the highest hills in the area. It took us about an hour of hiking, but the views were breathtaking. Along the way he would stop me and point to some house in the distance and tell me who lives there. It was crazy to see him name all these people off. There was a lot of “that’s my brother’s house there, to the west of that hill” and “I helped build that”.
At the very top I could see the Atlantic, about five miles distant. It was beautiful.

Yes, my panorama feature is awesome.
Here's the view from the top of the hill.

Sunday was all about the Sherkin Island Regatta, which the Kilmacabea rowing club was racing in. I woke up early and mucked out the stalls so I wouldn’t feel guilty for spending the entire day out and about. Donal picked me up around noonish, and then we picked up Sean O’Donovan (26, friend of Donals and also on the rowing team) and Abby (15, on the rowing team). Abby has purple hair and is adorable. The regatta took place on Sherkin Island, which is an island (obviously) outside of Baltimore in Ireland. You can find it pretty easily on Google maps. When we got there Donal and Sean split off to row the boat across. This was after they loaded us down like their personal pack mules with their sweaters, cigarettes, money, and car keys. I wasn’t complaining about the last two. Abby and I stood in line for the ferry to take us across.

Abby and I were talking about different American and Irish slang words when another 15 year old came up to us. She’s part of the rowing club too and a friend of Abby’s. She joined our conversation. Then two more young girls walked up to join us. Suddenly a horde of young girls and even younger boys crowded around us, and I was somehow surrounded by an Irish mob of children. I’m not really sure what happened. There were no parents around. I looked. I was the only adult there, and most of these kids were taller than me. I thought that surely some parents would walk up soon to pay for their kids to get on the ferry. No, we got on the ferry and I paid the guy for me and Abby, and the horde followed us. I led the way to a corner on the top deck. The horde obediently followed. Somehow I had temporarily inherited a brood. Here are some pictures I took while on the ferry:

Here's a picture of the pier at Sherkin Island.

Gap between the mainland and the island.
Abby took a picture of me on the boat. One of my adopted charges is standing next to me. It was windy.
Here's a competing team. They waved at me when they saw me taking a picture, but it didn't turn out very good.
Thankfully when we exited the ferry the horde moved en mass to the appointed Kilmacabea Rowing Club area, and Abby and I were left behind. We met up with Donal and Sean and decided to go for a walk up the island. There was a huge crowd, but once we started walking it thinned out pretty quickly. Here are some pictures:

Some wench passed me as I was taking the picture. Hopefully you can ignore her obnoxious pink presence and enjoy the scenery.

They gave me a Kilmacabea hoodie (a.k.a jumper) to wear for the day!

What used to be a fort on the island.

The island is incredibly beautiful and still somewhat untamed. We walked about a mile in before we turned back to escort Abby back for her race. The next few hours consisted of me talking to one person or another and watching the races.

Donal and Sean went out with two separate groups to race. Donal’s friend Jenny (Canadian) kept me company. Jenny and I became friends pretty quickly by talking about how weird the Irish are. She’s married to Mike, a very Irish friend of Donal’s that raced with him. We went to the edge of the pier to watch Donal and Mike’s race. I kid you not, they were rowing really hard throughout the entire thing, but Donal pulled up his oars to light a cigarette halfway back to the finish line. None of the other rowers seemed to mind.

After Donal and Mike’s race we walked up the road to get away from the crowd. Sean was up next, and he started looking around for a place to change his shorts. We were standing in the middle of the road and away from the crowd, but there were still plenty of people walking by. Amidst loads of laughter from Jenny, Mike, Donal, and myself, Sean decided to walk behind me and then drop his pants and change really quickly into his racing shorts. I didn’t look. I just laughed with everyone else. Donal and Mike were shouting encouragement to Sean, along the lines of “don’t scare all the women away!” and “if I did that, the women would be all over me.” etc. It was crazy. Thankfully Abby had run off to join her friends some time before that.

Also, I’m pretty sure Donal and Sean smoked four packs of cigarettes between the two of them that day. I have never even heard of people smoking as much as the Irish do. These people should all be dead from lung cancer by now. For real. But they insist it’s good for them. I argue, but they just laugh. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I think I’ve smoked at least a pack of cigarettes in the last few days just from chain-smoking. Gah.

Anyway, after all the races were finished Donal, Sean, Mike, Jenny, their kids, Abby, and I went up to the top of the hill to listen to some Irish music and drink at the pub. Obviously Abby didn’t drink. And Mike didn’t think the musician was singing the traditional Irish songs well enough, because he started singing them. Mike has a pretty awesome baritone voice. The musician gave up singing and kept on playing for Mike. It was awesome.

We left Sherkin shortly after and caught the second to last ferry. Mike, Donal, and Sean rowed the boats back. A musician that was playing at another pub got on the ferry and approached us. He apparently knew Jenny. Jenny introduced him as Pauly. He was a little cold toward me until Jenny said that I had recently graduated from college.

Then he seemed to snap to attention. “You just graduated, hey?”

I replied, “Yeah, I graduated a few weeks ago from Texas A&M University.”

“Oh! You’re American! What’s your degree in? What’re ya doin’ here?”

I told him. Then he asked how old I am. I asked, “How old do I look?”

“Well, you look fourteen, but I’d guess around twenty-three?” he says.

Damn. That’s the second time someone has told me that I look like jailbait in this country.

After he learned that I was legal he started hitting on me, but in a very skeazy way. Thankfully the ferry ride didn’t last long. After a particularly blatant come-on I looked at Abby and gestured to the ferry stairs. Thankfully the boat had docked. I replied, “Thanks, nice meeting you!” and led her away. Jenny followed behind us, giggling.

We met the guys and dropped Abby off at her house before meeting Mike, Jenny, Jenny’s friend Frances, and a few of the other rowers at the pub in Leap for dinner and drinks. A great time was had. It was a few hours later before everyone got home again.

I’d just like to add that I’m very grateful to Sean and Donal for sticking with me and taking care of me, especially when our conversation is usually stunted. I ask them all the time to either repeat sentences or slow down their speech, because their accents are so thick when they get around each other that I can hardly understand what they’re saying. They ask me to use smaller words (I had to explain what “tenuous” meant) or explain when I accidentally slip in an American slang word. I'm pretty sure Irish men lack shame.

I spent all of Monday in the arena pulling weeds. At one point I got into the music, so I started head-banging. Teddy and Donal were nearby chopping wood. I looked up after some hardcore air drumming and saw them staring at me.

I took out my headphones and said “What?”

Teddy looked at me funny. “You were head-banging.”

I said, “Yeah, it’s called music appreciation. You guys don’t do that?”

Donal grinned, “We missed that day in school.” Coincidentally, they say that whenever I use a big word or sound particularly educated, too.

I laughed at him. “I was listening to a song that goes ‘99 problems and a bitch ain’t one’. You’d like that one, Donal.” Donal is separated.

Donal blandly replied, “I’m more familiar with the song ‘Life’s a Bitch and I Married One’”.

This kind of conversation occurs constantly around here.

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