Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A month in...

Now entering Week 4 of my stay in Dublin! Pretty crazy how time seems to be flying by. I read some of the new letters I received while riding the DART in this morning (yes, it is finally up and running again). Ann told me I must have a very close family to be getting so many letters all the time. It was nice to read them on my commute into the city. Some peaceful time to reflect too as I put in my IPod and walked to the coffee shop I am currently sitting in. It’s called Costa coffee and is pretty much like the Starbucks of Dublin. On my commute into the city this morning, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the cities back home. Here I am in what would seem like a peaceful, serene country, and it still shares some of the hustle and bustle of somewhere like Baltimore city. No wonder I’ve heard Dublin called “the little New York City.” Everyone seems to be rushing to get somewhere with an end goal in mind. But I think the difference is that amidst all of the hecticness and haste, anyone would still stop to give you directions or smile and say hello. There are also far more street performers, people on every block sharing their passions with the world – anything from interpretive dance to singing with a guitar to being human statues. There’s always something to see.  

The out of service DART this weekend was somewhat of a blessing in disguise. It forced me to step outside of a comfort zone I didn’t think I had. Those of you who know me pretty well, know that I am not usually the head navigator. I get lost going to my own boyfriend’s house (there are a lot of different routes to get there, okay?). However, with some help, I was able to navigate from the City Centre to home and back multiple times in the past weekend via the crazy, confusing, multi-routed Dublin bus system. I felt empowered being able to figure out something as normal as a public transportation bus. Lame, I know, but that’s my life.  

As I mentioned in my previous post, my cousin Meg is currently studying abroad in Florence this semester and came to visit Dublin on her fall break. Loved having someone from back home visiting! How cool is it that we could meet up in Europe together! We decided to visit the Cliffs of Moher, a popular tourist attraction on the West coast of Ireland. Another gorgeous sunny and slightly windy day exploring the beauty Ireland has to offer! It was also pretty neat being able to show her around “my city” and tell her all of the history and fun facts I have been learning about Dublin. Starting to feel like a place I can call home. I was also able to introduce her to the typical Irish Saturday night at the pubs. Needless to say we had a great weekend together! 

Yesterday’s Irish Bank Holiday was spent catching up on some much needed sleep and work. I figured out my classes for my last semester of undergrad (YIKES!), and began looking up applications for post grad service and graduate school programs (double YIKES!). This whole weekend Dublin city was holding a Bram Stoker festival, honoring the popular Irish writer of Dracula. We celebrated him by attending a live performance of Dracula at the Dublin Castle. The castle courtyard was transformed into a “Fire Garden,” where statues of trees and flowers and different designs were aflame and little “demons” were crawling about trying to get up close and personal with every passerby. I loved it! Ashley and Shannon on the other hand, were happy to get into the theater. Another one of those experiences to have that not many people get to! Taking advantage of every experience that comes my way, that’s for sure! I was geeking out for sure, especially since I loved reading that book back in high school – Nerd Alert. 

Another awesome weekend! Now if could only focus on my schoolwork.....


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Type B Fun...

What’s a blog if you can’t be honest with your feelings and emotions? And I mean all of them. So I’m here to tell you that I cried this week. A couple times actually. And if you know me, you know that I tend to keep my sadness to myself and don’t like to show it. So why am I publishing it in my blog for the world (or just whoever reads it) to see?

Because I learned something in all of this. And I want to share it with you all.

You see today is my mom’s birthday. Her 50th which is kinda a big deal (she may not like me sharing her age with you all but I told her she should be proud of being so wise). My cousin Meg who is studying in Florence this semester is here for the weekend on her fall break to visit Ireland. Yesterday we had an amazing trip to Cliffs of Moher on the West Coast (definitely a must see if you are ever in Ireland! Feels like you are on the edge of the world). However the DART I usually take into the City Centre is shut down today for the National Bank holiday this weekend, so I couldn’t get into the city to see her. Normally not a huge deal. But that on top of having to pick classes for my last semester of undergrad, plus trying to schedule a date for the GRE’s when I get back, plus applications for post-grad service and masters programs, plus my 25 page Honors project, plus not a lot of sleep in the past week or so, plus finally realizing that I’m gonna be actually living here for an extended amount of time really starts to take a toll on ya. Stress and little to no sleep can make anyone burst into tears over a shut-down train.

I like to think of myself as an adventurous person – someone who regularly likes to go out of their comfort zone, try new things, meet new people, etc. This is why when people said it will be hard and I should be prepared for homesickness, I never thought it’d happen to me. But I’m here to tell you that it’s pretty much inevitable, especially when you have such close ties to your family, friends, and school community. After being here for 3 weeks now, the feeling of being on a really cool extended vacation is starting to wear off. The reality of actually living in a different place far from home is hitting me like a bag of Gaelic footballs. I have found myself thinking about home quite a bit recently. Like when one of my best friends turned 21 or my awesome boyfriend Sean ran the Tough Mudder this past weekend. I think about how badly I wanted to be there to celebrate with her or hug him as he crossed the finish line! It’s the little things like that that make me think, “man I wish I was home.” 

However, when I look back at everything I have missed and will be missing, it seems to pale in comparison to what I am gaining. How many people get to say they had the chance to live in another country for 3 months and experience another culture? How many people get to say they went bog diving (see last blog post) or stood on the edge of a cliff or visited a castle from the 1100s? I’ve had these opportunities and am blessed with many more in the next months to come.
I know it’ll be a hard transition but one that will be worth it. As a wise man (Jeff Abel) once said, there are two types of fun. Type A fun where everything you’re doing is fun and you’re having a blast and really enjoying your time. Type B fun, on the other hand, is when situations come up that make you uncomfortable or anxious and are just plain rough. But, in hindsight Type B fun was actually really great and looking back on it, you realize that you actually had a good time even if you didn’t think so in the moment. I went into this study abroad experience thinking it’d be all Type A fun. However, I think a mixture is okay. Maybe some of these stresses and anxieties are a way for me to step even further out of my comfort zone and to grow as a person in ways I never thought I would. 

For now though, I am content with getting through this wave of homesickness by chatting with friends back home (Thanks, Kait), making some fun plans for tonight, and giving it all up to God. He knows what He’s doing, I just have to trust. 

HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY to my wonderful amazing mother! I can honestly say that I would not be the woman I am today without the guidance, love, and support you have shown me all my life and continue to do so! I can only hope to be as wonderful of a wife and mother as you are one day!  


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Boggin' Bums

Let me just start off by saying if you are ever considering going to Ireland then the information and  experiences described in this blog post are very important to know (actually, all my blog posts are important, but this one in particular…). Today was such an awesome day spent doing some very traditional “Irish” things! We met up at 10am with Sean Finnegan (the infamous Irish tour guide who seems to accompany us on many of our excursions) and made our way by bus through Phoenix Park, which measures 9 miles in circumference. Sean pointed out many of the landmarks, including the American embassy and the Irish President’s house. We then stopped to tour Trim Castle, where part of the movie Braveheart was filmed! It was so awesome to be inside an actual castle, not to mention the largest and most complete castle in Ireland! Our tour guide there told us many stories about the de Laceys who built and inhabited the castle. One such story described the families ritual of only bathing 3 times a year in order to create a layer of dirt and grime on their skin to keep away any diseases or infections. This would cause lice and bugs to nestle on their clothes, in which case they would fumigate their clothes every once in a while to kill any insects by hanging them up above their chamber pots. Pretty sh***y if you ask me. This is how the other half lived… Needless to say, it was a great time. We were then treated to lunch by Dr. Powell, the president of our school who also treated us to a big pig roast the night before and the excursions all day today! How awesome to be at a University where the President not only knows your names and families, but also takes time out of his busy schedule to come visit us abroad! (Side note, it was also pretty cool getting cocktails and toasting the infamous “To the Mount!” with him and everyone from our group!) 
 After lunch, we proceeded to Causey Farms. Future Ireland travelers, pay attention. The castle was awesome and a must-see for your visit, but this place was awesome! We got to engage in all of the traditional Irish countryside things. Our first task was to pair up and make our own real Irish brown bread (I feel like both my grandmothers would appreciate this! Hopefully they see this post). Suited up in our own aprons, we were provided all the ingredients, and even had to catch the eggs to be used! While the bread was cooking in the oven, we went over to the barn to learn some Irish step dancing (also known as a 4 part Irish victory dance). Who knew we had so much rhythm. Some of us anyway…

 All of the girls then fell in love with a few of the Border Collie puppies. Anyone who knows me really well knows that I’m not a huge fan of pets. I just think they shouldn’t be domesticated and there’s really no point to them (Kelly Donald knows what I’m talking about…) But yes, as Sean loves to point out, dogs are growing on me. Anyway, the darn puppy tried to lick my face and I was not about that (as you can see in the picture below…). But they were kinda cute. We then got to milk a cow. Some of us (hello, Joe and Karalee) even drank the milk straight from the “tap.”


Then it was time for the bog jumping. Oh man. I about peed myself with excitement. Not really but I was stoked considering some of my favorite pastimes include mudsliding on Echo field and caving (if you know me, you’d understand!). We all changed into our “bog gear” which for me included my under armor running leggings and a 1 Euro shirt from a thrift shop and boarded a tractor trailer and made our way to the bogs. Now for those of you who are not familiar with bogs, they are areas of thick mud. Kinda like a swamp and quicksand combined in one. Around 500 BC, people would throw their most prized possessions into these to preserve them because of how rich the soil is. There are even cases of people finding bodies within the bogs that have been preserved over time! (don’t worry, we did not find any bodies or gold artifacts this trip…maybe next time). Our tour guide first took us to an obstacle course in which we had to go across a stream on a rope and climb up and over a rope wall. Then it was time for the bog diving. Imagine walking into a heaping pile of spongy, squishy, mushy, gooey, mud. Barefoot. In Ireland. In the middle of October. Ya know what they say – YOLO (“You Only Live Once” for all those who are not up in the times).  The tour guide warned us of the depth that the bogs could suck you in because of the recent rain (surprise, it’s Ireland) so we should land on our “bums” if we jumped in. Naturally, I jumped right in without hesitation. It was slightly difficult trying to wiggle and worm your way out of the thick suction of mud but so worth it. To top it off, a bright full rainbow appeared over our heads while bog diving. (No, Dr. Powell did not partake in it but he was there to spectate and take tons of pictures for us!) We then rode back and “washed off” using a spicket and buckets and changed into some dryer, less smelly clothes.
As if that wasn’t enough, we were then led through their famous haunted house “Zombie Morgue” that they put on every year around Halloween. Even though it was broad daylight outside, I haven’t had that good of a scare in a really long time. You’d have to experience it for yourself…but I’ll just say it involved men jumping out at you, car horns, and lots of mattresses. It was a quality scare. We then went back to the main house to enjoy some of our freshly baked brown bread. I don’t wanna be partial but the batch Charles, Dr. Powell, and I whipped up was pretty much the best thing ever. Quality. 

We then made our way back to the City Centre and eventually our home away from home in Killester. Ann was a little concerned about us coming back so late (7pm) but whipped up some fish and chips for us! (my first time having it!!) I’m ready for sleep. And a shower possibly.
Shout outs to Pat Decker, Mrs. Theresa, Aunt Mary, Grandparents Venanzi, Mom and Dad, and Sean for my letters. They made me smile so much when I saw them in the door after coming in from a run one morning! Ann thought it was my birthday because I got so many letters. I feel so loved.