Aug 29, 2012

Getting to Galway (Part II)

Hi, friends!  I’m writing to you from the beautiful two-bedroom apartment I’m sharing with my housemate Teresa.  I’ll include pictures soon…that is, as soon as we’re done shifting furniture, unpacking, and generally settling in.  It’s no palace, but it is ours – which is what counts.

But more on that later – let me finish telling you about the process itself of getting to this apartment.  After I finally boarded a plane out of London, landed in Shannon, passed through Immigration, and collected my bag, I realized that I was supposed to call my contact at NUIG to let her know that I’d arrived safely.  There were a few reasons why I didn’t end up doing this:
  • Her phone number was on my laptop, whose battery had died mid-flight.  Not the best planning on my part, I'll admit...
  • Even if I did have the number on hand, I hadn’t yet bought a SIM card[1]…so for all intents and purposes, I didn’t have a phone.  Yikes.
Thankfully, I did remember what bus I was supposed to take from Shannon to Galway City, and a kindly older man at the information desk pointed me toward the boarding area for the Bus Éireann (Irish Bus).
Super-comfy seats with adequate legroom, and functional wifi on board.  Seems like the Irish are on to something…Megabus, take note.
So I hauled my 50-lb bag in and settled in for a nearly two-hour ride…during which I saw more cows, horses, and sheep than I’d ever seen in India (and for those of you who have been to India, you know that that’s saying something.  The rest of you will have to take my word for it, I suppose :P)  The countryside was strangely comforting in that it bore strong reminders of upstate New York (and I mean further north than Schenectady)…which is very much my second home.  Okay, I thought.  It’s like Saratoga.  It’s like New York.  It's like home.
One view of the Shannon countryside, from my bus seat.  There was greenery everywhere (probably because it rains so much.  It rained – hard – three separate times during that one bus ride.)
It was at this opportune moment that I realized: it may be walking like a duck[2] and talking like a duck, but this place is most certainly not a duck.  You are by yourself in a foreign country, making your way to a city you’ve never even seen before, and if you get lost and it gets dark[3], there’s no Get Out of Jail Free card within sight.  You don’t even know where you’re going once you get off the bus in Galway.  Everything is in Gaelic, and you know a total of zero words in Gaelic.  This isn’t New York, where you know the subways and the city’s layout like the back of your hand.  You’re three thousand miles away from that world, and you don’t have a computer or a phone.  No one knows that you’re here…not even your mother.[4]  You, young lady, are on your own.

I was overwhelmed – is it very obvious?

This is where the story starts to take a turn – because the second rainstorm had just ended, and I was leaning against my window hoping that a nap might make everything look a little rosier, when I saw this:
...and I all but jumped out of my bus seat.
A rainbow.  A real live rainbow.  What timing!  And let me tell you, friends, the photo doesn’t do it justice; this was the most vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen.  It looked like it was straight out of a picture book.  Why was I so excited?  Because of Noah and his fantabulous ark (and if you don’t know the story or are a little fuzzy on the details, do take a read.  It’s straight-up drama, beginning to end.)  Those of you who were at Summit with me (especially if you remember the discussion about Gen 81 and 912-17) will understand in even greater depth why from that point on, I refused to let myself worry about how or when I was ever going to get to my apartment.  And you know what?  I’m here now.  It worked out.

From the Galway bus station, a few inquiries led me to a local bus stop where I was told that the 407 would take me to Gort na Coiribe, the complex where my home for the next four months would be waiting for me.
One shot of central Galway City, from where I sat as I waited for that local bus. 
Yep, I’ve known that I was coming here for months…and it took me this long to realize that the Irish and Indian flags differ only in one way (albeit a crucial way).  Do you know how they differ?
After one minor glitch[5], I finally hauled myself and my bag off the bus and toward Gort.  I wondered whether anyone would even be in the reception area, because it was about 9 pm by then…but sure enough, there sat a brusque old man reading his newspaper like nobody's business.  Either he’s always that efficient, or he took real pity on the exhausted, slightly bedraggled woman standing outside his window with droopy shoulders and a weak smile.  Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised at how speedily he looked up my name, handed me a keycard, and led me to my apartment…where I found a very sleepy Teresa lounging on the couch, visible proof that I was done traveling and could finally, finally crawl into bed.
After a very long day...home sweet home.  When I saw this sign, I threw my duffel down and ran back in front of the sign to capture the beauty of the moment.  (Oh, and that speed limit sign...see the tree behind it?  My apartment is right behind that tree :D)

[1] A vendor in the airport did try to sell me a SIM…for €350.  Very funny, lady – I may be new to the country, but I wasn’t born yesterday.
[2] And by duck, I mean home…
[3] It was nearly 7 pm by this point.
[4] I tried to call her, my dad, my sister, and then my house (collect) from the airport, but the operator couldn’t get any of the connections to work.
[5] The driver told me he’d call me when my stop was coming up…and promptly forgot, until I noticed some signs saying we were headed toward Dublin and asked him what was up.  He was so apologetic about it that I didn’t mind, and we chatted a bit as he swung back around in the other direction.  (This mistake cost me less than ten extra minutes on the bus.)  It was at this point that I learned that the driver lived in Queens (yes, in New York!) for three years before he moved to Ireland in 1995.  He knew where Bayside Avenue was.  Imagine my relief…

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