Dear Catherine…

The following is a work of fiction based on recent events and experiences in Ireland.

Dear Catherine,

Every morning, in Inis Oirr I wake up to the sound of the ocean crashing against the walls just outside my yard. I typically wake up just before sunrise, put on my flip flops and run down to the ocean for my early morning walk. I love this time of morning because you get to watch the sun slowly peak over the horizon, and watch mother nature create a new masterpiece every morning. This time of morning is filled with the sounds of wildlife. You can hear the seagulls crying out above your head, various birds singing their morning songs and I can hear my cows eating their morning breakfast of grass from afar. Watching the sun rise over the landscape, is the perfect way to start my morning. However, the one thing I can live without are the little bugs, which people around here call, midges. Keeping up at a brisk pace you are able to avoid the swarms of bugs. Take a short break, and the bugs will begin to cloud above your head, and there is no escaping them now. I don’t think I will ever be able to get used to the midges.

Living in a touristy part of Ireland, I make my living off of giving people tours of the island. I obtained two horses that I use throughout the week and attach them to my carriage for a horse and carriage tour. Around 8 every morning I set up my base in front of the ferry, where I am the first thing that the tourists see. People who are feeling adventurous or want to go on a romantic ride, board my carriage and we begin the tour.  I give them the tour of the beached ship, the cemetery, the sunken church, and the old castle we have on the island.

My two horses have grown to be my best friends because we spend so much time together. One day I went to my plot of land to get my horses for the day of tours. I discovered that my horses were missing! The gate was open and they were gone. I immediately sprung into action and ran down to the wharf to see if anyone had seen my horses. A good friend said he saw two young boys riding my horses bareback around the island. Thankfully, my friend offered to drive me in her horse and carriage to try and find the thieves. After searching what seemed to be hours, we saw my horses and the thieves walking up the side of the hill to the castle. I chased after them and when they were confronted, they claimed that they were going to bring them back before I started work, and just wanted to go on an adventure. Now my horses are back in my custody and I check on them frequently.

All in all, island life has been a surreal experience. The rocks here look like cookie dough pieces, and have me craving chocolate chip cookies more frequently. See if mom can send me some of her homemade cookies for me.

Love,

Your Irish Twin

 

1 liter Plastics Everywhere

The turquoise, deep blue water surrounds the land. The bright green grass covers the land itself. The clear, clean water comes out of the faucet filling our glasses. Yet I found myself walking to the convenience stores to buy 1 liter plastic water bottles during my time in Ireland.

Ireland’s water in most of the country is drinkable right from the faucet with no filter in which amazed me coming from an urban area. I was shocked that we could fill our bottles right from the sink and pubs and that restaurants gave us tap water. However, I still found myself at the store buying huge plastic water bottles. Every store I entered nowhere in sight was there a reusable water bottle, which is shocking as Ireland’s goal is to be greener and reduce waste. Buying plastic water bottles are also cheaper if the bottle is bigger, 1 liter vs 16 oz. What was even more shocking was that the most beautiful turquoise, deep blue water I saw was on this islands, also surrounded solely by water, yet it was the only place on the western side of Ireland that had a water shortage. “How is it possible to have a water shortage when surrounded by water?” is the only question I could ask. Linda the hostel manager in Innis Oirr, the smallest island, said that it had not rained in months and the water in the reservoir was not enough for its residents and tourist to use, which is why the water was turned off for 12 hours a day, 830pm – 830am. When the drops of water began to fall from the sky the island residents were happy and wanted it to continue as the tourist all wanted it to stop, seeing it as a disadvantage. This island appreciated any little water that fell as they had so little, while in the United States, New Englanders despise when it rains.

A Breathtaking View

A Breathtaking View

I am on a bus driving through a mountain and suddenly gasp with excitement and adrenaline. The most beautiful view I have ever seen was right before my eyes. Typically, people sleep on a bus when traveling, but I was so overcome by the views that I could not sleep or relax. The sky was blue without a cloud in the sky, the mountains were so green and the water was crystal clear. The huge mountains presented not only a great scene, but a cliff right on the water. I immediately started taking pictures through the bus window and my entire body was shaking from the excitement and nerves. Although there are many water and mountain views throughout Ireland, this breathtaking view I saw in Achill was by far the best view and the only view I had an “oh my god” moment. Ireland is surrounded by water, which makes it an ideal travel location due to all of its beauty. The water surrounding Ireland is also extremely clear and has an aquamarine color. In the U.S., the oceans are murky and not as clear. When I looked at this view for the first time in Achill, I was so shocked to see how clear and blue the water was.

The beautiful water surrounding Ireland also allows people to travel by boat to get to other islands, such as the Aran Islands, or to go on tours to see the Cliffs of Moher. On one of the last few days in Ireland, we were taking the ferry from Inis Oirr back to the mainland and we stopped by the Cliffs of Moher. The man driving the ferry said the cliffs are the most popular tourist spot in Ireland and have been known for their beauty for many years. He said it is always a pleasure seeing the cliffs when driving the ferry back and forth because he never gets sick of the view when coasting along the swells on the ocean. Taking the ferry also allowed me to experience the oceans in Ireland first hand and I also got the opportunity to see dolphins for the first time ever! They were racing against the ferry as we were speeding along and they were jumping out of the water as if they were putting on a show for us. The moment I saw the dolphins, I was at a loss of words because the views of the cliffs and the water in general were incredible. The waters of Ireland not only gave me one of the best experiences in Ireland, but also allowed me sit down, relax and enjoy the ride.

The Irish Drought

“I am sorry to inform you that we have to shut the water off from 8:30p.m. to 8:30a.m. while you stay here.” Those are not words anyone wants to hear while moving into a hostel nearing the night hours, but it makes you wonder why something like that would happen. Is it because they are trying to save money? I am sure that is what most people would assume at first because it’s Ireland, it rains almost 250 days a year. Well, that is not exactly true everywhere you go. There are some places in Ireland that are experiencing severe drought as of now and there is not much they can do to stop it. On the Aran Islands there has not been substantial rain in almost 15 weeks. I began to wonder, how is that possible? It rains everywhere else. I set out and found the answer to that question: as moisture and clouds are traveling from the ocean, they travel until they hit something where it triggers the release of the water as rain, typically on mountains or other high land. These islands are nearly completely flat, so all of the clouds are traveling right over while only drizzling a little rain at best, resulting in a major water shortage. Others may ask, well they are on an island – why can’t they just get water from the lakes and water around them? The answer to that is simple, the surrounding water is not clean at all. Ireland signifies the clarity and cleanliness of the bodies of water by flags. A blue flag signifies very clear and safe water, while a white flag signifies that the water is unclear and not suitable for consumption. The white flags are flying all over these islands, which also means that the tap water is not very safe for consumption.

The Irish government is getting a lot of backlash as of now for their recent proposal to tax and charge for the amount of water used by citizens. The reason the people of the nation are against this is because they believe water is a natural resource and that no one should have control over the pricing. It was clearly obvious as I talked to the locals that no one was very happy about not being able to use water after the set hours. However they are not complaining too much because it is what is necessary for the water to be sustainable. In my opinion, it is not difficult getting accustomed to the water ban, it just creates some small issues such as flushing toilets at night or showering, but nothing too important.

The Unexpected Result

 

 

It looked like I just got served puke on a plate. My eyes and nose are in a major battle on what is going on in front of me, a plate of Beef & Guinness stew. The brown chunks on a dark creamy sauce that seemed like an unappetizing mess combined with the savory smell of perfectly cooked beef and went through my nasal passage like music.

Beef & Guinness Stew

I am an extremely particular person when it comes to eating food, I have not had the pleasure of expanding my palate too much, but I usually give new foods a shot. I was in the Achill Islands located in a hostel called the Valley House, we were told the chefs had something special cooked up for us. Seated next to me, my bus driver Des seemed to sense my discomfort, so he gave me some reassurance, “Trust me, it may look like a disgusting mess but it might be one of the most tasty meals you will have had so far, and it is a typical meal families would have on a Sunday night so it is not like they do not know how to make it right.” I took his little pep talk with great consideration as I extended my teeth to take the slightest little nibble on the corner of a piece of the beef, and to my complete astonishment, the flavors ran through my palate like I have been missing out on something my whole life. Without even giving the slightest thought, I gobbled that dish up in a matter of two minutes along with the softest textured buttery mashed potatoes that my mouth has ever experienced. Before I knew it I was already asking for seconds, followed by a small request for thirds, I could not get enough of it. The following day I did not even want to eat anything else, my mind was still obsessed with the beef stew from the previous night. I managed to get them to heat me up more leftovers for my dinner that night, and without any sort of question in my mind, that was the absolute best dish I had experienced on this entire trip to Ireland.

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