I go to take my first shower in the Eco-Village in the small village of Cloughjordan, my first experience with water in Ireland. There is a shower head but not the typical nozzle or handle to turn on to get water pressure and no indication whatsoever of any control of temperature. There is only a button to press on the wall, and when you press it the water turns on for about 15-20 seconds and then turns off and you have to hit it again. Showering like this gave me a new appreciation for how much you water I normally use and how much I actually need. As someone who tends to take longer showers, often just standing there contemplating life, being somewhere that conserves as much water as possible really made me think about and realize that I don’t need all the water I have been using and how important it is to conserve what I can.
Another way that the eco-village in Cloughjordan saves water is by conserving water coming from sinks. When I went to wash my dishes after my first meal I found the sink full of water and immediately went to drain it before washing my dishes. I was quickly stopped by Pa, a resident of the eco-village and owner of the hostel we were staying at, who instructed me to use the water in the sink to wash instead of running the water the entire time while 20 people wash their dishes. While this was something to get used to it did conserve a lot of water and made me appreciate all of the other times i’m using water unnecessarily. The eco-village, while focusing the most on it, was not the only place in Ireland that is conserving water.
On the island of Inis Oirr water must be conserved especially carefully during the summer months, when there can be water shortages. In early June when we were there, water was being ferried to the island from the mainland up to three times a day. This meant that water was a large focus for the community at that time and the hostel we stayed at encouraged us to save as much water as possible. The owner of the hostel explained this on our first day and asked us to take short showers and “only flush when necessary”. In other places in Ireland that didn’t have a water shortage they still focus on conserving water and there were signs in both of the hotels that I stayed in asking people to be conscientious of the water that is used washing towels and bed linens. It was impressive to see how many people and establishments cared about conserving water and how many small changes to daily life can have a large impact.
It was clear to me from the beginning of my time in Ireland that the Irish have a different relationship with food than Americans. The food isn’t much different on the surface, chicken wings, seafood, red meat and similar snacks. While we may share many of the same things there are a lot of small differences that make a large impact on the culture around food.
People here seem to value fresh and clean food more than America does. The majority of food in markets and grocery stores that I have been to are fresh. One store even had only fresh bread crumbs, after searching the entire store for pre-packaged recognizable bread crumbs we asked an employee who directed us to the fresh ones in just a plastic bag with no label or brand name, which is why we missed it. We are used to packaged foods with recognizable brand names that have traveled far to reach our grocery store shelves, and the difference in the taste and quality of the food is obvious. It is a regulation in the EU that the food be labeled with what is in it and allergens printed in bold so that you don’t have to go searching for it, so it’s easier to know exactly what you’re eating. Overall there is a general feeling of respect and attention to the quality of food throughout rural Ireland.
I gained an appreciation for where food comes from when I had the opportunity to see food being grown at the eco-village in Cloughjordan, where one resident in particular, Bruce, grows vegetables and puts them out for other members of the community to take. He told us that he saw a ‘knowledge gap’ in people knowing how to grow their own food and is doing research to try and fill some of that gap. He grows vegetables in multiple plots of land on the eco-village, experimenting with different foods and growing styles, and publishes his work on a youtube channel called Red Gardens.
In places outside of the eco-village, general eating habits have slight differences from what I am used to in America, and these are evident in stores. When in search of breakfast foods and snacks I became excited because I saw many familiar brands, logos, and foods, even finding my favorite cereal, Frosted Flakes, although called Frostys here in Ireland. But when it came to snacks, I found it was difficult to find those brands I love to eat back home, and in general found that there are much less snack selections here. It is overall a cultural difference between what people prefer and are used to eating, and things seem healthier here in Ireland with fresher food, clearer ingredients and more of an appreciation for what is being consumed.
Before shipping out of Boston to Ireland, I read some of the blogs from last year’s trip. I noticed some students talked about push start showers. These showers required you to push a button every 15 seconds to get the water to start. If you forgot to push the button, the water would turn off. Not only did you have to push a button, but you were unable to adjust the temperature of the water. If you got lucky, you had warm water. Hot water was usually scarce when other residents were showering at a similar time. Reading this before I arrived in Ireland, I felt a sense of panic. When I first arrived in the Ecovillage, the first thing I checked was to see if those blog posts were true. To my dismay I saw a button and no way to adjust the temperature. I began to dread the day I had to take a shower. After learning more about the Ecovillage, and the steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint, I began to appreciate the way the bathroom was set up. I then took my first ecovillage shower. To my surprise, I did not find it as challenging as I thought it would be. The button restricted people to shorter showers. Which then reduced the amount of water wasted per shower.
In places like Inis Oirr short showers were a way of life. Being on a small island, water can be scarce from time to time and has to be closely monitored. Their struggle to have a consistent water supply, led them to have water shipped to them from Galway twice a week. When I entered the hostel on Inis Oirr, we were informed that they had a water shortage on the island on last year’s trip. This restricted people from using water from 7 pm to roughly 6 am. This was a typical thing that occurred on the island, due to their small water supply. Walking around the hostel, near sinks, showers, and toilets, there were flyers that read, “Keep it short. Water shortage on the island. Thank you!” These flyers served as a constant reminder to keep it short, because of their limited water supply. By either taking a quick shower, not leaving the faucet running, and only flushing when necessary, water supplies would last longer. Coming from a place where I don’t have to worry about water shortages, I suddenly became more aware of my shower time. I used what I learned from my showers in the Ecovillage, to help conserve water during my stay in Inis Oirr.
Water usage is something that some people in America are not conscious about. They seem to think they have an unlimited water supply at their fingertips. Living in these different water usage environments has opened my eyes to become more aware that long and hot showers are not the most necessary thing in the world. These shower set ups got me in the routine of taking shorter showers. After the Ecovillage, I found myself turning off the water when I put in my shampoo and conditioner, then, turning it back on after I was done mixing it in my hair. Living in these water conscious environments exposed us to other ways of living and will allow us to bring these new techniques back to America.
While traveling around Ireland, I took interest into the dynamic of the Eco-Village and how their community worked. The first place we stopped while in Ireland was Cloughjordan. What was interesting about this village was the construction of the eco village and its relive location towards the center of the Cloughjordan. This eco village could have been located outside Cloughjordans main strip, but even though it was created well long after the village of Cloughjordan was founded it looks like it belonged there. Some interesting things I learned while staying at the eco village is that there is no one in charge of the village and that everybody their makes joint decisions. Mary, one of the residents, told us, “You learn love and hate everyone here”. That really stuck with me because in a community where everyone makes decisions instead of just one person being in charge things tend to get done slower. This was something I noticed about this community as they claim to be self-sustainable; however, they have not been able to use their solar panels they as a community purchased due to technical problems dating back 10 years. This is something I thought was interesting because that meant they got their electricity from somewhere else even though their motto is that they are:
When looking at their motto I found that their vision wasn’t being 100% achieved due to relying on outside energy. One thing I picked up on about the community is that everyone was there for a specific reason, and that was that they wanted to reduce their carbon footprint on the environment. This is something I saw throughout the village as they as a community tried to reduce waste, farm their own food, and reduced water usage. Seeing a community that truly believes that as a whole they could help make a difference was inspirational. While staying in the hostel, we came across apple juice that was for sale and asked about it. Pa, the owner of the hostel we stayed at, told us that they are sold by a member of the community and could also be bought up at the store ran by the hostel’s cook, Johanna and their husband. I thought it was interesting finding out that they tried to shop locally for their food unlike in America where majority of people shop at the supermarket. Overall I believe that if the eco-village wants to grow they need to fix their solar power issue to be fully self sustainable and work towards electing someone to make decisions for the community.
“Is she being sarcastic or is it just me?” is the question I asked the table members as the serves in multiple restaurants asked the us “Are you Happy” and then commented “good, you are all happy”. At first I thought the servers were being rude or sarcastic, even having to ask others at the table to repeat what the server had just said. In the urban neighborhood that I am from, if a server were to ask “are you happy” they were usually being sarcastic and rude. However, the complete opposite to my urban interpretation the servers in Ireland just wanted to make sure the table was all set and actually happy with the service at the moment as they consistently checked into the table. This is only one of the many ways the Ireland community was different than my community. The communities in Ireland were welcoming and friendly, making one feel at home.
The Ireland communities have a sense of togetherness within the towns and the villages. In the ecovillage, everyone knew each other, acted like a family and were all so welcoming of others. Not just the owner of the hostel, but the farmers, community members and even the children in which would on their own introduced themselves to outsiders. One of the ecovillage little girls asked me about the sports I play and why I was visiting Ireland. I was surprised as being raised in the United States I was taught to not speak to any strangers and most children today are extremely shy when strangers approach. Not only were people friendly and approachable in the ecovillage but even in towns like Westport, where in the morning every person that passed by said good morning and or stopped for a short conversation.
As Americans, we really stood out at the pubs and I realized it even more as one Irish man said” why are you all on your phones” and that is when I turned around and looked at our study abroad group and every person was on their phone on some kind of social media. But when looking at the other side of the pub not one Irish person was on their phone or even had it near them, unless in their pockets of course. Every Irish person was either talking to someone next to them or just dancing with another person to the live music playing.However, there are those people like in every country who are the bad of the bunch. While in a Westport Pub another student’s money was stolen. She did not realize it until she was trying to enter the nightclub and could not pay the entrance fee because all her euros were gone. Even though there was the one person at the pub who acted in an unfriendly manner by stealing a visitor’s money, there were employees and other people at the nightclub who reminded us with their acts that it was just that one person from the pub not the whole bunch.
I work in a restaurant back at home, so cooking is something that I know how to do, so imagine me, cooking various irish meats for around 20 people, it’s a pretty image right? I was right back into my element in the kitchen of Django’s Hostel, Pa, the owner and my Sous-chef for the night was giving me pointers “not too long on those sausages, you don’t need them burning” “the bacon will never be crispy, when it sizzles it’s finished.” I was back in my domain even if I was an ocean away from my normal stomping grounds. The heat from the oven and stovetop may have been unbearably hot to others, but felt like nothing to me, I was a man on a mission, and my mission was to cook over 100 individual pieces of meat for everyone, ranging from irish bacon to the ispíní (sausages) I couldn’t afford to mess up even a single piece of food. I was cooking foreign food in a foreign kitchen using a oven that I had no clue how to control, yet the whole group was relying on me, and my amazing skills at cooking sausages.
One pan after another went into the oven I had to remember all the small things, my mind was racing. In the end everything went off without a hitch, even after cooking the black pudding, something that surprisingly has nothing to do with what we would call pudding, but would be much more akin to sausage patties, and surprisingly didn’t taste half bad, but then again, to quote a irish proverb “Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.” (Hunger is a good sauce)
Imagine the size of a small village, how many people would you think that to be? 5000? Maybe even 2500. Imagine a village with under 500 people, and in that town a village of just around 100 people. That is the town of Cloughjordan, smack in the middle of the Irish countryside you have this scenic village where everybody knows everyone and visitors are far and few inbetween. When we first arrived in this town we were skeptical to be sure “what even is there to do in a place this small?” wondered just about everyone, “how do people even live here?” I thought to myself. But over the course of the next few days I began to see, people here live very fulfilled. Of course the fact that it was our first day in Ireland, a few of my friends and I decided to find a local establishment to quench our extreme thirst, as well as to get a lay of the (very small) land.
We walked into the pub and were greeted by a very nice man who I later learned went by the nickname of “Bomber”. Our party of stereotypical Americans sat down and we began to talk with bomber, at first about where we came from, why we were here, the usual. But then we asked him about life in Cloughjordan, he said it was “slow, not a lot of excitement, but it’s a nice community, everyone in here is friendly, I can’t complain.” When asked about running his pub, bomber said that “because we only really have locals that come here, business isn’t “booming” I own the pub so I just have to pay for upkeep, but even so it’s next to no profit. I could close the place down and by next week I would be making more money than I ever did thanks to government benefits, but if you want the real reason why I keep it open it’s because I love everyone in this town far too much, it’s a way for us all to come together, and that is what makes it all worthwhile for me.” This seems to be the case for many of the fine Irish people, they care more about the wellbeing of their community than just for themselves, something that is not normally the case back in the United States, the sense of community and unity in Ireland seems to be prevalent no matter where you go, and I find that to be absolutely amazing.
If you ever find yourself in Cloughjordan, make sure to give Bomber a visit, he said one of his favorite things about his pub is being able to hear stories from all around the world.
When I first arrived in the eco-village in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, I was not sure what to expect, what even was an eco-village? At first it looked like an ordinary town, small stores, colorful bright houses, and pubs, but as I got a closer look around the town I began to understand what an eco-village actually was. A place where people come together and live their life in an environmental friendly way. People come from many different places in order to live there, and those living in the eco-village follow a mission statement, “if we do not do the impossible, we shall do the unthinkable.” In other words, if we do things together it is possible to build a livable, safe and fun community. Since everyone living in the eco-village has similar morals, values and beliefs they get along very well with each other and lean on each other when in need. It is really important for the eco-village to be in a community within a town because it shows that people can be eco friendly in a way that does not leave you secluded from the rest of civilization. While I was staying in the eco-village I met a young woman black haired women named Johanna, her home was currently being built in the eco-village and during this time she was living in small hut with her husband and two small children. Johanna was an amazing chef but due to her living conditions she did not have a kitchen. The hostel in the eco-village allowed her to use their community kitchen to cook whenever she wanted as long as in return she occasionally cooked for guests. Johana made my classmate’s lunch and dessert occasionally and it was always amazing. She picked fresh fruits and vegetables using the community farm which was set up in August 2008. This farm is over 40 acres outside Cloughjordan and 12 acres in the eco-village. For a small fee of 64 euros a month, families are able to go to the farm and pick from a wide range of vegetables and use them for their meals. During the evenings, many people who live in the eco-village come together at a local pub and sing along to traditional Irish music. The pubs and bars in Ireland are very different from the bars in the United States. In Ireland, the pubs are full of a wide age range of people who sing and play a wide range of instruments such as the fiddle, flute, pennywhistle, and bodhrán. After a long day at work locals are able to come together, talk to each other and sing along to traditional Irish music.
From the moment I boarded the Aer Lingus plane to Shannon I could instantly tell that the people in this country are so much friendlier and welcoming than citizens in America usually are to tourists. It also seemed as though the citizens of Ireland lookout for the people around them no matter what; It is kind of like everyone is living by the Bible verse “Love thy neighbor.” When I was walking on the street or eating out at a pub – everyone greeted me with a friendly face and a sincere, “Hello!” I could tell that the quality of life in Ireland is dramatically more important than materialism. What I mean by this is, in America, people tend to obsess over landing jobs that make them the most money even if they are unhappy for the rest of their lives, but in Ireland, that barely matters. An example of this lifestyle can be found on the island of Inisheer where there is a 69-year-old woman named Mairéad Sharry who spends her days spinning wool, weaving, felting and making baskets in her hundred year old cottage. In this cottage there is a traditional open fire in the fireplace where she can cook bread or make tea. Also, there was no running water or electricity in this house until the late 1970s, and electricity was only added so that Mairéad could plug in and use her sewing machine.
Not only is there a great sense of community in Ireland as a whole, but there is also a whole eco-village of people in Cloughjordan that bring that term to the next level. These people have all vowed to share their yards, talents, fresh vegetables from their garden, etc., with the people around them. Also, they all know each other’s names, their kids names, and their personal stories which made it feel as though they were all a family that came together to live on the same 67 acres of land. Together, they have made a difference and created a community that has the lowest measured ecological footprint in all of Ireland at 2 global hectares.
According to Iva Pocock of The Irish Times, “The average for 79 other settlements included in the study was 4.3 global hectares.” Although the eco-village is still figuring things out and working through some kinks in the system, they are already making a difference, and are doing it by coming together as a community to make our planet a better and more sustainable place. This shows that when people come together we can accomplish anything, and I truly believe that in order to make a difference in America we need to come together just as the citizens of this eco-village have, and start to lookout for not only each other, but for our Earth.