WEEK 3: NORTHERN IRELAND (DAY 4)

January 31st, 2015

Today we went to Dunluce Castle and Giant’s Causeway. As we drove along the coast, the wind was so strong that it shook the bus and the spray from the waves hit the windows. We stopped at Portrush Golf Course (one of the oldest courses in Ireland) for our professor Dan because he is a big golfer. I think this trip has been difficult for him because since he broke his leg (literally the first week he arrived in Ireland) he hasn’t been able to do the things he wanted to, like play golf. He looked like a kid on Christmas – he was grinning from ear to ear as he hobbled onto the course to take a few pictures. (I secretly scooped up a handful of sand in a bag and I’ll give it to Dan later as a present).

When we reached the castle, the wind was so strong it was actually knocking people over. There were definitely some hilarious videos and pictures taken. The wind made my face completely numb – pretty sure I was drooling at one point and couldn’t feel it. There was a narrow stairway that went around the castle, which led to a cave and the ocean. It gave us a bit of a break from the wind, and it felt like a marathon trying to climb the stairs against the wind.

Giant’s Causeway was absolutely stunning – John Guthrey walked with us and when we arrived we were hit by the most painful hailstorm (again, it’s becoming a normal occurrence). The ocean foam was built up along the shoreline and the gusts of wind would blow the pieces of foam in the air and it looked like pillow feathers. I wish that the weather wasn’t so bad, I wanted to stay and climb the rocks more. It felt like the scene from Family Vacation when they arrive at the Grand Canyon. I saw the rocks, the hail was incredibly painful, and I went back on the bus almost immediately. It was stunning though, and my family will go later in March, so hopefully the weather is better! Treated myself to some cheese and onion crisps (I’m addicted) and some tea to warm up.

Cheers,
Taylor

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WEEK 3: NORTHERN IRELAND (DAY 3)

January 30th, 2015

Today we took a bus into Derry for a day trip. Similar to how we happened to visit Yeats’ grave on the anniversary of his death, we happened to be in Derry for the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We first stopped at the Pat Finucane Center, which was named after a defense/human rights lawyer during the Troubles. Pat Finucane, a lawyer for both Protestants and Catholics, was murdered in 1989 by the UDA . The government refused a public inquiry for the murder, which means the family has no input and receives no information about the investigation. Even though the (very edited) final report of the murder revealed that the police and secret British service were involved in several set up murders of defense lawyers (like Pat Finucane), there was nothing done about it.

The perception of the Troubles is that the conflict was strictly between Catholics and Protestants, that England had a “neutral broker” role between them. However, the Pat Finucane Center argues that the UDA and UDF were responsible for deaths as well, that even though the IRA did also kill people and violate human rights, the British had more than a neutral hand in the conflict. So what does the Pat Finucane Center do? The employees work with families who have lost loved ones in the war and conflict, families who were refused public inquiries and were refused official death reports and refused an investigation of the murders. The Pat Finucane Center fights to reopen cases and get final answers as a closure for the families. In addition to the investigations, the center also works on getting their stories out to the communities and to the world via displays, posters, and events. For example, at the Museum of Free Derry, there is a display in which families provide a pair of shoes that represent the deceased with a note of their story and needs.

After the Pat Finucane Center, we went to the Guildhall Center to visit the Ulster exhibit and meet the Mayor of Derry. The Guildhall Center was absolutely stunning – we had a tour of the whole building and saw beautiful stained glass and a giant organ – and we had the honor of meeting the Mayor of Derry. She was the niece of John Hume (what.) and is one of 9 women total who have been on the council for the city. She explained the various programs and decisions made to help rebuild a united Derry, and was pleased to announce the steadily increasing revenues from tourism in the last few years. “Derry is an amazing town,” she said, “I think as you explore the city more you will find that our citizens are proud of it and are all working to a more united Ireland.”

We met up with John McCourt again and he gave a tour of the city walls. He showed us a Loyalist community on the outside of the walls – the curbs had been painted with red, white, and blue Union colors, and the British flag hung from the lampposts. We saw again that the conflict was still fresh and still a part of the daily lives for the citizens of Derry. We got caught in a huge hailstorm and we were all soaking wet – Annie was feeling very sick so I walked her back to a pub to warm up and get some soup. Anne ordered tomato soup and I ordered potato and leek (it was delicious) as well as we tried a bag of steak flavored crisps (also delicious). The rest of the students started to filter back into the pub, and we were then given a few hours to explore the city on our own before Tony picked us up in the bus. As we were walking around, an American student stopped our group to ask us to be in a proposal video he was creating for his girlfriend. He said he had been abroad for 4 months and was getting groups of people to dance in front of famous monuments and then he was going to compile them all into a video. (Best of luck to you wherever you are and we can’t wait to see your video on Youtube!!).

We discovered a shop called Pound World. Everything is only one pound. Like EVERYTHING. Literally everything. I bought Curly Wurly’s (my favorite Cadbury bar) and Cadbury fingers. TWO POUNDS. We did find packages of “All American Ready Made Pancakes” (just pancakes in packaging, weird) and we still haven’t figured out why the grocery stores don’t refrigerate their eggs. So long, Pound World. You were a beautiful discovery.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 3: NORTHERN IRELAND (DAY 2)

January 29th, 2015

Tried to go for a run this morning before breakfast, but it was pitch black outside and the house is really creepy when you are the only one awake. We do have a two hour break later this afternoon, so I’ll go running then. Almost everyone here has some sort of flu/wicked cough and I have been dubbed ‘mom’ for the week because I have all the medicine and first aid kits for any and every illness (thank you, real Mom!! You have saved us all!!).

Today was all lectures – we learned about the Troubles and it was an absolutely amazing experience. When we heard that there was going to be a “lecture day”, we weren’t really looking forward to it. However, out of all the activities we did at the Inch House and around Northern Ireland, the lecture day was my favorite by far. We heard from three different people about their experiences of the Troubles while growing up in Northern Ireland – Tony (the owner of the Inch House, his Catholic perspective), John Guthrey (good friend of Tony’s, his Protestant perspective), and John McCourt (who was part of the IRA when he was 17).

Tony gave us some background history to how the Troubles began, discussing conflict between the English and Irish dating back to the 9 Years War in 1594 and Henry VIII. We had already been learning about the Troubles in history class, but it was hard to truly grasp the whole picture because of how little we really knew about it. Tony discussed the Plantation of Ulster, the Penal Laws (forbidding the practice of Catholicism, stopping Catholics from gaining wealth), the great potato famine and how it all linked to the underlying tension that eventually built up to the Troubles.

For Tony’s perspective, he focused a lot on how the Troubles have influenced children and the generations to come. What are the origins of hatred? Can children who grew up in the conflict change their perspective as adults? For example, he told a story of an IRA activist that was shot in front of his children. Later on, one of the children has married Tony’s niece. Tony asked “are children’s behavior affected today by the events that have happened in the past? How do you cope with seeing your father shot in front of your eyes as a young child? How do you move forward when the Troubles have directly affected your bloodline?” There was a silence, we were overwhelmed and shocked by his story. Tony continued, “this is what I do here. I educate people about the conflict here so that they may be able to gain a new perspective and build a strong, united community. Conflict resolution. That is my platform.”

We were given a short break and then went back into the room for a lecture by John Guthrey, the Protestant perspective. John was born in the 1960s and grew up in an Irish Catholic community. He talked about how as a young kid he always ran around and played with the Irish boys in the neighborhood – it was acceptable and normal to him. However, the months of July and August were “marching season” and it wasn’t acceptable in the Protestant community to be associated with the Irish in any way. Tensions were particularly high between both communities during these months, but John recalls that as a young kid he wasn’t really aware of why that was so. When the Troubles officially began, John remembers that he was confused that he wasn’t allowed to play with his Irish friends. In the Protestant communities, he was taught that if Catholics were given power, they would try to induct you into the Church. And if you didn’t convert, they would kill you. He was also taught that Catholics couldn’t be trusted, and that they had horns under their hats and tails. John asked us “how do you teach a 10 year old to understand that Catholics are bad?” His answer: constant reinforcement via the government, teachers, politicians, and parents. Catholic children were also told by their communities the same thing about Protestants, which developed a hatred and instilled fear on both sides.

John’s story is truly remarkable. He discussed how in 1976 he went to work in the Derry shirt industry, and that he worked side by side with Catholic women. He was able to socialize and interact with these women and realized for himself that there was no identifying Catholic mark on the women, and that they were no different from him. John and the women were both just trying to make things better for their families. Inspired, John went on to create community healing programs that would help break the tension between communities and begin a healing process. John became a mediator for both Irish and Protestant communities – helping towns and villages build new foundations for education, funding, and cross community events.

He then gave some background history of the conflicts in the 90s, how radical subgroups from both sides were attacking innocent civilians in hopes the war would flare back up again. John looked up at us. “I’m going to tell you one thing about myself,” he said, “it takes a long time to gain my trust. But once you gain my trust, I will die for you.” There was a silence. He took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to read you something now.”

He read an article about an attack that happened at The Grey Steel Bar on October 31st, 1993. Four Loyalists from the Ulster Freedom Fighters (radical Loyalists) walked into the crowded bar, said “trick or treat”, then opened fire. As John continued reading about the horrific and graphic deaths, we sat in a stunned silence, and John began to cry as he read the description of a woman’s body they had found in the destruction. “I knew her,” John said, “I knew her.” He sat with his head in his hands for a while, then looked up and said, “That night, October 31st, 1993, 3 hours after the attack, I was arrested and charged for 9 murders. The police held me for 72 hours, I was forbidden to eat, use the bathroom, and I was forced into painful positions that I had to hold for hours. My human rights were taken away. The police told me ‘confess now because we are going to beat it out of you anyway’. And I thought ‘maybe the Catholics were right. Why am I voting for this Union if they treat their own citizens like this.

He looked up at us again. “I didn’t do it,” he said, “I sold my car that morning to a friend and the ownership was never changed. That car was used as a getaway car for the attackers. I later learned that someone in my own Protestant community, a dear friend of mine, set me up because he didn’t agree with my efforts in collaborating with Irish communities. My own friend, my own community, set me up. Like I said. It takes a lot to gain my trust. But once you do, I will die for you.”

We sat in a stunned silence. Here I was, a twenty-two year old from Michigan, not a worry in the world, staring at a man who is still deeply affected by the events of the Troubles, staring at a man who holds a book that gives details of the murders of his friends and family, staring at a man who broke away from what was ingrained into him as a child and is making a difference for positive change.

He looked up again. “I am a Unionist,” he said, “but I believe in a different union. I believe in the union of Ireland. Ireland needs to be unified. I am still a Loyalist, but I am only loyal to those who are loyal to me. Ireland once again will be a nation. What is the solution? How do we get there? Education. If you take the religion out of politics, take the politics out of religion, and take both out of education – a unified education system means there can be a unified Ireland.”

We were released for lunch and a few hours break (soup and sandwiches!!) and everybody was still a bit shocked and overwhelmed by the lectures. I was in awe of Tony and John – here they were, two great friends, a Protestant and a Catholic, coming together to educate and unite Ireland. It was truly amazing. I went for a four mile run along the coast and accidentally ended up going six miles because I got lost and couldn’t find the house (we had arrived in the dark the night before, so this was all new). The island is absolutely stunning and I ran to the edge of a pier and was able to look out across the ocean and see the towns and mountains on the other side. And I got caught in a hailstorm only briefly for a few minutes (this has become a normal occurrence)!

I then headed back to the Inch House for our last lecture by John McCourt, an IRA activist. His nickname “Big John” was understood immediately as he had to duck under the doorway because of his height. John sat down and said “You can’t understand peace until you understand war. And believe me, I’ve seen it all and none of it needed to happen.” He talked about his current work in the DDR Program (Demobilization and Disarmament), where he works with various conflict and war ridden countries and communities on finding a different life path than violence and guns. He works at “creating a conversation that finds the solution.”

John was a student in Derry when the civil rights marches began. He recalls having classes with Protestant students (“they weren’t trying to steal my soul, which is what the Catholic Church was teaching.”) and wasn’t really involved or affected by the tension between the two communities. He remembers seeing a flyer in his college about a protest speech, so he decided to attend even though he wasn’t very interested and thought that the conflict didn’t affect him. The speech that was given discussed “the imbalance of local corporations” – how it was up to the corporations to build homes, budget loans, maintenance, etc, and how the Protestant council had the majority vote. In those days, if you had a house, you were allowed to vote, so the Protestant council stopped building homes for the Irish so they could keep the Protestant majority and not allow the Irish to vote. As a young 17-year-old, John realized quickly that the conflict does actually affect him and his future.

John told a story about how when he was a young boy, his father was in the hospital injured from war and his mother was also in the hospital because she was going into labor. Since there were no parents to watch over John and his younger brother, he was placed in a boys home for temporary care. However, temporary care became a span of 10 years. While his parents were in the hospital, they were kicked out of their own home and were not allowed back because that would have meant an Irish vote.

John lived in a 100% Unionist police force in a 100% Catholic community. He would fight alongside other citizens against the police brutality by building trenches and making barriers around communities that stopped police from entering. They had hoped that the British government would see that this was wrong and something needed to be done, but the government kept sending more police and Irish citizens continued to retaliate. John was actively engaged in the IRA at the age of 17 – digging trenches and making bombs (“I had a certain skill set that would frighten the police.”).

“I don’t regret my life path,” John said, “I did what I needed to do. But I soon realized that there needed to be a different solution. I watched my friends die in front of my eyes. Young boys, fathers, sons. There needed to be another way to end this conflict.” In the 70s, John started working for the Peace and Reconciliation Group, which helped rebuild homes that were destroyed and help families find peace and healing. Communities were worse than when they had started – there was no education, no community structure, no homes – and the Catholics and Protestants were more polarized than ever. Similar to John Guthrey’s work, John (McCourt) helped rebuild communities and foster relationships between both sides. “I look at it this way,” John said, “you can make your life to be stepping-stones or stumbling stones, and I want to make mine stepping-stones.”

It was an overwhelming day. But I think I speak for all of us when I say we have gained a much better idea of the conflict in the North. For me, it was truly inspiring to see these three men come together and put aside their differences to make stepping-stones closer to a united Ireland.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 3: NORTHERN IRELAND (DAY 1)

January 28th, 2015

Today we departed Tully Cross for our week long Northern Ireland trip. Woke up early to finish some last minute packing and cleaning (the Minister of Rural Affairs was coming after our trip to sign some documents for Connemara West and Aquinas, and Cottage 5 was chosen as the ‘tour cottage’). As we waited outside of the cottages for the bus, we were warm in the sunshine for one second and then caught in a painful hailstorm soon after. We met a wonderful man named Tony – who was both our bus driver and owned the Inch House (where we would be staying). The Inch House was on this island off the coast of Donegal, and it is essentially a house that is rented out to study abroad groups around the world.

We stopped at the Foxford Woollen Mills factory for lunch and a tour. We were served soup and sandwiches at a cafe inside the factory. Soup and sandwiches seems to be a common lunch combo, but I don’t mind because it’s so good and I could happily eat these soups and sandwiches for the rest of my life (Miss Tara would disagree). After lunch we were given a tour of the factory and then were allowed to shop. I treated myself to a green knit wool sweater (feeling very Irish when I wear it) and I don’t think I have taken it off since. I sleep in it sometimes because it’s so warm.

After we got back on the bus (full and happy, and me already wearing my sweater) we drove for a few more hours and then stopped briefly at Drumcliffe, the resting place of W. B. Yeats. Coincidentally, today (January 28th) marked the anniversary of his death. We have been studying some of his poetry in class and it heightened our studies to a new level to visit his grave. Our professor Kate made sure nobody was looking, then laid down on top of his grave for a few seconds and then ran away back to the bus. Our other professor Dan (who is a bit literature and poetry fanatic) was especially overwhelmed by seeing Yeats’s grave in person.

When we finally arrived at the Inch House, it was pitch black and we had no idea what to expect. The walls inside were lined entirely with shelves and covered with old books and artifacts. There were six bedrooms on one side of the house that could hold eight people each, a long kitchen (Tony had stocked the fridge with milk, butter, eggs, bread, and at least 20 boxes of cereal), a living room with a fireplace and various musical instruments (Kyle was obsessed with the accordions and did not stop playing it for hours. HOURS.), and a lecture room above the kitchen. We learned that Tony lived in a house next to the Inch House, and he has had thousands of American students stay here and participate in his Northern Ireland education program. We are staying here for a week and each day is a different subject matter on the Troubles and the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland.

After we settled in our rooms and ate dinner (we were served homemade lasagna with garlic bread, salad, and cheesecake – I was VERY happy), we went up to the lecture room to get a brief overview of the week with Tony. We learned more about the house (the lecture room floorboards were made from trees on the island that were planted in 1827 and Tony found some green onion glass bottles that Black Beard drank from) and a bit more about the education program here at the Inch House. It is so gracious of Tony to open up his home like this to thousands of students. There is so much history and depth in this house – you can feel it as soon as you walk in. Can’t wait for tomorrow and for the lectures – going to try and go for a run in the morning (hopefully the storm will have passed by then!).

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 2: CONCERT IN CLIFDEN

January 24th, 2015

This evening we went to Clifden to see a concert by Karan Casey and Maura O’Connell at Station House Theatre. It was absolutely lovely and it was AMAZING to see Karan Casey live (if you don’t know who she is, look her up – she is a phenomenal performer). Her voice is so unique and clear, which contrasted with Maura’s brassy and soulful voice. They were accompanied by a guitar player and the most talented accordion player I have ever seen. He played this ridiculously complicated Brazilian piece and turned it into a reel (“almost everything in Ireland is turned into a reel,” he said). It was a lovely evening out and afterwards we found a fast food burger place (SO. EXCITED.) and pigged out on cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 2: BOG HIKE

January 21st, 2015

Today we went on a “bog” hike (we had no idea what that meant at first) with a tour guide named Dave Hogan, a local expert on the geology and history of the Connemara area. Before we left on the hike, he told us that the best way to learn and understand the history of an area is to understand the geology. We all packed on a bus and went in the direction of Clifden, stopping at various hills and ocean side views to look at historical ruins. We passed a castle ruin, an old church (the Church of the 7 Sisters), neolithic grave sites, and walked along the beach in Cleggan.

Dave’s extensive knowledge of the geology and history of Connemara really made us all think a bit more about the history of the area we would be living in the next four months. It was difficult to wrap our minds around how the work that was done thousands of years ago was present and preserved still. It was also fascinating to learn how to recognize that a pile of rocks or random stone wall ruin we may have casually passed on a hike could hold such historical significance.

Today was one of the first big hiking trips we have done since we have been here. We didn’t even really get that far outside of Tully Cross, and the views were absolutely stunning. Knowing that these landscapes, trails, and historical landmarks were right within our town was exciting and we want to venture out again. And a special thanks to Dave!

Tired from the hike and perhaps still feeling the consequences from last night’s pool tournament, we feasted on cheeseburgers and chips (garlic mayo is a thing and it is good craic) and napped for the rest of the day. Solid Wednesday, for sure. “Jiving night” (essentially partner line dancing) tomorrow at Sammons – updates soon.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 1: WELCOME PARTY

January 18th, 2015

Today at Coyne’s pub, Connemara West hosted a welcome party for us. When we walked into Coyne’s, the pub had been decorated with balloons, lit candles, and a sign that said “Welcome Aquinas 2015.” Spread out on a table were mashed potatoes, buttered bread, lasagna, salad, pasta salad, sandwich meats, salmon, and desserts (the cupcakes were to DIE for).

A sweet elderly lady named Anna came and gave us two complimentary drink tickets (“One from Connemara West and one from Coyne’s, but mind that you don’t order double whiskeys!”) and said that on behalf of Connemara West we were welcome and that they were so happy we were here in Ireland. It was incredibly sweet and we were overwhelmed by the kindness and also the lasagna because it was delicious.

As part of our culture class, we have been asked to learn an Irish folk song and perform it sometime during the semester while we are here. So Christen and Courtney stood up in front of everybody and sang “The Wild Rover” and our faces melted off from the cuteness.

As part of the celebration, a live singer was set up (his name is Padraig Jack, look him up, he’s amazing: http://www.padraigjack.com/bio.html) and he played some traditional Irish songs but also some American ones. We screamed and danced to “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Wonderwall”, “Sweet Caroline”, and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Today was the first day I was feeling homesick (I sobbed as he played “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor), but this party was exactly what we all needed. I knew that even if I was missing home, this community would take care of me.

I’m sure we looked absolutely crazy (and sweaty). But we loved it. We moved the tables to create a dance floor and we danced for hours, hydrating with Stellas and Smithwicks. I mean water. We hydrated with water.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 1: CLIFDEN

January 16th, 2015

Today we took a trip to Clifden to get our visas from the Garda and to go on a big grocery trip. This was our first time walking around a bigger town, and we were given some time to explore the many local shops and restaurants. Miss Anne bought a pair of corduroy converse for 1 euro, we found the softest wool blanket in a shop but it was over 600 euro, we went to EJ Kings for fish n chips for lunch, and then made our way to Aldi for grocery shopping. Some of us got a bit lost on the windy roads to the Aldi and stopped to ask for directions, learning that we pronounce it like “ahl-dee” and the Irish pronounce it like “uhl-day.”

Grocery shopping was overwhelming. None of the aisles made sense and it was incredibly confusing. We all had made shopping lists before we left but were only able to find half of the things we wanted. For example, there were only two kinds of canned soup (cream of chicken and cream of tomato) but there were dozens of different kinds of breakfast beans. We did, however, find a bottle of Sangria for 1.99 euro. So we bought 5 bottles, naturally.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 1: LETTERFRACK

January 15th, 2015

Today we were shuttled down to Letterfrack in groups (we were supposed to walk there, but the rain and wind was bad) to visit the Connemara West Center, a campus that houses both the GMIT college (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology) and various community associations. We learned about how Connemara West impacted the community, how these social development programs have brought more and more people to the area and how they have brought them together.

As part of the study abroad program, Aquinas works with Connemara West to create internships for the spring semester. The internships cover a wide variety of fields – radio, youth development, conservation projects, alumni relations, teaching aids, theatre, and many more – and students have the opportunity to become a part of the Connemara West community.

As Aquinas students, we understand the importance of community. It is something we experience and see every day on campus. Upon arriving in Ireland, the sense of tight-knit community was a bit of a culture shock because it was something above and beyond what we could have imagined. Here we were, 22 Aquinas students in rural Ireland, and everybody in the town welcomed us with such open arms as if we were family. As we met more and more people – both in Tully Cross, Letterfrack, and even random people in passing – we were told over and over “You’re welcome, you’re welcome.” At first we were confused (we are welcome for what?) but then we were told they meant “you are welcome here.” It’s an incredible feeling to be immediately welcomed into this community. We have only been here for less than a week. And we feel like we are part of the family already.

Overall, we are all excited to start our internships. Not only for the work experience we will have, but to also learn more about the community, different ways it impacts the area, and ways that we can add to the community as well. This is our home now, and we have become a part of it.

Cheers,
Taylor

WEEK 1: ARRIVAL

January 13th, 2015

We were greeted with wind, rain, and a little bit of snow. We took a bus from the Shannon airport, and our bus driver Owen was ADORABLE and played Irish tunes for us as we looked out the window (extremely jetlagged, happy, and a bit stunned) at the place we would be living for four months. We arrived in Tully Cross around noon, pulling up onto the curb in front of the famous cottages we had seen so many pictures of from past trips.

The wind and rain whipped our hair and our hoods flew off immediately as we left the bus, dragging our heavy suitcases as fast as we could to our assigned cottages. We unlocked the door as quickly as we could (we are still a bit confused with the lock system) and scrambled inside. Even though we had seen pictures from past trips, the cottages were different from what we expected, but we were falling in love with everything. We walked from room to room, exclaiming “oh look at this!” and “look what I found!”

Our cottage was absolutely frigid, and we learned that we were in the middle of a big storm and the power was out (#GreatStart). We unpacked our suitcases and put more layers on, some of us having minor panic attacks that we did not pack warm enough clothes. People warned us “the wind is so strong, the rain will fall horizontally” and they not kidding. Our professors went from cottage to cottage, explaining how to make a fire, how to turn on the hot water, and how to turn on the furnace (when the power came back on). We had an hour or so to unpack and unwind (we were warned not to fall asleep) and then invited for soup, sandwiches, and tea at Sammons (Anglers Rest Pub). A few of the regulars we met in the pub laughed and joked that we brought the snow with us from Michigan. We did not find this funny.

We went on a stunning hike (the wind and rain were so strong it actually was pushing people off the path, but the view was so beautiful we didn’t care), and later unpacked more of our bags and got settled in our rooms. We all went to the pub and were recommended to order a Smithwicks with a dash of red lemonade (we dubbed it “The Cottage 5” special). The two pubs in Tully Cross (Sammon’s and Coyne’s) are the only places in town that have good wifi. This will be both a blessing and a curse. We all excitedly contacted our family and friends to let them know we arrived safely by taking a selfie with our first pint in Ireland. A bunch of Irish boys came into the pub (Jackie, the bartender, saw them and said “oop, here they come, girls. Duck your heads.”) and we experienced our first learning moment as they asked us “How’s the craic?” (Pronounced like “crack”, similar to saying “how are things going?”). But we didn’t know that, and so we thought they were asking us about actual crack cocaine, and we were very confused.

We are here. We are actually here in Ireland. And the craic is good.

Cheers,
Taylor