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Croke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthRiverdanceRiverdanceAfter a long and eventful Saturday in and around Dublin, all of the ILE’ers had the chance to lie in Sunday morning. With an optional breakfast, a few popped in for cereal, toast, and OJ, but most decided to sleep right up to the 11:30 AM bus departure. With tired eyes, we were off to Croke Park to get a behind the scenes view of how the historic stadium is operated.

We arrived at Croke Park and prepared for our tour at noon by taking some group pictures and poking around the café inside of the museum. As our tour started, we watched a wonderful movie about a typical game day in the stadium. We were then guided through the lower portion of the grounds. We first took a peak from field level-where again we took a few group photographs and learned a lot about the media presence. Here, the students were given another rundown of how each GAA (Hurling and Gaelic football) sport is played. We were able to see where the players go after games to enjoy a pint and talk about the game. It was an elegant room with a beautiful chandelier-32 Waterford Crystal Gaelic footballs and 70 sliotars. The 32 symbolize the counties in Ireland and the 70 symbolize the minutes in a hurling game. The team that wins the game will be dazzled when the chandelier changes to their county team’s colors. The room is here to thank the players-who remain unpaid with full time jobs for their hard work and passion for their county’s traditional sports. Afterwards, we were able to see the dressing and practice rooms. There were six dressing rooms and they were all exactly the same. Croke Park is a neutral stadium for all of the counties of Ireland and up to three games will be played on any given day. All county jerseys were on display in the dressing room we were in and the tour guide announced the recent All-Ireland Champions for 2013. Up the Dubs and the Banner! From there we ended up in the nosebleed section of the stadium to get the birds-eye view. Shockingly, another round of group pictures and selfies were taken, and it was here where the guide described the deep history running thick through Croker. Each set of stands is named after an important member of Croke Park’s history. Bloody Sunday was also a topic of discussion at this time as 14 people were killed where Hill 16 stands-100 years ago by the British. Sarah was impressed to learn all about Maurice Davin, especially since we sat in the Davin stand the week prior for the Leinster Hurling Final.

The final piece of the tour was everyone’s favorite-an interactive play zone where you could practice your GAA skills. These stations included passing a Gaelic football, speed test, high jump, and two stations for football and hurling practice. Grace broke the record for the high catch with the help of a few friends. (She was almost as good as her brother, Evan-ILE Alum ’13.) What many of us failed to realize was the cameras in the hurling station. This lead to a handful of hilarious pictures of the Yanks trying to learn a new sport. Just ask Keely about some of the gems she saw of herself;).

Next on our agenda was Howth. Howth is a suburb of Dublin where a beautiful ocean-side walk is located. The lighthouse and islands visible from the walk were the main targets for student photographs. Eme, Grace, and Rocky went off the beaten path and were able to find Bono’s house. Well…, at least that’s what Taryn made them believe;). The weather was perfect enough for everyone to hang out and take a few extra pictures without worrying about the wind and rain.

We then returned to King’s Hospital to prepare for Riverdance. After a few students showered and got ready-looking dapper-they headed into Dublin City Center to enjoy the show. Unfortunately, Ticketmaster told the ILE the show was at 7:30 PM and ruined the well-dressed group’s night by reporting that the show had been earlier. #RiverdanceFail! Many students were upset until they were able to get gelato and ice cream. Not to fear though-Angie and Taryn sorted it all out and the group found out they would be attending the performance on Tuesday. It’s always an adventure on the ILE.

The students made it an early night, as they prepared for the longest day of the trip northbound.

Adventures in Dublin

Guinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BrewryIrish Music SessiunIrish Music SessiunIrish Music SessiunHellfireHellfireHellfireHellfireSaturday was one of the busiest days to date for ILE ’14 with an array of different tours, venues, and adventures spanning a 14-hour period. With the bus arriving at 9 AM, the students and staff had a quick breakfast to help them wake up and get ready for the long day. The first destination of the day was the Guinness brewery located in the center of Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse was a fermentation plant from 1904 to 1988 and is now a seven story visitor experience dedicated to the history and making of the world famous beer. The building itself is craftily designed in the shape of a giant pint. If it was filled with Guinness is would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. The seven levels of the building are (In order from ground to top.) Orientation Floor, Brewing, Taste Experience, Guinness Advertising, Pour the Perfect Pint, and the Gravity Bar. Many students returned to the orientation floor to mosey around the retail store with plenty of classic Guinness gifts such as hats, shirts, and pint glasses. Stephen purchased a hat for himself and a few other gifts for family members back home. Stephen had a great time at Guinness, but was disappointed he wasn’t a part of the Pouring a Pint Class.

That class consisted of the five 18-year olds that are a part of the Irish Life Experience: Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate. These five had a separate experience then those who explored the different levels of the Guinness Brewery and learned about the history and art of a Guinness pint. Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate went directly to the Pouring Academy to learn how to pour a perfect pint. After the instructor gave a demonstration, the student’s went one by one to pour their own pint. All five completed the task and had a perfect pint with a dozen pictures and a certificate from the brewery declaring their skill. From there, they were guided up to the famous Gravity Bar where they were able to take a little sample of their pints together and enjoy the unbelievable view from the bar. The Gravity Bar is built with full glass windows giving you an almost 360 view of the beautiful city of Dublin. From this height you can see everything from Croke Park to the Wellington monument to Trinity College. They were then joined by the remaining 17 students who climbed to the Gravity Bar to enjoy a soft drink and the spectacular view. The visit to the brewery lasted only about two hours but many students thought this was the best part of the day.

After Guinness, most of the students had free time and were dropped off by the bus on Kildare Street in Dublin. Surveying the bus when we were leaving showed plenty of clothes shopping (Mostly from Penney’s.) and souvenirs as well. While most shopped on the famous Grafton Street and the surrounding blocks, some students stopped by Trinity College where the Book of Kells is kept. Created in 800 AD and is four gospels of the New Testament. The Latin writings are very complex and have decadent illustrations. Stephen was one of the students who visited the Book of Kells and was surprised by the detail and colorfulness of the book. He felt it was ahead of its time and was impressed and honored to be able to see the Book of Kells.

While most of the students and staff were parading around Dublin enjoying its endless line of shops and restaurants, six members of ILE went over across town via taxi to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Counselors Kate and Ninny were joined by four of the five 18 year olds to check out the Whiskey Distillery. Alex, Brendan, David, and Jess first popped into the gift shop where three purchased gifts for family members back home including t-shirts and chocolates. The tour started with a brief captivating video and was followed by a 45-minute walking tour around the now dormant distillery. Some of the highlights of the tour included the process of triple distilling Jameson Whiskey giving it a uniquely smooth taste. Brendan conversed with the tour guide leading to learn that the only whiskeys distilled more than three times were very expensive and it was not a common practice. Seeing the process step-by-step in a dungeony facility was very cool for the four ILE’ers and the two counselors. Among all the great information about the distilling and aging process, the students were most captivated by the first part of the tour. In the first room they visited, it described the process of buying and storing barley seeds. The barley seeds were a target of local rats which became a big problem for the whiskey makers, so they would have “hired” cats that would chase and kill the rats to stop them from eating the barley. There was one cat that was noted to have killed roughly 30-35 rats a day. This cat impressed the whiskey makers so much that he was stuffed and left in the facility when he passed on. The cat, which died in the 1800’s, remains there today and is in excellent condition. The four students (And two counselors.) snapped a handful of pictures of the cat that was situated above the tour looking down at everyone.

After both tours were done, the four students were asked if they preferred the Guinness tour or the Jameson tour. Jess enjoyed Guinness a little bit better due to the full experience of pouring and testing the Guinness herself and the view from the Gravity Bar. Brendan also seemed to favor the Guinness Brewery and was surprised by the taste of Guinness. He was most interested by the long history of both establishments and has become known to take the most pictures of historical points of each tour. Alex, from Spain, where the drinking age is 18, had never tried a Guinness and also enjoyed the process of pouring the Guinness and becoming certified. He seemed to enjoy the Jameson tour more and definitely was impressed with the cat. And David avoided controversy by stating he preferred milkshakes.

The students then returned to King’s Hospital and immediately ate dinner. They went on to return to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for the “surprise” the staff had prepared for them. All they were told is to wear shoes and warm clothes, which led to most students assuming it would be an outdoor affair. Before the surprise was an excellent sessiun with a great cast of local Irish musicians (Angie’s Brother, “Our Tom” was one of the musicians.) who not only played music for the students, but included details about the instruments they were playing and the history of each. The classic Irish sound had everyone tapping their feet and occasionally clapping to the beat. After a few songs played by the band, they invited members of the ILE to join them. Counselor Casey joined in and led the band in a few Irish tunes that she knew on her fiddle. A few ILE guitarists (Aaron and Brendan) took turns keeping up with the high strung Irish songs and impressed the crowd with their strumming capabilities. For the last two songs, Counselor Casey was joined first by her advanced Irish dancers who woo’ed the crowd with their high flying knees and lightning fast steps. For the second song, Casey was joined by every student as they did the “circle dance” which they had learned in dance class earlier in the week.

The last event of the night was the Hellfire walk high up in the Dublin Mountains. The aforementioned surprise was exciting to most students as we left the dorms around 9:30 PM to get the perfect amount of darkness to combine the beauty of the hills and also leave a little room for some scary stories and sneaking up on each other. Most students and counselors huffed and puffed their way up to the top where they were gifted with a beautiful view of Dublin at night. After dozens of group pictures with the stunning backdrop, some students entered the empty and creepy building at the top of the mountain where you heard screams left and right from scaring each other. The exhausting hike up made the climb down much more appreciated, as they started the descent back to the bus and back to King’s Hospital, but of course, they first needed to take advantage of the darkness to try to scare each other on the way down. The first attempt was made by Miley, Ninny, and Taryn who snuck away from the pack while they were taking pictures and hid behind trees further down the mountain away from the group. After falling/sliding their way behind a couple of trees, they were disappointed when their efforts only lead to a few yelps from the students and counselors. Many kept running ahead trying to hide and scare others, but overall the group is very tough and would be able to survive a real haunted ghost tour.

The students returned to King’s Hospital around 11:30 PM pretty tired and went straight to bed as they prepared for their lie in and Croke Park Tour/Howth Walk the next day.

Famine Letters

In Brigid’s Irish American history class, the students had 10 minutes to imagine themselves immigrating to the the US during the Famine and write a letter back home to their families. Brigid was truly impressed with some of the student’s creativity and they expressiveness. Brendan, Caitlin, and Rocky’s were her favorites. She wanted to share their letters with you. Enjoy!

Dear Family,

Today, I heard the Paperboys yelling that the Irish famine continued to ravage the country. I found it amazing somehow, that even here in America people were struck by the plight of our brothers and sisters. How long, I wondered, until Skibbereen became a household name here as it had in Ireland. Yet, how more would it take for the English Parliament to care?

Many of my fellow Irish who came to New York when the blight struck have written misleading facts about just how great things are in America. I however, shall be brief on the subject. I am glad to have simply survived the journey, as many did not. People speak of the great opportunity in America, and they are right. However, the landlords here are not much more forgiving than their Anglo-Irish counter parts. -Brendan’s Letter

Dearest Marie,

I write to you now as I sit among our family, gathered in a one-roomed tenement in New York City. We miss you all greatly. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to write sooner, but honestly, this whole journey has been one exhausting blur. I’m sure you understand. I know us Coynes don’t like to complain, but being the oldest, I must stay positive for all of the young ones. However, I need to let out my grievances somewhere. Hopefully, you don’t mind.

The boat ride was horrible. No privacy, hardly any sleep; I spent most of the time working on my knitting, which they confiscated at Ellis Island. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to come to America, though I must say the conditions here aren’t much better. I’ve been working very hard on my English, but these people refuse to hear me.

I finally got a job as a seamstress, but the pay is not great. I am trying to be glad, but I find it nearly impossible. My heart aches everyday for my dear family and country that I left behind. I must go now, as one of the children is ill. I will write as soon as I can. Sending you love.

Your Sister,

Catherine-Caitlin’s Letter

Dear My Beloved Family,

I write to you today expressing my thoughts on this new life we have made for ourselves here in America. The wife and I are thankfully able to care for the baby. Yet, the work is still in the dregs of the docks and stockyards, but is still better than the Crown’s workcamps. We hear there is more freedom out in the West with opportunities of friendly fortune and no discrimination, unlike the discrimination we face here in the city.

New York is just as dirty as the streets of Dublin and is a forest of towering buildings I have been overwhelmed by ever since stepping off our shanty of a ship that seemed to be beaten by the waves like a rock on the shore.

May God protect you, and we’ll keep you I our prayers, as I know you do for us in this land of Protestants similar to that of the King. -Rocky’s Letter


Scones and KatieKeely Playing the Tin WhistleTin Whistle WorkshopIrish DancingCapture the FlagWe 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!

US Prevails During the ILE’s World Cup!

Waterford CrystalWaterford CrystalScones WorkshopScones WorkshopHurling WorkshopHurling WorkshopHurling WorkshopHurling WorkshopThe 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.