Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ring of Rainbows and Happy Days

I'm writing a week earlier than I expected because I was simply blown away by my trip this past weekend! All of last week and the weekend following were just a blast! Valentine's Day was celebrated with some homemade savory crepes and the purchase of a beautiful bouquet of flowers by Katie, my roommate. We had fun trying out different crepe combinations and getting creative in the kitchen. I turned 22 the day after Valentine's Day and was pleasantly surprised by cards in the mail from my family as well as a new sleeping bag and travel book from Mom and Luke! Getting stuff in the mail is my FAVVVORITE, not to mention getting gifts! Katie lined the hallway with balloons, Missy and Shelby made me a card and gave me some cupcakes from the market- the day was off to a great start! I treated myself to a FREE facial at The Body Shop around the corner and then spent the rest of the day shopping with my roomies, walking around the city, and then going out for a delicious dinner where I was sang to and surprised with a piece of chocolate cake and balloon (The waiter reused a Valentine's Day balloon and used a sharpie to make it a Happy Birthday one. Works for me!) !  We then went to The Corner House where more friends joined for drinks and traditional music. One of the greatest combinations, I think. THEN before I knew it the weekend was here! I was signed up to go on "The Ring of Kerry Heritage Weekend" with the university and was excited for what I'd heard was a fun-filled weekend. That it was. At the top of my highlights list was the incredible weather!! God was shining down on us that whole weekend cause we had not seen the sun for that long since leaving our homes in the US! It was out all weekend giving us the most jaw-dropping view of Irish coastlines, cliffs, and hill sides. We spent the entirety of Saturday and Sunday riding the coach bus all around the western county of Kerry, hopping off and on, snapping pictures, running around beaches, and just soaking up the sun!! Being on the bus was great for meeting new friends from Germany, Italy, and Sweden (and of course more from America). My friend Giovanna from Italy invited me to come down to her home in southern Italy and spend Easter with her family! People studying abroad from the rest of Europe are so inviting! If they are going to be in their country, they want you to visit and they are excited to offer a place to stay. I hope to take her up on that offer, but it would certainly be a costly detour so we'll see. ANYWAY- the evening's were spent at the hotel learning Irish dances, Gaelic football, crashing birthday parties in the hotel pub, playing trivia, and walking down the street to the local pubs. All in all, it was a million things I can't even begin to describe, but I came home absolutely refreshed and more than pleased to be in Ireland. Going away on short excursions makes Cork feel even more like home and I enjoy that feeling. This next adventure, however, I may not want to return. Tomorrow morning I head to Switzerland for three nights in a mountain hostel, ski-in/ski-out onto the slopes, a midnight hike and sled, and soaking my sore muscles in the community hot tub. I couldn't BE more excited for it! I didn't expect to take as many pictures as I did this past weekend and so was going to wait til after Gimmelwald to update the blog, but seeing as I took 700!! (yikes!), I decided to share some with you now and spread out the love.
This one's random, but I found MANHATTAN popcorn in the store! My favorite place AND my favorite snack!

My new sleeping bag! I'm in it right now writing this blog actually! 
Valentine's Day crepes. Stuffed with fresh veggies! 


Birthday festivities! Balloons, chocolate cake, and Jake, Katie, Me, and Alex having a drink at The  Corner House. Such a fun day to distract from the fact that I'm getting OLD!

First stop on the Ring of Kerry- Kerry Bog Village.  Famous for their Irish coffee and reconstruction of an old Irish settlement.

Saturday morning, the beauty begins!
Visit to a local Dairy Farm. Yes the cow is sucking my hand...

Julian, Me, and Giovanna leaning into the wind! SOOO windy at the top of the hill!

Hello from IRELAND! (That's what I wrote in the sand)

Nina, Lisa, Me, and Giovanna on the bay overlooking the Dingle Peninsula

Ruins of a Medieval Ring Fort

The sunrise Sunday morning. I happened to catch the orange tint on the shade one morning and followed the glow outside my window and behind the hotel to watch it come up over the hill. GORGEOUS!

John is the man in charge at the hotel. He ran the triva night and I took score. Over two Irish coffees and in between rounds, we became great friends.

A local farmer brought two of his lamb to the hotel before we left to let us hold them!

We found the end of the rainbow!

Lunch overlooking Killarney National Park. A delicious chicken sandwich from the hotel and Twirl chocolate finger for dessert. Nothing better than chocolate in the mountains. No matter WHAT mountains they are!

Me, Marian (the trip leader), Kelsey, and Lisa after lunch at Killarney

The waterfall at Killarney National Park. 

And that was the end of the Ring of Kerry Trip. There are SO many more scenic pictures but those will have to be saved for my return. As always, the summary of how I'm doing so far is well. I'm extremely excited for the trip I embark on tomorrow and I'm constantly thankful for what has already come to pass. I still hit those days of longing for home, for easy communication with those that I love, for something familiar...but I think those days of nostalgia hit you wherever you are. They are part of life and to feel them as deeply as I do when I'm away, I KNOW is making me stronger, teaching me more than I would ever learn from the aching at home, and is growing me perhaps even beyond the old age of 22. : )

Say prayers that the slopes don't get the best of me! I can't wait to share what Switzerland is about to dish out to me. 

Miss and love you all,


Monday, 6 February 2012

February already!?! One down, four to go!

This blog is all about the pictures. I can't believe today begins the second week in February! It's insane to think it's already been a month, but crazier to think I still have 4 more ahead of me. These past few weeks have been great. Obviously I can't capture every moment, but here are a few that I have to share with you all.

The first six are from a day trip to Cobh with Missy and Shelby. For those that don't know, Cobh is the last harbor the Titanic docked at to pick up it's last 200 passengers before setting sail to America. Cobh has a museum in their center square that shares a lot of the history of the town and how it relates to the Titanic. The most prominent land mark is St. Coleman's Cathedral that towers over the port town skyline. It is the church where mass was held after hundreds of families found out about the death of their loved one/s. 

Shelby and I sitting on the train! Cobh is only about 20km outside of Cork but the train is the only way to go. No bus here! 

This is a famous statue in Cobh of Annie Moore, the first Irish immigrant to step on to American soil.  In this picture Annie is asking me what I see, and I of course am pointing to the great USA in the distance! 

Naturally I went for the all-too-well-known Titanic pose overlooking the city of Cobh. 

St. Coleman's Cathedral. Again- where the mass was held for the families that lost loved ones on board the Titanic.

Check out those pipes Mama :) 

 A poster from the museum. They were for sale, but I'm on a budget :) 

Back home from Cobh, I enjoyed another week of classes and walking around Cork. These two crazy kids below are my friends Alex (grey sweatshirt) and Evo (black sweater). Alex is from Austria and Evo is from Germany. Alex is in my Gaelic class and he and I get to spend a lot of time together throughout the week because of that. This is one morning after a hurling match (popular sport here in Cork) when we decided we'd all meet for a traditional Irish breakfast at The New Bar on campus. Beans, toast, sausage, and eggs. Throw some bacon in there too if you want the real deal. 

Not too many pictures from during the week, but I assure you it was filled with some good times. My favorite was dancing to some live music in my favorite pub here, The Welcome Inn, with 3 older ladies who are sisters! They come out every Saturday and just dance the night away. It was a blast. I also attended a music concert on campus, FINALLY baked something (apple crisp!), and went out for some more live music other nights of the week. I try to stay busy and during the week that is not hard to do.

This past weekend I took the bus up to Northwestern Ireland- County Sligo. I went to stay with May and Marty Fox who are the parents of a professor at K-State that is a friend of our family friends. Whatever connection is available, you learn to take it when you're on your own! So off I went to the country side of Townaghmore, near Culfadda and Ballymote, in County Sligo. It was beautiful! I didn't get any pictures really with May and Marty because I was more so spending time being present as a guest and not as a tourist, but I managed to snag a few shots of the beauty around me.

I had to take a bus from Cork to Dublin and then Dublin to Boyle- a total of 7 hours on the bus! During my hour in Dublin I took a little walk around the block and this is one pic snagged from there, next to the river. 

After a delicious and welcoming meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and carrots- Marty and May took me down to Higgins. Higgins is the one pub in Culfadda (just outside Townaghmore) where the locals gather, and where May puts people to shame in pool! May has worked at this pub for 40 years as a bar tender and knows every face that walks in.

The next morning May and I set out to hike looking for the Carrowkeel tombs. 

Through wind and rain and lots of wrong turns made right, we found them! These tombs are from the Bronze Age.

Pictures don't do justice, but these are my incredibly soaked jeans. I had never been SO wet in my life as I was after that hike! It was worth it though and so far I don't have a cold of any such biting me in the butt. 

After two hours of putting my jeans in the dryer, having lunch and a cup of tea, Marie (the oldest daughter who lives down the road) picked May and I up to drive into City Sligo. This is Marie looking at the statue outside the graveyard where William B. Yeats is buried. This is supposed to be Yeats, laying down a cloth, upon which lies the words to one of his many poems. This one in particular ends with "Tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams."

W.B Yeat's grave. His body was shipped back to Ireland from France, where he died, so there is suspicion that it's the body of a random Frenchman buried here and not even Yeats. Haha! 

Doors of the church adjacent to the graveyard.

On the way back home we drove alongside the coast through the town of Mullaghmore. This is the Atlantic Ocean if you hadn't already guessed. 

This is Ben Bulben. A mountainous structure in City Sligo that is massive and INCREDIBLE! It was impossible to get a good picture. This is just from the side of the road. 

The back side. Where one would hike up should they so choose to. I wish. 
The last view from the coast. Yet again, impossible to capture on film, but it was just magnificent. That is an abandoned castle in the background. 

Back to the living room to warm up near the stove with a hot, homemade cup of Bailey's coffee. :)

 These next two are out the back door of their house. The first is the beginning of their farmland and the      second is some friends I made over the weekend.

This is where things get a little mixed up. With spotty internet though, ya gotta be flexible with however things load. The following 3 are back in Cobh. 
Bailey's Coffee to warm up. What else?

                       The rest of the pictures are from my Archaeology field trip to West Cork.

The inner ditch of a Medieval Ring Fort. Obviously... :)

This is my teacher, Thomas, giving us some facts about the tower/ castle that is behind him.
On top of the tower! 

Whaddya know- the day of our field trip was cold and wet. But always green!

This is the view from the top of the tower, looking outside the gated window. 

A nice reminder in the pub we had lunch at in Clonakilty. It was a welcomed break before starting the second half of the cold and muddy trip.

This little guy liked to tag along. 

Drombeg Stone Circle
That's all the pictures I have for you this time. I hope they are enjoyable and serve as a little taste of all that I am getting to see here. As for me personally, I am doing well. There are days when I wonder how I will make it all the way to June, but there are others where I blink and the day is gone. I am getting anxious for visits from Peter and Gage to be here in March because it will be so wonderful to finally share all this with someone from home, in the flesh! Ahead of me in February I have an exciting weekend of being in the library writing papers! Yay! Gotta get them done now so I don't have to work when company's here. Though it can't get much better than editing and re-editing essays all weekend, my next adventure is to the Ring of Kerry on my birthday weekend! The Ring of Kerry is supposed to be one of the most fantastic scenic sites of Ireland. I'll be going with the school so there isn't really a moment free at any time. We will be site seeing, Irish dancing, pub singing, and lots of other fun things. The last weekend in February I head to the Alps for some Swiss skiing! I imagine it'll be after that when you hear from me again. Know that I am well and of course still LOVE hearing from you what is going on in your lives. I miss everyone dearly and hope that all is well on the home front.

                                                                Much love from your Irish girl. :)