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4 posts from November 2012


West of Ireland

by Kayleigh Roach

So this past week I went on a Western Ireland excursion with my program.  We left early Wednesday morning and set out to learn first hand about the potato famine (Strokestownand I use the word famine loosely because I’ve be corrected by several people because there technically never was a “famine” in the true definition of the word).  Anyways, our first stop was at Strokestown house which was a house where a well-to-do family of landlords lived for years in the 1600′s all the way up until the 1980′s when the final owner passed away.  The house was super cool and had many  old artifacts and paintings of people from the famine era in it.  Strokestown is also the home to the National Famine Museum.  It was interesting to see everything we had learned in class reaffirmed in real life with pictures and objects.

Strokestown playroom

I’ll spare you all a ton of pictures of old stuff, but the toy room was pretty cool!

Our next stop was Tom Hennigan’s Heritage Farm in extremely rural County Mayo.  Now I have seen bits and pieces of rural Ireland on our drives, but this was definitely the real deal.  Tiny little cottages surrounded by farmland and donkeys…it was so quaint I didn’t want to leave.  Now Tom’s family had lived in this cottage for hundreds of years and about 20 years ago he decided to turn it into a museum of sorts.  He sat us down in the living room of the fully furnished cottage and told us all about how his family had lived their life there pointing things throughout the room and explaining them.  My favorite part was when he pulled a box of cow femurs out from under the bed, explaining how when livestock died of diseases, they would cut off a leg and hang it in the house as a way of inoculating themselves against the disease (who needs vaccines?). After the tour of the house, he led us through another building that was full of artifacts ranging from blacksmith tools, to moonshine equipment, to clothing.  It was amazing to me how knowledgeable Tom was, and it was a privilege to hear all of the information first hand.  After the tour, we were given tea or coffee and scones.  Sidenote: They LOVE their tea here. Seriously with every meal they try and serve you tea…it’s awesome!

TomsTom’s original house.




TeaTea and biscuits! (glad I look so tired in this picture)

Gate and Mayo

A County Mayo flag (remeber the football) you gotta love the county pride out here!

That evening we arrived at our hotel, took naps, and got ready for dinner.  We were served a 3 course dinner on a white table cloth, this place was so swanky! After living off potatoes, ham sandwiches, and pasta for 3 weeks, a gourmet meal was like a godsend.  That evening we went out to check out the night life in Westport which has been voted one of the best “Tiny Towns” of Ireland for many years.  We ended up with live music and an older crowd and quickly made friends with Elvis Presley.  There was a very old man who was extremely friendly and was also convinced that he was Elvis.  He had a fake license that he showed us, and even stole the microphone from the guitar player and insisted on singing an Elvis song (which thankfully didn’t last very long). People here are such characters, but Elvis is pretty close to the top of my list for strange acquaintances.

The next day we headed to Croagh Patrick, a mountain named after Saint Patrick which many people make a barefoot pilgrimage to the top of. We got to hike a small section of the path that was basically a rocky stream, it was good fun.

St Pat croagh

Croagh Patrick is the mountain on the right and in the front stands a statue of Saint Patrick holding a clover.





Croagh patrick clewThe view from up the path and Clew bay.


Famine shipAcross the street from Croagh Patrick is also the site of the National Famine monument.

This monument is one of the few things in Ireland that openly recognizes the significant impact of the famine on the country.

Achill 1

Our next stop was Achill Island which is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in Ireland yet.

Achill 3The weather was absolutely beautiful all week!!

Famine cottage
We finished up the day with a stop at the deserted village, a place that was left behind during the famine, but still has remaining structures.

We finished the trip in Galway but that's for another day!!!


Irish football!

By Kayleigh RoachBlog All_Ireland street

The huge Gaelic football final between Mayo and Donegal (two Irish counties) was played at the  start of our semester here. We heard that it was the Irish equivalent of the SuperBowl so of course we had to watch it! We headed down the road around 12 to go to Quinn’s and had to get off the bus a stop early because there were so many people crowding the roads. There were even equestrian police officers riding their horses down the middle of the street! We squished into Quinn’s and talked to the locals a bit, debating about which team would win. We were all supporting Blog quinnsDonegal (the favorite) who hadn’t won in 20 years…although Mayo hasn’t won in 60. I realized two things yesterday: one being that Irish people love to be in our pictures, especially if we just met them, and two that Irish people are much more genial about sporting events than Americans are. In the US, during big sports matches it is not surprising to hear or see about fights that break out, but here, people banter back and forth but always end with a hug or “best of luck”, it’s like we’re all friends. This made the atmosphere amazing! As game time was getting closer, and people who had tickets to the match (which were about 2000 euro on the day)Blog big tree started clearing out, we moved down the street to another place called Big Tree. It was filled with people wearing their country colors and shouting, the pride was incredible. We stayed there and watched the whole match, and it was honestly the best sports match I’ve ever watched. Gaelic football is this odd  combination of soccer, football, and basketball with the aggressiveness of hockey, but it never stops and there’s always action going on. It was a pretty close match, but Donegal was victorious in the end, defeating Mayo 17-13. The celebration after was insane, with everyone shouting as dejected Mayo fans poured out into the streets to head home. Yesterday by far was the Blog students all_Ibest sporting event I’ve ever watched! The game, the fans, and the atmosphere were like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The crowd outside Quinn’s. The patio at Quinn’s. (Lots of Mayo fans wearing green and red.) People were literally everywhere. Cheering after a Donegal score inside Big Tree. Yayyyyy Donegal!!! Alright folks, I think that’s all I have for now. 

Oh I almost forgot about my word for this post! They calls lines “queues” here. The first time someone asked me if I was in the queue I looked at them like they were crazy…thankfully they explained what they meant.



A greener side of Ireland (getting out of the city)

by Kayleigh Roach

Update on the people:  I finally met Irish people who know what Wisconsin is!!  Unfortunately the only reaction I’ve gotten from those people is “Ohhh that 70s show.”  It is very common to only hear about the TV-ized view of                                                   Blog pic 1America for example another girl here is from Seattle, and her Irish roommates asked her about Grey’s Anatomy.  It’s interesting that they don’t hear the difference in our regional accents either, but they could say the same about us and the regional Irish accents as well (although I’m getting better at identifying people from Cork and the North).  Everyone is still extremely friendly, and I’m getting the hang of understanding their accent…most of the time that is! 

Saturday we headed about an hour northwest of Dublin to get to Causey Farm Blog pic 4, a traditional Irish farm that gives tours and allows people to participate in traditional Irish activities.  The countryside we drove through was beautiful and full of little cottages.  All of them were landscaped with tons of flowers and things because it rains so often.  Even fences are often comprised of bushes instead of typical wooden or metal fences you’d see.  The coolest thing we drove by were a couple different sets of castle ruins.  I was surprised how close they were to the city. 

Once we got there, we started off by getting a chance to catch chickens (which is harder than it looks), followed by a lesson in playing Ireland’s only native drum, the Bodhran.  Our group tried to keep up with the Irish music playing in the background, but our rhythm left a lot to be desired.  We then learned the old Irish folk dance called the Siege of Ennis which is often danced at Blog pic 5weddings and other celebrations…we weren’t very good at that either, but it was really fun to learn!  Next on the list was Irish soda bread.  We partnered up and each got to make our own loaves, which later we got to eat with fresh raspberry jam.  It was delicious!  We then watched a sheepdog herd sheep right up to us (they moved to quick to catch) and got to milk a cow!  They had a hay filled wagon take us to the peet bogs that were in the fields behind the farm and a few brave souls went in the muck, getting mud all the way up to there knees.  There were even a few hen parties there running around in the muck!  In Ireland, they call bachelorette parties, hen parties, and it is common to go to a farm and do crazy things like catching pigs and rolling around in the bog…the ones we saw Blog pic 2 were absolutely covered in mud!  We ended the day with a little hurling practice, and thank goodness they made us wear helmets!  Hurling is a sport where you use cricket-like bats to pick up a ball and try to get it either over or into your team’s goal, it was fun to try and play but I can say for certain that hurling is not a future career for any of us.

Every post I make, I’ll try to include a new word I learned from the local dialect (Hibero-English!!!) so today’s is crack (spelling craic).  They use crack as a word for fun, or a good time here e.g. “Oh it’s good crack.”


The adventure begins

by Kayleigh Roach

Continuing with my review of our first month here in Dublin

Week 1 - (It feels like so long ago!)

campus colors event
campus colors event
So I’m finally settling in to Irish time and have lots more stories to share!  We discovered campus life here already and attended a 'colors' event - an event where you were supposed to wear your county or country colors.  All the Irish people wore Gaelic football jerseys (which despite many attempts, no Irish person has been able to clearly explain to me what that is) and were messing over who would win the big championship match on Sunday when Mayo plays Donegal.  Gaelic football and hurling are really big around here and the championships are both near, so you hear and see a lot of county pride.  A bunch of us are going to the venue area on Sunday to watch the match so I’m sure I’ll have some good stories from that!  On dance nights at not only do they play the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Cotton Eye Joe, and One Direction, but they also do this very strange circle thing on the dance floor.  Everyone will be dancing normally, when all of a sudden the people in the middle hold their arms out and back up to create a huge empty circle.  People crouch down, and then everyone explodes and jumps into the middle…needless to say you get pushed around quite a bit.  It’s really interesting how many subtle cultural differences there are between here and the U.S., but I’m enjoying learning about all of them!

A lot of people have been asking me if it really does rain all the time here, and the answer is not

tour buses in the city
really.  It definitely rains more often than in the U.S. (for example it has rained everyday since I’ve been here so far), but the rain isn’t very imposing at all.  It usually consists of a light drizzle or small drops for about 15 minutes at a time, and half the time it is sunny while it’s raining.  The rain is a lot more pleasant than I was expecting, but on the other hand it is freezing cold here.  Although the temperatures are in the upper 50s, the wind is insane…I feel like I have perpetual goosebumps!  (I did just figure out how to turn on the heat in my apartment though, thank god!)


All of the international students got to go on a open top bus tour of Dublin yesterday which was a great way to learn more about the different

Culture night
Culture night Dublin
monuments and museums and historical places that we should go visit.  Unfortunately I brought the wrong memory card and wasn’t able to take a ton of pictures, but I’ll post some eventually.  Hopefully I’ll be going to some of those places this evening because it is Cultural Night, so a lot of museums and things are free tonight and open later so a bunch of us are going to go into the city center, get some traditional Irish food, and then explore! More soon!