Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Reminisce about Ireland. Also, Some News.

by Stephanie Black

First, my news: my new novel has been accepted for publication! I am so excited! I rambled about it a bit on my website blog, so I won’t repeat myself here, but hooray!

Now for today’s blog topic. Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s time to wax sentimental about Ireland. Ah, Ireland. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Or green and mossy, which would be more truly Irish.

We lived in Ireland for two years—near Limerick, for you Angela’s Ashes fans. I’m completely non-adventurous, so when we discussed moving overseas for my husband’s work (we were living in Boston at the time), I was scared to death. But I knew it would be a great opportunity for the family, so in the summer of 2002 we hopped aboard Aer Lingus and winged our way toward the Emerald Isle. We arrived on a cool, damp July day—Ireland doesn’t really have summer; just a lot of spring. We drove from Shannon Airport to the home we’d rented and discovered that—oops—my husband’s keys, including the keys to our new house, were at the airport security check in Boston.

But he sorted that problem out, we got settled in, and I discovered that driving on the left-hand side of the road wasn't nearly as scary as I’d feared. Even roundabouts weren’t too scary, and shifting gears with my left hand in our standard-transmission diesel minivan (really a micro-mini van) quickly became second-nature. Roads in Ireland are a lot narrower than I was accustomed to. On back roads, you can’t believe that two cars could actually pass each other, and you haven’t lived until you’ve driven over Conor Pass in County Kerry where you have to stay out of the way of oncoming traffic without falling off a cliff. Hint: if you suck in your stomach and hold your breath, it will make your whole car skinnier.

All road signs in the Republic of Ireland are in English and Irish. The Irish language is a core subject in school, like math, but only a small percentage of the population actually speaks it fluently, and only in some small areas on the west coast do people speak it as a primary language. My two younger children studied Irish in school and quickly came up to speed. My oldest daughter was exempt; she was old enough when entering the school system that it would have been hard for her to catch up with peers who had been studying Irish since they were five. That gave her a lot of free time during Irish class, which she didn’t mind at all. Go figure. School overall was an adjustment for the kids, but they settled in and did fine—and I loved the school uniforms. The kids looked so classy in their jumpers (sweaters), ties and wool skirts or trousers. I even learned how to tie a necktie, though I've forgotten now.

We discovered that some things are a lot more casual in Ireland. When I wanted to enroll my son in an after-school program I was waiting for official announcements or forms or what all and finally found out that it wasn’t like that. You want him in the program? Just say so and leave him there. In the U.S., you’d have to fill out forms, say which hours you wanted to leave him and fill out insurance forms and medical releases in triplicate or quadruplicate or quintuplicate with one copy for the teacher, one for the school district office, one for the school’s district’s lawyer, one for your lawyer . . . man alive, but American schools generate a lot of paper.

One thing I had to get used to was the absence of drinking fountains. In the U.S., every museum, school, theatre or mall has a drinking fountain. In Ireland, not even the church had a drinking fountain, which blew my American mind. (But . . . but . . . it’s a Mormon church!) Speaking of church, there is a wonderful branch in Limerick and when it came time to head back to the U.S., it was very difficult to say goodbye to the people who had become our family away from home.

Ireland is a spectacularly beautiful country. One of these days, I’ll post some pictures on the blog. Since we knew we’d only be there for a couple of years, we did as much sightseeing as we could. We even kissed the Blarney Stone, though, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have affected me much. Dingle, Connemara, Mizen Head in West Cork, the Giant's Causeway in Antrim . . . ah, so gorgeous. I really need to get our Ireland pictures organized. Maybe I could pay my teenager to do it . . .

I’m way behind on everything else I need to do today, so I’d better sign off. I’ve got my corned beef in the fridge, ready to celebrate on Saturday—though we didn’t actually eat corned beef very often while we lived in Ireland. Too bad we don’t have some Sean’s Brown Bread from SuperQuinn to go along with it. That reminds me—I think it’s ingenious how the Irish supermarkets make you stick a euro coin in the shopping car in order to unchain it from the queue. Then when you return the shopping cart, you get your euro back. Voila! No carts all over the lot, since every shopper wants her euro back.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!


At 3/14/2007 4:26 PM, Blogger robisonwells said...

Stephanie, you're making me jealous. I would love to live in Ireland (or anywhere else in Western Europe). Sigh...

In related news, my wife and I were married on St. Patrick's Day. Not because we were big Ireland fans, though, just coincidence.

At 3/14/2007 7:06 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

My hubby and I got engaged on St Patrick's day. Who knew it was such a romantic day.

Ireland is beautiful. I'm so glad you lived there so I could visit.

And of course there is the Waterford cyrstal. . .

At 3/14/2007 8:10 PM, Anonymous evil hr lady said...

Congratulations on the new novel!

At 3/14/2007 9:26 PM, Anonymous kerry said...

What a lovely post! It made me jealous, too.

I'm so excited about the new book! I'll go read your other blog right now to find out every tidbit I possibly can!

At 3/15/2007 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We actually have a store here that you have to put in a quarter to get a cart, then you get the quarter back when you return it. Maybe I should visit it on St. Patrick's Day and think of you.


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