Submitted by Global Ambassador, Brendan, Galway, Ireland
The phrase “as different as night and day” is clichéd and I don’t like using it, but it’s hard to find another phrase to describe the difference between the city and the countryside here in Ireland. On Sunday, I spent the day exploring the city of Galway. I visited the markets, watched the street performers and grabbed food at food stands along the docks.
I got to take in the whole city feel where you walk around, and there is vibrant energy everywhere around you.
On Monday we went up into the highlands of Connemara, and an hour-long drive made me feel like I was transported a world away. People were replaced by sheep as the dominant population. The sound of music from performers and chatter from passerbys on the street was replaced by the sound of silence. As I hiked up the mountain with a group and looked at the landscape surrounding me, which was hard to make out through all the rain, I felt almost like I was going to knock on heaven’s door.
The wind and the rain might have made many miserable, but not me at that moment. True, the bus ride back felt a lot longer in soaked jeans and I felt like I had a lake in each of my shoes, but sitting up there on that mountaintop, looking around, it was hard not to have a feeling of utter joy. There’s no other way to describe it as I looked back on where I came from, and looked down beneath me to see the sheep grazing on the grass and rocks I had just traversed over.
It was the image of the Emerald Isle that’s seared into one’s mind before visiting. The image of vibrant green landscape extending out as far as the eye can see. But that’s not the only image of Ireland that I found to be true over the last few days.
The Irish do certainly know how to celebrate. That much was evident this past weekend as the Volvo Ocean Race finished up. I have never seen a city center as crowded as I did then, and it was all ages out celebrating. The young and the old. It seemed as if the collective city of Ireland was out, enjoying the festivities throughout the entire day.
Oh, and one last image that is also totally true is that the Irish love to talk and tell stories. Wait in line for the toilets and you’ll hear a story. Order a pint at the pub and you’ll hear a story. Walk into a small store and you’re bound to hear at least three, more if there are no other customers at the time.
There is something different about Ireland, and if I had to pick a word to describe it, it would be “openness.” The openness to talk to strangers, the openness of celebrations in the streets and the openness of the rolling green hills of the countryside.
Oh Ireland, I am starting to like you!
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