Yesterday I had a new Waterford experience: I rented (“hired,” they say here) a bicycle and went for a ride on the Waterford Greenway. The Greenway is a 40-odd-kilometer paved pedestrian/cycleway that runs from Waterford city centre to Dungarvan. Several companies rent bicycles for the Greenway–and provide shuttle bus service if one gets to Dungarvan and doesn’t want to make the return trip! I did not even try to go all the way but did go to the halfway-ish point at Kilmacthomas, 18km from where I started at the WIT Arena. And I rode all the way back–no shuttle bus for me. The riding is pretty easy; you can set your own pace and there are lots of places to take breaks. I only wish the saddle of my bike had been a little softer, but at least the scenery was gorgeous and the weather was perfect:
I’m kind of surprised that I managed to bike that entire distance (a little over 22 miles) withou being in agony this morning. I was tired by the end but very glad I did it. The Greenway is gorgeous and it’s been a real economic boon to the area. It’s obviously very popular: yesterday was a slow day (from what I was told, everyone was at the beach) but the coffee shops and restaurants were doing a land-office business. Maybe next year I can make it all the way to Dungarvan!
This afternoon after class we had another “sporty” experience: the students got to try out hurling and Gaelic football with 3 members of WIT’s GAA club. Inevitably they go in a little reluctant: it’s late in the program; everyone is tired and starting to get stressed out about their class assignments; the outing is scheduled after a class day when it’s normally time for some food or a nap. But inevitably they end up having a great time trying to learn the basics of these sports. There’s just something about getting to kick a ball around or try to hit one with a stick that brings out everyone’s energy.
I can’t explain hurling, of which I know very little, and I really can’t explain Gaelic football, of which I know nothing. What I can say is that Gaelic sports are incredibly beloved here in Ireland. There are local clubs for every age level; people play for and/or support the counties that they were born in forever–our colleague Paraic is a Waterford hurler and coach married to a Kilkenny girl; to his cheerful consternation, his kids play for Kilkenny because that’s where they live. Even the top-level teams that play for national championships are purely amateur: sponsors pay the team’s expenses but players don’t get paid. Seeing our students catch a little of that enthusiasm is so much fun. This outing always ends up being one of the main things they remember and talk about.
Tomorrow we go to An Rinn, which is Co. Waterford’s gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) to visit an Irish-language school, a famine graveyard, and the Ardmore cliff walk. Stay tuned to see if I learn any new words in Irish!