Welcome to Northern Ireland

Hello all!  I’m currently blogging from my friend Jeff’s flat in Dublin!  For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in an area of Northern Ireland that doesn’t have the best internet connection, which is why I’ve been so MIA the past week and a half! So let’s back track a bit to when I first arrived in Belfast last Thursday!

belfastairportThe Plane Ride

I was lucky enough to snag a window seat and had two friendly, talkative people sitting next to me. On the aisle side, was a Franciscan Monk, who had the longest beard I have ever seen, and sitting directly next to me was a man from Belfast who just came back from his first trip to NYC.  We all exchange stories while the plane was preparing to take off and then as soon as we were in the air, I popped in an Ambien, wanting to sleep the whole 6 ½ hours.  Little did I know my new Belfast friend had other plans and poked me awake not even 30 minutes later when our first meal arrived and continued our conversation right where we had left off.  Have you ever tried to stay awake and have a coherent conversation after slipping an Ambien? Not that fun.  But I digress, the plane ride went as smooth as possible, going through customs however? Not that smooth.

Customs

I filled out my landing card before we came into the Belfast Airport and was all ready with my paperwork proving my American income, a receipt with all my pounds, my flight out of the UK to Amsterdam and who I would be staying with.  I thought I was overly prepared.  I could not have been more wronged. When it was my turn to go up to the customs officer, our conversation went something like this:

Customs: You’re staying here for 3 ½ months? Very rare. Very rare indeed.
Hillary: Well, a general visitors pass is for six months.
Customs: And you won’t be working?
Hillary: No
Customs: Who are you staying with again?
Hillary: Joanne Gallagher
Customs: Does she live alone?
Hillary: No, with her daughter and her fiancé.
Customs: What are their names?
Hillary: Lacey Jo and Paddy
Customs: When are their birthdays?
Hillary: Umm I have no idea.
Customs: Very rare.  Very rare indeed.  What are you doing in Amsterdam in April?
Hillary: I’m going there for Queens day.
Customs: Isn’t that an outdoor love festival?
Hillary: Something like that.
Customs: Very rare.  Very rare indeed.

This “Very rare, very rare indeed” went on for another good ten minutes until she sent me into the back room to wait.  Her reasoning?  She didn’t feel quite comfortable letting me through (because I obviously look like a terrorist) but I was holding up the line and she would come back for me when the rest of the passengers made it through. Thirty minutes or so of me waiting in a room by myself, thinking of all the Crime shows I watch on a regular basis and how officers interrogate people, she finally came back in. I of course had the worst case scenario already running through my head: I would be handcuffed and shipped back to the states. Thankfully, it wasn’t that dramatic.  She sat across from me with my passport and a phone in her hand, saying she tried to call Joanne but the number did not go through.  She then, began to question me, thinking I had given her a false number.  I tried to explain that I had never actually called Joanne on that number, and we’ve just been facebooking and Whats-Apping on our phones. We eventually figured out the country code and the officer was able to get a hold of her.  She talked to her privately outside and came back in, saying, Joanne didn’t know about my April plans to Amsterdam.  I answered back, “No she doesn’t know.” With a look of hesitation, she finally let me through, but not without remarking about how lucky I am I was able to get into the UK without a return ticket to the US.  Who knew it would be that much of a hassle?!

Northern Ireland, My hosts and the Farm

Northern Ireland welcomed me to their lovely little country just as I expected: with lots of rain.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive however from the Belfast Airport to Joanne and Paddy’s home in Gortnaghey.  It has amazing green scenery, mountains, and sheep! Loads and loads of sheep!!!!

Joanne and Paddy’s house is about a five-minute drive from Paddy’s dad farm which he works on.  Their house is lovely but way out in the sticks! No internet connection or cell phone reception (I still have to get an international phone) and no shower! Only bath time here, which brings me back to a time of playing rubber ducky when I was just a “ween”.  Joanne and Paddy have a cozy fireplace that is almost always light and has the house smelling like camp fire, my favorite smell in the world.

Joanne and Paddy have been wonderful hosts so far and have the cutest daughter I have ever laid eyes on, Lacey-Jo.

Joanne and Paddy
Joanne and Paddy
Lacey Jo
Lacey Jo

The food

The food here is completely different and I must admit, my stomach hasn’t quite gotten used to it yet.  As you could have guessed, the Irish love their potatoes. Mashed potatoes, chips (french fries) eggs, bread and butter are typical foods to have throughout the day. Instead of yogurt and granola for breakfast, we have eggs and bread.  Instead of a salad for lunch, its a ham sandwich and dinner is typically a combination of meat and potatoes. Luckily for me, Joanne is a fabulous cook! My waistline is already proving that!

Family

What I have found that I love most about this area is the closeness of family. Paddy’s family (which includes his mom, dad, two brothers and a sister) call on each other several times a day (they live right down the road).  Whether it’s for tea and a small meal or just to quickly say hello, we see them several times a day.  Joanne’s family also calls on the house several times a week, or phones often.  I love the feel of a big family and how intimate everyone is with each other.

This Past Thursday when I went down into the kitchen, Paddy said Happy Anniversary!  Joanne looked at him saying, “What?!” And he looked at me saying, “Happy one week of being in Ireland!” I’m so grateful for both their love and support being here! I’m currently in Dublin until this upcoming Thursday and will update more as the days come!

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