Seamus is a big elderly American of Irish descent. He is in level 2. Of course he takes the car to drive around the corner to go shopping. On the third day he has a puncture. One of the locals helps him out. In the shop I hear him, his voice booming, ask the shopkeeper how to thank his benefactor. ‘So what would he like? Shall I buy him a bottle of whiskey?‘ The shopkeeper and his son don’t say much. ‘He doesn’t drink,’ their answer is barely audible. ‘Well how about a box of chocolates?‘ Shoulders are shrugged. ‘Well, should I give him money? How much would be appropriate?‘ Seamus is at a loss. He doesn’t understand that you don’t talk about such things. His best bet would have been to pay the man a visit, and quietly leave a small present on the table.
Seamus takes Birgitta and myself for a drive around the area. We go up Bun Glas, a pass over the mountains. It is a scary drive, the fog is out and thick as peasoup. On the summit you’re supposed to have a beautiful view of the cliffs of Slieve League. But today we can hardly see the back of our hands. Seamus takes pictures of everything he sees. Even the fog doesn’t escape from his viewer. ‘I brought plenty of film, so I can show the folks at home.‘ His wife did not want to come along. Later in the Rusty Mackerel in Teelin – a famous pub the heart of the Gaeltacht – he starts telling us about how he used to beat his children. He didn’t know any better, he says, his father used to beat him too, and the nuns were no better. He confesses some more. Both Birgitta and I feel a little embarrassed. We feel we’ve just arrived in an Oprah Winfrey show. We’re not used to this American frankness. On the way back he asks us what language we speak in our countries. Dutch and Swedish, of course. ‘And do you speak it well, with your parents?’ He thinks the entire world speaks English. A few days later we take him along to see a formation of three pre-Celtic passage graves. When the sun sets, the light shines through the openings of the three graves. ‘Is that a fort?‘ he asks. ‘It’s a grave. Two thousand b.c., Seamus!‘ ‘Oh really?‘ he says and takes a picture. Then he’s off. Pre celtic times don’t mean much to someone whose own constitution’s just a quarter of a century old.