Galway: A major hotel here offered jobs for a few weeks during the height of the Galway Races festival in late July early August and 5,000 people applied.

Men and women with university degrees were glad to get a few weeks washing glasses or cleaning up. It is that kind of economy in Ireland.

The economic downturn is clear in all its facets here this summer. The national mood can best be described a a deeper shade of black as everyone knows it will not get better anytime soon.

It is not all bad, especially if you are coming from America.

The dollar exchange rate is much better, prices have dropped dramatically and the feeling is that Ireland is taking its medicine at last in order to be fit and competitive within a few years.

It is not all doom and gloom, arts and culture still enjoy tremendous support and backing here.

The Galway Arts Festival, one of the leading arts festivals in Europe is thriving but also having its difficulties. Very few people are booking ahead, but on the night patrons do show up and venues are full.

I went to a magnificent production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in Galway Town Hall Center last night. The audience gave three standing ovations and the milling crowd afterwards reflected the excitement and buzz around the festival.

Afterwards as I walked through Eyre Square, pubs were packed, traditional music was playing, the local all-Gaelic language station was broadcasitng live from the square and kids were running up to the ice cream trucks in the humid weather demanding seconds.

In other words, high summer in Ireland,good times and bad, mixed weather, mixed economic forecasts but somewhere a sense from this exile that all was well enough with the world.

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