Sunday, April 24, 2016

While studying abroad, we had the choice to volunteer or what we looked at more as making connections, with any community foundation in the town of Spiddal.  I along with three other girls walked down to the nursing home, about a 7 minute walk from our place of residence.  The head nurse was Katie.  Katie was one of those people who the minute you met her, you could tell she was passionate about her job, and not only her job, but the people included in it.
The first time we went, we massaged the elderly people’s hands with lotion.  Kendra and I got to know a sweet lady with the name of Anne.  This was the first time and was more of getting to know the elderly. 

The next two times I went, was on a Wednesday.  They have activities to keep the residents involved and feeling good about themselves. Some of the activities they had was, singing, painting, and exercises in the chair, tossing a ball and answering questions, and playing with a parachute. Some of these activities keep the residents muscles loose.  The lady who came to sing with the residents sang mostly old Irish folk songs. I was only able to recognize a few of the tunes.  Some of which were, Galway girl, Danny Boy and a few others.   The other activity we did the other day was tossing beach balls to the residents.   One of the beach balls had questions on it, and when their hands caught the ball, they had to answer that question.  This was my favorite activity that we helped with as we were able to get to know the residents even more.  I found out that one of the ladies was 96 years. Almost every time we walked into the nursing home, this resident would be reciting a poem that she learned years ago.  As she said it, she would say it with such joy and enthusiasm, that no matter how many times the workers had heard her say it, they always had a smile.  My favorite part of making connections with these people, was learning a little about what they have to go through every day and seeing how much joy the staff bring to them and they bring to the staff.  The one thing that I won’t forget, was, when this man was asked what was one thing he was looking forward to.  His reply was: “Going to heaven”.   I learned a lot from this experience and was very thankful for the opportunity to meet such friendly amazing people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Squad

cuddling in the cold
    I never thought I would find myself in a group of students with absolutely nothing in common but yet so tight that people may feel threatened when seeing a group of 17 American students.  At the beginning of this adventure, I found myself a tad worried that I would not fit in with any of these students. However, little did I know that each and every one of them would inspire me to be myself rather than just a copy of who society wants me to be.
    Several of us have had some things go on back at home with family members that we each had to deal with, but we were not dealing with these problems by ourselves as we had 32 arms for hugs, 16 hearts for healing, and 32 ears for listening.  There never has really been any drama, or mad bashes of fights, however, when eating, sleeping, traveling, hanging out and going to class with the same people, tensions can happen and tiny annoyances will occur, and even though at the end of these three months I am ready for a change in people, I know that not two weeks will pass and I will be missing these students.

Regans 21st surprise party

My birthday dinner
My birthday dinner continued..
studying together
family football 
Fun Adventures

walk to Spiddal
Climbing crew

Miranda's surprise hen party

However, one thing that most definitely changes the mood is weather. On the one day where the sun shines and the skies are deep blue, more smiles and laughs are present.  Some of the unique activities we all have done as a group together, include surprise birthday parties, potlucks, deeps sea fishing, surprise Hen party,  football and frisbee, walking to the ocean at night,  movie nights and going out on the town together.  One night Kendra and I decided to walk to Galway and back which was a 5 hour walk in total.  Well having long tangly hair at the time, I got fed up wit it, so we stopped at a local store on the way home, bought hair cutting scissors,bread and fancy cheese.  That night, I handed the scissors to Kendra, and 3 minutes later I  had short hair.  The biggest key with these students is including everyone and no matter what, have fun, even if plans fall through.  Without these amazing people, my study abroad experience would have been very different.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you feel at home and your heart feels happy? You then think to yourself, yeah, I could be happy here. This place just happened to be Westport, Ireland.  Granted it could change as I plan to go everywhere and find many more happy places, but for now, Westport is my happy place. 
 We started driving through these astounding hills and valleys.  I was a little disappointed as it was cloudy starting the day out.  However, a little prayer can bring the sunshine out if you just have a little faith.  And with that, the day was filled with beautiful clouds and blue skies. The sun sent its rays out on the hills and colored them with a yellow green grassy color and the rocks casted shadows behind them leaving you with a beautiful polka dotted landscape.  as we kept driving down the winding Irish highways, we had to stop a couple times for sheep in the middle of the road and a little lamb estranged from its mother.  A couple times we would drive around a hill and suddenly I would have to take in a deep breath to realize the beautiful landscapes I was witnessing. 
The waters were like glass, reflecting every gentle breeze in the branches. I could see the vibration of the colors in the water.  We stopped along side the road to take pictures of the high hills with clouds creeping off the tops, water falls and rivers winding and cascading down the side of them and sheep grazing at the bottoms. We soon drove along to Kylemore Abbey.   We stopped for about 20 minutes, took pictures then hopped on the bus and soon we drove to the base of  Ireland's tallest mountain.
 Croagh Patrick Mountain.  It is a holy pilgrimage that people go on, but only on certain days of the year.  Nine of us brave souls however, decided to cease the day.  We sweated, struggled, tripped, and fought long and hard up that big old hill (since Ireland doesn't technically have mountains).  We made it to the top of that "mountain".  Right when you thought you were halfway there, you only found out you still had another hour to go.  With wet, loose rocks and practically on all fours because of the steep, vertical incline, we reached the top.  The view was absolutely breath taking.  There was a church at the top.  Looking beyond for miles and miles and miles, you could see the ocean, rolling hills and little towns.  By the time we made it down the mountain to sea level, it was easier to breath but our muscles felt like jelly.  As soon as everyone made it down the mountain(4 hours later), we drove into Westport.

  Westport is a cute little town with a town center and a river cutting it in half with delicate bridges and beautiful walkways.  We walked on the 25mile trail behind town but only for about 3 miles.  It took us on a winding pathway weaving between tall tree forests that breathed in the wind.  We then came along to Westport House.  A very beautiful Victorian house. I could picture women in their intricate lace dresses and lavish hats, walking on the stony paths looking at the water and sitting under the shade of the broad old twisted trees.  There was a field of sheep behind the old house and a trail that led us out of the countryside right into the center of town.

 Westport has my heart. The scenery and all the water and greenery around Westport was picture perfect.  When one would think of Ireland with rolling hills, grass, sheep and water, one is basically picturing Westport.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cultural Differences

When walking into an office for an appointment, or someones house as a guest, in America, what is the first thing they may ask you?  I guess it may depend on where you may be, but it usually goes like, do you want something to drink or often times there may be no offering. You just have to ask.  Here on the Emerald Island however, they always try their best to be as kind and thoughtful.  Not just a "Nebraska Nice" where they are doing it cause its the right thing to do, but because they are genuinely concerned and care about the well being of who is right in front of them.  So, back to the first sentence, in america, depending on where you may be, you are maybe offered a drink.  Here however, it is a genuine yet specific question of, would you like tea or coffee?  Saying no, not an option, by the way.  Tried that at the nursing  home where we are doing our service project, and yet I still ended up with a cup of tea in front of me. The tea and coffee here however, is nothing like back at home. They are both so much richer with flavour and authenticity.  Definitely say yes to that cup of tea or coffee, you would be missing out if you said no.

wood carver form Sligo
With that said, it just shows that culturally, the Irish behaviors tend to be more thoughtful.   Now I have an american accent and possibly still, after living here 3 months, may look like a tourist, so it could be possible that they are only acting kind for that reason. I must say, the men over about say 40 are delightful.  They are more than happier to help out and do it in a most gracious, loving way.  From taxi drivers, to security guards, to wood carvers, to jewelers, to people passing by. They will tell you about their whole life story with no worry to time.  I feel as though my description is not doing them justice. Come here and you will most definitely experience it.  The women tend to keep to them selves on the other hand. By the way, do not be shocked if you get asked about Trump 2-10 times a day.

The Irish may have the stereotype of drinking all the time, which is true to some extent, however, the Irish are Hard workers.  Over and Over again have we been told in our history class how hard the Irish work.  After Witnessing the Lodge assistant owner and handy man, this statement is very true.  His name is Jean Paul, J.P. for short.  He knows so much  information about traveling, finding good cheap transportation and when and when not to go to certain countries.  He also, is always working whenever I see him around.

my view on my morning or morning run... 
Sense of humor also, is their second language here.  If you do not have any ounce of sarcasm, it could be rough trying to get around .  They joke and occasionally a couple vulgar words may slip out, but in the most beautiful way. Not that I encourage this behavior, however, coming from an Irish man, it almost sounds like art, and not anything to be offended by.

I have always felt safe here in Ireland, I have not once felt unsafe.  I can go on a walk in the country side by the cows and the rock walls and not have to worry about anything.  Obviously, it is good to have that little light of caution in the back of your mind, however, culturally, I feel as though the people here were raised to enjoy life, be kind and have fun.  I also love the way in which they live life so simply.  Day to day life doesn't fly by here.  They do not take good to people rushing them.  I also see a lot of people exercising
and riding  bikes, and walking a lot more.

Culturally, from where I was raised, in Nebraska, these seem as major differences to me.  How a person was raised depends a lot on location, religion and many other factors.  I most definitely love the fact that I have been able to be submerged in the culture for a prolonged time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Class in Ireland has been quite a new experience.  I would compare it to a chalk board.  Not just any chalk board, this chalk board.  This is the chalk board in our daily classroom.  If you notice, there are three main colors.  Yellow stands for my culture class, pink stands for my history class and blue stands for the literature class.  My Special topics class is the black board itself. 
My culture class has been a great experience so far.  We have had the chance to learn to bake some fresh vegetable Irish stew and cheesy potatoes.  We have learned the basics of the Irish language. For example we have learned to say hello, and their Irish welcome which is "A hundred thousand welcomes".   We have also been learning about Iris folklore.  My favorite story so far is about the mermaids and how they lure people out then capture their souls.  It definitely is the complete of opposite of what we think of mermaids.  Ariel would be disappointed.  Our next item of learning in our culture class is the Irish tin Whistle.  This has so far been my favorite part about this class.  A younger music teacher who plays her Irish instruments amazingly, comes in three or four Mondays and teaches us the basic of Playing.   Our class definitely sounds like the5th graders learning the Recorder.  We have learned the difference between a polka and a Waltz, and other unique Celtic Instruments.   

History class is the designated color, as when I think of the color pink, I tend to think of a little crazy and bright; Which is how I would describe my History class.  We tend to get into raging debates taking most of the class period.  Our instructor is a little more careful about the topics he tends to ask us about now. Our Professor tries to relate Irish history to us as much as possible, knowing that we do not have all the Irish background history that most kids our age here, would have.  We are talking about the Easter rising since it is the Centennial year of this monumental year of 1916.  We also had a debate in one of the most famous Pubs in Galway. It is also very historical as it is called the Kings Head.  It was named after the first king who was beheaded to stop the monarchy and start a democracy.  It is an amazing feeling to learn something in class and then to go out the next day or so and see something you just talked about.

My literature class would be described as blue because blue is a mellow color.  In literature class, we study a lot of different types of poetry, literature styles written by Irish authors and a couple different plays. This class can sometimes be lengthy as our professor is very into what he is teaching about.  The poet we are studying a lot of is Yeats.  When we went into Sligo for a weekend, we saw murals of Yeats' poems.  We found out later that he was from the town of Sligo.

The homework load is pretty manageable.  There is a lot of reading if you don't pace yourself.  The books to choose from for Lit are really good books.  It is nice to grab a book in your free time  and sit down in the sun and just read and read and read.

The class room where we study is a nice little lounge with comfortable couches and red carpet .  When the Wi-Fi  is a little weak, we come inhere or we come in here just to hangout.  We mostly do our work in  our cabins, but when you need a change of scenery, this is the place to go. 

The room where we have class is the hotel activity room.  I like this room  as  it has wood en floors and antique style desk chairs.  They have a pool table and a ping pong table.  There is a big window in the front  that gives off a lot of natural light for class.

Since our special topics class is the black board, it is the basis of all our classes.  As we go out and see things on field trips, and our service projects, we are able to apply each color on our chalkboard.