Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why do you play soccer?

It's a valid question. Considering the fact that I have played soccer for 13 years now, I must have my reasons. And I do. But unfortunately, until recently I didn't have very good reasons. It's not that they were bad, they just weren't good enough. They were things like.... I play soccer because I love the team. I play soccer because I love our coach. I play soccer because I love working out and then being able to eat whatever I want! None of those are terrible reasons for playing, but towards the end of my freshman year of college, they ceased to be good enough.
When people asked why I played soccer instead of helping with Bassycs, TWO, WOW, YC, or any other Taylor program that works with youth or focuses on missions, I didn't have a reason. Logically, those really did seem like a better use of my time. It got to the point where I had decided that if I couldn't come up with better reasons for doing soccer over the summer, I would have to quit. I couldn't put time and effort into something that I didn't believe was worth it.
Then my team went to South Africa for a missions trip... during the World Cup! I know what you're thinking; that's not a missions trip, that's a party! And it was. We did have a lot of fun, go to a World Cup game, and go on a safari. But it was so much more than that. While we were there, coached several soccer clinics. All of the kids were on holiday for the World Cup (Soccer is so big there, they schedule school around it). A lot of the churches were hosting soccer clinics to give the kids something to do and keep them out of trouble. We came in and helped create and organize drills. Through these programs, the church had an incredible outreach to the community through which they could share the Gospel. We also played about 5 games and an all day tournament. Originally, I thought that was part of the selfish touristy stuff, but it actually turned out to be the biggest part of our ministry. Since we came in and played good, hard, clean soccer we were respected. Our athletic ability gave us credibility. Then afterward, when we would hang out with the other team and tell them we also loved Jesus, they would listen! It was during these two weeks that I really realized I could use the things I love to do to share Jesus with the rest of the world. That makes it worth the many hours I put into it. The other reasons I had for playing soccer still exist, but now there is even more motivation to work hard. I can glorify God through playing soccer and hopefully spark some conversations that will share Him with others who otherwise wouldn't listen.
So, when the opportunity arose to help coach a girl's team here in Ireland, I was all over it. Today, was day one of soccer insanity. I am helping coach about 25 7-year old girls of all different levels. They are absolutely adorable! And absolutely insane! I swear someone gave them all a can of Red Bull before practice. But I loved it. I had them do a couple drills we did in South Africa and some simplified stuff that we do at Taylor. They picked it up really fast. I'm excited to keep working with them mover the next couple months.
They all think my American accent is amazing. But then just to throw them off I started talking to them in a British accent. It must have sounded pretty legit, because they got confused. I asked them how they knew I wasn't actually from England and had just lied and told them I was American. That made their heads spin. But they loved it and will probably ask me to switch accents all the time now!
But beyond that, we really did get some soccer accomplished and relationships formed. I look forward to getting to know them better and hopefully sharing a little of my story. They are eager to hear about life in America and since God is so much a part of my life I'm sure He'll sneak into the conversation! After all, He's why I play soccer. He's why I do or don't do anything. Hopefully, over the next couple months, I can at least share a little of Him with these girls. I will consider it all worth my time if I am remembered as the American girl who came and taught them soccer and also happened to really love Jesus.
After all, He is the reason why I play soccer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tea with Joan

There are some people in life that as soon as you meet them you immediately know you like them and want to be their friend. Joan is one of those people. She is this absolutely adorable 86 year old woman I have gotten to know through the church I attend here. Her favorite outfits include a brightly colored sweater and matching beads. And I do mean matching. Usually, the color is so close to that of her shirt if you’re standing too far away, you won’t even be able to tell she has a necklace on. I’m convinced she has beads custom made just to match her outfits. But even more important than her personal sense of style is her endearing personality. She is so sweet and kind and can carry on a conversation for hours. Just be warned, you won’t be doing much of the talking. When I was first introduced to Joan a couple weeks ago, I knew I wanted to be her friend. So when she invited myself and three other girls on an outing, I quickly accepted.
            For the past two weeks she has been dying to take us to some place called Avoca Handweavers. She went on and on about the fantastic coffee and soup they have in their cafe, and all the wonderful things they sell in their shop. Especially the rugs! She is completely convinced that all Americans want to take home rugs from this shop! The four of us accepted the invitation mostly because we wanted to spend time with Joan. To be honest, we were all a little skeptical about the place we were headed. It couldn’t actually be as great as she said.
            On Sunday we finally got it all arranged. Our schedule has been really busy so it was hard to find a time that would work. But we finally figured it out. That was a great conversation... We had decided she would pick us up at 11am on Friday.
Joan: “So I’ll call for you all on Friday at 11.”
Me: “Ok… but we have it all decided. So you can just come on Friday.” (Thinking: "Wwhy would she need to call? She probably doesn't even have our number.")
Joan: “Right. I’ll call for you at 11 on Friday.”
Me: (In my head) “Oh, call for us means she’ll pick us up at 11… wow, I’m stupid.” (To Joan) “Sounds great! We’ll see you then!”
Just when I think I have all the Irish lingo and phrasing figured out, I mess up! So this morning at 11, Joan “called for us.” We walk out to her little red car. I call shotgun (Boo-ya!) and the other three girls squeezed into the back seat. (Don't fret mom, I was polite and let someone have the front on the way back. I haven't lost all my manners.) This is when things got interesting. Remember, Joan is 86 and a little…. Out of it at times. Now I have never driven a stick shift before. Nor have I have driven in a country where you have to be on the left side of the road. But man I was tempted to take the wheel today. I think in the course of the outing she killed the car at least half a dozen times. Sometimes it was while we were waiting at a stoplight or for our turn to enter the roundabouts. Oh, roundabouts. Those were a whole other problem. She is not an aggressive driver, which was really a good thing for her. But at the same time, she was so passive that other cars would go around her and enter the roundabout since she wouldn’t go! The funniest part was, she kept commenting on other people’s driving. If someone cut her off she would mutter something about “Crazy woman drivers!” Of which she is one! It was all I could do to keep from giggling.
            Throughout the entire ride she kept up a constant stream of conversation. She talked about her life as a teacher, her experiences climbing the Alps, her friends in Texas, etc. She has done so many things! And she knows just about everyone! Joan is definitely Greystones famous! All of the posters of the candidates in today’s elections were posted along the street and she was commenting on all the different people that were running that she knew. It was incredible. I suppose when you're 86 you've had time to make a few friends.
            So after the short 15 minute drive we made it to Avoca. I have to say, this was the cutest place we have visited yet! It's too hard to describe, so just know, it lived up to and exceeded all of our expectations. Joan, being the sweetheart that she is, bought us all coffee. So we sat on the porch and chatted for another hour. After that, she released us to wander around the store for a bit. Everything was adorable... and expensive! She had warned us about this beforehand so we weren't too sticker shocked, but most everything was easily out of our price range. But that's ok. It was still a great time. While we were there we met one of Joan's friends who runs a mini-Avoca shop about half an hour from Greystones. Joan has promised to take us on another outing so we can go visit that shop. I'm so excited! It will be wonderful to spend some more time with this endearing woman.               

The Invisible Army

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a mighty king who ruled over a vast kingdom. Now the king had a good friend, a wise man, that knew God. He spent many hours every day, talking to God, getting to know Him better, and listening to what God had to say. Often, God would tell this man messages to pass on to the king. At one point, enemies of the king plotted to come capture the man who loved God and conquer the king's kingdom. So they mounted a large army and went to the town where the man of God was staying.
Early in the morning, the servant of the man of God awoke and saw this large army approaching in the distance. He was terrified! He immediately ran to the man of God and asked him, "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?!" But the man of God was not at all worried. "Don't be afraid!" he told his servant. "We have way more people on our side and can easily defeat this army." But the servant was not convinced. He did not know what large army the man of God was talking about. They did not have soldiers at their beck and call. He was convinced the man of God was going crazy! But then, the man of God prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes. In the hills around the house he saw hundreds of thousands of horses and chariots... all made of fire! Then the servant knew, the Lord would protect them from the evil that was approaching. He did not have to be afraid.
(My paraphrase based on 2 Kings 6: 8-17)

Someone brought this passage to my attention today in our morning Bible study, and I had to share it! I hope you don't mind that I took a little liberty to add my own flair to the story. You really ought to go read it straight out of the Bible. So often, I think we overlook the Old Testament as not having enough lessons we can pull away for every day life. We prefer the New Testament where we do really quick devotions. We can read 5 verses and have enough wisdom for days. That way we can check our devos off in less than 5 minutes. But the thing I love about the Old Testament is the stories. It is people's every day life. The things they did right and the things they did wrong in their lives... and even better, the things that God did in their lives. Stories like this one remind me how much we need to trust God, even when we can't see him working.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tackling the Hard Stuff

Hard discussions are difficult to blog about, so I'll just give you an overview of some of the tough stuff we've tackled in the past couple days... And maybe some lighter stuff just to mix it up. In fact, let's start with something light...
Yesterday morning, we had our second and last drum lesson! I'm actually really sad that we only get to have two. And while I still wouldn't list that as a future career possibility, I think I actually improved a lot over those two classes. I finally got decent at "rolling," which I would never have expected in a million years. All in all, I'm really glad we had an opportunity to experience a little bit of that part of Irish culture.
In the afternoon, we had a debate and mock election. We were divided into 5 teams of 4 people, each group representing one of the political parties. My team was Fine Gael. We researched their policies, manifestos, proposals for the future government, etc. Of all the parties, Fine Gael is probably the one closest to our Republican Party although they do fall a little left of center on a couple issues. One person from each team was the "spokesperson" and presented to the group their parties positions and then debated the other spokespeople on key issues. Then the audience could ask questions to the candidates. I know this might sound boring to you, but I actually found it really fascinating. One of my majors is political science, so I found it so interesting to learn about another country's political parties and government system. I really wish I could vote in Friday's elections! Oh and just to go on record, my team won! (Not going to lie, I really enjoy winning. I am pretty competitive... probably a result of so many years in athletics!)
Skipping ahead to today, this afternoon we had our first of four newspaper discussions. Throughout the semester we are expected to read newspaper articles pertaining to Ireland and write 4 one page summaries of an article. In addition, we all take a turn leading a discussion on one major article. The two articles brought up today were really intense topics to discuss. The first was about the Catholic Church. They recently held a service in Ireland in which they publicly apologized for all the sex offenses done by clergymen in the church that have recently been coming to light throughout the world. Our conversation was a good disussion about the importance of repentance and forgiveness, while also recognizing the need for retribution for wrongdoings. It was also pointed out that this is a problem in many other circles, the Catholic Church is simply in the limelight for now. It was not an easy topic, but a important one to address. Our second article discussion was not any easier. It focused on legalization of civil partnerships for gays and lesbians in Ireland. Apparently, all of the political parties here currently support civil partnerships, but not all support gay marriage. This was another tough discussion. We looked at the impact of that kind of legislation on Ireland. But we also recognized the importance of loving people, but if they are claiming to be Christians, carefully calling them out on sin. This is something I think Christians have failed on so many times in the past. Sin is sin. All of it nailed Jesus to the cross. While the consequences on earth may be different, all of it looks the same to God because all of it is failure to achieve holiness. As Christians, too often, we are  too quick to judge people for this sin and believe it is one of the "greater sins." But that isn't true. I think all of us walked away from that conversation, more convicted of the need to love people. That doesn't mean we have to approve of their actions, but we do need to love them. After all, didn't Jesus eat meals with prostitutes and tax collectors- the "worst" kind of sinners of his day? To Him they were no different from the child on the street who told a white lie to his mother, to the man who cheated his neighbor by adjusting the scales. In the same way, we need to love everyone and not be so quick to point fingers. Instead, we need to have honest, open dialogue about our struggles. None of us deal with the same things, but if we are really a part of intentional community, we can help each other deal with every kind of sin in our life so that we become more and more Christ-like every day.
On a not so lighter note, we went to a play tonight! Fun, right? Well... sorta. It was well written and the dialogue was witty Irish humor. For example, one of the lines was:
"Jesus also drove 2000 pigs into the sea, but everyone seems to glaze over that Gospel story." 
"I didn't know Jesus could drive."
But, as a whole, it was dark and brought up a lot of depressing issues. The title of the play was "The Cripple of Inish Man." (In Irish, Inish=Island) So as you can tell from the title it's about a cripple who lives on the island of Man and all these terrible things that happen to him. (I'm about to spoil the ending so stop reading if you  plan on seeing it and want to be surprised.) His parents were killed when he was a baby, the townspeople mock him, he runs away to America and then returns only to suffer more cruel treatment, he contemplates suicide, and then dies of tuberculosis. So a bunch of really hard topics. The interesting thing is, in the midst of this dark storyline is constant witty, funny dialogue. Irish people don't seem to like to stay serious very long, so whenever things get too depressing, someone cracks a joke. I don't really understand that part of this culture yet, but it is interesting to observe.
Well, I'm sorry this post is a little bit of a debby downer. Go back and read about our Three Stooges adventure if you need to laugh again. That's what the Irish would do! But, at the same time, sometimes we do have to tackle the hard stuff. After all, life's not easy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Three Stooges Bike to Bible Study

You know those times where nothing goes exactly like it was supposed to? Tonight was one of those times. What was supposed to happen is three of us were to get a lift (Note, we say lift not ride. That word has a different meaning here!) to Bible Study from Laura. Wow. That would have been really simple.
Instead.... here's what happened. (For the sake of all involved, the three of us going to Bible Study will be referred to as Larry, Moe, and Curly; I'll be Moe!) Laura says she can give us a lift, but it turns out Kyle and Kelsie need the car. No big. We figure we'll just bike there. We have a general idea of where we are headed, so we figure we can probably make it there. Probably. So we go get the bikes out of the shed and start off down the road. Now, we have been warned to watch out for cars. It is illegal in Ireland to bike on the sidewalks so we have to be on the road. Plus, they drive on the opposite side which is easy to forget and disconcerting when you're on a bike and a car is whizzing by. But we go for it anyway. We get maybe a block down the road when all of a sudden, a van starts zooming towards us. But we're on the left side where we should be and he's on his left, so we're all good, right? Wrong. I'm in the back of this three person bike train. Curly, in front, gets passed the van and keeps going. Larry freaks out and slams on her brakes. I have two options, hit my brakes and hope I don't die, or hit Larry and kill both of us. I go for option one. I slam on my brakes, which yanks the chain off. So my back wheel goes up in the air and I go flying over the handlebars. I must say I landed really well. I would probably give it a 8 out of 10. It was very graceful and I was able to get back up without any scrapes. In the meantime, the van has slowed to a stop right next to me and three guys peer out the window. "You ok?" "Yep!" I give them a thumbs up and grab my bike. It's at this point I realize the chain is off so Curly spends a few minutes trying to get it back on. That doesn't work so we walk back to the YWCA and exchange bikes so I can continue. But at this point, John who runs the Y roles up in his car. "Where you headed?" "Bible study." "You want a lift? Joe and I are headed to town to return a movie and we can drop you off while we're there." "Yes!" So we put all the bikes in the shed and John gives us a lift to Bible Study.
I'm really glad we finally made it there! Thankfully Irish time is not very strict so showing up at 8:10 was actually very on time. We had a great discussion about the first 4 chapters in Exodus. There are so many times I can relate to Moses. God will ask me to do something, and I will give him every excuse I can think of to get out of it. But in the end, we follow His plan, knowing that He will be with us all the way here. I'm really enjoying learning from these people. I enjoy spending time with the older generations and hearing what God has taught them. I hope someday I can be as wise as them.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shall We Dance?

I would not consider myself a great dancer. Scratch that. I would not consider myself a good dancer. I'm more the person who just has a ton of energy all the time, so when you turn on music I just jump around and wave my arms, all the while trying to hide in the middle of a group or stay off to the side so no one notices that I am really not very good at this. So, when I heard we were going to be taking Irish dancing lessons, my first thought was, "Oh no." Followed by, "I hope everyone is as bad at this as I will be." Thankfully, that was pretty much the case!
Today we had our first of five lessons. Our instructor is a dance instructor (duh). Her mom was an Irish dancer. Her grandparents were Irish dancers. Her daughter competes in Irish dancing. Needless to say, this family can dance! But the rest of us... not so much. Thankfully, somewhere in high school I did learn how to swing dance, waltz, and square dance. None of those very well, but I got the basic idea. So even though those aren't at all related to Irish dancing, I have at least learned how to step to a beat.
In class, we learned the steps to a "reel." Whatever that is. We basically had to hop back and forth between feet on a three beat count, then do a half a grape vine, more hopping, half grape vine back, spin around in circles, and do it all over again. Oh and somewhere in there we were standing in a square and had to switch places with the person kiddy-corner from us, all while hopping to the three beat count.
Sound hard? It probably really isn't. We're just don't catch on very fast. Thankfully we still have four more lessons! So maybe after all that, I'll be halfway decent at all this. But please, don't ever ask me to demo for you. Even after 5 lessons, it probably won't look like it's supposed to.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

They're not dumb Americans. They have Will Smith!

As Americans, we get some pretty funny comments, but this was definitely one of my favorites! So here's how it came about... The YWCA where we stay his run by John Ellis and his wife Lisa. They have two little boys Joseph (age 11) and Theo (age 7). They are all originally from England but moved here a few years ago, but they often go back home to visit their relatives or their relatives come here, which was the case this weekend. So normally we have 2 crazy kids running around here, reeking havoc, but this weekend there were 5. And when Double Trouble gets even further encouragement, things go absolutely insane. So Theo and Joe along with one of their cousins (whose name I never learned) decided that one of the guys in our group, Dan, was the perfect jungle gym. So before church they challenged him to a wrestling match! But, being the good Christian he is, he told them he doesn't fight before church. Fair engough.
However, the second he returned from church, the battle was on. (Before I continue, please note no child whether age 7, 11, or 21 was hurt in the following fight.) The three immediately jumped on him and tried to take him on. The battle lasted for at least 15 minutes and I still don't know who won. But in the middle of it, Dan must have made a comment about them being Irish because between punches and tackles, they retorted they were not Irish they were English. But then they decided they were Irish and English. So one boy calls us dumb Americans for not knowing that. But then, as another leaps on to Dan's back, he shouts out "They're not dumb Americans. They have Will Smith!" Which was quickly followed by the third boy's comment, "Yeah! And they have Jim Carrey!" 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finding the Epic in the Ordinary

I suppose you can hardly call going to class in Ireland, or wandering around ruins for two days boring, but sadly, once you've done it a few times, it does become... ordinary. We're still hanging on to the end of the honeymoon stage. It's still exciting to see the grand castles, cathedrals, and monasteries and imagine what they were like in their day. But I'm sure that will end pretty soon. For the Irish people, it's perfectly normal to drive past a round tower or a pile of ruins. That part of their life that we are fascinated by, they find ordinary. I wonder if that's true in America. Do I miss the epic things about Minnesota and Indiana? Do I forget to see the beauty in the snow gently falling or in the corn blowing in the wind? Yeah... unfortunately I do. I feel that I have to go somewhere  to see something epic. But that's not true, there are epic things in the ordinary parts of life. I'm glad one of the girls on the trip reminded me of that today by using this phrase. And I encourage you, go looking for the epic in the ordinary!
Ok.. I'll stop the sermon now and recap this weekend. We headed to the southeastern part of Ireland to a town called Kilkenney. We left early yesterday morning. Our first stop was Jerpoint Abbey. It was cold! So we had a little trouble focusing, but thankfully we had a good guide. I enjoyed learning about the monks' lives. But the tour we headed straight to the bathrooms and stuck our hands under the hand dryers for 10 minutes to warm up again!
Then we drove to the town of Kilkenney. When we got off the bus there was a huge castle right in front of us! It looked like something in a Disney princess movie. Unfortunately, all the tours for the day were booked, so we could only go in the courtyard. From there, we decided to go get coffee. I went with 8 others to a little 3 story coffee shop called Esquires. Yes it really was little even though it was three stories tall. Our Irish professor Monte and his wife Gwen came with us. I got to hear the story of how they met. Let me just say, it is fascinating to hear the same story from a guy's point of view and a girl's point of view. The story sounds so different! Plus they are both very opinionated so they were positive their version was the right way! It was hilarious!
After our coffee break, we had to get back to work. So we walked down the street to St. Candice's Cathedral. Sorry mom, this Candice didn't spell her name like you do! But I still think you're basically a saint! Outside the cathedral was another round tower. But this one we got to go inside and climb to the top! There were 7 ladders that wound their way around the inside. Once on top, we could see for miles. It is one of the best views we've had here.
For dinner, we were given 15 euro and got to chose a pub to eat at. I had fish and chips for the first time since being here! It was fantastic! I also was adventurous and tried a popular Irish dish. Bread with chicken liver spread on top. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty good. It tasted like salty chicken in peanut butter form. Then we wandered around town for an hour before heading back to the hotel.
This morning we went to Cahir Castle. The gate at this castle was used in the movie Braveheart! Well, at least the sound of the gate was. They came and recorded the audio of the chains on the gate and the gate closing, then dubbed that over the gate in Braveheart. But apparently this castle has been used in several other movies and TV shows... none of which I knew or can remember. 
Then we went to the Rock of Cashel. When I heard we were going to look at a rock, I was kind of disappointed. So I asked Gwen if there was something special about it... was it tall, really flat, a funny shape, etc. Turns out it is really tall and big, and the stuff on top is pretty impressive. This rock is actually a really tall hill with a monastery on top. It was really impressive. From there we walked down the hill to... Hore Abbey. Yes, you read that right. That is just about the strangest name I have ever heard for an Abbey. You would think somewhere along in the building process, they would have thought that one through a little better, but no.
After all those adventures, we are back at Greystones. It was nice to have a couple days away, but I'm glad to be back. We're all really tired and a few of us (including myself) have colds. So far nothing terrible, just enough to wear us down. But we have all of tomorrow to rest up before our busy schedule resumes on Monday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We met a local celebrity! Sorta.

I had my last trip to the Garda! I am officially registered in Ireland and can stay until May 9th! Whew! Glad that is over with. It was actually probably the most exciting trip thus far. I got my passport back and my official registration card. It is pretty hilarious! The picture on it was taken after I had talked to the Garda at the airport for an hour and a half. I was really tired and kinda frustrated, plus you're not allowed to smile.... so my picture looks like I'm ready to kill someone! It makes me laugh. When I get back if you're really curious I'll let you see it so you can share in my amusement.
But after that, the rest of today has been Irish politics education day. Each of us had to do a 5-10 minute presentation on a different aspect of the government or one of the political parties (there are 5 here). I got to talk about the Dail Eirreann, which is their House of Representatives. It was actually pretty interesting to learn about the government. We're watching the news every night and usually it's really confusing. But now that we have a better understanding of who everyone is, we'll be able to follow along better. After all of this, I wish I could vote in the elections next week. If Irish people are anything like Americans, I'm sure we're more educated on all the political parties than many of them are.
After our presentations, we had a local celebrity come to visit! Sort of. Simon Harris is running for TD (Senator) in the upcoming election! I don't know why he took time off to come talk to a bunch of Americans who can't even vote for him, but I'm glad he did. It was good to hear about the Irish government from someone who really understands it. Plus we got to hear a little of why he wants to enter politics. His brother is autistic and he sees a real lack in special education in Ireland. So when he was a teenager he started meeting with TD's and asking them to take this issue on. That continues to motivate him today, as well as the desire to see his friends get good jobs in Ireland rather than be forced to emigrate to other countries due to the economy here. He seemed to have a genuine desire to help fix his country. Oh, I forgot to mention. He's 24 years old (but looks much younger). But anyway, for the past week we've been teasing the single director here who is 27 that she should ask Simon out! He's within her range and loves Ireland and social justice issues. Sounds like a good guy, right?! Well, sadly she didn't ask him, but it was still entertaining to tease her about it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I know what I am NOT going to be when I grow up

If I ever had any inkling that it would be fun to be a musician, more specifically a drummer, when I grow up, that dream is officially crushed. Today we had Irish drumming lessons. Now don't get me wrong, it was a blast and absolutely hilarious, but I am terrible at Irish drumming. The Irish drum is called a bodhran. And you hit it with a cipin (stick). For an hour, we amused our instructor with our attempts at "rolling". Basically hitting the drum with the stick in an up and down fashion really fast.... Ok this probably isn't making sense. Just know that almost all of us were terrible at it! But our instructor was very kind and tried to compliment anything we did well... which wasn't much come to think of it. There was one type of song where we just had to hit the drum with the stick for a certain number of beats. That one was actually not too bad! I guess we have basic ryhthm, we just struggle when we have to flop our wrists up and down like a rag doll in order to accomplish the proper sound. So after that amusing lesson I have decided I'll have to cross Bodhran player off my list of career possibilities. Oh well. We still have a lot to learn. And besides, Irish dancing, DART driving, professional rugby playing and sheep herding are still definite career possibilities that I can explore here. Hopefully one of those will come through for me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Engaging the Community

While we are in Ireland, we are being strongly encouraged to find different ways to interact with the community and experience Ireland in a new way. Last night we were brainstorming different ways we could do this. Our ideas varied from stopping at every DART stop from here to Dublin to volunteering at a local coffee shop, nursing home, etc to finding an Irish boyfriend. Which, as someone pointed out, would really be "engaging" the community!
One of the things I really wanted to do is to get involved in a local church. I must confess, I was never very involved in my church at home. Other than attending Sunday School and the Sunday morning service, I did not do a lot with my church on the other days of the week. Since I have always attended Christian schools, I did not feel this need to be strongly connected with the other people in the church. But as I get older, I really regret this. I missed out on getting to know a lot of great people. Unfortunately, it took leaving the country to help me realize this.
So I want to start amending my ways now, by getting involved in a church here. Tonight, I and three other girls attended a Bible study that is hosted by a man from the church I am going to. His name is Simon and the Bible study is held at his house every Tuesday night. There were 10 other people there tonight ranging in ages from probably 35-? The oldest lady told us that she was 119... but that's doubtful.  I'm going to guess she's probably in her mid-70s.
The Bible study was fantastic! The lesson was good, but it was more than that. It was the sense of community that I felt among these believers. And even though we had never met before, there was this instant connection between all of us. They were so welcoming and genuinely interested in our lives. I've been told that the church in Europe is dying... but tonight, in this small group, it was very much alive. I look forward to getting to knowing these people better. I know I will learn a lot from them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh Kevin....

Glendalough is an Irish word meaning “The Valley of Two Lakes”. We spent all of today exploring this ancient valley, climbing on ruins of the buildings of this monastic community, and learning about Saint Kevin.
            Kevin originally came to the Valley to live a life completely apart from the rest of the world. But other people heard about this holy man, so they asked him to start a community in which they could work, live, and pray together.
            Our tour of Glendalough started in the ruins of the community. One main feature of many Irish towns is the round tower. It was originally used as a bell tower and storage house for valuable documents. It stretches far into the sky and from the top; one can see the view from miles around. From there we looked at several of the Celtic crosses atop the old gravestones. There is a theory that Irish crosses have the circle around them because when St. Patrick came to the island the people were worshipping the sun. Patrick really wanted to not completely get rid of the Irish culture when he introduced Christianity. So he incorporated this into his teaching of Christianity by putting the sun shape around the cross. Whether that is true or not, most of the crosses here have a circle around them. A lot of the gravestones also have the letters IHS on them, which are the first three letters for Jesus in Latin. Another headstone we found had a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. But since the Irish did not know what the Roman soldiers would have looked like, they portrayed them in outfits like the British Red Coats.
            From there we went and looked at “St. Kevin’s Kitchen.” As our guide put it, the townspeople saw Kevin coming in and out of this building and saw smoke rising from the chimney. So they put 2 and 2 together to equal 5 and assumed it was a kitchen. In actuality it was a church. While we were standing inside we were decided to sing the doxology. It sounded amazing. I hope that becomes a new tradition as we visit more ancient churches.
            After that we had the option to do a 5 mile hike around the Valley. Of course, I’m in! At the beginning there are 1, 057 stairs up the hill to the top. From there, you circle around to the far side of the upper lake before descending on the opposite side. The entire hike was beautiful. As I looked up at the mountains I was struck by the majesty of God. We are so small compared to them. But then when I think of how small they are compared to God, it just amazes me that he would care about our lives…. But he does! For reasons I still don’t understand, he loves us so much!
            As we circled around the lake, we came across ruins of several other buildings. We had no idea what they were so we tried to stay with the theme of the valley. We had already seen St. Kevin’s Kitchen, his cross, and we knew where his “cell” (cave house) was. So we named the other buildings we found his laundry room, living room, and leisure center! That must have been one fit man to get around to all of his different buildings. I’m not going to lie; I am tired after that hike. It was a really good workout that we are all going to feel for the next couple days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The White House, BBQ Sauce, and Cheesy Cards

So Saturday morning we got up at 6am, packed lunches, and headed to the DART by 7:30am. I am not a fan of early mornings. The DART trip was about an hour long and I slept for most of it. Then we walked for another half hour (at least) to the Irish president's house. Well, technically we walked to the visitors' center and then took a bus to the house, but you get the idea. Oddly enough, this house was also white! We got a tour of the main entrance, the ballroom, dining room, tea room, and the president's office (which was square shaped... not going to lie, I was kind of disappointed.) But the whole house is full of really old stuff from people like Queen Victoria and King Louis XIV. It's pretty much a museum. One interesting thing is for the past 21 years, the president of Ireland has been a female. As a result, many Irish children are surprised when they learn the first 6 presidents of Ireland were male! But the role of the president here is different than in the United States. The Prime Minister is the one who is in charge, and the President serves as a figure head, but she still has certain limited powers. Sorry, that's probably boring stuff. We've just been learning a lot about the political system here since they're holding elections in a couple weeks.
So after going to the President's house we hopped back on the Dart and went to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary). They have a store called Penny's which is basically girl shopping heaven. Everything is really cute but very cheap. So it's not high quality, but for those of us looking to spice up our wardrobes for the semester, it's a great place to find accessories.
I only shopped for a little bit because I had to make it back to cook dinner! Not going to lie, I was kinda nervous. This was my first time being completely in charge of the meal and I had to direct 3 other people through the cooking process. We made BBQ chicken sandwhiches, crisps (french fries), and corn. It was a cinch.. and dare I say it... kinda fun! I actually don't mind cooking when it's with a group. Plus, when you have a recipe you can't really screw it up. Everyone loved the food. I think we got a 9 1/2 out of 10, which I will take any day! Plus, someone said it was the best meal thus far! 
Today, I went to a church called Hillside. It reminded me a lot of my church at home. The worship was good, the sermon was straight out of the Bible, and the people are really nice.  I'm thinking I might just go there this semester. The rest of today was very uneventful. They try really hard not to plan much on Sundays so we actually have a day of rest. So all we did today was a little homework and then I went and lifted weights. But this evening they threw a Valentine's Day Party for us! We just frosted cookies, made cheesy homemade valentines, and played games. It was a great chill way to hang out as a group.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Energizer Bunny is Finally Running Out of Juice

Today was like Ireland Bootcamp. I have worked out so much I feel absolutely exhausted. It's not like all of it was a really hard work out... it was just all day long. But it was fantastic!
This morning started out with a beautiful 3 mile hike along the coast. We took the DART to a town called Brey and followed the trail back to Greystones. It was barely misting and there was a little fog covering the top of the mountains... perfect hiking weather. It was also a great time to chat with some of the people on our trip. I really feel like I'm starting to connect. It's fun to hear about their lives away from the Emerald Isle. In order to keep finding out new things about each other, we try to come up random questions to ask each other, but we're starting to run out... so if you have any suggestions they would be much appreciated!
We came back for lunch, and then 6 of us headed over to the leisure center. It's a little over a mile there, so we run the whole way and call that our warm up. At the center, I finished lifting weights. I had done about half my program yesterday, but didn't have enough time to finish. It's great because they have the same machines that we have at Taylor, except for one important difference. Everything is in kilograms! I had Coooooach convert all my weights over, but they weren't always exact so I had to do a little experimenting. For example, I'm supposed to bench press  38.6 kg. But they don't make that weight. Plus, I know the bar is 45 lb... but who knows what that is in kg. So I tried a few different things, before I asked someone and found out it weighed 20kg. From there it was a little easier to get my weight right. After that I taught Alyssa the TU Women's Soccer Team's favorite ab work out- AFOH. Then I had some extra time, so I biked for 20 minutes. This is also an adventure cause the distance is in kilometers..... By that time, we had all  had enough of a workout. So we finished up and ran back to Coolnagreina.
That would have been a great work out for the day... but it wasn't over! After dinner, one of the local guys, Luke, found us and asked if we wanted to go play soccer. I can't turn down soccer in Ireland with local guys under the lights. So Ryan, Audrey, and I joined Luke and we all drove to the local "pitch" (field). It was so cool. It looked like soccer jail. There were 4 small fields. All with walls around the outside and then nets on top of those that went really high. The goals were short and maybe half the normal width. 11 of us played for an hour and a half. It's always funny playing with guys. At first they're nice to you and don't put a lot of pressure on. But once you score a couple goals and make great passes, they realize you're actually worth defending. It was a great game. I love soccer and playing in Ireland only makes it better.
But after all that, I'm beat. We're watching Pride & Prejudice in the "Red Room". Our hang out, chapel, computer lab, and tonight, our theater. But I'm really tired and we're getting up early tomorrow. We're going to try to get into the Irish president's office. They take the first couple hundred people who line up on Saturday morning. So we're catching the 7:30 DART to Dublin. I wonder if the office is oval shaped... Or maybe it will be something more Irish... like a shamrock!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I found Belle's library!

Trinity College is the home of thousands of old books. Now, for some people this is probably not very exciting, but I have coveted Belle's library ever since I saw Beauty and the Beast as a child so to find such a place here on earth is exciting!
In the morning, we took the DART to Dublin where Trinity College is located. They have an exhibit entirely dedicated to the Book of Kells. This book is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels that was created by Celtic monks around the 9th century. Their display shows enlarged pictures of some of the more elaborate drawings done by the monks as well as explanations of the process of creating such an incredible book. The whole thing is gorgeous! At the end of the display there is a staircase leading up to the Long Room- the longest library in the world. I think they said they purposely made it 5 feet longer than Oxford’s library just so they could claim that title. It is truly amazing! The room is made out of dark wood, has  thousands of books with that wonderful old book smell, and ladders running up and down the shelves. The place is truly magical. Visiting there was a fantastic way to start the day. We wandered through the exhibit and the library for over an hour.
This afternoon we had a skype class with Dr. Jones and then I actually did homework for about an hour. That was torture. Even though at Taylor we have far more class and tons more homework, somehow doing those things here seems like a crime. I would so much rather be out experiencing the culture and learning about Ireland through interactions with people! Oh well, I suppose we have to sacrifice a little free time so that we can actually get school credit for being here.
I did take a break from the work for a bit to go down to the beach before dinner and just juggle a soccer ball. That was a great. It was funny to watch the Irish people walk by. I haven’t seen many people playing, let alone girls, so they probably thought I was a little odd. Most of them would give me funny looks, but I'm pretty sure the little kids wanted to jump in. It was great to play around with a soccer ball and listen to Jesus music while the sun set and the waves crashed against the shore. Practically heaven on earth right there.