Tuesday, July 27, 2010

With the End in Sight

Two full days left in-country, then Friday I fly home. Just in time, too. A longer stay wouldn't be out of the question if the wife and boy were here. But as of this week, I've have had my fill living away. I'm ready to go home.

I've sequestered myself to the apartment again to focus on the writing. During most of last week, and some of this one, I spent a lot of time filling in the gaps in the material I came up with in the past year in order to make a complete novel. The past few days I've been revising the thesis in the hopes of delivering it to my readers the Monday after I return. I should get it back with comments and suggestions after a week or so. Once I apply those corrections, or not, there will be a final revision with a check to make sure it is formatted to the university's specifications, then I hand it in for the last time and grad school is over and done, at last. Next step: the happy and stress-free task of securing employment.

The research proved more difficult than I expected, but over the past few days I've learned that this isn't due to any lack of effort on my part, thanks to Nora. She is the woman who cleans the cottages and does its laundry for my landlady. Because the laundry room is on the first floor of the cottage where I'm staying, I've got a chance to speak with her a few times. Turns out she has a son living in Quincy, just down the road from our apartment, actually, and that she and her family spent a lot of time in America. A few of her kids were born in San Francisco, and her husband worked on the Big Dig as a laborer for a while.

A few days ago she asked how my work was coming along and I told her that it was going well, but that I was having trouble finding information on the time period I'm focusing on, whether it was from a book or a person. She explained that most of the people, "the old ones," from that time had passed away. I think my American-privilege led me to assume, wrongly, that as many people from my grandparent's generation would still be hanging around here as there is back home. Ireland has seen it's national quality of life improve steadily since the early part of the last century, through World War II and even The Troubles, and it exploded after the Republic joined the EU and gained access to funds to allowed them to invest in modern infrastructure and education. Google's Western Europe headquarters are located here, as are many tech firms, and the government worked hard to bring factories to the more rural areas to provide jobs to its citizens affected by the changes. But it seems like the poverty of the centuries before and the effects on people's lives proved more difficult to escape than I imagined. No wonder so many left for America.

Nora came through. She lent me a DVD called "Islandman." It was a documentary about a man from Connemara named Johnny Butler. He was the last working skipper who used a "bad mor," a type of sailboat otherwise known as a Galway Hooker, once used for fishing and ferrying goods to ports all over Ireland.
Johnny Butler was a character out a Hemingway story, if Hemingway had written about Connemara. He wore a tweed scaly cap, smoked a pipe, was always wearing a thick sweater. He worked on boats all his life--he died a few years ago--and spoke only in Irish. Thank God for subtitles. The information I gleaned from the stories he told and the footage included may just prove invaluable when I finally sit down to write.
 I need to find some way to thank Nora. I can't dry out the hay in the fields she and her husband own and I don't think I'd be much help with the two calves her cow gave birth to a few days ago, so I'll have to come up with something.
I was planning on going into Galway today to buy presents and take some pictures, but it didn't happen. Tomorrow, with any luck. I leave here on Thursday, granted I can find a hotel room in Shannon. I could leave from here Friday morning, but the trip consists of two bus rides that combined take three hours. The earliest pick-up time is 715am, which would give me the time I need, but I'd rather know for sure I can get to the airport in plenty of time.
One more post to come, I think. Until then, I'll leave you with this picture of my newest neighbors.


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