Now, what is the meaning of "craic"? It's pronounced "crack," but has nothing to do with drugs. Instead it is just an Irish expression for "fun" - and I did have a lot of it on the Emerald Isle.
The host family I stayed with was really warm and welcoming. Both parents were quite young, around their early 30s. They also had two girls, one five and one eight years of age. The older child was very nice, but her sister was a bit of a handful. She was always up to mischief, like climbing on the table or stealing food. Sometimes it was funny but it could also be annoying.
I had a real luxury room with a double bed and my own bathroom. The bathroom was very small, but it had a shower. I loved it.
The food was all right - it wasn't excellent, though. I had a lot of chips (fries). I had enough chips for a whole year in those 4 weeks! They gave me chips with everything: spaghetti, tomato sauce and chips, pizza and chips, and it just kept going on. I did get vegetables, too, and even salads. After two weeks, I really got tired of the food. Then, I was lucky enough to discover a supermarket where you can make your own pizza. They bake it for you, and it is really cheap. So, for my last two weeks, the pizza I had for lunch after school was the best food I got during that holiday.
But, I didn't come to Ireland because of the food. I came to learn English - and I did.
The school I went to was quite small, with young and very friendly teachers. I had two lessons for 90 minutes each day. The first class was Grammar. It started at 9 a.m., and lasted until 10:30 a.m. Then, there was a coffee break until 11 a.m. We could get tea, coffee, and biscuits (if we were fast enough) in the kitchen of the school. Of course, that break was always a chance to talk to other students. The next class started at 11 a.m. It was Conversation, and it lasted until 12:30 p.m.
The first week of Grammar was okay, but not that great. We had a teacher called Sean who was very friendly, but not very experienced, I think. His way of teaching was that he gave us pages photocopied from a book, then let us read the grammar rules by ourselves. After that, we had to do exercises with him. The stuff that we dealt with was very useful, though. Another thing I liked about him was that he always gave us essays to write, so I was able to practice my written English.
Then, in the second week, we got another teacher named Lily. She was really excellent. We practiced many useful grammar skills, and I really feel I have improved.
Conversation classes weren't that great always. We had three different teachers, depending on the days...
Siobhan loved talking about news. Wednesdays was Newspaper day and each one of us had to present an article out of a paper of our choice. This was often very boring. But she also told us about the Irish point of view in many issues, like the ongoing war in Iraq, and that was very interesting.
Peter always let us read short stories. We had to read them aloud, like children read aloud at school. When he read it again, it was a bit too much. And he always said, "Excellent, excellent."
Then, there was Philip, a young guy without hair. He was very nice. With him, we did what is in my opinion real conversation. We just talked about issues and topics. Once, we also discussed a short story, but in a much better way than with Peter. When I and two other students left at the end of the last week, he even gave us his email to contact him, or ask about any English issues.
I met many nice people at the school. I moved with a group of German-speaking people which was, of course, very bad for my English, as well as a group of Japanese, Korean and Chinese people. I really liked them a lot, especially one girl called Nagisa from Japan.
She was so funny. One time, she ordered MILK in a PUB! I will never forget that. Most people we were out with had a Guinness or some other beer. I had a Diet Coke. Then she went and ordered milk. I was sure she wouldn't even get it, but she did. I laughed my head off!
I didn't see as many places as I would have liked to, but I didn't have much time. I had only three whole weekends for touring.
The first weekend, on Friday, myself and four other girls rented a car and drove to the Cliffs of Moher. This is a spectacular sight, with steep cliffs right at the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was blowing there very strongly. I just loved it.
Sabine, a German girl, drove. She did it excellently and I really admired her. There was this one time when she accidentally veered into the right lane while we were talking about something. She hadn't been paying attention! But no one else was there, so all was well.
Saturday, we went to Limerick and Bunratty. Limerick is just an awful industry town with a high crime rate, but the others wanted to go there, so I joined in. I had been there before and hated it. But we stayed there for less than an hour, just long enough to have lunch, so it was okay.
What really got us annoyed was when we wanted to take the bus from Limerick to Bunratty. We had bought return tickets to Limerick, and we had passed Bunratty on the way to Limerick, so we knew it was on the route. We wanted to take the same bus that took us to Limerick in order to go back there, but the driver said he wouldn't go there. He sent us to another bus, but that driver also told us he wouldn't go to Bunratty. At the third bus, we were finally successful, but the driver told us that our tickets weren't valid. We had to pay another three Euros. I wonder if they just did that to us because they heard from our accents that we were foreigners. I hope not.
The rest of the trip was better, though. In Bunratty, there is a castle with a folk park. The folk park has an old Irish village rebuilt from the last century, with a lot of cottages with old style furniture. It was really interesting. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to look at the whole village before we had to get back.
I also loved the castle. It was huge, and there were doors everywhere to climb stairs up or down, or to go to another room and discover something new. I really loved it. I felt like a child again, one who wants to explore the world.
While we were waiting for the bus, suddenly a car stopped next to us. The woman sitting inside offered us a lift to Ennis, which is a town on the way to Galway. I really got annoyed at the girls travelling with me because they didn't want to join her. They preferred waiting for the bus. I would have gotten into the car instantly. I found it extremely nice of the woman; but, then, of course, I stayed with the others.
Now thats what I call group pressure. But at least I had a wonderful time and the bus did get us back.