Monday, July 2nd, 2018
The first few days of the ILE often blend together due to the different time zones and the sheer exhaustion of everyone in question. The stormy weather we experienced Thursday delayed a few student’s flights unfortunately, but everyone has arrived arrived safely as of Saturday (June 30th)! Our first jaunt of the ILE18 was out to Glendalough on Friday, straight away after we arrived at the airport with 13 of our 14 students. Unfortunately Ethyn’s flight was delayed and rescheduled so he missed it. Our bus driver John was an absolute wizard at maneuvering around the pin sharp corners and avoiding the ever-present sheep in the road.
A few kids fell asleep on the drive over but everyone perked up with the promise of lunch and a fun walk. Glendalough is a scenic lake valley created by glacial ice thousands of years ago, leaving behind in its wake distinctive slopes and a wide distribution of unique stones. The path we took lead from the small visitor’s center, through the ancient graveyard and monastic city with the 6th Century Round Tower, and into the forest until we had reached the rocky shores of the lake. The weather has been unseasonably warm and humid for the past week in Ireland and almost everyone we’ve met have started their conversations with this fact. So the kids were downright gleeful to chuck off their shoes and dash into the water to cool their toes (and dampen their pant legs).
We spent a beautiful half hour on the beach taking photos and relaxing. Then we headed back along the boardwalk that took us to the other edge of the woods, through a few scenic fields edged with foxgloves and wild roses. After that it was back onto the bus with John for the drive down to Waterford. We are currently staying at the Newtown Boarding School. The intent of this hike was to tire out the students so that they’d sleep well and dodge jet lag — but I dare say we succeeded a bit too well because many of them fell asleep on the bus again. After move-in, dinner and a few icebreakers, the students went to bed early. We can’t say we blame them.
But Saturday, they experienced their first day of classes with our beloved Angie Mervyn, teacher extraordinaire. The subject was Irish Literature and they covered some of the earliest Celtic legends and authors, including Tir na nOg and Oliver Goldsmith. Bella said, “It definitely wasn’t as boring as regular school.”
Unfortunately, during the GAA workshop with Mark I was out refreshing my memory of the town (and picking up face paint for our activity Sunday…) so I could give a quick walking tour after our visit to Waterford Crystal, so I’ll just have to trust what the students’ said about it. Anna quipped that hurling required the hand-eye coordination that she didn’t need to have for soccer. Haha!
After the GAA workshop and lunch, the students walked with us down to the famous Waterford Crystal factory and store where we watched demonstrations of glass blowing techniques and saw displays of the incredible craft Waterford. Joe volunteered to hold a lot of the examples we saw, including a football trophy and massive vase.
(I certainly hope that) the walking tour after the factory tour was great fun and we had just enough time to cover Reginald’s tower, the Granville Hotel and Thomas Meagher, the waterfront and shipping on the Suir and the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. Then the students had an hour of free time in Waterford.
That was also the first night of our culturally enriching dance and drama classes! Casey, our amazing Irish dance instructor, started the students off with the Walls of Limerick to warm them up. Then for drama, the students began writing limericks — or at least contemplating them. To wrap up a long and fast paced day, we slowed down to watch The Greatest Showman and drift off to sleep. Photos are coming soon, we promise! This is a great group of kids.