Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Love Triangle of the Emerald Isle - Guinness, Broken Hearts & Backhoes

Nothing like using a backhoe to feel like a man. Sure, I did a lot of dishes and child minding, as well. But, by God, I learned to move dirt with a huge(ish) digger. Grunt. I also chainsawed the hell out of a good many branches (no limbs missing, mom!). Grunt. Grunt. Grunt.

HelpX Ireland Edition was a good deal of manual labor - moving logs, mulching trees and putting up a polytunnel. My muscles are bulging. Although, in all fairness, Barbara (our HelpX Host) was a working machine. She put me to shame as she pick-axed rocks (boulders) and single-handedly lifted railroad ties, all while I stood by watching (with Guinness in hand, of course). Picture it: Barbara sitting in the digger, tape measure on the belt, cigarette dangling from the corner of her lip, a beer in hand and a dog on her lap. Priceless.

We should also give credit to Will, who was the other HelpXer (from the States) there during our stay. He kept us informed about the goings-on and guided our activities. For teaching me the testosterone-pumping manuevers of the backhoe, he will always have a special place in my heart muscle. He also basically kept us fed the whole time. Delicious stuff. Tired of feeling like a slacker, I did offer to make a tasty dinner of PB&J with potato crisps. I was rebuked with barely a word. I was left standing idly by (with Guinness in hand, of course) while Will went off to make a delectable quiche. Bollocks. Instead, I went off and chainsawed some mean looking twigs.

Walked along some cliffs and many, many roads with no names. In fact, I´m not sure any of the roads were named in all of West Cork. Saw the Milky Way almost every night (thanks for pointing it out to me for the first time, dad). Minded Reuben, a 7 year old bursting at the seams with energy and curiosity (and he had a bloody cute accent). This is the same dear, dear child who Kelly shocked on the bottom by not lifting him high enough over the electric chicken fence. Collected chicken eggs and saw a lot of cows. Played Rummy by candlelight (with Guinness in hand, of course).

We will certainly miss Barbara, Will and Reuben. We will even miss Granpa, who we didn´t get to know as well. He generally kept to himself and only talked about the weather in his thick Irish accent. Thankfully, it was always "lovely."

Not that we didn´t enjoy our time in Penzance. Liz was lovely. She was the sole owner of her B&B and would make lovely meals, full of Cornish specialties for Kelly and I. Sometimes she would take us around to the sites and we met some of her friends (a fiesty 89 year old lady served us hard alcohol at 2pm when we stopped in for tea). She was well-travelled and had great stories. It wasn't all roses out at Club Chy an Gof, though. Liz was very welcoming to us but she did have the tendency to watch over every element of our work. We (Kelly) would clean rooms and I would do yard work. Plus, we were never right. About anything. By the end of our time there we would laugh to ourselves about constantly being wrong. No, that's not a town, that's a village. No, people don't have bananas for breakfast. No, you can't load the dishwasher because you won't do it right. No, you don't like chocolate, you like peanut butter. No No No. Sometimes, you just have to laugh. And, hey, if it meant I didn't have to load the dishwasher, all the better.

We had a fun stay in Dublin - drank a lot of. . . well, you can guess. However, the greatest of all tragedies occured there. We were locked out of the mecca of stout and the icon of the Emerald Isle! NOOOOOOOOOO. Why dost thine gods punish us so? Fifteen minutes too late. The only time I have cried in recent memory - being locked out of Arthur Guinness´joy-giver. Well, okay, that and the time that the Buckeyes lost the big game (that was actually twice). And the time I saw a small girl selling Chiclets in Tijuana. And the time that I got that card with the puppy on it. And the. . . okay. The point is, it was hearbreaking. A single tear fell down my face and, sadly, I did´t have my complimentary collector´s Guinness pint glass to catch it. It fell to the ground and was gone.

Just like that.

Fun Fact: Ireland has no snakes (thank you, Saint Patrick). Whatsoever (which is hard to believe given all of the gambling, "bookmaking," locations around). Kelly and I did not know this (about the snakes) when we were walking along a particularly overgrown/grassy/bushy cliffside. As we walked we clapped our hands, whistled, made up jingles and called out a warning so as to prepare any snakes hiding in the brush that we were coming. I can't imagine what we must have looked (sounded) like to the locals out for a stroll along the paths.

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