The day started out as most days have thus far on the trip. We woke up entirely too early and had a predictable breakfast that consisted of cereal and orange juice. The students started in Scones’ Irish literature class at 9 AM and learned about many more famous Irish writers. After literature, they attended their Irish American History class with Brigid. The main topic of this particular class was Thomas Francis Meagher and his connection to the draft riots during the civil war in Ireland. Other notable facts were that Meagher was the first to unveil the Tri-Color Irish Flag and that he later became the Governor of Montana after the American Civil War. Being from Montana, Linnea was definitely impressed with this tidbit of knowledge. Taryn’s class turned into an episode of Family Feud that involved all 22 students in the group. She quizzed the teams on a wide variety of aspects from her Irish Studies class.
We had fabulous fajitas for lunch and then boarded the bus to go into the city. Taryn gave us a brief tour from the bus and told us about the parts of the city as we were passing through. My favorite part was when she talked about Phoenix Park. We found out that the park contains the Dublin Zoo, the US Ambassador’s House and the President’s residence-the Áras an Uachtaráin. Taryn also made sure that we all knew that she’ll be running the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon around the park after the program has ended. We continued deeper and parked on Nassau Street. We then met a former ILE teacher, Dan, in St. Stephen Green for a more in depth walking tour around the Ireland’s capital. He pointed out few pubs in Temple Bar and gave Taryn the opportunity to remind the students that they signed a Behavioral Contract so they could only enjoy the pubs from afar. Dan showed us the O’Connell Bridge, which is wider than it is long as it crosses the River Liffey. We also crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge. The most interesting thing about this bridge is that it has steps going all the way up and all the way back down the other side. The reason behind this design was simple-because horses couldn’t climb the steps, it allowed ladies to cross the river on a bridge that was cleaner than alternative routes. We also saw the Spire, a Millennial project that Dan informed us was completed in 2006, and cost upwards of 4 million Euros to erect. He explained that the citizens were frustrated with the project because it was so costly, aesthetically unappealing, and had no real or functional purpose. After his short rant, Dan led the students down Grafton Steet, a major pedestrian shopping street in the heart of Dublin. We enjoyed street performers, great people watching, and a bit of rain. After Dan’s hilarious (Yet historically accurate.) tour, the students had a couple hours of free time to spend shopping, eating, or just staying dry!
We got back to Kings Hospital at about 6:30 PM and immediately ate supper. Afterwards, the students split up into their drama groups to work on their skits that they’ll be presenting at the end of our time in Dublin. I’m always impressed by how much discipline the students have to work and avoid the distractions brought about by WiFi access and other students. The students went to their Irish dance class with Casey around 8:30 PM. They practiced the Walls of Limerick, tuned up their jigs, and stretched a little bit after too.
Nobody realized that there was going to be a disco in the auditorium until we walked past and heard the bass knocking the door down. The students quickly turned their swagger up a few notches then got back down to dance the night away. The auditorium turned into a melting pot of American, Spanish, Italian, and Irish students with very different styles of dancing with everything that you’d expect to see at a dance; lasers, strobe lights, fog machines and tons of enthusiasm. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I’m pretty sure our students had the most fun. The disco ended around 11 PM and everyone was exhausted so most of the students took showers and hung out in a common room at the bottom of our dorm. Aaron led a sing along on the piano and Stephen sent us to sleep tinkling the ivories with a beautiful lullaby.
We woke up to blue skies and sunshine this morning! The students were excited for some “summer-like” weather. Today was another class day, so the students were a little bummed when they had to spend such a lovely morning inside the classroom. Nevertheless, it was well worth it. Brigid had a class discussion on the Irish involvement in the American Civil War. David was able to offer our students some interesting insight because he has participated in Civil War reenactments and was often in the Irish brigade! How cool is that? Scones taught a lesson on writer, Frank O’Connor, in Irish Literature. Then Taryn gave the Irish Counties Quiz that the students have been studying feverishly for during the past week. Altogether, ten students were able to identify all 32 counties. Three students, Brendan, Dylan, and Eme were able to name all 32 Irish counties with correct spelling! AMAZING! Taryn is so proud of her awesome ILEer’s! They received Dublin flags, Ireland stickers, and keychains for their perfect scores.
After classes, the students had three hours of free time. Many of the students headed over to the Liffey Shopping Center, which includes many popular stores and most importantly, a Starbucks with WiFi. The girls came back from their shopping excursions showing the teachers and female counselors the cute and trendy clothes that they found. Mariah and Molly were particularly happy that they were able to shop at H & M.
We had two opportunities for students to sign up for Irish workshops this afternoon. Counselor Casey held her Celtic Cards Workshop and Scones held her Tin Whistle Workshop. Aaron, Alex, and Megan created some beautiful Celtic cards. Aaron displayed his exceptional drawing skills on his card. Megan decorated her card with Celtic designs and green sparkles. Alex went with a simple shamrock design out of printed paper. They worked very hard and their cards were creative. Cool, wow, awesome. Families-keep your eyes out for a Celtic card in your mailbox!
Brendan, Dylan, Emily, Jess, Katie, Keely, Linnea, Rocky, Sarah, and Stephen attended Scones’ Tin Whistle Workshop. In this workshop, the students learned basic notes and how to play Scones’ favorite Irish song, Molly Malone. After the workshop, Scones commented, “I can’t believe how quickly the students learned to play, while a few people (Miley and Ninny) had a more difficult time.”
After dinner, it was time for drama and dance. In drama, students started to develop their presentations on their Irish historical/literary figures that they would be performing on Tuesday. In dance, Casey started working on a lively circle ceili with the students. They are improving drastically and Casey is amazed by their abilities.
The last activity of the day was a game of Capture the Flag. The counselors thought it would be more interesting to play in the dark, so we started our game at 10 PM. The students were split into two teams and told to hide their flags. It was a lengthy battle, but Emily was able to find the other team’s flag first. With the help of Rocky’s speed, the two captured the flag and won the game for their team!
Without a doubt, it was another fabulous day in Dublin!
It is hard to believe that we have already been in Ireland for eight days! Our morning began with the normal class schedule. The students learned a few Gaelic phrases from Scones including, “Tir gan teanga is tir gan anan” (A country without a language is a country without an identity.), “Nil aon tintean mar do thitean fein” (There’s no place like home!), and “Tus mith leath na hoibre” (A good start is half the work.). Scones then taught the students how to say some colors, red yellow, green, and blue-along with right, left, hand, and foot in Gaelic. The students couldn’t figure out why she was teaching them these words in Gaelic until she pulled out Twister! We had four games of Twister and each student had an opportunity to play. There were some pretty talented Twister players; Brendan, Emily, Rocky, and Stephen all won their matches and made it to the final match! After a tough battle between the semi-finalists, the ultimate 2014 Gaelic Twister champion was, drum roll please…, ROCKY! We asked Rocky what he was going to do after becoming the Gaelic Twister Champion and he excitedly responded, “I’m going to buy some Crunchies! (Rocky’s favorite Irish candy.)
After classes, we had our last lunch in Newtown and finished packing for Dublin. We all had to say goodbye to our favorite Irish lads, Eddie and James. We were all sad to leave them, but we are hoping to see them again during our trip! Although they were upset to leave Eddie and James, the students were buzzing with excitement to make the journey to the Big Smoke. Once everyone was on the bus, many of the students took advantage of the opportunity to get some extra sleep and slept for most of the two hour trip to Dublin. The students were happy when they arrived to their new home in Dublin, King’s Hospital. The girls are particularly happy that they have their own bathrooms in their rooms!
The students were given a quick tour around King’s Hospital and went to drama and dance. In drama, the students began working on their drama presentations on their assigned influential Irish figures. They worked feverishly-highlighting information and planning out their skits. After drama, Counselor Casey had another amazing dance class. The students practiced the Walls of Limerick and did an exceptional job of remembering their first Irish dance. Casey then taught the ILEer’s a group circle dance and a beginner’s Irish jig. The counselors were impressed with how well the students are doing at executing their Irish dance steps! Next stop-Riverdance.
The last activity of the day was Counselor Kate’s kickball game. It was Alex’s first time playing kickball, but he did a phenomenal job and was an asset to his team. Once the students told Alex that the rules for kickball were just like the rules for baseball, he was very eager to play and was the star of his team! The game ran relatively smoothly with the exception of a few arguments from Kate’s ump calls. Stephen had a little trouble running the bases as he rounded second base and went straight to home. We were all laughing hysterically as Stephan had to quickly sprint back third base. At the beginning of the game, Team 2 had a tough time with a score of 4-0, but had a strong comeback and won the game with a score of 10 to 7. Aaron, Alex, Ana, Brendan, David, Eme, Emily, Keely, Megan, Molly, Rocky, Sarah, Miley and Ninny were on the winning team. Sarah excitedly exclaimed, “It’s nice to have the underdog make a comeback!”
At the end of our first evening in Dublin, Aaron, Emily, and Stephen showed us their phenomenal piano skills. The students had a fun time dancing and singing to the music. I think it is safe to say that our first night in Dublin was definitely a success!
***Editor’s Note: Taryn had some amazing pictures from this day. However, she was walking, eating beets (Her favorite.), and trying to take pictures at the same time. Unfortunately, she tripped and landed on the camera. When she was trying to fix it-all of the pictures from this day were deleted. Don’t worry-we have some amazing pictures of our students coming up in the next few blogs.***
On Monday morning we had our first castle tour at Cahir Castle, which is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond and is situated on an Island in the River Suir in Cahir town centre, County Tipperary. The castle was lived in by the Butler family for 600 years, resulting in its superb condition instead of falling to ruins. It’s last owner had no heirs, so the property was claimed by the government after his death in the 1960’s.
The students were lead on a guided tour throughout the grey and stony castle grounds, after which they were allowed to explore on their own. Some students made their way up to the towers, which had empty rooms, but excellent views of the surrounding town. Other students explored the guarding walls, peering out the archer windows and imagining how it may have been at a time when the castle was under attack.
Before leaving, we all gathered on top of one of the guarding walls for a picture. Some students had to overcome their fear of heights, but did a great job:)! Our next stop was Kilkenny Castle.
The bus ride was about an hour long. Some students chose to use this time to catch up on sleep and others talked or played games such as “Heads Up.” Today was the first day some of the students played “Bus Surfing”-a game in which its participants stand in the aisles of the bus, plant their feet firmly and can’t break away from their standing position. It is a challenging task as the ride at times is a bit bumpy and many Irish roads are winding, and if you’re not looking ahead you may not be prepared for a red light. Once you move your feet or have to catch yourself, you’re out, eventually resulting in one winner.
Upon arriving to Kilkenny we ate our packed lunches in the park on the castle grounds. We were able to have some free time in Kilkenny before our tour of the castle. The town, like many in Ireland, was quaint with loads of shops and also quite musical. There were many young locals “busking” playing and singing music on the streets. Some played traditional Irish music, others did not-all on a variety of instruments such as guitar, cello, and concertina.
The students met up at 3 PM for our tour of Kilkenny Castle, also inhabited by members of the Butler family. This castle was very different from that of Cahir, as it was fully decorated from a different time period. It felt very rich and proper with it’s wall sized tapestries, silk wallpaper, and delicate dinner settings. Giant portraits of its residents hung on the walls and the grounds were lush green and complete with a rose garden and fountain. It was the kind of castle you would imagine for a royal family, the Butlers were indeed a well to do family.
We once again gathered for a group photo on the castle steps and were home in time for dinner. Tonight we had the Counselor Olympics, organized by Counselor Miley. Each counselor took turns drafting students for their teams. There were four events; Human Tic Tac Toe, Dizzy Hurley, Pass the Apple, and the Wheelbarrow Race.
The students all gave valiant efforts to get their team the most points. Some of us, as expected, weren’t very coordinated in all of the events. One of the greatest events to watch as a spectator was Dizzy Hurley-done relay style, where a member from each team runs across to the other side, picks up the hurly, places their forehead on it and must spin around ten times before running back and releasing the next team member to do the same.
Stephen was one of the first to go and was fast-a man with a mission. But when he darted off to return to his team after spinning, he veered steeply to the right and had a wipe out that no one could miss. He definitely set the bar for speed and determination.
We had some great pairs for the Wheelbarrow Race as well. Aaron and Rocky paired up within their team and flew across the field at a surprising speed. The winning team was counselor Ninny’s team, which included Caitlin, David, Dylan, Eddie, Grace, and Kate who received Cork Flags as prizes.
Brigid rounded out the day with a Music Workshop, where she taught Dylan and Stephen a traditional Irish song in Gaelic. Pheigin Mo Chroi and Streets of New York by the Pogues.
The students then had some free time to hang out and pack up their suitcases. Today was our last full day in Waterford as we leave for Dublin tomorrow after lunch! Up the Dubs!
This morning we were able to “lie in” and didn’t have to be on the bus until 11 AM. Some students chose to sleep in, while others got up for breakfast and Sunday Mass. We had a two hour bus ride into Dublin for the Leinster MHC Hurling Final between Dublin and Kilkenny at Croke Park. Up the Dubs! Hurling is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for over 3,000 years, and is considered to be the world’s fastest field sport.
We had been informed by our Irish friends, such as teacher Shona and our Irish peer students Eddie and James, that Dublin was the team to root for. Come on ye boys in blue! Upon arriving to Croke Park we could see that Kilkenny had its fair share of loyal supporters as well. The stadium was full of both team’s colors. Dublin being light blue and dark blue, Kilkenny being black and yellow, or “amber” as the Irish call it. Some of our students went all out and painted their faces or purchased blue headbands to show their Dublin pride. Unfortunately for us, Kilkenny was ahead the entire game and won by nine points. Thank goodness Ninny, Miley, and Taryn didn’t wager any money at Paddy Power on the game.
“It was great! All I knew was that Dublin was getting whacked, especially in the second half,” said Dylan-as we made our way out of Croke Park. Since learning about hurling and other Irish sports, some students have shown an interest in GAA and were curious to know if any of these Irish sports are played back home. In many cases, they are! You can do a google search for GAA clubs in your area. While at Croke Park, we ran into an ILE alumni from 2004, Eric Shadowens, and he told us how he discovered hurling during his ILE trip and has been playing ever since.
After a short walk back to the bus, we headed out for Kings Hospital, a boarding school just outside Dublin, also the campus we will be staying at when we leave for Dublin on Tuesday. “Kings Hos” as we call it, had dinner prepared for us; chicken or fish, potatoes, broccoli, a salad bar, and jelly filled doughnuts. Scones was a huge fan and ate four of them. It was nice to get a preview of our Dublin home.
Our bus ride home was full of chats, games, and even a few songs. As we closed in on Waterford, we spotted a full double rainbow, bright as can be. Our Irish friends thought we were a bit silly as everyone was suddenly up to the windows snapping shots of this “rare” sight. We got back to the Newton School around 9 PM. The students had a few hours of free time to hang out together in the common areas before going off to bed.
We woke up to sun and blue skies!
After breakfast, everyone got back into the routine of classes. Due to the comfortable weather, Angie took the students outside for Irish Literature and read “The First Confession,” by Frank O’Connor. Anna mentioned that she really liked the story, and Carrick enthusiastically said, “I was enthralled by the idea of a ‘stream of consciousness’ novel.” In Brigid’s Irish American History class, they learned about the American Presidential connection to Ireland, and they watched the speeches of JFK, Clinton, and Obama during their visits to the Emerald Isle. Shona discussed the history of the Irish language in Gaelic class, and she also touched upon the importance of the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas throughout Ireland. Taryn focused on slang and vocabulary in the Irish Studies class today, teaching them words such as “lift,” “crisps,” and a “fry.” She also provided them with a study sheet on the various counties of Ireland which the students will be quizzed on during the next few class days.
Once classes were over, we ate lunch on campus and then boarded the bus for Peter Flanagan’s. Peter is a master hurley maker and showed the students the process of making the unique game piece from ash wood. He’s very talented and makes the Waterford hurling team’s hurlies. The students were very impressed and many of them bought souvenirs for their families and friends back home. We took a few pictures with Peter and his wife, Patrice-along with their beautiful children, JJ and Katie.
We then made our way to the seaside town of Tramore, County Waterford. Luckily, The Promenade Festival was taking place there at the same time as our visit, so the students got to enjoy various musical performances, shopping stalls, and amusement rides. Some of them also waded their feet into the sparkling waters of Tramore Bay which lapped against the lush, green landscape of County Waterford.
Once we arrived back at Newtown School in Waterford at 5:30 PM, we ate dinner and then the students headed into the drama program. The task for tonight was to create a limerick based on the historical figure assigned to their group. After presenting their acts, a panel of judges chose the Samuel Beckett group (Brendan, Christina, Katie, Keely, Mariah, and Molly), as the winner-they did an excellent job! Prizes for the chosen team were books such as Ulysses and The Dubliners. The day ended with Irish dance, as Counselor Casey reviewed the ceili “The Walls of Limerick,” showed them a jig, and talked about the type of shoes and socks that are used in Irish step dancing.
To cap off the night-Ana, Jess, and Kaitlin took Taryn’s St. Brigid’s Cross Workshop. They started making the traditional crosses-used to protect homes from fire-with pipe cleaners and then moved on to the more intricate reeds. Jess dazzled us all with her miniature crosses, while Miley fell a little short with his attempt to make one. We appreciated the effort though.
It’s hard for us all to believe that almost a whole week has passed! We are looking forward to tomorrow’s trip to Dublin for the Leinster hurling finals at Croke Park!
Today began bright and early with an 8 AM breakfast-Weetabix Cereal, toast with Flora spreadable butter, fruit, and OJ! Not long afterwards, we departed from Waterford and headed towards Charles Fort in County Cork. The students learned all about this historical site from our witty tour guide, Claire. Aaron commented on how the layout of the fort resembled the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Despite the misty weather, the students took numerous photos all around this star-shaped fortification. The visit ended with enjoying cupcakes, courtesy of the staff at the fort café!
Next stop: Kinsale! This was a definite favorite, as it is a small fishing village in County Cork with quaint, colorful shops and restaurants. Prior to departing the bus, packed lunches were eaten on the bus as we looked out onto the River Bandon. The ILE students then had time to explore the local bookstores, cafés, and souvenir shops. Mariah bought a book on a popular storyteller, and Katie mentioned that Kinsale was “very colorful and beautifully nestled along the water.”
Cork City, the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland, was the final stop of the day. The students were amazed that it was such a haven for shopping, embracing department stores such as Marks & Spencer, Penny’s, and Debenhams. They also got to experience the English Market, a food market located in the city center that was once explored by Queen Elizabeth II during her visit in 2011. Brendan and Stephen said, “We were shocked by how much shopping there was in Cork!”
On the way back to Waterford, some students took a peek at their new items bought throughout the day, some enjoyed listening to music on the radio, and others played the guessing game “Heads Up!” with Ninny. This was a big hit!
In order to celebrate July 4th, the students ended the day by eating pizza, candy, and watching Ted. Nothing like a good American film to give a taste of home!
Happy 4th of July!
The students woke to another structured class day on campus. After breakfast they got their first taste of Irish (Gaelic language class.). Alex, even though learning Irish through English, which is only his second language, nailed the basics straight away. With so many students in the class learning Latin they were able to decipher certain words such as Dia (God), but unfortunately as Dia Dhuit actually means hello Rocky’s and Aaron’s guesses were slightly less than accurate.
It was also the first bit of Irish history the students covered in class and the enthusiasm for it could definitely be sensed. As the class would be going to Croke Park next Sunday their history class covered Bloody Sunday, a significant day during the War of Independence where the British drove into Croke Park and shot 13 Irish dead during a football game.
Grace and Brendan were both fascinated by the history attached to Croke Park Stadium and delighted they got the chance to learn about this before they visited.
After lunch, the students gathered to walk to the Waterford Crystal Factory to get a tour of the famous factory and learn how the crystal is made. Everybody was given some time to explore the gift shop before the tour began. There were certain items such as a full length crystal encrusted mirror that was ever so slightly out of the students price range, but nonetheless there were some purchases made (Which are being censored from the Blog for the sake of keeping presents a surprise!).
The Waterford Crystal Factory is very significant in this city both due to its long history, its international familiarity, and the economic benefits it has given to the city. The students got to see the glass be made and learn about each step of the process. Caitlin and Jess took many photos, but there were a few including Molly who were terrified they were going to do major destruction any second. Molly’s panic when she was handed a crystal American football had everybody else in tears with laughter which Molly was able to join in once it was finally taken off of her!
The students were offered free time in Waterford, but as there was a workshop on scone making going on back at the school, there was a rush back to get ready.
21 out of 22 students took part in the Scone Making Workshop during their free time, so expect some baking experts on everyone’s return to the US. Mariah and Molly said they would definitely make them for their families so some of you are in for a treat as this scone recipe has been passed down through years of Scone’s ancestors.
There was a little confusion at the beginning, as we didn’t have the correct utensils for measuring the ingredients, but fortunately we had some math experts in Aaron, David, Dylan, and Stephen who were able to help everybody out. The scones were turning out perfectly (Which is a massive improvement on last years group.) until the girls got a little mischievous and thought the boys outfits could do with a little extra flour on them. Let’s just say when the boys decided they needed to get revenge, the counselors were left with a slightly less than spotless kitchen to scrub. But don’t worry we won’t call out the culprits…, right Keely/Mariah/Molly/and Sarah???
After dinner we had some guest trainers arrive to teach everyone about the GAA (The Gaelic Athletic Association) games which include Hurling and Gaelic Football. Our guest trainers, Eoin and Mark, were extremely impressed with this group’s athletic ability. Alex demonstrated some of his skills he had picked up in Spain and his agility did not go unnoticed.
Some students were a bit on the frightened side, as Scones subtly mentioned there might have been an appendage lost in a hurling match or two over the years. Precaution was taken, but that didn’t stop Kaitlin from giving Steven a good blow to the head with one of her fierce Gaelic football manoeuvre kicks.
Since the US team was unfortunately knocked out of the World Cup before the final the students decided to create their own World Cup championship. Each team of two chose a country to represent with some surprise choices with Eme and Grace representing Ghana all the way to Miles and Linnea representing the US. As Linnea and Miles happened to win the competition in its entirety there were no hard feelings-everyone was happy to see the US win something this year!
With the satisfaction of knowing the US might yet have a future in soccer everyone was able to retire to bed happy.
Day #1 was pretty successful with our only non-show at breakfast being a certain boy named Dylan. The ILE Staff were well impressed. This unusual success first thing in the morning gave us high hopes for the classroom-expecting everybody to be bright eyed and bushy tailed. The jet lag conveniently reared its head though just as class was starting!
Angie took the very first class of the morning and went a little into the history of ancient Irish literature, explaining that without a written language all literature was passed down through generations orally. Carrick (Or Rocky as we have nicknamed him.) mentioned how fascinated he was by this, he was shocked that the stories were able to remain the same especially after he started a game of Chinese Whispers on the bus and realized how difficult it is to keep the accuracy of a story being passed from person to person.
Next up was Brigid who is going to be teaching Irish American history for the next two weeks. Brigid gave the students an introduction to what was going to be covered during the course and then put the students to work. Each student had to think about who Irish Americans are and what they would define as an Irish American. It was agreed that Irish Americans must be born in the States and must have some Irish ancestry. Katie mentioned her favorite actor Mark Wahlberg-adding that all Irish Americans must be gorgeous if he’s anything to go by!
It was time for the students’ break, so they all went outside as it was surprisingly sunny for Ireland just before they came back for Angie to do some more Irish literature. Angie began to discuss James Joyce and explained how eccentric a character he was. Rocky mentioned he knew much about James Joyce before this trip but not about his eccentricity, which he loved hearing about.
Taryn took over from Angie with her Irish Studies class. The geography and geology of Ireland were the topics of the day. Molly came out of the class and her exact words were, “that was FANTAB.” She surprised herself at how much attention she was paying in class, saying it was unusual for her!
We decided to ease the students into their classes to let them skip the last class with Scones and instead there was an orientation session held to make sure the students were some way clued in as to what was to lay ahead for the next month in Ireland, their timetable for each day, bed times, food times, when they would have super early mornings, and when they might finally get a chance to have a lie in. There was a doubt in anybodies mind that even on those lie in mornings Aaron might still struggle to make the bus on time. When everyone’s questions had been answered and we were satisfied the students knew what was happening they were sent to get some food before their Walking Tour of Waterford with an ex-student and current Counselor, Kate.
Kate showed the students practical points of interest in Waterford such as the ATM, the bank, the phone shop and of course most important, the clothes shops. She did manage to get some historical and cultural points of interest in to the tour. Waterford is actually Ireland’s oldest city and is well known for its Viking history. Kate pointed out Reginald’s Tower in the city center, which is a defensive structure built by the Vikings-Emily said how cool the tower was. She mentioned it was unlike any architecture of historical buildings she was used to back in Jersey. Even though the walls that used to border the city were mainly knocked down by attackers in the past, there were still enough chunks of wall left to give the students a good idea of the size of the original city and just how well organized and advanced Irish builders were back in the 1st Century.
Kate finished up her tour and the students were all allowed some free time to explore Waterford themselves before dinner. Ana and Caitlin managed to get some lovely Irish boys to buy them ice-cream from Reg and Jerry’s, the Irish Ben & Jerry’s. Ana said she was in love-ice-cream is always the way to a girls heart.
After dinner the students had their first drama and dance workshops. There was no messing around when it came to drama. The students were put into their groups immediately and each given an historical Irish figure to write a Limerick on. The four counselors spoke about the rhythm and structure of a Limerick and the students got straight into it. Dylan said that even though he knew how to create a Limerick already it was interesting to get the chance to write one on an Irish historical figure. Sarah also knew how to create a Limerick already, but decided she’d give her team the chance to perfect their literature skills as she had every faith in them!
They weren’t given much time to perfect their Limericks, only brainstorm as it was time for Casey to teach her first Irish Dance Class. Casey is a bit of an expert as she runs her own Irish dancing school in Maryland, so the students were in capable hands. Casey started with the basics, the 1,2,3’s which most students picked up without any trouble. ILE ’14 just so happens to have some pretty talented dancers in the group already, so Casey had a bit of help in demonstrating the first dance, the Walls of Limerick (A pretty well known dance in Ireland and a common one at all Ceili’s and weddings in Ireland.). Aubrie said she hadn’t danced in about four years and she was delighted to get a refresher course with a professional dancer.
Everything was running smoothly until the students were required to strategically spin around each other-and let’s just say they may not have ended up in their original positions. There were no injuries that were serious enough to be reported to the blog.
Jess also used to dance to a very high standard back in the US and she got the chance to do a solo performance for the other students who were seriously impressed. Jess mentioned it really made her miss dancing-she forgot how much she used to enjoy it.
The students were absolutely wrecked after such a full day, so it was agreed they would watch half of the Michael Collins movie and it would be finished another night. Katie may have initially thought she was about to watch a film on Phil Collins, but nonetheless was very impressed when she learned who Michael Collins was, one of the main Irish leaders during both the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. The students crashed as soon as their heads hit the pillows and everyone had said Oiche Mhaith (Good Night!).
Monday, June 30th, marked the departure of the Irish Life Experience. Twenty-one students from all corners of the country met at Boston Logan Airport to begin their month long journey to the Emerald Isle.
The day began at noon with Irish Life Experience Staff (Alex, Brigid, Casey, Kate, Miles, and Kate) preparing to greet students from connecting flights. Dylan, from North Carolina, was the first to land. Luckily, he brought his Rubik’s Cube and impressed us all with his ability to solve the puzzle in less than 20 seconds. Erika, from Tenon Tours, was shocked by his talent, as it took her double the amount of time to mess it up.
Ana from Minnesota, Carrick from Ohio, and Linnea from Montana were the next to arrive-followed by Aubrie and Christina from Florida. Spending nine hours at an airport can get very boring, so luckily Carrick had plenty of games to entertain us. Taryn was impressed with the Big Bootie Challenge (Not what you think.;) and even attempted to play it. However, she failed miserably, as she has no rhythm.
More students started slowly trickling in, so introductions were made. Students spent the time chatting with each other, getting their java fill from Dunkin Donuts, grabbing sandwiches for lunch, and magazines to keep them occupied for the plane ride.
Counselors continued to collect students from other terminals and local families eventually started to arrive around 5 PM. The royal blue (Also the National color of Ireland.) t-shirts were definitely more visible the more the group grew in size. The group was truly stylin’ at Logan.
Eventually, students were able to check in with Aer Lingus and get their boarding passes. Leaving a country for 3 ½ weeks can be very scary, so excitement and nerves started to definitely kick in.
After the Counselors finally discovered Keely and Sarah, from Washington, hiding by the Baggage Claim and met Brendan from Maryland from his flight, they proceeded through Security. Few tears were shed, and everyone bought last minute snacks, before they boarded the St. Munchin 747.
Once on the plane, they were treated to great movie entertainment and a dinner of chicken or Shepherd’s Pie. The students were able to get some shuteye for about six hours, before capturing snippets of the rolling green fields of Eire from the windows of the plane.
The Irish Life Experience Group landed on the ol’ sod at 8 AM. After going through Customs and collecting their luggage, the students met the famous Angie, the Program Director. They meandered their way through Dublin Airport to the bus, while Counselor Alex (AKA Ninny) and Taryn, waited for out last student, Alex, from Spain to arrive.
It’s about a 3-hour journey from Dublin to Waterford, so to break up the distance, the students stopped at Glendalough (Valley of the Two Lakes) in Wicklow. This is one of the most beautiful corners of the whole country and the epitome of rugged and romantic Ireland. Also, where PS, I Love You was filmed-Counselor Kate’s favorite Irish chick flique.
A little history of Glendalough…
In AD 498 a young monk named Kevin arrived in the valley looking for somewhere to kick back, meditate and be at one with nature. He pitched up in what had been a Bronze Age tomb on the southern side of the Upper Lake for the next seven years and slept on stones, wore animal skins, maintained a near-starvation diet and-according to legend-become bosom buddies with the birds and animals.
The substantial remains of this important monastic settlement are certainly impressive, but the real draw is the gorgeous setting: Two dark and mysterious lakes tucked into a deep valley covered in forest. It is, despite its immense popularity, a deeply tranquil and spiritual place and the students quickly realized why solitude-seeking monks came here in the first place.
After eating a packed lunch, Angie gave the students a tour of the grounds. She pointed out the Main Gateway-the only surviving entrance to the ecclesiastical settlement that is a double-arch and then a 100 foot round tower, which is the most famous landmark. They then saw the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, before St. Kevin’s Kitchen-which is also a church. St. Kevin’s Kitchen is unusual, as it has a small round tower sticking out from the roof-hence the church’s nickname.
The students snapped some beautiful pictures of Celtic crosses and then continued to stretch their legs walking to the Upper Lake. “Due to the delightful weather we had, it made the walk around the Upper Lake very enjoyable and the scenery was stunning,” said Brigid.
Once at the Upper Lake, the students soaked in the view, skipped rocks, waded in the water, and posed for some fabulous pictures. After everyone had gotten their fill, it was time to get back on the bus and drive further south to Waterford-the Irish Life Experience’s home for the next week.
While the students were leaving Glendalough, Ninny and Taryn picked up Alex, from Spain, at Dublin Aiport and had the adventure of driving down on their own to Waterford. Ninny was extremely impressed with Taryn’s driving abilities, even though she almost hit 1,000 bunnies!
Around 4 PM, the Irish Life Experience arrived at Newtown Boarding School. They met Shona (AKA Scones), their Gaelic and Irish History Teacher. They unloaded their bags, moved into their dorms, and were given a brief orientation of the campus to familiarize themselves with the area.
Tea followed with a meal of fish and potatoes. The students then were able to freshen up and grab a quick shower, before we did some exciting ice-breakers. We learned interesting fun facts about each of the students and were especially wowed by Carrick’s ability to name all of the Olympic Summer/Winter host cities. We even attempted a Human Knot, which was very successful!
By 8 PM, you could tell the students were fighting the jet lag with heavy eyelids, so we let them retire for the night. Many of them went straight to bed and crashed for the night, before their first class day. They couldn’t wait to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed.