Dia dhuit = jee-ah gwit = “God be with you” = “Hello” in Irish!
I can’t believe that I have officially been here two weeks. I’ve been keeping notes of what has happened since the last time I posted, and I kept meaning to publish them but I’ve ended up saving them to make a big “masterpost”.
Tuesday (the 13th): I had my first class! It was European Women’s Studies, and it’s designed to be a class specifically for visiting and international students. We’ll be focusing a lot on the history of women’s rights and gendered politics and the likes, with some emphasis on Ireland but also lots of time spent analyzing and comparing differences and similarities in other European nations. The lecturer seems pretty hip and excited to be teaching all of us; she said that she would definitely be making time to talk about current goings-on and events as they happen and are relevant to class topics, which is one of my absolute favorite things. I’m really excited to continue to expand my feminism and knowledge of these topics.
Wednesday (the 14th): As Tuesday was the only day I was going to have class last week, I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend most of my time, but I definitely made sure to hit up the Societies fair on campus. I (of course) signed up for the LGBTA, but was super-excited to find that NUIG also has a Feminist Society! They are currently starting an initiative to talk about gender inequality and the glass ceiling on campus pertaining to the lesser numbers of female professors and senior lecturers who are hired. It’s so exciting to be on a campus where all these new initiatives are taking place, which I have been so lucky to have at F&M when our new Women’s Center director took her position. I was worried about things like that being lost when I came to a bigger school, but that’s definitely not going to be the case.
After I went through the Societies fair, I decided to go into the city center and wander around, even though it was the most horrible weather (lashing rain and wind hard enough to literally push along when you’re walking), and I ended up having the time of my life. It is one of my absolute favorite things to be all by myself in public places, with no schedule or agenda. I just wandered around and went into any shops that looked interesting (or when I just needed to escape the cold and the rain). When I had been on the free tour of Galway, the tour guide had pointed out a little jewelry shop that was a good place to get Claddagh rings, which is a traditional Irish jewelry design that actually originated in Galway. The design is of hands holding a heart that has a crown on it, and it is supposed to mean that “love and friendship rule all”. It also means different things depending on how you wear it: if one wears the ring with the point of the heart as it is framed by the hands facing towards the wrist, it means you are happy and in a relationship, but if you wear it the other way with the hands holding the heart with the point facing away from the wrist, it means you are single. I ended up getting one, and had a lovely chat with the shopkeeper about Galway. And I’ve been wearing my ring with the point of the heart facing in, because I belong to myself, and so in. It’s a little gift to me, a reminder to be kind to myself and to let things be.
Thursday (the 15th): At around 9 p.m., a bunch of the other IFSA-Butler students all wanted to go to a little pub called Taaffes, and I almost didn’t go and I’m so glad I did. Every Thursday, they have a great little band playing traditional Irish music. As soon as we came in, I could just feel how nice the atmosphere was (or maybe it as just the little electric fireplace – I swear I’m cold-blooded – or maybe just that I was supposed to be born in the Caribbean). The place was full of students, but also just of people from town, and everyone was just sitting and talking and laughing and listening. For the last two songs, these two Irish guys got up and started dancing with each other, in the very small amount of space that was left with everyone crowding around (in what wasn’t very much room to begin with). They were just goofing around, and then eventually these two Irish girls got up and started dancing really well, like traditional Irish style. Eventually, the two guys and two girls paired off with each other (and they definitely didn’t know each other before this point – they had been on opposite sides of the room) and danced and danced, and everyone was laughing and cheering and clapping along in time with the music and it was such a good feeling. It was probably the most Irish thing I’d seen thus far.
Friday (the 16th): With yet another weekday of no classes to attend (I have a feeling I’m going to pay for lucking out so much), I didn’t know what I was going to do, but in the morning I got a message from another queer American girl I had made friends with when we were both trying to find the campus bookstore on Tuesday. She asked if I wanted to meet her in town and walk around, and I did, so we met up and did some more wandering. We went into bookshops and a music shop and stopped to watch street performers and found a really good café to eat in and talked about everything we’d seen and done so far. We are both very excited to become more of a part of the queer community in Galway – we’re both joining the NUIG LGTBQA (so many abbreviations), and we have eventual plans to maybe check out the gay bar in town. It was a really lovely day.
Saturday (the 17th): I got up early with a bunch of the other IFSA-Butler kids, who all wanted to check out the farmers market in the city center. Back at home, my college is right in the middle of Amish country, and we have an enormous farmer’s market, but this one still so lovely (and very Irish). Every day you go into the city centre you see so really good street performers, but Saturdays appear to be the best day for them. The group of us ended up stopping and watching this one troupe perform for a good half an hour. Afterwards, we stopped in at Charlie Byrnes used bookshop, which we had all been told about by the IFSA-Butler staff when we were in Dublin. It was magical; books from floor to ceiling, and has at least 5 rooms (I may have lost count). As a booklover, I was in heaven. The others ended up leaving after about half an hour, but I was there for at least two – it was impossible to leave. I’m waiting to get anything until after I have all my classes to see if I’ll even have any time to read, but it was very, very tempting.
I want to get a post up, so I’m cutting off here for now – but I have lots more to cover from Sunday and today! Slán! (shlahn = “goodbye!”) I’ll write soon.