After five months in South East Asia, it was a bit of a culture shock to return home. I lessened the pain a bit by spending five days in Geneva and Marseille, enjoying the sun and the wind without perspiring and just catching up with my brother who has built a fabulous life for himself in the Swiss city, even if he needs to escape most weekends.
Arriving into Galway felt really strange. I was, after all, on a gap year. But as soon as I met my two and a half year old niece, Sofia, who thought I had been living in 'Toyland' since Christmas, I knew that coming home to catch up was a great idea.
Thankfully, I had found space in my rucksack for some plastic food for her massive kitchen, which she had been given at Christmas.
The two weeks at home have been a whirlwind of medical appointments, catching up with friends and family, and enjoying the 'craic' of just being in Galway at this time of year. Thankfully, the weather was reasonably o.k. for my fortnight of cycling around while my car has been stowed away up my friend Kev's boreen in An Spideal.
It all felt so surreal when I found myself at a 'work wedding' two nights after coming home, and staying out at my sister's house with no wheels to take me into town.
But the June Bank Holiday Weekend, with the Salthill Fives, the Latin Quarter festival, and the power boating down at the docks, reminded me of how fabulous my native city can be when the sun shines. Nights out on Quay Street were as enjoyable as at a major Spanish fiesta, with people from all over the world enjoying the live Cuban sounds. Fair play to all the businesses in the Latin Quarter for putting such a fabulous festival together.
I called into the office and suddenly felt a huge sense of relief that I didn't have to cover GAA club matches, but the relief disappeared somewhat when I went through a big pile of bank statements! But, what the hell, you can't really put a price on the experience of getting out and having an adveture after so many years in the same job in my home town.
I had to see the GP about my ear infection, the dentist about a filling, and go back to the GP after suffering a foot injury .... my special arch supports tore into my muscles after a few days of walking the Salthill prom, and it dawned on my that I had been either barefoot or in flip_flops for all of my time in Thailand and Malaysia.
Seeing my friends Keith, Kevin, and Ian so happy with their families in their lovely homes really gave me a lift, given the troubled times we used to have in our younger days. Visiting my Granny in Caltra was another highlight, it's not often you meet 96 year olds with such a zest for life and tall tales about rough people who showed disrespect to the authorities a long time ago.
So, it's time to get back on the road. I'm off to Bilbao and San Sebastian on Saturday, for a month of classes in my favourite European city. Hopefully, by July, I should have a reasonable command of Spanish ... if I'm not gored by a bull in Pamplona where the bulls will be running during my time in the Basque Country!
Ayudante Profile #5: Concepcion
2 months ago