Monday, November 29, 2010

Sick in Dublin

The Paddywaggon tour was a smash hit, and one of my favorite things I have ever done.  To read more about the wild adventures I had go to:

This is the route that we took:

The highlight= my tour guide, Joe.  He's a corporate solicitor (lawyer), going back to school to do family law.  He's one of the funniest people I've ever met, and knew how to make history interesting.  He's brilliant.  Some Joe-isms:
"Put the lip gloss on and pucker up ladies: it's me or the stone."  (He's all talk, btw...I told him I chose him, and HE DIDN'T DELIVER!)
After he asks a question and no one answers, "Yes Joe, sounds like a plan, Joe, good idea, Joe."
"I've only ever heard 3 stupid questions: When do we go to see Stonehenge, when are we getting there, and Joe, are you Irish?  They don't make men slightly balding, slightly overweight, and white as a ghost, and not Irish!"
"Men wanted to be like him, women want to be with him."
"Feck" as in "those feckers fecked everything up and now IMFucked" =)
"Now you can choose to believe me or a bunch of geologists.  If you ask me, a bunch of guys that look at rocks all day need to get out more."
"She was so unseemly, even the tide wouldn't take her out."
"Canadians are just Americans that didn't make the cut."

Right now I'm sitting at an Internet cafe, trying to avoid going outdoors where it's below freezing and there is snow on the ground.  I have the flu.  It sucks.  Last day in Dublin, and I'm cooped up.  Did the same thing yesterday just to recover from the tour.  It didn't work.  That being said, I am a little sightseed out...and the last 2 days have been about something far more significant that seeing more cathedrals and/or taking walking tours.  My mom and I have had some of the best conversations in our history of being related.  Years of hurt, frustration talked through.  Granted, nothing is solved overnight.  But the doors of the dungeon  have been swung open, and our sleeves are rolled up ready to do the hard work of restoring trust.  And that's the best thing I could have gotten out of this trip, and well worth every cent.  Sure it's been hard.  Reliving the things we have both been through and put each other through was exhausting at best.  But what I told her this morning was, you know mom, everything we've been through (and believe me, the women in my family have been to hell and back--we've suffered about every type of abuse known to women) one day is going to make us so much closer than we ever would have been if our family had been perfect and our men had loved us.  One step at a time...we have each other, which makes it worth it.  I bow my head and praise a God who creates new life from the darkest situations, beauty from pain.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 7

So this may be out of order, but today I am inspired to write about today.  Today was brilliant.  Last night was brilliant.  We went to an Irish pub after an amazing walking tour in the rain of Derry.  Derry is Northern Ireland, but over half the population is Irish Catholic and cheers for Irish football and not Northern Irish and certainly not English.  It is separated by a river.  There is a group of protestants that live on the wrong side of the river, and there are two fenses that 'protect' them from their Irish catholic neighbors.  They have signs all over that say, 'we will not surrender.'  My catholic tour guide says this hurts most of the catholic's feelings because 99% of the people there don't want to hurt them; They care more about the winners of x factor than the protestants living in their midst, he says.  So that was interesting.  The night before that we did a 'black taxi tour' in Belfast and saw the peace wall (and signed it!), and saw a lot of scary murals that imortalized skin heads that fought for their cause of never ever joining the rest of Ireland and staying loyal to the English crown.  It's a complicated issue, but a lot of people died.  10 loyalists went on a hunger strike in jail and lost their lives for their cause.  Today, tension still exists, but the killings have come to a halt.  However, people bomb the hell out of this city.  The walking tour guide, Stephen, who grew up in Derry says that it use to be beautiful, but it's hard when you've had fighting for a couple centuries.  A couple weeks ago a car bomb went off and blew a Kabob shop and a furniture store to smitherines.  The alarm from the furniture store has been going off ever since.

So last night after the walking tour we ended up in one of the most colorful places I have ever visited.  A real dried pig's head with sun glasses and a hat greeted did over 10 other animal carcasses, included several birds, and a shark jaw.   An Irish band belted out famous Irish tunes that I have never hear of and the flutist moved his fingers so fast, I couldn't see them half the time.  It was a scene that belonged in a movie.  I kept hoping an Irishmen would ask me to dance...not that the lack of dancing Irishmen that night slowed me down any, mind you.   I went to bed several hours after my bed time, full of drinks that had been bought, and happy that a place like Ireland exists.  My tourguide's favorite phrase is 'and remember, 5 million Irish people love don't do anythign stupid!'  It's true.  They do love me.  And you.  And anyone else other than the damn people across the river.

Today we woke up, crawled on the bus, and Joe (the tourguide, not redheaded, but in every other way fully Irish) welcomed us to the day after Derry.  Thanks Joe.  We slept for a while, looked at a tomb or house (they're not sure) from 500BC, then saw WB Yeats' grave and most importantly got coffee.  A couple hours and a few kilometers down the road found us in Knock where we drenched ourselves in seawead lotion from the seaweed and massage salon (everything seaweed) and admired the costal scenery.

We arrived in Galway by 4 and had a look around at this tourist capital.  Almost everything here is original.  The streets are tiny, cobblestone, and it's one of the shopping areas that tourists frequent.  I ended up buying the traditional 'claddagh' ring.  The story is that a local man from Galway fell in love with a local woman and since he was going to be away at sea for a couple years he made her this ring.   Her heart in his hands crowned with his love.  Mine heart is right side up.  2 months ago it would have been upside down.  Amazing how quickly things change.

We visited the latin quorter and ended the night at a pub (suprisingly).  Dave, as in Dave from 'Riverdance,' was there.  Him and Pete (from 'Lord of the Dance') and him put on the fastest foot clapping extravaganza I, or anyone else in my American/Aussie/Kiwi group has ever witnessed...I'll post it when I get back to the states.  And I'll say something funny about it when I've had more sleep.  Speaking of which, I should probably get on that.  My mind works quicker and puts together cleverer thoughts when it's rested.  I just wanted to get something up since it's been a couple days.  Don't tell your friends yet...this posting still needs work.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 4

Was boring.  Woke up early to go get my mom from the airport.  Packed and went to church.  Fell asleep in church.  Left in the middle of church to go sleep in bed.  Woke up.  Waited.  Read Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.  Waited some more.  Got ready to go out.  Waited.  Went out.  Bought water.  Waited.  Went back. Waited.  Got frustrated.  Went to call Jean (the boyfriend).  Hostel phone didn't work. Got refund.  Tried again.  Went outside.  No internet cafe across the street.  Got frustrated.  Went back inside.  Got more specific directions.  Went to internet cafe.  They didn't have video set up on gchat.  Got frustrated.  Went in the back and made a phone call.  Finally got through.  Talked to Jean for 10 minutes.  He told me that, "I can't get frustrated just because everything doesn't go my way all the time."  I tell him yeah, but nothing is going my way.  My friend is sick.  My mom doesn't want to do anything.  I'm in Dublin and can't freaking find anyone to look around this amazing city with.  But he's right.  And I know it.  So I start laughing.  He tells me exactly what I need to hear.  He's great like that.

Go to dinner with my mom and get a salmon salad and a glass of wine.  It's perfect.  We talk for 2 hours about life changing things.  God is teaching both of us so much.  So thankful for a mother who loves God and who is willing to admit when she is wrong.  It's been a long road.  Life, that is.  But there is so much to be grateful for.  And this is just the beginning...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 2 and 3

Yesterday I woke up to a man about 2 feet from me coughing in the bunk next to mine...and my first thought was, how fun!  I'm in Ireland.  It was already 9...after loosing an entire night on the flight, I guess I was in catch up mode.  Breakfast was SO European...toast, butter, jam, corn flakes, muesli, coffee or tea... brought me back to my growing up years in Belgium.  I met a couple french guys during breakfast, which was fantastique!  J'ai eu la chance de practique mon francais. =)  Um...for those of you who don't parle francais...look it up!  So the two of them, plus our new friend Nozomi, a Japanese gal I lovingly named "fashion show" (she has a soundtrack: for the amount of accessories and makeup she applied to go with us to to the Dublin Castle, took off to see the sights.  We stumbled upon a tour group in the chapel by the castle where I learned about the independence of Ireland.  Apparently one of the provoking actions of England in 1916 was to dress up it's prisoners as "black and tans"(police) and ship them off to Ireland (Australia must have no longer been accepting criminals).  When these voices of the law started performing executions at random, the Irish people got pissed and on Easter started a revolution that eventually kicked these notorious villans, along with the viceroys (ruling men that the kings and queens of England left behind for when they could not be there) and every other English scoundrel that did not aprove of their newfound freedom in 1920.

So the castle use to have 15 meter thick walls, motes, bridges and the whole deal.  It was never invaded, but it did explode...because it was a storehouse for gunpowder, and when a fire started near there the Irish solution was to try to put it out through a series of other fires.  It didn't work, but the prince at the time wrote a letter saying that it wasn't a big loss anyway because it was so ugly, and with that got the funds approved to rebuilt on top of the remains what we have today.  The original castle's mote was apparently pretty nasty.  In fact they called it Dubh Linn (meaning "black pool").  Ok last couple fun facts...Dublin was originally settled by Vikings, and they are the ones responsible for the red hair that is actually Scandinavian trait, NOT an Irish one (this includes folk from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Greenland--I learned this on facebook thanks to Cerrie Gleason the red, and Savanah Crafton the actress)...typical Irish is far more Spanish-like with their features.  So the castle and different areas of Dublin flooded a couple years ago, so they started doing to excavating around the castle...and lo and behold not only did they find the remains of the old castle, but they found a ton of Viking stuff as well.

The lack of playmates has definitely been a little troubling...Chelsea is sick and when she is not sick she is working.  Fortunately it is Ireland, and all you have to do to make friends is to walk into a bar.  And they'll buy you a drink.  Or 3.  I'm not kidding.

More things I noticed:
-Girls wear tights...of all types and with everything...especially shorts.  I've been having bows/butterflies/flowers-all-over-my-legs envy since I got here
-There are pubs that don't have TV's's awesome
-A guy told me today that when he is in an airport in the states all he has to do to find Aer Lingus is look around and see where all the ugly people are he put it, it's a literary culture, not a visual one
-The Irish are undeniably very happy
-The bike stations that I mentioned in my previous post are a bitch...definitely not designed for fact they discriminate...but if you stand at a machine for long enough and get frustrated enough you may attract a tall redhead named George who may pay for your 2euro bike pass himself (not thinking about the potential 150e fee if I loose or decapitate the bike) and he might offer to show me where the park is and then offer to let me tag along his friend's free guided tour.  His friend's guided tour may stop by a drug store where the claim to fame is that there is an entire passage describing it in James Joyce's Ulysses.  The guided tour may also be the friend's entire Irish family in for the day to visit, and they may stop by a pub mid tour and start ordering Guinness and watching rugby, and that may be the end of the tour after all.
-The Irish cancer society is funded by second hand stores in Ireland...but these stores have no brochures or websites to direct you to finding out more
-Trinity College is quite snobby, which at 10,000 euros minimum a semester for a EU res is understandable
-There are skeletons that still have skin and red curly hair in the National Archeology Museum of Dublin
-Most Irish last names mean something and these meanings can be found on bookmarks that one can buy for 2.5 euros at the gift shop of the National Museum of Dublin
-The buildings here are beautiful
-There are 44 parliaments for 4 million people in Ireland--and it has some of the highest paid city/national employees of any first world country (part of the reason for the financial situation the country is in)
-40,000 people left Ireland last year to look for work elsewhere
-The IMF arriving here/taking over is the most significant thing since the founding of the nation in 1920
-Most of the people at the pubs drink approximately at twice the speed I do
-The nation is bankrupt, but cannot print off more money like the US does since they use the Euro
-They have 4 times the national debt here that we do (and we have 75 times the number of people)
-The Irish people however, have a lot of money in the bank, despite how screwed the government is
-Ireland is the best place to have a passport if you want to be a spy since they haven't invaded anyone and pissed them off since they have been a nation and therefore you can travel anywhere if you have one.
-Scarves go for about 40euros here in the gift shop (um...sorry Matt?), and the guy at the James Joyce drug store bought the last 2 pairs of cuff links that came through
-Despite waking up this morning to a naked couple in the bunk above me, I like it here.  If it happens tomorrow, however, I'm turning whoever it is in and they can suffer the consequences of that kind of behavior 2 feet from my head...even if I was asleep.

And with that, I'm going back out to the pubs.  

Cheers...and good luck!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 1 Ireland

It's not even 11 PM and I'm about to fall over from exhaustion.  But after all, I only got about 3 hours sleep last night.  Even for an already early bird, 7pm was a little much to ask for a bed time last night.  And 6 hours after that we were 9am.  So I caught a couple hours.  But not many.

Ireland is amazing.  I'm in Dublin, so other than from the plane (where the view was mostly blocked by clouds until landing--however from what I did see it is very very green) no stunning nature scapes...yet.  But Dublin is awesome.  Quaint.  Rather clean for a major city.  And everything is just smaller in Europe.  The buildings, cars, roads, people (what do they put in the food in the US?).  The restaurants seat half the people (but are twice as good) with half the food (and twice the price).

My favorite thing about Ireland is the Irish.  I told someone today that in the US and Irish person is kind of a commodity...mostly because of the accent, and partly because of Braveheart and the lucky charms guy, and partly just because they are European but still speak English.  But here they're's awesome.  I brought this fact up with a bar tender, and he said, "yes, in fact we are not just a bunch of leprechauns running around looking for pots of gold."  Right.  But they are clever, friendly, fun loving people (I realize I'm starting to sound like a guide book, but it really is true!).  As a lady on the bus put it, "The Irish always have something to say about everything."  I knew immediately I would fit in well here.

So I could go on and on and give you the blow by blow of my first day here, how my friend didn't pick me up from the airport, how I tried to put my credit card into the parking machine to buy a bus ticket, how I missed my stop on the bus (I was going the right way however) and had to flag down one going the other direction (took me a couple tries--one guy just grinned and waved at my frantic attempts to get him to pull ass), the hostel room I'm staying in (bunk beds, holds at least 30), and the cleaning gal who yelled at me for sitting on the wrong bed (not kidding), and a million other random funny things (my favorite was the adorable little boy in the coffee shop that I let color with my highlighters while his mom gave me parenting tips and his dad outlined all the hotspots of Dublin on the map and invited me to his standup comedy act--he actually is getting his PhD in standup--I told him it sounded like a scam--he agreed), but for time's sake, and because this paragraph actually is still technically one sentence, I'll just bullet point the main things I've noticed:

-People say "good luck" instead of "have a nice day"
-There's a lot of french speaking people here, which is cool since I speak french...and NEVER get to use it in the US
-The word "fuck" is used how I use "like" every sentence, and to give the speaker time to get out the next stream of thought
-Not all Irish people have red hair...but A LOT of them do
-There is actually a language called "Irish" that doesn't actually resemble English at all, and the Irish that we know is just English with some of the accent left over (or something like that).
-Some of the cabs say "Tacsai" on their sign...which apparently is the actual spelling of "taxi" in Irish.
-There are restaurants in every ethnicity here: so far I've seen lots of American (regrettably my first meal here was a desperate stop at a bagel shop in the airport), Mexican, Indian, French, and Thai.
-The Irish don't tip...probably because of the price of food
-Everything costs money here...and you have to multiply everything you spend by 1.5 because of the damn Euro...if Ireland is in a recession, why am I still paying twice the price for everything?
-Christmas lights are already up, but you can't buy canned pumpkin in any store in Dublin.
-Everything is co-ed...including my hostel room...or wait...maybe it's just my hostel room.
-I saw a panhandler that looked my age and was really good looking...just struck me as extremely odd...most of the panhandlers here actually look like they still have it more together than the ones I see in the States
-Favorite cultural thing so far...Guinness is everywhere and you don't have to be male and watching football on a Sunday afternoon at an Irish pub in the city to order's my favorite beer so I'm pretty excited that I don't have to face weird looks and comments every time I order it
-People walk much more
-They have this awesome system where you pay 10 euros for a month and can use any bike at their locks in the city for 20 minutes before returning it to any other stand/lock system.  This is so ingenious for so many reasons. a. It's less than the price of renting a bike for 1 day from my hostel (12 euros!), b. it's super convenient, c. I don't have to worry about the bike getting stolen, cuz as soon as I return it to a stand, it is NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY!  (good for all parties involved). d. It's orchestrated this way so that there will always be a bike at every stand e. I like bikes.
-Speaking of my plans for tomorrow, I should probably get a little more than the 3 interrupted hours of last night...good night, I mean luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Few things in life are more painful than rejection.  Let's face it.  We're all scared of it.  We all have defense mechanisms in place to either avoid it :keeping people at bay, being super nice and not ever saying anything someone doesn't want to hear, not trying out new things, sticking with the same people, being funny all the time, drinking, getting into one romantic relationship after the next, quitting, trying too hard/giving too much time to something so that our relationships end up suffering, telling ourselves on the front end why try since we probably don't stand a chance, hiding behind other issues or weaknesses.  And the reality is, when we come face to face with rejection it threatens to destroy us.  The message is, "you are insufficient, less than, just not smart, pretty, nice, considerate, punctual, talented...enough.  You don't add up.  And essentially, we in our confusion interpret that as, you're worthless.  And we allow ourselves to believe it.  And so we build more walls.  Walls so people, God, can't get close.  Walls so they/He won't ever figure out the "truth" that we are not worth keeping around, not worth spending time with, not worth knowing, or even existing.  With every blow to our ego, we die a little more, but keep the same "I'm OK" smile on.  Or maybe we don't.  Maybe we stop smiling.

The solution?  The cross.  Turning to a God who loves us enough to die.  Loves us enough to let us kill Him rather than withdraw.  Loves us enough to put up with all our defense mechanisms and pride, see through them, and call us to something higher.  We are all going to face rejection.  Sometimes from the people who mean the most to us.  We are so fallen, and so sinful that even to those we claim to love the most we hurt...let down...tear down...alienate.  Sometimes it's family.  Sometimes it's a friend of 8 years.  I've experienced both.  It sucks.  There aren't really words to communicate the pain of having a mother tell you that she doesn't want you to come home and quite frankly doesn't like you.  Or a dad who says that you ruined his life and there is no point trying to have a relationship.  Or a friend that you thought would be your maid of honor who tells you she doesn't ever want to talk to you again.  But there is One who will never stop loving...perfectly.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the resent nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

In the midst of the biggest suffering, the hardest hit, He is there.  Whether it is a job loss, the unemployment that follows, the demise of a friendship that you thought would be around forever, a slow month or even year in sales (aka all day rejection for day after day), financial difficulties that make you think you can't even take care of yourself, or having the love of your life inexplicably break up what you thought would last forever...He is there.  He will love you in the most vulnerable places if you let Him.  Don't ignore the pain.  Face it.  Jesus did (Matthew 26:37-39Luke 22:44).  But do it in the spiritual arms of One who knows you inside and out (Psalm 139), and One who can do something about it.  He is able to heal, able to help you change the things you hate the most about yourself.  He is able to set you free.  But it takes time.  The pain doesn't go away overnight.  It takes perseverance.  But it is worth it.  He loves us...and He knows everything we are trying to hide.