Thursday, October 25, 2001

So, Where's the Bus?

So, Where’s The Bus?

Our house ‘mother’ and owner of the guesthouse booked us for the bus and then the ferry to the Aran Islands. We were up early for breakfast, but it was pouring rain in sheets. The wind was like a gale force and we were nervous about the ferry ride, then having to walk all over the island to tour it. The bus was supposed to be out in front waiting for us at 9:15 am. We were ready like a couple of school children waiting for the bus on our first day of school. We had our bags packed for a day of adventure and our umbrellas in hand ready to go into service. Patty told us that the bus usually stops right in front of the house, but since we chose a company that she has never used before, she was not sure what they would do. Between this house and the three houses on either side of it, there is a private little street between the houses and the street.

We waited for the bus and then waited for the bus some more. At 9:30, Patty called the bus company again. They were on their way. By 9:50, the bus had not arrived yet and Patty called again, this time with her Irish in an uproar. She blasted them about their lack of customer service and swore she would never use them again. The ferry leaves at 10:30 am and if the bus were to arrive now, it would be too late for us getting to it. We to told Patty we would rebook it for tomorrow, if she could arrange that. With our plans for the day dissolved, we had to change our agenda.

Ron had wanted to visit Knock, a small town with a shrine that his (our) friend Sheila had told him about. We took the bus into town and checked the buses to Knock. There were not that many options, so we decided to take the noon bus there and the 4:10 pm bus back to town. With an hour to spare, we ran to the Internet to check for an e-mail from Ron’s sister-in-law with family heritage information. He wants to discover his roots while we are here.

The bus ride was as wild as the bus ride coming from Dublin. These buses are like riding the Whip ride at the carnival. You are flung from one side to the other, and then back again. If you like scary rides at the fair, you will love these bus rides. Fortunately, this ride only lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. We arrived in the town of Knock, a little town filled with souvenir shops, all of a religious nature. The hottest item and the best deals were the plastic bottles of all sizes and shapes to be used for bringing holy water home with you. The shops also contain prayers to every saint imaginable, rosaries, religious books, and postcards of the shrine.

Ten acres is a conservative estimate of the size of the shrine and the buildings associated with it. For those of you who are not Catholics and for those of you Catholics who are not current with your shrines of the world, let me enlighten you about the Shrine of Knock. On August, 21, 1879 there appeared an apparition of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist near the Church of Knock. The Blessed Virgin was dressed in all white, but wore a crown with a rose in the center. St. Joseph was on her right wearing white robes and St. John on her left was dressed as a Bishop with a book in his hand. Beside the figures was a white plain altar with a lamb standing on it facing west. Behind the lamb was a large white cross. Angels floated over the lamb for the duration of the apparition.

Fifteen people witnessed the apparition, which is said to have lasted for two hours. The witnesses, who included men, women, and children, stood in the rain watching reciting the rosary at the same time. The Archbishop set up a commission of enquiry six weeks later. Another commission was arranged in 1936 with only three witnesses still alive. One hundred years later, Pope John Paul II came to Knock to honor the area and the apparition. The Virgin Mother was named the Queen of Ireland.

In the Church of the Apparition, there are large statues of the apparition as it was described and the artwork is incredibly beautiful. Outside of this church are fifteen water fountains with Holy Water for the collecting by the faithful. Also on the grounds is a small museum that shows the testaments of the witnesses and life in the area at the time. There is a home for retired ‘handmaidens’ of the shrine, a home for the elderly, an information center, a bookstore, Chapel of Reconciliation, Office for Vocations, and an outdoor rosary garden.

For those of you interested in your genealogy, there is a web site if you family comes from county Mayo. There are probably sites associated with this for other counties, but I have not checked it out. Since we have been here, my Aunt Carolyn e-mailed to say she found out one of my great grandmothers was Dutch. Perhaps that is why I love Holland so much, but if that were the case I should also love Ireland as much and Italy more if it is proportional to your heritage mix.

In the lobby of one of the churches was a Book of Sorrows for Americans. It was interesting that there were at least one hundred pages with twenty lines each, filled with signatures and comments regarding the September 11, tragedy. It struck me how loving and caring people are around the world when something catastrophic happens. Before September 11th, the initials WTC would probably not mean much to too many people outside of New York City, but since then it is synonymous not only with the World Trade Center, but hatred and horror besides.

We barely had time for a cup of tea at the local café before it was time to catch the bus for another eventful ride back to Galway. We were looking for a pub meal and went into a pub we had not been to before. We were looking over the menu and the waitress said there was no food being served since they get their food from the restaurant next door. The restaurant was booked solid with graduations. In October? We started making bets on the waitress. She was definitely American. My guess was that her parents were Irish and she has dual citizenship, so is working in Ireland. When she returned we questioned her. I was close. Her grandfather is Irish and migrated to the States. She was here working on a student visa since she just graduated from the University of Chicago and was in the process of getting her Irish visa. Envy set in again.

For once I was hungry, so we went to the local Chinese restaurant. I knew that I would not be able to eat much so we ordered Kung Pao chicken for the spice, fried rice, and fried noodles. The noodles were comfort food and I saw them at the table next to us and they looked good. Even though I couldn’t taste it, it felt good to have hot food for a change and the texture was pleasurable. For many nights, Ron has been picking up ‘snacks’ for his dinner and I usually have a cup of tea. Not a terribly exciting day, but those are okay too. It creates balance and less for you to read.

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