Good drying in it today.

img_2817If you had told me four years ago before I moved to Donegal that the day had good drying in it I would have most likely asked you what in the world you meant by that!  Yet here I am today excited by the warm and windy day so I can get a few loads of washing on the line!  Who am I?

It is funny how many little changes I have had to make with this move. It was not right for me to expect my neighbours to change their ways for me. So yes I do speak a little quieter now (YES! this is the quiet version of me 😀 ), I am learning Irish, I make and serve more cupan tae than I can count to family and friends who come in during the day   but I am still honest to a fault, wear my heart on my sleeve, keeper of secrets (I won’t gossip about you), laugh easily and still loudly 🙂 , and I am loyal.

I believe that adapting to where I am now is making me a stronger and purer version of myself.  Through this process I have had to figure out what parts of my personality were just cultural and which bits were Karen.  With this introspection I have found someone I enjoy and am proud of.  I am enjoying my life with my new found friends and family.

Speaking on life, I need to get more washing out while the drying is in it.  Slán!

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Tá giota beag Gaeilge agam!

June 2015 was the year Ronan moved us to the land where he had grown up and where his heart still lay. His family for generations innumerable lived, loved, survived, and died in rural Donegal in one of the Gaeltacht areas which are found throughout Ireland.img_2520

The term ‘Gaeltacht’ is used to denote those areas in Ireland where the Irish language is, or was until the recent past, the main spoken language of a substantial number of the local population. The Gaeltacht areas are defined by Government order and every successive government has recognised the need for specific measures, structures and funding to ensure the maintenance of these communities

The existence of areas where Irish lives as a community language is an important cornerstone in the building of a bilingual society in Ireland, and it provides an environment where the language can evolve naturally in a modern setting. http://www.udaras.ie/en/an-ghaeilge-an-ghaeltacht/an-ghaeltacht/

 

Knowing the definition of the area is all well and good but what did that practically mean to myself and family? Molly was the most directly effected by this move. The school she attends, and her father had attended before her, is an immersive Irish language national school. Her school was very supportive in helping her get extra support that first year in learning the Irish but it was no easy task. I am so proud of the consistent work she put in. Now three years later she is a near fluent Irish speaker.

You may ask why put the effort into learning a dying language. You might think that no one speaks it anymore when everyone has English. This is where you would be mistaken. There are several families in the area whose first language would be irish. They rightly believe that the Irish language is a part of who we are. If we lose our language, we lose our culture.

I believe that a part of belonging to my community entails doing my bit to try to preserve the language. Shortly after we had made the move over I alongside Ronan took an Irish course.  This built Ronan’s confidence in the Irish he did have and started me on my Irish journey.  It was while at this class that I made a conscious effort to incorporate irish phrases into my day to day verbage. Maith thù! Go raibh maith agat. Cad e’ mar ata’ tu’? Slán. Etcetera are uttered by me without even thinking at this point. Often I surprisingly now can follow along when ones are speaking in the Irish (If they are speaking slowly 😀 ) but I don’t have the confidence to answer an Gaililge so I answer an mBearla.  It was time for me to formally go ahead with my Irish education.

I was delighted when the Ionad Rannafast was offering a conversational Irish class. I messaged my mate, Tara C., and asked her if she would join me in this six week journey. Rang Gaeilige agus craic! I am so thankful that she said yes.  Tá mé le mo chara ag foghlam Gaelilge.   Tá dúshlán orm! Right my grammar might be off but an mBearla I said I am with my friend learning Irish. It is a challenge for me!

This journey in linguistics is more than just learning Irish it is also fully immersing myself in my communtiy. Allowing myself to be scared and to sound quite frankly foolish at times has the pay off that I am starting to feel more Irish.  After all when you gain a language you gain a culture.

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Scenic Sunday #1

img_2733img_2763It is amazing how much difference you can find in a day.  Yesterday it was a beautiful sunny day and today it is a bit of a miserable oul day.  Funny if we didn’t have the miserable days we wouldn’t appreciate the sunny days nearly as much as we do.  Remember that when you feel grey and gloomy that sunnier days will come.

Lessons learned through sweat and tears

img_2723It’s Fall and that means one thing here in the Rosses: It’s time for circuit training every Monday and Thursday evening at the Aíslann Rannafast. Just me and 40 of my friends and neighbors submit to the torture erm I mean the tutelage of Elise and Aidan G.

Every training session I feel that I cannot be pushed further only to find that in the next class I do more than I thought was possible. The unexpected bit is that I actually really enjoy this process. The aching muscles, the sweat (and I don’t mean a lovely feminine dewy glow.  No sir, I mean full on dripping man sweat off the brow.  Hard work isn’t pretty!) , and just the general craic with my mates in the gym. Elise and Aidan are always there to encourage and push you to do what they know you can do even when you think you cannot possible do one more squat, mountain climb, or the dreaded chair dips.

I love what these shared experiences have done for myself and my family. Not only are Ronan and I fitter for it but also my preteen daughter has started stealing my yoga mat so that she can do her cardio and stretches. Who knew that the children really are watching what we as parents are doing? The teenager in the house already has Gaelic football training to keep him fit but when he is at home I doubt he notices what we are doing as it has nothing to do with Fortnight. 😀  All kidding aside the sense of pride he has in what myself and his father have done for our health is palpable.

The pain stops the moment you stop so give it just a little more.

You can do it.. drop a little lower YOU CAN DO IT!

Good form. You’ve got this. DON’T GIVE UP!!

Karen, you can do this don’t give up.

Only 5 more seconds …  3 .. 😉

Through training with Elise and Aidan they have entered into my inner monologue (see above quotes). I have realised through training and the community connections i have made that I am a much tougher person than I would have ever imagined. I don’t have to be the best at every activitity but I know now that I can finish (and finish well enough thank you very much) anything that I set my stubborn mind to. If that challenge is running a 10 mile race: I can do it and I have. If it is learning Irish, well that’s a work in progress (Tá gitta beag Gaililge agam!) but I know more than I did before! Most importantly if I want myself to be a happy and settled person here in Donegal, well damn it I have the inner strength to be that happy and settled person.

When you step up and push through the sweat and tears of circuit training (or any activity that might scare you) you not only gain muscle strength and tone but also you gain the confidence to know you have the strength to carry you through just about anything with a bit of help from your new found friends.

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Coffee time and cardio

 

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It is so easy for me to just isolate myself. Get up. Make tea or coffee. Drink tea or coffee. Stay indoors and watch the world from the keyboard and windows. Repeat.

The irony is that I am not alone in isolating myself. How many of us rather than asking for help or company will bang our heads against the wall and feel frustrated and alone?

Knowing this about myself it became all the more important for me to force myself out of my home and to interact with others. Thank goodness for friends who set a standing Thursday date for coffee and craic (you know I am talking about you Anne B.) and ones who guilt me into exercise ( I am looking at you Marie G. 😉 ) !

Who doesn’t like a good cup of coffee? Let’s be honest it is more than just the beverage. It is the sitting down with your friend, getting comfortable, and having a gossip. While this may sound surface at first this is what friendships are built on: shared experience, a laugh, building a history and trust with one another. One day you might only be talking about your kids or a small annoyance in your life but before you know it you are helping each other through the real hard bits of life. It is the constancy of being in each others lives, knowing that week after week you are there for each other for the silly day to day stuff such as share riding for the kids dance and band practices, and this leads to the bigger things when you have things that are too heavy to carry alone.

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Anne and I on a work holiday Summer 2017 🙂 Such a brilliant time away!

To be honest at first it was a harder sell to get me to go out and do my cardio than to go on coffee dates. If you had told me when I first moved over here that I would go willingly on cross country runs (and not because the zombie apocolapse finally did happen 😀 ) I would have thought you were half cracked. Yet here I am 3 ½ years later going on runs, kayaking, and even doing circuit training under the tutelage of our Elise G. Who would have thought? If it wasn’t for the persistent encouragement of my buddy Marie G., I don’t know if I would have kept up with it. She had the sense to know that I needed to run with her for more than just my waistline. That the camradarie built with shared hardship 😉 I mean shared adventures (!!) build relationships which mean more to me than PBs at a race will ever do. My PBs are more than times and toning; it is proving to myself that I can persist in life even when I want to quit and this is only possible by building deep relationships within my community.

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Coffee time and cardio: they are more than they seem at first glance. They strengthen my heart and bonds in my community

I’m grand

How are you settling in?

This is a question that I love and hate to be asked. I love it because I know that the people who ask are truly being kind. I hate it because I never know how to answer it. What if I am having a bad day and feel that I will never be truly a part of this place I call home? Do I tell people or do I just smile and say “I am settling in well. I’m grand!”?IMG_2689

The hardest part of moving to rural Ireland is that here everyone knows everyone, what they are doing nearly before it has been done, and who their people are going back generations. I never knew how much of my confidence came from knowing my purpose in my community and feeling like I honestly belonged. In the States I had “a slot” I fit into. I was daughter, sister, wife, best friend, nurse and Mum. Initially upon moving to Donegal I felt lost while trying to find where I belonged. The first six months were quite hard for me. More than once you could have found me crying alone in my car where noone could find me. I missed being the one people called not out of kindness but because I was needed / wanted. Ronan’s family were/are wonderful but they couldn’t be and shouldn’t be responsible for my fitting in. The task ahead of me was (and still is) to find my true self in Donegal.

Luckily I had comitted to my husband and children that we would stay on for at least two years. Why was this lucky you may ask. The reason is that because I knew I didn’t have a quick escape clause, I had to make things work even if it was only for the two years.

To be fair I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Our local airport, Donegal Airport, has recently been voted the most scenic approaches in the world and National Geographic Travel named us the top of their cool list in 2016. There isn’t a lack of beautiful locales, festivals, and restaurants; you just have to be willing to have a go.

If you find youself in Donegal you will be surrounded by some of the soundest people you could meet. If you put yourself out there, there are a lot of things in which you can be involved. The hard part is to have the confidence to go out and do this when you are still finding your way. I had to “fake it before you make it” while trying to make friends. Signing up for clubs and activities that I would never have done in my pre-Irish life.

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Myself and one of my best buddies, Marie G., after a cross country 5k training run. She is a life line for me.

Myself and Ronan did go out of our comfort zone and started running and cycling with the local sporty types and clubs and our health is better for it.  Surprisingly despite the fact that we did these activities at first a bit begrudgingly they are now a part of who we are. Not only because of the love of sport but also for the people who are now a positive part of our lives. If you knew us back in the States, you would hardly recognise us with our level of fitness and energy levels. We are by no means Olympians but we are healthy and happy.

The two of us also learned to play the fife (we put the local feral cat population to shame while we were learning 😀 ). Putting in the practice was well worth the effort when we joined the local fife and drum band marching and playing alongside them at the NYC St Patrick’s day parade this past March. What happened in NYC stayed in NYC 😀 but needless to say it was a fabulous trip that helped forge stronger bonds of friendships with our bandmates. It truly is as if we have found family (well half of them happen to be cousins of sorts of Ronan anyway but that’s beside the point) in athletics and music.

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Myself and my friend, Deirdre S., waiting to line up to march on Fifth avenue NYC.  It was a trip of a lifetime.

The truth is to settle into a diferent culture is not an easy process.  There are days still where it is still tough 3 1/2 years on but those days are getting fewer and with longer stretches between.  I can’t expect to fit in as snugly into a community as well in that short time as I did where I grew up and lived for 43 years but surely I can make an effort to keep moving in that direction.

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I am embracing both where I grew up and where my home is now. Up the Rosses and Maryland!