I have to take another semester to finish my ONE REMAINING CREDIT.
Creativity is going to happen now.
I find the Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” video with her and all the really good dancers very embarrassing. I’m not saying she’s a talentless hack, but I feel confident that she’s not as talented as any of the people she’s relegated to props for her stupid video.
don’t wear stupid hats. didn’t recognize you.
God, I’m tired.
Things are not going very well right now.
I think it’s the singing. There are not nearly so many tourists in Derry as I think there are — I keep mishearing that singing as a different language.
I got in last night at about ten, after a long and headache-inducing bus ride. I do not get carsickness, EXCEPT when I’m sitting at the back of a long vehicle, EXCEPT when the road is uneven, EXCEPT when there are a lot of unexpected and sudden turns, EXCEPT when I try to read or write or do anything except stare out of the window – that is, I get carsickness in most of Europe. I don’t know why the sudden change to pounds surprises me, given that I lived about 40 minutes by boat from the Eurozone for the past two years; but it still does. The hostel was ten minutes on foot from the bus station, up the stairs of an apartment building. The resident employee flooded me with an inundation of apologies because he thought for a moment he wouldn’t be able to let me in late – blah, blah. Rather American reaction, really. We sat and had a cup of tea and talked about farming (rather Irish, that) for half an hour, until the desk worker proper got back to take my card and give me my bed linens and helpfully mark up a map with all the places I ought to see. He pointed out the city museum and a few churches, but continued with the Bloody Sunday Memorial and the Free Derry Museum. I felt a bit stupid for not knowing that Bloody Sunday happened in Derry, or really much about what Bloody Sunday even was besides the name.
The first order of business today was finding a yarn shop in the Craft Village which turned out to have just closed last month (I ended up buying some expensive wool yarn from a shop just next to where it used to be.) Then I did a polite wander about St. Colomb’s Cathedral, which has a noble history of resisting the Jacobites and all that business. I am not saying I can’t get teary-eyed over the Apprentices closing the city gates in the face of the siege of 1686 — I can get teary-eyed over nearly anything — but the more heavily embroidered with the language of the Anglican Church the description of said bravery is, the more skeptical I become. As I get older the more I come to the conclusion that heroes are a matter of retelling and circumstance. I am cynical (of course I am!) but oddly, perhaps, I feel that the sort of bravery it takes to fight back fiercely when one is attacked with clear and evident violence is not so rare, and if one is going to glorify that sort of thing one will never run out of heroes, but also if one is going to glorify that sort of thing one is also going to skip over a lot of very important heroes. It is sustained bravery over the course of weeks and months and years – bravery in the face of violence that is not so clear-cut, indignities that have become normal, injustice which is not so obvious – this is what I believe may be rarer, far more difficult, and, with the saddest irony, less-celebrated.
I know I’m not saying anything special or new. But somehow I am frustrated by a monument to the Bogside resistance – which was remarkable! They held police and military forces at bay for a couple days with homemade weaponry! In the fucking 1960s! – that is something people will remember, something that will stay with them, when what doesn’t stay with them is thousands of tiny, hard choices that people have made every day to enact ethical, compassionate lives. My optimism is this: most people will be heroic when they are slammed with the sudden necessity to be heroic. My pessimism is this: few people have the stomach to endure heroism for very long.
I bought some yarn that was pale gray with yellow and brown bits to start working on a sweater front, though I haven’t yet finished casting on. I would prefer to wear a simple pattern, but I would prefer to knit something interesting, so I am still trying to work out a nice cable pattern I can do. I’m thinking braids alternated with twists, much like my current sweater of choice. I also am not sure whether I want to make something close-fitting or not, which makes me nervous. I also want to try doing diamonds. Maybe diamonds alternating with twists.
The Museum of Free Derry is pretty small and basically just a bunch of placards going in a circle around the wall. They have a lot of the clothes on display that the thirteen people killed on Bloody Sunday were wearing when they were shot, which is very uncomfortable-making.
Bloody Sunday was this: in January 1972, the British government enacted a policy of internment without trial of Northern Irish political prisoners. The people of the Bogside neighborhood and the Catholic neighborhoods surrounding in Derry gathered for a protest. At some point in the march, which started peacefully, the military opened fire on the protesters, killing thirteen people and injuring ten or a few more. In 2010, the original inquiry declaring those killed as bombers and gunmen was found to be false, though it still placed blame on a single officer and didn’t really investigate the overall role of the military in Northern Ireland.
The situation sounded so close to what has been happening in Ferguson that it made me feel kind of ill. Of course violence repeats itself: of course people don’t learn: but what is the point of a museum laying out the history if people can’t recognize the same pattern of events (the near-identical pattern!) unrolling in another place?
My hosts (who are both more or less British) are very critical of both the IRA and the British government, though probably more so of the former and less so of the latter. It’s very odd to be a place where the violence of the past is still present in graphic form in people’s minds. In Galway the violence done by the British is primarily seen as a sneaky, lingering malady of the economy and the culture: the shittiest land went to the Irish and the best land to the English, ensuring that in my generation those who leave because they can’t make a living from their inheritance are the ones who speak the Irish language.
In some way guns are easier to argue with than the economic time-bombs that an oppressing force leaves behind.
The bus from Derry dropped me in Moville on Monday late in the afternoon. Luckily there was a stray wifi signal from the nearest pub, because I had more or less forgotten all the information about my hosts except their names. Moville is considerably larger than I expected, with several proper streets, a couple pubs, a grocery store and a pharmacy, a post office, a few shops, and the farm store that my hosts run. There are Irish-speaking areas of Donegal, but they are on the western, more remote part of the peninsula. I had a brief, intense moment of fear, when I desperately wanted to email my Galway host and ask him to take me back, but we can’t push things backward, can we? And he just started a horticultural program anyway, so he’s busy until May.
Shallow though it may be, I felt an enormous sense of relief unwind in my gut when I pushed open the Farm Store door and the woman behind the counter was just older than middle-aged, middling fat, with short gray hair and casually dressed. She knew immediately who I must be and greeted me warmly. She and her husband have hosted WWOOF volunteers for ten years and so have more or less a smooth system going, and I was even more relieved to find out that there would be three or four other people at their farm – I had had terrible visions of it being just me and the couple, with me doing the conversational equivalent of juggling and doing handstands until it was time to go hide in my room.
The farm is much bigger than the other, or at least it has far more usable land, with the house midway up a hill with three or four big fields below and one or two big fields above. At 8:30 we feed the two big pigs, the sows, the six piglets, and the two goats and check that the six cows have enough water. At 3:30 we feed them again and check the water again again. In between we have: sorted potatoes, dug potatoes (not me), dug a drainage trench, cleared the invasive fuchsia off a small hill, tied up raspberry canes, painted various things that needed painting, and ground oats with a big scary grinder.
The breakdown here is:
one Australian guy, twenty
one Belgian girl, seventeen
one Austrian girl, nineteen (left the second night I was here)
two German girls, twenty-four and twenty-five (left last night.)
Next week two Americans come from Alaska, a guy and his girlfriend.
The ambiance is dramatically different than the first farm. Everyone is/was fluent and comfortable in English. I felt a bit embarrassed when I realized how much I had been enjoying being everyone’s helpful dictionary, but I’m still full of stories and American witticisms, I suppose, so I’m useful to have around for the conversation. Maybe. We are not sleeping in the house, but in a camper, an old stone cottage, and a garden building repurposed for us. We are all rather cold at night, but there’s a lot bedding provided. The space is good. I like space. We are not to eat the breakfast cereal for snacks, which is the only rule I find silly. I do not cook. It seems like every job is split into minute steps so we can all have a part in it. The woman who is hosting us has a very maternal attitude. It seems very much like “the kids” and “the hosts” as opposed to the vague bro-like atmosphere of the last farm. Of course I am slow to habituate myself in any case.
The house proper is a stone cottage heated by a coal stove, so that’s satisfying. The closest wifi is a forty- to fifty-minute walk away in the pub next to the ferry harbor down the hill. I currently don’t have a functioning phone and so feel very tense about the lack-of-internet situation.
I have now been here for four nights and four work days (of twenty total days which I plan to be here), which when I think about it is not so much, so maybe I don’t need to feel so awkward and weird about being awkward and weird yet.
Dear Irish dude in the white t-shirt: you little fuck. When a girl looks at her phone when you’re talking to her, did it ever occur to you it’s because you’re a fucking creepy pain in the ass? Why would you then go on to touch someone who has given you no signals other than those of disinterest and discomfort? (The girl in question was not me, because I was holding very still and staring at a fixed point on the floor, much akin to an octopus pretending to be part of a piece of seaweed.)
Dear Scottish guy in the blue t-shirt: dude. The first words out of your mouth when you meet someone should not be to ask for her glasses that a few seconds of introspection would suggest she needs to see. Actually, in general don’t start hitting on someone by demanding something from them. (Ditto.)
Dear Scottish guy with the unfortunate tattoos: yes. Good job talking to all the women like they were people. Cookie for you. Also I am sorry for taking your offer to buy us drinks when you were pretty obviously only interested in the pretty German girl (though you started by talking to me, sigh.) I am doubly sorry for only understanding 85%-90% of what you said, but your accent is great. Thanks for answering some stupid questions about fishing from a curious American.
Dear Welsh guy: God, please don’t be one of those quiet people who turns out to be a huge asshole when you start talking, because I don’t want to feel bad about thinking you were pretty cute.
Dear German girls: sorry I can’t hold my liquor and got quiet and weird, but at least I didn’t get really sad or mean. I wish I didn’t feel a low level of quiet resentment toward you for being pretty and apparently well-adjusted.
Dear self: I don’t know if you’re ever going to feel okay about the way you look with regards to men and how you think they perceive you. Breathe and be kind to yourself, I guess.
When I am with other young women, cool, okay. When I am with young men, okay. When I am with both, my brain typically tips into wondering how badly the young men see me compared to the other women present.
HOW TO FIX IT, that is the question.
So far I am less twitchy but still pretty twitchy, and I miss the Frenchman and my host and the Spanish volunteer. I am not very sure if the other girls like me much (not that I’m ever sure), but I guess it doesn’t matter, so long as we’re agreeable enough.
My hosts here are older (60-65) and they have vegetables, cattle, and pigs (and pet donkeys and pet goats and pet cats and pet dogs.)
They don’t want me to cook. I am a little sad and a little relieved.