Friday, December 3, 2010


I bet by the title of this post you can guess where i currently am... so after the semester official ended in Northern Ireland students then have the option of being able to travel Europe on their own for a while. so that is what my roommate and I are up to..

To start things off we slept overnight in the Belfast International Airport to make sure that we were able to get to our 7AM flight alright. it had been snowing for a week before this and the only road to from Derry to the airport could have been closed... once there we flew to London's Heathrow airport and proceeded to stay there for the next 6 hours as we had a 4 hour layover and a 2 hour delay. good times. but it was all worth it when we finaly made it to Athens and got to our Hostel which is probably the best hostel there is.
Today after a good nights rest we made quick work of walking the entire city it seemed like in about 6 hours. We saw the Ancient gardens of Agroza, the Acropolis which includes the Parthenon and the 2 theatres right along side of it. Zues' Temple, the Pantheonic Stadium which is were the first official Olympic games were held in 1876. The Zeppion, and finally the Parliament building where we watched as they did the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which reminded me a lot of watching my friend from high school doing his Greek dancing. Anywho off to Rome/ Pompei tommorow and will try and update then when we get there.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Coming to an End

I can't Beleive this, It is almost time for me to leave Northern Ireland. A week from today i will be opn a play heading to Athens to start my traveling of Europe which students on our program are allowed to do once our semester ends.

But i digress back to Derry for the time being. Lately we have been going to different events and meetings and not to mention working in our work placements. currently i am working at the peace and reconcilliation group which is an orgnaisation devoted to public relations in the community and organizing "cross community" events that have both members of the protestant and catholic communities present in order to get a better understanding of each community. The project that i have been working on a lot is called "Let's Talk Politics" and was held in the guild hall in Derry last week. What we did was have 104 students from 9 different Secondary/Grammer schools in the area(Those are High Schools) come in and get the opportunity to speak with politicians from all of the parties of parliament. it was really cool from my perspective because i was calling politicians all the time and trying to get them to attend our event which is a lot harder than it would seem. I felt important as by the end of the programme most of the politicians had been in personal meetings with me and knew me by name. Not to mention that the Mayor and I are close friends now and have seen each other probably 10 times in the last 2 weeks.

Speaking of the Mayor, the other evening we did our Irish Dance and Irish Tin Whistle performance for him as well as our host families in the Guild Hall. It was an overall good time as we got to show off our new skills(or lack of skills) and everyone had a good laugh and overall just good Craic(Craic is a general word for fun/fellowship. oftentimes when someone greats you they ask "What's the Craic" which means something along the lines of what has been going on?)

Last weekend we were at Corrymeela for one last time to get all together as well as time to reflect on our experiance here and to do reviews with our programme director. While we were there we went on a day trip together to see a Fairy Tree which is a magical tree that the people of Ireland are afraid of because of it's aura and the legends that surround them. when we asked our programme director if we could go hike and touch the tree which was surrounded by a wall that was made to protect it and keep people away from it our director looked at us very seriously and said "Don't! I have never known anyone who has not had something happen to them after doing such a thing. I have heard of people who have cut Fairy Trees down and later had their arm cut off or that they were struck down with illness." So touching the tree then seemed like a bad idea.

We then went to Cushenden and walked along the beach for a while and found some swans that were fun to look at. after the beach we went to this national park and walked down this trail where there were a lot of waterfalls. it was really fun and cool and i even at one point stuck my head into a little trickle of water running down the rock wall which was really really cold. i mean freezing!!

We then went back to Corrymeela and got ready for our fancy night out at the Causway Hotel with a nice dinner. I ate entirely too much food and don't regret it at all! after which we went out to the town of Ballycastle and went out to a pub to celebrate my housemate's and another girls birthdays that were that weekend. we all had a good time and just enjoyed everyone's company and the evenings activities.

Well I guess this is it for now as I really haven't updated in a long time. But i will for sure update again before i leave for Greece and hopefully will be able to as well on my trips around the continent!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Parents and the ROI

This week is suppose to be our "paper writing week". i say suppose to be because if you get all of your papers done before hand, and or have a good grasp on getting them done before the due date of next week, then you can take this week to travel because last week was our last week of classes. so what do i do on this "Paper writing week"? i travel the Republic of Ireland with my parents who flew over to spend the week with me!!!

we started off by heading down the northwest coast through the Conemara National Park and over to the city of Galway, and then on over to Dublin for me to run in the Dublin Marathon on Monday. just to mention i placed 1605th our of 14 thousand and finished with a time of 3 hours and 27 minutes. it was such a cool experience and to get to have my parents there with me to watch and go explore dublin with i ran was the best part.

After the marathon, the days of painful walking and climbing of stairs commenced as we explored the central part of the ROI(Republic of Ireland). we went over to a the Bunratty Castle and were served a midevil meal in which the only utensils we were given to eat with was a dagger and our hands. at one point during the show that we were given, i was thrown into the dungeon by the volunteering of my parents because of "fratenising with the ladies". which the only "ladies" at my table was my mom and a group of 70 years old and up women from Maine. to get out of the dungeon i was required to go up on stage and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. needless to say, no one wanted to hear me keep singing so they let me out of the dungeon for the evening.

The last few days have been the most exciting as we have been to the Cliffs of Moher and the Dingle Peninsula which are both on the southwest coast of the ROI. The Cliffs of Moher were really cool because we got to walk through a bunch of cow pastures in order to get to them and then there you were, right on the edge of some pretty nasty drops into the ocean.(see pictures) and the Dingle peninusla was really nice do because you were driving through mountains and could get out and explore the different areas. as i kept saying "It is like one big jungle gym!!!!"

These last few days we are going to be traveling through southern parts of the ROI and looking at mostly castles and cathedrals. today we actually went to theKillarny National Park and saw the Torc Waterfalls and Muskross Abbey.

After such a fun filled and exciting week, it doesn't seem like fair that i have to go back and finish off my papers in order to pass all of my classes for the semester. oh well, if that is the price i have to pay in order to have an amazing paper writing week and time with my parents, then so be it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Behind Schedule

Sorry, but i am behind schedule on these blogs. it is coming down to crunch time here as our Final papers are due this week for all of our classes since all of our classes are done after this week and we are going to be doing our work placements after this.

I promise to update(with photos) of our trips to Dublin and Belfast that we took the last week but for now i am just going to post this link to a report that was shown on BBC last night that Josh and I watched about the Disident Republican groups that are a threat to the peace process here in Northern Ireland and specifically they talk about what has been happening here in Derry/Londonderry. This is what we are really learning about here. this what what we are trying to understand and get our heads around. this is why we are here, to better understand why this is happening. The Bomb that they talk about at the beggining went off 2 weeks before we got to Derry and the second one they talk about went off 2 weeks ago when we were away in Dublin. even with this threat we all feel extremely safe, but it is interesting to see how this effects people even today, 12 years after the Belfast/good Friday Agreement.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

So one minute we are sitting in class after being told by our program director to dress nicely yesterday, and the next minute we are sitting in the 3rd row of the Great Hall on campus here listening to Former President Bill Clinton give a speech about his economic ideas and goals for Northern Ireland as well as challenging us, "the Youth", to become more economically aware!! I don't know about you but I think that is pretty stinkin' cool! Bill(we are on a first name basis now) talked about how it was a huge honor for him to be a part of the peace process in Northern Ireland in the 90's and how impressed he was to see that both the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the Deputy First Minster, Martin McGuinness, are working together to work toward a brighter future in Northern Ireland.

Oh and did i mention that both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were present for the speech and met up with our group and took pictures with us afterwards? oops. oh and did i mention that John Hume(known to be the man that started the effort towards the peace talks in Northern Ireland) and his wife were also sitting literally 2 rows in front of me as well as the speaker of parliament William Hunt! Not to mention that the hip and trendy 27 year old mayor of Derry as well as the deputy mayor of Derry were present and sitting right in front of us as well! I was so star struck with all of the absolutely HUGE names that were sitting right there in front of us that I almost didn't notice that Chris Matthews of NBC news was sitting right beside the other half of our group that was 2 rows back!!!!

After the speech was over, Bill walked towards our group and I was lucky enough to get to reach out and shake his hand! He looks so much older and more frail that I would have imagined him to, but it was still extremely cool to get to shake his hand. Also after the speech Amanda and I got whisked away by our program director to get interview by the NATIONAL NEWS!!!! so cool! we ended up just answering questions about what we thought about his speech as well as if we were impressed by his status and his stances on the economics of the region. I said that I was!

To end a pretty much awesome day here in Northern Ireland, we all went to a local cafe to have dinner(chicken and bacon Caesar salad) and then to get some absolutely Delicious ice cream(JJ's cookie and Smarties)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trip to Donegal

This past weekend we went to the county of Donegal which is pretty much right next door to where we are living. this was cool for 2 reasons. one being that it is in the Republic of Ireland and two being that it got us out of the city and we saw some really cool sights!!

First of wee headed to this really cool circular fort at the top of a hill in county Donegal. the hill was so high that you could actually see 3 counties of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland(Londonderry, Tryone, and Donegal). this made it a useful fort as it could see for a very long distance as well as it could see all the way up the river Foyle which is the major waterway into the mainland of Northern Ireland. another cool thing is that all of the places we went to had almost no one there and there were really no rules except "don't break the artifacts" and "don't break yourself". that second mostly applied to me as i turned the forts and cliffs and beaches that we went to into huge jungle gyms and explored and climbed all around. the circular fort was also built around the time of Christ which was really cool to think about how just how long it had been there.

Next we went to the amazingly cool Fort Dunree, which is a fort that was refortified and re-armed in order to protect Ireland against a German invasion during World War 2. it was a lot of fun and once again some really cool scenic views on top of being in a huge fort. we could climb on top of the buildings to see where the soldiers would have had a lookout and some of the girls even said they saw dolphins, but it turns out the only dolphins they saw were the ones on the information boards that were posted up all over the place.

After seeing the two forts we went to the small ocean side village of Moville which had a really cool beach with rocks that had to be climbed and i was up to the task. i jumped from one rock to another and then to another and finally would find myself stuck and wondering how i was going to get back without getting wet. it was a really nice way to end the day with the sun setting over the ocean and sail boats floating just off shore by the lighthouse. it made for a very good ending to a very good day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Whistlin' and a Dancin'

On top of all of the classes that we are taking here in Derry at the local campus of Ulster University, we are also required to take two cultural classes which are Irish Dance and Irish Tin Whistle. to some of the people in the group this is absolutely a "requirement" and to others it is kind of fun. see i am actually one the best in the group at both, which is amazing cause back home i would have no sense of rhythm compared to most people. i guess i just got lucky with who else is on the program with me and that they are just as bad at it! They blame my talent on my blond hair which i do not find very funny at all.

The Tin Whistle class is a lot of fun because it is every Tuesday night at one of the local elementary schools. so not only are we learning one of the most simple instruments, but we also feel like idiots because we are sitting in the little kid chairs of the elementary schools and are way too big for them. sometimes when we play a really hard song(which in all actuality is a really easy song) you can hear someone get really frustrated and their whistle squeaks and or you hear a fluster of notes coming from one area of the classroom usually accompanied by laughter, to which our teacher points out that no where in the sheet music is laughter called for.

Dance is different though. we go to the Verbal Arts Center inside the walls of Derry to take our class every Friday afternoon. the room that we are in is really small and Josh and I have to watch our heads when we skip around to make sure we don't smack one of the lights that hangs from the ceiling. the ceiling is so short that without really jumping at all, I can hit my head on it.

When all things are said and done though, we have to perform these new cultural skills to the mayor of London/Derry. could be interesting to see and hour host brother has already told us that he is going to videotape if for us and post it online because it is going be some "Real good Craic!(craic means fun times or something good like that, it has lots of different meanings)" lets just hope that some of the people in the group practice then!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adventure to Belfast

After our last class of the week and our Irish dance class, Josh and I caught a bus to Belfast to see the city and go to an Ulster Rugby match. it was a ton of fun and we both enjoyed ourselves. being there was completely different from being at a football or baseball game back in the states. it was as much about doing chants and cheering the whole time as it was about watching the actual game. the field was in the middle of the stadium and then there were bleachers on either side and actually the first 15 rows of the bleachers were used as standing room only. where people could drink and hang out like they were at a pub except outside at the game. Josh and I were up in the bleachers though, and every once in a while the other side of the stadium would start a chant and then our side would join in and the echo of the two sides were deafening.

Rugby is also a pretty amazing sport. lots of running, lots of hitting, lots of really huge guys, and not very much padding. actually no padding. except some of the guys use this like little foam beanie hat but i am really doubting that it does all that much protection wise... they even pick the biggest of the guys up so that they can catch the ball being thrown in or kicked off. it is crazy. it seems like the entire game is based on who can push their own player farther while the other team tries and stop them.

In the end Ulster(the team that represents the 9 northern counties of the isle of Ireland) defeated Edinburgh(pronounced Edinburough, also the capital of Scotland) 29 to 21. it was a really fun time and I even got my first souvenir, a tee shirt. after the game Josh and I walked back to the bus station and caught the last bus back home to Derry. I don't know if much can beat how much fun we had that night.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have officially registered for the Dublin Marathon on October the 25, 2010. I have done two marathons before and anyone who knows me know that I am always looking for endurance sports events to do and this one just kind of plopped right into my lap. that week in october is our "paper writing week". which really means that it is time for us to all finish up our paper for our classes without having any classes and then turn them in but if you have all your papers done before then, well then you can do anything you want. like run a marathon or something like that haha.

the past few days we have really started to get into a routine in life here in Derry. we roll out of bed(depending what day it is and when class is. classroom building is in picture.) go to class or work out or vice versa, then take a trip if need be to the super market to get groceries, then relax the afternoon away while working on some research for class as well as watching our new favorite british game shows on tv. then it is off to making dinner(actually one of my favorite times of day) and eating and then in the evening it depends on what we are feeling like. we may watch a movie, go out to a pub with some of the other people or play games with our host brother.
Also we have started to take our Irish dance and tin whistle classes. It is pretty funny to see how uncoordinated some of the people in the group are or how frustrated they get because of a little flute like instrument, but I shouldn't be talking because i am sure they are saying the same things about me too. it has been a while since I last played an instrument. oh I would say about 7 years or so. and I really have never danced either... I can't wait until we have to perform our dancing and whistling in front of the Mayor of Derry in October!! so much fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Long Runs with Baked Potatoes

What is the best way for someone to explore and find out where everything is in a new place? Definitely just to go out running. said that it was suppose to be 70% chance of rain all week, everyday, every hour, every minute, so naturally been sunny with a high of about 75 everyday with the exception of one.(and it really did rain all day that day...) that weather come to be about the best running weather you can find, so instead of going to the gym and "working out" with Josh the last couple of days i went exploring on my runs. naturally i got lost on the "Waterside" of town(mostly protestant area) and what went from being an easy 4-5 mile run through neighborhoods became a desperate 8-9 mile run to try and find the bridge that would take me back across the river to the "City Side"(mostly catholic and where I am living). But as I said before, the cool thing is that I now know where everything is!! somewhat...sorta... alright so I probably couldn't find it again if I tried. So to solve that problem I went for another long run over the waterside and once again got lost on a 8-9 mile run. whoops.

I have used tactic of getting lost on runs before to learn a new place when i got there, and that place was Bluffton! I feel like since Derry is much bigger than Bluffton it could take a few more runs and miles to get the hang of this place...

Also last night we had the whole group over for Baked Potato Night at our house. Tons of fun ensued, especially with the fact that Josh and I were in charge of making the potatoes and neither of us had a clue what to do, but it turned out ok. we all ate and chatted and then played some cards.(Uno, Spoons, and Phase Ten) It was a good time and also a good way for all of us to check in on each other outside of class.

That's all for now, gotta go to my Northern Ireland Politics class(the most boring of our classes... gotta try and stay awake!) But I promise I will have pictures of Derry up on here on my next blog. maybe I should take my camera out with me on a run just like in the movie Yes Man!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekend Adventure!

So this past weekend a couple of us hopped on a bus and took off for the wonderful blue grass music festival happening at the Ulster-American folk park. Now the Ulster-American Folk Park is a park devoted to showing how the immigrants from northern Ireland(A.K.A Ulster) had an effect on the way that the United States of America were formed. Just attending this park on any given day would have been cool as the whole park is set back in the good ole days and there are people dressed in costumes walking around telling the history that goes along with the park. But we were lucky enough to be able to go on such a day as the Blue Grass Music Festival. It was really cool seeing all of the bands play and they had 5 stages with different concerts going on at all times. Another cool part was that one of the host families bands was playing at it called the Henry Sister. I would put a video up but for some reason the Internet doesn't like me so a picture will have to suffice.

Once at the park we enjoyed the music, each others company, as well as some good burgers and ice cream. even though it was only maybe 55 degrees outside. gotta love those Ireland summers...

the last few days it has been raining which has put a damper on the whole walking to and from class as well as the grocery store attitude. but in other news i got to truly test my new rain jacket which works awesomely. Thanks mom and dad for getting it for me for my birthday! To try and boost our modes from the cool wet weather, Josh and I decided to make some chili tonight. this was interesting because neither of us knew how to as well as we didn't really know what to use. but after consulting a very sketchy looking online recipe we decided to go after it anyways, and with the help of our host brother who saved the day with some spices it turned out pretty good. Next item on the dinner menu to try and tackle is meatloaf. oh how cooking for yourself can be kind of exciting!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Everything is Fine!

There was a bomb scare here the other day. i don't want to go into too much detail about it as the police are investigate as well as i would like to keep myself and the rest of the group and host families safe by not saying too much about things like this. everyone is fine and really the only thing that happened because of it was that there was a major section of the town that had to be cleared and so there was a huge amount of traffic trying to get out of town. It was amazing though, no one would have known what was going on if we had not been told by our professor who had heard about it on the radio before class. the entire class period we heard police sirens and cars honking as we were suppose to be focusing on "Northern Ireland Politics". It really felt like no one really thought anything about it. our professor had told in such a non chalant way that i felt stupid when i ask "Do things like this happen often? and what should we do?" he just kind of looked at me and said that there was nothing we really could do.

After class Me and a few others walked down to the grocery store to get some food for the "Taco night" we all had that evening at one of the host families house. As we were walking police cars were going everywhere and people were just kind of carrying on with their normal business. it was amazing to say the least. I didn't understand how people could hear about something like that and still just sit outside a cafe eating a sandwich and drinking a beer. But it almost felt like it was a taboo subject to talk about with anyone, i felt so conflicted with the aching need to want to learn more about what happened but not wanting to offend anyone by talking about it. people were so quiet about things like this that apparently earlier in the week there was another bomb scare that none of us even knew about!

I have no other way of explaining how i felt than amazed at how everyone around here reacted. but i guess after over 30 years of violence and "troubles" people are use to things like this. which is just hard to imagine when you come from a place that even the smallest things make the news as huge catastrophes. things like this just go to show that although the Belfast agreement of 1998 and the decommissioning of arms in the 21st century have happened. there is still very much so conflict happening in this part of the world. You could ask anyone and they would not hesitate to tell you that immediately.

In other news, Josh has developed a sort of runny nose, and i have had a sore throat and migraines for the last few days. Our program director says that it is just the fact that our bodies are not use to the germs on this side of the ocean yet and that we will get over it but it is getting really annoying. We hung out with our host brother a lot lately too. he is really funny and is always up for a good time, and really knows the good places to go and get a bite to eat. Josh and I ventured into town for lunch yesterday and were able to find a place called Wetherspoons to eat at and got ourselves some burgers!!! they were OK but the fries here, or should I say "chips", are absolutely amazing!

No plans for the weekend as of yet, probably going to start working on some homework and reading and try to relax after making through our first week of classes!! Again to everyone back home. I am fine, I feel safe, and I am having the time of my life!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pasta and Laundry, I Really am Living Here

It is official. as of yesterday I finally realized I am living in Northern Ireland for a semester. it only took a week and one day of being here but there was just something about doing laundry in my new home that made it hit. there was no crying, homesickness, or loss of consciousness. it was just a feeling of, in my best words, "Oh Boy...". Oh boy, i need to go shopping. Oh boy, I should get some of the ridiculous amount of reading i need to do done. Oh boy, i am cooking a pasta dinner tonight and really don't know how to cook a pasta dinner. yea that last one was probably the most scary. Laundry here is a bit different too in that there is really no dryers. at our house if it is nice out, you put your stuff on the clothes line in the "back yard"(more like back alley). if it is not so nice out, you put your things in the "Hot room". don't be fooled this room is actually really hot. it holds the water heater of the house so it is like a sauna and after putting your clothes in there on the drying racks, you yourself feel like you need to be hung out to dry as you are sweating up a storm. it is also where our host family makes their own wine at. actually a really cool process that our host dad showed us the other night as we were eating dinner.

Cooking is a whole different thing from back home. our family doesn't have the conventional oven and burner set up. oh no, they instead have a thing that i believe is called a "range". it is on all the time and it works from burning oil very slowly. it actually serves two purposes, one being that you put stuff on top of it and it cooks it, and two being that it heats the house to a certain extent. very cool. except Josh and I had no idea how to use it to cook our pasta. it is not like we can change the temperature of the thing. So as Josh boiled the noodles I browned the meet and then added the pasta sauce and had to keep taking the sauce off the burner and then putting it back on as the noodles were taking especially long to cook for some reason. after pouring ourselves glasses of our new favorite juice(tesco brand orange juice that is carbonated!!!) we sat down and enjoyed our immense amount of food. we had no idea that we had cooked that much! we now safely have leftovers for the next 3 evening and wont have to cook again until Monday!! this is working out perfectly, plus the fact that we only used half the noodles and meet so if we just go and get sauce we are set for another Delicious pasta night!!

As the weekend is approaching though we are all trying to figure out what we are going to do. some of the group wants to go to the Ulster American Folk Park which is apparently really cool plus one of the host families is performing musically at the part this weekend for a festival. I know that Josh and I are looking to go to a Rugby or Gaelic Football match sometime during our stay but we are still trying to figure out the busing situation here in Derry. it all seems so foreign even though we have the exact same thing back home.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

oh the places you will go... or just try to find?

Well the last few days have been an adventure to say the least. so much so that i don't quite know where to start with everything. it is so new, crazy, and fun! OK i guess i will start off with the start of classes. they are so different from back home. you get into class, the professor gives you the list of books that you "should" read, which is like 40 of them, and then he gives you the prompt for the final paper you have to turn in and then it is off to lecturing. Each class is once a week but for 3 hours long. like 3 hours straight class. I don't know how I stayed awake the whole time. the nice thing is that we only have one class a day so once it is over we are done for the day and get to explore. and explore we did yesterday...

After class Josh, my housemate, and I went to town to go and get a card for our hostmom cause she is retiring today so there is some sort of party. actually my host brother has been cooking none stop from last night it seems through this morning for the occasion. also we had to go out and get laundry detergent and meat to put in our pasta that we were going to make. i say that we were going to make it because we didn't actually cause we got invited to dinner at two of the girls house because they were making potato soup and didn't want to have any leftovers.

The only problem with going to the girls house for dinner was that we didn't really know where they lived, and they gave us the wrong street when they gave us the address. both those things really helped contribute to Josh and I wandering around the Bogside(the area to the west of the walls of Derry, AKA the location where Bloody Sunday took place) for about and hour until we finally gave in and called the girls. we didn't want to call the girls because it is really expensive to use minutes on the phones we were given and were also kind of determined to find our way by ourselves. woops. but dinner was good none the less.

after dinner some of the other girls wanted to go to the pub so we went to a local pub and all had a blast. there was live music and people were dancing and singing and just have a grand time. ("good craic" if you want to put some Irish slang in there) some people came up and talked to us and we would politely act as if we 1. understood them and 2. really could actually hear them. it was loud with the music going on and people were everywhere. I am glad that we go there early for seats. the live music was amazing and I couldn't get one the songs out of my head so naturally this morning i went on a google search to try and find it and boom there it was. the video i am about to put down is a performance from a pub just to kind of give you the idea of what it is like but it is not actually the pub we were at. i should have brought my camera so i could have gotten a video. I kind of can't wait to start tin whistle and Irish dance lessons now!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Being Scared on Top of Being Scared...

These past few days have just been scary. first we went off to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and salmon fishery which was blow your mind beautiful, and now we are moved into our homestays and will be living here for the rest of the semester. The Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge is a really old rope bridge that hangs over are crevice about 80 feet deep. in high tide times if you fall off you get a lucky splash landing, but in low tide times you would not be so lucky. and of course we went during low tide... fortunately for those of us that are a little afraid of heights though, over the years they have reinforced the bridge to make it almost impossible for anyone to fall of. once on the other side though the grass on the little cliffs is really slippery and getting close to the edge is sort of a hair raising experience. After seeing all of the sights at the rope bridge we went to the old ruins of the Dunluce Castle. funny story about the castle, the kitchen fell out of it, in the middle of preparing for dinner, and was lost off the cliffs and into the sea.

After a good ole time these past days, it was really sad to have to leave Corrymeela today. but none the less we set off to our new homes in Derry. once there Josh, the only other guy on the program, and I met our homestay parents and brother. we are living with them for the next 3 months and we seem to get along really well. Josh and I went down to the local grocery market with our host brother and bought some food to start us off. Pasta and tomato sauce for dinner the next few days, and then good old PB&J for lunch. For a week of food it was pretty cheap, only around 7 pounds which in dollars is about 11 bucks!! After that we went to a art gallery opening with our host family and then back home for dinner, chicken curry(it was really good!!). afterwards we all sat down and watched a movie and drank this incredibly confusing drink made of apricots and ginger. the apricot was so sweet and tasty and the ginger left a burning sensation in the back of our throats. then it was off to bed, which really meant skyping with the parents and girlfriend and trying to unpack everything I will be living off of the next 3 months.

It is scary to think that this is my new home. it is like moving into the dorms freshman year all over again. you don't know where everything is cause your mom packed all your bags and you don't know where to put everything because you are afraid that you might offend someone who really doesn't care about it at all. What I am even more scared of is classes starting because classes over in Northern Ireland are completely different than those at Bluffton. The professors do not give you a reading list or what needs to be done by when, they just give some names of books that might be helpful and expect you to have them read by certain times. Also there is no homework for our classes apparently, so all that we have to focus on is reading and studying up for our papers that are due at the end of our 8 weeks of classes. this might be the strangest 17 credit hours i will ever take. but i know they will be the most exciting!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Finn McCool and a city named Derry

The other day we made the half hour drive from Corrymeela to go visit what in Northern Ireland they refer to as the 8th wonder in the world. it is called the Giants Causeway and was formed when volcanic lava cooled down rapidly when it met at the ocean and cracked into geometrical shapes that are stacked up in pillars. some of the pillars have fallen over and others are still erect but it is a pretty amazing spectacle to say the least. when we got there our program directer Myrven, told us the folk tale of how what the locals say formed the causeway. they say it was formed by a rather large giant named Finn McCool who in a fairly funny story ends up defeating another giant from Scotland to protect Ireland. as we climbed down the 162 steps to get to the causeway down by the ocean we couldn't help but take pictures of the amazing way nature can marvel us. once down to the bottom of the stairs we all had fun looking at things like "Finn McCool's boot" which is a large boulder in the shape of a foot. If you were wondering he wears a size 80. as well as some of us decided to climb around and have fun. knowing me this was like a huge new jungle gym and it became a game of trying to hop from place to place, rock to rock, as fast as I could and I am sure that the Irish tourist couldn't understand what that wierd American was doing jumping around like a monkey.
So after a day of exhausting hiking and jumping around like a fool, naturally the next day we went on a walking tour of the walls that surround the city we are going to live in. Londonderry/Derry is one of only 2 stilled completely walled cities in the UK. the walls are from way back, like I mean way back. I don't want to throw a date out there because I know I will be more than likely way off. I believe I remember the tour guide saying that the walls were built some 400 years ago and everything about them is original except for the top walking path which has been redone. Before we went on the walking tour though, we got to meet the Mayor of Derry and ask him a few questions on the way politics work in Northern Ireland and sadly i think i was one of the only people who asked any questions. the people in our group are kind of quiet and i don't mind that as i can be quiet too, but in a situation of trying to talk to a delegate like this it comes in handy to have chatty people. Oh and the political system of Northern Ireland is crazy. the cities elect "consulates" and then those consulates then elect a mayor from the group. also because of the Belfast Agreement in '98 they have to have the equal amount represented from all political parties in terms of departments and higher up positions but not in actual number of representatives. for example, if the mayor is from a Unionist party, then the Deputy Mayor(second in charge) is from a Nationalist party, and also the next mayor has to then be from the Nationalist party.

Our director was talking to me about how one another "sizes" each other up in Northern Ireland and i thought it was really interesting. He pretty much explained that the first time people meet each other they ask questions to try and find out what political party they might be from or what religion they are without actually asking those questions as it is rude for them to do so. things that i thought were so trivial like asking someones name or where they are from or what school they went to can be seen as invitations to "banter". banter, as explained in one of our orientation books that we read last semester, is the art of skillfully arguing with one another on intellectual basis. which means for me it would be like getting into an argument with one of my uncles or grandpa about political issues, but for people in Northern Ireland, they can turn the craziest issues into issues of great importance just by changing a few words. I never really thought about just looking at someone for signs of where they are from or what they might agree with politically just by looking at them until a man from Fort Worth, Texas came to CorryMeela today and it was obvious where he was from. He had the cowboy hat, and everything and then i realized that we do the same thing in the United States. Just for us it is not about politics and religion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Here and Still Not Realizing it...

Were here!!!!! the plane rides were less than enjoyable. Especially having to run through the Newark airport only to come to our gate for our flight to Belfast and see that the door was already closed, but after the girls put on their best puppy dog faces they agreed to open the doors just to let all ten of us on the flight!!! By then they had already given our seats away and so I got to be lucky enough to sit in between 2 overly talkative grandmas that just thought I was the sweetest boy in the world. Finally after a 4 hour nap and sitting through "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" we arrived at 8:30 in the morning in Belfast International Airport(3:30 our time). We went through customs and then met up with our program director Myrven Love, who showed us to our bus and shipped us of to CorryMeela Retreat Center for our next 5 days.

Once at the center we got a tour of the grounds and then got some free time before some of us decided it was finally time to give in to the urge to sleep before dinner/tea time at 5:30. I was not one of those sleeping people, instead we went with 3 of the volunteers into the town of Ballycastle to look around and see the beach. FYI the water on the northern coast of Northern Ireland is FREEZING!!!! oh and it is only about 60 degrees here as oppose to the 90 degrees we have been use to back home. After walking the mile into town and back we arrived back to be welcomed to a nice steak dinner and some fruit spongcake dessert!!

Tomorrow starts off with lunch at 1 and then off to orientation and then Giants Causeway!!!!(A.K.A the 8th wonder of the world)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Up Up and Away

So all is set in motion for the next few days. work is all done for the year, as of yesterday, and i believe that the beach will survive without it's head lifeguard there for the next few weeks. i think i have a pretty good staff that can handle me not being around to tell kids not to throw sand and explain what times things are open or what they cost, oh and maybe save someone here and there. top quote of the year goes to a little boy that came up and asked if "There be fiches in dat pool?" to which i replied, "yes, yes there is fiches in the pool." it was a good year but i was really ready to get out of that park and on the road.

All has been packed, including my toothbrush and some extra socks. my suitcase has officially be weighed, and the total is now comes to is 50.2 pounds. i sure hope that the people at check in are not sticklers about the weight or i might be paying extra or trying to fit an extra pair of jeans into my carryons. speaking of carryons... they are busting at the seams. they consist of two over sized backpacks that are carrying an extra 20 pounds of "stuff" in each. things include, passports, food, shoes, wool sweater, khaki pants, folders, 2 books on ironman racing(i may be a little obsessed), and 1 stuff animal(insert being made fun of here).

Today would be Sunday and so far today i have seen my mom, dad, sister, grandma, and girlfriend all cry as i left my house with my girlfriend to go to her house because it is closer to school. the only person who did not cry would be my dog, and she was more worried about my mom crying and where her bone was than actually about me leaving.

after spending the evening at my girlfriends i am excited to get to school tomorrow! There is the sending ceremony at 12:30 at the peace thrones on campus(all are invited) and at about 1:30 we load up and head out. we will fly from Dayton to Newark and then stay in Newark for about an hour until we leave for Belfast at 9:30 PM and arrive at 9:00 AM. that is going to be one long flight!! although i say that and have done almost the exact same flight twice before going to Scotland and London. After that it is a 4 day orientation at the CorryMeela Retreat Center and off to our homestays.

i probably wont be able to post until we get to our homestays or even later so this would have to be a goodbye for now. but trust me, i will live to blog again! just next time it will be in NORTHERN IRELAND!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reality is Hitting

Holy cow, after 2 days of intense "YOU NEED TO GET THINGS DONE" from my parents, i believe that my suitcase is officially packed. the contents of which include the following:

4 wool sweaters (recently purchased at the Salvation Army!! Chyea)
3 dress shirts (never know when you need to look classy)
slacks and "trousers" (in Ireland pants are what your refer to if you are talking about underwear)
15 t-shirts
2 pair of khaki shorts
3 pair of workout shorts (gotta stay in shape for track in the spring/plus maybe a marathon in Dublin?)
lots of socks
shoes 2 pair
man i feel like i am even forgetting stuff in this blog, even more than i feel like i am forgetting in real life.

The official weight( i before e except after c, and when its "eh" as in neighbor and weigh. my dad just taught me that second part.) of my suitcase is 49 pounds. they are only allowed to be under 50 pounds so i am in the clear on that one. so everything else must go in the two backpacks i am taking as carryons. including another pair of shoes, some clothes and other random objects that are necessary for me to be able to function for the 4 months "across the pond". alright so maybe i just wanted to say that.

as of right now, in one week i will more than likely still be on a plain over the atlantic ocean heading to me knew home for 4 months in Northern Ireland. SO EXCITED!!! saturday is my last day of work, sunday i leave for ohio to stay overnight at my girlfriends house because she lives close to school and i want to spend time with her family before i leave. and finally, on monday afternoon it is off to Bluffton to attend the sending ceremony at the Peace Thrones. then from there it is off the Dayton to Fly away. I can't wait!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Caution: Life is About to Be Interesting

So as my first blog, this is going to be a freak out blog. if you don't know me, I actually tend to have these moments in my life where i put things off and then all of the sudden they need to be done and oh boy do they need to be done. things like homework, studying, working out, and worst of all... drum roll please... packing. oh boy do i hate packing. almost as much as i hate doing laundry, which in a way is the same as packing because mostly it is the separating of clothes and folding them. yuck, folding clothes, makes me shiver. The thing with these freakouts is that i mostly will keep to myself and bottle it up until i am just ready to expload about the matter. i really don't want to do that right now because that would just start off this whole experiance i am about to embark on.

Now you may be wondering why i am packing. in fact, i am leaving on the 23rd of august for a semester abroad on the Bluffton University Norther Ireland program( It has been a goal of mine to study in another country, actually it is more of a wanting to live in another country. so now as i sit in my living room watching my parents TV show as they both sleep in their respective spots on the lazy boy and sofa, i am starting to freak out as i realize, oh boy, i am about to say it, i only have a week and 4 days until i leave!!!!! oh man, all i got right now is the dog to try and stir up and freak out with and even she is sleeping on the couch which is why i am on the floor.

For me, the future is actually a really scary thing to think about. i don't even like thinking about tomorrow as much as thinking about next week, or the months i will be in Ireland, or my last two years at Bluffton or what i am going to do after school. usually i just think far enough ahead to my next race. and since i am not doing cross country this fall due to being thousands of miles away in Ireland, i have been looking for new things to look ahead to. The crazy thing is all i can think about is how i need to pack so i can repack and pack again to make sure i have everything. i have lists of answers and have gotten so much advice from people who have been on the "experience" and all i can think about is questions i still have, but when i go to try and write them down nothing comes out.

So i guess what i am trying to say is that i am both excited for what is certainly going to be the most memorable and interesting experience in my life, and am most definitely scared because it is venturing into the unknown. But I need this. i need adventure and i want to experience life, especially because this has been one of my goals for a long time. I am excited and i can't wait to leave.