Saturday, April 30, 2011


So the play is actually Pygmalion, but it sounds like Pigmillion! Plus a play about a really wealthy hog sounded interesting... Little did I know there are no pigs in this story. That was ok... The play was still really good, even though our trip to the play ended up being the best part of the whole night.
We (Me, Lexi, Adara, Laura, and Emily McCardle) decided to take the 6:00 DART to Dublin since the play started at 7:30. That should have given us just enough time... except this is the weekend! There is no 6:00 DART! So we walked around town until the 6:30 arrived. Not a big deal, if we walk really fast, we should still make it! Right?
We make sure to be back at the DART station by 6:20 so we don't miss it. The DART arrives on schedule, the passengers get off, we get on. Sit down. Wait. And wait. And wait. And the lights went off. Not a good sign. Whew, they just went back on. More waiting. They go off again. (This repeats a couple more times).
In the meantime, we are watching the clock tick. Decision time: wait for the DART or catch a cab? DART is free, cab costs money. DART won't get us there on time, cab might. Cab it is. We get off the DART and walk over to a pub to get a number to call the cab company. (Randomly we see Monty and Gwen who are also stranded due to the unruly DART). We find the number, but realize this is going to cost more money that we didn't want to spend if we didn't have to. Back to the DART. Oh wait, there it goes! Bye-bye DART.
There are no options left, we have to call a cab. At this point it is 6:50. It is going to be tight! The cab will be here in 10 minutes, in zero traffic it is a half hour to Dublin.  Play starts at 7:30. Late comers entry into the play is 7:40. Yikes! Keep your fingers crossed. Just then a cab pulls up! Yay, they're early. We quickly climb in and head to town. In the process I get to cross two items off my life "To Do" List (or I would get to if I had one)...
1) Ride in a Cab
2) Tell a Cab Driver to "STEP ON IT!"
And he does. We are whizzing down the freeway. We just might make it after all. Then, Laura's phone rings. It's our cab driver calling to say he's there to pick us up. Problem... we're already in a cab. Who's driving this thing? We never did figure that out... Anyway, we were zooming around cars and trying to avoid all the pedestrians who are in Town for the rugby match.
We pull up to the Abby Theater at 7:39 and sprint to the door. (I do mean sprint; we probably would have set some track and field records.) The attendant opens the door, "Don't rush. Late comers entrance is in another ten minutes. You can pick up your tickets over here then watch the first little bit on the television in the lobby. We'll bring you in when we can, but you will have to stand in the back until intermission when you can find your seats." Oh ok. "Question: our seats are in the last row anyway, can we sit down?" "Oh yeah, no problem." Turns out cheap tickets were an excellent choice!
We are escorted in and only missed a tiny part of the play. For those of you familiar with My Fair Lady, it's the same story without the music. The whole thing was phenomenal, including the set changes! Random, I know. But they were cool because they were part of the story instead of an awkward in between. I'm so glad we finally did make it. What a great night.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royals are Human

Yes, we watched the Royal Wedding. Since we are in Europe it was only fitting that we tune in with the other millions of people around the globe. It was especially interesting because we watched it with a family from England who could fill us in on traditions that we didn't understand or would have missed. But what I took away from the whole thing... royals are human!
For example...
- During the car ride to the church, Kate was waving so hard I thought her hand would fall off! She must have been a little nervous for her big day
- When Kate made it up to the altar and William got his first look at his bride to be he told her "You look beautiful!" (Yes, we read his lips on that one). And what bride doesn't want to hear that on her wedding day?
- On the balcony, one of the flower girls covered her ears because the noise was so deafening. In the meantime, Kate and William were awed by the size of the crowd and kept pointing to out to each other how far it kept going!
It was refreshing to see their personalities come through on such a big day. Normally we only see highlight videos, but watching the whole thing gave a better idea of what the wedding really was like for them. I will admit, even though it was really long, it was cool to see this historic event. I just hope they last longer than Charles and Diana.
Last comment, I hope anyone who watched it appreciated the preacher! He nailed the Gospel. How cool is it that they got some one so legit to preach at an event televised around the world!!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eireband Trumps all other TU Shows

Imagine the Reject Show on steroids... or Airband if you gave it a pot of coffee.... or MyGen after drinking ten Red Bulls... Actually, more like a combo of all of those! If you do that, you have Taylor University ISP's "Eireband" (pronounced like "Airband"). So great!
We invited half a dozen of the people who work at the YWCA, our bus driver, and cross cultural teacher. Other than that, it was just the twenty of us and Kyle and Laura, for the craziest show I have ever seen. Let's see... show highlights. What the heck, every part of it is a highlight! So instead... basic summary..
1) 6 girls performed "Thriller" complete with crazy makeup and ridiculous hair
2) Dramatic readings by Kellyn and a super cute poem by Kyle's wife Kelsey
3) A song written by one of our guys about each and every person in the ISP group
4) Stand-up comedy by Audrey
5) An adorable crazy five year old song about a girl's party dress by one of the quietest girls in our group
6) A tin whistle solo
7) A "rodent dance" in the dark, with a headlamp
7) A dating show with our director Laura as the desperate bachlorette. The four guys all switched shirts and acted out each other's personalities! So funny as all their quirks were emphasized to the max!
In between these awesome acts... games! Mostly crazy eating contests. For example, the for the first one, you had to put a piece of chocolate on your head and wiggle it down into your mouth- no hands! Just so you know... I won! YAY! Other games included, eating a banana... the catch, you have pantyhose pulled over your head, and eating four hobnobs (bisuits) with no hands... and chugging an entire pitcher of water!
We all laughed so hard! It was definitely a good way to start the end. As we wind down, there are a lot of bittersweet moments. We are starting to say good-bye and do things for the last time. This was a  great way to help us bond just a little bit more as we wrap up. I am going to miss this group. They are all so great and special and...yeah. Even though we all have our quirks, I think tonight really showed us how those quirks have brought us together. Now we can laugh at our differences! Probably a good life lesson... I'll definitely take that one with me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Catching the Coffee Vision

I now have several new "homes away from home". No it's not Coolnagreina, or even Ireland. It's actually the three different coffee shops I have lived in the past few days. If anyone ever tells you this program is easy cause you never have any homework that is a lie! I have seventeen projects, papers, presentations, or illustrations due in a two week time span. I guess it's not really that bad; it just seems like it when I would so much rather be out exploring the country! Right now we are at a sprint to the finish and it feels like there is not enough time to cram everything in that I still want to do.
In exactly two weeks from yesterday I will be in a completely different country, time zone, and culture! As our time here is wrapping up, we are starting to debrief. I swear the people here love to talk about our feelings more than anyone else I have ever met. It is definitely a stretch for me, but I suppose it is a good thing.
Tonight we talked about our involvement in the local churches and what we have learned about the universal church by living in such a close community of twenty students for three months. It was a good discussion and there are definitely things I have learned here that I want to take home with me... For example, coffee! Not literally, but the idea behind coffee and tea here. It is very normal to ask someone you barely know on a coffee date. I have gotten to know so many people a lot better over a good mocha. Also, all the churches serve tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies) after the service. So everyone sticks around and chats for half an hour to an hour. I feel like in our American churches as soon as the sermon ends, everyone sprints out the door because they all have yardwork, a little league game, or a luncheon planned. Seriously, what if we all hung out for awhile and actually learned more than just the names of the people who sit behind us every single week? What if the body of Christ really truly cared about each other like an actual family? What if we all stopped church hopping and didn't bail on each other when times got hard? What would our churches look like then? I for one, am determined to find out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, Irish Style

So it's really not that different from American Easter, but we did have some fun stuff going on today to celebrate!
1) Church. The last Sunday of the month is family church and even though today was Easter, that didn't change. So part of the service was an Easter "egg" hunt for the kids after which they had to assemble jigsaw pieces into a memory verse for the congregation to learn. After we all knew it, the kids were rewarded with the candy they had found. My question, why didn't the adults get candy? We learned the verse too! Oh well, we quickly got over it. For the sermon, our pastor pointed out that even though we are really excited for Easter, the disciples weren't. More than anything they were confused and didn't believe. It took them a couple days to come around and realize the miracle that happened.
2) Paige got baptized! One of the girls in our group was baptized in the Irish Sea! Brave girl. It wasn't a cold day, but that doesn't mean the water was warm. But it was a beautiful thing to watch. One of the local pastors that we have gotten to know well has been discipling her through this process.
3) Dinner. We had a late dinner tonight, but it was worth the wait. We had ham, chicken, potatoes, deviled eggs (or "angeled" eggs if you're a Wisely), bread, salad, and apple crisp. It was delicious! As we ate dessert, Alyssa read part of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Since we all had heard the Easter story from the Bible in church, she didn't want to repeat it. So instead, we read about Aslan being killed by the evil White Witch on the Stone Table. Then his miraculous resurrection! Gotta love Lewis for the creative parallels. It really makes you stop and think through the whole event again. After all, HE IS RISEN!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Unity in Faith

Today, you never would have guessed that for decades Ireland has been divided by religious differences. This country has had a long history of fighting between Catholics and Protestants. But today, the community of Greystones proved that Jesus goes beyond religion.
I don't know how long they have had this tradition, but today we were lucky enough to participate. All the churches in the town- Non-denominational, Evangelical, Catholic, Church of Ireland, Nazarene, etc- walked through the town. A hundred people from all the denominations followed along as a wooden cross was carried through the streets. At different points we stopped and prayed for the needy world and the Greystones community.
The whole thing was a beautiful time of remembrance of Christ's death. I think he smiled at the way it was celebrated. By dying, not only was He able to bridge the gap that separates us from Him because of our sin, but He also was able to bring people closer to each other.
Near the end of the service this prayer was read. I thought it was beautiful and wanted to share it with you.
Where pain is deep and affection is denied,
let love break through.
Where justice is destroyed,
let sensitivity to right spring up.
Where hope is crucified,
let faith persist.
Where peace has no chance,
let passion live on.
Where fear paralyzes,
let forgiveness break through.
Where truth is trampled underfoot,
may your Word continue to be preached.
Eternal God, look down on each worshipper gathered here today,
reach into the silent darkeness of our souls with the radiance of the cross, 
surprise us with joy and lead us to the hope of the resurrection.

Looking forward to Sunday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrating Passover

I know that it is tomorrow, but we had chapel today. The four guys in our group were in charge of organizing it and leading, so they prepared a Passover meal for us. Cool, huh? I think I've done this four or five different years now and have loved it every time! There is so much symbolism woven throughout the meal. It is just amazing  to see how Christ's death and resurrection was being prophesied back at the time of Moses! Then to think that this was the last meal that Jesus took with his disciples before He died... so crazy. It's like he was saying, this is it! Everything you've been waiting for, looking for, is here! I am about to clarify what it all means.
I won't detail it out for you, but I highly encourage you to research the Passover meal. And if you've never participated in one before, do it tomorrow! Celebrate it with your family, you floor, your friends. Remember what Christ did. And be so thankful that we know how the story ends... I am so excited for Sunday! But before we get there, don't forget to stop and remember the road to Sunday was painful. What Christ did was no small deed. I know I am so thankful that he paid for my sins. There is no way I could ever make up for all the wrong things I have done.
So celebrate Passover. Drink the cup and remember the blood he poured out for us. Eat the bread and recall how his body was beaten and pierced, just so we could be made truly whole. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


What is it? A disease? "Oh no, I've got Connemara. I'll have to stay home from school today." Or perhaps a food? "Will you please pass the Connemara?" Then again, I'm pretty sure I've heard of Connemara horses...
These are the questions we asked ourselves all last night when we heard we were going to a place called Connemara. Turns out, it is actually a beautiful region. It looks really different from the rolling green slopes of Ireland you would expect to see. Instead it is looks more like some parts of the west coast of the United States- long yellow grasses, rocks, mountains. On our way back to the east coast we got to drive through this gorgeous countryside. Just when we think we have seen all the different landscapes of Ireland, we are again surprised. Not an exciting activity day, but a beautiful drive through the country nonetheless.

On random note, here's a joke I heard at Bible Study tonight!
There once was an old woman who had three sons that each wanted to get her something great for her birthday. They were trying to out do each other, so each tried to find the best thing they could. The oldest son bought her a mansion. The second son got her a nice Mercedes with a chauffeur. The third knew she loved to read the Bible but was losing her eyesight. So he got her a very special parrot. This bird had been trained over the last twelve years so that any time you told it a reference to a verse it would recite the verse for you! The son thought this would be perfect!
After a few weeks, the mother told them what she thought of the gifts. To the first son, "You're present is nice, but I am old now and don't need a large house. I only live in one room so that I don't have to worry about cleaning the rest!" To the second son, "I am old and don't go out much so the car is worthless. Besides, I don't really like the chauffeur." To the third son, "You're present was much nicer. Thank you so much for that small chicken. He tasted delicious!"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing Chicken with a Horse Drawn Carriage

Probably not one of the smartest things I've ever done. I'm not usually a daredevil, but I'm also not indecisive... but to be honest this really wasn't that terrifying. So don't fret!
We spent all of today on one of the Aran (pronounced like Aaron or Erin) islands. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, again. We have been so blessed to have such fantastic weather. This trip to the west coast would not be nearly as fun if it was raining the whole time. On the island, we were given bikes and the freedom to explore! So exciting! So we took off down the roads to see the rest of the island.
In some ways, it is very traditional. All the natives speak Gaelic as their first language and English as their second and live more simply than the mainland. But it is also very commercialized... mostly because tourists want to see the traditional Ireland. So on our biking adventure, we had to compete for pavement space with small cars and horse drawn carriages. Most of the time it was fine and we could all weave around each other, but in some spots the road became very very very thin. It was at one of these points that a horse and I had a face off. Audrey and I were following closely behind one carriage and looking for a chance to get around it. We came down a hill and were in the perfect spot when another one started to approach from the other direction. Audrey quickly zoomed around the carriage and made it fairly easily. Now I was left with a dilemma- wait for it to pass and get stuck again way behind Audrey or go for it. This is about where my brain stopped thinking and adrenaline and reflexes took over. I quickly pedaled around the carriage in front of me and managed to just get in front of it before colliding with the other carriage moving towards me. Whew! That was close.
We made it to the far side of the island and sat down for lunch... after climbing another large hill to a ring fort. After lunch and once Kyle had arrived, we were permitted to look over the edge of the cliff in the fort. At first, it felt stupid that we had to wait for him, after all, we're not five. Then he told us if we wanted to go to the edge we had to crawl and we could only stick our heads over... Turns out, I'm glad for those rules too! This cliff edge was a sheer drop straight down to the ocean and boulders below. Yikes! I am not a fan of heights so I didn't spend too long admiring the view.
The rest of the afternoon we explored some more and found a geological phenomenon they call "The Wormhole." It looks like a perfectly rectangular swimming pool in the middle of some rocks close to the edge of the island. It was actually pretty cool. Then we went and saw seals chillin out in the ocean, catching some fish. After admiring them for a bit, we quickly pedaled back to the harbor to make the 5:00 ferry. If you miss that ferry, too bad! You are stuck on the island all night! Needless to say, we were highly motivated to make it back in time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crazy Cliffs

The Cliffs of Moher are probably more well known and better described by the name given them in the movie Princess Bride- The Cliffs of Insanity! They were so tall and steep! It was so cool to see these cliffs in real life. They looked just like the movie! Maybe actors and actresses should take a hint from these epic rocks. They didn't need plastic surgery, tons of make-up, or a face-lift to make them look epic and awesome. But anyway, they were pretty great. We got to walk up and down the edge of them... But don't fret there were walls up to keep us from going over the edge. Although... some parts were blocked off and you weren't supposed to go over the wall and walk on those edges because it has been deemed unsafe. But all the other tourists were walking over there anyway! Kyle must have known this would be a huge temptation for us, because he made us all promise before we got off the bus that we wouldn't go beyond the boundaries. I am happy to report everyone followed his instructions and no one died because they fell off the cliffs! Or in any other way, come to think of it. We all had a nice time safely exploring. And, we have concluded, the Cliffs of Insanity definitely deserve their name! 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It Can't Get Any Better

Just when you think it can't get any better, it does! First we went to Muckross House which is this really old mansion from the eighteen hundreds. Every room was full of items made in some country around the world and is at least 100 years old. This the a French vanity from the time of King Louis XIV, this is a Chinese curtain from 150 years ago, this table is from Cork and took 4 years to carve. Crazy! After our tour of the house we walked through the beautiful gardens. It was incredible. It can't get any better...
We drove about an hour to Dingle Peninsula where we played rugby on the beach! It was so much fun! We were all so sandy by the end, but it was worth it to see everyone running around. It was great because no matter how good or bad you were at it, you were included and encouraged. We have such a great group! It can't get any better...
Then we decided to have a cookout on the beach! So our bus driver drove down to the beach. He started circling the bus around to where we were and... got stuck! I mean, seriously stuck! We all gathered around, put rocks under the wheels, and pushed it out. It took three or four tries before we had it on hard enough sand. Then we pulled our a little grill and started making chicken wings, hamburgers and bangers (sausages). As we cooked, I started watching the tide. The first few people got food; the tide was about 40 yards away. Half the group has eaten; the tide is within 30 yards. After 3/4 had eaten, the tide gets so close we have to move the bus or risk it getting stuck in the water! The remaining five of us wait for the last burgers to be cooked up. By this time, it was 3:00. That burger tasted absolutely amazing. It can't get any better...
After we had all eaten, we packed up and drove off for a tour of Dingle Peninsula. We stopped at a few spots along the way. My favorite.. the Mountain of Dingle! Ok, so I don't know its real name, but it was awesome. There are two peaks, one on the right side of the bus, one on the left side. As we are getting off the bus, our driver tells us that usually the boys run up the left peak, while the girls walk up the nice path on the right side. But if any girls want to prove they can keep up with the boys, go for it! Tempting.... Two guys decide they are going to go. One of them turns to me, "Hey you should come with us! If you think you can keep up." What?! Challenge accepted! So Ryan, Dan, and I take off up the left hill. It was not as easy as it looked to climb. It was covered in prickly bushes so you couldn't just walk straight up. Instead, we scaled large rocks to avoid being stabbed by the little demons. It was totally worth it! The view was fantastic. We hung out up there for a couple minutes, before climbing back down and heading up the other hill. The view from there was also amazing. I can't describe how beautiful it was. Just know... It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mind the Gap

Our exploration of western Ireland continued today at the Gap of Dunloe. In order to get there we took these long red motorboats through 2 lower lakes, a river, and the upper lake. It was gorgeous! But freezing! I was wearing athletic shorts because Audrey and I were planning on running later in the day... Good choice for running, bad choice for boating. I think our driver felt bad for me, because he handed me a rain jacket and told me to wrap it around my legs. Much better!
By the time we got there we were so hungry! So we quickly downed our lunches and set off on the hike. Audrey and I had decided it would be fun to run this hike! We didn't have anything else after this so it didn't matter if we were sweaty. I think we made Kyle (our group leader) nervous. He thought we would get lost... So after much pleading we finally promised him we wouldn't get lost and if we ever felt uncertain about where we were going we would sit down right there and wait for him to catch up.
We took off running and got half a mile before the road forked and we didn't know where to go. GR! So we waited... they showed up a few minutes later and we got better directions and set off again. The road started to incline and after ten minutes we had worked up a decent sweat. Then we reached the path up the mountain. Oofda. That was rough! We did intervals up the winding route. The whole time it felt like we were racing these horse carriages that took lazy tourists up the mountain. They were ahead, then we overtook them, then they caught up to us, then we pushed ahead and managed to outrun the horses! (Although, I gotta give the horses some credit. They were pulling carriages full of people; we had just ourselves.)
Just when we thought we couldn't go any farther, we made it to the top. The view was incredible! It looked more like the rocky mountains than the rolling hills of Ireland. Thankfully, I had handed off my camera to someone else so I wouldn't have to carry it while running, but still have pictures of the scenery.
The rest of the hike felt like a breeze compared to the first third. It was nice rolling hills. We ran, pet sheep (or at least, tried to), ran, talked to a shepherd, walked, ran, saw some rock climbers, ran, walked, ran, and before we knew it, we were there! I thought we still had a ways to go and was trying to conserve energy. So it was a nice surprise to find we were already there! 7 miles through the Gap of Dunloe in an hour and a half. Not too shabby.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My First Kiss

Haha. Gotcha! Sorta. Let me explain.. today we set out for the western part of Ireland. Our last stop of the day was the Blarney Castle where the Blarney stone is located. We climbed to the top of the castle and all took turns kissing this magical stone that is supposed to have given us all the "Gift of Gab". But considering that we all kissed the same stone, the joke of the day is that we all kissed each other! Really gross, right?! Yeah. Come to think of it, that would mean we have kissed all the thousands of tourists that have ever puckered up to this super special stone.
After wandering the castle we headed to the Poison Garden. Yep, it's perfectly name. The whole place is full of poisonous plants. It was disgusting! You know how pretty flowering plants all smell really good? Well, poisonous plants all smell really really bad! Think of the worst thing you have ever smelled kind of bad.
All of the plants had cages over them and there were signs everywhere telling parents to hold their kids hands! You'd think there were angry snarling animals in here instead of green leafy plants. But we noticed one of the cages was empty and walked over to see what was up. The sign said "Marijuana" and then proceeded to describe the plant in scientist terms. But then at the bottom, there was another sign saying the plant had been removed by the Garda due to licensing issues! But they promised to get it back as soon as they could! We all had to laugh because the whole situation was just so weird.
We finished our time at the castle by exploring the grounds, swinging on a swing set, and playing red rover. What fun!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What was he thinking?

Newspaper Article Discussion #4, the last one. It's actually kinda sad because it is really interesting to discuss the news as a group. Today, was my turn to lead the discussion. Kathryn and I chose an article... well actually two because one gave background and the other was the Irish reaction to an American event. The articles: "Pastor Feels No Shame, Nor Has He Any Remorse" and "Irish Baptists Denounce Burning of Koran in Florida."
Know what I'm talking about? On March 20th Terry Jones, a Baptist pastor in Florida, burned a Koran. Back in September he was talking about doing in on 9/11. But he was talked out of it by the US government. Unfortunately a couple weeks ago, he went ahead and did it anyway. As a result, there is rioting in Muslim countries around the world and Christians and international workers are being killed. The whole thing makes me sick.
For our discussion, on youtube we found the initial Irish broadcast from September, the footage of Jones burning the Koran, and then the Irish broadcast of the turmoil it started in Afghanistan. It was interesting to discuss with our class. All were appalled by Jones actions and in no way support it. In fact, it is embarrassing to have someone try to connect the name of Jesus to such an un-Christian like act.
Rather than give you all the details of our discussion, I just share with you a few of the questions we discussed with our class. I hope it will make you think, bring up discussion, and make you more culturally aware.

- What was your initial reaction? Did you hear about this?
- How should Christians respond? How would you respond to a Muslim who stereotypes you and accuses you of being like this man?
- How have Americans stereotyped Muslims in the past,  just like Muslims are stereotyping Americans and Christians now?
-He is planning another large demonstration in front of the largest mosque in the US in Dearborn, Michigan on April 22nd. How do you react?
- How is others perception of the Church impacted because of one man's actions? Consider how the sex scandals that we have learned about in the Catholic Church have impacted the world's perception of them.

Jones following is dwindling. According to our article, his church only has 30 members now and only 14 attended the Sunday after this event. I hope that Muslims understand that this man does not represent all Americans and Christians. Most completely disagree with what he has done. Even if you don't agree with another's faith, there is no reason to do something offensive.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When Wit Meets Wisdom

I must confess, I am not a funny person. I have never been good at telling jokes, especially in speeches. I am quite envious of anyone that can put an audience at ease with  a couple good funny opening lines. I have learned this is not my skill so it's not even worth trying it. I'll just make everyone feel awkward. But when working in a group project with people who are good at humor, I have learned it is best to take advantage of it. In the same way it would be stupid for me to try to be funny, it would be equally ridiculous to ask those people not to be humorous.
For our debates today we were split into groups of five. On my team, we had two of the funniest people on our trip. Both could easily do stand up comedy and constantly have us on the floor laughing. So when we were organizing our arguments, it seemed best to have all the facts in place, but weave in some more humorous comments. So our opening statement began with, "You know what really grinds my gears? They don't have lucky charms here! You know where else they don't have lucky charms? Europe. You know what else really poisons my waterhole? The move Leprechaun; it wasn't even filmed here! You know where it was filmed? Outer space." Not your typical opening argument when you are trying to prove why the Irish need to be understood as Europeans and not just Irish. But believe me, for these two it worked.
From there we were able to lay out some really solid arguments on how Europe has influenced Ireland: invasions in history, European Union and the euro, sharing of cultures, etc. It was interesting, since we were able to combine wit with the solid facts, it put our opposing team off. It's hard to know how to respond to a statement like, "If someone is Irish when they go into the bathroom, what are they when they are in the bathroom? European!"
But even our more serious arguments about the role Europe has played in the shaping of Irish culture was fascinating. Yes, they have many very distinct things that make them Irish. The way I have come to understand it is, in many ways, the countries of Europe are similar to the states in the United States: distinct, with their own governments, history, culture, traditions, accents, etc. But in many ways, so intertwined they cannot be completely separated. You can't understand one state without studying all of US history. In the same way, you can't understand Irish culture, without seeing how all of Europe has impacted them.
Here I go again... my bad. The debate is over so I'm sure you don't want to hear all of that. But I hope you found it a little interesting. And since the main focus of the Irish Studies Program is identity, these are the things we have been talking about. What is the identity of the Irish? What is my identity as an American? What else really defines me?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Running Through Hail

For the past few days, one of our Taylor profs, Vance Maloney, has been here to teach us... whatever he feels like about Ireland. Mostly we've been focusing on identity- both of the Irish people and of ourselves. But tomorrow we are having a debate! I am so excited because debating is one of my favorite things! Topic: Should the Irish be defined more as Irish or European? I am arguing the latter. Today, my debate group and I decided to go to a coffee shop in town to outline our points and do some research. When we started walking there it was partly cloudy but pretty sunny. Halfway there, it started to drizzle; we walked a little faster. Fifteen seconds later it started to downpour; we started running. Thirty seconds later it started to hail! We started sprinting! At this point, we are probably running for a couple minutes before we reach the safety of Insomnia Coffee Shop, completely drenched, but laughing! Such typical Irish weather. Can't seem to make up its mind.
Our research went well, and I am excited for tomorrow. While I'm not sure I necessarily believe my side of the argument I think we can make a solid case for it! I feel like such a lawyer. I wonder how often they actually believe in what they are arguing for. Is that even right? I don't know.
On a brighter note, I have some  pretty hilarious personalities on my debate team. If nothing else, it will be entertaining! I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Settlers of Catan

I feel like I could write a book just about today... but don't fret. I'll keep this brief and try to sum it all up. This morning we invited women that we had met in church over for breakfast. A few of the girls made an amazing brunch and we all sat down and chatted with almost a dozen Irish women. We had prepared a list of questions so that we could get to know them better. Those ranged from "Where is your favorite place to shop?" to "What do you wish you would have known when you were my age?" The idea is, we wanted to learn more about their lives, but also glean some wisdom from older women who have had more life experience. The whole event was grand! Everyone loved it.
Brunch went on for an hour and half, not wrapping up til noon. From there, 6 of us booked it into town to catch the 12:30 DART to Howth. After an hour and a half, we arrived in a cute seaport village. The whole place was hoppin! I didn't realize this was such a popular place to go. But we soon learned why. We did a couple hour hike around the town. It was beautiful! The scenery is absolutely fantastic! Probably one of the top 5 hikes we have done so far. (And yes, we have done more than 5.)
We didn't get back from Howth until dinner time. After supper, we went over to Monte and Gwen's house (our pastor/professor and his wife). We were there for four hours playing a board game called Settlers of Catan. I had never heard of it until this trip and never played it until tonight. But I have to say, it is now one of my favorites! It is way too complicated to explain, but know, if you've never played before you should! At first, I was a bit overwhelmed because there were so many rules! Thankfully we played a couple of games so I could get the hang of it.
We split into two groups and played two separate games since we had brought one and Monty and Gwen own their own. Our first game, Gwen won from our group and Gueb from the other one. So we all switched around for the second game. The first and second place winners playing at one table and the losers at the other table. I must confess, I was at the loser's table. But hey! It was my first time ever! Things were not looking any better the second game. After about an hour, the other three people had 8 or 9 points and I had 4. But then within three turns I had built a couple cities, created the largest army, and picked up a Victory Point (I'm sorry if that didn't make any sense.). In doing so, I reached 10 points and won the game! Everyone, myself included, was shocked! Beginners luck. That's all I can say.
So why do I tell you this? To brag and boost my self-esteem? Well, maybe a little. I'm the winner of the losers! Woopee! But no, seriously. It's more because this is the stuff I will remember about Ireland. Yes we have gone to some beautiful places and learned so much in class about their history and culture. But there are things that you can't learn in the classroom. When I look back on my three months here, what I will remember most is the friendships I have made. Those are way more important than trying to make sure I get an "A" in Hiking Class or Irish History. Kinda sentimental, I know. But what can I say? Occasionally, it happens.

Friday, April 8, 2011

From Inside a Jail Cell

Kilmainham Gaol, like most Irish words, is not pronounced like it's spelled. If you're struggling with this one, try Kill-may-num Jail. There you go. It held several leaders of the 1916 Uprising, including some of the most famous Irish politicians of the time- Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera. I can't say I have been in many prisons in the past... That's probably a good thing. But it was really interesting to get a tour of this early 1900 jail. We even got to sit inside one of the cells. They were so small! I can't imagine what it must have been like, sitting there day after day, wondering if you would be freed or executed.
It was especially fascinating since the rest of the day we spent more time learning about the people who were kept there. Later that afternoon, we went to a museum that talked more about the Rising. We even played dress up and tried on military uniforms like they would have worn. Our reflection day finished with a trip to the cemetery where all these famous people were buried.
It was funny, de Valera was president of Ireland, while Michael Collins was only Minister of Finance and Head of Intelligence during the rebellion. But Collins grave was so much bigger and more decorated! I guess de Valera was right when he said, "It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Michael Collins and it will be recorded at my expense." This evening we watched the movie Michael Collins and it ended with this quote. For good reason too! Collins had to make some hard decisions. How do you fight against the greatest empire in the world? Is guerrilla warfare moral? Should he sign a treaty with Britain? De Valera just cowered in the corner and let Collins do all the dirty work. Then when a treaty was passed, he turned his back on Collins and started a Civil War!
It is crazy to think that these two men were once friends. I guess that's what rivalry and greed can do to a person. It really makes you stop and think. Collins died at age 31, but he was able to accomplish so much. De Valera, while still an important leader, has nowhere near the reputation of Collins even though he died at age 92. No matter how long I live, I want to be remembered as someone who was willing to tackle the hard topics, even when finding a solution seemed impossible. I refuse to cower in the corner and let someone else do the work I hear God calling me to do.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday ISP!

Tonight we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Irish Studies Program! We had a nice dinner and invited people who have been involved with this program over the years. There were about 20 Irish and American founders, current organizers, and professors (past and present) of this program at our dinner. We were able to talk to them and hear their part of the story. It was interesting to hear them talk about how the program was started. Originally, Vance Maloney wanted to start the program in Albania! But then this little thing called a Civil War broke out in that country and it didn't work out for them to go there. Somewhere along the way he decided Ireland might be a good location instead, and thus the beginning of the program.
But it was also crazy to think that we were representing 600+ other students who have come through the program in the past ten years. I know probably a dozen people who have been here, including girls who have lived on my floor. It's so crazy to think that all the things I am seeing and doing they have also experienced before me. Normally, you come back from a trip and everyone wants to hear your stories, but they can't really relate. Not so with the Irish Studies Program! This study abroad program has plenty of alum who I know love to talk about the country. Though we have all been here at different times, and our experiences aren't exactly the same, I am excited to talk to them all about the things I have loved about this country.

An Honest Politician

A few weeks ago, we met a young, prospective TD (senator) of Ireland who was running in the general election. This politician made us a promise, that if he was elected he would get us a tour of the Dail (their government building). And he did! Thank you Simon Harris!
Wednesday morning we took the DART to Dublin for our tour of Leinster House. The tour started in the Dail Chamber where all the TDs gather to argue over bills they want to pass. For those of you at Taylor, Ayres 215  is modeled after this room. It is beautiful, decorated in gold and blue. There were only a few TDs debating while we were there, but we sat in the upper level and watched the whole proceeding anyway. They were arguing over bank reorganization and structure. The Minister of Finance was making a case for his plan to get the country back on track.
After listening to them discuss for awhile, we went and toured the rest of the building. At one point, Leinster House was an actual house belonging to the Duke of Leinster, hence the name. It wasn't until 1990 that it took on its current role. Throughout the building are paintings of past presidents, Taoiseachs (Prime Ministers), and other important people in Irish history. The room they were probably most proud to show us had picutures of foreign dignateries that have addressed the Dail including three American Presidents: JFK, Reagan, and Clinton. President Obama may soon be added to this list. He is planning on visiting Ireland the day after the Queen leaves this May.
The most exciting part of our tour was seeing Simon! He stopped by to check with us while we were in the middle of the tour, but at the end he met up with us to chat for a bit. We were shown back into the little cafe area where only people who work there usually go. Then Simon got us all coffee, tea, or pop and we got to ask him about his first few weeks in office. So far, the most exciting thing he has gotten to do is nominate the Taoiseach! This role is traditionally given to the youngest member, and Simon at age 24 got the job! So he had the privilege of standing up while they were in session and proposing that Enda Kenny be chosen! Crazy!
It was great to see a politician keep his promise to a bunch of American students who weren't even able to vote for him! Although, we are probably his biggest fan club. Over the television in our living room we have one of his campaign posters. After the election was over, we saw a man taking them down, ran up, and asked for one. He was confused why we wanted it, but gave it to us anyway. It turns out that was Simon's dad! He was pretty proud of his son and convinced Simon will be Taoiseach one day! We'll have to see if that comes true. Anyway, we had taken a picture of all of us sitting in the living room with this poster in the background and someone must have tagged Simon in it on Facebook. He laughed as he told us how funny it is to have all our random snapshots of him or his poster on Facebook right next to his nice campaign pictures. Honestly, I think secretly he really likes it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

And then there were two

The Three Stooges and Audrey decided to go on another bike ride! Turns out, this was a bigger adventure than our last bike trip!
Audrey had found online a website for a pet farm in the town over from here, so we decided to take a homework break this afternoon and bike there! We went down to the sheds, grabbed the bikes, and prepared to pedal off on our big adventure. But then...
Mo (Me): "I can't reach the pedals!" (Looks for the lever that my bike at home has that allows for easy seat adjustment. It doesn't exist.)
Larry: "Me either!"
Audrey: "Go find Dan. He knows how to fix it."
Mo: "Ok..." *Walks back into house, into the red room where a bunch of people are hanging out.* "Dan, can you tell me how to lower the seats on our bikes? I hear you know how."
*He and the two other guys in the room respond. This is all that I can understand of what they are saying since they are all talking at once and using words I don't know.*
Boys: "Blah-Blah-Blah. Allen wrench. Blah-Blah. Bike seat. Blah-Blah-Blah. Right angle. Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah."
I'm sure all the rest of what they were saying made sense to them, but is honestly sounded like gibberish to me. The confusion I felt inside must have shown on my face, because Ryan finally stood up and volunteered to just adjust the seats for us. So we head back outside.
Mo: "Don't worry guys. Ryan is going to grab the Allen wrench and fix our seats!"
Audrey: "Who's Allen?"
Mo: "I don't know!"
Ryan: "This is an allen wrench." *Holds one up for us to see* "It's different from a Phillips wrench or...."
Mo: "Why don't they ever name wrenches after girls?"
Ryan: "Cause obviously girls don't know anything about wrenches!"
Touche. So we get our seats adjusted and take off on our adventure. We know more or less where we are going... Sort of. We get a third of the way there and Larry turns back. The path was taking us up some steep hills and she got discouraged. We get 3/4 of the way there and Curly turns back! It was down to me and Audrey. We keep going an a minute later see the signs for the Farm! Two minutes later and we are there! And find out it is closed! WHAT?! Audrey had checked the website four times and it said they were open! Dumb internet has lied!
So we start heading back since there's nothing else we can do. We get back to the house, drop off the bikes and head into town. Since our pet adventure failed, we go looking for another. It's a beautiful sunny day, so we go get frappes at Insomnia where Audrey volunteers on Saturdays. The guys there must think she's pretty sweet because they gave us our drinks for free! Definitely a pick me up after the pet farm let down.
Then we get on the DART and decide to go to a town we have never been to before! That should be an adventure! We get off at Glenageary and walk less than a mile then realize we are at a town we have been at before. I have no idea how we did this, but we got off at one DART stop and walked all the way to the next one. We were so confused so we got back on the DART and went back to Brey.
We wandered around there for awhile and then realized we had less than 10 minutes back to the DART. We started to speed walk back to the DART and even jogged the last 200m... only to barely miss it! Fail. We sit down and wait for the next one. 30 minutes later, it arrives.
By the time we got back to the house we were both so hungry! At least dinner was fantastic, so that made today a little less tragic. Ok, so it wasn't that bad. Our crazy adventures really were a fun way to spend a day off of class.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cooking Failure

Ok, so it wasn't a complete disaster... just a minor catastrophe. But hey, it's hard cooking for 25 people! Here's what happened... we got a recipe online for French Toast Casserole. Kinda weird, but it sounded good! On the website it allows you to type in how many people you're cooking for and it adjusts all the measurements for you. Sounds great! Right? Well, sort of.... It adjusts ingredients, but doesn't change the cooking instructions. So things like the size of the pan, cooking temperature, and some of the amounts might be a little off.
We got into the kitchen around 12:15 to prep lunch which is usually served between 1 and 1:30. The prep for the casserole should only take 10 minutes  and then the cook time is 45 minutes. But our oven usually cooks fast so we figured it would be closer to 40 minutes. We put the bread pieces in the pans and get ready to dump the egg-milk-salt-sugar-vanilla mixture over the top, and realize we don't have nearly enough! The bread is barely wet in fact, some pieces are completely dry. No problem We'll be ok, just whip up some more of the wet mixture. Problem 1: We don't have any more eggs! Normally they keep some in the pantry but today, none! What to do? What to do? I guess we'll have to go to the store. One of the girls offers to run down there, so the rest of us start chopping up stuff for fruit salad. 20 minutes later we have the eggs, have mixed everything up and are putting the pans in the oven. It's now about 12:45 so lunch will probably be a little bit late. But that happens pretty frequently.
1:30 roles around... the casserole is nowhere near done. But there is nothing we can do. Lunch is pushed back to 2:00.
2:00- still not done
2:15- no change. Turn up the heat 10 degrees.
2:30- We're getting desperate! We have figured out the pans are too big for the amount we're cooking. It will take another 30 minutes at least to finish! So we take everything out, quickly divide the 2 large pans into 4 smaller ones and stick them all back in. Hopefully that will help speed things along.
2:45- Still not done! We are so hungry!
2:55- Game over. We're eating anyway! We pull them out and they look done. So we go with it.
3:00- Everyone lines up and grabs some food!
3:05 The DC is silent because everyone is eating! They were all so hungry! Thankfully the casserole tasted good so it was almost worth the wait.
So in the end, it all turned out ok. We just ate a really, really late lunch. Then we pushed dinner back to 7:30 to spread out the meals a bit more and everyone was fine.  Lessons learned- look at a recipe more carefully, especially when its made to cook for 4-6 people and we're making enough for 25-30,  use smaller pans. and don't be afraid to divide and conquer!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fiddler on the Roof

Last night we (my family and class) got to see the play Fiddler on the Roof! It was incredible! When we went to an Irish play for class a few weeks ago, we saw signs that this would be playing. But we forgot all about it until this week, when we realized it was having its last few performances here! So we quickly went online and got tickets! Since my family was here and the LOVE that movie, they were also super excited to see it! The tickets we bought were on the third floor in the balcony seats. (Since about 20 people went, we bought our tickets in three sets. My family paid for our separately from the rest of the group, but got seats near them). Since the theater is small, they're really not that bad of seats, so our entire group decided it was better to not spend to much on tickets.
So all of yesterday, our "class" was visiting churches around Dublin and going on a tour of Dublin castle. Then in the afternoon we had a couple hours off before the play. My family was good sports and tagged along for all of it. About a half hour before the play was supposed to start we headed to the theater. My dad had picked up our tickets earlier in the day so we walked right up to the door. But the lady stopped us. "Oh, I'm sorry. You'll need to go back to the ticket office. Your tickets have been upgraded." Sorry? Don't be sorry! This is great! Maybe we'll get to sit on the second floor! So we walked back to the ticket office where we were handed an envelope with our name on it. I couldn't tell where our new seats were located based off the tickets but it seemed they were at least a couple rows closer. So we walked in and were directed to the main level about 15 rows back! We were all shocked! I actually walked back out and checked the signs to make sure we were in the right spot. It was such a blessing! We never did figure out why, but my family got to enjoy an amazing play in amazing seats!
The play itself was absolutely fantastic! I was completely blown away! The cast was actually rather large and all the actors were phenomenal. I think I actually like the play version better. I found myself way more  attached to the characters. The one scene where Hodel leaves home to go to Siberia where the man she loves is in prison was really touching. In the movie that part seemed sad, but for me, at the play it was far more heart wrenching. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that I was sitting next to my dad who I was about to say good-bye to for another four months...? Probably.
But anyway, the whole thing was really grand! I'm so glad my family got to experience the play with me! It was definitely one of those "once in a lifetime" moments!