I am glad to report I am having the craic in Ireland this summer as a Center for Blue Economy Fellow. Just to clear up any misconceptions, no, I am not a drug user. Rather, having the craic (pronounced ‘crack’) is a common Irish turn-of-phrase that means having a great time.
Just one example of how I unexpectedly stumbled into some language barriers here, despite living in a country that shares the same primary language! Perhaps I should have seen that coming… after all, Ireland has two official languages: 1. English 2. Well, what else but Irish? Its been fun to see all the dual-language street signs.
This summer, I’ve had the great opportunity to do research on non-market ocean economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway. For those of you unfamiliar with this small city, it’s located almost directly west on the other side of the island from the more well-known Dublin.
As soon as I arrived, it was no wonder to me how Ireland is so strongly tied with green… as I took a GoBus straight from the Dublin airport to Galway City, I was overwhelmed by the sight of green pastures. Especially after living amidst California’s worst drought for something like ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED years, it was stunning…
Just take a look at all this majestic greenness… (#nofilter. Seriously though, none of these were edited!)
In 2013, California’s average annual rainfall was less than 8 inches whereas Galway, which is not nearly the wettest city in Ireland, receives somewhere around 50 inches of rain each year. Galway city hasn’t even been metering much of its water usage at all, and are just starting to get going on installing such a system. Its one of the current-day talk of the town, and locals apparently aren’t too pleased to start to be charged for water for the first time.
It’s been a particularly wet summer this year. So much so that this Californian has learned a few tricks of the trade:
1. A raincoat is an every-day wear outfit.
2. Plan your day around popping out to get food when the weather channel reports there is a 10-minute window with 0% chance of rain.
3. When said weather channel reports a 0% chance of rain, bring your umbrella anyway. It is probably wrong.
Pretty pleeaaasse with a cherry on top can California have some of your rain, Galway??
The moody blue-grays and vibrant greens found everywhere in this country were made to go together. Nature knows best.
That aside, over the course of my time here, Galway has steadily found its way into my heart, and I already know I will miss it a lot when I leave. I feel like Goldilocks here. It is not too big, and not too small, but just right. The city is stunningly beautiful complete with a dreamy, flowery, and swan-filled canal that takes me from campus to downtown and the coastline, a pebble beach and lighthouse at the end of the bay that transport my senses straight back to Monterey, and the textural stone and vibrant, glossy, candy-painted store fronts along the main stretch of town. The foodie in me loves the petite local market that has the most amazing fresh doughnuts and falafels that I have ever had. Yet, it also manages to balance a sense of breeziness and authenticity. The stereotype is true– almost all the people I’ve met are good-natured, take their time, and are both patient and friendly. The city has no airs about it– it is a humble city. Best of all is that it is clearly a city of the arts. During summer months, street performers can be seen on every block. A list of the regulars I have seen almost every day include: A sand sculptor perfecting his creation– a life-like dog with puppies nestled beside her, a young girl who braids colorful thread into people’s hair, a man that beats out a rhythm on a contraption that makes a cut-out of Obama and other famous politicians dance, and of course musicians abound.
Right now, the annual International Arts Festival is in full-swing and that brings in even more hordes of tourists and along with them, even more interesting performers. Cue the foul-mouthed firebreather, guitarists standing up on thin rails to get in the lime-light, people selling their art off of their docked boat, and my personal favorite, the guy on a engine-powered hang glider pulling stunts for people drawn to a different spectacle.
But most of all I love the SkyWhale– this hot air baloon turned piece of art did such a fantastic job at invoking a sense of the wonder and connection to whales and what it would be like to live in the sea. Imagine what it would be like if more creatures of all sizes swam in the sky, like an ocean, and we were just the benthic dwellers of the world.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll talk more about the type of work I am doing here and life in the office.
Adios for now, my friends. Dream of sky whales tonight.