The Aran Islands

We’re waiting for the ferry. A local fisherman tells us there’s a dolphin that comes into the bay and the children swim with it. That sounds like fun until we see lots of baby jellyfish bobbing along the surface. Maybe they don’t have stingers when they’re babies but I think I’d always try having a full bladder whenever I went swimming with the little buggers.

Our first stop was to the smallest island, Inisheer, for a one hour layover. On the short walk from the pier to the local pub we were beckoned by a young man with a horse & wagon (and a cute dog). For ten euro each he’d give us a tour around the island. The island is literally covered with three foot high stone walls that outline rooms…as far as the eye can see. Some had animals in them, most were empty. He brought us over to check out a holy well (there’s a lot of them in Ireland). I don’t feel any holier for having stood there (I have to assume I’m already as holy as I can be). I would’ve drank some of the water or at least dipped my finger in it except that Bella, the dog, walked through it and had a long drink and sometimes an eel from the sea makes its way up to swim around. I decided to just stick to beer. I’m glad we never made it to the pub. We learned way more about the island from Michael than we would have with a Guinness.

We stopped long enough to pick up/drop off passengers to Inishmaan. Between all 3 islands there are less than 1300 people. Irish is their main language but most know and can speak English.

We struck up a conversation with the 3 elderly gentlemen sitting across from us on the ferry. The friendliest of the group, Michael, told us he knew where our B&B was and would drive us there. That changed after we got off the boat and he realized he misunderstood us. Our B&B was on the other side of the island which also made it the closest one, in Ireland, from America (I thought that was pretty cool). He dropped us off at his favorite pub and ordered us some Guinness while he went back and collected his two buddies from the dock. When we were all together again in the pub he called up the lady who ran the B&B (of course he knew her) and told her we were ready to get picked up. We later explained to her that it was not our idea for her to come get us. She mumbled something about him being a crazy old coot.

During our conversations over beer waiting for Maggie to pick us I was asked if I had any relatives over here. I said I was 4th generation Irish and then got an earful from crotchety old crank, Pat, about how I was NOT Irish. He went on about it for a bit and Elizabeth told him to fük off. Okay, so it wasn’t to his face but it should’ve been. I was still emotional from seeing my dead uncle, aunt & dad the day before so it felt a lot like someone sucker punched me. Welcome to Ireland…NOT! Despite the cruel way Pat got his point across I should probably be grateful because it was the catalyst of my mental journey to let go of my idealized notion of the Irish people.

After settling in at the B&B we hired the local taxi guy to show us the sights. His love for the island was evident through his stories. We learned most of what there was to know about life on Inismoor. It’s a beautiful island and although I can understand why people would want to live someplace so remote, I don’t know how well I would do with all that quiet. It is an intriguing thought though.

Over the next week we would meet people that did not welcome us with open arms. They were polite enough but had no desire to have conversations with us. Our accent even seemed to annoy some. It would take me a week and a half of wanting to escape this island and go back home before I finally let go of the romanticized feelings I had built up over my lifetime. They’re no different than the people from where I come from; they’re not friendlier, happier or more welcoming. They’re regular people with regular lives on an island with an incredible history and kick-ass marketing.

All I know for sure is that my ancestors lived, worked and loved in Ireland and their pride was passed down through the generations. I love the music both traditional and modern and now I love the land my bloodline came from. I’m proud of my heritage. I have to learn to not care what anyone else thinks about that.