By Kristine Haroldson
After five hours on a plane, getting lost at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and another eight-hour flight, I have arrived in another world — Ireland.
I’m writing about my experiences for My Edmonds News but first, I should explain why I’m here. Thirteen years ago, a kindergarten teacher from Seattle met and fell in love with an Irish cattle farmer. They got married, and she picked up and moved to Ireland. This is the story of my aunt and uncle. It was a fairytale ending — well, almost.
When my aunt moved to Ireland, she couldn’t just go out and get a job as a teacher. In order to teach in Ireland, she had to go back to school and learn the Irish way of teaching. Even after that, it took her a while to get a job and to this day she worries about whether the need for teachers will continue. I always wanted to visit Ireland growing up, but never got around to it. In 2003, my cousin was born. I saw her a few months after she was born and get to see her once a year when my aunt comes to visit. Two years ago, before I started college, my grandparents sent me to Ireland for the first time. This year, my cousin is turning 10, so I decided that I wanted to surprise her with a visit for her birthday.
Once I arrived in Dublin, my aunt picked me up at the airport, and our journey home began. Just a few hours north of Dublin on the northern-southern border, you enter an old town where there are two-lane roads, cobblestone sidewalks and brick buildings. These buildings are considered the city, and right next door is farmland and sheep and cattle.
Spring has sprung, and in Northern Ireland, spring means new life. It’s birthing season on my Uncle James’ cattle farm in county Fermanagh. The night I arrived, he birthed one of his many cows of the season and he has even more on the way. This is one of my uncle’s busiest times of year. When his cows are calving, he will check on them every few hours. Of course, cows have the ability to give birth on their own, but there are always complications and when my uncle is around he has the opportunity to save them.
“It’s nice to have your computers, mobile phones and iPads, but nothing beats Mother Nature,” my Uncle James told me.
Most of the people in this little town have been farming since they were children, but unfortunately, there aren’t that many farmers around anymore. My uncle went to a farmers’ meeting and he was the youngest one there – and he’s in his 40s. Uncle James took over the farm from his father when he retired; it’s a family business and that’s the way they prefer it. The people in these little towns know each other and enjoy stopping to chat. And when I say they know each other, they greet each other by name and always ask about each other’s families. While my uncle and I were driving around, all he had to do was slow down and lower his window, and the passing car saw this and stopped.
Most of these northern towns have a lot of tourist sites as well, including an ancient graveyard and historic castles like Castle Coole in Enniskillen. While the large cities in Ireland are nice and have a lot of landmarks, I recommend that tourists also visit some of the smaller areas like County Fermanagh. The people are very friendly, and the history it has to offer is amazing.
My Edmonds News intern Kristine Haroldson is a recent graduate of Seattle University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She attended Meadowdale High School and the Edmonds Home School Resource Center (now Edmonds Heights K-12).