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I had a job to do, and woke up brainstorming about the best way to do it.  You see, when I first got to Europe I emailed artist & author Christine Mason Miller and asked if I could be a Book Fairy for her 100 Books Project, wherein Christine has wrapped 100 copies of her book, Ordinary Sparkling Moments, written “This is a gift for you.  Yes, YOU,” on the front, and given them to Book Fairies to courier them to all corners of the world and leave them in conspicuous places so they will be picked up by a stranger who becomes the recipient of the gift.  She was glad to oblige my request, and her package sat waiting for me in Hamburg until I was done with my work assignment.  The original plan was to deliver the book to Berlin since it is one of Christine’s favorite cities, but thanks to my colander-like brain I went to Berlin and left the book in Hamburg.  Plan B was rapidly developed: I would deliver the book to the most purely Irish location we would visit which is, hands down, Inis Mór.

So as this morning arrived, Eric and I had some prep work to do before our bus tour at 11:30am.  Would we leave the book at the ancient fort, Dún Aonghasa?  Or at Na Seacht dTeampaill (The Seven Churches)?  Leaving it at a tourist site would give the book a greater chance of being picked up before weather ruined it, but there was no way to be sure and we didn’t want to inadvertently leave litter at a historical site.

As we discussed the options over breakfast, I heard the B&B owner’s wife, Cáit offering breakfast to a fellow traveler; both were speaking Irish.  I seized the opportunity for a little more practice and ended up speaking with the traveler, Conor, both in and about the Irish language.  It seems that the language was taught, for many years, as a compulsory subject in the schools, and was taught more as a duty than an enthusiasm.  It was a literary rather than conversational language, as students were forced to pore over ancient poetry and literature and often got to leaving cert level without really knowing how to converse or use the language in any practical way.  The unfortunate result is that many Irish people hate the language, and there continues to be embarrassment and disdain toward it rather than pride and enthusiasm.  I find this very sad, and I hope that academics will change the way they present the language so that it can be reclaimed  as a point of national pride.

I also practiced my Irish with Cáit, who as an island native was very excited and encouraging toward me.  She even gave me her email address and offered to be a Skype-pal so I can practice conversing in the language!  I plan to take her up on it.  I asked her if she could help me translate into Irish Christine Mason Miller’s statement, “This is a gift for you.  Yes, YOU.”  Since this island is inhabited by native speakers, I wanted to extend the invitation to them as well as the tourists who ebb and flow like tide over the island every day.  We got it figured out and I wrote it next to Christine’s: “Seo bronntanas duit.  Is ea, duitse.”  (pronounced “shuh brawn-tuh-nus gwitch.  Sheah, gwitch-shuh.”)  Perfect!

Putting our luggage in safe keeping for the day, we headed down to the pier to meet Máirtín for the bus tour.  As we passed by the Aran Sweater Market, I wondered whether we should leave the book tucked in among the piles of sweaters?  It would stay dry, at least.  But then I noticed the beautiful Celtic Cross monument in the square opposite the market, facing the road up from the pier to the village.  This would be a good place for sure!  It’s picturesque, symbolic of the culture of both Ireland and Inis Mór, and in a spot where people get up close to read the monument plaque anyway so they would get close enough to the package to read the invitation.  The morning ferry was docking, so there would be a lot of traffic at this point.  I ran up and placed the package there, took a few pictures, and started to walk away when one of the other bus tour guides offered, “Hey there, ye left yer parcel.”  I let him in on the plan, and he seemed both entertained and intrigued.  I ran back to the bus tour and we set off for the fort.

Dún Aonghasa was our first stop, a 20-minute hike from the village of Cill Mhuirbhí (Kilmurvey).  This semi-circular stone fort opens up to the 300-foot high cliffs of the north side of the island, a site not for the acrophobic.  It lies on fertile soil so the landscape of the fort is that of large limestone slabs layered with bright green grass and moss – altogether a totally stunning location.  Eric and I were pretty brave, hanging our heads over the edge of the cliff and even getting our picture taken from a stone seat near the edge. My own particular brand of acrophobia kicks in several hours after the actual frightening event, so I wasn’t visited with panic attacks until bedtime that night!

Back in the village we got some water and visited with the village dog until the bus took off for the rest of the island.  The other highlight was Na Seacht dTeampaill, which actually means “Seven Churches” but is a site where two churches and five other buildings once sat, and where one of the island’s graveyards has stood since Romans first laid gravestones there in the 8th century A.D.  Some Roman gravesites still exist in the far corner, the stones still surprisingly intact.

The three-hour bus tour also took us to the far edge of the island, to the Man of Aran cottage (built by American filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty for use in his 1933 film “Man of Aran”) and to a few other sites.  Eric and I particularly enjoyed the tour guide, who repeated all facts at least four times so that they were drummed into our head:

“The main crop of the island is potatoes…potatoes are the main crop of the island…”

“There are four freshwater lakes on the island…this here is one of the freshwater lakes, there are four on the island…freshwater lakes…”

“Sheep were brought to the island but their legs had to be tied up to prevent them from jumping the fences, so they didn’t do too well here…the main crop of the island is potatoes…”

After the bus tour finished we got some lunch within plain view of the 100 Books Project parcel, which still sat undisturbed on the Celtic Cross in the main square.  Cameras at the ready, we captured a few people checking out the package, but no takers.  By the time we left the village a couple hours later, still no takers!  The tour guide who I’d let in on the project that morning laughed and said, “Ye see, we’re too honest here!  Ye’d do better in Galway!”  That’s probably true, but my love for the island had been cemented by then, and I wanted someone there to benefit from Christine’s beautiful book.

Aboard the ferry, we watched the square on our zoom lens, but as we pulled out of the dock the book still stood, patiently waiting for its recipient to take it home.  I am so curious to know its fate!  But of course, I may never know.

In no time we were back on the mainland and had found our lodging for the next two nights, the Amber Hill B&B in Galway, by far the most beautiful place we’ve stayed.  Decorated in Tuscan red and gold with luxurious touches everywhere, it’s obviously lovingly owned by two men who took great care of us.  We brought a take-away dinner and settled in for the night; the next few days would be pure tourism, but we wanted to savor the time we’d had on Inis Mór, with its beautiful history and wonderfully friendly people, and the Irish culture more intact than anywhere else we’ve been.  I can’t wait to go back.

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