It has been one year since I jumped on a plane to Ireland, (well, first to Chicago, then to the Emerald Isle.) I think about my experiences during the four months that I was living and exploring Europe every day. Each day I think of a new experience, memory, or feeling that I never want to forget. Each picture I look at reminds me the way I felt in that moment. Emotions, feelings and memories are things that I am terrified to forget. For my own personal benefit, I am writing down everything I remember about my experience, one year after they happened. This will also benefit the people around me that get sick of hearing me yap about Ireland this, and Germany that. This is truly going to be a random blog filled with my own personal memories and experiences, in no particular order. So...here we go.
On the day I was leaving my family in Pittsburgh, I don't remember waking up, I don't remember leaving my sisters house, I don't remember driving in the car away from the place I was so comfortable with, I don't remember most of that morning. Maybe I was trying to block out the sadness I was soon to be feeling. Call me dramatic, but as excited as I was, leaving my sister, family, and best friends behind me was utterly terrifying. The night before I said goodbye to my Mom and brother; that was hard enough. I knew today was going to be rough. I was also scared because I was flying out on September 12, 2011, 10 years and 1 day after the September 11 attacks. Like I said, call me dramatic, but my irrationally thinking mind was wandering. Anyways, my sister and I went to my college to pick up my two best friends. We loaded in the Jeep and I remember pulling up the driveway and how weird it was, knowing I wouldn't see this place for quite some time. I wasn't leaving forever, but I was anxious and scared and naive, so being dramatic kind of just falls into place in this situation. The four of us, my sister, two best friends-Kait and Maddy- and myself headed in the direction of Pittsburgh International Airport. Andddd, we were a little early so we stopped at Applebees for one last American lunch. Steak, broccoli and a baked potato had my name all over it. Add some A1 Sauce and a Diet Coke and boy, was I a very happy (and very full,) little traveler. And then the reality of the situation sank in. We drove the rest of the way to the airport, parked the car, and headed to check-in. Of course, my suitcase was overweight, but the amazing woman at the counter let me slide. I put a smile on my face, thanking her, knowing that I was hiding how I was really feeling. Biting back tears, the four of us heading to security. And this is where I knew that I couldn't keep it together anymore. One by one, I hugged my best friends. First Maddy; and tears came out. Then Kait; big crocodile tears. And then my sister; I was an absolute mess. The hugs could not be long enough. But I knew I had to let them go. With teary eyes, I said one last goodbye, and was off. I went through the motions of security; jacket off, shoes off, backpack unzipped, laptop out, etc., and I could still see my family and friends standing outside of the security area. As I put my shoes back on, and headed for my gate, I turned around one last time to wave. And all of a sudden, they scream, through the airport, "Bonsua, mi creme brulee!" A hysterical quote from a MK&A movie. Laughing and crying, it was the perfect 'so-long' from the people I love most in life.
I found my gate, and sat down to wait. I remember seeing my sister putting something in my backpack, and in the midst of checking and then re-checking I had my passport and documents, I pulled the note out and began to read. My sister is someone who knows me better than anyone else in this universe, and therefore knows the exact words to make me incredibly happy, sad, excited and proud all in one instant. The note reassured how proud she was of me and how proud my father would be of me, how brave and courageous I was, and how exciting this was going to be for me. As I sat alone near my gate, reading the note and bawling my eyes out, I had a realization: I have to put this sadness behind me and start this exciting journey. I folded the note back up and tucked it safely away and waited to board my connecting flight to Chicago. I don't remember much of this flight; I'm assuming it was the nerves again. I landed in Chicago and remember my first thought: holy crap this airport is HUGE. The first wave of vulnerability hit me then. I fought it off and quickly wanted to find my gate. I remember crossing an area that said, "You cannot return to this area after crossing this point." It was like I was crossing the border into hades. I was intimidated. I crossed the Bridge to Terebithia and found my gate. I was very early, so I decided to eat. I got a Diet Coke and some peanuts. I redid my makeup, checked my bags, again, and found a nice spot on a wall to post up on to wait. I remember looking all around at the people who were waiting with me, wondering what they were thinking of me. (I later soon found out, as one of my fellow passengers was also a study abroad gal.) The waiting drew to a close and the waiters began to stir. I found my way over to a glass wall that stood in front of a moving sidewalk. I was ready. But apparently, I had a bit more waiting. A younger looking lad came and stood by the glass wall next to me. I smiled, and he started talking. His Irish accent filled my ears and I was entranced! He began telling me why he was in the U.S., (J1-work program,) and where he was from and so on. When I told him I was going to Carlow, his reaction is as follows, "Why the hell are ye goin' to Carlow? Der's notin der!" Welp, thank you sir. Good thoughts, good thoughts. I will make the best of this tiny town. How bad could it be? I said goodbye to my new Irish friend and boarded the biggest plane I had ever seen in my entire life. The staff of AerLingus were beautiful and perfect and totally 100% Irish. I loved it! I found my seat, put my bag above me, and was ready for takeoff. My only thought was, 'Here we go...'
Monday, January 30, 2012
Wow! I've been back in America for well over a month now and boy, are things different. I can honestly say that I never would have expected things to be so different and so much the same at the same time. I find myself saying things like, "I miss this about Ireland,", or "Things are so different in Ireland." When people ask me about my trip, they say, "How was Ireland?" And I always say, "It was amazing! A little rough at first, but an incredibly worthwhile experience." And then the same question always seems to follow, "Are you happy to be home?" Am I happy to be home. Yes and no. On one hand, I missed my family so much it was ridiculous. And my best friend had a pretty rough semester without me, so on that front, yes, I was ecstatic to be home. On the other hand: NO. America has it's perks-the opportunities, my family/friends, the food (sometimes!), the convenience, etc. But overall, American's are kind of, well, crazy. We all have such a fast paced attitude about us that we never really stop to smell the roses. EVER. For example, I went to the grocery store with my sister a day after I got home from Ireland. As we were waiting in line for the deli, someone literally pushed me out of the way so they could move to the front of the deli case. Really? It may have been slight culture shock but I was literally in shock. I looked at my sister, and she just shrugged. Now, I didn't react to this in any way besides give him the most perplexed look ever and then chuckle a bit. (Something I probably picked up in Ireland.) But seriously? I could understand him pushing me out of the way to get to the free diamonds that Tiffany's was passing out, but just to look at the deli case? I was baffled. I brought this up to my sister again later that evening and she reinforced the idea of living in a dog-eat-dog society. We are brought up always looking for the next goal we can achieve, the next level we can reach, the next job advancement we can get, and even-how fast we can get through the deli line. It was after this conversation that I truly appreciate all of what Ireland taught me. That is to let go, to live more freely, and to laugh. I miss Ireland like crazy! But most of all, I miss my wonderful Ireland friends. Overall, life is pretty much back to normal. Except that I see things differently and I view people differently. I have more confidence and am more self assured. And on the inside, I am changed as a person. So I guess, without further ado, I should probably say, "Thanks, Ireland."
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
As I right my last entry, I have so many things going on in my mind; my new friends, my family, my home, Christmas, exams, packing, and saying goodbye. This trip has been the experience of a lifetime and I can honestly say that I truly have no regrets. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life and cannot wait to see where this experience will take me. I have learned so much about myself in these few short months and it is amazing how much I have changed for the better as a person. As I said, I have a million and one things on my mind but the most prominent thing is always: I have some of the best friends in the world. Literally, the world.
Our last trip, taken by Cait, Shawna, and I was to France and England! We didn’t sleep the night before due to an early bus that we had to take and quite a few drunken houseguests that we had. We didn’t mind them at all though! They were all good craic! We flew to England, spent some time there, and then took the Chunnel to France. In London, we saw the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, red phone booths, and so much more! And perhaps my favorite part, Platform 9 and ¾ from Harry Potter! London was outstanding and magical! And Paris was even better! The Louvre, the Lovelock Bridge, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, the Windmills, and again, so much more! And the most magical part of all was seeing the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle at night! The language barrier was not a barrier at all because I knew a little French before I went. I loved every single second of this trip. We even almost got to see Wicked in London, but the tickets were too expensive. I had the time of my life on this trip. We wearily got back to Ireland and soon had to study and prepare for our final exams and presentation. And it is now, that I am reminiscing on all of the experiences that I have had in Ireland. At first, time was going so slow and we were counting down the days. And now, time flying and it seems surreal. I cannot believe that we have come to the end of our trip. Wow. On a chipper side note, I have received 15, yes 15 packages since I have been in Ireland. My friends are saying that my family and friends back home are all elves that send me things every week. It made me realize even more how much of a wonderful family I have. I cannot wait to see them!
My friends from America came to visit me! Amy is studying in Florence and Robyn came to visit her from the states. And they both came to visit me! It was great to see them both and allow them to experience and enjoy Ireland. They came over Thanksgiving and we were all able to go to Sister Mary’s house for an amazing dinner. It was so delicious and as we sat in our food coma’s, I realized how thankful I was for my friends, this experience, and the opportunities that I was given. As I said before, I have finally found my own little slice of happiness in Ireland. The new friends I have made are in large part responsible for this and I am so very grateful to them for it. Even going to the horrible Foundry was made fun by Jenny, Shawna Dos, Ann Marie and Maggie. Maggie and Ann Marie, Jenny and Dos along with a few other friends, are what is going to make saying goodbye to Ireland so bittersweet. These girls have come into our lives for a reason and will stay in our lives for many years to come. They are all truly beautiful girls, inside and out. We have experienced so many things with them. From emotional highs, to emotional lows, to birthdays and shopping trips, to nursing one back to health, to broken faces, going to a ball, hair falling out, boy troubles, falling in love, movie nights, cooking dinners, getting “Anne-Marie-d”, tears and laughs and beautiful new friendships that were made. I will never forget these girls and hope with all my heart that they will never forget me.
Josh, Cait’s boyfriend came to visit her in Ireland! And we all went to Italy together. Italy was stunning. We did so much in the 5 days that we were there. The language barrier was difficult but we brushed up on our Italian and we did just fine! We went to the Coliseum, the catacombs, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and so much more! We walked so much. It seemed like we literally walked for days! We met up with Jackie and she showed us some cool places. Our bed and breakfast was amazing and the owner, Sabino went out of his way to make us feel at home. Taking the metro was also quite the experience. But Josh was our fearless leader and he did very well with being a human GPS. We also went shopping! Shopping, shopping and more shopping! I barely had enough room to bring everything home! But I did get so many Christmas presents, so that’s a plus. One thing that was a setback was that I got sick. Even still, I loved Italy! The food on our last night there was absolutely amazing and it was totally worth the wait! And the Gelato was amazing and the pizza…ah! I cannot wait to go back! We are going home soon. It is really unfortunate because it is turning out that the last month that we are here, is when we met the best people and have realized that we have some really great new Irish friends. We are finally enjoying our time here and we don’t even have much of it left. Personally I am trying to enjoy every last second of it and cherish the moments I have with my new friends.
We had a field trip to Dublin this week and because my family was coming to visit me this weekend, we stayed in Dublin for the weekend! First, we went to the Kilmainham Jail. It was really interesting and had a lot of history to go along with it. We then went to Trinity College. This was also really cool! It was in the center of Dublin City and the stone paths in the college were very neat to walk on. We saw the Book of Celts which was awesome because it was so old. And then the library that was above the book was also really interesting. There were so many walls lined with so many books! It was incredibly! Friday night, the girls and I decide to go on a haunted ghost tour of Ireland because it was Halloween Weekend. The ghosts were scary and the pictures we took have so many orbs in them. Somehow, the ghosts were not the scariest part of the tour. We came across a group of very young drunk children from the Northside of Dublin. They would not leave our tour group alone and ended up harassing us. The police got involved because the children went and told their mothers that we were “being mean” to them and that one of the girls in the group hit one of the kids. It was a big misunderstanding. However, the police got involved. It was amazing because it was like we were helpless against these young children. Even after the police came, the kids starting throwing rocks and Shawna got hit with one. She has a really big bruise on her leg. We finally got rid of the kids and our tour was pretty much ruined, but it was quite the experience. One coo thing we found was that one of the kids on the tour was also studying in Ireland and was from American. But not only from America, from Pennsylvania and he lived close to where we all lived! That was refreshing! We found our hostel and it was very difficult to sleep. My sister, my best friend in the entire world, was coming to Ireland to see me tomorrow! I was ecstatic!!! We got to the airport and waiting for them to walk off of the plane was taking forever. And then, I saw her! I ran to her and we cried and I gave her the biggest hug I could have possible given her! Ashley and Brandon were here with me in Ireland and I loved it! We tried to fit as much as we could into their time here. We went to the Guinness Factory and learned to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. We went to the Jameson Whiskey tour in Dublin. This was neat because it was different than the one in Middleton, Cork. We went to the Giants Causeway and Belfast. I loved Belfast!! It was amazing! Our tour guide for this tour was hysterical and we all loved him! We also went to the Carrick-a-reed rope bridge. Terrifying, but a really great experience! And the perfect way to end our trip was taking a trip to Blarney. The weather was much nicer and my pictures look a lot better minus all of the rain! My friend Jackie, who is currently studying in Rome, came to Ireland to visit us and she came to Blarney as well. We all loved it! And Blarney has the best hot chocolate I have even had in my entire life. Not kidding or exaggerating in the slightest bit. We travelled as much as we could and even had a traditional dinner in the Brazen Head Pub. And right before they left, I got to go to the Chocolate Garden of Ireland. It was fantastic and the chocolate is amazing! We got to make chocolate cats and I bought tons more Christmas presents! Saying goodbye the second time was even harder than the first. But we bid each other ado and knew that we would see each other soon enough.