In which we spend some time in the North and walk in the footsteps of giants

Last Friday we, along with a bunch of Eric’s college students, boarded a bus to Belfast. Crossing the border into Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and not politically part of Ireland, is somewhat underwhelming and mostly notable for the road signs changing into miles instead of kilometers. We made a few stops to check out sights along the way.

First stop was the Dark Hedges. Beech trees twist and arc overhead to create two colonnades along a small patch of road, an arboreal tunnel to welcome you to the Stuart estate. Charles Stuart first planted the trees in the 18th century for this reason, simply to impress visitors to his manse. It’s better known now as the escape route Arya Stark takes from King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. When backlit, the trees form an ethereal walkway, and I half expected to see fairies meandering past. 


Next stop was Carrick a Rede rope bridge. A tiny island sits just off the coast of mainland Ireland at the edge of a bay. Shoals of salmon used to swim by, and a small rope bridge allowed fishermen access the island so they could set their nets. Nowadays, salmon populations have plummeted and the bridge is no longer used for fishing, but solely for tourism. Walking across what is now a relatively stable wood slat bridge with secure ropes and netting on either side of you is harrowing enough, especially if you look down to see the surf crashing on the rocks. I can only imagine the fortitude of fisherman of yore, who used to scramble across a swaying bridge which had only one rope handrail, the other side a steep drop to the ocean, guiderope held in one hand and the other clutching their nets and lines. Many tourists have made it across but have found themselves unable to stomach the return journey, needing rescue by dinghy. 

True bravery on display

The little dock to the right is where they would save those who couldn’t cross twice, though it seems even more harrowing to me.


The last tourist stop was the Giant’s Causeway. The tour bus spit us out at the top of a cliff overlooking the beach. We walked a paved pathway that curved downwards, and saw … more cliffs and craggy beach. Pretty, sure, but hardly unique. What was the big deal?

The faces of the unimpressed


Walking further down, though, we soon saw the landscape change into well demarcated hexagonal columns that rose into hills as they came inland and then seemed to disappear into the surf. The kids took off to scamper among the formations, while I cautiously stepped around them because those things were slippery. Now, I could tell you that the geological origin is from ancient volcanic activity that breathed out the basalt columns, but where’s the fun in that? 

Irish legend tells a much different story. Fionn McCumaill (p. Finn McCool) is a mythic giant of the North Coast. Scotland is just across the water here, and the Scottish giant Benandonner threatened to attack Ireland. Fionn swore to protect his land, and threw chunks of the coast into the water to create a road, or causeway, to Scotland where he intended to fight Benandonner and save Ireland. On his way over though, he caught a glimpse of Benandonner, realized he is truly massive and Fionn hightailed it back to his house in Ireland. Benandonner meanwhie is still up for the challenge and followed Fionn back along the new road and headed to his house, asking to see him for the fight. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, has realized what’s about to happen and cleverly dressed up Fionn as a baby. She greeted Benandonner at the door, and told him Fionn is currently out but would you mind holding his beautiful baby. Benandonner took one look at the “baby,” and thought in fright of how large the father must be to sire a baby of this size, and fled back to Scotland. As he ran back, he destroyed much of the causeway so that Fionn couldn’t chase him home. 

Look between the layers to see coins people have stuck in, left to decay in the saltwater air and melt into the stones themselves.


-s

In which I show you a bit of Maynooth, and make a small confession

It occurs to me that I haven’t taken you all on a trip around our tidy little town of Maynooth. That’s not just me calling it tidy, I’ll have you know, but all of Ireland, at least for 2016. 

Maynooth is situated on one of the branches of An Sli Mhor (pronounced ‘sleemore’), or “The Great Road,” created some thousands of years ago, and people settled at various points along the ways, one of them being Maynooth in what is now County Kildare.
It also is situated along the Royal Canal from Dublin, another important source of trade for many years from its creation in the 18th century. This now lives as a biking and hiking trail and Eric and I took a little ride last week to get to the Garda station to register with the police, as we were told to do. The canal way is a lovely path along water, with reeds and waterbirds along they way, who seem somewhat annoyed at the human interlopers of their homes.


In the Norman era, late 12th century, County Kildare was given to the FitzGerald family by the ruling Norman Richard “the Strongbow” Clare. The Fitzgeralds built a castle on the great road, strategically located for defense and promptly took up residence and rule of Ireland, largely ignored by their British overlords. They continued to buy up land around Maynooth and further to the south. Maynooth then, could have been considered the capital of Ireland for several centuries. In 1534, however, Thomas FitzGerald, also known as “Silken Thomas” for his lavish clothing, decided he’d had enough of even nominal British rule and rose up against Henry VIII, leading the English to storm and destroy Maynooth castle. For his efforts he was executed, and the Fitzgeralds moved out of Maynooth to a castle down the road and then to Carton House, a Palladian style estate built in the 1700s on the land acquired by the Fitzgeralds during their long rule. 

Castle Ruins, as seen from the main road


The main road in Maynooth is then capped by these structures, the ruined castle on one end and Carton house on the other. The castle is a tourist attraction, open in the spring, and Carton House is a hotel and golf course. 


The boat house on the grounds of Carton House, with a lovely golf course and nary a golf cart in sight


St. Patrick’s College/Maynooth University is a huge part of the town, and when school is in session the population of the town doubles from 15,000 to 30,000. St. Patrick’s College was established just beyond the castle as a Catholic seminary in 1795, so that young priests wouldn’t have to travel to France for an education and thus be swayed by the happenings of the French Revolution and get any pesky ideas about freedom. In the early 1900s, secular education was added. I’ll share more pictures of the campus in a different post, as I’ll be going to the old library next week. 
As for our Maynooth, it’s a modern small town. There’s a main street with restaurants, pubs, a bookshop and the library. There’s one main intersection running through, the north south road takes you out to our house. Here’s a series of photos showing the ride from one end of main street to our house!



And here I am on my bike, graciously loaned to me by our friend Alena. That’s about 20 pounds of groceries I’ve got loaded on, not atypical before we discovered grocery delivery service, thank goodness.


If it seems that I’m dressed for a nuclear winter, I am. The weather here has been cold and misty in a way that seeps into your bones. Rain comes with wind such that umbrellas are useless against the damp, flipping themselves inside out as if to commit seppuku in the face of their futility. Van Morrison sings much of water, whether it be “streets wet with rain,” “misty morning fog,” or “oh, the water” and it makes sense after being here, where so far the sun has been a reluctant friend. [confessional side note – this seems a good a place as any to finally admit that it wasn’t until I met Eric that I learned that Van Morrison was Irish. I had thought he was Dutch, in the vein of “Van Halen” or “Van Helsing.” You may now mock me for this. It is deserved.]

Living in the mist, as it were, I think often of the Ray Bradbury short story “All Summer in a Day.” [Click to read, it’s a short four pager.] I think I first read this in high school, and it’s stuck with me ever since, a haunting read. Set on Venus, where the sun shines for one hour every seven years, it focuses on a classroom of children who cruelly lock a student in the closet during this one hour, depriving her of her moment of sunlight. The children realize their horrific act, but no matter, the time has passed and won’t recur for another seven years. 

I’m told it’s not quite so infrequent here as that, though it feels it, and I await its appearance with bated breath. 
-s

In which I begin my path of Irish Scholarship

I’m going to be honest with you here, and share what may be an unpopular opinion. Upon hearing that we were going to go to Ireland, many people would get slightly misty-eyed and exclaim, “Ah, Ireland! I’ve always wanted to go there!” Or alternatively “Oh I love it there!” reflecting on happy times spent on the Emerald Isle. “Yeah, I can’t wait.” I would lie halfheartedly. So here it is – I was just not that interested in Ireland. 
I mean, I thought of it as a place of grass and sheep and shamrocks and Guinness but still Westernized and English speaking, and as such not nearly as interesting or different as say Japan or Spain or anywhere. I usually am excited to go to new places, so I’m not sure why I wasn’t really thrilled to come here in the first place. 

But I’m here now, and given that I know little about the history or the culture, when the opportunity came up to take classes at the University, I jumped for it. So I’m now taking a full course load on Irish culture and history, of course. Sapana says that this means I’ve failed at my goal of being a lazy, bonbon eating, soap opera watching housewife, but I’m such an overachiever that I think I can be BOTH a lazy housewife and a full time student. Being a student again is SO FUN. Partly because it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been in a humanities course, and it’s the first time that I’m learning something purely for fun and grades don’t really matter. It’s giving me a new appreciation for the culture and history here too. 


The courses I’m taking are: Intro to Irish Culture, The Irish Manuscript Tradition, Heroic tales (myths/legends) and Archaeology and History of Newgrange, which is an ancient tomb site. I’ve had a few classes so far and am loving it. Where possible, I’m going to try and weave in some of the things I’m learning with the sites we’re seeing around Ireland to give it more background.
We’ve been taking almost weekly trips into Dublin to see the sights there, and it’s a lovely, if not drizzly, city situated on two banks of the Liffey River. 



The name of the Liffey comes from “Liphe,” meaning Life. The buildings along the banks are generally brick and mortar in the older districts, notable for windows that get smaller as they move skyward. One of the main tourist attractions in town is Trinity College, and specifically going there to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room of the Old Library. Trinity was established in 1592 as a Protestant only institution, only allowing in Catholics beginning in 1793, and not women until 1904.

The Book of Kells is what is called an illuminated manuscript. What’s an illuminated manuscript? I wondered. I was hoping for a book drawn with radioactive inks so that it glowed, or perhaps one which changed when light was cast upon it. In this I was slightly disappointed – illuminated is just another word for illustrated, however the illustrations of the ancient book are truly marvelous to behold. 


A book of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, filled with intricate drawings and lettering, believed to have been written around 800 AD, and has somehow survived the years. It really is magnificent, and the exhibition that precedes it does a fantastic job talking about the manuscript tradition in Ireland and the hisotry of writing in general. 

While you can’t take pictures of the Book of Kells while in the exhibit, here’s the entire manuscript online. I recommend. checking out the following folios (folio is the word for page, r means “recto” or right side, v is “verso” or reverse) – for images, 28v,, 29r, and 291v. For a nice example of illustrated lettering, check out 182v.

Whatever else they may have brought, the Christians coming to Ireland brought with them writing, which previously had only existed as rudimentary stone markings known as Ogham. Some of the earliest known writings are from St. Patrick himself, but do not include a recipe for green beer. From around 500 A.D., they established monasteries and scriptoriums, where scribes would copy out various works. These ranged from religious texts, to legal notices, and some myths. For many Irish scholars, the Book of Kells is indeed quite pretty, however the real interest and cultural history lies in the manuscripts that tell olden tales of yore, such as Lebor naHuidre, or “The Book of the Dun Cow.” After all, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on a copy of the gospels to read, but finding ancient texts that describe historical and mythical tales is rare. Many of these manuscripts were not cared for as the Book of Kells, and have been found in various stages of decomposition in the airless bogs of Ireland when peat farmers excavate the land. 
These have lasted partly because of the oxygen deficient environment of the bogs, and also because they are written on vellum, made from prepared calfskin from a calf no older than 3 months. Any older and the skin is too tough to use for bookwork. Here’s me in class holding up a sheet of vellum, it feels almost like a thin, flexible plastic. 

When the professor said she was passing around the vellum, a blond girl behind me started squealing “Awe, calfskin?! That’s so sad! We have to touch it? Ew, I haven’t even had lunch yet!” I couldn’t take it. Turning around, I glared at her, “Do you eat meat? Are you wearing leather, because if so, you’re already touching cow skin.” “Well,” she replied lamely, “I’m, like, half vegetarian…” But at least it got her to shut up about the vellum. It was incredibly cool to get to feel up close this ancient material, imagine the scribes sitting down with a new fresh sheet, ready for inking. 

The ink came from various minerals and natural substances and were quite laborious to prepare. Oak galls for black, colored lead for reds and whites, copper acetate for greens. Quills came from geese or swans and were cut in precise ways for the different letterings. Styli would be used to draw lines on the paper to keep things straight, and they would also use markings as placeholders for larger first letters or large drawings.

A fantastic interactive site about manuscript writing is found here: Making Medieval Manuscripts.  It’s done like a fun little game and worth five minutes of your time to see how they’re made. My favorite little tidbit about these is that the scribes would often write little snarky notes in the margins, such as “Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.” See? Medieval scribes were just like you and me. 

After the Book of Kells viewing, you walk through a narrow passage to enter the Long Room of the Old Library. Friends, this feels magical to walk into, as if you’ve stepped into a past time where bald pated scholars in robes would carefully examine the leather bound tomes held within. Two floors of wall to ceiling books and busts line the central pathway. A security guard gave the boy’s hat ears a friendly flick as we walked by, and we stopped to ask him if the books were still read. Indeed they are, by appointment only. A copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish republic resides here as well. 


The Jedi Archives in the Star Wars prequel movies looks almost EXACTLY like the long room, such that the college considered a lawsuit against LucasFilm, but the producers of the movie said that the Long Room wasn’t the inspiration, so the college basically decided to drop it. You be the judge, but I think the college would have had a preeeetttyy strong case here. 

 

-s

In which the children become slightly feral

Living in Irish suburbia means that things have slowed somewhat. It’s not every day that we’re out and about seeing different things, eating different foods. Our lives resemble that which we have back home, where the kids go off to school in the morning, come home in the afternoon, we eat dinner at home, then have our evening routine.

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after school homework time

 

It’s been hard to write much partly because of that, and also because of being consumed by the political situation back home. I know I try to keep politics out of the blog, but it’s impossible when that is what dominates your life. It’s of course on all versions of social media, and even in Ireland is all over the news and in conversations you hear around you. Despite what seems terrifying on the news cycle with the new slew of executive orders, the fact is that most of our lives haven’t changed all that much from a day to day basis. Therein lies the danger of these things – it can be easy to ignore the issues especially if they don’t directly impact your life. I spent a week in New York, and other than the charged atmosphere, life proceeded largely unchanged from before the election happened. I shouldn’t be surprised, really. We’ve traveled to a few authoritarian states on our journey, and the reality is that there, too, life proceeds as typical on a day to day basis. But people are aware that there are limits to their freedom, and that speaking out can be a dangerous thing. We’re not there yet in the US, but I think it’s heading in that direction very quickly. I think that if you feel completely safe with this current government, then you’re okay with ignoring the suffering and difficulty of others because you don’t feel that you’re at risk at all, which to me is simply morally incomprehensible.

Back to blogging as usual over here. As I said above, I flew back to the States for a week to New York to visit my sister, Sapana, and attend her baby shower! She’s due in March with her first baby and I’m over the moon excited for her. She’s excited, too, though sometimes I think she feels as though she’s been handed a complicated IKEA cabinet to put together, with no instructions and just a shoddy allen wrench. Don’t we all feel this way with the first baby though? I’m sure the child will be fine, and to continue the weak analogy, will be assembled and functional at the end of it, though will have a bunch of spare bits and bobs left over. I usually end up taping these to the back of the piece with some masking tape, as if by osmosis they will provide whatever essential function they were meant for. This works for children too. The shower was so fun! Rakhee, Sapana’s sister in law, did a fabulous job arranging it. It was the best attended shower in the history of baby showers.

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I also met up with my friend Ulcca from Denver, who was in town for a work meeting and stayed an extra day so we could hang out, my friend Rebecca from medical school who lives in the suburbs, and even my in-laws drove up from Pennsylvania to see me, which was delightful. Both sides of expectant grandparents were of course in attendance. It was great to see my parents again! It’s been so long since we were all together and we all had a fun time being together. We’ve made a lot of friends along the way, but it was just wonderful to see and spend time with family and old friends, to feel that sense of comfort from other people. Texting and social media help while I’m far away, but they’re pale comparisons for actually being with people who are important to you.

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I was worried that it would feel odd to be back in the States, but well, I haven’t been away that long and it’s a known entity. I love New York City, and spent most of my time (when not with family) wandering around, going to shops, stocking up at Trader Joe’s, and just enjoying the atmosphere. I find New Yorkers to be friendly and helpful everywhere, if not a bit matter of fact.  There were people who offered help when I clearly needed it, and many with whom I chatted just around town. I also think I personally helped to save a New Yorker’s life. This was a checkout clerk at The Strand Bookstore, where I was buying a sloth enamel pin for the girl. As he completed my transaction, he gave a little shudder and said, “Sloths scare me, man. Those eyes…” I gave him a grave look and said that for the sake of his health, I would not tell my daughter about this apostasy, as she would find a way to track him down and cut him. Thus far, I have kept my promise. I hope that I will be recognized for my efforts, if only here.

The one exception to New York friendliness was an Uber pool ride I took while there. I slid into the back seat, and said hello to the other passenger. The car was silent, without music. The other rider next to me didn’t acknowledge my presence, nor did the driver, both women. With traffic, it was a long 30 minutes to my destination, and easily the quietest ride I’ve taken in six months. What was strange for me was that while I previously would have been quite happy with this, I’m not used to it anymore. I’ve become one of those people who likes to talk to strangers now, in a way that I never did before. Meeting different people and interacting with them has become something fun and enjoyable, not something to be avoided. I kept trying to think up different ways to chirp in and start a conversation, but the oppressive silence cowed me until the car spit me back out onto the welcomingly noisy streets of the East Village.

 

——-

Back to Ireland, where the children run amok…

One day a few weeks ago, the kids had returned home from school. Still in their uniforms, they were sitting at the kitchen table and working on their homework. The doorbell rang, and Eric and I looked at each other, as if to ask “Were you expecting someone?” I went to answer it and there stood a young girl and a very small boy. “Hi! Is E here?” she asked. My girl ran up and said happily, “This is my Bus friend, S! I invited her to come over to our house!” In came the friend and her little brother, handing me a crumpled piece of paper with her mother’s number on it. I texted to let the mom know that they’d arrived and to ask when we should walk her home. I thought that this was a one off situation until it’s now happened a few other times with other kids as well. My kids will invite a friend over without really telling us, the kid shows up with a crumpled piece of paper and a number, and then we send the kids home by themselves at the end of the play time.

For my friends outside of the States, this is something that absolutely would NEVER happen at home, at least not in Denver. The first time that a new friend comes over to play or goes to another, you arrange a time with the parents that works for them and you and where the kids aren’t involved with some after school activity or sports tournament. Then, if you haven’t met them before, you take the kid over (usually by car because it’s not easily walkable) and hang out for a little bit to make sure that they don’t seem like axe murderers. If you are a really good parent, you’ll be sure to ask if they have guns in the house and if they’re locked up. At a prescribed end time, you will come to pick up your child from the house. Future playdates, because they are always called playdates, are again arranged through the parents for specific times. Occasionally after you know someone, the kid will come over after school for a bit. If kids are out on their own, they usally have a cell phone leash so they can always be contacted. The only friends the kids have where these rules don’t apply are the neighbor friends from down the street, who are now close enough that they all run back and forth. Even then, though, usually it has to be cleared by one of us to make sure that they are not busy doing something.

The freedom of children here is revolutionary for the kids, and us. Despite how “free range” I’d like to think of myself as a parent, I was uncomfortable with this at first, but it’s easing up. The boy the other day went home with a new friend and then walked home by himself at the end of it. The other day, the girl had an afterschool activity, and Eric and were going to be in Dublin for the day. A plan was made: the boy was going to walk to the library, stay for an hour, then walk over to the girl’s school and they’d walk the one and a half miles home together. I suspected they would stop in at the candy shop along the way, and in this I was not wrong, however I underestimated as they also stopped in at the chip shop. It went off swimmingly, and the kids loved having the open space to do what they wish, asking if they can do this more frequently.

Yesterday we may have stretched things a bit far – the boy didn’t want to come to the pool with us, instead his friend V came by and they played outside in the morning. In the afternoon, he went over to V’s house to play a bit more, and I thought he’d be there for quite a while but left after an hour and came home. Eric, the girl and I were in town running errands, thinking that he was at V’s house. When I got home, I found that he was sitting at home with the lights off because he was afraid of robbers and thought we might have been parent-napped. I felt a bit bad, to be sure. Still, he said that he would definitely want to do something like that again, and now is more comfortable with it as well. Besides, I did point out that he could email us at any time, which hadn’t occurred to him.

I currently am not entirely sure where they are. They ran out of the house a bit ago to go play outside and perhaps see if some friends were home and could join them. I love that we can be somewhere where the kids can have their own life without us needing to hover or know exactly where they are at all times, and the growth opportunity it gives them.

-s

In which we move to the burbs…of Dublin

Lisbon reminded me of San Francisco, with its steep hills and angle bottom houses hugging each other in a line, the foggy mornings and misty bay. The Golden Gate bridge replica, built by the same architects to cross the bay, adds to the similarities. My favorite Lisbon detail was the tilework seen covering many of the building walls throughout the city. 

9 of my favorite tile patterns seen throughout the city

Tiles on the building, patterns in the cobblestones. Lisbon is a delight of visual decoration


Now, a true tourist trip to Lisbon should include a visit to the areas of Belen and Sintra, home to beautiful architecture, Unesco world heritage monasteries and a top class modern art gallery. But we were all travel weary, tired of sightseeing, and just didn’t have any motivation to hoof it out to the suburbs. So after the first day which Eric describes, we just wandered around the city for the rest of our time there.
There’s this cool food hall in Libson that has apparently been purchased by Time Out Magazine, where they have many different delicious food stalls surrounding a central dining area, brightly lit and with a large glass skylight overhead. I had pictured a nice walk down there, showing it to the family where we would ooh and ahh over the options, then sit down for a fun meal. What happened instead is that Eric does this thing where he chooses or forgets to eat a meal. This results in hungry Eric. Hungry Eric is a grumpy, snappy Eric who then makes poor food choices. We ended up eating pad thai, which wasn’t bad actually, but I was too annoyed to enjoy it properly. Sigh. 

We rambled our way up to the Duque Brewery, where Eric only consented to go inside if we called it “Du-kay,” not wanting to even hint at the evil University that shall not be named. Delicious beer and we made some delightful friends from Britain who were in Lisbon for New Year’s and I hope that we manage to meet up with them again too!


We’ve settled in Maynooth, Ireland now, about 40 minutes outside of Dublin. I feel like we left these dense urban landscapes and woke up in small town Oregon. The house is a roomy three bedroom duplex, and it feels like we can stretch out again, unpack and set up a house for living, not just staying.  It’s taken some doing to get the house put together, with a lot of time spent running errands and getting things like linens, dishes, and food. We couldn’t have done it without the help from the people at Maynooth University. 
You can tell a lot about what a country prioritizes by its grocery store, and Ireland is no different. I realized that I hate the first time I go into a new grocery store in any country. It’s disorienting to say the least, since nothing is in a familiar place. The kids were along for the first visit, and add to the mental chaos as every five minutes they chirp about something that’s caught their fancy (look! Harry Potter yogurt!), but has nothing to do with the red bell peppers I’m actually hunting for. 
Here’s the flour. Divided into cream flour, plain flour and strong flour. Strong flour? I think it means it’s got a higher gluten content but I’m not sure. I didn’t think I could handle it so I opted for the more compliant cream flour instead.


Wall of baked beans, revolting. Sorry to the Brits and Irish, it’s an acquired taste. Also “salad cream,” not sure what that is either. It’s NOT mayonnaise, since that’s on a different shelf. A wall of custard and a TON of prepackaged jello.  I couldn’t find any ricotta cheese, but if you want cheddar in all Irish varities, you’re covered. 


And of course, and ENTIRE freezer bin aisle is dedicated to potatoes of all types. 


So far our welcome has been warm and people are really friendly and helpful. I keep wanting them to talk as much as possible just so I can hear the Irish accent. They also really say things here like “You’re grand” for “that’s fine, don’t worry!” And my favorite “I’m only delighted” pronounced “I’m onie deloyted” and it is just so cute. I know, I know, I shouldn’t make broad sweeping generalizations and I know Ireland must have it’s share of rude and mean people too, but I haven’t met any yet. 
The kids have started school too, separate schools for boys and girls. They are so happy to be back in school again, and having homeschooled very lackadaisically for the last five months, I have confirmed that you have to be either slightly insane or a very different person from me to want to do that full time, so I’m only delighted too. (See how Irish I’m becoming??) They’re learning a bit of Irish in school, and come home with their newest words. The girl loves not having any boys at school, as she now doesn’t have to spend recess coming up with attack strategies to ward off the packs of chasers as she did at home.  The boy, however, misses the balancing energy of having girls in the school, and finds the place a bit rowdy. He’s learned that he is terrible at Gaelic football and also terrible at soccer, at least how it’s played here, where the ball is largely kept up in the air by skillful feet and hardly gets a chance to roll on the ground. I’m sure he’ll slowly amass a cadre of nerds and reestablish his D&D sessions here. The girl is also making friends in her class. I do have to say that I think she is in a class too low for her. The age cutoffs are done differently here, and the work she’s doing seems to be far too easy for her. The class above is full though, so we’ll just have to supplement on our own. 
I can’t believe how quickly it feels like the last five and a half months have passed, and that we’re at the midpoint of our year away. We’re all of us happy for the time we’ve had, and also to slow down for a while and catch our breath again too, with the new experience of small town suburban living, which will be its own adventure as well. 

-s