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A Croke of Genius

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

As I look back on the events of Tuesday, the 9th, I am so proud of the students. We had a jam packed day, from start to finish, and they all responded so well.

After breakfast, the kids had two classes in the morning. At 10:30, we loaded the bus to head into town for the Guinness Factory tour. This tour is self guided and interactive. The kids were pleasantly surprised at how much fun they had just walking through the different levels. They especially liked the restaurant level, where many of them enjoyed artisan deserts and sandwiches. This year, we have two 18 year old students, which is the legal drinking age in Ireland. With parental consent, they got to partake in a special activity of pouring and drinking their own draft Guinness. It was adorable to watch their excitement.

After the tour, we had a quick packed lunch and re-ascended the bus for the Croke Park tour. This was the tour that we had to re-schedule, leaving us no room for rest. It was about two hours long, and a really fun tour. We were taken into the player’s quarters, locker rooms, practice facilities, and see all the locations the behind the scene activities take place.

As soon as the tour was over, we rushed back to King’s Hospital for a lasagna dinner. As soon as dinner concluded, Casey, myself, and all of the students got dolled up to watch Riverdance at the Gaeity Theatre. This gorgeous venue has given entertainment to the people of Dublin for 146 years and counting. The kids were awestruck by the performance of the dancers, and couldn’t believe how fast the dancer’s feet could move.

The show was over by 9:30 and we arrived back at King’s Hospital by 10:00 PM. Exhausted but incredibly happy, the kids went to bed early so they could be rested for our early morning the next day.

A Day For The Dead

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Hello friends and family!

Another day, another typical breakfast. The kids munched on plain cereal and toast, wishing for waffles and pancakes. Afterword, Angie and Taryn taught a couple of morning classes before we embarked on our adventures for the day.

We loaded the bus at 11:15 and set out for Kilmainham Gaol, the location where Patrick Pearse and many of the Irish Rebellion leaders were executed. Our guide began us in the chapel where Grace Giffords and Joseph Plunkett were married before he was promptly executed a few hour later. We saw several cells in the oldest section, then moved into the wide, Panopticon-style atrium. Grace Giffords was later imprisoned in Kilmainham like her husband, and painted a moving image of the Virgin and Christ inside her cell.

In their Irish History class, the students have been covering the happenings the Civil War, which took place between June 1922 and May 1923. The ability to touch the very cell doors in which the figureheads were constrained, brought reality to the words studied in their history books.

We ate a lackluster packed lunch, making us miss the sweet cooks of Waterford, before our next tour of Glasnevin Cemetery. We got to see the final resting place of Michael Collins, known as the leader of the Irish War of Independence, and a few other historical figures. The serious tenor of the day brought forth a lot of emotions to our students, however, they continued to maintain their positive attitudes throughout.

We commenced the evening with dinner at King’s Hospital Cafeteria, then an hour of dance and drama.

To be continued!

An EPIC Day

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Good day to you all!

To update you on the events of Saturday, July 6th, the day was mostly spent on the grounds of King’s Hospital. The kids had class all morning and then lunch at 1:30 PM. After lunch they had free time until dinner. Many of the kids spent their time at the Liffey Valley Shopping Center, a quick ten minute walk away from the school. After dinner, we all reconvened for drama and dance. The students are becoming wonderful Irish dancers! In our drama groups, we discussed our final projects. Each team were given a prominent person in Irish History, and they have been tasked to create a presentation on each character. The only stipulation to this project is that it must be historically accurate and around 5-7 minutes long.

In the evening, the school held a disco for the different student groups. Many of the kids dropped in, to mingle with some of the international students. Then it was a prompt bedtime of 11:45.

Tuesday morning started with a quick breakfast at King’s Hospital before our lovely tour of EPIC-The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin. As we walked from one interactive room to the next in this modern museum, Ireland’s history unfolded before our eyes. Each room took us through Ireland’s rich tapestry of history.This modern museum kept the students engaged and they seemed to enjoy each exhibit.

After the tour, we sat through a genealogy workshop, teaching us the proper ways to trace family history. We were also given access codes to several sites, to research family history for free. I will be posting those codes in a separate post.

Then the students were given free-time to explore Dublin for a couple of hours. They loved being able to walk around Grafton Street and the surrounding area and many picked up a few souvenirs for family and friends from home.

For our evening activity, Miles arranged Counselor Olympics. The kids split into three groups and they competed against each other for a series of games. The games included transferring a lifesaver between players with a toothpick, passing an orange using only their necks, human tic-ta-toe and several others. As the Irish say, it was great craic and the kids were hilarious.

On The Road Again

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

After another hearty breakfast at Newtown, the kids re-packed all their belongings and loaded their suitcases onto the bus. Off to Dublin we go! King’s Hospital, another boarding school located on the outskirts of Dublin, will be our outpost until the 13th. This location is slightly more modern than the previous and multiple schools are using the facilities with us. This allows for the students to intermingle and meet other students from around the world. There are language groups from Spain, Italy, France, and a few sport camps from Ireland. Our students have a new buzz about them after arriving to King’s Hospital and I am not sure if it is because of the access to candy vending machines, meeting other cultures, more allotted free-time, or all of the above.

Before arriving to Dublin, we made a stop at the Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig. We ate a quick lunch before we joined our tour guide for a short audio visual presentation that ran through a few basics of ancient Irish history. The video mostly focused on recent excavations of tombs like the Knowth passage tomb.

We began in the Stone Age with replicas of prehistoric houses used by the first ancient hunter gatherers. From there we moved into the Bronze Age with its mysterious stone circles and fulacht fiadh. Fulacht fiadh is a cooking pit in the ground, using hot stones to boil the water. We actually got to try some ham cooked in the fulacht fiadh in the way archaeologists have theorized the ancients used to. Not to waste perfectly good hot water, the ancients would also use the fulacht fidh for bathing after the food was cooked. It is also theorized that this is what started herbal baths in Ireland, as herbs and flowers were added to the bath water to cover the smell of cooked ham.

After this enlightening detour, we loaded the bus and headed towards Dublin. At 7:00 PM, we gathered again for Irish Dance and Drama groups. The kids were tasked with finishing their team Coat of Arms and music video based off of a classic Irish song.

Finally settled in, we did a bedtime check at 11:30 to ensure the kids are well rested for the upcoming activities.
Stay tuned!

Happy Fourth of July from Ireland!

Friday, July 5th, 2019

We had a fun-filled day on the 4th of July, starting with breakfast and a bus trip to our first destination-Cahir Castle. Cahir overlooks the River Suir and is encased by thick stone walls from which two cannonballs still protrude. There was even a scene of Braveheart filmed here.

Next up, we toured the Rock of Cashel. This site is located on a promontory that local legends say was uprooted from the nearby hills by the Devil himself and spat out onto the land. The grounds contain a series of Medieval buildings-from the 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral.

For our final trip of the day, we loaded back onto the bus and drove to Kilkenny. We bypassed the Kilkenny Castle tour, as most of the Castle has been modernized and refurbished. However, we did make a stop in the castle’s rose garden for a group picture.

The kids were given some money and two free hours in Kilkenny to explore and grab an early dinner. Loaded up by 5:00 PM, we headed back to Waterford to make it back for the 4th of July dance. The dance was held by a Spanish group staying on the grounds of Newtown and they invited our students to partake in the festivities. Our students were enthralled with being able to meet and interact with students from other cultures.

After the dance, we held our own 4th of July celebration. We had a pizza party while we watched The Breakfast Club. It was a great way to end the evening. The students definitely needed the relaxing activity after all the hype of the dance.

At the end of the night when I did the evening bedtime check in, I was told that today was the best day so far. However, we seem to hear this reaction every couple of days. Hopefully we can continue to amaze and inspire the children with this beautiful country.

PS… Here is another picture of our little Benny the Jet sleeping on the bus for your enjoyment-with his consent of course. By the end of the trip, we are going to be able to make an entire video montage of his funky sleeping habits.

A Beautiful Day In Cork

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Hello friends and family! Thank you for staying tuned along our journey through Ireland. We have been busy bees the last couple of days, so I am catching up with this post, covering the events of 7/2/19 and 7/3/19.

The first half of Tuesday the kids took classes. They covered more Irish History with Michael and ended with a fun Irish culture class with Taryn. She brought popular Irish snacks, food, and candy for the students to try. The Bla, soft dinner rolls from Waterford, and candies were undoubtedly the favored food items. Those who braved it, got to try blood sausage, and no one wanted seconds…

We gathered in the cafeteria for a hearty lunch at 1:00 PM, cooked by our lovely Waterford lunch ladies. Following, the kids endured my scone baking workshop, and they did so well! They turned out so beautifully, in fact, the best that the ILE students have made in the last few years.

Until dinner at 5:30, the students had free time in Waterford. Most enjoyed the shopping at Penney’s, a store similar to H&M and Forever 21, and the gelato! After dinner, we gathered for a couple evening activities. The group learned to make St. Brigid Crosses and ended with Minute to Win It games.

Today, we jumped onto the bus right after a quick breakfast. We drove to Kinsale, located in county Cork, touring Charles Fort. The tour was quick and then the kids had free time to tour the quirky little town.

When the kids were ready for the next stop, we headed towards the city of Cork. Everyone was given 8 Euros for dinner, and they took off to explore the city at their own pace. We got back on the bus at 6:00 PM and took a two hour drive to Waterford. Tuckered out from the day, most of us, myself included, took a snooze on the ride home. It seems that it will be an early bedtime for all of us tonight.

Pictured: Our loved little Daniel (Benny the Jet as we call him.)

So Many Activities

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Thus far, this day has been the students favorite. As usual, today started with a lovely breakfast at 8:30. Right after, we jumped right into a full day of continuous activities. The kids had an Irish History Class with our dearest, Michael Meaney, followed by Irish Culture with Taryn. Immediately after classes, we learned the skills of hurling and how to play from a professional himself, Mark Brennan. Mark is coach for an adult men’s Gaelic football league and a minor’s girl league-also known as camogie. Despite the difficulty, the kids took right to it! Ian said his favorite thing today was learning hurling.

Next up, a rather quick lunch in the cafeteria of Newtown and then on the bus by 1:30. Upon arrival, we rented bicycles from our friend, Garvan, ironically in the town of Dungarvan. From there, we biked nearly 8 miles along the Deise Greenway. Soaking up the beauty of Ireland and taking advantage of the sunshine, we rode along the coast, and through the trees. We even took a midway stop, and played on small beach. Some of the students even braved the chilly Atlantic water.

Once we finished the bike tour, Taryn treated us to a popular Irish treat-Twisters. Once home to Newtown, we had a nice dinner of pizza made by the lovely cafeteria ladies. A short bit of free time was allotted before the students re-joined for their drama groups and dance class. In the drama groups, the staff voted on the best team limerick from the night before and introduced the task to make a music video, using lyrics from traditional Irish songs.

Presenting some of the fabulous limericks that the students created on famous Irish people. For your reading pleasure, here they are in all their cheeky glory:

1. There once was a man names Sam
Who married a bird names Suzanne
But babs caught his eyes
He won the Nobel prize
But gave all the winnings to his fam.

2. There once was a man names Yeats
Not wed, but thirty years in the sheets
It was one big affair
And she moved afar
So quickly his life depletes

3. There was a man named James
Who suffered through some pains
He wrote many books
About Heroes and Crooks
His work was much acclaimed

As if they didn’t exercise their brain and bodies enough, the next activity was the Waterford scavenger hunt. The students split into three teams and wildly ran through town to complete their task lists. Given an hour and fifteen minutes, all three teams completed in the nick of time. Many more events to come-stay tuned!

A Hurling Good Time

Monday, July 1st, 2019

The students were introduced to the world of GAA, as we had the opportunity to watch the county Wexford Hurling team win their first Leinster title in 15 years, beating Kilkenny in the final.

For the unfamiliar, Hurling is the national game of Ireland slightly resembling a mix between hockey and lacrosse. Wooden paddles are used, whacking at a sloitar ball with the objective of hitting it between the pilons or in the goal at the opposite end of the field. Surprised by the intensity, many of the students noticed that this Irish sport is much more brutal and aggressive than we are used to in the States. The use of helmets was enforced only a few years ago, while pads are ever absent. As proclaimed by the Irish, they are too tough for that nonsense.

After the match, we had dinner at King’s Hospital, the boarding school we will be staying at in Dublin. Tired from the day’s events and lingering jet-lag, we filed onto the bus for the 2 and a half hour trek from Dublin to Waterford.

Stepping Into Day Two

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Day 2: Breakfast by half eight, as the Irish say, was the beginning of our activity filled day. Next, the students experienced their first day of classes with the marvelous Angie Mervyn. The subject was Irish Literature and they covered some of the earliest Celtic legends and authors.

After the morning class session, the kids got to stretch their legs with a tour of Waterford Crystal and Bishop’s Palace. They got to see how each crystal piece was hand blown and cut to perfection. Some even took the chance of holding an invaluable masterpiece… Luckily no one dropped the ball this time.

Following the tours, Mr. Miles as the students call him, gave the students a quick walking tour of Waterford. Walking the streets, he briefly explained the history of the significant buildings such as: Reginald’s, the clock tower, and the site where the first Irish flag was hung. Miles even pointed out the statue of Thomas Meagher for Esme and Brynn-both from Montana, as Thomas Meagher was the first Governor of the Big Sky State.

To end the evening, Casey, our amazing Irish dance instructor, taught the students some of the basic steps to a traditional Irish Jig. Then for drama, the students split up into small groups to write limericks.

Arrival to the Great Isle!

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Tired, hungry, and a bit jet-lagged, all 19 students and the 6 of us counselors joined together at the Dublin airport in our matching ILE T-Shirts. To beat jet-lag, we kept the students awake for the full day after jumping the 5 hour timezone change. It’s an exhausting day of travel, driving from Dublin to Waterford via bus, with a midway stop in Glendalough.

Glendalough Valley is widely known for being one of the sites where PS I Love You was filmed. Located in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, we took a short day hike to visit one of the two lakes in the area. It’s a beautiful area of Ireland and rich in history. This stop allowed the students to walk around the smaller lake, stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and eat a packed lunch before getting on the bus to travel to Waterford.

Next, we ate dinner made by the lovely cooks at the Newtown boarding school, which will be our home for the next week. Finishing off the evening, we played a few ice breaker games and then off to an early bedtime.