It's March 1st - Daffodil Day - so naturally my thoughts turn to Wales and the great memories I made there. I went on an immersion course (Cwrs Wlpan) in 1986, the first time I'd been out of the country and the first time I'd seen grass being properly green, the way grass is meant to be. I was in awe the entire three months at the beauty of that country. I remember watching a tractor patiently turn a steeply sloped green hill into brown corduroy, trying to count the number of varieties in a hedge to guess at its age, and sneaking out of class to go watch the cricket match. The roads were impossibly narrow and the stone walls that blocked the view begged to be touched. It was a tactile sort of place, where you wanted to run your fingers over every surface, every ancient rock, every wall and tree. The air was softer, somehow, and the clouds lower than I was used to. I would go for long walks and gather bits of wool off of barbed wire where the sheep had rubbed against the fences (I still have a bit of it in a shadow box on my wall). I couldn't comprehend the age of things. I never grew tired of watching the gentle light on the hills.
The people were a bit reserved until I tried to speak Welsh with them, and then they were the kindest and most welcoming people ever. One woman shuttled me to church because I was without a car, even though she wasn't a member herself. One found out I couldn't have tea or coffee and then went out of her way to make sure I got milk every morning instead (even though the resident chef insisted milk was only for children). One couple brought me flowers when I was sick. I have only the warmest feelings for the people I met there. I made friends in those three short months that I am still in touch with thirty years later.
A magical experience. A transforming experience, as only travel can do when you are young. I pull out my Welsh books now and then for a refresher, though I've lost much of the bit of language I knew. I still listen to the haunting folk music (it all seems to be in a minor key), and I even once took harp lessons for a time. I may not ever get back to Wales, but a part of my heart will always live there.