I've been neglecting my blog lately. I don't really have an excuse either. I still have plenty of free time. So, this is my formal apology, and I fully intend to share my most recent experiences.
I have completed two weeks of school, and I can finally make it to school without getting lost. Walking to school may not sound like quite a challenge by reading my blog in Vermont, or even looking at how to get there on MapQuest; however, it's pretty simple to get lost. Getting to school is like a maze. I zig zag across the city for 35 minutes to eventually arrive at my school. Now that I know where I'm going, I'm not really sure how I got lost. I think it was a combination of letting my feet take me where I needed to end up while my mind was thinking about the next four months in Dublin. Either way, I now know how to get to and from school, and that's an accomplishment.
I am taking five classes and a lab here in Ireland.
I have Global Environmental Earth Science, which is taught by the director of Champlain College Dublin. He is an enthusiastic man when it comes to his passion. His passion just happens to be geology. Every trip that we have taken, he points out small geological things about the land, and has a mini lecture. It's very fascinating, and surprisingly interesting. Just this past weekend I was sitting on the beach on one of the Aran Islands. I said, "I have sand all over me! It's even in my shoe!" Stephen, my professor, was standing in front of me and quickly replied, "actually it's not sand." I, along with a group of my friends say, "huh??" He sort of laughed and replied "sorry, but let me correct you. Pick up some of it in your hand and look closely, it's actually crushed shells." He continued to talk about the crushed shells making up the beach, and how often the waves wash up the shells. I've never been one to enjoy science, but the constant stream of science facts may rub off on me by the end of the semester.
I am also taking Irish Culture Through Fine Arts. For the first two classes, we have gone to museums. The first class we went to the Natural Museum of Ireland, and the second was House Number 29, Dublin's Georgian house museum. Two classes, and two field trips. I can't complain. And yes, I am in college, and we take field trips.
Non profit and Social Marketing is my third class of the week. It is taught by a woman who is on the board of trustees for Champlain College Dublin, and she also works in the marketing field. She seems to have an abundance of knowledge that she can translate well to students. The class has been raved about from past students in the program, and that's why I took it. It doesn't look like I will be let down. I am looking forward to gaining more knowledge in the marketing aspect, and especially from a foreign land's point of view.
Another class that particularly pertains to my major is Intercultural Communications. The class seems to be fairly interesting, although it seems to be more about diversity and culture than communication, but I'm happy to learn either way. So far, it seems to be like a class I took my freshmen year in high school called AWOD (A World Of Difference). I hope to learn some new things, and reconnect with old subject matter I have learned about in the past.
My fifth class is Modern Irish Social History. It is taught by a man who has a thick Irish accent, and has a great sense of humor. My first day of class, I said my full name, and he stopped me, and said, "you're Irish." I replied with, "yes, I am." And he continued to have me tell the class about what I know about my heritage. I told him what I knew, and explained that I am eager to learn more through my trip here. He was the first of many people to say, "welcome home." Welcome home. It sounds so bizarre to think that I am being so openly welcomed to a country that I know little about, but have so much history with. It's a powerful message, and I have now heard it a number of times. It makes me feel like I actually belong here. It's nice.
I'm in a routine with my classes, which is nice, but I don't seem to have a routine for any other time. That may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing. But I have time to figure it out. I think I'm going to join a gym for the next few months while I am here, which will put a little more routine into my schedule. It's a gorgeous gym that's relatively close to my apartment. It has a number of floors each dedicated to a different type of workout. There is a floor that has just cardio machines, another with free weights, another with weight machines, and there is even a pool! I didn't bring my bathing suit to Ireland, but I'm sure I'll find use out of every other aspect of the gym. The best part is, it's only about a 10 minute walk. It's a hefty price to join, but I think in the long run it will be worth it.
Other than my day to day life, I went on a trip this weekend. I went to western Ireland. I saw Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher, Aron Islands and Galway. I had an amazing time, but it has left me exhausted.
Doolin is this wonderful small town in western Ireland. When I say small town, I mean tiny! It was adorable. From our hostel, we walked past cow pastures to a restaurant/pub where we ate dinner. The place was full of locals to talk to, and it was very interesting. I found the walk back to be a little more interesting. After a few pints of Bulmers, I could not stop laughing about how humorous Doolin was. We were walking on a dirt road, in the middle of no where Ireland, past pastures of cows, to get back. There were no street lights, no cars, and no one else on the road. People were using their O2 mobile phones as flash lights to guide us back in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, there isn't a wrong direction, there was one road, but it was nice to see what we were walking towards every once in a while. After our dinner, we went to another pub that was lively and had loud music on. There were members of our faculty who joined us at the next pub, and what seemed to be like all 50 Champlain students. It was a great time. I talked to people in the program who I never spoke with before, and got to know others a little better. The best part, I was in bed by midnight, exhausted.
It was a good thing we went to bed so early because we had to get up at 9am for breakfast and to take the ferry to the Aron Islands. The Aron Islands were amazing, but the ferry ride was nightmare. The choppy waters left most people nauseous ready to boot at any moment, and left others actually throwing up into plastic bags. It was not an enjoyable trip over, but the island was beautiful. Once we arrived on the tiny island we had the option to simply walk around, rent a bike to ride around, or take a horse and buggy around. Originally I had planned to rent a bike and enjoy the scenery, but after (what I felt like) a near death experience in the ferry, I decided to take the horse and buggy with my friends. The man and his horse, named Captain Morgan (I have to admit, I liked the smelly horse a little better after hearing her name) showed us around the entire island. It was breath taking. I also hiked a hill to see a grave yard and also the ruins of an old castle. After walking around, I stopped in a cafe and ate lunch, then spent the rest of my time on the beach enjoying the weather and the scenery (also dreading the ferry ride back in my near future). The ride back was just as bad as going there. Luckily, I didn't toss the bucket either way, I just turned ghostly white and thought I was going to die. I think the experience on the island was worth the pain on the ferry; however, I do not see myself ever taking that ferry again.
After the Aron Islands experience, we hopped back on the bus and headed for Galway. We entered the city at about 6 at night, and were free to do whatever we liked for the night. It was a little disappointing that we didn't get to spend any time exploring the city while shops were open, but I ended up having a nice time. By the time we got to Galway, I was tired and sick. I also desperately needed to eat dinner, since the one I ordered in the Islands wasn't satisfying, go figure, picky Heather not liking her meal. Anyways, a few friends and I left our hostel in Galway and walked to the popular area called State Street, which is like a Burlington Church street on a larger scale. We aimlessly walked trying to figure out where and what we wanted for dinner. Everyone was so exhausted, we were zombies. Finally we just walked into a place and said, "that's it, we're eating here." It was a great dinner, and I actually felt much better after eating. At dinner a friend and I discussed how we wanted to buy Claddagh rings in Galway, because that's where they originated. All the shops were already closed when we arrived, so we had talked about waking up early to go to stores in the morning to look for them. As we walked back towards our hostel, we noticed that all shops on Sunday mornings don't open until 10 am, which would be after we left from our hostel anyways. We were disappointed, until we found one tiny shop with a very helpful man. The shop was open, we went in, and found the rings that both of us wanted. The man was a jolly Irishman who was in an especially good mood because he was going to go fishing in the morning. He gave us a 10% discount on the rings, and also provided us with helpful hints about taxing in Ireland, and how we can save money toward the end of our trip. My friend bought my ring for me, and I bought his for him, because it is good luck to receive Claddagh rings from someone else. So, now, we both have the luck of the Irish with us.
Following our lucky encounter at the ring store, we went to a bar called Coyote. I think they were trying to impersonate the American Coyote Ugly theme. It was crowded, filled with bachelorette parties, and had an awful live singer. I stayed just long enough to see a few of my friends ride the mechanical bull, and then I left with my roommates to go to bed for the night. I didn't think I was ever going to sleep that night. I had a pounding headache, and every time I shut my eyes I felt like I was on the boat again. We were all talking about how we still felt sea sick and were never going to fall asleep, but no less than five minutes later, we were all sound asleep.
This morning, we woke up, went downstairs for breakfast, packed up our belongings and got on the bus for our ride home. On the way we stopped at a place I can't remember the name, because I was so tired. I'll figure it out later. However, I know it was on the Shannon River, and used to be a tower with a moat, along with a grave site and a few churches. It had some pivotal meaning and speciality to early Christianity. It was pretty. I took pictures. I'll have to Google what it was later though.
Now, I am back in my apartment, which feels like I have arrived back home. It feels nice, I'm excited to sleep in my own bed tonight. I only have one short piece of homework to do. It's only 5:35, so I have time. I'm definitely going to bed early today. Overall, it was a great weekend full of great experiences.
Now, you are completely filled in to my Ireland experiences as a approach my three week mark. I'll try to keep all of you more updated, and write on my blog more often.