(The title this time: “So much to see in such little time: October and November Update”)
Ok, so I’ll admit this. I haven’t written for a while because, well, I’ve been lazy about it and I put other things (such as school) ahead of it, but this past week has been so eventful for me, I really want to catch people up on what has been going on here in Ireland for the last month and a half!
It is crazy as I sit here writing this knowing that at about 1:15 am tonight, I will cross the threshold of being one month away from being home. I honestly have mixed feelings about going home, which I will dive more into later.
But, first, let’s catch up on the months of October and most of November!
October was a crazy month. Lots of travel and sightseeing within Dublin, along with getting into the grind with course work. My favorite class so far this semester has been my Irish history class. I hear this from a lot of American students, and it is true. We have been fed American history from birth. Through this trip, I have been able to talk to friends and people in my class who have said that they have maybe had only one or two years on world history in their lives. That means that they have basically had almost ten years of American. I understand knowing one’s own history, but shouldn’t we understand what is going on around us and why from a historical prospective? That is one reason I have loved my Irish history course. I have gotten to learn so much about the country of Ireland through this. I have learned about the medieval feudal systems from before the Vikings or Normans/English arrived. Then learning the impact that the Vikings had on the Emerald Isle and, of course, the British has been fascinating. There have also been many wars and rebellions and fascinating people to learn about. We haven’t quite gotten to learning about the Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War of 1922 yet and I haven’t learned much about the recent conflicts near Belfast and the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland divide, but we will get to those very soon and I am quite excited to learn about those. I have learned a bit about the Easter Rising just from various sightseeing touristy things that I have done, but I am excited to learn about it in depth in class.
My creative writing class has been very interesting. I have been able to really write in a way I have never really tried to do before. I have come up with some interesting subjects, some of which are too in-depth for the short word count we are allotted in the class, but I have still enjoyed getting to write in a creative manner, instead of just the facts and nothing but the facts, as I have been taught in journalism. This class has brought me a huge culture shock.
In our courses here, the grades are dependent on very few assignments. In history, we have 11 papers (nine of which are one page, weekly reports on the lecture and field trip that comprise the class to show our understanding); in Global Cities, we have one paper, a interactive Google Map, and then a second Google Map of a specific neighborhood of Dublin, along with a tour of that part of the city and an exam; and then there are three stories and an academic analysis of a novel, film or play for creative writing. Relying on such few assignments for a total grade has shocked me. (If I had ended up taking the advanced photography class, there would have been one semester-long project that would have comprised my entire grade). Crazy, right?
When I received my mark for my first creative writing assignment, I had no idea what to make of it. I received a mark of “69/70”. That is not 69 out of 70, but actually, according to my professor, it is a grade of between 69 and 70. In Ireland, however, and this is a basic understanding that could in no way be correct, that is essentially an A- or B+. Being from the USA, seeing a mark of 69 or 70 on my paper would mean I got a C- or D+, so I was, safe to say, dumbfounded when I saw that. I worried about that for a while, because I am really trying to stay within the Summa Cum Laude boundaries (the border at ASU is a cumulative GPA of 3.8, mine is 3.85), which means I can only get two B’s this semester. If the conversion back home ends up as a B for creative writing, since that class counts for two classes at ASU, those are my two B’s. But, I am significantly less worried about that now than I was before, and again, I’ll get to that later.
Throughout October, I got the chance to see so much of the city of Dublin and Ireland. I saw the Book of Kells, Christ Church Cathedral (twice), the Dublinia Museum (twice), St. Patrick’s Cathedral, got back to Galway, saw the small town of Kinsale in County Cork, got back to the Cliffs of Moher and kissed the Blarney Stone!
I got to do so much of that because my Mom and my Aunt Liz took a trip out to Ireland for 12 days! I seriously don’t know how both of their jobs signed off on that, but, then again, how often does one have a son/nephew studying in Ireland for three months? They went to so many of those sights and more (Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness Storehouse, and the Ring of Kerry) with and without me. They loved the Ring of Kerry, which was the one thing I didn’t get to do, since I had to come back to Dublin for class. But, I was able to take the Irish Rail between the places that I went to with them, and that is one of the best ways to get around Ireland. So much of this beautiful country can be seen that way. I enjoyed it much more than taking a bus on the expressway. I enjoyed having my mom and aunt here so much! It was an awesome taste of home and I know that they really loved being here as well.
One of the things that has been the least enjoyable during my time here was the night tour at the National Leprechaun Museum. It was promoted as being terrifying and only for those over 18 because of the stories that would be told, but I was honestly disappointed. It was still a fun night to be out with friends, but it cost almost €20, and I wasn’t scared once. It was interesting to learn about the history of leprechauns and fairies and such in Ireland, but, it was a kind of disappointing night. (Also, the only reason it was for those over 18 was because the tour guide cursed I think twice).
One of the most enjoyable things, however, was the ghost bus tour that a group of us took on halloween night. We had a fantastic tour guide named Sebastian and the stories he told were chilling, the rest of the audience was interactive with Sebastian and it was just an interesting and fun night! If anyone is ever in Dublin for Halloween, I highly recommend taking the ghost tour operated in the big purple buses by Dublin Bus.
Also, I started going to a different church on the recommendation of my girlfriend Julia and her friend Alysha (who has studied abroad in Dublin). It’s a church called St. Mark’s, and I believe it is an AG church. Deciding to attend there has been a fantastic decision. On Wednesday nights, they have what is called Chapel Group. Basically what that is is a bunch of college students (over 100) who gather at the church, talk, get to know each other, drink coffee or tea, then worship Jesus and hear a message and just be in the presence of God. It has been so amazing to be a part of that. It has also reminded me a ton of Chi Alpha, which is my ministry group back at ASU, and being able to go Chapel Group every week has been such a great sense of home and Jesus and I am so thankful for Julia and Alysha and Jesus for bringing it into my life.
The beginning of November has been quite, well, eventful. After a week of classes, our mid-semester break (called assignment week) hit, and the CAPA crew got a week off of classes! I decided in October to go with three girls (and Darby, who joined the week before the trip) to travel to Amsterdam, Prague and Paris from 11/7-15/15. I was extremely excited for this as I have never been on the continent of Europe before and getting to see three amazing cities would be such an incredible opportunity.
Amsterdam was wonderful. The first day we were there, we walked around the city, from Centraal Station to our hostel in southeast Amsterdam. I knew that topics such as sex and drug usage were much less taboo in Amsterdam than I am used to, but I was definitely shocked when I walked into a tourist shop and in the back, there was a bookshelf full of porn DVDs. The canals and the architecture around the city are so beautiful and I highly recommend going here. The second day, we took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and got to see the Gassan Diamond factory, the I Amsterdam sign and, probably my favorite part of the trip, the Heineken Brewery. That was such a fun experience that was capped by that night when I also had the opportunity to walk through the Red Light District and just pray for the women and men there and ask for the Holy Spirit to enter into that place and transform it. Definitely a life-changing experience being there. Our second day, we went and did the self-guided tour at the Anne Frank House, which was, also, amazing. Amsterdam was definitely the highlight of the trip for me!
Next came Prague, which was our shortest stop, with only one full day of being there. We stayed in a beautiful AirBnB apartment in Vinohrady and I am so glad we did that rather than a hostel somewhere in the city. We all had the opportunity to do laundry and relax, even watch some HBO. It was great! Darby joined the trip there and we had a, as the Irish say, grand time with him! We did a Segway tour of Prague, and that was so great! We saw so much of the city, and it was all of our first times on Segways, so that was exciting in itself!
We then headed to Paris and that is where the trip changed. I had not been feeling great upon arrival. I honestly felt lonely, like most of the friends I had made here were just friends on the surface. I was missing my friends back in Colorado and Arizona and especially Julia. I had a good long talk with one of the girls and I definitely felt better the next day, Friday. On Friday, we had an awesome day! We walked about 15 miles around the city, getting to see so many sights. Honestly, this post is long enough, so I don’t want to list them all. We also did a night bus tour around the city and got to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées all lit up, it was fantastic and we went to a really cool sandwich shop where the nicest people served us. It was a great day. But that night, as everyone knows, it all changed. Starting right after we got back, at around 9:30 p.m. in Paris, there was a terrorist attack. There were suicide bombings at the Stade de France, where France was playing Germany in soccer, drive-by shootings at a complex with about three cafes full of people and then the Bataclan Theater was rampaged and many were killed. In total, 129 people were killed in the attacks and another 350 were injured. To me, this was one of the scariest nights of my life. Our hostel was right near the Louvre (about a five-minute walk away), and being that close to a monument with so many connections to power was frightening to me. I had a feeling that if the attacks escalated, then the Louvre would have to be one of the main targets. We were also not exactly far away from any of the attack sites (about 25 minutes from the stadium and 15 from the concert hall), and being that close, knowing that if any of the terrorists were on the run, they could easily reach us, was terrifying. I made sure that everyone was kept up to date with my status (I let my mom and Julia know I was safe before they even knew what was going on) and Darby was great on social media, letting everyone know that we were safe as well. I also cannot speak more highly of the CAPA staff in Boston and Dublin and the ASU Study Abroad office. Everyone made sure to know our status and where we were going, including the Ireland coordinator at ASU, Erin Piper, and the Assistant Director of Student Safety and Engagement in the ASU Study Abroad Office, Dan Hart, along with Anne McDonnell from the CAPA Boston office and Suzanne here in Dublin, who came in on a Sunday to meet us back at Griffith and talk to us about what happened. It was so great to be surrounded by such many amazing people. I am so thankful for God’s protection, that I was able to get out of France on time and that I was never in any danger in Paris. I pray for the victims of the attacks in Paris, Beirut and everywhere else that have been attacked or hit with a natural disaster recently. This is truly a scary time and we all need to be vigilant of our surroundings.
I do have to be honest though. I have loved my time here, but after last Friday, I had some serious thoughts about seeing if there was a way to end this trip early and head home. I know that attacks can happen anywhere, but I honestly just want to hug and see my family and girlfriend after going through that night. But, I am definitely going to stick it out for this last month!
Also, since I said I would go into this later, here I am going back to grades. Going through Paris last week has made me realize so many more things are so much more important than grades. I’ll get what I get in classes, and I’m not really worried about it anymore.
I have a trip to London planned for this weekend. I have been second-guessing going, just because London is, like Paris, a highly-targeted city, but I have been praying and talking to people around me and the biggest sense is that I should go. I shouldn’t let the terrorists win by being scared to go somewhere. I should live my life how it has been planned. Nothing should stop me from experiencing this. So, I really do think I’m going to go, and I just pray for protection and for no incidents to happen while I am there!
But, yeah, that’s just about it for now!
Slán agus go mbeannaí Dia thu! (Goodbye and May God bless you!)