A few days after we arrived, we went on a tour of the town so that we knew where Spar, the ATM, the church, the bakery, the apothecary, and the flower shop were. The town of Gaming is a very quiet place. There is Spar which is the local grocery store, the local Parish, a shoe store, the post office, and the stationary store. The people of the town are very friendly and understanding because they know we’re study abroad students and they want us to feel welcome.
As Professor Schofield was giving our group the tour, these boys who were probably about 10 years old came up and were hanging out on their scooters near us. Professor Schofield explained to us that they might seem like little rascals who were trying to pick pocket us, but that’s just the way that we might feel coming from an American culture. In reality, they’re really just interested because we speak English and they speak a few phrases in English. She explained it to us as the way we would feel if we were studying a foreign language and a tour bus showed up at our local grocery store and dropped off a bunch of people who spoke the language we were learning. We would want to talk to them to show off our language skills and feel like we actually learned something. These boys just want to practice their language and learn a few more phrases. At the end of our tour, we went to the local parish and the TOR Friars celebrated Mass for us. Then we went to the local bakery (which is practically next door) and some people got dessert.
Going to Spar is always quite the expedition. You can’t read any of the labels because they’re in German, so basically you’re guessing at what you’re buying. I’ve never appreciated pictures on labels so much because you basically read the picture to figure out what you’re buying (except I did know what chocolate was from hearing about the cacao tea in Peru). For example, I bought a bar of chocolate that I thought was plain chocolate, but when I ate it, it turned out it had hazelnut cream in it. It was a delicious mistake though because it’s so much better than regular chocolate. But apparently a guy last semester thought he was buying laundry detergent but he bought fabric softener accidentally because he couldn’t read the label so he washed his clothes for a month with fabric softener and never knew the difference until someone figured it out. But when we bought our laundry detergent we had to figure out by the pictures on the back whether it was laundry detergent pods or dishwasher pods. Glad we clarified that because I don’t even want to know what dish soap would do to my clothes. The dryers here are wrecking enough havoc on my clothes because it takes like 4 cycles to actually dry the clothes and if it doesn’t take 4 cycles, some people have ended up with pink spots on their clothes which apparently are burn marks. Or they just straight up shrink your clothes because you have to put it on so many cycles. And no, it’s not weight gain that makes you feel like your clothes have shrunk. It really is proven (by the RD’s) that your clothes can be shrunk by the dryer.
Anyways, after our tour of town, Marissa and I decided to bike just outside of town to see the area. Biking here is different than biking in the states because it is totally acceptable for bikes to be in the road. Cars just accommodate them because it’s a normal type of transportation whereas in the states, people complain about bikers biking on the white line. In any case, Marissa had already been biking around Ireland for a week with a 30lb backpack and I had biked once all summer so it was quite the workout. Going out of town was so nice though. It was all downhill and so green and sunny and the wind was blowing through my hair…it was exhilarating. Until we decided to turn around. We were probably four miles out and it was all uphill to go back. It wasn’t steep, but it was a slow, steady, incline. Marissa was flying on ahead and my thighs were on fire two minutes in. Every single time I picked up a little speed on a straightaway (for like 5 seconds) Marissa would slam on her brakes and decide that whatever the view was, it needed to be photographed. Every. Single. Time. It was so painful.
We finally made it back into town and stopped at Spar so she could get some water. When we got back to the Kartause and were in our room, I flopped on the bed and declared that I didn’t think my butt would ever be the same again after sitting on that bike seat. It was quite the adventure, but I don’t think I would do it again unless there was someone at the bottom of the hill who would drive me back up.