Giving thanks

Disclaimer: I don’t want this to come off as gloating, but I have been feeling so consistently happy here lately.

Any and all attempts to trace exactly why have fallen flat… and there’s also a kneejerk reaction to not analyze the trend too long for fear of it scurrying away. That being said, in light of the general reflection that colder weather and drawing closer together seems to foster, I have narrowed it to a few possible factors:

Eating well. I could talk for hours about the truly exceptional food finds in Galway. This city has made beauty out of all things edible—right on the coast, they have access to fresh seafood, but the Irish tradition of land-food is also strong. Because Galway is a college town, that youthful energy drives up-and-coming chefs to branch out and work to create new taste sensations; there are two whole Michelin star restaurants here! (Not that a student like me has ever set foot inside either, but in theory it ruffles my culinary feathers.)


Every weekend I try a different bite at the Saturday market—this time around was madras potato curry with candied mango chutney. I’ve been exploring Irish pub food in all its stew-y glory. I tried gnocchi on Friday that I immediately wanted to live inside, and… do you sense a common thread here in that all of the above contain the hallowed Irish potato?

Being spatially removed from the U.S. news circuit. For those of you whose eyes are glued to your newsfeed, you don’t know how much it’s weighing on you until you look away. There’s a fine line between a privileged shutting out of the world, and a measured intake for your own sanity. To put it in short, I’ve finally started to find that balance and I’m feeling much healthier.

Making friends with housemates. Apartment 19 has become an Americano-Irish team to be reckoned with. We recently celebrated Christmas in November (NUIG tradition) and here’s a few of us in Christmas jumpers with our houseplant Merta done up in lights. Rest-assured that when you reach out to/befriend your housemates, any drab space can quickly start to feel a lot more like a home.

Becoming one with nature. This is mostly just an excuse to include a picture of my footprint smack dab in the center of a cow pie. (Fun fact: at the location of said cow pie—the ceremonial plain of Magh Adar—ancient Irish kings apparently set their foot into a mold to cement their claim to the land, so I could have accidentally assumed leadership of an early-medieval, kin-based society.) It happened on my very last archaeology class excursion so I suppose it was just the universe finally braking in those boots. But in all seriousness, this class plus the weather here has given me a newfound appreciation for the strength of the elements as well as the beautiful indifference of the land. In the society I’ve known, we measure our success in distance from nature. The moral of my misstep is that it might not have been a misstep at all—it was both a humbling experience and a reminder to sometimes immerse myself in my surroundings.

Academic relaxation. I believe I’ve already mentioned this, but school in Ireland is a lot calmer than the academic rigor I have personally experienced at Whitman. It is a fact universally acknowledged that Whitman students do too much—the drive for a maintaining a 4.0 along with community and club engagement, all while fostering a healthy, socially conscious lifestyle is a lot to balance. Having some distance from that racing world has opened my eyes to what academia and study abroad could be. I understand that what I’m doing is study abroad, however there is something to be said about taking the foot off the gas pedal to understand day to day life. It’s more than just agonizing over how can I frame my semester away to look good on job/internship/grad school applications. It’s about finding a balance between fast and slow, work and play, and sometimes letting the river take me a bit out to sea before I land back on my feet. Dog-ear a page in the Irish book of poorly cited wisdom bits: it’ll all work out tomorrow so why stress about it today?

So, as the Whitman students trickle back to Walla Walla after their weeks of giving thanks, (or simply not observing the holiday out of understandable objections), I’d like to put down in words what I am grateful for at this junction, because life is short and one key part of it is acknowledging what makes it worthwhile.

I am grateful for the friends I have made here and those from home who are always a phone call away. I am grateful that my house across the Atlantic is free from fire, and I am grateful that we live in a community without a fifty-foot high peace wall running through the center. I am grateful for family who thinks to visit me, and for the funds which enable them to do so. Lastly I am grateful for having this amazing opportunity to explore another part of the world while still a student. I am grateful to be here and learning from this green sunspot I’ve inexplicably stumbled into.

I’m also grateful for trees, but what else is new?

?something about a spice bag?

(This post is meant to cover a lot of ground, so bear with me. If it seems like I’m rambling, feel free to direct your attention to the pretty pictures.)


Life goes on. I fall into patterns and forget to write regularly as I try to be here now. This involves a little more spending, a little less reflecting, and a little more living.

I actually travelled to Dublin this weekend and being in a large city for the first time in months was jarring. With my parents en-country I got to experience Ireland like a tourist—something I’ve been loathe to do in Galway…but anyway, touristing! What fun!



We had the good fortune of seeing many of the sights in Dublin town, including Trinity, the Book of Kells, and the unmissable Guinness Storehouse tour (product placement on steroids but an interesting dalliance nonetheless)—What took me back, after essentially slumming it like a student for a while, was how much money could go into creating one space. This “museum” comes complete with indoor waterfalls, surround sound, interactive automated art installations, a panoramic roof bar, tvs in barrels (?!)… I digress.

What I greatly appreciated were Dublin’s other—free!— museums, of which I got the chance to visit two. One focused on art and the other on Ireland’s archaeology which I have the privilege be studying at NUIG. I’m not sure if you’re a nerd like me and have heard about this, but Ireland is unique in its large collection of organic material artifacts. Because they sank into environments largely devoid of oxygen (the enemy of preservationists), things like skin, hair, clothing, books even can remain intact for over 1000 years. One particular find on view in the museum was the Faddan More manuscript which, if I discussed here I’d end up geeking out about ineloquently, so I recommend watching this video if you want some context:

Also on display were a few bog bodies. Now, since they take on the role of bringing history to the people, museums have a huge responsibility when it comes to framing that history. Yet they also must draw visitors to keep their doors open, and the more macabre artifacts are infinitely more popular. Recall the expression in journalism, If it bleeds it leads…? The thing is, these museums are dealing with bodies—the remains of people who actually lived and died, sometimes violently. There’s no way I can quickly explain what that means for how they should be viewed, but I feel it should give the average visitor pause. Also, in a move which was perhaps not in the best of taste, the bodies were displayed in glass cases located directly adjacent to the museum café.

Does this make me the pot of gold? (Not pictured: how soaked I was five short minutes later.)

Besides gawking at museums and getting lost in city streets I’ve been having a grand time in Galway over the past month. I went to a Shakespeare play and felt very good about spending my own money on theatre. I visited a stone fort on a cliff and explored some caves—my classroom has become the Irish countryside and I am very ok with it. I tried and failed to play Gaelic Football (fastest field sport in the world—google it). I watched a parade like a little kid, and I caught a rainbow just in time to get caught in a downpour.

At the risk of sounding like an undercover anthropologist, amid all of these wonderful things I’ve also been attempting to understand this place through its people. This can come in different ways, such as asking what they think about their political leaders, how they interpret dating culture here, or simply what they think of their home. I asked one of my roommates from Donegal what she thought about Ireland and without any hesitation she just said, “I love it.” An un-ironic love for the place you’re from is foreign to me coming from America; land of hypocrisy. We’ve also had some extremely interesting conversations about why so many students go home for the weekend. It might take people aback to know that student housing goes silent on Saturday. Coming from an American context [skewed by my experience of living on an isolated liberal arts campus] the idea of college kids going home every weekend is almost concerning. Here it has a lot to do with how the Irish youth (take this with a grain of salt– they obviously don’t all have the same opinion) view familial obligation and home—they don’t necessarily consider dorms here home. As a person whose object is to make a home wherever I roam, this was fascinating to finally discuss.


Still, 90% of living abroad concerns the realization that you’re part of a broader existence, and all the little things that go along with that realization. How are you going to adapt? How will you reach out and bridge the gap? How will you stay connected amid a new normal? Rather rapidly you realize that your little slice of world isn’t the only one dealing with the weight of it all. Homesickness translates into an acknowledgment that life can be happening in multiple places at once and that is OK. I’m understanding who I am here, which shouldn’t be too much different than who I am everywhere, right?

For the time being I can safely say that if all those considerations get too taxing, rejuvenation can be found in a cup of Galway hot cocao, or a good old spice bag.[1]


[1] The quintessential Irish Spice Bag (alternatively served in a box) consists of crispy chicken bits, fries, sometimes pepper and onions, and a mystery blend of spices. It can be found at many a Chinese takeaway and it is a revelation. Nothing like deep fried divinity with a heart-stopping amount of salt to remind you what’s right with the world.