Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Galway II

There’s an edge-of-the-earth feeling here in Galway, pressed up as it is against the ocean; there’s the sense of being separated from normal life. The fact that it’s (mostly) English-speaking only adds to this strangeness: it’s both familiar and unfamiliar; I’m a tourist but, at the same time, would be perfectly able to nestle inside the city if I had the time. Being a tourist feels different when I speak the language—that’s the conclusion I’ve come to over the past week in Ireland. I don’t feel like I’m on the outside looking in at a distant, though charming, new culture; but the sense of instant belonging that comes from speaking English is a false belonging. I’m still the lone traveler sitting at the bar with a book, still the American pushing aside the boiled cabbage on her dinner plate. I normally don’t get lonely traveling alone—lonely for Andrew, yes; but not lonely—because I never feel excluded from the conversation, never feel like maybe I should close the book and make small-talk with someone else half-watching the soccer match on the pub’s TV. Not understanding or speaking the language is a kind of comfortable cocoon.

The Irish leg of my journey is drawing to a close; tomorrow I head to Edinburgh. It’s a much bigger city than Galway, with a whole roster of museums and other attractions, and I’m sure the days there will pass quickly. It is nice to be exploring these new places but I’m anxious to return to Spain and pick up our cozy Barcelona life.

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