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.