Witty Chilli

I’ve been meaning to write this piece about my funny experience on a bus for a while now. All this wedding malarkey has left this anecdote on the back-burner, but now it’s made it’s way onto our little blog to be shared with all of you*.

(I want to write “ye”, the plural form of “you” in Irish slang, but I’m fairly sure my wife wouldn’t allow such colloquial abuse of the English language).

Every year there is an enormous of tourists staying in this part of Brazil for the summer season, from December to the middle of March. It’s mostly South Americans from places such as Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. But the absolute majority, my guess would be about 80% of the total, are from Argentina.

I was on a Praina bus (more like a 52 seater tour coach) from Bombas to Meia Praia in March 2010, on my way to a friend’s place.

Just picture it jammed with Blue & White!

So I got on the bus with my big backpack. I asked the driver if I should stow my backpack below, as I got on the bus. He said take it onboard with me, so I did. When we passed through Bombinhas, a load of Argentinians got on the bus, almost filling it. Then in Porto Belo, even more of them got on the bus. So now it was standing room only, the aisle was totally blocked actually, and I was in a seat near the back of the bus (with my backpack on my knees) near the back of the bus.

When we got to Meia Praia, I got out of my seat with the backpack… awkwardly I may add. As I tried to make my way to the front of the bus, I pulled the cord to call the attention of the driver to stop at the next bus stop. As I manoeuvred to the front, I was astounded by the ignorance of the Argentinians who would not let me by easily, as they chattered away noisily in Spanish. All this despite the fact that I was repeatedly asking;

“consença?” (it’s slang for “excuse me” in Portuguese)

And there was absolutely no response or helpful movement from the throng of Argentinians!

At this stage, I had the fully loaded backpack held aloft, clear over my head, as there was nowhere else to have it. Nearly loosing my famous calm nature, I contemplated pushing my way to the front, possibly using my bulky backpack as a battering ram!

However I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, calming my frayed nerves temporarily. Then a greasy, hairy Argentinean passenger (just imagine Maradona after a rough St. Paddy’s day) completely barged his bulky frame against me, in order to answer his phone (which was in his pocket)… delightfully to regale all of us in his unique loud accent! This way the breaking point for me… I instinctively (without thought) let forth a bellow of a voice… forcefully shouting;

Meu Deus do céu, com licença Argentinos!!!

(Which means “my Lord above, excuse me Argentinians!”… more or less “get out of my fecking way!”).

Instantly I had the full attention of every single passenger. I now realised that most of the passengers were definitely Argentinean, by the intensity of the glaring at me.

This was a very awkward situation for me, who knows, I could have had a bus load of Argentinians kicking my ass! All the possibilities for escape rushed through my head at lightning speed… none looked promising.

But then this happened… a single chirpy voice, near the front, replied…

Chile!

To my relief the entirety of the bus burst out in laughter, and my pale Irish skin was saved, by a hair’s breath. Thank God that patriotic Chilean wasn’t shy about differentiating himself from the seasonal hoard of Blue & White.

My way to the front was then full of smiles and back-pats from the Argentinians. Unfortunately I never got to see which passenger it was that shouted “Chile”… if only to thank them for their genius-like comic timing. So as I was handing the driver my ticket, I added one final comment.

“Da próxima vez, a minha bagagem abaixo ne?” (Which means “the next time, my luggage below eh?” in my basic Portuguese) I said, with a friendly smile and plenty of eyebrow raising at him, to get my point across.

He just shrugged his shoulders and responded; 

“Talvez” (it means “maybe”).

What a cheeky git!

See, no matter what you think of buses back in Europe… here in Brazil they are always a great opportunity for a bit of “craíc”!  🙂

{CRAÍC is Irish for “fun, messing, good times, etc”}.

Waves to Release Us… Awareness to Inspire Us

Sitting at the beach; sounds, sights and smells… they can unburden us.

It’s not as big of a waste of time as some may lead us to believe. At first appearance we are not doing much, just sitting there… practically motionless.

I see it as an investment in our own mental wellbeing, in the form of precious time.

Don’t you agree?

Tea Steam (via Imagery of Light)

What a marvelous thing to be captured. A talented person took this picture.

Doesn’t it just bring memories flooding back of cold mornings with a scorchio cup of tea, steaming it’s vapours aloft… all the flavours and delights of a simple nice cuppa.

Tea Steam © Sheila Creighton 2010 … Read More

via Imagery of Light

What’s to a family name?

Image via Wikipedia

Cuchulainn carries Ferdiad across the river

I placed my hand upon a wall.

This same wall has stood for centuries. Each stone placed there with care and attention by one of my ancestors. Even I have been part of this continuous process of maintaining our mark on the land we call home.

I gazed out over our valley.

A curve of hill and scoop of lake. From an untouched forest covering all except water, it was made habitable by my own kin. The place was a front line for the defence of the Kingdom of Connacht. One such fortress still leaves it’s trace, not a stones throw from my family’s kitchen. Men who knew Cet mac Mágach, Ferdiad, Fráech, Fergus mac Róich and King Ailill mac Máta, once stood watch here… waiting for the challenges of the North and East as they would cross the river Shannon, making themselves forever remembered by doing so.

Heritage, pride & honour.

We earned our Name… we are the product of our actions. My family were the guardians of the Royal seat at Ráth Cruachan (modern-day Rathcroghan), even residing as Kings of Connacht many times also. There was also once an ancestor of mine, ruling the five kingdoms as Ard Rí (High King of All Ireland) with his throne on the Hill of Tara.

Queen Maedhbh’s chaos once swept through this place. My family played its role in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, no doubt that Finnbhennach (the White-horned Bull) grazed the field’s of my ancestors as they were entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the most prized herds of ancient Ireland. Who knows, Cúchulainn (the greatest warrior of Irish history) may well have layed his feet on the same spot as I now reside, during his many adventures and quests, especially since he was at war with Connacht in his final battles.

So I rest myself from a day paying homage to my heritage.

Walls rebuilt, ancient water culverts maintained, trees cleared of ivy so that they may preside over our home for another generation.

Since the days of the Tuatha Dé Danann, there has been a legacy forming on this ground… I intend to honour and continue it. Our sons and daughters will be named after the legendary heroes of their heritage, and we will instill in them the same sense of pride.

This field, this wall, this tree, this grassy knoll and apparent hollow of ground… it is all steeped in our legacy. Were one part of it to be altered for the sake of modern vanity, then we would be disgracing our past heritage and future legacy.

In generations to come, our descendents will know we protected what is their’s by birth right.

Horsehair cigarettes and intimidating moustaches

Charming green & red Soviet era train

One day, the Leprechaun found himself on a train in Russia, making his way from Moscow to Minsk.

Paint the picture for yourself, an “overnight-er” train as they call them. Soviet Era trains, that you sleep on (bunk-bed style). Most trains there are like this as journeys can be very very long, such as the ones that make the trip to the city of Vladivostok (Pacific coast of Russia). You can spend weeks on these things.

Well, in comparison to that I was only taking a short skip to Minsk. I had gotten on the train on a Sunday evening in Moscow. I was scheduled to arrive in Minsk sometime around lunchtime the next day. Of course, the border cops would make that arrival time as unlikely as they could… wait, I’ll get to that incident in a minute.

So, there I was making an eijit of myself trying to ask the stern looking lady attendant in the carriage…

“How much do the bedclothes cost?” (in broken Ruski, of course)

She was not amused or enthusiastic about my fledgling Russian language skills. Instead she kept answering me in a strong Moscow accent, something too fast for me to translate. So, I just relied on my age-old solution to such situations… I took out a $20 (US dollar) note, as if it cost that much! And she immediately stopped speaking… looked at me and quietly asked…

“Американо?” [pronounced; Americano]… (in a whisper)

HA! Got her attention.

” Нет, Польский.” [pronounced; Nyet, Polski]. I replied, it means “No, I’m Polish“…

Well I wanted her attention, not the attention of the guys who would mug me in the middle of the night. All I had to do was make her think I couldn’t speak the language, not make myself a cash-waving target.

Risky move though, it was possible she could have spoken Polish too. But that’s where the luck of the Irish swooped in and saved my hyde.

All the conversation consisted of from this point on, was eye gestures and hand signals. Sweet!

So, for my few roubles I rented the sheets, pillow etc for the night. A cheap hotel for the night, if you think about it. So then I asked to buy her cool fuzzy black hat (because I was freezing my Shamrock arse off!) and she was not a bit impressed at my cheekyness.

As is the custom in Eastern Europe, I made myself appear friendly (but not too friendly) to my fellow passengers. We all settled down for the night. Exchanging glances and eyebrow gestures to indicate our “goodnight, sleep tight” sentiments. None of that kisses on each cheek and hugs, as you might find in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, it was just as I had gotten comfortable in the top bunk of the train’s prison-esque bed… when I felt that familiar tinge of nature calling via my bladder. Don’t forget that it wasn’t exactly roasting on this particular train, and I was also reluctant to have to manoeuvre my way through the multitude of passengers who had already dozed off to the land of nod. Who wants to disturb the sleep of a grumpy Russian?

Now having found the wonderful contraption that passes for a toilet around these parts, I was thankful for the pocket of warmish air I now inhabited, but I couldn’t linger in there too long… a burly deep-voiced Ruski was lifting the hinges off the door with his incessant raps on the door! Me thinks he caught wind of the rumour of warm engines fumes that were making the only toilet on the train a little bit more bearable. Or he had tried some of that bizarre finger food that the Uzbekistani lady was offering around and thus really really needed to go! Who knows? I genuinely felt it would be inconsiderate to question his motives, especially when I opened the door and saw the look of anxiety and panic on his face.

Now I was on my way back, but I considered that being out of bed and how difficult it was to move around all the sleeping passengers, that I might as well have a smoke while I was at the end of the carriage anyway. It was colder but very refreshing to have the fresh air rushing by.

“Well, it’s nice to have time to reflect, and isn’t it a beautiful night out?” I thought to myself.

So as I was just settled into a lovely “train of thought” (please excuse the pun), when another passenger opens the door from the adjoining carriage. A man of many years, maybe in his late 60’s or so. Not very tall, not very thin either. Decades of exposure to the elements were etched on his face. He sported a charmingly unkept moustache.

He glanced over at me as he took his cigarettes from his top pocket, nodding a Hi & good evening as he did so. A nod of similar tone, was my response. So as he brought his cigarette up to light it, I saw that familiar look of “Where the feck is my lighter?” streaking across his brow and eyes. As an automatic reaction I offered my box of matches to him. He took it and lit up. A few moments passed of us both looking out onto the cold expanse. What a genuinely enjoyable moment of silence that passed just then. Although there was this strange odour that wafted by in one moment, I couldn’t put my finger on what it could have been. By now I had finished Marlboro, and was pondering on having another.

“эй”     [pronounced; eĭ = hey] grunted the weathered man.

He was offering one of his last few ciggies to me, so I felt it would be rude to refuse. I lit it up and immediately recognised the odour from before…

“Jaysus!” I muffled under my breath, as I came to realise the extent of his cigarette’s potency.

As I tried to disguise my shock at the taste and smell of it, the man started telling me a story. When I managed to catch up to his story, he had began to explain how he rolled his own ciggies when he was stationed on the fringes of the USSR, in Kamchatka… a place not far from Japan & Alaska. And it turns out it was this horrid brand that he was now accustomed to smoking, since his times in the Soviet army.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like it was wacky-backy or anything illegal like that… far from it. Through some intermittent questioning and a sneak peek of the ciggie box, I learnt that the “distinctive” taste and smell were a result of some unique ingredients. Firstly I would have imagined to find horsehair as an ingredient in Victorian plastering for walls, and anyone who has ever smelt burning hair can sympathize with me on this. Secondly, the oats just made the most wicked taste when inhaled! Apart from these, there were other things… but I honestly cannot recall them, I think my brain went into shock from the stench!

Well, that was a fair challenge for me to try to cover up my disgust at the sensation of the horsehair ciggie, however I think I managed it. “Sín é” as us Irish say (it means “that’s it so”), and I made my way back towards my gloriously cramped bunk bed. There I sat watching the families and various journey makers all going about their nightly routines of bedtime stories or tall tales from their past adventures. For a moment I wished that I could understand all the words they spoke, just to know what the stories were… but I realised that not being aware of the exact words was no big deal, it was more important to appreciate the atmosphere. So I sat on the crooked bunk, and absorbed the good will that floated about the train carriage on that cold brisk night.

A few hours passed, we trundled our way across the snow-covered countryside of Russia, and my nostalgia for a nice hot cup of tea grew stronger yet. Having no concern for my time of arrival in Minsk, since I was already adapted to the time keeping of the Railways in this part of the world, my only concern about the time was so that I could be awake to watch the sunrise over the white expanse. I had always wanted to view this through a train window, something charming about it.
Well there I was just gently waking up, a quick glance at my watch telling me it was about half an hour until my long-awaited dawn view… when the train suddenly starts to slow down. not at a normal rate either, far too quickly for the comfort of my gut instincts.  Turns out I was right, when I saw the border patrol getting onboard the train, I knew they would more than likely take a keen interest in me.  Well, I managed to portray my cover/alias of the Polski on holidays fairly convincingly, that was until they came face to face with me, and got into the questioning in style…
The two border patrol soldiers who approached me, did so at a really steady pace, but with intent in every step. These guys just exuded authority and a general lack of sympathy.
Better kick off the dialogue, before anybody hints to them that I’m a foreigner. I could manage a few (well practised) sentences in Russian, before my accent and brutal grammar became apparent to all.
Ok, here I go…

“Привет”     [pronounced; Privyet = Hello] I said

No response (verbally), just a squinty eyed expression of “I could squash you, you silly little pixie-head!”

Winter Boder Patrol in Russia

“Доброе утро”      [pronounced; Dobroe utro = Good morning]

I thought I could at least get a “I’m grand, how are you?”

No, not a chance.

The taller one answered… “Покажите мне ваши документы, прямо сейчас!”     [pronounced; Pokazhite mne vashi dokumenty,pryamo syeĭchas! = Show me your documents, right now!]

I say the taller one, but these guys were both way taller than me, so it’s not really accurate. It’s like trying to tell which of two skyscrapers is bigger, when you’re standing at the front door of said buildings… so maybe I should differentiate them in another way. Ok, well the most senior looking soldier was a kind of serious looking guy, but with an intelligent opportunistic streak in his eyes. The other border cop, seemed to be a bit more of an aggressive “yes-man” which you will witness now.

“Да, показывать его!”     [pronounced; Da, pokazyvatʹ yego = Yes, show him!]

Fine, no worries lads, I’m cooperating with you… well that’s what my facial expression and raised hands were saying to them. I feared any utterance of my Irish brogue would let the cat (a fierce complicated and upset cat!)  out of the bag.

All I did was take my passport out of my shirt pocket and began to hand it over to the senior one, the one whose moustache could have given Rambo a case of the shivers! This guy must have spent a long time grooming that instrument of seriousness to intimidating perfection, or else these Russian guys can just sprout one when they feel like it… not sure yet, but I’ll let you know if I find out more about the origin of such horrors.

an example of a Russian moustache

Sorry, got a bit nostalgically terrified again… back to the story. So, as I was handing my passport to the senior guy, the other soldiers outside the train began shouting and they fired a few rounds in some other direction. I did not know what exactly was happening, so I just did what was instinct… I hit the floor like I was trained for it.

To my astonishment, when I looked up the two soldiers were smirking grins of disbelief at me… like I was a fool for diving for cover. Cheek!

Apparently it was just some warning shots over the heads of a few illegals who were making a run for it. So now they continued on their interrogation, well it felt like that but it wasn’t so bad.

Turns out I didn’t even have to explain my reasons for travel (which were all valid and covered by Visas in both Russia and Belarus), or any other typical border enquiries…

… a simple $200 dollars would cover it.

Isn’t life just shockingly simple sometimes?

I won’t bore you with the details of me haggling with the border cops over a reasonable price for their “travel advice” as they put it, especially since my Russian speaking wasn’t the best. Nevertheless, it was still the best part of an hour before I was able to relax in my bunk/seat once again.

Then it dawned on me… I had missed the sunrise! Feck it anyway!!!

“C’ie la vie” as the French would say… ah, what would they know! I’m still waiting for my opportunity to experience a sunrise through a train window in the frozen white wilderness, some time in the future.

Image via Wikipedia

Central Railway Station in Minsk, Belarus.

Don’t worry, I find that sunrise some day soon.

Well, I was impressively late arriving in Minsk that afternoon, and as I stepped onto the platform in Minsk Central, I wondered when I could get to do it all over again.

Welcome to my mind

Welcome one and all to the musings of a Leprecahaun… delve into this mystical place and wonder at what you find.

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