Ireland, Again, No Photos / by Jack Viere

I wanted to post again, even though I don't have a CF card reader, or the right plug for my camera to get my pictures up. Fear not, they will be great when I finally get to them! Day 3 here has flown by; I woke up fairly late after a good outing to the various pubs that are about thirty seconds from my apartment. But before that, I was out walking through Galway City. I think going somewhere foreign (yes, Ireland is incredibly foreign, says me who has been to Japan) puts new challenges forward. Particularly as a photographer. There is not only a new, uniquely beautiful scenery I have to learn how to shoot, but the culture, movement, and personality of Galway is a great challenge.

Yesterday, I found myself wandering by the docks, which eventually led me to the bay, and then the ocean. Words cannot describe what the architecture, which enhances the natural beauty of Galway, looks like here. So it's a pain that I write this and have no photos yet to depict the city. (Disclaimer: I want to say that the lighting was great yesterday, so there are some top notch photos to come)! In any case, I heard that Ireland has modernized and has lost some of its unique, archaic way of life. That may be more apparent to a native. But coming from Philadelphia, I cannot help but stare at the people here. Galway attracts many foreigners, though the Irish remain easy to spot. As the sun was setting, people took time to sit and watch the beautiful scene unfold. Not just two or three folks, but it seemed that the city put down what it was doing, paused, and witnessed a tremendous sunset. I don't know if that's intriguing to me because I have been living in Philadelphia, where the people are more self-oriented, heads-down, looking at their phones. In any case, that is certainly not the way of life here. Chatting with various Irish folk, I have gained that Galway City is considered a big city. High rises, expansive city limits, and a high population count constitute a large city. Galway is a large village. The Irish are more communal than any other culture or city I have been to. And that's saying something for someone who has done a fair amount of travelling.

I also keep asking new acquaintances if I hadn't opened my big mouth, could have I passed for an Irishman. I guess the brand names I am wearing (North Face, Patagonia), as well as denim jeans make me stand out. But with my grayer outfits on, I was told once or twice that I could pass. There's really no benefit to "passing" in Galway. It's a melting pot with different looking people. Yet somehow, the Irish culture is really preserved and celebrated with this level of diversity. (I hear Russian a lot; they're the equivalent of Jersey folk in Philadelphia). I saw another photographer chasing the sunset and asked if he shot around these parts often. He nodded, and I asked something else, and he spoke some heavily French-accented English. I reassured him I wasn't from Ireland in French. I also met a girl from the Midwest that had a thick accent. Apparently she passes for a Northern Irish speaker. I heard someone else from Marquette at a pub last night speaking. It is definitely not the same, but it made me laugh to think that two distinct places, known for their distinct accents, share some similarities.

After a day out and about, with only a muffin in my stomach, I was famished and ready to try some Irish cuisine. I had it in the back of my mind that it wouldn't be that different than the wide-spread category of "American cuisine." While American dishes mooch from a variety of cultural recipes, the Irish definitely have a distinct flavor. I arbitrarily picked Riordan's, a small place on Shop Street with green lattice outside. I had bacon and cabbage with mash -that is ham, with a really flavorful, warm cabbage salad with buttered carrots, and lightly mashed potatoes. But besides the actual dishes themselves being unique, the dinning style here is quite different than America. Individuals seem to eat out probably because dining doesn't appear to be the social activity. All the places up and down Shop Street are locally owned. So you end up eating a home-cooked meal for dinner while chatting the friendly waitress who has stories to tell. Also, asking for a box results in weird looks. I'm 155 lbs, so I don't consider myself large. But my mindset is no different than the general mindset of obese ridden America. There aren't any fat Irish people (maybe some older men with rounded bellies). But that epidemic is uniquely American.

Obviously, drinking is the social activity; pubs are the saloons of Ireland. I didn't frequent bars much in Philadelphia. But what is noticeably different is the age range of those attending pubs. That would definitely irk many college-aged students back in America. It's not the equivalent of the cool professor showing up to the bar for a game of trivia. It would be more like your parents, teachers, aunts and uncles show up to your house party. Though any aged Irish person seems to consume a lot of alcohol, it still doesn't equate to the same, rowdy binge drinking you find at American (college) bars. That element exists to some extent, maybe because there are more foreigners here in Galway City. But live music is always to be expected. Or, carrying on conversations is more of the primary objective while drinking goes along with it. Drinking goes along with anything. Pubs are spaces for "anything" to occur. Bars are places to get drunk and then toss the dice and maybe meet new people. Sports bars might be that one exception where you can go and watch a game while drinking. Wine bars might be another exception. But the word "pub" is definitely a larger umbrella term that incorporates all the dynamics of the Irish social scene.

Well, this has been a lot of words with no pictures. So I think I will stop here for today. I look forward to posting (hopefully) on a daily basis!