Rock Climbing, Sea Kayaking, and Sailing, oh my! An Adventure in Co. Donegal

Hey friends!

Last weekend was one hell of an adventure. Definitely one of those cross-off-your-bucket-list sort of trips.

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I signed up through my University’s International Student Society, knowing only one other person going, which made for some memory-making.

Let me just put it this way: Saturday morning I awoke to a mostly naked Czech man singing the Duke Tails theme song in my bedroom. So how does one find herself in such a situation?

Well, I met this guy on the van over from the bus to the hostel. Went through the usuals, Where are you from? Why Ireland? Have you been to the States? What are you studying? Etc. Twenty minutes later our group leader is calling for groups to room together. She calls for 2 people and my fellow friendly foreigner volunteered me as tribute.

It may sound sort of sketch, but seriously super nice guy y’all haha. I swear it was totally fine haha. However, I guess he thought we bonded pretty solid because he was totally chill with walking around in his tighty whiteys. The whole Duck Tales thing is actually not so random. He told me that after the Soviets left Czech, one of the first unfiltered television shows to broadcast was Duck Tales. Apparently the theme song was top of the charts for awhile. So random, yet awesome hah.

Anyways, I got my study abroad hostel experience fersure.

So moving on to the cool stuff…

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Rock climbing for real is so badass. Seriously, it was so fun. And you feel so accomplished when you finally make it to the top. Plus, if you’re like me and tear up your hands, you have the battle scars to brag (sort of haha). Needless to say, I had a great time. That’s sort of where I got to know everyone in my group too. You bond with people when you have a common challenge to complete. The guys running it were hilarious too which always makes things more fun. They promised not to kill me though, so there’s that. Mission accomplished. Still breathing.

Then we went Kayaking…

My Aussie partner and I totally killed it by the way. For some reason we were better at going backwards though… we were a reverse machine. Whatever works man.

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Let’s not talk about the wetsuits though… Adventure requires sacrifice sometimes. In this case, my comfort and dignity.

The next day we went sailing and hiking along a few beaches. You know, you never really picture Ireland as being a beachy sort of a place, but they definitely have beautiful sandy beaches. The problem is that it’s almost always 50 degrees outside and the waters are probably even colder. People surf a lot, but always in wetsuits.

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Our skipper was your typical bearded hardcore mountain man type. He was great. He told me to look up the band Crow Black Chicken… I haven’t yet. Not sure what I’m going to find typing that into Google.

Now, you guys all should know you can’t really have a weekend in Ireland without a visit to the pub. One of the cool things about where we were is that the Irish/Gaelic language is still being used on the daily. The first time I heard it being used at the convenience store check out counter, I was caught off guard. It took me a second to realize I wasn’t hearing English hah.

Of course, we were basically in the middle of nowhere so there was like one pub within the surrounding 30-mile radius. This place was hoppin’ though. Saw Jesus-bearded-rock-climbing man who toured us the say before and I met a guy who designs costumes for Game of Thrones (it films almost entirely in Ireland). Anyways, live music, cheap drinks, and good company made for a fun evening.

I was sad the next morning to leave. Co. Donegal may not be the most modern corner of the island, but it is certainly one of the friendliest. And breathtakingly beautiful to boot.

A huge thank you and shout out to the company Rock Agus Roam who organized the weekend. 

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People do not take trips. Trips take people.

John Steinbeck 

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Blood + Sweat + Tears = Rugby

Okay so no one ever told me how badass Rugby is. Where has this sport been all my life? Thank you Ireland for opening my eyes.

I know we have it in the states. I mean my cousin played at the same university I attend now, but it’s a much bigger deal here. Better players. Better matches. Better fans.

What is Rugby?

If you don’t want to know the ins and outs then just know that Rugby is basically a better, fiercer, bloodier, soccer-football mutant. Yeah mutant, like these guys’ massive quad muscles.

To be a bit more technical…there are 15 guys running around for each team. The objective is to score points by getting the rugby ball across the goal line. This is called a try (like a touchdown) worth 5 points. You can also kick field goals and every team gets to kick after scoring a try.

To cover my basis..there are different rules for Rugby Leagues versus Rugby Unions, but I’ll just leave that to you and your Google searching if you’re interested.

So far its sounds a lot like football, but now we stray. Any player can carry, pass, or kick the ball. The only restriction is you cannot pass the ball forward. So basically it looks like a giant game of keep-away…but more hardcore. There are no formal plays like in football. Thus, the clock rarely stops. 80 minutes of brutal force split into two halves.

Something particularly unique to Rugby is the scrum. A scrum is a contest for the ball involving eight players who bind together and push against the other team’s assembled eight for possession. Scrums restart play after certain minor infractions. This is the coolest thing y’all.

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Look at all that bro love. Put me in coach. Haha. I kid. I would die. Literally just curl up and say adios sweet world.

Why is Rugby so Badass?

Is that really a question? Silly reader.

First of all. They wear no pads. No helmets.

Just their adorable long socks and short-shorts so we can all admire.

I fully appreciate the magnificence of the Rugby uniform, but at the same time I cringe at how beaten their bodies must get. These guys are slammed into the ground. Not even turf. Freaking earth. Have you felt the earth lately? It’s not something I enjoy slamming my body into. And since it’s usually a grass pitch… and it’s usually raining around these parts. Mud is a given. And being muddy and bloody raises the badass bar to an all-time high.

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Second of all, there are like zero breaks. American football is constant start and stop, but Rugby is a pretty solid 80 minutes of go. Oh but THEN let’s talk about substitutions. American NFL football teams hold 53 players. Those players and then split, like play time, into offense and defense. And in both football and soccer, substitutions are nearly infinite.

But oh no Rugby, that would be too easy. There are only 7-12 substitutions on each Rugby team, and once a player goes out, he cannot re-enter the game. Breaks are apparently for the weak.

Oh wait. The only exception to that rule is if guys run off because blood is slowly dripping down their face and they get stitched up real fast. Nbd.

I’ve sort of rambled on at this point, so I’m going to cut myself off here and just say: Rugby is one of the most physically and mentally intense games I’ve ever seen.

Up Close and Personal

Thanks to the lovely study abroad program I’m attending, FIE, I was able to attend a Pro 12 match between Leinster (Providence Dublin is in) and the Glasgow Warriors (from Scotland).

It was great. Men in short-shorts everywhere.

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Haha. Okay I swear it was cool because of the sport and atmosphere too, not just these men and their long socks.

The match was a lot like minor league sports back home. Smaller stadium, less rowdy, cheaper tickets etc. Though, I think Pro 12 is a pretty major rugby league…. Y’all I don’t know I’m doing my best haha Anyways, I just love sports so I had a great time. Plus Leinster won 28-25!

I love actually going to sporting events, but everyone knows sometimes the best seats are from your own chair in front of the television. So this brings me too…

Six Nations Rugby and IRISH DOMINATION

So there is this big tournament called Six Nations Rugby. The nations are: Ireland, England, France, Whales, Scotland, and Italy. This year, St.Patrick’s weekend, France hosted Ireland for the championship.

So basically every single television in this country was on. It’s like the Superbowl. Emotions ran high.

We went to watch the game at a nearby pub and holy shells it was intense. People were packed in like sardines. It was so funny for the pub to be basically silent and then all of a sudden everyone would be cursing out the television in unison. You really didn’t need to understand the game at all. It was obvious weather I was supposed to be happy or angry about a play.

The passion ladies and gents. That’s something I love about sports. It’s like religion for some people.

Anyways the game was brutal. Lots of bloody faces not getting stitched up. One guy was carried off in a stretcher. These guys are insane.

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Sure who needs shirts. Shirts are for the weak!

Fast forward 80 minutes of blood, sweat, and tears…

VICTORY WAS OURS. Ireland defeated France 20-22. It was a cool moment, even for me, a new bandwagon fan for the Irish. I was so happy for them! There was no shortage of blood. Nor sweat. Nor tears.

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“You know, say what you will about the ravages of sports in this corporate age where overpaid athletes expect prima donna treatment, but there is still something so unifying about sport in its purest form, when athletes rise above themselves and touch greatness and, in doing so, remind us all that we also have greatness inside of us.”

–One Tree Hill

Guinness and Green: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin

I’ve neglected this blog for too long, I know. I haven’t been doing less, in fact, I’ve been doing more! You all have missed so much since my last post! That’s only my fault though. Of course, you can always see what I’m doing via Facebook though, so I don’t feel too bad.

Anyways I figured I ought to write the obligitory St. Patrick’s Day post. I’ll be keeping it short though. You know I have to have some stories left to tell people that they haven’t already read!

Well you know us Americans, we don’t do holidays half ass. 8:30AM wake up, green up. 9:00AM the party begins.

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Yes. Those are green pancakes in all their glory. Lucky Charms infused. Just how St. Patrick would’ve envisioned it.

And of course the hallmark of St. Patrick’s tradition (In Ireland at least): the drinking began.

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Dublin Preps

From our little Kegs & Eggs event, we went to the parade. It didn’t disappoint! Really the cool part is how much everyone buys into this holiday. I mean, the streets are filled storefront to storefront with people. Many of them are Irish, but thousands of people are visitors from across the globe ALL FOR ST.PATRICK’S DAY. I must have heard 10 different languages this weekend alone. And you better believe every single one of them was rocking the green and orange. It’s sort of like a giant party Ireland throws for the world every year. A party that’s always crazy as hell. Every pub is packed. And if you have ever been to Dublin, you know that’s no easy feat. Pubs are like fast food in America. Every block baby.

Okay back to this parade for a moment though. It was pretty cool. But there was some weird ish going on too. For example…

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But really though… what in the hell… Please if you can explain how any of this is Irish, Celtic, Gaelic, or Catholic in any way… help a sister out.

Most of the parade was great though. I’ve posted the 15 second video compilation just above this post. But basically,  the whole weekend is really just a giant celebration. Of Irish culture and tradition, but also just for being here and well I think. Everyone is everyones’ friend on St. Patrick’s weekend!

After the parade we grabbed lunch and headed back to rest up for later in the evening.

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A few random things for y’all back home:

– No one does this whole, if-you-aren’t-wearing-green-I’m-going-to-pinch-you crap.

– At the same time… every freaking person is wearing green.

– It’s St. Patty’s or St. Patrick’s but NEVER St. Paddy’s. They take that pretty seriously.

– They don’t dye every consumable piece of nourishment green here like they do in the states.

– We need to step up our 4th of July game y’all…

Even though I left a lot out, I hope this makes you want to come to Dublin some day for this. Seriously, an epic weekend. I’ll totally join you 😉

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Murphy’s Law & The Cliffs of Moher

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  – Murphy’s Law

My Mom and Aunt are headed back to the states this morning, and I must say they seemed pretty ready to return to the homeland. I think they loved the trip, but then, also will love the comfort of an accessible Target, two lane roads, and driving on the right side of the highway. 

I won’t go into all the details of our trip, but I think you guys may find a few incidents entertaining.

The first day of travel looked pretty bleak, sort of the usual drizzly windy Irish day. We stopped at a convince store and as it was pretty obvious we weren’t locals, he asked us our destination. We said the Cliffs of Moher and his reply was “Oh nooo, no cliffs today. You’ll end up in da pub.” Maybe you had to be there, but I thought it was hilarious. Fortunately the sun came out and eventually we got to experience this:

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Of course, nothing is that easy. So as we pull up to the cliff’s visitor center, we hit a curb. Oh. We hit it hard. Our front left tire was killed on impact… he never stood a chance. So then me and my aunt hop out. We’re pulling out all kinds of weird shaped tools from the trunk. We did manage to pump the car up… only to have the wheels roll forward twice. We forgot about that whole parking break thing. The next task was to get the hubcap off. Oh man. We had no idea haha. I mean I’m sitting on the ground like how the hell. Me and my aunt are putting pressure on it at different angles, trying to twist it off, pretty much anything you can think of, we tried. 

This park ranger walks up and just pops the thing off with his index finger. LIKE BATMAN.

Yeah. I think we fulfilled that Americans-can’t-do-anything prophecy.

Throw in a shoe that falls apart, one lost glove, and many a wrong turn and we’re making memories. 

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Jack, Jason, and Teardrop John: A Soup Run to Dublin’s Homeless

Jason turns 39 next week. He has a 7 year old daughter who lives with her grandparents in Spain. Her name is Lucille and she is fond of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jason worked as a security guard for years, but has an artistic vein in him. He once painted a full story mural.

Jason slept on the cold red bricks of Grafton Street last night.

David is from Lithuania. I told him that I had an ex-boyfriend named David, and he quickly let me know that unfortunately he was off the market, but if not I would totally be on his radar. We offered him some gloves but he told us to give them to someone else who needs them more since he had some already.

We didn’t stop to talk to Jack since he told us he had already been setup for the night. And let me tell you he had the hook up. Fluffy sleeping bag, small pillow, hot tea, book at the ready. He had a huge smile on his face and wished us well. As we walked along the ladies told me that he had been around for years. This past Christmas he wrote them all Christmas cards.

These are some of the people had the pleasure of meeting last night on the Simon Community’s nightly soup run. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like, groups of 2 or 3 will run routes through the city and offer up soup, tea, sandwiches, and biscuits. They also bring along some warm clothes and ponchos if it’s raining. They do this every night, all 365 days of the year.

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I was struck by the sense of community not only amongst the homeless, but between the Simon’s volunteers and their usual soup customers. You know all of us gossip! Teardrop John hasn’t been heard much from since his best friend overdosed.  Shamrock John however, is still around. Crabby Christie is just as crabby as ever and Sam just got back with the ex-girlfriend.

Of course it wasn’t all candy and rainbows. We came across a trio that included a pretty strung out woman who kept saying “where’s my baby gone” over and over; a man who was extremely unhappy with us for not having a more masculine pair of gloves, and a woman who vented about her drug addiction, which she was anything but ashamed of, and how she couldn’t get healthcare for her infection because of her label of “drug addict”. Little comments like hers raise a lot of social and political questions. Shouldn’t everyone have access to basic healthcare? But what if that actively engage in illegal activity? What is considered “basic healthcare” anyways?

But just to put it into perspective for the folks back home: Simon’s community reported contact with 4,700 rough sleepers last year. In comparison, the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, guesstimates approximately 30,000 homeless in Texas (the 4th highest ranking state in the U.S). Now, these figures can’t totally be taken at face value because I don’t know how the U.S survey defined “homelessness”. But regardless, don’t think that inequality and homelessness is a “foreign problem” for “other countries”.  We have a responsibility to confront this problem.

The homeless of America should not be ignored and shoved underneath the carpet. The people I had the pleasure of meeting last night deserve respect and a chance to escape the vicious circle of poverty.

Alright this blog has taken a turn for the soap box. There’s more I want to say, but I will save you the rant! You all know all you have to do is ask me and we can discuss further 😉

Side very Brooke-like mistake I made: I didn’t know where I was supposed to go when I arrived at Simon’s, so I just lined up with the guys waiting outside the door to be admitted for services. Met a Polish dude named Robert. He seemed cool. Told me I should bring him to America. By the time I realized I wasn’t supposed to line up with everyone else, I just figured I’d wait anyways. I mean I thought maybe all those guys were there to volunteer. Oh well. They were probably judging me hard.

So to recap:

Homelessness is a problem that should not be ignored.

People are people regardless of where they are sleeping at night.

People of all walks: the lawyer, the doctor , the addict, the prostitute, deserve respect.

Simon’s Community is badass.

If David seperates with his wife within the week, I have a perspective Valentine’s date.

Can’t wait to volunteer more with Simon’s Community!

Bullet Dodging, Cliff Walking, Mud Sliding

Hello family, friends, and occasional random strangers!

First, I’d like to say, this blogging thing is new for me. I know I haven’t posted in awhile, but know that I have so much I want to talk about! Finding the time and something even remotely interesting however is a struggle sometimes.

If anyone has any questions, send me a message, text or comment here and I will definitely blog off any requests.

I believe food has already been put on the list. Of course.

Today’s adventure: Cliff Walk at Howth

I’m going to make this post short; abstract even. Work with me people it’s about midnight here.

Ice bullets to the face.

Sinking slush pits of mud doom.

Gloves separated forever.

Mini tornado-like body slams of wind.

Survival of the fittest.

That sums up the hike along the cliff.

Ah! I kid! There may have been mud and water and wind, but it was all worth it to see the beautiful coastal cliffs.

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Howth is a beautiful coastal town about 30 minutes out from the city center of Dublin. The walk was pretty short, but being the pansy Americans that we are, it took us awhile to meddle through the mud. At one point I tried to use my umbrella as a shield to shelter my frail American body from the daggers of water slamming into my face. But that was a lost cause haha.

Despite my over dramatization of the weather conditions, I’m so glad I went. The natural landscape is breathtaking. Not to mention the delicious fish in chips we treated ourselves to after walking roughly 8 miles (this included the walk to the train, etc).

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Sorry for the lack of depth and reflection on this one guys. More to come!