Two posts in a row for me, mwhaha!
Hello from Matt's first parliamentary democracy / constitutional monarchy! Otherwise known as Country #2, that being, of course, Northern Ireland. At this moment, we're in Derry, at our very first hostel. It is just what I've always experienced and come to expect out of hostels. It's rag-tag and the staff are not locals (Aussies and a South African, currently), they have a main building with crowded rooms and an annex for those fortunate enough to have private rooms or smaller rooms versus staying in the dorms, there's a tiny kitchen filled with the odds and ends of many a buying trip to the N. Irish version of Wal-Mart, I'd guess, and everyone likes talking to everyone.
Last night we big firsties for us all around. We hung out with this big group, mostly younger than us and silly, but nice, here at the hostel in their little patio, and then a whole lot of us went to a pub--typical bar construction, door at the front, toilets at the back, bar on one wall, tables on the left, people crammed everywhere--with live music of (what else?) traditional Irish music: the best addition to it, versus the lamer pub-style bars in Chciago. Oh it was glorious. We danced a little, drank, manfully tried to understand the rather mangled N. Irish accent, and came back to the hostel around 1:30am, ooooh.
Yes, all lovely. I could go on and on about how cool it is meeting youngsters of other nationalities and discovering that 95% of our experiences are identical--well, parallel at any rate--and that the 5% that aren't identical/parallel are completely random. We talked about what wild animals we have, people who travel and only go 1 place in an entire country, the fights we saw or got into when we were teenagers, what sports we played, what work we do and how crazy some of our friends are and what drinks we've had where and how they were awful.
Yes, all lovely, but you can imagine it. It's just what you imagine it would be like, it's no mystery what sitting around a hostel patio and chatting with a mixture of Americans, Australians, South Africans, Englishmen and Canadians is like. It's kind of like the first days at college, where everyone's comparing notes of growing up in Chicago versus Cleveland versus the tiniest town in Kentucky... only without the school spirit and with people who are independent people who are determining their own lives.
Instead, I'm going to make some observations about the 6-hour bus ride from Westport to Derry yesterday. We drove from Westport to Sligo Town, Co Sligo, first, maybe an hour or so, and then changed buses at a dash. That first chunk I nodded off during. But around Sligo, I started noticing that while there were still palm trees, now too there's evergreens, more farmland divided by hedgerows or a line of trees in irregular rectangles (a toddler's rectangle), far less sheep, more horses and cows, and towns that seemed fancier, or at least they seemed more propserpous. Or, more prosperous in a way I could measure, with new housing developments being built or freshly inhabited. Then I started noticing the architecture was changing in the houses, that they had what we'd call a more Mediterranean influence, but also these sort of decorative flourishes that seem more like Minnesota cottage than anything else. It was a delicious transition. Things semed to get "richer" as we went north, but as we came into Derry, it felt more industrial somehow. Not like Detroit industrial, depressed and kind of scary, just like this is a less la-la-leprachauns-la-la-charming-lilt sort of place, more solid Irish workingman's business-y sort of place. But the people we met at the bar were so nice, willing to talk and cracking jokes, just making fun of you right away, asking where you're from and just saying they're glad you're here.
On a hilarious note--well, hilarious considering Matt and me--we woke up naturally this morning around 7:30am and tried to go back to sleep, but it didn't work. We're now on a morning schedule, thanks to being too polite to blow off our breakfasts at the B&Bs, where they served at 8 or 8:30.