Confessions of a drinker student abroad

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Brightest Beacon

Come now children and let me tell you a tale, a tale or warriors strong. A tale of old, a tale of yore, a tale of homegrown sons on foreign shores.

As some of you are aware, my brother is here now, if you're one of his blog followers that somehow found your way in by the fire, look less for truth here and more for colourful depictions and exaggerations.

Yesterday dawned bright and cheery, and then we pulled down the window shade to secure a few more hours of precious sleep. The night before had been somewhat uneasy after watching vampire shows, and just being able to feel someone else in the room made me uneasy. My poor brother shut the bathroom door and one point and I jerked out of sleep and was halfway out of bed into what would have been a teeth rattling hit when I caught myself, this was not post apocalyptic Kansas, and i was not being chased by demon possessed groundhogs...yeah, my dreams are a mix and match.

Anyway, Sunday morning, bright and clear. We met with Phil and made the trek down to Dewi Sant (Saint David's) Cathedral for the Passion. The choir was even more well coached than the last time I was there, their angelic tones helped transform a relatively plain building into the Sacred Temple that it was. I saw one of my nanomechanics professors there. Afterward my brother and I wandered our way to the Cardiff Bay. There to see the sights of the Torchwood fountain and the Ianto memorial, and feast on the rare delicacy of Eddies American diner...where they didn't even have the wall clocks set correctly. While ostensibly set to the current time in several different American Cities, they somewhat missed their mark, placing New York and Boston in different time zones, which pushed off Chicago and L.A. Then the Washington clock (whether set for State or District) was magnificently wrong, we were unable to even find the pattern followed to obtain the time displayed.

Today though is when the real story begins. I was up morning doing paperwork so I don't run out of monetary units, then to the market to get some bread and apples for a traveler's breakfast. Then we hopped on the train to Aberdare. I know I've been there twice, but I really love it more each time. As you go farther and farther north you can feel the city slipping behind you. Maybe it's that the forests are thicker, and the hills are greener, but it was a magnificent ride. In Aberdare we went straight to the bus stop, hoping for a #7 up to Penderyn. I think the reason I love it out there is the people. Here in Cardiff people are either 1: students 2: here making a living off the students 3: jaded city dwellers who are trapped in with the students but can't enjoy the sunshine as much. Out in the Beacons the air is cooler and the people are friendlier. Not that they go out of the way to welcome a bunch of Americans, but they're friendlier to each other. Everyone knows each other. The smiles are genuine. On the way up you see the children on holiday running around, because as you move from Aberdare to Penywaun, to Hirwaun, and finally Penderyn, you're going from a town half a mile across, to a village you can throw a rock over. In each one there's a pub, a chippy and a small market. It's sunny and playful. There's boys in the park playing football, smaller children chasing each other around a playground, and over it all a quiet peace that assures those present that this is safe. It's not the wealthiest area, it's not a place of big opportunities, but it's a place where love grows deeper than the pure springs of water coming out of the hills.

We went to the distillery, but that wasn't the true impression I was left with. When we got on the bus back to the city a young woman boarded at a later stop, she was quite attractive, but then I noticed the small boy with her. My mind ran the gambit, from "Oh, it's a sister" to "that's his mom, she's so young, poor girl" to "poor boy, born in a place like this". When we reached the bottom of the hill I was put to shame. The mother and boy got off the bus and a young man was waiting for them. His face lit up when they appeared, the boy running forward to his arms to be scooped up and held in one arm as the mother and father kissed. The young man was rather young, probably 19 or 20, as was the girl. He had plaid rugby in his day and still wore some of the scars from it. I realized suddenly, who was I to judge this family? They were young, sure, but there was love there, a love that I can only hope one day to find for myself. Their lives may not reach the glamorous peaks that we always think of as a success, but who's to tell them that living in a beautiful countryside, with a community that cares about it's people, and a loving family is not a success. May we all remember them in our lives, you'll never hear of them on the news, see their picture in a magazine, but if we could all in our lives even glimpse what they have grasped, we will have lived well. Cheers.


  1. Thanks for the lovely post and letting us know where you are and what you're doing.

    Like the photos, too. Can we have copies?

    Love, Da