GALWAY, Ireland – Maybe it’s knowing that I plan to write about our travels every day, but everywhere we go in this beautiful country, the people and places here remind me of home. The weather forecast for today called for a cloudy and drizzly morning, so we decided it might be a good day to take a bus tour of the Connemara region in western Ireland.
The landscape is some of the most interesting I’ve seen here. It’s a combination of lowland bogs, hardscrabble mountains, and miles and miles of stone walls. We left Adare planning to catch the 10 a.m. bus in Galway. Our trusty navigator (SIRI) told us we’d reach our destination with 30 minutes to spare. She lied. After entering the city, still driving on the wrong side of the road, we frantically searched for the tour company and a parking lot.
At about 9:50 a.m. we parked the car and followed our digital friend’s suggestion to walk the short distance to the bus stop. With the rain coming down faster and faster, we cursed the sweet sounding voice coming from the phone. The bus was nowhere in sight.
Finally, after stopping at two stores for directions, we spotted the tour company headquarters. Soaked and knowing we probably missed the bus, we stood in front of a smiling receptionist at 10:10 a.m. and asked if there was a later bus.
“You may be in luck,” she said in a soft brogue that gave us a bit of hope. “I’ll call the driver and if he hasn’t left the train station, he can pick you up.”
She picked up the phone and in seconds, she connected to our ride for the day. The train was late and if we hustled, we could make it to the bus before he left.
We were on our way and were amazed that we actually made it to the bus. The rest of the day was filled with smiles and conversation as we toured through the countryside and spent another day filled with new experiences and information about this part of the world.
We stopped a number of times throughout the day and at each stop, we a learned little more about what it was like to live in this remote part of the country. Most villages and homes were at least 30 minutes away from the nearest medical center or grocery store. As our tour guide said, many of the people who live here eke out a living from the land and often take on other jobs or opportunities to make any additional money for their families.
But no matter how remote this part of Ireland may seem to me, the people living and working here are connected to the rest of the world as never before. We stopped in a small village about 20 minutes south of Kylemore Abbey, and the four of us laughed and shared a specialty of the house, an Irish coffee.
Sitting by a small fire, we watched and listened as a few of the locals came in and out and asked us where we were from. I thought we were almost ready to leave when an older man who was reading a newspaper and having tea and toast came up to me and said, “Are you an American? Sit here for a minute. We have to talk about your president.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect next, but what struck me the most about our conversation was when we talked about what he’d read online in the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He said he had an Internet connection at home and he was fascinated by the events in Washington and our new president, and nearly every day he read the news from the U.S.
I smiled and thought about the students in my classroom. We talk about the same issues every day and now I couldn’t wait to get back talk to them about his perception of the country and our political system. It was another great day.