Our weekend was so fun spent doing a bus tour and exploring more of the Temple Bar area. Thankfully, none of us really gripe about walking as we’ve averaged about 6.75 miles per day in the cold air and drizzly rain on top of the wind that swooshes in every now and then. On Friday, we took this awesome tour of Croke Park. It is where the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) hosts hurling and Gaelic football matches, as well as the ladies’ equivalent of those games. The next night we were able to go see Dublin beat Kerry in Gaelic football. That was an interesting night as Bailey (my American friend & roommate) and I got separated for the first half. I ended up sitting next to these three Irish men who were super nice and explained to me all the rules. We had nice chat and they even shared some of the sweets they were eating with me. I strongly felt like they were making an effort to include me. I’m not sure if Americans would have done the same for some foreign girl by herself at football game, but I felt pretty honored. We had a lot of fun bussing back as group because we ran into another Irish man who told us a bit about himself. He used to be a bus driver until someone attacked him with a syringe full of blood (!!!) to try to rob the bus. Now he’s a pilot, and he assured us that the Irish pilots have no worries about flying in the windy weather. I’m not sure when I’ll stop being struck by how friendly everyone is, but I know I appreciate it more than I am surprised. Back home, I’m from a smaller town where most people are talkative, so it is very comforting to be able to do the same here.
The next two afternoons we saw Kilmainham Gaol, Phoenix Park, and some of the National Museum between Saturday and Sunday. One of the differences that we noticed here was the strollers. While we were struggling through the rain, one of my friend’s loudly proclaims, “I FINALLY figured out why they Saran Wrap their babies!” Shelby and I were so confused, but laughed madly at the statement. They put plastic all over their strollers to stop the rain from hitting their babies’ faces. We hadn’t noticed until we’d wandered all around Phoenix Park. Anyway, Phoenix Park is massive. It is about twice the size of Central Park and has a zoo. Kilmainham Gaol is incredibly important for Irish history as it is where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were imprisoned and executed. In a nut shell, it was where lots people banded together, got armed, took over important buildings in Dublin, and tried to take down the British rule in Ireland. It failed, but sparked a fire in many people due to the tragic way that the leaders were killed. 2016 marks the centennial of this event, and if that doesn’t show you how young this country is, I am not sure what would. There are these great, eerie statues outside of the place. Each one has a blindfold and bullet holes because they were executed by firing squad along with a small plaque at its “feet” with the charge that they were killed for. The jail began to fall into disrepair in the 1900s, but was eventually restored by an entire crew of volunteers. I can’t fully explain how powerful it felt to be in such a meaningful place, but I left with a better understanding of the Irish people and why they take so long to say goodbye and put so much value on spending time having a conversation or tea as opposed to working & answering questions, like we do.
This is the week where we go back to real life. On Monday, we did quite a bit of paperwork, Bailey and I worked on our homework at the canteen, and later today we’re going to buy cleaning supplies and finish our room checklist.
Tuesday was an exciting day. I got to to the movies with my supervisor and her coworkers. Jacquie has been a dream “boss”. Never have I ever met someone so immediately kind (she even signed up for a weekly fitness class with me) We saw Spotlight. Out of all my days, I think that was the most ‘culture shocking’. For the first time, I was the only American in a place dominated by the Irish. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road. I had a lot of moments where I had no idea what they were saying, but they were both incredibly nice about answering my questions. Apparently, our root beer tastes a bit like children’s tooth paste here. McDonald’s is apparently not as good here, though. It was wonderful to be able to get along for about 5 hours with a bunch of Irish people without too much panic.
Wednesday was my first day working at the Wells for Zoe charity shop (http://www.wellsforzoe.org/the-shop/). It is a mad place, as the Irish say, full of some of the kindest people that I have ever met in my whole life. John and Mary founded Wells for Zoe once they saw the horrible conditions in Malawi. Listening to them speak about their charity, and their mission, it was so hard not to cry. Wells for Zoe does the most beautiful things for the people there. Among building the water wells, they supply the villagers with books, clothes, fees for school, a birthing center, and they teach them how to farm organic. Their motto is “a hand up, not a hand out.” John, Mary, Byrnie, and everyone there is probably about 30-40 years older than me, but they are so kind and easy to get along with. I feel so incredibly lucky to be working with them. Luckily, they seem to enjoy me just as much as they wrote about me on their blog saying, “She is nothing like a yank and settled-in in about five seconds.” That night we also had a school social event at a local nightclub. After losing my wristband and having to talk them into giving me a new one, we got the school’s pre-event. Griffith is shockingly international. Most of the people we meet on campus are either German, French, or American. It was quite a fun night of roommate bonding.
Thursday and Friday were less eventful, but on Saturday I got to go to Glendalough and Kilkenny with my friend Caroline and some of her friends. Once again, I found myself the only American at table full of Germans. Globalization is pretty evil, but it is very convenient that most everyone here doesn’t mind speaking English, so I can participate. I love so much swapping information about the differences between our homes with each other. I know there are international students at my home university, but we seem to be separated from them more at UF. Here, every corner I turn, someone is from a totally different place. Glendalough was beautiful, Kilkenny was very historic, and seeing the Wicklow mountains just stole my heart. Every day here is a new adventure, and I feel so blessed to be able to drink it all up.