Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Is maith liom Corcaigh (I like Cork)

Christmas time: city centre by night

On August 27th, I left my beloved Belgium for a country I hardly knew anything about: Ireland. I had read in my guide book that the best way to discover Cork was to arrive by boat. This is why I departed from Roscoff (Brittany) to set out on a fourteen hour journey through the Celtic Sea. From the beginning, I knew I was about to experience some of the most enriching months of my life.
Green telephone booth in Kinsale

I immediately started registering random stuff about Ireland: it is a country where telephone booths are green and where chewing gums are not sold on campus. I also noticed that the mayonnaise has a different (/bad) taste and that it is perfectly normal to serve pasta bake with French fries. Irish people call clovers shamrocks and dwarfs leprechauns. Supermarkets are open 24 hours a day and most shops do not close on Sundays. Also, you should not be surprised to bump into a couple taking wedding pictures in the university gardens or to receive emails inviting you to the funeral of a student. Funnily enough, Irish people (including professors) like to wear training pants to go to the theatre. But the strangest thing is perhaps that one can order a glass of milk or a cup of coffee in French Fries shop.

Main quadrangle

Campus is one of the most beautiful places in the city and the prospect of passing by the main quadrangle is enough to get you out of bed to go to college. If I had to pick two classes out of the four I took, I would choose Anglo-Irish literature and Introduction to Modern Irish. The first one is a very good introduction on Irish poetry, drama and novels in English, for which you will get to write essays and to read Irish novels. If you follow an introductory course to Modern Irish - which by the way is a very interesting and beautiful language – and if you want to practice, you will quickly discover that Irish people tend to answer ‘I’m fine thank you’ to the question ‘where are you from?’ Indeed, “the language is there but it’s not spoken”, as described in this video.

There are lots of things to do in Cork during weekends. Do not miss the various festivals such as Cork film festival or Cork culture night where you can visit writers’ houses or enter the City Hall to watch short films for free. If you want to meet up with friends for lunch or dinner, there are lots of cool places you should try, such as the sushi bar Dashi in Cook Street or Captain Americas in South Main Street. Crane Lane, An Brog and Franciscan Wells are very good pubs and live concerts are organised in some of them.

To prevent you from feeling confused or embarrassed, here are a few things you might need to know: It is first important to know that Irish humour is particular. Also, if an Irish person answers “I will yeah” to one of your requests, do not expect anything, it means No. If people talk to you about ‘crack’, do not run away immediately, they might simply be talking about the ‘craic’ (Irish for fun) they had last night. You will also soon discover that Irish girls tend to dress rather provocatively at night but are super friendly. So do not look at your roommates with a look of surprise when you see them dressed to hit the dance floor for the first time.

Last pint of Bulmers (Irish Cider)

Having to leave Cork was definitely the most difficult part of my stay. However, I managed to say goodbye to this wonderful city by leaving it step by step. Sandrine and I planned a trip to Galway and Dublin before catching our flight back home. Needless to say I still miss Cork and more particularly the way Irish people tend to overuse expressions such as fuck sake or fair enough and how they add ‘like’ at the end of every sentence. Getting used to speak French again was pretty difficult, particularly during the first week when I kept apologizing in English if I happened to hit someone with my umbrella on the street. Unfortunately, bad weather is something Belgium and Ireland have in common.

Marie Defraigne

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