Iechyd Da

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Iechyd Da

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus! Or, Happy St. David’s Day! St. David is the patron saint of Wales, where I went for graduate school to a small university in the middle of mid-west Wales. That’s the middle of the middle of nowhere. The town had more sheep than people and more pubs on its two main streets than any other kind of establishment. At least half of the town spoke Welsh as their first language and their English was so heavily accented that even if they didn’t speak Welsh, you had a hard time figuring out what they were saying.

It was a crazy place. Truly crazy. I lived in a graduate student house owned by the university called Green Acres. Me and ten men. We all had our own rooms (actually I think there was a double in the basement level) but shared the kitchen and the bathrooms (one on each floor). There was one other American besides myself and two Canadians who got how funny it was that this place was called Green Acres. There were plenty of jokes about me being the Eva Gabor character but really, this line in the Wikipedia entry for Green Acres pretty much sums it up, “Much of the humor of the series derived from the ever-optimistic yet short-fused Oliver attempting to battle against and make sense of the largely insane world around him.” Yup. As another American grad student we were friends with said once, “Wales, it’s like M*A*S*H (the tv show), if you don’t laugh, you’re gonna cry.”

I met my husband there. He was a Swedish exchange student (bizarrely, this was one of only four universities in the UK to have a Swedish program so they had a, relatively speaking, large number of Swedish exchange students) in the same grad program as me. Most of the other students in our program had either been undergrads at the university or at least had been through a UK institution and lived in the area and the crazy was just normal to them. We would get together after class and compare; is it like this in Sweden? No! Is it like this in the States? No! We bonded over our shared confusion and endless search for decent coffee in a land of tea drinkers (well, really, beer drinkers).

This was the mid-90s and there was actually a surge in Welsh bands making it big. Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia, but I have a real soft spot for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Partly for their name, partly because they sang in Welsh, and mostly because they hailed from Carmarthen, the nearest place to catch the train east to England and London. If getting anywhere hadn’t been an all day affair, I might have been able to catch a couple of these bands while I was there but the bus schedules were…challenging.

My mother printed out and saved all the emails I sent her because she found the whole thing so amusing. One day I’ll ask her for that file folder and write a book about it or maybe a screenplay. The whole time we were there it just felt like you were in some kind of absurdist drama. I love it now, and think back very fondly on all of the bizarre experiences I had there, but it was without question, the strangest year of my life.