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#ILE15 Draw to a Close

Gort na CoiribeILE BanquetILE StaffIt is our last full day in Ireland! We cannot believe how quickly this trip has gone by. Johanna and Molly said that they were going to cry all day because they were so sad that our trip was almost over. The students had a free day. Many of the ILE’ers went exploring the shopping center of Galway and picked up last minute gifts. Carley and Owen were so happy that they finally got to sleep in!
The final banquet was scheduled for eight o’clock at the quaint, Irish pub, Monroe’s, in the heart of Galway.

Once at Monroe’s in our private room, the students dined, chatted, and laughed with one another. The students ordered from the menu and many of them had ordered Apple Pie and Bailey’s Cheesecake for dessert. After dinner, some students went into the pub (With an accompanied adult, of course!) to watch the traditional Irish step dancing. Aiden said that he wished he knew how to step dance so he could join in!

We soon made our way back to our home at Gort na Coiribe. The students had an hour to pack before going to the ILE Staff apartment for a little presentation. Kelton said he didn’t need anytime to pack because he had already been packed for two days! All 30 students piled into the small apartment to watch the ILE Uptown Funk video that had each student dancing at the various places we had traveled to in Ireland. We have such an amazing group of talented dancers! Next, Taryn played a slide show full of pictures from the trip, accompanied with every song that can make you cry. The music must have worked because the room was filled with misty eyes. The students reminisced about their days together on this amazing journey. Next was the Paper Plate Awards. These awards are created by the ILE Staff and given to each student. Sheila was elated to win the Minnie Mouse Award and couldn’t wait to change into her Minnie Mouse onesie! Taryn gave all of the students a USB drive, Certificate of Completion of the ILE, and an Irish flag. Evan was so excited that he now had all of his favorite songs! Laura said that she was going to listen to them on her way back home to help her remember her amazing trip.
We had a very special surprise from our favorite ILE writer, Evan! Evan read us a poem that described his experience on the ILE. His poem was absolutely brilliant. It made us laugh and brought all of us to tears. It is amazing how 30 strangers can become such amazing friends in just a month’s time. Tears were running at the end of the presentation.

After a long evening, the students went back to their apartments to finish packing and hang out with one another. Cate, Clare, Johanna, Liam, Mike, and Molly bought energy drinks and vowed to stay awake all night long. We’ll see if they’re actually successful!

The ILE Staff feels so grateful to have had such an amazing group of students to spend their summer with. Tomorrow will be filled with tears, but tonight, we’ll just enjoy each other’s company.

Cows with Guns

Aran IslandsCasey, Miles, and TarynBike HireFerryWe woke up to lashing rain this morning and as we looked out the window we thought, “Oh No!” It was bucketing down and today was our day to go to Inish Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. We put the Child of Prague in the garden-the story goes that when you do this the rain clears up-and lo and behold by the time we got half way to the ferry, the sun had started to pop through and things were looking up.

We had an early start to get to Rossaveal for the 10.30 AM ferry and as we sailed across there were a few brave souls that ventured outside to stand on the deck and watch Galway fade into the distance. The boat was packed with tourists heading over for the day and our kids had to run to get in front of the German tourists before they took up all the seats! When we got off the ferry, we rented our bikes as they are by far the best way to see the island. When the kids had listened to the safety talk-cycle on the left, use the left hand brake and don’t go too fast-they were free to explore the island and off they went.

The ILE Staff were slow-we are all a lot more unfit than what we thought with the exception of Kent and Miles-and by the time we reached the beach some of the kids were playing Frisbee and getting ready to swim. Angie dipped her toe in the water and immediately thought it was way too cold and retreated to the safety of the beach. Clare M. and Siobhan managed to brave the cold waters and there were a few girls who collected stones with holes in them. Perfect for making unique necklaces.

Some of kids cycled further to Dun Aengus, three spectacular forts which stand guard over Inish Mor at a height of 200 feet and which date back over 2000 years. Clare B. said it was really fun to look over the edge (Watched by guards.) and thought it was even better than the Cliffs of Moher.

Casey, Miles, and Taryn decided to venture off and find the Puffing Hole on Inishmore. They took their bikes on some off road terrain and proceeded to climb down some pretty treacherous cliffs. Taryn was a little apprehensive at first, as she didn’t know how she would maneuver her body back over some of these ledges. Miles guaranteed he would help her. They eventually found the impressive site, took some slow-mo/hyper lapse videos, selfies, and jumping pictures.

Everyone met back at the ferry at 4:30 PM with some Aran sweater purchases and many stories of their wonderful day to tell. The bus journey home was pretty quiet as some of the kids drifted off into dreamland, only to be woken up to the sound of our favorite ILE song blasting compliments of Brian Farrell. As the kids belted out the chorus of Cows With Guns, we turned on to campus to people staring at the sight of a bus load of kids and adults singing about cows with their arms raised in the air-it must’ve have seemed very bizarre for any on lookers although they were treated to a vision.

So as our day draws to a close our ILE group of 2015 will be going home with sun tans after a wonderful day, hot weather, and a bucket load of craic.

One more day. Ahhh!

Conne-mar-velous!

LauraEvanAlly and ClareDan O'Hara'sJimmy JesusKylemore AbbeyConnemaraILE StaffOur second day in Galway started a little bit earlier than most of our mornings on holiday. The first bus trip of our relatively laid back day led us to Dan O’Hara’s Cottage. Our guide, Martin, led us up the Connemara countryside to a turf bog. He explained the process and reasoning behind using the 3,000 year old, oxygen deprived plant matter as an energy source. Martin demonstrated how the peat would be cut into log-like pieces that weighed about 12 lbs. After a little more than a week, the pieces of turf would weigh less than 3 lbs and would shrink in size because the water would have evaporated. Martin also showed us bits and pieces of a black oak tree that would’ve been alive thousands of years ago. Because there is no oxygen in the bogs, the wood was remarkably preserved, and it had hardened considerably because of the pressure throughout the years.

From the bog we squeezed our group of 36 full sized humans into a house that wasn’t much bigger than Harry Potter’s bedroom. We were all surprised to learn that Dan O’Hara lived here during the Famine with his wife and their seven children. We got a quick history of the cottage and the eight acres that the O’Hara family would’ve farmed while they were living on the self-sufficient farm. He pointed out notable geographical features of the land, a few towns, and even the Statue of Liberty somewhere way off to the west. Martin sang a few songs and told us Dan O’Hara’s story of suffering, loss, adventure, and hope. He then moved a wooden board that revealed a hole in the ceiling and grabbed a nearly full bottle of unidentifiable contraband. He told us that it was poitín and explained that the Irish moonshine was still both illegal and regularly produced. A few of the ILE Staff tried to stomach a sip of it while the students took hilarious photos of cringing faces and lots of coughing. Did I mention that it’s 70% alcohol? Right, that’s a game changer. Needless to say, we kept your beloved students away from the poison for our safety and for theirs.

The next leg of our day involved a few bus singalongs and a trip to Kylemore Abbey. The clouds were finally starting to burn off and the sun began to show its face. We split into two groups. One group had time to go into the Abbey, take pictures, or hang out at the café while the other group was hiking up to a statue of Jesus overlooking the Abbey and Connemara National Park. Our guide told us that the Abbey had originally been a castle, then an Abbey, and was even converted into one of the best boarding schools in Europe by Benedictine Nuns. Rumor has it that Madonna’s daughter was thinking about going to school here! There are still a handful of Nuns about the place, and one of them even has a few cows! We stopped at the statue which was about halfway up the mountain to take pictures and to soak in the views of the park. Although our guide doubted some of our shoe choices (Cough Cough, Miles!), most of us made it up and down the soggy mountain and slippery rocks with no problem at all. Most of us. There were a few soaked shoes and a couple of wet behinds, but all in all it was a great trip. Poor Rebecca and her Converse. RIP.

After we got back to Gort Na Coiribe, Casey and Miles went to have tea with some of the students. Amelia quietly wrote in her diary chiming in every now and then with a few witty words, while Evan searched for poetic inspiration amongst the candles and kitchen table banter. The “God Squad” wrote the most touching note to the ILE Staff and made personalized paper boats filled with candy as gifts. They they bombarded into the ILE Staff Apartment with balloons and danced around for quite a surprise. It was a special moment that ended with a selfie that was better than Ellen’s.

When students signed in at 10 PM, they had to say goodbye to Scones. It was her last night with the ILE. The students wrote sweet love notes for her in a card. She gave everybody hugs, cleaned out her closet full of lies about being a River Dancer, and to say soft farewells to the students who have grown to love her over the past few weeks. Some students made plans to wake up to see her off at 7 AM. Just like that the sun set on another long and exhausting day of vacation on the little teddy bear shaped island with which our 2015 ILE’ers have fallen in love.

Periwinkle Anyone?

Hiking in the BurrenBurren HikeBurrenSnailsCliffs of MoherCliffs of MoherWe have officially been in Ireland for 20 days! Alice and Ally can’t believe how quickly the days are flying by. Our first morning in Galway started with the arrival of our good friend and bus driver, Brian, from Burren Coaches. As we loaded onto the bus, Brian greeted us by playing the #ILE15 theme song, “Uptown Funk.” The dance party didn’t end there; Taryn plugged in her iPod to present the #ILE15 playlist to the students! The staff and students danced and sang along to “Galway Girl,” “Wagon Wheel”, “Wannabe,” and Johanna and Molly personal favorite, “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful.”

Today the weather was not in our favor. However, that didn’t stop our spirts. Our first stop of the day was in the Burren, located in County Clare. The students oohed and aahed at the rocky countryside. Taryn made sure to tell the students not to take the limestone scenery for granite. The students dressed in some rain gear provided by Burren Hikes to help out with the torrential down pour. Then our burley tour guide, John, brought us on a lovely hike through the mountains that are owned by his family. The baltic weather with lashing rain (#AccordingtoAngie) didn’t damper the students’ sense of humor. During the hike, John showed the group the wild Juniper, hazelnuts, and thyme that grow on the mountainside. Laura curiously asked, “Do you ever run out of thyme?” Her pun was especially appreciated by Taryn, the Pun Queen herself!

After the hike, the students sat happily in the nearby café drinking hot chocolate and eating delicious homemade desserts. Aiden said that the pie he ate was the best he ever had! Before we left the Burren, Brian’s four lovely children, Shona, Mia, Eoghan, and Noah joined us for the rest of the day’s journey.

The next stop was the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient burial chamber in County Clare. This ancient tomb was constructed during the Neolithic era. During the excavation of the Dolmen, 22 bodies were found at the burial site. Angie educated the students on the history and the magical fertility powers that the Poulnabrone Dolmen also possess. Cate, Clare B., Clare M., Johanna, Josey, Molly, and Siobhan were eager to increase their fertility and ran around the Dolmen ten times clockwise. Robert made it around three times, which may result in a goldfish instead of a child (#AccordingtoAngie). Amelia and Scones ran the opposite direction, hoping that they would become less fertile.

We then headed onto Kilfenora for a quick bite to eat, and to Lahinch Beach, the surfing capital of Ireland. Luckily, there were a couple of young, strapping lads who were selling periwinkles on the shore. Periwinkles are delicious, fresh snails from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Ben, Cate, Evan, Johanna, Josey, and Molly eagerly ate the periwinkles. Ben said, “Wow, it tastes like a snail!” Many of the students explored the beach and got ice cream before the short drive to the Cliffs of Moher. Rebecca said she enjoyed drinking her delicious Oreo Milkshake and strolling along the beach shore.

The rain started up again when we arrived at the Cliffs. Carley, Julia, and Sheila thought the Cliffs of Moher were absolutely breathtaking. Owen was a bit upset that he didn’t get to see his favorite animal, the Puffin, which often frequents the area. But, he was able to enjoy the Puffin photos at the visitors’ center.

After a long, rainy day, the students were excited to sit on the warm bus and go back to their apartments. The students ended their day by cooking meals and enjoying each other’s company. We’re excited to see what adventures lie ahead tomorrow!

Galway Bound

BunrattyKing BenClare M.We’re onto our last lag of our trip: Galway! The students were very busy this morning packing up their things and cleaning their apartments in Killarney. At half nine, all the students were on the bus, ready for yet another adventure. Many of the students were up late the night before doing dishes and having late night chats, so the bus ride consisted mostly of rest.

Our first stop of the day was in the lovely town of Adare. This tiny town has small Irish cottages with thatch rooftops scattered around the perimeter. The town is also well known for its brilliant heritage center. They students were elated to discover their Coat of Arms and the meanings behind their surnames. Clare M. and Robert said that it was so interesting to find more about their surnames and their Irish heritage. The students spent an hour snapping photos of the quaint cottages and exploring the heritage center.

The student boarded the bus yet again and started onto Bunratty Castle in County Clare (The namesake of Clare B. and Clare M.). This Medieval castle is one of the most authentic and complete castles in Ireland. Built in 1425, the castle has furniture and tapestries that make it truly come to life. The giant tortois shells in the castle kitchen reminded Laura of the Ninja Turtles. Liam and Mike climbed all the way to the roof of the castle and shouted, “I’m King of the world!” Rebecca described Bunratty Castle as “very cool.”

After the castle tour, the students were allowed to explore the small folk village that surrounds the castle. Decorated with small period houses and vintage shops, the students had more than enough to keep them intrigued. Johanna particularly enjoyed seeing real live chickens walking around the village.

After a few hours at Bunratty, the students departed to the last city on our trip. Drum roll please…, Galway! The students were ecstatic with the student housing accommodations at Gort na Coiribe. John was especially pumped to have his own room! The students went to the Dunnes Grocery Store across the street and bought groceries for their apartments. Mary Elizabeth said, “This trip has really helped me learn how to manage money. This will make college a lot easier!”

The students nestled into their homes for the week and cooked their dinners. Pizza, chicken nuggets, and pancakes seem to be favorites among the group. A few students opted to walk into town for a nice dinner out. It was another beautiful day in Ireland!

#ILE15 Spirit Names

Ross CastleClare, Josey, and KellySpirit NamesMary ElizabethLadies ViewKeltonGroup at Ladies ViewOliviaLauraToday we were all at the bus at half nine for our Mini Ring of Kerry Tour. Our informative bus driver, Tom, took us first to Ross Castle, where students were allowed to explore the castle grounds which rested upon the edge of one of Killarney’s lakes. The weather today was a bit grim, but made for interesting light for our photographs.

Molly and Owen scaled part of the castle wall for a photo. Kelly had made her way to the upper level and was waving like a queen. Many selfies were taken in front of the spectacular view, which included the lake, distant mountains, and even a few swans.

Clare B. was determined to touch a duck. Unfortunately, they were just too quick! Kelton made his way around the front of the castle in attempt to get some artsy photos (Which he’ll hopefully share with us soon!).

From here, we left for Kenmare to visit the ancient stone circle they have there. It is said that they used to make sacrifices on the center stone to please the gods and spirits. As a group we held a sort of ILE ritual ourselves. Forming a circle, everyone took hands. The ILE Staff took turns giving each student Spirit Names, “From now on Mike, you shall be known as…, Sperm Whale!” Molly now goes by Kinkajou, Clare M. goes by Thunder Cloud, and so on. Ben, Laura, and Owen were all in stitches after hearing some of the names given!

From here, students were left to buy lunches in town or eat packed lunches they had made themselves. It was a bit cold and rainy today-jackets and fleeces were definitely needed. Some students filled up with warm scones and hot chocolate or lattes, others went for soup of the day or toasties. And of course, there is always room for ice cream!

After an hour of free time in Kenmare, the ILE went back on the bus with their driver, Tom. Tom is from Ireland, so hearing his musical accent while driving through the Irish countryside just added to the ambience of the rolling green hills, fog, and mist.

For a short while we played some music on the radio and the students couldn’t help but sing along-a very musical bunch we have!

As we drove, Tom explained how we were passing through Moll’s Gap. There are only two breaks, or gaps, in the mountains and that was one of them. The two halves of the mountain swept down, naturally, to the road below as we passed through, leading us on to the Ladies View, and what a view! I can’t imagine any photo taken here will ever give the sight justice!

Students took less selfies here and more photos with each other. Something about this place had to be remembered with friends.

As Clare M. was being photographed with friends she commented, “maybe I’ll make the blog today.” -here ya go Clare!

Ladies View-#AccordingToMiles-men would leave the ladies just sitting there with the view while they sat in the cafe or were off hunting. #BallAndChain. #SeeYa.

Another scenic route took us home again, back to our apartments where students had free time to cook dinner, nap, watch TV, or go into town.

The Michael Collins group, which included Amelia, Johanna, Josey, Kelly, Mike, Owen, and Rebecca were off to their prize night out: The Ghost Tour of Killarney. Correctly assuming that the tour would be scary, Kelly happily gave her spot to Molly.

Poor, unfortunate, Molly sat in, what she believed to be, the safest seat on the bus. (Now, let’s talk about this bus-dark, full of fog, sculls, seats missing to make room for more scary things! Windows covered. Dark.) She was nestled in the way back-out of the aisle with Josey next to her. Little did she know that upon reaching our first destination that the side of the bus in that very spot would break away with a loud, “Aaaaahhhhhrrrrr!” And a man reaching for her!

It was unexpected for all of us! We hear a scream and turn back to see that Molly had jumped straight into Josey’s seat, leaving Josey on the floor! Everyone burst out laughing with excitement, and a little nervousness wondering what could possibly happen next.

Though the ride was a bit scary, the stories told here were fascinating. Did you know that Halloween derives from an old Pagan festival? They believed that spirits of loved ones were always around, but during this time the vail that separated them dissipated. They would have bone fires (Origin of our “bon” fire.) burning bones of animals as an offering to the spirits, in hopes that they would feel included and happy. For if they weren’t happy, they may play tricks on you.

We arrived at an abbey, dating back to the 1400’s. Story goes that this abbey was one’s first class ticket to Heaven if buried there, but at one point there was no room left. So people would dig up graves, toss the original bodies into or around the abbey itself, and bury their loved ones in their place-leaving the building full of decay.

Of course it’s cleaned up now, and the grounds are still used as a working cemetery today. So with respect, we continued on deeper into the church. In the center of the courtyard was a 600 year old tree-quite beautiful.

As the tales continued Amelia and Counselor Casey linked arms and kept an eye out in all directions. Molly and the girls were huddled and hugging each other, as one of the tour guides would jump out at us here and there-having done this for quite some time, his timing was impeccable.

We all made it out in one piece. On the ride back into Killarney, Rebecca told us how she felt something touch her leg when everyone was in the abbey and Mike had a great picture of a few good orbs on his phone.

We stopped quick to get some ice cream for the walk back to the apartments. Yumzers.

Those who did not go on the Ghost Tour visited each other in the apartments. Robert even hosted a tea party which Counselor Kate said was a lot of fun!

Another amazing day in the #ILE15 books.

Dingle Done Right

JoseyCarley, Rebecca, and JuliaInch Beach GroupClareOwenKellyGod SquadWaking up in a new town is always exciting, especially now that classes are done. The kids woke up on Wednesday and made their own breakfasts and packed lunches for the day trip to the Dingle Peninsula. The students loaded the bus at half nine.

The weather was beautiful. They started the day out with a stop at Inch Beach. It was a great way to start the day bright an early. Clare, Cate, Liam, Mike, and Miles decided to take a dip in the ocean! It was a bit cold, but they were excited to swim. “Wooooohhhhh,” yelled Liam as he ran past everyone in his swim trunks and blinding white torso into the ocean. The rest followed and stayed in the water for as long as they could.

Josey was excited to find some seashells for souvenirs. Casey and Taryn drew #ILE15 and took jumping pictures in the sand and Evan took a stroll.

The students gathered back on the bus after purchasing a few Twisters and continued their drive along the peninsula. The sights were spectacular. It was unbelievable. The sun and the water were similar to the tropics. “The water is so blue,” said Laura. The students stopped along the way to take pictures. Kelly had asked if we could stop along the Dingle Peninsula to recreate a picture of where her grandpa had stood years before. We were able to locate the spot-right in from of the Blasket Islands. It was a moment Kelly will never forget. Very touching and Kelly felt a little closer to her grandfather, Pots, who passed away earlier this year.

The ILE eventually made it to Dingle Town and the first thing they saw when they got off the bus was an ass! This cute little donkey, two dogs, and a man were sitting on the corner. “I want a picture on the donkey,” said Clare M. She paid €1 and got on the donkey! The man told stories and was a very friendly guy. The students definitely were amused.

The students spent a few hours exploring the town and ate their packed lunches. Many students have been buying souvenirs for their family members, so it was fun to see their purchases.

Once the ILE got back to the apartments, the students made dinner and went and explored the town of Killarney. Eddie, James, and Robert played hurling outside. They were having a blast teaching each other tricks.

Another top notch day. The students are all becoming very close and as Molly said…, “Some of these people feel like my best friends and I have only known them for three weeks!” The ILE is truly magical.

A Bunch of Blarney

King's HospitalBlarney CastleMary ElizabethTo get the gift of the gab or to not… That is thy question!

Travel days are usually quiet days and kids catch up on some much needed sleep while traveling to the next destination.

Tuesday morning, the students and ILE Staff had a quick breakfast, packed up our bags, and left the beautiful city of Dublin by 9:30 AM. Sheila said she is going to miss Dublin, but is excited to continue onto the next adventure in Ireland. Things on the ILE are definitely an adventure! As we waved goodbye to Dublin, most of us drifted into a sound slumber.

Angie eventually got on the microphone and said, “MORNING, wake up, we are here! Nudge your neighbor if they are sleeping.” Angie is usually the one that explains the destinations and gives a historical background about the place we are visiting. Today was the Blarney Castle and “Kissing the Blarney Stone.” “Now, you see…, if you kiss the stone you will get the gift of the gab. So I won’t kiss it since I talk to much already,” said Angie.

The weather was rainy, so rain jackets came in handy. The students all got their tickets, used the bathrooms, and headed to the castle where each student questioned whether they should kiss a stone that millions of others have kissed. “My dad was more worried about me kissing the stone and catching a disease than he was me traveling to Ireland,” said Olivia. It is true. Kent was even questioning the sanitation of the stone. Most of the students waited in line and made their way up to the top of the castle. On the way up, some of the students became claustrophobic due to the small stair cases. “It’s crazy that people lived and used such a small stair case,” said Cate.

Once at the top, the kids were determined to get the gift of the gab! Almost all the students kissed the stone. It was funny to watch them bend backwards and try to kiss it. Lots of laughs happened.

After kissing the stone, the students made their way around the gardens and had a quick snack before hopping back onto the bus. Everyone was expecting the bus ride to be loud, since all the students now had the gift of the gab… But in fact, it was quiet. It must not kick in until the next day.

Since we are living in apartments now-not on a school campus, the kids get the opportunity to cook for themselves like college kids. They were given a stipend and went to the grocery store and got the food they needed. Watching the students budget and pick out food was hilarious. It was funny to see them realize all the little things it takes to make meals. “Do we need salt and pepper?” asked Liam. “Yes, but what about hot sauce?” asked Johanna. “Do we NEED that because we also need cake and what’s more important?” said Cate. Kent said he remembered the days when he started grocery shopping for himself and watching them made them laugh.

The students had their groceries figured out and we made our way to Killarney. The group got the apartment rooms situated and the students were very excited to be in nice apartments. “I love this place. I am so glad we are in nice apartments,” said Kelley. The apartments are very posh and fun to have our own space to live in for the next couple of days.

The students cooked their dinner and have been enjoying each others company! “We cooked toast for a snack. Is this what college is like?” asked Julia.

Today was a great day because the kids got to relax and really bond while cooking together. The next couple days are filled with adventures!

Dublin Comes to a Close

FramesBenjiMiles and ClareOscar WildeYeatsHard to believe, but today is the last class day of #ILE15. It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun and no one could quite believe that yet another section of this year’s ILE is coming to a close.

Angie was first up with Literature and treated the kids to the joys of WB Yeats, one of our best lauded Literature figures who also won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923. The kids have presentations to do tonight on well known Irish figures and Yeats is the subject of one of the groups, so Angie is waiting in anticipation to see what delights the kids come up with for this one.

Taryn finished her game of Irish Jeopardy and the students were surprised by how much they have actually learned over the course of the Irish Life Experience.

For History, Angie did a workshop with the kids on the history of the North of Ireland and told stories of what it was like to grow up in Belfast and how the peace process, with great thanks to America, had changed the lives of so many people living throughout the North. It was good for the kids to get to know some of the history of that part of our wonderful country, especially after the visit to the Giant’s Causeway last week.

Miles had the kids for his last class and as he is one of the teachers in charge of the drama presentations, so he decided to cheat-he does that when playing Twister too! He devoted his class to letting the kids practice for their presentations. There was lots of activity in and out of the office as they came looking for paper, pens, and any other resource they could get their hands on to make their props. It was so exciting as the tension grew all day as we waited in anticipation to see what delights would be produced.

After class we were treated to our last lunch in King’s Hospital, before the kids had free time to go to the mall and finish off their bits and pieces of shopping-Topshop has done a roaring trade in the last week and they report a high % rise in profits!

Some students decided to do a Celtic Frame Workshop and some of the masterpieces were incredible. Cate painted a gorgeous picture of the Irish countryside. Spectacular!

Dinner tonight was a little later and the gorgeous Patrick in King’s Hospital organized a BBQ for our last supper. The kids were treated to hotdogs, beef, and chicken burgers and said it was the best meal of the program-you can’t beat good traditional Irish food!

And then the moment we had been waiting for all day-it was time for the drama presentations to begin. The kids put such great effort in and it was a brilliant night. They performed on the lives of de Valera, WB Yeats, Michael Collins and Oscar Wilde, with that group dressing up as the Staff, borrowing clothes and doing some very strange accents! Ben was a particularly convincing Angie and from then on they will be known collectively as Bengie. Taryn and Angie judged on historical accuracy, teamwork, and creativity and the winning group were… Wait for it… Drum roll. Michael Collins (Kelly, Mike, Rebecca, Johanna, Owen, Amelia, and Josey.) There is a great treat in store for them when we get to Killarney, but we won’t tell you about that yet. Well done to everyone-every kid without fail did a brilliant job.

And then it was time to pack up and get ready for our next adventure. Killarney watch out-we are arriving tomorrow!

We Have Niall!

Croke ParkCroke ParkAlice and SiobhanWe love Niall!Croke ParkOn Sunday, the #ILE15 students were ecstatic to find out they would have an opportunity to lie in until 1 PM if they wanted. They Irish Life Experience Team keep the students very busy, so it was nice for the students to relax in the morning if they wanted. Eddie, Margaret, Owen, and Robert were the only four to make it to breakfast for half nine. A few others decided to wake up shortly after and head to the Liffey Valley Shopping Center for some java and much needed WiFi at Starbucks.

There was excitement and a good buzz in the air, as the students got ready for the Leinster Finals at Croke Park. The Senior Match was at 2 PM and Dublin and Westmeath would be facing off in the hopes to advance to the All-Ireland Football Final. While many of the students have been persuaded by a few of the ILE’s friends that Dublin was the team to root for, there were four Westmeath fans that decided to put their whole heart and soul into supporting the underdogs. Since One Direction boy band member, Niall Horan, is from Westmeath, Johanna, Kent, Molly, and Sheila thought it was apropos to cheer for his county team. They borrowed the ILE’s life sized cutout of Niall and even painted his face with the team colors of maroon and white. They also made a sign that said, “We have Niall, so who is really winning?”

The other students bought Dublin flags, jerseys, and plaits to show their pride for the capital’s team. Many even donned shades of blue paint on their faces for the Big Smoke. There was a lot of rivalry going into Croker, as the students have really embraced the GAA culture. With chants of Westmeath (Clap, Clap…), Up the Dubs, and Come on Ye Boys in Blue, the energy was undeniable.

Before the game started, the ILE students said goodbye to Scones for a few days. The students were sad to see her go, but she will rejoin the group in Galway. The ILE also had a few surprise guests join the group. Our Ryan, who is from Our Tom’s (Angie’s brother) band and Patrick, who is Alice’s brother came along to join in the fun.

The nerves that were beginning to roll down off Hill 16 quickly dissipated, and the game soon fizzled out after the first half. In fact, there were only four scores in the final 28 minutes of play. Dublin set their sights on an All-Ireland quarter-final; Westmeath began to plan for a Round 4 qualifier and their own shot at a place in the last eight. After 70 minutes and blitz battling Westmeath, Dublin clinched their 10th title of 11 seasons with a score of 19 to 6. “Dublin are the kings of Leinster,” said Rebecca. “Even though the game wasn’t too suspenseful, it was an amazing atmosphere and one of my favorite things we have done yet,” said Kelton. Josey said that Gaelic football games are 100x better than American football games.

Another surprise was when Johanna, Kent, and Molly got their picture taken with the Sportsfile newspaper holding up the life size cut out of Niall. Hopefully, they will make the front page this week. #Celebrities.

After hearing the Dublin celebratory speeches and some popular Dublin songs of Molly Malone and Rare Old Time, the ILE exited out of Croke Park and made their way back to the bus. They made sure to take lots of pictures enroute.

Once back at King’s Hospital, the ILE went to dinner for a delicious meal of chicken or fish, potatoes, and vegetables. Our Miley was thrilled, because they even had his favorite for dessert-jelly donuts. After three jelly donuts and some powdered sugar in his beard, Miley exclaimed this was his most favorite day yet!

The #ILE15 Talent Show was next on the agenda. There were some amazing performances from drama groups and the students were very impressed with the Staff’s skit. Robert said he couldn’t wait to put his video up of the staff on every social media site he had with hashtags galore. Alice tinkled the ivories, Evan read a poem, John played the guitar, and Margaret showed off some of her flexible moves on the dance floor. We also had performances from Casey’s Advanced Irish Dancers (Clare, Molly, and Sheila) to One Direction’s-Best Song Ever and the Rump Shakers-a lip syncing/dance battle that was absolutely hilarious. We were all blown away by Mike’s stellar dance moves when he started throwing shapes and booting shaking on the floor. Where did that come from? Not to mention, there were some amazing singers. Angie and Robert sang a duet of Tell Me Ma, Laura sang Frozen, Siobhan sang Valerie, Josey sang Gunpowder on Lead, while Julia sang the Bird Song. The ILE Staff was blown away by the students. They are so talented!

The ILE concluded the evening with some announcements, preparing their laundry, and getting ready for their last class day tomorrow.