Monday, 22 June 2015

*IRISH COLLEGE: Ready, Set, Lean ar aghaigh!*

                       Countdown to the annual stint in Irish College has begun.
'I NEED the big suitcase down from the attic, Mum. I'm packing.'

I regard my younger daughter blankly. Packing?
And then I remember.
She's off to Irish college this weekend. Three weeks in the Gaeltacht. Total immersion in the Irish language. 
For those not born and reared on this little island, the phenomenon might seem a bit strange. Each year, thousands of Irish children and teenagers scatter to the four corners of Ireland for their stint in one of the many Coláisti.
Whilst some board in schools, specially rented for this purpose, others stay with host families in traditional Irish speaking areas.
The format is tried and tested: classes each morning, games and sport in the afternoon, Ceilí after dinner. Hours of dancing jigs and reels leave the kids elated, exhausted and ready for sleep.
Here, in Irish college, independence is learned, lifetime friendships formed, summer romances enjoyed.
The daughter is 16 and this will be her fourth year. She's rearing to go.
'Do you have everything?' I ask, regarding the mountain of clothes on her bedroom floor.
'I might need more tee-shirts. If I forget something, I'll write.'
Old fashioned letter writing is the only form of communication allowed. No mobile phones. Or books. Not even a dictionary. By the end of the first week, most of them are dreaming in Irish.
'Will I be going to Irish college next year?' the boy asked at dinner the other night. He'll have finished his first year in secondary school by that stage. If he follows in both his sisters' footsteps, he'll be due to go.
'I'm not sure,' I said. I've found it's never a good idea to give too much away a year in advance.
'Will I get to play hurling there?' At 12, the traditional Irish sport is the real love of his life. His sisters glanced at each other.
'Probably not,' the eldest said, as gently as possible. 'It usually depends on whether they have helpers who are willing to organise it, and enough people to play.
'I'm not going, then. Anyway, I'll probably have to ask girls to dance at the Ceilí.' I struggled not to laugh at his horrified expression. 'And I'm rubbish at Irish dancing,' he added.
Meanwhile, his sister is giddy with excitement. She's returning to the same area as before.
'I wonder who'll be my Bean an Tí? I'd love to get the same house as last year.'
It won't matter. Within five minutes, she'll have made new friends. And her letters home will be funny, chatty and filled with lists of things she's forgotten.
As we say in this part of the world, the craic will be mighty.

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Have a wonderful week,
Thanks for reading,
Hugs & xx,


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