Monday, November 4, 2013

The Treehouse

We have fondly named our house "The Treehouse". I'm not entirely sure where the name came from but we were throwing ideas out one day and that's the one that just stuck. A few weeks ago we had the chance to take house pictures at a lovely park close to our house, and below are the results.

Let me introduce you to the lovely ladies I live with! Katrina, Jade, Elissa, Leanne, Sarah, Stephanie, and me. Four of us them are from Washington, two are from California, and I am the lone wolf from Colorado. I love all of them and living with them has been a huge blessing during this first month back at school. Once we continue to decorate our adorable little home I will post photos of that as well.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Time has escaped me. I'm so caught up in the daily activities of my life; I go to work, then class or class, the work every single day. Last night I finally had the chance to stop and enjoy a moment.

My housemates and I threw a 1920's themed birthday party for our housemate Leanne. For 4 days we scrambled to put things together, talking in code words and leaving the house for "different activities" even though we were all going to the store together to shop for food and decorations. Somehow, we evaded being caught, even though Leanne got a little suspicious when I insisted that she wear a dress to go out to coffee, especially because she knows that I hate dressing up. But when we finally showed up at the house at 7:30pm last night and she opened the door and climbed the stairs to the kitchen, it was worth seeing her scream and fall over when everyone yelled SURPRISE! Needless to say, she was in shock the rest of the night and we told her all the things we had to do to keep her from finding out.

It was a night to remember! I'm thrilled with how it turned out. I love the girls in my house.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sick Again (Day 21)

While everyone else is enjoying themselves up in the Irish mountains, I'm sitting in my hostel feeling not even close to 100%. I mentioned in my last post that I got food poisoning, something that I have never experience in my life and I hope to never experience again.

After shopping and walking around Dublin all afternoon I started to feel sick. We had eaten lunch around 3:30 or 4pm and had then bought gelato and some candy from a nearby mall. I thought for sure I only had a tummy-ache from the weird combination of things I had eaten, but around 7:30 I was feeling so sick that I walked back to the hostel on my own (only a few blocks from where I had been) so that I could sit down and rest before we went out to dinner.

When we left for dinner I thought that I was maybe feeling a bit better, but I ended up going to the bathroom because I thought I would get sick. When I didn't, I went back to my table and once my friends had paid for dinner I walked back to my hostel again to get ready for bed. And sure enough, right after I had put my pajamas on I got violently sick. I felt better afterwards so I thought I had just eaten something funny that needed to get out of my system, but about an hour later it happened again... and then I hardly slept because it happened more in the middle of the night.

I was worried I had the flu, which was about that last thing I wanted - but when my stomach had completely emptied itself of everything in the early hours of the morning, I finally fell asleep. Our alarms went off at 7 o'clock, and I walked down the reception to call our trip coordinator from the phone at the desk. (The poor receptionist didn't really know how to react to my disheveled appearance, much less the information I disclosed over the phone.) I told him how I felt and when he showed up with our professors to get everyone loaded on the bus for the day they all insisted that I hang back, which I think was an excellent decision since I took almost a 4 hour nap when I went back to my room. One of them ran down the street to grab me snacks quickly, which have helped a ton.

I've slowly but surely been drinking, eating and putting nutrients back into my system. Hopefully by the time everyone gets back in the next few hours I'll be feeling a bit better.

I've named myself the struggle child of this trip, and it's not a title that I'm proud of. I don't think I'll be eating Chinese for a long time...

(On a brighter note, I get to see two of my cousins tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited!)

Dublin: Part 1 (Days 18 + 19 + 20)

Peace out Northern Ireland!

On our way to Dublin we stopped at a few different sites. The first was Navan, a place where ancient history remains extremely important to the Irish people. The main attraction of Navan is a large hill - scientists are pretty sure there used to be some kind of temple there at some point and there is a lot of speculation about what happened to it - we also listened briefly to a guest speaker talk about Celtic spirituality and the importance of hospitality, which I really enjoyed.

We jumped back on the bus after quickly eating lunch and made our way to an ancient monastery, with some of the largest remaining high-crosses in Ireland. The monastery and cemetery were absolutely beautiful, and there were also more than 10 stray cats wondering around (I didn't touch them, but I definitely took pictures!)

When we reached Dublin, we arrived at our Hostel... and I dragged my suitcase up many flights of stairs, which was actually very amusing. There are 4 of use in each room and there isn't very much room, but Dublin is extremely expensive so we saved a lot of money by not staying 6 nights in a hotel somewhere. There also isn't heat in our rooms so all of us sleep in sweatshirts and long pajama pants/leggings every night. Let's just say I'm pretty excited about having a comfy bed once I get back to school!

The first full day in Dublin we visited Trinity College and got to see the Book of Kells, which is an amazing copy of the four gospels from the Bible, not to mention a tremendous work of art. I can't believe how intricate some of the designs were! We also got to see the "Long Room" of Trinity College, which is a stunning library with books that go to the ceiling. It reminded me of the library from Beauty and the Beast! There were ladders for every section because of how high the shelves were. Afterwards we took a walking tour of Dublin with a student guide who knew what he was talking about. I always appreciate a good tour, and I equally detest a bad one.

Yesterday we took a tour of Kilmainham Gaol,  a jail where 14 of the rebel leaders from the 1916 rebellion were held and executed by the British army. While the tour was saddening, it wasn't very emotional since our tour guide was so matter of fact and he kind of gave off a vibe that said I do this all the time, the faster I can give them the information and finish the tour, the better. It was a different experience from some of our guides, since most of them have had a huge passion for what they've talked about and our guide in Derry was tearing up at some points. The saddest part was when I walked through the museum and read a letter from one of the rebel leaders to his mother (he was 18, and executed the day after he wrote the letter). He showed a great amount of courage, but he kept saying over and over how he wished he could see his mother's face one more time. I get choked up just thinking about it...

We had the rest of the day to ourselves and some of us decided to tour the Guinness factory - wow, whoever designed the museum and the exhibits is brilliant. It just goes to show how much money that company makes every year. We were able to taste some Guinness, which in my opinion is actually pretty gross. The coolest part was going to the very top level of the museum, where there was a bar and windows all the way around, which provided a great view of Dublin! Afterwards, we grabbed some lunch and did some shopping.

And then I got food poisoning... To be continued.

While waiting to go on the tour of the jail, these three got bored and buttoned/zipped themselves together.

Belfast (Days 16 + 17)

After passing briefly through Derry (and experiencing a lack of sleep due to a wedding reception and 50th anniversary party that happened on back to back nights right below our room) we departed for Belfast. The reason I'm posting this so late is because our schedule has been so different every day that I don't have very much of a routine and never found time to sit down. However, my computer started working again so I'm trilled about that! I'm just being really careful with how many photos I upload onto it.

Anyway, our first day in Belfast was last Sunday and we took a tour through the Titanic museum when we arrived there. For those of you who didn't know, the Titanic was fully constructed in Belfast - the museum today is located on the exact location where construction occurred. It was amazing going through the museum and also heartbreaking since so many people died. The part that had the greatest impact on me was the telegraph messages that were sent sent back and forth before and during the sinking of the Titanic. I was amazed that the captain of the Titanic basically ignored the warnings about the ice. The story of the Titanic is a huge statement on the pride of man, but at least after the Titanic sunk boat companies were required to meet certain specifications for safety purposes in the future (like providing enough lifeboats, which you think should have been common sense).

The second day in Belfast our whole group got to listen to two men from Fitzroy Presbyterian Church talk about how they are trying to minister to both Catholics and Protestant to promote peace in the city of Belfast. One of the men, Steve, is trying to minister through an emphasis on the arts and wrote a book about the spirituality of U2 and their songs. Listening to him was absolutely fascinating! At one point he said, "You can listen to Christian rock music, but never for very long," which made our whole class laugh. It is very true that a lot of Christian rock sounds exactly the same, and Steve wanted to make people realize that bands could be sharing the word of Christ through other genres, like rock and roll.

Lastly, we took a black taxi cab tour through the city of Belfast and we got to listen to each of our cab drivers give us information on the city and the violence that has occurred. I'm not going to lie, it was a pretty miserable tour especially since it was freezing outside (and raining) and we were learning about a lot of depressing things. We stopped to see a "peace" wall that was built to keep Catholics and Protestants apart, mostly because the violence between the two groups was so high in the early 1900s and afterwards. It's essentially like the Berlin Wall, except that it probably won't be torn down any time soon. In fact, the gates that lead to each side still get locked every single night... on the wall there is a lot of graffiti and many people sign it. My group had the chance to and most of us either signed our names or left brief messages.

By the time the tour ended our whole group was exhausted and depressed, which made for a grumpy ride back to the hotel. After grabbing dinner I hung out with my two closest friends on the trip, Stephanie and Ally - we all tried to watch a movie, which we had to stop since we were falling asleep. The next morning we packed our things and left for Dublin.

Titanic Museum
A Protestant mural in Belfast... no matter where you stand the gunman looks like he is aiming at you.

The Peace Wall 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Driving on the Left (Days 14 + 15)

Well... I have some bad news. It seems that my computer has decided to go kaput, at least for the time being. I've tried several times to shut it down and restart it and every time I try to open anything or click on anything it immediately freezes up. My roommate for the trip, Ally, is graciously going to let me use hers to finish my blogging endeavors. I'm hoping that I'll be able to take my Macbook Air in the the Apple store in Belfast to see if they can help me solve the problems I'm having with it. Poor Coral (yes, I named my computer).

Yesterday we departed from Corrymeela and it felt very freeing to leave a lot of the heavy things we talked about behind us. We stopped to visit some cliffs on the coast and we all crossed a rope bridge to get to our destination. The view was absolutely spectacular and everyone had fun running around across the green grass, peering down hundreds of feet to where the rocks met the pounding waves. After that we visited Giant's Causeway, which is full of rock that was naturally formed into hexagonal shapes. Millions of years ago there was a volcano in Ireland that overflowed with lava, and when the earth shifted the lava tilted and slid into these formations. It's extremely hard to comprehend and understand, but it was amazing walking across them and realizing that those geometric forms weren't made by humans.

Our last stop was at Dunluce Castle, where all 25 of us were given a map of the castle and let loose for almost an hour! It felt like we all turned into a bunch of elementary school kids on a playground - we were running through the castle laughing and making up stories and taking pictures along the way. When we got back onto the bus almost everyone fell fast asleep. But I stayed awake the whole bus ride and witnessed the sun coming out from behind the Irish clouds. As lame as this sounds, I was listening to "Circle of Life" from The Lion King on my iPod as I watched the country side go by and I felt completely at peace and utterly happy.

Today we took a very heavy and emotional tour through the town of Derry/London-Derry. I can't really go into the details right now since it might take pages to explain my thoughts and feelings but hopefully I can reflect on it in a blog post later. We've been writing a journal for our Theology class every day and maybe after the trip is over I'll be able to share some of those deeper thoughts.

Enjoy the pictures below, they are all from the destinations during the bus ride yesterday. I think I'm finally getting used to driving on the left side of the road, which makes me smile.

This is me jumping... by the edge of a cliff. I promise I'm further from the edge than it looks!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Corrymeela (Days 11 + 12 + 13)

These past few days at Corrymeela have felt like summer camp/rehab. They have been full of intense sessions with very profound speakers and loads of information. Most of our brains have turned into mush by now since we had speakers every day from 10:00am-12:00pm, 2:00pm to 4:00pm, and lastly 7:30pm to 9:00pm. Each of these speakers has been able to provide us with vivid insight about the Troubles that occurred in Ireland. Ireland, my friends, is not full of leprechauns and pots of gold. It’s full of a history of bloodshed, loss, fear, and unrest between the Catholics and Protestants and some of the things I’ve heard during these few days have made my heart heavy – I can’t even begin to comprehend the pain and suffering that some of the men went through.

I wish I could begin to dive into some of the things that were covered, but I think one of the most profound moments that occurred was when I sat in a room with my class and two Irish gentlemen, one Catholic and one Protestant, who eventually became friends after the Troubles and were able to reconcile some of their differences. They are still very passionate about their individual points of view, and their “younger selves” (as they referred to them) would have hated the fact that they were now sitting in the same room as someone from the other side. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories but it’s something that I will always remember.

The highlight of my days have been walks down to the beach, where I’ve found a vast assortment of sea glass that I’ve decided to tote back home with me (there were so many littering the beach I was able to be picky about which ones I wanted). I took my camera with me this morning to take some photos – it was also an escape to have some precious and well-needed alone time. After being around people 24/7 this entire trip I’ve definitely realized the importance of solitude and silence.

The country of Ireland is absolutely glorious and I’m so blessed to be here. It was relief to get out of the city, but I think most of us are getting restless to head back so we can be closer to pubs and have a less structured schedule that we’ve had here. However, last night we were able to do laundry and judging from everyone’s reactions you would have thought it was the highlight of the trip! Now everyone is clean and fresh and ready to be on the move.

 (Side note: We are currently in Northern Ireland, which is different from the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of Britain and the Republic of Ireland is it’s own country. Northern Ireland uses Pounds and The Republic of Ireland uses Euros… there’s your geography lesson for the day! It’s actually more complicated than that but I’m not going to take the time to explain everything.)

Also, I took an unexpected visit to the doctor’s office yesterday. My ears were starting to hurt, which left me pretty convinced that I had an inner ear infection considering I’ve been feeling dizzy and off balance. I took a taxi into town with our trip coordinator and after a quick appointment (it was amazing that they found time for me) I was given a prescription and I picked it up from the drug store. And all of that cost me… nothing, thanks to the National Heath Service. Some people hate it but some people love it. Anyway, my center of gravity has returned and I feel much better now, so hopefully I’ve said goodbye to being sick!

It is now time for one last session before we depart tomorrow morning for Derry. I’ll write when I can!