Saturday, December 22, 2012

So Long, Farewell...

It is hard to believe that I am at the end of this 10-week-long journey. I have been preparing for this trip for over a year, and for it to be coming to an end feels very strange.

Although living in a place for a couple months can make you feel at home, it cannot feel like the place where you grew up. I am not sure how long it would take to feel entirely like a new country is home, but - especially after this experience - I do know that moving to a new country permanently would be a very difficult and brave thing to do. 

This has been an unbelievable, probably once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I came to live in a new country, lived with a host family, taught in a school, and traveled to so many cities and beautiful landmarks. I am so appreciative for this incredible opportunity and to the people who made it possible. I encourage you all to take a step outside of your norm - by traveling, talking to someone new, trying a new food, anything out of the ordinary - and see a different piece of the world, whether it is close to home or far away.

I have learned so much about Ireland and Irish culture during my time here, but I cannot pretend to be an expert. If anything, I have more questions now than I did before I came to Ireland. This beautiful country has such a rich history, gorgeous countryside, and interesting people. I have so enjoyed meeting so many people, visiting different parts of the country, and especially seeing the incredible architecture and historical buildings, and the stunning landscapes.

I hope that through this blog I have shown you at least a small piece of my life and Ireland in the past couple months. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share in my adventures! And, for the last time, slán leat!

Friday, December 21, 2012

On the Road Again...

I have been so lucky to be joined by my best friend and international travel companion, Jessica, for my last week here in Ireland. Would you believe that when we were in elementary school we would check out library books about Ireland and plan to live here in a castle together when we grew up? Well, even though we have not and will not live in a castle, we have had a pretty wonderful week together in Ireland. I'll share a brief overview of our travels with you.

Saturday & Sunday
We wandered around Dublin, went to a huge Christmas flea market, and stayed in a hostel in Dublin overnight. On Sunday we attended the morning service at Christ Church Cathedral and explored a bit more before catching a bus to Galway.

We took a day trip to Connemara with a great guide named Mike, and just five other people. Just the eight of us in a giant tour bus. I feel that I should personally thank every person who told me to go to Connemara. It was breathtakingly beautiful - certainly one of my favorite places I have visited. We drove through rolling green hills, saw tons of sheep, and stopped to take so many amazing pictures. Back in Galway in the evening, we heard an 18-piece big band in a pub, and spent one more night in Barnacles hostel.

We took a bus to the Cliffs of Moher (my second time there, this time with much better weather). It was a beautiful, mostly sunny day. In the afternoon we took a bus to Limerick, where we ate a late and delicious lunch at the bus station before catching our bus to Killarney. We walked through a large part of the town looking for our hostel, and finally collapsed in our room when we got there.

We slept in, then headed to O'Brien's Bagel Factory for a tasty brunch. We walked into Killarney National Park and wandered along the river and through the wild, green forest to the beautiful Lough Leane and Ross Castle. In the afternoon we had tea and cake at Miss Courtney's Tea Room, and later we went to a movie and walked back to our hostel under the lovely Christmas lights.

We took a bus to Cork, dropped our things at our hostel, and meandered around the main streets before eating lunch - can't get enough soup here! Then we caught a bus to Blarney, and headed to the Blarney Castle. I know it is one of the main tourist attractions in Ireland, but it truly is worth the visit. (And that wasn't just because of the incredible double rainbow that appeared when we were at the top of the castle!) We kissed the Blarney Stone, and now should have the gift of eloquence.

We arrived in Wicklow Town in the afternoon, checked into our hostel, and wandered out toward the bay. We walked down the pier and saw the beautiful view and some seals swimming in the water! We also saw the ruins of a Viking fort, built in the 1170s. The views were spectacular and the little coastal town was beautiful as it lit up with the sunset.

Tomorrow we're heading back to Dublin, spending the night at my host home, and preparing for our flight on Sunday morning. It has been a fabulous week!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Travels, etc...

I'm still here! My past couple of weeks have been rather busy, but I've finally had some time to sit down a write a post. I have been able to do quite a bit of travel the past few weekends, and I'm so glad to have a few other student teachers in the area who I have become quite close with. A couple weekends ago we went to Galway, where we explored the Christmas market and wandered all over the city. There were plenty of entertaining street performers, including these musical Santas and a magical floating guy.

Saturday our weather was beautiful, but Sunday was misty. I still loved the colorful houses along the water, even in the rain.

This weekend we were in Cork, also wandering and shopping. We walked through a well-known English market, visited St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, and saw the Christmas lights and festivities in the park.

This time of year, there are SO many craft markets everywhere. I have visited a quite a few of them and supported a good number of artists... The biggest one I have been to was the National Craft Fair, with over 150 stalls!

It's a bit dangerous, really, because there are so many wonderful things to buy (and eat)! I must admit, I haven't been able to resist some of the delicious cupcakes.

Recent school highlights:

~ A few days ago, I showed some pictures of home to the fourth class students and gave them a chance to ask me questions. The things that interested them most: tornadoes (They had endless questions!), chipmunks (when I said there are chipmunks in Indiana, someone asked incredulously "Have you seen a chipmunk before??"), and cardinals ("It looks like one of the Angry Birds birds!")

~ The theme for stations in the junior and senior infant classes this month is Christmas. (It's so interesting to have religion openly taught and celebrated in schools.) A couple of the stations have included Santa and elf costumes, and it has been so cute watching some of the kids wear a Santa beard and hat - they look very convincing!

I started this blog by saying that I hoped that Ireland would become a home for me. After nearly nine weeks, it certainly has! I feel like I've lived here for a long time, although my time has also flown. I really have a routine here, and it will feel strange to leave it. A few thoughts on how I knew Ireland felt like home...
~ The thought of sleeping in my bed at my host house after a weekend away sounded like heaven.
~ I began to be able to unlock the front door easily, despite the tricky way my key sticks in the keyhole.
~ I started recognizing and being recognized by the people that I see daily on the bus and the walk to school - including a sweet toddler on my bus.
~ I was asked for directions a few times and knew where the places were!
~ I realized that I will be sad to go, even though I'll be glad to be home in Indiana. I'll especially miss this kind of morning:

This weekend my dearest friend joins me here - I'm so excited! - and we will travel around Ireland next week before returning home just in time for Christmas. I will do my best to post one more time before I leave beautiful Ireland, but for now, thanks for reading, and slán leat!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thoughts & Noticings, Part 2

~ I wasn't a tea drinker before I came here, but I drink it daily now and enjoy it.

~ They do not really eat pumpkin here. I brought two cans of pumpkin with me from home ("tinned" as they would say, not "canned"), and made pumpkin bread to take to school, and pumpkin pie for my family. The girls in my host family had never eaten pumpkin before, but everyone enjoyed the pie.

~ As my host family pointed out to me, people here talk about the weather all the time, even though it barely changes; it's always cold, and usually gray and/or rainy. (On very yucky weather days, someone always says to me, "You're getting a taste of the Irish weather, aren't you?") The heat isn't kept on in the house during the day. It's in the 20s (Fahrenheit) at night, 30s-40s during the day, but the heat is on for maybe a couple hours in the evening when everyone is home.

~ Mathematics shortened is "maths," not "math" (after all, mathematics is plural).

~ It is interesting to teach literacy in a place where some letters are pronounced differently. For example, they say "zed" for "z" and "haich" for "h" (instead of "aich"). Some letter sounds are also different; for example, they say a short /a/ sound when the word "a" stands on its own. Many people also pronounce the /th/ sound almost the same as the /t/ sound, so the words "three" and "tree" both pretty much sound like "tree." (This is because of the way the sound is pronounced in Irish, and it also varies around the country.)

~ In general, I feel like my students and I understand each other pretty well, but this week, one of the junior infants asked me, "Do you speak English?" So maybe we don't understand each other as well as I thought... ;)

~ I have learned a few Irish words and phrases from school and life here - key words a few. One of my favorites is the word for pencil, "peann luaidhe." (If you're interested, you can Google the pronunciation because the link here isn't working.)

~ I also love hearing the Irish pronunciations of town names while riding on the Luas. My stop, Cherrywood, is Coill na Silíní...I can't begin to write a pronunciation for it, sorry. (Ask me to say it for you when I get home.) Without knowing Irish, it is impossible to know the pronunciation of written words because the letter sounds are so different from English. It is a fascinating language!

~ I was supervising the fourth class while they worked on writing sentences in Irish one day this week, and they got a kick out of me telling them to ask a classmate for help because I don't speak Irish. During the short time when I was the only teacher in the room, quite a few of them needed to go to the bathroom, and I think it was just so they could ask me in Irish and watch me try to figure out what they said!

Alrighty, here are a couple random pictures to end this long post:

~ This week I talked a lot about parades with the junior infants because they were so interested when I told them about the Macy's Thanksgiving parade last week. One day we made postcards with parade pictures, and I thought I'd share a couple with you. (Don't you love the chicken float on the bottom one?)

~ They eat a lot of Cadbury chocolate products here, and I especially enjoy these crunchy chocolate-covered cookies.


I'll talk to you again soon!
Slan leat <3

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I must admit it felt strange to be here, knowing that everyone was celebrating back home, but I created my own little festivities here. I brought two cans of pumpkin with me, and used it to make pumpkin bread on Wednesday and a pie on Thursday. The teachers loved the pumpkin bread, and it was my host family's first time eating pumpkin pie, which they really liked. I have been thinking about pumpkin a lot lately, and I found myself scraping every last bit of my bread batter out of the bowl to eat - such a delicious and familiar taste! The food here is not that unlike home, but the flavors seem just slightly different. My list of foods I look forward to eating when I get home is growing...

Once again it is so interesting to see the United States from an outside perspective. At our school assembly on Wednesday, one of the speakers mentioned that it would be Thanksgiving in the United States on Thursday, and the principal said, "And we have an American teacher here," prompting the whole school to turn and look at me. Quite a few people have asked me if Thanksgiving is "bigger than Christmas" at home, and some have asked what Americans do on Thanksgiving. When I was talking to the junior infants about typical Thanksgiving foods (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce), one little girl said, "and beans on toast?" Not exactly...

Some other highlights since I last wrote:
~ Seeing the Christmas lights in Dublin. Since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, the Christmas season starts right after Halloween! There are holiday decorations all over the stores.

~ Visiting Kilkenny last Saturday - I spent a lovely day touring the castle and wandering the city with a couple of my new student teacher friends. We especially loved these little duck houses on the River Nore.

~ Attending a service at the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral last Sunday.

~ A fun and successful art lesson with the 4th class (even though this iguana doesn't look too happy). The kids did oil pastel and watercolor resist paintings of colorful creatures.

I can't believe we are coming to the end of November already! I only have three more weeks of school, and then I will be joined by my dearest friend for a final week of Irish exploration before I come home. I am going to make the most of the rest of my time here by visiting more of the country and enjoying the rest of my time with the kiddos at school! I'll keep you all posted here.

Slán leat!

P.S. A correction from my previous "Thoughts & Noticings" post: In the phrase I mentioned, "What's the crack?" it is actually spelled "craic." Just in case you're ever spelling that out for anyone. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Marketplace

Dun Laoghaire has a lovely market on Sundays, so I thought I'd share a mainly-pictures post of my visit there today. It was a gorgeous day - the weather this whole week has been beautiful! (Meaning it's been freezing, but not rainy.)

 The market has tons of food: fruits and veggies (or "veg" as they say here),

Crates & crates of potatoes

 plenty of bread products,
jams, pasta sauces, & pasta,

And lots of sweet things: doughnuts,

little pies and cakes,



and more fudge (in towers)...

It was sooo hard to decide what to eat, but I went with a falafel pita...

...and a crepe with Nutella, banana, and marshmallows. And it was all delicious!

There are lots of crafty booths in addition to food...

Finished off the afternoon with a walk down the pier and watching some sailing classes.

Hope you had a lovely weekend, too!
Slán go fóill

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thoughts & Noticings...

~ Sometimes vocabulary differences are more difficult to understand than the accent. (I haven't had as much trouble understanding accents as I thought I might.)
     Some of my favorites:
  • "TK Maxx" = TJ Maxx
  • "Half nine" = Nine thirty
  • "What's the craic?" (pronounced "crack") = What's going on?
  • "Panto" = Show/play (short for pantomime, which is a play)
  • "After-dos"  = Wedding reception or an after-party of any kind 
  • "Bin it." = Put it in the trash can. (Trash is rubbish, and the trash can is the bin.)

~ I very much appreciate tables with fresh breads and pastries laid out in gas station convenience stores. I would like for this to happen in the U.S. (I will try to get a picture to share.)

~ I am not very good at using my left hand for my fork. (Here, they eat "properly." ;) When using a knife, you keep the fork in your left hand and knife in your right hand.) 

~ Eggs are not refrigerated in the grocery store.

~ There are different terms of endearment. The most common ones I've heard are "love" and "pet." "Pet" is used a lot with the junior and senior infants at school.

~ I love the beautiful sunsets over the "hills" (not mountains) when it's not rainy. The sun now starts to set shortly after 4 pm.

Probably more random thoughts in a future post...
Slán go fóill!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Hills Are Alive

I know it's not Austria, but traveling around such beautiful countryside makes me have music from The Sound of Music in my head all the time! This week my student teacher friends and I have been wandering around Ireland singing and soaking up the beauty (and literally soaking up the rain a lot of the time). I have been glad to get to know three other student teachers in the Dublin area - it is great to have other people to travel with. We have seen a good amount of Ireland in this one week, mostly through a tour company called Paddywagon. Here's a quick summary of my week off of school:

~On Saturday we left on a two-day Paddywagon tour to Northern Ireland, staying in Belfast overnight, and going to the Giant's Causeway on Sunday. The weather on Saturday was just beautiful - I mean, freezing, but sunny. We stopped in a couple of places on our way up to Belfast...St. Peter's Church in Drogheda, where Archbishop Oliver Plunkett's head has been preserved since his death in 1681, and Monasterboice cemetery, which holds three of the biggest Celtic crosses in Ireland. It is said that if you can wrap your arms around one of the crosses, your wish will come true, but they are so wide I think you'd have to be a giant to get your arms all the way around!  In Belfast we had a couple hours to explore the city before we went to the Titanic Museum, and then we were dropped off at our hostel for the night. I was a little nervous about my first hostel experience, but we ended up being placed in an apartment complete with living room and kitchen! Some people might be excited to go out and party in Belfast, but these girls opted for a party with Domino's pizza and movies in our hostel apartment. On Sunday we continued our drive north, stopping at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to wobble our way across the bridge to the island in the cold wind and rain. We arrived at Giant's Causeway around lunchtime and hiked down to see the fascinating sight.

There is a legend behind the Giant's Causeway, of course, but rather than write it out here, you can check it out on Wikipedia if you're interested. (The link isn't working at the moment, but you can look it up if you like.)

~On Monday, I recovered from the busy weekend, taking a quick trip into nearby Dalkey, and walking on Killiney Beach, just a 10-minute walk from my house.

~On Tuesday and Wednesday we had tickets for a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus, so we explored a bunch of the stops around Dublin: Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, Kilmainham Gaol (Jail), O'Connell Street, and Grafton Street. We had dinner at the Arlington Hotel on Wednesday, where they have Irish music and dancing every night, which was quite fun!

~Thursday was a Paddywagon day trip to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland. (see the pictures above) Everyone says you should visit the cliffs on a nice day, but of course when we got there the weather was awful! The wind was so strong we could barely walk, and the rain felt like ice hitting our faces. But, the cliffs were still gorgeous, and it was worth the bus ride back to Dublin with soaked shoes...

~Finally, on Friday we did one last Paddywagon day trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny, a cute little city with a beautiful castle and lots of fun shops. We stopped in a lovely valley called Glendalough, where there are beautiful lakes and a tiny 6th century church and round tower, and a small cemetery. This time I was able to get my arms around a smaller Celtic cross! Now to see if my wish comes true...

Okay, so that wasn't such a quick summary, but I wanted to give you the whole story. It is just incredible to see all of these historical places in person and imagine their history. It was a fabulous week, and I can't wait to see more of beautiful Ireland as my time here continues. Now I'm enjoying a restful weekend before heading back to school on Monday. It's hard to believe I have been here for three weeks! I'll leave you with my favorite picture from the week - a castle and a rainbow...what more could you ask for?

Dunguaire Castle - a famous Norman castle built in 1520