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!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Sick Day (Day 10)

Today I was sick... and no, I was not hungover considering I hardly had anything to drink at dinner and I went to bed hours later anyway. There's not much to tell besides the fact I stayed in bed almost all day and didn't even emerge until it was time to go to dinner. (I did get up briefly around noon since the hotel was running a fire alarm drill and I nearly had a panic attack as I tried to calmly walk down to the front desk to ask what was going on.) One of my friends, Stephanie, watched a movie in bed with me after that happened and kept me company for a few hours. I think I needed a day to pull myself together a bit, especially since we are going to be traveling again tomorrow.

Tonight was our last night in Glasgow and I can't believe our time in Scotland went so quickly. In 6 hours we have to be ready to leave for Corrymeela in Northern Ireland. We will take a bus for 2 hours, a ferry for 2 hours, and then another bus for another 2 hours, so it's going to be a long day of travel! The pictures of the place we are going look beautiful -- we will be by the coast and I can't express how excited I am to be out of the city, it's definitely worn me down. I don't know if we will have Wifi at the next place we are going since it's considered a "retreat" so if I don't post for a few days it's simply because I don't have the means to.

I will write again when I can! Goodbye for now.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Walking Weekend (Days 8 + 9)

I'm squishing Saturday and Sunday into one post, mostly because I didn't get around to blogging yesterday. Yesterday morning we were up and out by 9am even though it was Saturday, and the itinerary for the day got fairly messed up which threw the vibe of the group off quite a bit. We were running late in general and we were supposed to be done with activities around 1pm, but things ended up going until about 4pm, and boy did we do a lot of walking. By the end of the day everyone was pretty grumpy and tired, even the professors. 

We toured the Glasgow School of Art in the morning, which is absolutely beautiful and designed by Charles Mackintosh. I was practically moved to tears it was so wonderful, but we weren't allowed to take any photographs at all when were were there. I found out Mackintosh met Gustav Klimt in the early 1900s and I almost lost my mind, since Gustav Klimt is one of my favorite artists (if not my favorite) and some of Mackintosh's work was inspired by him. Our tour guide through the school was a recent graduate whose name was Abdi, and he was very passionate about the building and the artwork within it, which made the tour very fun to be a part of.  

We also went to a religious museum and a church called Govan, which had many large rocks and carved headstones in it. Let's just say an hour tour of just rocks was a little too much for some of us to handle and, even though some of it was very interesting, a lot of other parts dragged on for far too long. Me and two of my friends took a 3 hour nap when we got back and then spent the rest of the evening working on homework. 

Today was a much more relaxing and enjoyable day. We slept in, ate a quick breakfast, and then attended a church service with a few other members from the group and our professors. We ate lunch with the congregation afterward and had tea, and then walked around and looked at different shops for a lot of the afternoon. I found a great spoon that I bought for 50 pence, and I'm really excited about it since it's vey different from any that I've ever had! Six of us walked with Dr. Kuess next to Clyde River and he read us some Scottish poetry. The picture above is him leading us down a path to get next to the River. It's wonderful spending time with him since he lived in Scotland and knows so much about the cities we visit -- walking with him and spending time with him means I'm always learning something new, which I love. We also walked through the Scottish Botanic Gardens which are free and open to the public. The green house had plants from all over the world, including a room labeled "killer plants" for the ones that eat bugs (definitely my favorite part). 

The rest of the afternoon will be spent doing homework and possibly going to the Sauna that's in the hotel. Also, I've haven't been feeling well recently -- the whole trip my balance has been a little off and I feel like I occasionally suffer from tiny spells of vertigo. Today I was also experiencing chest pains. If you guys could send a few prayers my way that I'll be fully restored to health, that would be wonderful! It's nothing serious but I do notice it and it is rather bothersome. 

That's all for now!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Death & Dancing (Day 7)

Today was once again very long and packed with a dozen different activities. We had class time in the morning and then toured the Necropolis in the afternoon (a.k.a. The City of the Dead). There are more than 50,000 people buried there and 3,500 headstones.  It was very powerful to walk through it and we visited the Glasgow Cathedral right after and took some time to journal our thoughts about how we want to be remembered once we pass away.

The activity for the night was much more enjoyable! We went to a Ceilidh (pronounced kale-ey), which was very much like Century Ball Room in Seattle, except that we were taught dances from Scotland instead of swing dancing. Everyone was very hot and sweaty, including our professors, and most people were drinking beer. (I also spent a majority of the time deciding which Disney characters everyone is… I was given Wendy from Peter Pan!)

We have a much more laid back day tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to since I need to take some time to read and journal for my classes. I’m missing the countryside and open spaces and I’ve been feeling a bit claustrophobic being stuck in the city. But hopefully visiting the country in a few days will help take care of that.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Accidentally Drunk (Day 6)

This is an embarrassing story… but here it goes anyway. (Don't worry Mom, I'm fine now.)

Today I accidentally got drunk/tipsy at lunchtime, and it caught me completely off guard.  No, I did not order any drinks or anything that I thought had alcohol in it.  But I did order crayfish, which came in a cocktail looking glass with a funny pink sauce on it.  I had already been feeling woozy earlier in the day, and I have been since my flight over here so maybe I have an ear infection or something else that contributed to this.  But I started to eat my food and I didn’t like it very much because it had a peculiar taste to it… I didn’t even finish it, and there wasn’t that much to begin with. 

After I stopped eating I started feeling really warm and lightheaded/dizzy so when I paid for my food I asked the waiter if he could check what was in it, just because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something strange that I could be allergic to.  When he came back from the kitchen he said, “The cook told me that there was the shellfish, some Tabasco sauce, mayonnaise, and brandy.” 

Brandy?” I said. Both of my professors were standing right next to me since they had been at lunch with a group of us and my first thought was dear God, please let me not be drunk in front of them.

But I was.  At least I think I partly was because I felt very lightheaded and dizzy and similar to what I felt like a few of the nights after I went out with my friends in Edinburgh, but this time I wasn’t enjoying myself at all.

Dr. Chaney, the English professor said, “It would make sense if you were feeling it because you are very tiny dear.”  Many of the other students agreed with that statement and threw in the fact that I hardly needed any alcohol at all to feel something. Unfortunately all of this happened right before we went to hear a guest lecturer speak and one of the girls looped her arm through mine as we walked to the university.  All I could think was this is so embarrassing and I don’t feel good, I really want to sleep.

During the lecture I had to resist the urge to put my head down and zonk out on my desk, so I spent my time drinking a bottle of water that our trip guide had bought for me.  After I finished it I felt much better, but I still have to say the whole experience was not enjoyable.  However, my friends did get some funny pictures of me walking down the street and making faces at them… (please don’t ever show those to anybody.)

So that was my adventure of the day! The moral of the lesson for me was this: Marie Rose sauce (the sauce on my cocktail) it not like any normal sauce.  There is alcohol in it – brandy is definitely not my cup of tea.

P.S. We are now in Glasgow and will be here for 5 nights!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hiking to the Sunrise (Day 5)

Incredibly early this morning, me and 12 other crazy members from my group decided to climb Arthur's Seat outside of town to watch the sunrise.  Needless to say, I think it's been my highlight of the trip so far and it was well worth being tired later in the day. (It's about dinner time right now and I'm ready to go to bed.) Anyway, the view was spectacular -- even though most of us are completely out of shape the hike was a great way to get our blood pumping, regardless of how hard we were panting by the time we reached the top. Some parts of the hill were so steep that we had to use our hands to help us on the way up. When we reached the top we all sat down and the sun literally started to rise about a minute later, which was amazing timing. It was absolutely breathtaking! Below are 17 pictures that I posted, some of them with captions. Enjoy! I definitely did.

P.S. The rest of the day was nothing too special. We had some good class time and then went to a museum and took a tour, which one of our professors apologized for after the fact because it was so boring and far too long. Wandering around the museum after the tour was much more fun and I spent most of my time with Stephanie, one of the girls from our group, at an interactive exhibit where you tried to match 12 different animals with their different sounds. The best we got was 8/12 before we got kicked out of the museum since it was closing.

More tomorrow -- we will be moving on to Glasgow! 

As you can see, we were on the go before 6 o'clock. Crazy.

Me & Brooks
The marker for Arthur's Seat

Liz & Madeline

Most of the group...

Wild purple heather -- one of my favorite parts of the hike. 

Arthur's seat is at the top of that hill.  I took this photo during the descent.
Walking back to town.