As we enter the second week of our time in Ireland, Bruce and I can’t help feeling that we have a nearly perfect group of students with us: smart, skeptical, funny, game to hike across the mountains in pouring rain, and so enthusiastic about being here that they’re almost exhausting us. :-)
The first weekend was, in theory, “off” for us, but weekends are busy by Ballyvaughan standards. On Saturday we all went to the farmer’s market in town, then hiked nearly two hours to Ailwee Caves. This is one of my favorite walks in the area, along the green roads that connect low and high pastures, with beautiful views back down over the village. We had discount tickets to tour the caves (thanks to Robert Wainwright), and also to visit the Birds of Prey Center, where Kaitlyn, Emily, Erin, and Quinn got to handle a Harris hawk, and Chloe, and Michelle Z handled a beautiful owl as part of the demonstration. The show was cut short by rain (surprise!), but we had time to see the aviary before heading back to town.
On Saturday night, there was traditional music at Greene’s Pub. Though I have trouble staying up to enjoy sets that begin at 10PM, this was a particularly lovely session: not a band, just a bunch of local people who like to play together. Add in a harmonica player from North Carolina who’s working at the Burren College right now, and it was a pretty cool performance all around.
On Sunday a few of us went to mass at the Catholic church in Ballyvaughan. Given the importance of religion in Irish history and identity, this was one more way for us to understand and show respect for community that is welcoming us for this month. Afterwards, we checked out the craft fair in town, and at night we went to a ceili (dance) in Kilfenora, a nearby village with a grand tradition of dancing. We had arranged for a lesson in Irish set-dancing beforehand, and the instructor (a moonlighting special-ed teacher) liked our students so much that she stuck with us through the entire evening, coaching us and matching up partners. The locals were very welcoming and very forgiving of our many missteps. Good craic! (and another late night)
Tomorrow we are leaving bright and early for a couple of days on Inish Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. It would be reasonable to ask when, with all this touring, do we find time for study and art making? Somehow, it happens. When we met for “class” in the studios today, I was impressed by everyone’s readings of Eavan Boland’s nuanced poetry, and the students already have proposals for their visual work evolving.