Written by: Kyle Johannessen, 2012 ISP Participant
The Irish way of life is drastically different from what we are used to in the United States. When they said that Ireland is Minnesota nice to a whole new level, they weren’t joking. Just the other day I had the chemist offer to specially order my contact solution because they did not have the one I normally use in stock. I also know for a fact that Brittany and Beaner are on their way right now to enjoy a clam chowder dinner at a local cafe, the Red Rose, which has been specially prepared just for them. Clam chowder doesn’t even appear on the menu. The Irish will time and time again go out of their way just to make sure that your most simple and insignificant needs are met, and they do so joyfully.
While the Irish are extremely helpful, they are also extremely talkative. If you thought that one annoying person in class talked a lot, they would have a run for their money trying to get a word in edgewise here. Ireland is a place where the concept of punctuality is almost nonexistent. Time is of secondary concern to a person here compared to a good conversation, and a small town like Louisburgh is far from being an exception. You might be thinking that you’ll just run off to the store to grab some lunch, but on the way there you’ll run into somebody you may or may not know and quite possibly, indeed most likely, end up having a conversation for the next twenty minutes.
At first this change of pace was as close to culture shock that I have come. For an American, where sticking to the clock and getting things done as fast as possible is a virtue, if not a rule of life, it was like having a football coach asking you to play the whole game in slow motion. I stood awkwardly talking to strangers, glancing at my watch and trying to rush through my day. Yet after a month spending time in the Irish countryside that has completely changed. It has become extremely fulfilling to just enjoy the days walking along the beach, playing guitar, cards, taking dance lessons, or just sitting in front of a peat fire enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate. It’s as if I’m living straight out of a book where life was a much simpler thing.
Besides the people, my favorite part about Ireland so far is the landscape. With rolling hills, grass covered mountains, and groupings of trees, the Irish countryside seems untouched by civilization. Far from the pine forests of Minnesota, the grass here is always green. This is most likely due to the fact that it rains just as often as not but hey, you take what you can get.
As a photographer, this change of scenery is inspiring and invigorating. Never before have I seen such a mix of the old and new in one place. You can be passing farmhouse after farmhouse and come upon the ruins of an old tower, crumbling as the earth reclaims the stone that once belonged to it. This is nowhere near a rare occurrence and I have thoroughly enjoyed climbing on everything possible to get the best shot possible.
Whether the reason is a change of pace, a quieter life, a beautiful countryside, or the extremely high caliber of people that dwell here, Ireland is by far one of the most superb places that I have ever been to in my life. Sure, visiting places like London and Paris are great, and I plan to, but Ireland? Ireland is a place where I can see myself living in complete happiness until old age finally comes to steal my last breath. If I ever died in Ireland, one thing is for certain; I would die with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart.