Top o' the late afternoon to you again, dear readers! Since I once again have a host family equipped with wifi, I figured now would be the perfect time to write Ireland post number two. For the past few days, we've basically been centered around Wexford/Clonard/I don't really understand how the whole parish/city/county nomenclature thing works here but we're in the southeast. We've been having a simply massive time (that means awesome, for those of you who are unenlightened in the ways of Irish slang). In what follows, I will share with you some of the observations I've made during our time in Wexford.
Observation #1: I don't know about broader culture, but in terms of font usage and nightclub music, this country is stuck randomly several years in the past. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have already seen this, but the stores and people of Ireland use Comic Sans more than anyone I've ever seen. In the past few days, I have seen approximately four storefronts whose signage is entirely written in Comic Sans. It seems that everywhere I turn, Comic Sans appears. At lunch today, I looked down at the sandwich I was eating and what did I find but "Fresh Everyday!" printed all over the wrapper...in Comic Sans. I'm normally not a big font snob, but my understanding is that Comic Sans is pretty much only acceptable for newsletters passed out by first grade teachers. I don't understand, Ireland. I don't understand. Meanwhile, the DJs of nightclubs (at least in Wexford) are a tad confused as well. On Friday night, a few of us made an appearance at Wexford's hippest club, the confusingly named The Stores. When we walked in, they were playing Crank Dat Soulja Boy. At this point, I embraced the playlist as a happy throwback to the era of our old friend Baby Sarah. Soon after, though, Soulja Boy faded into the background and was replaced, inexplicably, by several selections in a row of what I can only describe as 1960s Irish folk-pop. They eventually headed back toward modernity with such pop hits as "Black or White" by Michael Jackson, "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne, and "Raise Your Glass" by Pink - which, to their credit, was at least released in this decade. Don't get me wrong, I had a lovely time (with an entrance fee of €10, it better have been a lovely time), but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was horribly wrong for me to be in a nightclub when all the music playing came out when I was 14.
Observation #2: Irish people love both talking and food even more than I do. I'm making this observation based mostly (okay, entirely) on the two sets of host parents I've had so far, so it could be horribly inaccurate. For these four people, though, it could not be truer. These people will not let each other get a word in edgewise. Their idea of contributing to a conversation is basically just talking loudly at the same time as everyone else until someone stops talking. While I certainly understand the insatiable desire for domination in a conversation, this tendency, coupled with their barely-intelligible accents, makes Irish people almost impossible to understand. Basically, I just nod and smile a lot and throw in the occasional "Oh, yes, definitely." Then there's the food. My host parents here in Wexford are literally obsessed with feeding us. Since we've been here, we have eaten an average of five meals a day. To fully understand this obsession, observe the following real-life conversation my fellow Folkheads and I had with Finbarr and Mary:
F&M: So did you girls get dinner tonight?
Us: Yes, sandwiches and tea and desserts and stuff.
F&M: Oh, so no, you didn't have dinner then.
Us: Uh yes? We did? We just said that?
F&M: Well right, but just sandwiches, so you didn't REALLY eat. We'll make you curry. And cake.
The days of the potato famine these are not. This trend applies to restaurants, as well. Yesterday I had a fish and chips meal for less than €10 that included a piece of cod approximately the size of my arm. Today I had a sandwich too big for me to finish, and it only cost €3. Take note, Subway.
Observation #3: The relationship of Europeans to Eurovision is strange and fantastic. For those who don't know, Eurovision is essentially a giant televised singing competition between the countries of Europe. Each country has an act representing them, and people call in their votes. Based on the one episode I saw (the finale), I think they may have some sort of confusing electoral college type system in place, as well, since each nation sent a representative to announce its official votes, in English and French (la Suede, douze points!). In Ireland this year, Eurovision was quite the exciting event. The Irish act this year was a peculiar duo called "Jedward." Jedward are a set of twins with gravity-defyingly tall hair who wear metallic spandex space suits, dance around a lot, and drive 13-year-old girls absolutely nuts. They are among the worst singers I have ever heard, but I DON'T CARE. Jedward, as unbelievably strange as they are, have won me - and the whole of Ireland - over. I saw Jedward candy bars today. From the looks of it, every country loves their act just as much as the Irish love Jedward, but they mostly enjoy belittling the crap out of all the countries that aren't them. Despite the show's three plastic-y, terrifying hosts, the BBC had a team of commentators going in voice-over throughout the show. I am pretty sure their sole purpose was sass. They said during the commentary of one large-earringed woman, "She had better announce those votes before her ears fall off." While another vote-announcer was talking, they said, "I can't tell if that's a man or a woman." I, of course, had been thinking the same thing, but they just said it on multi-national television. Eurovision is so, so strange, and yet the people of Ireland eat it up - and so do I.
Observation #4: The number of baby animals in this country is insane. Driving through the countryside, we obviously pass lots of farms and pastures full of cows and sheep and other nice things like that. In observing these pasture, though, I've noticed that the percent of these animals who are babies is way too high. "Too high" could be a misleading description, because, after all, there is no such thing as too many baby animals, unless it's possible to die of a cuteness overload. Numerically, though, I honestly think this number is impossible! It seems that for every full-grown sheep in Ireland, there are 7 newborn lambs. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I'm pretty sure most farm animals only really give birth to one baby at a time. There cannot be this many baby animals in Ireland! Between that and the 70-degrees-and-sunny weather we've been having, I think this whole tour is designed to convince us that Ireland is actually completely perfect, even when it's statistically impossible to be so. (Note: Now that I have said this, the clouds will part and it will rain ceaselessly for the rest of tour.)
As the Irish would say, I tink tat's about all for now. Our last legs of the tour are Galway and Edinburgh, Scotland - with any luck, I'll publish another post about those. I hope all of you back home are enjoying your Memorial Day hot dogs on the grill and the Indy 500; if you need me, I'll be here with the baby sheep.