Thursday, May 25, 2006

My first day back at home was spent in pajamas, just like I intended. I've fallen asleep earlier and gotten up earlier due, I guess, to the time difference between here and Ireland, but I feel rested. Today I'm washing about 5 loads of laundry and feeling lucky to have a dryer. Most people in Ireland still use clotheslines for drying. They have automatic washers, but no dryers. They impress me as being a very frugal people, not spending on anything much but necessities. Why pay for electricity to dry clothes when the sunshine and air are free?

The houses there are very modest with lace curtains in most of the windows, just my style. They seem to be more ecologically minded than Americans. They recycle everything, waste very little; most cars have 4 cylinders, a few 6, no 8; and they walk, cycle, and use public transportation way more than we Americans do, except maybe in NYC. Most labor there is organized, so Irish people make a decent wage, which makes for a stronger middle class and much less disparity between the haves and the have-nots. There are B&B's everywhere, seems anyone with a spare suite (bedroom & bath) offers it for rent to visitors. There is much less suburban sprawl, and the downtowns are still thriving shopping centers. The crime rate is low, the people are friendly and helpful, the prices posted are what you pay, no tax added.

There were some American advantages I missed - wide interstates, rest stops along the highways, C-stores with restrooms. I would have really enjoyed biscuits with the Irish breakfast, but they think a biscuit is a cookie. There were no wash cloths, they use hand towels or their hands for bathing. The tv programming was awful, but they had very few commercials.

Temperance is not a virtue there, and their public language is sprinkled with words we censor here. Everyone there is addressed as "Love," Would you like more coffee, Love? Do you need a ride, Love? Lost are you, Love? One of their more endearing qualities, for sure.

One of the best things that resulted from this trip is that Mike learned to fend for himself. He is able to dress himself completely, socks, shoes and brace included. He's much more relaxed about the dogs and cats being outside. He made a new friend of our neighbor Art, and learned there are several others who care enough to help. He hasn't had the first tantrum since I've been home, his expectations seem to be more realistic, and his self-confidence has increased. He seems happier and more peaceful. He's even seen new movement in his left foot. He's been complimentary of all the arrangements I made for him while I was gone. It was a good experience for him.

Benji has posted the pictures we took on his website:

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