Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 11 Days... and a Cattle Market

This is the best I got with a cow in it. I was going for the deep scar behind the man's ear and the long hair I assume is his wife's that is on his jacket. 

A majority of the farmers are older men. Fewer young men are working on the farms so this little man stuck out to represent the percentage of the next farming generation. 

I'm going to go in order of what we've done without explaining days to catch you up to speed. 

After the flight to Philly, the plane ride went down hill. I felt woozy for the flight to London so was asleep most of the time except when Ian was waking me up because he couldn't sleep. This is understandable because there was a baby in the row behind us shrieking for several hours. What little travel I've done has allowed me to adapt to sleeping most anywhere at any time. Ian's on a crash course to learn this skill. 

When we arrived, we began milking cows with Bertie. It was on my summer bucket list to learn. However, there is no hay, clean cows, red bucket, or 101 dalmatian puppies involved. The next day we left with our third cousin Heather to go to a church youth retreat in Portadowns where we went to a social (a non-raunchy dance in town we should adopt in the States), rode a banana boat in the freezing rain, went "snow tubing" on plastic and wire mesh instead of snow, tried Irish stew, found out no one in N. Ireland listens to Irish music like Flogging Molly (Ian can't find anyone who's heard of them), and I was asked if I was South African again. I would also like to mention that in the freezing temperatures we had to wear wetsuits, a jacket, life-vest, sneakers/water shoes, and a helmet. Then the man in charge asked if we'd like to jump off the pier to get wet. I vehemently shook my head and even though he was looking right at me he said, "All right everybody, off you go!" And everyone ran off the end to their extinction like dodo birds. They said it wasn't that cold. They were not being honest. 

Other highlights include the Giant's Causeway and rope bridge. It was beautiful and we were on the coast! I hadn't seen the sea since Zanzibar in 2010. 

Somewhere in here we also spend half a day helping with the sheep (Ian was helping more than I who was taking the photos you saw in a previous post). Our relatives have four sheep dogs; Lucy, Barney, Zack and Ned. Poor Ned is a mix from the dog next door and apparently can't herd sheep. 

I went running one day and it was worth mentioning. 14:52 minutes of miserable running worth mentioning solely because no one goes jogging. I'm guessing this is because most people have farms and work all day so they don't need the exercise like us in the gray, windowless rooms of RIT.

Wednesday we went to Glenarm on the coast to meet our grandma's cousins Jeanne and William. They ran the Glenarm post office for fifty years or so and there was even photos of when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles came recently to visit the post office before it closed. We got a small tour of the village our great-great grandparents emigrated from in the late 1800's as well as the grounds of Glenarm Castle. The nice groundskeeper who now lives in our ancestor's house let us walk around the grounds inside the gate even though it's closed to the public! It was pretty cool. Apparently one of our ancestors worked as a butler for Queen Victoria who used to go to the castle. They moved over from England with them which makes us more English than we've told everyone all our lives. We're Irish, German, English, and Scottish. But somehow I've never been asked if I am any of those- only South African. I do not understand. To be honest, I'm secretly pleased though I'm sure South Africans wouldn't agree. 

We went to Belfast a few days ago with our cousin and her friend Jenny. All my life I've searched for the clothes this part of the world has to offer. Usually, I abhor shopping. Last time I went, it took me three hours and one return of the same pair of sweatpants I ended up buying anyways to escape the mall. I actually wanted to shop! 

Yesterday, we went to a cattle market with Bertie early in the afternoon. I don't think it's too different than the ones in New York. By the way, everyone assumes we're from the city when we say New York. I'd forgotten the rest of the state doesn't exist to the rest of the world. 

We also went to Belfast again with our other cousin and her husband to attend our first rugby game. Ulster lost so we woke up at 6AM to watch Ireland get creamed by Wales. Fail. We had a lot of fun with Emma and Philip though. Ian was elated beyond explaining that they both had not only heard of the movie Anchorman but loved it and Will Ferrell. They took us out after the game for coffee and buns. I tried "banoffee" which is a thin pie with a layer of crust, caramel, banana, and toffee. It's all soft though and wicked tasty with coffee. 

It rains here. Off and on. Everyday. Today I actually barely noticed when we were out with the sheep. It's not as depressing as it was when we got here and I actually am enjoying how green everything is. It's like swimming under water where everything has a thin layer of algae on it except you're walking around and breathing. The sun comes out about once a day. We've seen a rainbow everyday for the last four days straight. 

Ian is tired all the time. He doesn't travel very well since he can't sleep en-route and doesn't adjust to change easily. He also came with a wicked case of poison ivy so it's really good the nasty UK immigration woman didn't pull us aside for a close look. She just berated us.

Food. I just couldn't stop thinking about it. (If you don't instantly think of a dog, YouTube "ultimate dog teaser"). Everyone always asks what travelers have eaten. We've had pizza, casserole, potatoes, more fish & chips than we've ever had (so, so good), cereal, the "Ulster full fry" which consists of sausage, bacon, eggs, half a pancake, soda bread, potato bread, tomato, and mushrooms. No syrup. Tonight, to my great delight, we're having spaghetti and meatballs! 

For those of you who've waded through all of this, congratulations. A little glimpse into the woes of traveling: constipation. Ian has only been drinking boiled water because the man at Passport Health told him he could get travelers diarrhea. I've had glasses and glasses everyday and have no such issues. I even tried a beet dipped in vinegar one night hoping it was fibrous but I barely made it through. It was the most awful thing I've ever eaten. Friends and family, you know it's bad when I want to spit it out. Licking the cucumber in Maasailand is now second. 

Our family has been so hospitable to us! Ian and I are talking about how nice they've been showing us around, making sure we have food and clean clothes. They've also been patient when we really struggled to understand their accents the first few days. It would be impossible for us to repay them for their hospitality and generosity.

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