Alarm Clocks in Foreign Countries

I wake up to the sound of my own chewing.

I remember the inadequate dinner served on the plane the night before. I remember a bus driver greeting us with an accent I had later decided could only be understood if I were smashed, and even then only every third word. He talked nonstop on the hour-long drive to a tiny triangular cabin that stood naked on the sandstone plain of western Ireland. There was not a tree in sight for it to cover itself with. The college dean gave us a brief and perfunctory tutorial on burning peat moss in the fireplace when we arrived. I remember the frenzy in my knees of having just arrived in a foreign country for the first time in my life. The energy it took to consciously remember everything I saw without the aid of a handheld camera.

I search for the glass of water I usually keep within arm’s reach. It is missing. I must have been completely exhausted to have forgotten that part of my long-established nighttime routine. My belly rumbles. I hear chewing again and am surprised to realize I am not its source. I look up and to the left to find a muzzle just clearing the top of a dainty lamp resting on an even daintier doily. A cow’s grisly muzzle juts out between lace curtains–the exact material I would want to chew if I were myself a cow. It occurs to me that the lamp, the doily, the bedside table are set about two feet away from the wall. Apparently, it is not the first time the cow has inserted herself into the doings of this household.

I look to the clock on the wall across from the cow, across from me. 7:48 am on my first day of a semester studying art in Ballyvaughan. The cow huffs (I imagine from the sheer disappointment of finding a confused American in his room), then backs out of the window, and I put my feet down on the hardwood floor.

35 Replies to “Alarm Clocks in Foreign Countries”

  1. That is so funny, the cow! When I visited the Scottish Highlands, I remember it took a few days before I could understand a word anyone was saying, which comes as a surprise when you know the language is English. I’ll bet your experience was wonderful!

    1. Yes! It took me most of the bus trip to realize the bus driver wasn’t speaking garlic! It was a great time, I wish I could travel unencumbered like that more. Thanks for your comment, Stacie!

  2. I googled Ballyvaughan and looked at the school link. Very interesting. I doubt many people in our part of the world have had that type of wake up call! Fun story. Thanks.

  3. This reminded me of the time we woke up to find a cow with a bell around its neck poking its head though our chalet window in Switzerland. At the exact same moment, the cuckoo clock on the wall started it’s performance. The owner had set the clock so that the cuckoo only came out of the clock from 8am until 10pm. Unfortunately we could not set the alarm on the cow and, a few mornings after, were woken up before 6am by the noise of the bell around it’s neck. It was a great holiday though.

  4. Sublime, as always!! Have never had a cow in the window myself, although when we used to holiday in North Wales as a child, there was a sheep called Megan who had been handraised from a lamb, and thought she was a dog!! Oh and Fragrant Mother and Torn-Apart both loved Candy!!

  5. That is awesome! Did the cow serve as a clock every morning? More importantly did she also provide the butter for your breakfast bread? I had no idea one could study art while staying in a cabin on the burren. I’ve seen this place once, and I’d love to go there and spend some more time. It’s amazing. Will you tell us more stories of it?

    1. I inserted a link to the school I went to, if you’re interested. It was a lovely place. The cow didn’t wake me up every morning, but most. I think the butter did come from either her or her friends, yes.

      1. Oh, I wish I could aspire to something like that, but I am content that my art is contained in music, flying, and maybe (just maybe) writing. I do want to re-visit the Burren one day though! thanks for the story. I just had another look at the pictures I took during my short visit there 🙂

  6. I feel as if you’ve really pulled me into the setting — and I want to hear more! Your fatigue and a sense of “other worldliness” come through, and you haven’t even left your bed yet. I wonder what happened when you walked out the door…

  7. That’s hilarious. I enjoyed this vivid, wonderful post. The words and phrases you chose really helped me picture this in my mind. These crazy travel experiences always make for the best stories! 🙂

      1. I have a photo of my visit there too. I actually bought a wool jumper from the sellers when I went there, the wind was so fierce.

    1. I was learning graphic design with a group from my community college. I just inserted a link to the school if you’re interested. The town only has 400 people mostly affiliated with the school so you feel as if you’re with family after a few days. The Burren is a lonely place. The most unforgettable memory I have is of the magic of walking down a road one afternoon and stumbling upon the ruins of a 15th century castle on the shore of Galway Bay. Amazing.

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