There is no indefinite article in the Irish language. So the absence of the definite article—an or na—indicates the indefinite. I used the definite article in my title for a reason. I am not going to talk about a good day which presupposes the existence of other good days. I am going to talk about the one full day of sunshine I have had here in Gleann Cholm Cille. Luckily for me, it coincided with my only day off. We work from Sunday to Friday from ten in the morning till ten at night. But on Saturday, ligim i mo scíth—I relax. Well, not really. I chose to go for a twenty mile walk as my relaxation. And it was the most incredible walk of my life. I walked along the road 6 miles to the small town of Málain Bhig and its famous beach Trá Ban—Silver Strand.
After Trá Ban, I walked up into the hills. There was no trail, but I knew if I kept the sea to my right—ar mo dhéis—I would eventually link up with Sliabh Líg, the tallest ocean cliff in Europe. I had to trek through some bogs which attempted to steal my boots, but I eventually reached the summit and new favorite place on earth.
Perched atop this rocky outcropping, I ate my lunch and wondered at the beauty of Dún na nGall and Ireland more broadly. From this point, I could see my two favorite mountains Sliabh Líg and way beyond that Ben Bulben. I could even see the distant peaks of Maigh Eo and Gaillimh. But the time I finished Sliabh Líg, I was exhausted and simultaneously rejuvenated. It was the good day.
I don’t know if you have heard this before, but it rains a lot in Ireland. In fact, it has rained every day this week. Not a raging downpour mind you, but a steady drizzle. Talking about the weather has taught me the dozens of different phrases the Irish have for rain. It’s incredible: ag cur báistí, ag cur fearthainne, ag clagarnach/greadach/batráil báistí, etc. Nevertheless, the rain has stopped no one from having a big of craic. I did some wet hiking yesterday, but had pleasant company despite the rain.
I have been spending eight hours a day every day in the classroom. We do a lot of talking. Which is great. I am hearing the language much more clearly and I am even able to pick up dialectical variants. My vocab and confidence are making huge leaps forward. But it is exhausting. During my lunch break I need silence. So, I go down to the river. I brought my fly rod with me this year, and I am glad I did. Hearing the river murmur as I eat my lunch is a great way to hit reset and get ready for another sustained push towards fluency. Here is a little guy I caught and promptly let go. Of course, I caught a much bigger brown trout (bréac donn) but I didn’t get a photo. Sure, if you believe that…
After a long journey, I made it to Gleann Cholm Cille, Co. Dún na nGall. It is said here that the town is so remote, the next closest parish is Boston. And as you can see, there are more sheep than people by a wide margin. I have just started classes, and I would like to share a bit of etymology with you, dear reader. First, the name of the town. It is an Irish name comprised of three different words. Gleann is, you guessed it, a glen. Cholm Cille, however is a bit more unusual. Colmcille was a 6th century saint associated with Scotland and Ireland. He is often referred to now as St. Columba. But his name, Colmcille, is comprised of two Irish words. Colm means dove and Cille means church. So, I am staying in the glen of the dove of the church. There you go. Secondly, Donegal or Dún na nGall means the fort of the stranger. In Irish, Gael means native and Gall means foreigner. Dún, you will have guessed, means fort. Sin é (that’s it) for now.
I have three days before I head off to Dún na nGall. I am excited to return to one of my favorite places in Ireland, but I am also a bit nervous about my language skills. In the two months since taking my final exam in Irish 202, I feel like I have lost all my competency. I know this isn’t true–I have had a few conversations with Irish language learners and speaks as well as maintaining a massive streak on Duolingo–but nevertheless I feel nervous about it. Here’s to hoping I can shake off the rust rather quickly. Feicfidh mé sibh go luath,