In Which I Sing 200 Feet Underground

The next stop Tomas had arranged for us was a place called Mitchelstown Caves. This particular set of caves were the sort where you first had to climb a hill, and then go down loads of stairs. As is my habit, I did count the stairs going down, but I’ve since forgotten how many it was. Probably because the last set of stairs were quite slippy and the main goal wasn’t so much not to slip yourself, but not to be the one that started the domino effect of everyone falling down.

Anyway, the caves were absolutely magnificent, with many large formations and a lovely lake. Apparently, if you scuba through the lake, you can come out in another set of caves were are even more impressive, but since none of us had scuba gear with us, none of us know if that is true. Apparently they don’t even let researchers do it now, anyway, so who knows what it is really like. But we do know the caves on the side we were on were amazing. Most of the stairs had been carved directly into the caves, with metal stairs added in in a few tricky places.

When we finally got to the lowest of the caves, we were surprised at its sheer size and how the majority of it was relatively flat. Mitchelstown has hosted concerts there, and there are supposed to be a few this year. We were admiring it, when our guide asked if anyone sang.

For some reason everyone decided to pick on me and point out that, well, I do sing, which was then followed by the demand that I sing to illustrate the beautiful acoustics.

Do you know how hard it is to pull a song out of mid air when thirty or so people are staring at you? It’s one of those moments where your mind goes utterly blank. Someone suggested Happy Birthday, but that’s an annoying song that should be banned from the face of the earth, and definitely is ill suited to showing off the wonders underneath the face of the earth. Eventually my brain settled on All Hail The Power, since back when I was a wee thing, I not only memorized it, but for some reason had fixated on learning how to play all four parts on the piano, making it perhaps one of the most played songs I ever learned. In this case, it saved me, because it had enough range for me to start somewhere comfortable, and then sound impressive when I finally relaxed enough not to squeak.

It did sound pretty good. I was a bit impressed myself, mainly because it has been ages since I’ve actually sung with anyone around, unless I was one face in a faceless choir of people, which is great, because if you make a mistake, nobody knows it was you.

Anyway, that’s the story of how I came to perform my own mini live concert 200 feet underground. Bet not many people can say they’ve done that one.

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Labacallee Wedge Tomb

Now that we were on a merry jaunt around the county, Thomas had decided that we should make a couple odd stops. One of our first stops happened to be one that required us to climb a wall to get to it, but that was ok–except for the people who climbed the wall a bit too far down, and ended up in the same field as some very nice cows who had left some very nice gifts for people landing in their field.

Anyway, we hopped over the wall and down to the tomb. Thomas had told us that this was the largest wedge tomb in the country, and a bit about who was buried there, the most prominent being an old woman who, interestingly enough, while buried at the entrance to the tomb, had her skull buried elsewhere. While others might have been buried around her, the tomb was largely hers, and man, was it spacious.

Cait, Leili, Ben, myself, and a few others climbed down into it and hung out for a few minutes. The interior was flat, smooth, and completely covered by the huge rock–in retrospect, this is probably one of those things that my mother would have been concerned that the rock would fall on me–and we settled inside. It was a nice spot, and the thought shortly occurred to us that we might revisit the tomb at some point and bring along a picnic lunch. Probably not a good idea, but it sounded nice and relaxing, especially since it started raining as we began to leave. Thomas took us past an old church with a large graveyard, but, due to the rain, decided against stopping there.

So we continued on, compared some pictures we’d taken at the tomb (Cait got a really good one from the top of the tomb looking down on the rest of us), napped a bit, and hoped that the rain would stop, since we would be hiking a bit before we got to our next true stop.






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Back On The Road: Tomas Takes Us To Lots of Graveyards

Tomas has decided that, despite the fact that there is so much to do, that he really wants us to take one last trip to a variety of places, mainly churches and graveyards. As some of you know, Tomas has been responsible for a number of interesting trips, including the trip where I met Cait and introduced a teen to an addictive substance (for which I feel no remorse at all). After all of those trips, and a fairly heavy scholastic period, Tomas was waffling on whether we would have time for another trip or not. He recently decided, however, that no matter what, he had some stuff he just had to introduce us to, so we would be heading back around the county in a bus again. He made sure to specify that this particular trip would only take place in Cork county, but even so, we would be gone for a number of days.

Cait, Ben, Leili, and myself settled in and started packing. Sam, who would not be attending, decided to join us for packing, presumably because she was bored and we are great sources of entertainment. Thus set up an interesting situation where some of us were packing, but most of us were googling the places we were going to visit. I’m more of the opinion that it’s nice to let it just be a surprise, and be appropriately awed when we arrive places. Ben wanted to know everything, and was debating if he should bring his violin or not.

He also recounted to us a recent trip he took where he hitch-hiked to a festival and met interesting people. He apparently also “paid back” his rides with music, even going so far as to play at the festival when the friend of one of the people who gave him a ride needed an extra fiddle for their band. I’m beginning to think that Ben’s hair is somewhat like River Songs–it’s full of secrets.

We set out Monday, and we’ll see what Tomas has in store for us this time–and what trouble we might manage to stir up.

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In Which My Mother Tries to Teach My Cat to Facetime

During this entire time, one very important personality in my life has remained largely invisible, mainly because she hasn’t been with me at all: my cat, Leia. Leia came into my life years ago, back when I still had all the stuff to care for young rescue kittens, and before I, well, found out cats were great carriers to things I’m allergic to. Despite the latter basically making me allergic to cats, I’ve continued on with my cats, and adjusted life accordingly (my parents even got me an air circulation machine to help filter allergens). Leia started her life under a tractor, from which she was pulled after most of her siblings had died and her mother had abandoned them. She and her brother (Luke) were never meant to be kept (hence the reason their litter names were Star Wars based), but when both kittens fit in the palm of your hand, it becomes a little hard not to bond with them. My mother stole Luke, leaving me with Leia as My Cat. During my time here, she has been in the care of my mother (along with my old grouchy cat, Button, who doesn’t seem to care if I’m there or not).

To be fair, one of the hardest things for me to adjust to was living without my cat. When she was a baby, I would pop Leia into my hoodie pocket and carry her around while I did everything from baking to reading. When she got older, she would insist that I carry her around with me. I’ve become very adept at one-handing jobs. She also sleeps with me, a very familiar lump near my feet. I even bought a pillow when I first moved in to this apartment, because I had trouble sleeping without her.

Now that my mom is back home, she decided it might be appropriate to assure my cat that I had not fallen off the face of the world. I personally think she might have seen some of those videos on the internet about various cats and dogs skyping with their owners, and thought it adorable, so she decided to try it out.

It did not go as planned.

Now, I know Leia understands movies and screens, because she often sits with me when I watch stuff, and even has a way of telling me when she finds my choice of viewing material upsetting. I thought, then, that it wouldn’t be a bad jump from that to video chatting, but apparently it was. We knew she could hear me, because she started talking to me, but she couldn’t figure out where I was. She kept walking around my mum’s iPad, and then trying to dig underneath it. Eventually we gave up on it, and ended the call. That evening, I got a message from my mum, which simply read “your cat bit me.”

Apparently Leia had continued to try to find me after we hung up, and, finally, in desperation, when my mum tried to put her iPad away, had bitten her. Fortunately, she did not draw blood.

Moral of the story: communicating with pets is risky. Videochat at your own risk.

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The Irish Spider Problem

Ireland is basically the opposite of Australia. Australia got all the bitey, poisony, vicious things (with the except of possums, where there was apparently a mix up, and North America got Australia’s order and Australia got North America’s order), and Ireland got none of them. Basically, if Ireland is a little bit of heaven as evidenced by its creatures, Australia would be a little bit of hell (please note I don’t stand behind that statement as I have yet to visit Australia, so I can’t judge it, and I’m fairly sure that the southern United States has hell covered as far as weather is concerned). Legend says that Saint Patrick chased all the poisonous things away when he came to the island. He probably sent them to Australia, and both countries had a normal number of evil things prior to that. ANYway, with people moving around the world, Ireland’s pristine poison-free, snake-free, spider-free, creepy-crawlies-free world has been polluted. For a few short weeks in the fall (ok, for about six), spiders suddenly appear out of nowhere. And once upon a time, they were little tiny things. Now, they’ve slowly evolved to grow bigger and bigger, and they’re huge. Fortunately, still non-poisonous.

I didn’t know about that when I first moved here. I had simply been told “hey, there’s no spiders.”

And they were right–until the wonderful fall. Fortunately, Jo warned me ahead of time, so I was prepared. But now all the little spiders are appearing, and Newbie is going crazy, because apparently she doesn’t like spiders. We originally had a catch-or-smash policy (catch and release if possible/convenient, smash if not), until we were informed that the spiders are non-indigenous, there are far too many, and the official line of pest control is “smash”. We now smash exclusively. Newbie screams and demanded we leave all the windows closed, which will not happen. Anne uses her window to smoke (it’s huge and opens into a courtyard, which only we have access to, via the window), and I use my window to keep my room from getting too damp. Neither of us will be sealing them for the season.

Beside, they’re strangely cute. Even Cait–who has a legitimate fear of spiders–thinks they’re cute, as long as they remain cool and far away from her bed or shower. She even nicknamed the one that lives in the hall leading to our apartment, but I don’t remember what she called it.

We might not have pets, but we did nickname a spider. Close enough.

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Jo, Annie, and the Phantom of the Opera

It is surprisingly easy to slip back into a routine. I think the hardest part of traveling or moving is when you move to a new place, you lose your routine. Even the routines that should easily stick together, like bedtime routines, seem to get disrupted. Thought you were going to bed? Nope! Turn that light back on–you forgot to clean your teeth. Now you can go to bed. Oh, wait–you’re almost asleep? HA! you forgot to take your pills. Oh, wait. Did you close the window? Better get up again and check. And the bathroom light is on–so you’d best get up again and turn it off. Those are the routine disruptions that bug me the most, because they should stay the same, but they just don’t.

When someone else leaves, it’s almost a sigh of relief, because you can go back to your routines–all your normal routines you had before visitors showed up, because no matter how much you love your visitors, they can do quite a number on your routines. Now, everything was quiet again, and here I was, with plenty of extra time and no one to spend it with.

Jo happens to have a knack for showing up at such exact moments. This time, her daughter (and my friend), Annie, was home for a few days from her university in Dublin, and one of them had remembered my confession that I, well, had never seen Phantom of the Opera. That’s not to say I didn’t know the music by heart–original London recording all the way–but I had never actually seen the production. Since it happens to also be a handy-dandy film, Annie was organizing a movie night, to which I had no option but to attend.

So we settled in, with far more popcorn and biscuits than we probably needed, and listened to Gerard Butler belt out a mediocre version of Music of the Night, and discussed our favorite voice pairings, because it seems whenever Christine’s voice is right, the Phantom’s is all wrong, but when the Phantom is right, Christine is mediocre. We did have to go back and replay several scenes, because we were too busy singing along to actually listen, but then, why not sing along? It’s not like anyone was going to hear us, at least, besides ourselves.

It was after midnight when I finally walked home, which, in Cork, is no big deal. It was just starting to get nippy enough that I was wishing I had brought something more than just a jacket, but that’s ok. It was a good evening.

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In Which My Parents Leave For The U.S.

After all their various knocking about, it has finally come time for my parents to leave. Which is sad. People leaving is always sad, because it means they’re going away, and despite the fact that I love traveling, I don’t particularly like going away.

And today, they are going away.

It is strange, going to an airport with a backpack, and then not getting on a flight. I, obviously, had come in on a train, and I planned to leave the same way, but I was taking the long way to the train station by making a stop at the airport, first. I went all the way up to customs, and saw them off through the line, then made my way to the bus, and from the bus, to the train station, only to just miss the train, meaning I would miss class, yet again. This time I actually feel bad about missing class, because it is a class I quite like, not the class I “accidentally” miss by failing to check the time when I’m at the café.

I tried to find a book at both of the train bookstores, but no such luck. So, instead, I got a sandwich (which came with a free tea) and some chocolate from the chocolate place (along with yet another marvelous drinking chocolate!). I felt bad about tossing the tea, but it sat there, lonely and unwanted, and there really was no one for me to pawn it off on–today was perhaps the first time I haven’t seen a homeless person wander by the station. Into the bin it went, and onto the train I went, about the same time my parents’ flight was set to take off. I suppose now everyone is truly heading home.

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