Episode 1 - Getting There and Getting Settled

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Day 1: February 8, 2006

I’ll spare you the boring stuff (we took off …we landed). Then we arrived at immigration and the first hiccup came along and almost knocked us right back to Boston. Immigration was concerned about the length of time (three months) we told them we would be staying here. They wanted several things: One: proof that we had enough money to live on for the next three months. Two: written permission from Uncle Tommy saying that it was alright for us to stay in his cottage. And three: proof that we had (our parents are going to love this one) health insurance, so if, as they put it, “she wakes up sick in the mornin’ yeh won’t be a burden on the state”.

So I figured I would just hop online using the airport wireless network, pull up my bank statement and the first problem would be solved. Well, it was of course three a.m. in Boston and the bank had temporarily shut down their web site for updates and improvements (good old Murphy!). We then told them that Uncle Tom was in the hospital recovering from major surgery and that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to call him, given the hour. We went on to inform them that in our country, the richest country in the world, health insurance was a privilege available only to the wealthy and those fortunate enough to have jobs that provide it. They were not amused.

Luckily, I then happened to find in my wallet a deposit slip from only a few days earlier and the immigration officers surprisingly accepted it a proof of savings. (They shouldn’t have, especially since I no longer have nearly as much money in the bank as the slip says I have). They also, for the time being, were willing to let us into the country with neither the note from Tommy nor the health insurance (we told them we would be on our best Irish Catholic behavior). So into Ireland we stepped, and then right onto a bus.

The bus ride took us on a nice meandering tour from Shannon to Cork City, then from Cork City to Bantry Town. In Bantry we made a quick stop at the local grocery store (pasta and beer) before calling a cab to take us out to Rose Cottage in the Mealegh valley. Upon his arrival, the cab driver gave us a blank stare and then said something that, although comprehension was nearly impossible, I think roughly translated to, “you two American kids are gonna have to give me more than that to work with”. So there was talk of the old school house nearby and the 5000-year-old standing stones in the yard. He said he might know the place and we were off.

About 25 blind turns on a nice one-lane road later, we arrived at Rose Cottage. At this point, Jessamy and I had slept about 2 or 3 hours in the last 24 and, although we were excited about our new accommodations, all we really wanted to do was eat and sleep. The caretaker and keeper of the keys, however, was nowhere to be found (through no fault of his own, I might add; he thought we were getting here a day later). So after trying to break in for a while (who would have thought folks still used skeleton keys?), Mr. John Cottor pulled in to his home next store and Jessamy and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We ran over to meet him and to grab the keys. We exchanged a few quick pleasantries that included him telling us, we think, that he had a funeral to get to and so had to run. With that, we were back to the house and inside. We made a quick bite to eat and then happily climbed into our sleeping bags, where we slept for a solid 10 hours.

Day 2: February 9, 2006

Today’s entry is short, as we didn’t do much but clean. The house is lovely but it has been sitting empty for nearly five years and thus needed a little scrub-down. We did pay Mr. Cottor a visit around midday. He was in the middle of his lunch but graciously invited us in to sit and talk with him while he was eating.

Although Jessamy and I have found it quite easy to understand the folk who live in or around more substantial towns, once you get out into the countryside it’s another story entirely, and so the chat was filled with many questioning silences and blank stares. Questions or stories that should have a taken a matter of moments became confusing and complicated soliloquies involving exaggerated hand motions and a bit of loud talking. (After all, if they don’t understand you when you are speaking at a normal volume, they have got to understand you when you yell at them.) At one point when I actually understood what was being said, and Jessamy thought she did, I got to hear her tell him she was sorry he was going to have to bury the hose (horse in her mind) in Tom and Kate’s yard. With all that said, Mr. Cottor has been very good to us and has answered many questions that have already come up.

The other event of the day took place when Jess and I decided it was about time to take a shower. Everything was all set; soap, towel, shampoo, bathmat, water, water, water….nope! No water in the shower. Not even cold water. So after an hour or so of trouble-shooting and still no water, we decided that cleanliness was necessary. Several bowls of warm water later, Jess and I were both squeaky.

Tomorrow we are going to head into town with Mr. Cottor to buy a few things at a local flea market and inquire about buying a car. It is quickly proving that a mode of transportation in essential, and bikes in this area just won’t cut it.