Today started off like most days with breakfast at half eight and class at nine. Professor Miles talked today about Irish influence in America and how that has affected the American presidency. Did you know that half of US presidents have ancestors from the Emerald Isle? Kennedy, Reagan, and even our current president, Obama, all claim Irish roots. There was even on American born Irish president, Eamon de Valera who was born in Manhattan, NY and came to be the 3rd president of Ireland in 1921.
The students had their first Irish History and Gaelic classes today with Shona, who is an Irish native from County Cork. Ali, Clare, Ali, Kate, Kelly, and Molly shared the Irish words and phrases they learned, such as Hello: “Dia Duit” (GEE-ah Gwitch) literally meaning “God be with you” and the response to that, “Dias Muiras Duit” (GEE-as Mwear-ah Gwitch) meaning “God and Mary be with you.”
Not only does Shona teach these classes, but she is also the best scone make ever! The other staff even call her Scones instead of Shona. Almost all of the students signed up for Scones’ scones workshop. No flour fight this year though! Weird. Must have been because Counsellor Casey was on office duty and not there to plant the idea.
The scones turned out fabulously and were served with dinner. They were delicious with a little Irish butter. Earlier in the day most of the students opted out of the cafeteria lunch and were permitted to go into town for lunch. The lunch ladies were a bit baffled by their absence. The weather was glorious today for walking about town and for a few sports. There is a large green field in front of the Newtown School campus that we used for the Irish Sports Workshop, in which all students were required to participate.
Waterford local and GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) Coach, Mark, came for a visit to teach the students about hurling and Gaelic football. They were able to test their hand at working the hurly stick and ball with relay drills. At one point they held a Puc Fada competition, to see who could hit the ball the furthest. Ireland has this contest once a year and the winner receives €5,000. Each student was allowed three attempts. The furthest ball for the ladies was hit by Clare M. The furthest lad to hit the ball was Kelton.
The Irish teams (Comparable to our NFL for example.) are not paid. They play because they love it and have extreme pride for their county. Mark was explaining how each neighborhood would have their own pitch to play and practice on-all starting at very young ages, and would compete against the other neighborhoods in their county-making their way up to the final that would permit them to represent their county in matches against other counties. The roots in the team are strong and the pride extreme!
After dinner we had Drama and Dance. In Drama each team was asked to create a limerick about their historical figure, the winning team included Aiden, Ali, Carly, Clare M., Evan, Kelton, and Molly who wrote a witty limerick about WB Yeats-they won an Irish literature book.
After Drama was Irish Dance class. The students are continuing to master the skips and sevens, which are the basic first movements a dancer learns. We took turns two at a time dancing our skips down the room. The students are working on a large group dance, choreographed by Counsellor Casey, which is arranged first in a circle and eventually ends in one long line for a grand finale jig step at the end. Some of the students are quite good! Others admit their lack of grace, but are still happy to learn what they can. Before class ended Clare B, Molly, Sheila, and Counsellor Casey demonstrated their hard shoe steps. Each danced one step of the treble jig. Some of the girls were saying how this dance class is only making them more excited about seeing Riverdance when we’re in Dublin. We hope to master our group dance and record it so you guys can see what we’ve learned!
This evening the students were given a choice between having free time on campus or watching a movie in the lecture hall, “The Commitments.” Most chose the movie and some even went to bed before it was over. We have a lot of fun on ILE, it’s important to get sleep while you have the chance!
Students woke up this morning and looked out the window and boy, was it a crystal clear day! Once again, everyone thought about how lucky they were to be experiencing this amanzing adventure on the Emerald Isle.
The students headed to class where Angie taught the students about James Joyce and his fascinating life. Evan read a piece from Ulysses in stream of consciousness fashion and he once again impressed the class with his literature skills and reading. During their second class of the day with Miles, they played “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” about Irish History. The game got really intense and the competitive side of the students came out in full force. The final class of the day was with Taryn. They learned about the geography of Ireland in Irish Studies.
For lunch the kids had their first experience with Rashers (Irish bacon)and the feeling was mixed. Some kids liked them and some didn’t! Kent thought they were really good. After lunch they all made our way into town for their tour at the Waterford Crystal Factory. When they first walked into the first section of the tour, they were listening to the tour guide speak about the process of how they make a Waterford Crystal piece and how expensive each piece cost. Amelia said, “This crystal is worth more than my life!” Kent burst out laughing, trying not to swing his backpack and knock over the beautiful piece behind him. Ben then said, “I can’t be in here. I will break something!” Everyone was a little nervous.
The students continued to an area where they make the customized molds for special customers like Justin Timberlake, the London 2012 Olympics, the People’s Choice Awards, and other big tournaments. This part was really cool. “I love the we saw a Justin Timberlake mold,” said Amelia. I think the students were all surprised that Waterford Crystal creates pieces for such big events and people.
They continued through the tour and got to see each of the processes of how the glassware is made. It is a very difficult process to work at this factory and you can definitely tell in the craftsmanship in each piece. Their apprenticeship is even longer than Medical School. When they finished Ben said, “That was very cool! I liked that the factory is set up for tours.” At the very end, the students got a chance to buy some pieces of Waterford Crystal. Then the students that signed up for workshops walked back to campus to work on St. Brigid’s Crosses and Irish hats.
The students all sat around Taryn and listened to her explain how to make a St. Brigids Cross. You can tell Taryn has done this before because she had the students start out on pipe cleaners instead of the freshly picked reeds. “I hope my mom will hang this in the kitchen,” said Molly. Cate laughed because she was still four steps behind and her crosse wasn’t quite up to par yet. When they all finished their crosses, Amelia was sitting on the ground laughing and staring at her cross. “My cross is complete and utter garbage,” said Amelia. Taryn laughed and said, “It is not! It is unique.” The process of making these crosses was a lot harder then the students thought.
After they finished their crosses, some of the students moved over to spray painting Irish designs on trucker hats. They all wanted to do something similar so they would match. They decided to do the Irish flag with the country code of 353. Well…, let’s just say they debated if the Irish flag was orange, white, then green OR green, white, then orange. The majority of them got their hats wrong. They all decided that they were just going to wear them in confidence. They all now know the order of colors on the Tricolor and will never get that wrong again! The hats did turn out really cool though.
In the evening the students had a scavenger hunt in Waterford. The students had a list of items that they had to find and gather within an hour. The first one back and the one with the most items would win a prize. Liam was the first one back, but his team did not have all the items. The last team to arrive was the only team to have all their items gathered. It was comical watching the kids banter back and forth over who won.
The students got to have the rest of the night to themselves. It is fun to hear their stories of dorm life and what they do during their free time. Some students gather in groups and play games. Other students go explore the campus.
Life has been great so far. Yeah for #ILE15!
Alex (Also known as El Nino or Ninny in the office.) is very excited to join the Irish Life Experience Team this summer after getting to know Taryn and hearing her many passionate stories about the program and the people. Currently working for a sister company of the Irish Life Experience, Go Blue Tours; Alex has gained a quick love and respect for travel, and is excited to visit Ireland for the first time.
He currently works a combination of Accounting, Operational, Marketing, and Sales for Go Blue Tours. After spending the previous eight months preparing, Alex assisted in running a successful Spring Break Program to Cancun, Mexico in March. He helped hundreds of current college students have the week of a lifetime, which he can’t wait to do again even bigger and better next year. (Maybe he will see some ILE’ers in Mexico in a few years.;).
He is studying Marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and hopes to finish by the end of the 2014 Fall Semester. Previously working for the Lowell Spinners (Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.), Alex has a passion for Sports and the Management of Sports, which he studied his Freshman and Sophomore Year at the University of New England. He can’t wait to learn about Gaelic Football and Hurling in Ireland.
Born, raised, and currently living in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Alex spends most of his time working. During his free time, you can find him at the shores of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire or enjoying every aspect of Boston and the surrounding cities and towns. He lives with his parents Donna and Alex and has one sister, Madaline, 19-who currently attends Salem State College studying Theatre.
With the last name McKinnon (Changed from Mac Kinnon two generations prior.), Alex has deep roots and some living relatives from the Glasgow and Skye areas of Scotland. Even though Scotland is the next country over, he’s looking forward to traveling across the pond and really delving into everything and anything Irish.
He can’t wait to meet all of the 2014 ILE’ers the end of June!