Sep 5, 2012

Mussels made of yarn

I went to the beach today!

This morning at the student center, I ran into two ERASMUS students (two girls - L from Germany and L from Italy) whom I met a few nights ago, and they suggested that we meet later that afternoon to make our way down to the bayside.  Although I was quite taken by the idea of leaving campus – especially to go to the beach – my knee-jerk reaction was to balk (internally).  I don’t know if I really want to hang out with these girls, I thought…and instantly, shame overtook me as I realized I was hesitating because I wasn’t sure that these potential friendships would “pay off”.  Take your eyes off yourself, I chided myself.  Quit thinking in terms of how your relationships can serve you; that’s no way to treat people.  You want friends?  This is how you make friends.  You’re only going to connect with people if you actually spend time with them…and you’ve got to keep your eyes on them, not yourself.  Get yourself off that high horse, girl – you could learn something today.  And even if you don’t, not all will be lost – I mean, you’re going to the beach!

Humbled, I smiled.  “I’d love to go,” I replied.  It was about noon at that point, and the three of us agreed to meet at 3:30 pm.

With a few hours to myself, then, and no desire to read (yet) for Prof. Jenkins’ class (yes, he's already assigned readings), I wandered into The Hub, a cafĂ© inside the student center where one can find both excellent wifi and comfy couches.  I’d only been in there a few minutes, though, when a bulletin board caught my eye.  There, in obnoxiously neon green, was a flyer advertising that the Knitting and Crocheting Society (again, that’s NUIG lingo for “club”) meets on Wednesdays from 1 pm to 2 pm.

Now, friends, know this: I neither knit nor crochet.  I’ve done some needlepointing, and am decent at it, but it’s never held my attention because you can’t do much with a needlepoint creation but put it up on a wall.  However, I’ve always admired (read: been slightly jealous of) people who could make scarves, mittens, socks, blankets…in other words, gifts that others can use.  In fact, I have one friend with crazy-awesome knitting skills.  I mean, just take a look:

This one's my favorite - isn't it gorgeous?

With this dear friend in mind, I thought, no time like the present...I mean, you've always wanted to learn, right?  This could be your chance...and who knows?  Maybe you'll meet some kind student at this meeting who might want to be your friend.  So at 1 pm, I went to the room indicated on the flyer, poked my head inside, and was met by a chorus of greetings...but not from students.

Apparently, the Knitting and Crocheting Society is entirely composed of faculty and staff.  Awkward.

The six women sitting around the table, needles flying, were so welcoming that I decided not to leave right away, though.  They seemed genuinely interested in me and were also remarkably open about themselves, considering that I was both a newcomer and a student.  One woman, who's a professor of marine biology, even showed me a few of her most recent crocheting projects:

That's right - they're mussels (and they do open.)  Made by a Marine Biology professor.  Oh, the irony...
I actually stuck around for the full hour, believe it or not...and although I don't think I'll ever go back, it was encouraging to meet such friendly, accepting women who were content to rest in slow conversation and chamomile tea.

When 3:30 pm rolled around, I found L and L outside with a few of their mutual friends as well as Teresa - together, we must have been six or seven.  Impatient to get to the beach, we set off on what would turn into a forty-minute walk...but it felt much shorter to me, because I spent most of it in conversation with a new friend!  Y is originally from France, but spent most of last year working as an au pair in Cork (yes, Ireland) as she took long-distance college classes, and is now at NUIG studying Celtic history and language.  The time flew as we chattered nonstop...about everything from riding horses (she has her own horse) to our siblings (she has two younger sisters), from boys to life in Ireland, from dance to gymnastics (she's a coach.  Go figure.)  And the entire time, I felt both listened to and eager to listen - what a gift, especially in someone I'd met barely a few hours earlier!  Before we knew it, we were nearing the coast...and it was a sight to see.

That's Galway Bay, from a little ways up the road that took us right to the water.

Those far-off buildings mark the edges of Claddagh, a fishing village that's literally thousands of years old. 
We sat on this enormous rock that jutted out into the bay; it must have been about twenty feet higher than the water.
Since this was a spontaneous trip, none of us were really dressed for the beach, but Teresa and I decided to at least get our feet a little sandy.  I think I'm smiling at one of the girls in an attempt to get her to come down with us.
And then Teresa joined me!
Here's Y and me, after I climbed back up.  (Oh, and the back of L's head.  This girl has the kind of curly hair that frames her face when she leaves it out...and I don't think she even knows how beautiful it is.)
After a few hours spent in light conversation and sunshine that melted away the stress of the morning, we decided to head back...and again, Y and I fell into step with each other and chatted all the way there.  I was honestly a little surprised that we didn't run out of things to talk about...but maybe I ought to just be thankful for the gift of her companionship and toss the rest to the wind.  Are these are the seeds of a friendship, I wonder...

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