It's amazing here. Just like everyone said it would be. I officially reached the halfway point of my stay yesterday; the first week seemed to last forever (not in a bad way -- just an overload of sensory stimuli) and the second flew by. The city of Armagh has more hills than Baltimore and more trees than Saginaw. It's rained almost every day and I have yet to see a sunrise, but the sunset illuminates the clouds in colors I didn't know were possible -- electric reds and pinks. It's light here until after 11pm which still messes with my jet-lagged head. I don't know if I'll ever fully adjust to the five-hour time difference -- that morning on the plane fast-forwarded to sunrise at what would've been my 3am and made everything seem sort of surreal. Customs was easy to get through at the Dublin airport and everything from there went smoothly too. That first day after being assigned my room I was woken from a nap and sent out into the city by the program director; strange currency in hand, I found lunch at a restaurant called Fat Sams and was sure they could tell I didn't belong even before they heard me speak. Speaking of which, the lilting Irish accent is lovely but I've heard so many others here as well -- Scottish, English, Belgian, and others I can't place.
The group of students I'm here with is fantastic and the words are flowing from my pencils (in various forms). I'm journaling as often as possible and satisfying my wanderlust with weekend trips to Belfast and Londonderry, the latter of which was chosen completely at the last minute, with no prior arrangements made. We wandered into town, checked into the first hostel we came to, and walked down which ever street looked the most interesting at the time. These are my first experiences with hostels and so far they've been great for meeting interesting wanderers from all over the world. It also makes the first time I've slept in a room with 8 other people -- some of whom I'd known for only a week; some I didn't know at all. I've met Irish off-duty cops, a couple of English journalism students and an American backpacker named Adam who's finishing up a three-month tour of Europe; they all had great stories.
Armagh is a ghost town after about 6pm with the exception of a couple of pubs, but it almost seems like the Irish drinking stereotype is a myth -- the pubs are more empty than full on weeknights. Even in Belfast and Derry the stores are all closed by 7pm, though the nightlife is definitely more prominent there. I've had whiskey and cider and some weird fluorescent mixed drink called Mad Frog. I've hosted a party in my hostel room and wandered off by myself to sit amidst the ruins of a 13th-century Franciscan Friary. I've stood on the hills of Giant's Causeway and listened to the crash of the ocean waves; I've sat in a room or on a bus and read poetry and plays by Irish writers. I've gone shopping and discovered new music and hunted down gargoyle statues. And of course learned so much about a history and culture other than my own.
I don't know if I would want to live here simply because I wouldn't want to become desensitized to it all. But even being here for two weeks makes me seriously doubt whether I want to go home.
This is what I see out my window every morning.