Sunday, October 13, 2013

From Prisons to Pastures

Just want to start off by saying that I am pretty much in love with this place. The people, the culture, the city. Everything! I feel so completely happy and content and at peace. Currently keeping a list of the things that Ireland has that America doesn’t (and should) have – will post in a later blog once I compile it all together. 

This first week has been filled with wandering around the streets of Dublin late at night (and at 6am. don’t ask), getting acclimated to the train system and our school, explaining to Ann (homestay Mom) all about the crazy things our families do back at home, and our first of many excursions! 

As part of our Irish Life & Culture, Friday we took a bus trip to County Wicklow, about a 45 drive from the Dublin City Centre. First stop was to the Wicklow Gaol (pronounced Jail) opened in 1702 to house prisoners in the most brutal conditions. The tour was complete with actors who played the part of various gaolers as we walked through the eerie building that used to hold countless criminals sent over from England. After exploring the old actual gaol cells complete with centuries old graffiti from prisoners and a life-size treadmill used as a torture device in which the inmates had to turn for hours as punishment (and yes now we use it for exercise and fun…), we explored the seaside town of Wicklow and had some lunch.

trying out the "treadwheel"
 We then made our way through the verdant green pastures and countryside filled with sheep to Glendalough, or an early medieval monastic settlement found in the 6th century. Glendalough is Irish for “Valley of two lakes,” and boy was it beautiful! Our tour guide took us through the ancient, partly dilapidated grave sites and took a short walk (again, short isn’t what you think…) to the most picturesque scene of a lake set between two mountains. Literally looked like a scene from one of the puzzles I used to do with my grandparents. And there were ducks! Aka my favorite animal. We soon boarded the bus and headed back home to another delicious meal prepared by Ann. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Emma, her 6 year old granddaughter with orange hair (surprise) comes over every Friday night. After being shy for a full 35 seconds, she soon got over it and showed us her homemade scrapbook and told us a million other stories. Needless to say, Shannon and I are very excited for every Friday when we get to hang with this little one. Friday night we walked around Killester – and by walk I mean journeyed a million kilometers (yes, they have the metric system) and kinda got lost exploring the town.
beautiful view of Glendalough
looks like a postcard!

 Saturday was AMAZING. Took the train into the coastal village of Howth and spent the day hiking along one of the many paths around the peninsula. Such a gorgeous view! Again, never seen anything like it! At one point, I sat on a rock on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water to take it all in. It was one of the most beautiful and calming places I’ve ever been. I took about a million pictures but I don’t think any of them could produce a view quite like the one we saw. I cannot wait to take my parents there (I get my hiking addiction from Dad) when they come to visit! We then went into the town and found our first Irish Catholic Church and walked around an outdoor farmer’s market. Go, local farmers!  Then took the train back home to share our stories with Ann before heading out into the city for the night!  (keep scrolling, there's more....)

Boats in the Howth Harbour


journaling on the side of a cliff
Jerry our farmer friend!

My new favorite beer here is a tie between Harp or Carlsberg. Both are lagers and on the lighter side. (see, Wes Hand, I know about beer…) Dan and Justin, no, I haven’t given up on Guinness, I just prefer the lighter beers (JV, they probably aren’t gonna be reading these blogs and I know you are a faithful follower so if you’d be so kind as to tell them).

Sunday was our rest day (as it should be). Walked into town to our new home parish, St. Brigids. The pastor gave a wonderful homily about expressing gratitude to the people in our lives and being thankful for the things we are blessed with. Many of the parishioners approached us after Mass telling us how wonderful it was to see young people at mass. (Interestingly enough, despite the stereotypes about Irish Catholics, to be “Catholic” in Ireland often refers to your culture and background and not necessarily to your religion. The island is 84.16% Catholic, however there are many who were baptized but do not actually participate in the sacraments or the community of the Church. It is simply part of their national identity.) At any rate, we were invited by the pastor, Fr. Alec, to have tea and coffee for free at their community parish center café. There we were able to mingle with some of the locals, including these group of high schoolers (called 4th years in Ireland) who were interested in American culture and wanted to know why Americans always seemed so happy (good question…).  Then went into the city centre and found and internet café to get some work done since I’ve been pretty much avoiding any and all work at this point.

Oh hey, Mount St. Mary's!

 Speaking of which, gotta get back to doing some work! Classes again tomorrow! Cheers!

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