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July 2013 - Irish Life Experience

The Craic is Mighty

Today the heat wave in Ireland continued and we woke to glorious sunshine once again. It was also the last class day today-there was weeping and wailing until the kids realized that wey hey-it’s holiday time!

During Irish literature class, Angie took both groups to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while she read them a story called “The First Confession,” by Frank O’Connor. The story is great craic and the kids really enjoyed it. Angie said the kids are a brilliant group and each and every one was an absolute pleasure to teach-to all parents reading this, you should be very proud of your kids.

Dan finished teaching the kids about the Irish Civil War and also explained 20th Century Irish History. Again he said the kids were a joy to teach.

During Gaelic class, the kids worked on presentations in Irish for tonight’s talent show. Scones worked with the kids in groups to write scripts from modern movies, which the kids liked and it was amazing how they all grasped the Irish language after such a short time.

All the kids have been preparing a presentation on an Irish American of their choice for Irish American history and they were so good that only 15 of the kids presented during class time and we had to do another hour in the evening to finish off. They were absolutely brilliant! Dan and Taryn said that the kids put so much work into their research and again commented on how great they were. Kat won first prize-a book by Oscar Wilde-for her presentation on her Grandfather. The Sneedster came in second with her presentation on Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Lynde’s presentation on Alfred Hitchcock secured him third prize-a Kilkenny flag, which will have to be surgically removed as he has had it wrapped around his body since being presented with it.

During Irish American history it was so warm that we got the kids ice lollies to cool off and now some of them are addicted-just like Taryn-to Twisters and Loop-the-Loops.

Classes finished and off we trotted for yet another nutritious lunch-Aubrey and Dan were delighted with the egg mayo and the kids scoffed pizza.

The bus arrived at 12:30 PM and we all piled on and off for a tour of Croke Park, the largest amateur stadium in Europe. The kids saw the Leinster Hurling final there last Sunday and today showed the vastness of the stadium as when we did the tour it was empty as opposed to being filled with Sunday’s crowd of almost 50,000 people.

We were brought to the back area of the stadium and the kids saw the changing rooms where all the County jerseys hang and took photos beside their personal jerseys and flags. Cian, our tour guide, was great craic altogether and encouraged the kids to ask questions and really get involved.

Riley asked how the grass looks so well and then Ellie asked the same question. Cian passed the tour guide mantle to Riley, who did a great job and we all agree that he could have Cian’s job in future!

There is also an interactive section in the Croke Park museum with a part where the kids have to jump to knock off lights and this is based on how high the County players have jumped to reach the ball. Evan and Marco were brilliant and managed to get one from the top, which is the record. They did great and the ILE Staff have decided they should stay and play for Co. Fermanagh or Co. Wicklow-the only two counties who have never won a Championship match in the history of the game.

Next up was Dan’s famous Walking Tour of Dublin, so that the kids know where to go during their free day tomorrow. The only negative of the whole day was that Dan forgot his Blindie-a traditional Irish tour guide staff. (Thanks to Edel Coenl.) Nonetheless, he did a brilliant job, being a native Dubliner and knowing the city like the back of his hand. He took the kids to Merrion Square, on to Grafton Street, over O’Connell Bridge to Henry Street, crossed the Ha’penny Bridge to Temple Bar-the funkiest area of Dublin-and back to the bus which was parked by Trinity College.

Today Dublin was jam packed and Grafton Street had so many people that when you looked straight ahead it was like a sold out rock concert. Evan can’t wait to get back tomorrow and all the girls are beside themselves with excitement at the thoughts of shopping till they drop tomorrow.

When we got back to campus, we all had dinner and this was followed by an hour of Drama in preparation for the presentations tomorrow night before we leave for Killarney.

We decided to have the amazing ILE Talent Show and Scones said it was brilliant-the kids are absolutely amazing and we had great craic. The talents ranged from Tin Whistle-My Heart Will Go On and a special Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Evan and Marco, (They got to keep the tin whistles, because they were so good!), to singing and dancing to One Direction. Angie joined in this, as she absolutely LOVES One Direction. Melanie wore her Zain mask, so it felt just like the real thing! The ILE Staff did a little show as well and that really gave the kids a giggle to see responsible adults singing all sorts of silly songs.

It’s an early night tonight and the kids are starting to pack their larger pieces of luggage and get to sleep early before the Guinness Brewery Tour and free time in Dublin tomorrow.

Highlight of today? The laundry came back.

Cool, Wow, Awesome!

And yet another day waking up to sunshine and happy smiling faces at breakfast.

Today was a class day and the penultimate of our ILE 2013 Program-hard to believe we only have one more class day to go then holiday time in Killarney and Galway! Woo hoo!

The kids started the day with a healthy breakfast in which all main nutrients were represented through the choice of Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Weetabix, and toast.

Classes kicked off at 9:00 AM and the kids were pretty tired after such a great day yesterday at the Giant’s Causeway, but the lovely sunshine gave everyone a boost. Angie covered the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, reading and explaining the poems “Stony Grey Soil” and “In Memory of My Father.” She also finished the section on James Joyce with a riveting story about the Martello Tower and a reading by the kids of the first three pages and last two of the masterpiece Ulysses. Amanda said the class was awesome and that she couldn’t believe tomorrow was the last class day.

In Irish history class Dan taught the kids in the Fionn MacCumhaill Class about 1916 and the Irish Civil War and with the Cuchulainn Class he taught Parnell, Home Rule, and the First World War. Dan was impressed that the kids knew that the First World War started in 1914 rather than 1917, as so many others believe! Patrick said the class was great and really enjoyed learning about 1916 and the Civil War-along with the role of Michael Collins and Eamonn De Valera.

In Irish American history, the kids learned about how Irish Americans succeeded in the 20th Century and were showed a video clip of an Irish comedian called Dara O’Brien. It showed how Irish people handle adversity by slagging the bejaysus out of each other. Caroline told us that this was her favorite part of the class, as Dara was so funny.

According to the kids, Taryn’s class today was so much fun. Taryn developed a wonderful episode of Irish Jeopardy-tried and tested and completed not very well by the ILE Staff the night before. Reports claim that the kids faired much better in their scores than the ILE Staff-in particular Angie-how shameful is that!

The wonderful sunshine continued until lunchtime and we had a very special visitor join us at lunch. Casey from Tenon Tours arrived today from Boston and will be with us for the next week, coming on tours and chilling out, while getting to know the kids.

This afternoon, the kids had free time and Scones also taught a Tin Whistle Workshop-the last workshop of the ILE Program. Awww! The kids learned how to play “My Heart Will Go On” on a traditional Irish instrument and Scones is planning to teach them how to sing it in Gaelic before the end of the trip-that should be a nice treat for all you parents and siblings watching this space when your little darlings return home. All the kids loved the workshop and the ILE staff listened to it through the open classroom window and agreed that every student without fail plays the whistle much better than Angie and Dan!

Laundry day tomorrow and this caused unprecedented excitement! All the kids loaded up their laundry and trotted happily to the office with their heavy bags over their shoulders, in the knowledge that by tomorrow night they will no longer be recycling dirty clothes and will be smelling of detergent and fabric softener.

After dinner-delicious fish and chips today-the kids rushed to their rooms, jumped in the shower, blow dried and curled their hair and put on their make up-and that was just the boys! All in preparation for the Gaiety Theatre and Riverdance. To see Riverdance in the city where it was born is really something quite special and the kids were so excited. “It was spectacular,” said Seth and Kat said it was a “fantastic mix of different types of dance.”

The kids who opted not to go to see Riverdance went to see a movie- World War Z-and said that Angie frightened them more than the movie, because every time a zombie appeared she let out a screech, an expletive, and Nacho nearly jumped out of his seat. Poor Jimmy had the misfortune to be sitting beside her, but said it was great craic altogether. The kids at the movie also had their first experience of traditional Irish ice cream-the delicious Twister lolly made famous by Taryn’s addiction to them and need to buy one everywhere we go.

Clara called in to office just before bed check and her aura was so yellow that Angie has promised to read her tea leaves as she has the gift. As we type this Clara is beside herself with excitement.

“And so ends another cool, wow, and awesome day,” said Katie.

A Giant of a Day

We had an early start this morning-6:00 AM, but the King’s Hospital Kitchen Staff pulled out all the stops with Cheerio’s for breakfast. We all enjoyed the meal in silence before hopping on the bus for the long journey north.

First stop when we got over the border was the new Titanic Exhibition in Belfast docks. This center was only opened last year to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage. The exhibition exceeded all expectations. The highlight of the trip was probably a cool cable car style ride down into a recreation of the construction of the hull of the ship. There were loads more great features inside and fortunately there was plenty of Kleenex on standby for those students who were devastated by the unexpected sad ending.

As Belfast’s finest ambassador Anglea Mervyn explained, “She was fine when she left here.”

Angie was kind enough to point out her summer house to us as we travelled north to the Causeway Coast. The bus passed through Bushmills, County Antrim, home of the oldest (Legal) distillery in the world, but time constraints meant we couldn’t stop to sample the fare. Unfortunately, we had similar time constraints when we passed the Jameson Distillery in Midleton last week. I guess everyone will just have to come back to Ireland in a few years time!

After a delicious and nutritious lunch on the grass roof of the brand new Giant’s Causeway Interpretive Center, the group were ready for what is always one of the highlights of the entire trip-the Giant’s Causeway. All the students (At least those who paid attention in Dan’s history class.) knew that the Giant’s Causeway was built by a Scottish Giant called Benandonner so that he could attack the Irish Giant Fionn McCool. When Fionn saw Benandonner approaching, he was terrified by the size of his Scottish opponent, so he ran and hid in his house. Fionn’s wife dressed Fionn up as a baby and put him into their crib. Benandonner took one look at this massive baby and said, “My God, if this is the size of the baby the father must be huge.” With that, Benandonner ran back to Scotland tearing the causeway up behind him as he went. The students were smart enough to discount the childish rumours about the Causeway being made up by hexagonal basalt rocks which were formed when molten lava cooled rapidly towards the end of the last Ice Age. Just as well, because Dan was fortunate enough to find the very pacifier Fionn’s wife gave him. Or else a child dropped their pacifer earlier. Paddy said it was pretty cool and well worth the beautiful cliff-top walk.

Everyone had great fun clambering all over the Causeway, the Giant’s Boot, and the Giant’s Organ. Then it was time to move on to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This is a tiny little bridge made from rope and planks of wood which were thrown out to a tiny offshore island by salmon fishermen. Now it features in most of the ads and brochures for Tourism Ireland, and with good reason. All the students and most of the ILE Staff were brave enough to make it out to the island and the beautiful views which emerged through the sea mist captivated everyone, especially Riley who enjoyed trampolining on the soft grass. Megan thought the sea birds were stunning, and she may even have spotted Ireland’s first ever wild penguin.

From Carrick-a-Rede, we stopped at Ballycastle where the ice-cream was great and the massively unhealthy biscuits were even better. A long bus ride home beckoned, but we had Taryn’s awful music to keep us company, so the time just flew. We were so tired by the time we got home that some of the girls were fast asleep before Angie got to sing her nightly lullaby-Pretty Fair Maid. The rest however, couldn’t resist the lure of the famous King’s Hospital Disco, where Seth won the MVP Award hands down, or hands up to be accurate.

Deadly Days!

Today started with classes bright and early.

Angie treated the group to a workshop on WB Yeats and a little bit about James Joyce. Riley was left speechless (For once.) by the tale of Nora Barnacle.

Dan covered some of Ireland’s forgotten heroes in Irish history class-Daniel O’Connell (“A wonderful guy.” © Ellie Kincaid) and Charles Stuart Parnell.

In Irish American history, Dan talked about the role Irish Americans (In particular Thomas Francis Meagher.) played in the Civil War. Jaids was so proud to discover that the first Governor of her great state of Montana was an Irishman.

In Irish studies class, Taryn devised an Irish version of Family Feud. Chris and Tiernan were the real dark horses and for once Taryn hadn’t backed them to win.

Finally, and most importantly, Scones gave the Irish class their famous movies and by Thursday the groups will have acted out a scene in Irish. This is going to be epic-clear a space on your mantelpiece for the Oscar.

In the afternoon, (Which was one of the hottest days in Dublin since records began.) Scones and Dan ran a top quality Gaelic football workshop. The soccer and basketball players were at an advantage, but everyone joined in the game and the ILE Team was pleasantly surprised by how well people took to the game. Erica found it difficult at first, but by the end she really enjoyed it. Gallons of water were consumed with dinner and then it was straight into the Drama, where scripts were coming together for Saturday’s gala performance.

In Dance with Scones, “We danced it up to the Biebs,” apparently.

Our nightly dose of workshops ended with Angie’s Northern Ireland Workshop in preparation for tomorrow’s visit to Belfast. Angie managed to abbreviate the entire Troubles in the North down to 40 minutes, which heightened everyone’s anticipation of the visit to her hometown in the morning.

The theory then was that we would all have an early night before our 6am start in the morning, but we had the bonus of a King’s Hospital Ghost Tour. Mack stepped in to protect Sarah B. bravely saying, “Have no fear, I’ll be here.” Apologies for terrifying your kids half to death-the doctor has assured us that the heart attacks were relatively minor.

Voice of an Angel

Here are some tunes from the ILE’s favorite new singer-Laura Moynihan!

Heat Wave

Back to normal today as all of the students woke for breakfast for 8:30 AM. Class started with Irish literature with Angie. The students took a look at WB Yeats-one of Ireland’s most well known and writers. Angie spoke about Yeats’ love story with Maud Gonne, which we all know did not end up being much of a love story. The students also learnt about the background to the birth of the Irish National Theatre and the influence and role that WB Yeats had in its establishment.

The next class was with Scones, where the students again perfected their Irish language skills. The vocabulary needed on the Aran Islands was looked at in detail. The Aran Islands are off the west coast of Ireland and is still a Gaeltacht area, meaning everybody that lives on the island uses Gaelic as their first language. Since the students will be travelling to the Aran Islands on a day tour from Galway, we decided this vocabulary was essential. There may have been a little white lie told during this class as to the importance of having this vocab. The students may currently believe there is no English spoken anywhere on the island. A little bit of scare tactics always panics people into learning I believe!

We got a few interesting questions after the students heard this. Kat knew to ask how she would say, do you have any English? (An bhfuil aon bearla agat? {On will ain bare lah a gut?}), while Evan only needed to know the word for English, so he could get his point across (Bearla). Kayla, on the other hand, had different priorities and was insuring she knew how to ask for a bathroom. (Cá bhfuil an leithreas? {Caw will on leh her us?})

In Irish class they also learned the Irish words needed for a Ceílí, (Dance) which would make for an interesting dance class that evening.

Finally everybody had Irish studies with Taryn, where they played Family Feud to test their knowledge of all things Irish so far. The rivalry was fierce between the two teams. Peanut Paddy really showed a competitive side that nobody was expecting. Emily Bryan’s team won…, thankfully as once we saw how she reacted to losing a soccer match we were a little nervous!

After lunch, the students had some free time to do what they wanted. Many went over to the Liffey Valley Shopping Center. Evan, Marco, and Seth all bought beautiful matching sweaters. Mel and Clara, who especially had not been expecting this weather, bought some shorts and dresses. Some students were just zapped from all this heat we are getting and Miles formed a gossip circle in the grass with Amanda, Jaids, Melanie, and Sarah C.!

Others had in fact signed up for some workshops that were running this afternoon. First, there was a Coat of Arms Workshop. The students were given a plaque and allowed to research their true coat of arms, or create one that they felt was appropriate and symbolic of their name and their Irish roots. Megan got started straight away-she knew exactly what she was doing, as she had done this in school before. Others may have taken a little longer to get started, but still ended up with masterpieces. Sarah A. (AKA Hank) definitely has the creative Irish genes, as her coat of arms was impeccable. Jaims began practicing her Gaelic lettering and realized that regardless of how pretty it was, the Irish letters are tough to recreate.

The next workshop to take place was Celtic Frame Workshop with Taryn. This class took place outside semi sheltered from the sun by a tree. The workshop was so relaxed and peaceful that the students may as well have been on a beach.

Caroline (AKA Carl) did a fabulous Irish flag as a frame. Ellie, continuously changed her mind about how she wanted her frame to look and it ended up looking quite professional. Ellie might be claiming it was by accident, but I think we know better. Sarah B. (AKA Rah Rah) also amazed us with her painting skills, while Kayla didn’t quite trust herself with a paintbrush yet and stuck to designing her frame with colored markers.

After dinner, the students remained in routine and had their drama and dance workshops. According to the drama leaders of Aubrey and Miles, there are definitely one or two groups standing out, but we must wait until judgement day to see which one will stand out over all. The group working on Padraig Pearse at the moment are the ones who appear to be excelling, but we shall wait and see.

In Dance, the student’s Irish class was finally put to practical use. We started the class with Rogha na buachailli (Row a na boo a colly), which was boys choice. Everybody partnered up and we got to work. The students learned the Haymakers Jig. This wasn’t the easiest of all dances and a few of the students did get quite confused-not looking at anybody in particular Evan, Nacho and Reilly. There was one group, with Clara and Peanut Paddy that picked up the dance immediately and could have auditioned for Riverdance with their skills.

To end the evening and cool off from the scorcher of a day, the students were able to take a dip in the swimming pool. How refreshing!

Eventually, after their tiring day, the students retired to bed even before lights out because they were just exhausted.

Up the Dubs

Sunday morning in Dublin-finally a lie in for everybody. A choice was given to all of the students to sleep in until lunch at 12.30 PM if they wished. The vast majority begrudgingly (!) accepted this, but there were a few who refused. Some students decided to go to Mass and Dan the Man drove to Lucan, a nearby town so that these students could keep up their Catholic rituals. Caroline said she was quite surprised at how short these masses were, especially since the Irish seem to be so good at talking any chance they get.

Marco was the only student not going to mass that decided to get up for breakfast. He said something in Italian, which I think translates to I would never turn down an opportunity to eat! Once everybody was well fed with a proper “match day” lunch of chips (French Fries) and hot dogs, they gathered on to the bus as fresh as daisies after their lie in. We were headed to Croker-or Croke Park officially. Croke Park is Ireland’s biggest GAA stadium holding a capacity of 80,000. It’s where every final for Gaelic football and hurling is played in Ireland and has a great atmosphere-always buzzing with excitement.

Croke Park is of historical significance as on Bloody Sunday, when Ireland and England were at war, the English drove into the middle of the stadium while a match was in play. They killed one of the players, who now has a stand named after him in the stadium-the Hogan Stand. Croke Park also hosts many concerts with the likes of Westlife, Robbie Williams, and Bruce Springsteen playing here quite recently.

The students all chose a team to support before we went to the match. Mostly dependent on which colors they liked best! Dublin was light blue and navy blue; Galway was maroon and white. We had a multicolored dressed group, but it didn’t stop with their clothes. Melanie was the first to test the face paint. With assistance from Clara, she managed to cover her entire face in blue paint. We now had a smurf join our group! The face painting continued with Ellie, the Sneedster getting stripes on their cheeks, and Reilly getting Clara’s blue handprint pressed onto his face. We had a few boys who decided face painting was a little too tame for them. Instead they wanted to spell out Dublin across their chests. Marco had the D, Nacho the U, Evan the B, Seth the LI, and Riley the N. (Which did not start off backwards!)

Some students really got behind the teams they wanted to support and purchased the jerseys before the game started. Devin and Herrms bought the Galway jersey and Chris, Evan, and Riley all decided to support the Dubs. Dan said it was a brilliant hurling game. The speed, intensity, and rivalry were all perfectly evident from our Cusack Stand seats in the sun. Galway were the favorites to win, but Dublin took the lead from very early on in the game and never lost it. Galway did attempt a few comebacks and came very close at one or two stages, but Dublin managed to take the cup. Very surprisingly, as they are known for their lack of hurling skills most years. The game finished with Dublin winning by 12 points, which most would agree was not a fair representation of the game. The students were all enthralled by the game, but some were distracted at different stages when they began chatting with some of the Irish kids sitting near them. Herrms had a great conversation with some Irish boys discussing the rules of the game-who their favorite players were and who they expected to win. Herrms did admit after it that she thought they were quite cute!

We managed to get elusive seats in the sun this year fortunately. Unfortunately, some students forgot their sunscreen and got slightly burnt while watching the match. The most notable burn by far has to be Seth’s. As we mentioned he had painted ‘LI’ on his chest. Of course this protected certain areas of his chest from the sun conveniently resulting in a sun tattoo of ‘LI.’

That evening, the film Michael Collins was played for the students-an Irish classic, with Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts. It depicts the story of one of the most notable and admired men in Irish history. Collins negotiated the free state with British politicians in 1921 and played a major role in the Irish civil war in 1922. Michael Collins was assassinated in a famous ambush at Beal na Blath in Cork in 1922. The students were wrecked tired from their day in the sun at Croke Park and just about managed to stay awake for the end of the film and then hit the hay.

Hip Hip Hooray for a Great Day!

Top of the morning! Today started out like any other normal class day. Breakfast was served bright and early and classes started at 9 AM.

In Scones’ Gaelic Class, students learned the words for right (deis), left (cle), hand (lamh), foot (cos), red (derag), yellow (bui), green (glas), and blue (gorm) and played Gaelic Twister. Clara, Erica, Evan, and Jaids definitely showed their flexibility and knowledge of Irish by beating their friends.

In Irish literature, Angie read the Drunkard by Frank O’Connor.

In Irish studies, Taryn taught the students Irish slang that would come in handy over the next few weeks.

During the break between classes the students packed the rest of their belongings and got ready to leave their first home in Ireland.

After lunch, we all said our goodbyes to the Staff at Newtown Boarding School and hopped on the bus heading north. Dublin or bust. About five minutes into the ride we crossed the bridge going out of Waterford and saw our adopted Irish friends (Eddie and James) that had been hanging out with us for the past couple of days. They were standing on the side of the road with their County Cork flags that all the American students had signed. A few of the girls got a little emotional-knowing that it could be a while before they saw the Irish dreamboats again.

We pulled into Kings Hospital after 4 PM and got settled into our new home for the next week. After rooming assignments were squared away, the students had almost an hour of free time before we ate salads and pasta with other student groups that were here with other programs.

The kids split into their drama groups and started working on their next assignment; a skit that creatively and accurately tells a story about an icon in Irish history. The Michael Collins and Padraig Pearse groups seem to be the biggest competition so far, but we will see on Saturday during the drama presentations.

Angie’s brother, Tom, and some of his mates from Belfast came down to teach us about traditional Irish music. They played several songs on their banjos, mandonlins, pipes, flutes, bazouki, and violin. It was such a treat to see so much talent sitting right in front of us-and to see how much the students appreciated the musicians was amazing. Marco, our only Italian student said that he never knew how much history came from instruments made in his country. After the music workshop, the students had free time. Some went to a disco that was hosted by the school and made friends with other Italian and Spanish students. Others played soccer, while a few tried desperately to use the wifi (Which proved to be much more of a challenge than anticipated.). The weather has been absolutely gorgeous and I think everybody is very excited about Croke Park for the hurling match between Galway and Dublin tomorrow.

Hip Hip Hooray for a great day.

Winning Limericks

The students had to write limericks in their drama groups last week and the ILE Team chose three winners-Caroline, Tiernan, and Chris. Congratulations!They won Cork flags in honor of Scones’ home county. Up the Rebels!

James Joyce was an Irish writer,
Compared to his middle class family, he was much brighter.
“Dubliners” is his volume of short stories.
In them he wrote about society’s worries.
For Irish literature, he was an igniter.
-Caroline Buchanan

Born in Ireland during trouble,
His faith in his country soon began to double.
He wanted to make Ireland free,
From all of Britain’s tyranny.
And his dream didn’t go to rubble.
-Tiernan Goodfellow

Dreary and bleak was the writing of Samuel Beckett.
When it came to human feelings, he just said “to heck with it.”
Along with other absurdists, ideals of order could not be bought.
Consequently his plays dealt with how death dominates our thought.
His genius continued until his death wrecked it.
-Chris Robinson

Green Lightening

Dia Duit!

On Friday, we took tours of Cahir Castle and Kilkenny Castle. They were equally impressive in terms of the historical significance, but they couldn’t have looked more different. The tour of Cahir Castle was a little more laid back and we were lucky to have an entertaining tour guide who kept the mood light. Cahir Castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland and sits on an island in the River Suir. It was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond. It was used as a strong hold for the Butler family and managed to survive quite a few attacks, but it was eventually taken over by Cromwell in 1650. The students were very interested about this castle and the fact it had the original walls from the 13th Century right across from the walls that had been recently restored. Emily H. (AKA Herrm) said she felt like she was in the movie Braveheart racing up and down the swivel stairs of the main tower. Ellie said she loved exploring Cahir Castle on her own and felt like she had stepped back in time.

Kilkenny Castle was much more aesthetically pleasing. It was built in the 13th Century by William Marshall and bought by James Butler in 1391. The castle was renovated in 1826 to adapt the interior of the country-style house. The Butler family lived in the castle until 1935 when the family fortune declined, so they auctioned a lot of the castle’s contents. In 1969 the government bought the castle for £50 and continued to restore it. Jaids thought the gardens were gorgeous and Taryn (AKA Sneedster) really liked the art gallery in the long hall. After the tours we had a couple hours of free time to run around the city, visit a café, or just be lazy on the sprawling lawn of the castle itself.

During the students free time in Kilkenny, Dan, Miles, Scones, and Taryn went to Paddy Power and placed a €5 bet on a horse called Green Lightening. Reilly (AKA Mack) decided to get in on the betting with €3 on the same horse and we ALL won and doubled our money. Happy days. A round of Crunchies on us.

When we returned to campus, the students had dinner and then many participated in an optional workshop-learning how to make St. Brigid’s Crosses. They first learned about St. Brigid and the very popular symbol of Ireland associated with the saint. Taryn then taught them how to make the crosses-breaking them in with pipe cleaners first, before they moved on to reeds. Many of them picked it up very quickly and Chris made some incredible crosses. His were very impressive. A few said they will be bringing them home to hang up in their kitchens to help prevent evil spirits from entering their houses and protecting them from fire-as the superstition goes.

To end the evening, all of the students participated in a Minute-to-Win-It challenge. They were split up into teams and rotated through six stations-each member of the team taking a minute to try and complete the task. The stations were: 1) Blowing the Joker-The students had to blow a deck of cards off a bottle and leave the last card-Joker-on the top. 2) Tee’ing Off-The students had to stack three golf balls on top of each other. Almost impossible, but it has been done. Evan McCullough from ILE 2011 has been the only student thus far to complete it!!! 3) Face the Cookie-Students had to get a cookie from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands. This was absolutely hilarious to watch and Evan and Mack stole the show for the most entertaining. 4) Noodling Around-Students had to pick up six pieces of penne pasta on a table with one piece of spaghetti in their mouth. 5) Separation Anxiety-Students had to separate fifty M&M’s by color with one hand. 6) Chap-Sticks-Students had to stack three chapstick tubes on top of each other with only chopsticks.

Students had a blast and it was the team of Carl, Clara, Ellie, Erica, James, Mel, and Sarah A. (AKA Hank) that were the shining stars for the evening-pulling off a win with 22 points! They all received a Cork flag for their efforts and precision of tasks in less than a minute. Job well done!

The students are all getting along swimmingly and they’ve really been getting comfortable with each other, so we’ve seen a lot more of their personalities. They’re all very well mannered and great kids, so it’s been truly enjoyable for us. We really have the best job ever!